Ego, Attachment and Liberation

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Melbourne, Australia 1975 (Archive #329)

In 1975, Lama Yeshe undertook his most extensive international teaching tour, being on the road for nearly nine months. This book contains the teachings and meditations Lama gave at a five-day retreat he led near Melbourne, Australia, in March 1975. In line with Lama’s intentions, this book is dedicated to the awakening of inner freedom within the minds of its readers and all other sentient beings.

See the Related Links for each chapter to access the audio recordings and read along with the unedited transcripts.

Lama Yeshe teaching at Vajrapani Institute, California, 1983. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.
Chapter Two: Techniques for the Meditation Session and the Break

Think, “Why is my uncontrolled mind so strongly tied to this uncontrolled body? Why has my uncontrolled mind been associated with this sense-driven body for such a long time? It seems that my entire internal environment is totally agitated. When I was a child, I used other people; I made them work to take care of me, of my body. Now that I’ve grown, I myself have to expend great effort just to keep this body alive. Even such a simple thing as getting a job can be so difficult. If I didn’t have this uncontrolled body, I wouldn’t even need a job. And because of the association of uncontrolled body and mind, I’m tied to the tiny atoms of my material existence. All these problems come from the deep root of attachment and ego mind. My ego binds me to conditions and gives me no chance to experience internal peace, freedom and joy.”

While I’m speaking, check what I’m saying; practice analytical meditation. Instead of allowing your senses to be preoccupied with other objects, pay full attention to what I’m saying and contemplate its meaning. Don’t listen to Dharma with the attitude of a child in school.

If you cannot control your body for a short time—even an hour—if you cannot relax physically, your nervous system will not be relaxed. If your nervous system is not relaxed, your mind will not be relaxed and that will prevent you from seeing reality or experiencing inner peace. When your mind is relaxed, your nervous system becomes the kind of spacious, peaceful environment that knowledge-wisdom needs to grow. You don’t have to strain yourself; there is a gentler method.

Even when your knee hurts, it’s not as bad as you think—your ego exaggerates the pain. It solidifies the feeling, makes it feel unchangeable, like iron. This is a totally wrong conception, a completely unrealistic interpretation. If you can realize this, the pain will be digested by your wisdom and disappear. Why? Because the pain you feel in your knee does not arise by itself but in combination with ego activity. When one of these elements disappears, the combination also disappears.

You don’t have to exert yourself to enjoy good meditation. Simply close your eyes, relax completely, and let your mind just watch. Don’t expect bad thoughts to arise; don’t expect good ones either. Just let go and observe how thoughts come, how thoughts go; how pain comes, how pain goes; how the agitated mind comes, how it goes. Just watch. Check up, “Where is this agitation I feel?” “What is this agitation I’m experiencing?” When you check up with analytic wisdom, agitation automatically disappears. It goes away by itself because agitation is neither flesh nor bone; it is not a physical thing. Agitation is just an expression of mind.

When you meditate, ignore your sense perceptions; don’t pay attention to sights, sounds, smells, tangibles or tastes. Keep your eyes lightly closed; the meditating mind is not sense perception. Sense perception is blind; it is not an intelligent mind. Let your mind be totally open and aware.

When your mind reaches beyond pain, let it rest there.

When you focus your attention on the subjective mind that feels, the object of the feeling disappears. Let your mind remain there; don’t concentrate on the feeling itself.

The wandering mind

If your mind gets distracted by external objects, focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply and completely through your nose, bringing your breath energy all the way down below your stomach to your navel. Push down gently with your diaphragm. Then tighten the muscles around your sex chakra—your internal, lower pelvic muscles. Draw the energy up from below and feel it meet the energy you have pushed down from above at a point about four fingers’ breadth below the level of your navel and hold your breath. Touch that point with your finger to bring your mind’s attention to that precise spot. Feel a joyful sensation there. Your mind will automatically focus on that point. Concentrate on that sensation.

When you do this meditation, hold your breath for as long as is comfortable, then exhale naturally, slowly and completely, but leave your mind concentrated on feeling.*

Do this five times. Breathe in; push down a little; hold your breath below the navel; tighten the lower muscles; feel the energy rise from below to meet the energy from above; focus your concentration there, just below your navel.

When these two energies meet at that point just below your navel they generate a kind of electrical energy. Light radiates from there and spreads throughout your entire nervous system.

Without grasping, feel totally blissful. Concentrate on that feeling of bliss. Unify your mind with bliss. Let your mind sink into that feeling; don’t feel separate from it by thinking, “I am feeling blissful.”

The dull mind

If your mind gets sluggish or sleepy, try to focus on the light energy just below your navel; visualize it getting clearer, brighter and more radiant. Your foggy mind will disappear. The view of the foggy, sluggish mind tends to be dark. When you visualize light, the sluggish mind automatically disappears. This is not just some hallucination. There’s already electric light energy within your body. When the air energy pushed down from above mingles with the energy pulled up from below, that electric light is activated.

This is not religious dogma; it’s scientific experience. Inhale slowly and deeply; bring the breath energy all the way down below your navel; push down a little; tighten the lower muscles; bring the energy up from below to meet the energy from above, just below the navel. From that point, electric light energy radiates throughout your entire nervous system—into your heart, your throat, your brain; into your legs, knees and feet. Feel the total unity of the electric light energy. Dwell in that blissful feeling of unity and light.

When you meditate, keep your mouth gently closed. Breathe only through your nose.

Session breaks

When it’s time to break, get up from your seat slowly, with awareness. When you walk, link your fingers gently in front of you instead of letting your arms swing all over the place. Relax, but walk with awareness of your feelings. Go to the toilet or do whatever you have to do and return with awareness of your feelings. It’s all meditation. Walking is meditation; sitting down is meditation. Everything becomes meditation. Meditation does not necessarily mean sitting in some corner, doing nothing. Your walking can be totally conscious; that, too, is meditation.

Now take a break as I’ve described. Return slowly. Pay attention to your inner feelings but don’t forget the blissful feeling below your navel.

[Session break]

Don’t expect your concentration on feeling to be perfect, like hitting a nail on the head.

Externally, relax. Internally, be mindful. When a distracting thought arises, watch with penetrating, mindful wisdom how your ego mind identifies this thought, how it reacts. Be fully aware. When the thought object disappears, let your mind rest without thoughts.

When the memory of a past, pleasurable experience arises, observe mind-fully how your ego mind identifies this thought, how it grasps at it.

Instead of rejecting this memory, just allow yourself to feel. When you try to feel, the memory will digest itself and simply disappear. When your mind reaches beyond grasping at the memory of this pleasant experience, just let it stay there.

When the memory of a past, unpleasant experience arises, perhaps bringing guilt or depression, watch with mindful wisdom. Observe how your ego mind rejects this experience.

You can see that instead of facing the feeling of this bad experience and wanting to know its nature, your ego mind immediately wants to escape from it.

When the ego mind sees a desirable experience, it is magnetically drawn towards it—but it doesn’t want to investigate the reality of that experience. When a bad experience arises, the ego mind immediately wants to run away. To the ego mind, even one minute of bad experience can feel like a year. According to the nature of that experience, such reactions are unrealistic, but for countless lives we have accumulated the imprints of such reactions in our mind. Therefore, our minds are unbalanced, out of equilibrium and automatically agitated. We call such minds dualistic—they make judgments according to superficial imagination rather than actual reality.

The ego mind paints its own picture onto reality and we then judge “good” or “bad” on the basis of this hallucination. Our ego mind cheats us by projecting its own hallucinated view of reality, in which we believe.

If your mind reaches beyond the memory of either bad or good experiences, let it dwell in that state and let go.

Thus, you can see that the guilty mind is a manifestation of ego, not wisdom.

You don’t have to strain to control your mind. Just be wise; try to under-stand and identify how your ego functions. With understanding, control comes automatically and your mind becomes healthy and happy. Control of the mind is a natural thing, not artificial.

During session breaks, try to remain as mindful as possible. Even if you love your friend, be wise. Check whether your chatter helps your friend or not; will that conversation make your friend truly happy? If the answer is yes, of course, talk away. But be wise. Ask yourself how you want to help your friend; try to determine the best way of helping. Don’t think, “If I don’t talk to her, she’ll freak out.” What freaks out is the silly mind, the ego. The realistic mind won’t freak out. That’s good. Let the ego freak out. Then you’ll easily recognize it.

Isn’t what I’m saying true? We always want to help our friend, but usually our ignorant mind only makes our friend more agitated; instead of helping, we disturb. Therefore, be especially careful in retreat. If you want to discuss some disturbing mind for the purpose of psychological treatment, it is obviously worthwhile to talk, but if you just want to engage in some emotional conversation, it’s a waste of time.

Thus, session breaks become a kind of session. It depends on your mind. Session breaks can definitely become meditation sessions and it’s most worthwhile for you to try to make them so.

In Tibet, we always used to emphasize how important it was to be careful not to allow old habits to surface during the session break. Otherwise, it’s like trying to clean a room by simply pushing the dirt from one side to the other. If you remain mindful during the break, when the next session starts you can go straight into your meditation without any distraction.

Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

*Note: Here Lama is referring to the mental factor of feeling as one of the meditation objects of the four foundations of mindfulness—mindfulness of body, feeling, mind and phenomena. You can simply remain in mindful awareness on feeling or engage in analysis of it: is it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Is it permanent or impermanent? And so forth. See Practicing Wisdom, Chapter 9, for Shantideva’s approach to meditating on selflessness via the four mindfulnesses.