Advice on Presence and Awareness by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
“The original condition of the Great Perfection is truly beyond the limited conceptions of the ‘three times’ (past, present future); but those who are just beginning the practice, at any rate, do not yet have this awareness and find it difficult to experience the recognition of their own State; it is therefore very important not to allow oneself to be distracted by the thoughts of the ‘three times’. If, in order not to become distracted, one tries to eliminate all one’s thoughts, becoming fixated on the search for a state of calm or a sensation of pleasure, it is necessary to remember that this is an error, in that the very ‘fixation’ one is engaged in is, in itself, nothing but another thought.
One should relax the mind, maintaining only the awakened presence of one’s own State, without allowing oneself to be dominated by any thought whatsoever. When one is truly relaxed, the mind finds itself in its natural condition. If out of this natural condition thoughts arise, whether good or bad, rather than trying to judge whether one is in the calm state or in the wave of thoughts, one should just acknowledge all thoughts with the awakened presence of the State itself.
When thoughts are given just this bare attention of simple acknowledgment, they relax into their own true condition, and as long as this awareness of their relaxedness lasts one should not forget to keep the mind present. If one becomes distracted and does not simply acknowledge the thoughts, then it is necessary to give more attention to making one’s awareness truly present.
If one finds that thoughts arise about finding oneself in a state of calm, without abandoning simple presence of mind, one should continue by observing the state of movement of the thought itself.
In the same way, if no thoughts arise, one should continue with the presence of the simple acknowledgment that just gives bare attention to the state of calm.
This means maintaining the presence of this natural state, without attempting to fix it within any conceptual framework or hoping for it to manifest in any particular form, colour, or light, but just relaxing into it, in a condition undisturbed by the characteristics of the ramifications of thought.
Even if those who begin to practice this find it difficult to continue in this state for more than an instant, there is no need to worry about it. Without wishing for the state to continue for a long time and without fearing the lack of it altogether, all that is necessary is to maintain pure presence of mind, without falling into the dualistic situation of there being an observing subject perceiving an observed object.
If the mind, even though one maintains simple presence, does not remain in this calm state, but always tends to follow waves of thoughts about the past or future, or becomes distracted by the aggregates of the senses such as sight, hearing, etc., then one should try to understand that the wave of thought itself is as insubstantial as the wind.
If one tries to catch the wind, one does not succeed; similarly, if one tries to block the wave of thought, it cannot be cut off. So, for this reason one should not try to block thought, much less try to renounce it as something considered negative.
In reality, the calm state is the essential condition of mind, while the wave of thought is the mind’s natural clarity in function; just as there is no distinction whatever between the sun and its rays, or a stream and its ripples, so there is no distinction between the mind and thought.
If one considers the calm state as something positive to be attained, and the wave of thought as something negative to be abandoned, and one remains thus caught up in the duality of accepting and rejecting, there is no way of overcoming the ordinary state of mind.
Therefore, the essential principle is to acknowledge with bare attention, without letting oneself become distracted, whatever thought arises, be it good or bad, important or less important, and to continue to maintain presence in the state of the moving wave of thought itself.
When a thought arises and one does not succeed in remaining calm with this presence, since other such thoughts may follow, it is necessary to be skilful in acknowledging it with non-distraction.
‘Acknowledging’ does not mean seeing it with one’s eyes, or forming a concept about it. Rather it means giving bare attention, without distraction to whatever thought of the ‘three times’, or whatever perception of the senses may arise, and thus being fully conscious of this ‘wave’ while continuing in the presence of the pure awareness.”