In TRAINING by Erik Pema Kunsang14 Comments

While it is said that meditation is the practical technique for truly being ourselves, who can blame us for making mistakes from time to time. Mistakes in meditation can go on and on while we believe it’s the right way, but it’s often a dead-end street. Sakya Pandita, the Tibetan meditation master said, “When an idiot trains in the practice of nondoing, at best he is reborn as a god in a temporary heaven, and at worst as an ox.” That’s almost a thousand years ago, and it’s still true today. People are still people, no matter the time and place. We make the same mistakes, often over and over again. It’s not so bad to make mistakes, we just have to correct them.
There are many more than six mistakes, but these six are important.

1. Having no aim
2. Concentrating with 200% one-pointedness
3. Being absentminded
4. Misunderstanding the main point
5. Imprisoning potential and creativity
6. Clarity without kindness

1. Having no aim. There are important things to achieve and to realize within this lifetime. We know this as a fundamental urge, we know it from our fellow travelers, and from our own experiences. Most importantly we can know how to live life in the most meaning through the spoken and written words of flawless teachers. First, we need to have an aim in mind before sitting down to meditate, like plotting a cause so you can swim to the other side, not to end up in the same place, treading water. Know where you are heading, what meditation is good for, how to, what to deal with and overcome and the immense good it will do for us and everyone else. Ask yourself the question: from what I know until now, what is the best I can possible be and how can I be that way?

2. Concentrating with 200% one-pointednessEven though many meditation masters have taught that undistracted awareness is the same as stability, don’t you get it into your mind now, that you have to fixate your awareness one a single point, nailing it tight, so that absolutely no new possibility can come in. That’s not real stability. Real stability comes through discovering an effortless presence of mind that is not bolted onto something.

3. Being absentminded. Forgetting time and place, being lost in thought. “What can I get out of this? It’s itches on my leg. Meditate. For how long?” Thoughts are endless. It’s so easy to spend 90% of the time being distracted in small and major ways. Quality counts rather than quantity. When do we need to remember to be present in a simple way? Every time we forget, in each moment the attention is caught by something.

4. Misunderstanding the main point. Inventing a personal version of how our spiritual nature is, reality, oneness, non-duality, like making a wedding cake, being so proud of my enlightened ideas. It’s a trip, it’s absurd, and it’s ultimately wasted efforts. And, it’s is in stark contrast with the total open mind of the awakened state, free from every kind of preconceived idea.

5. Imprisoning potential and creativity. This is a bad one. One is perhaps unlucky, stupid or stubborn, and then somehow gets the idea, that this magical, mysterious, wonderful mind of ours should have to fit into a little square box called resting the mind, being calm and just be in the now, in a limited way. This prevents real kindness and understanding, which can unfold endlessly.

6. Clarity without kindness. The urge may be there to relate to everything as unattached, looking precisely at things and people, being very clear and unyielding in one’s understanding and ideas about life. This sharp intelligence can have a cold side, that is so accurate and perceptive so that people’s feelings, or an animal’s, are deemed irrelevant, that being right seems better than being kind. That’s a mistake. We need to be both.

These mistakes come from my own experience and I have learned how to correct them from my kind teachers.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Photo by Jason Smith, UK.

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    Lovely teaching, always relevant no matter how long one treads the path. As long as we have a body that lives in a relative state we need to be reminded of the important sign posts on the path of dharma. Thank you again & again.

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    Real stability comes through discovering an “effortless presence of mind” that is not bolted onto something. Effortlessness is the crux. Beautifully explained Erik.

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    Amazing Erik, thank you for sharing! Lots of love.

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    Thank you Erik. I’ll present this in my meditation class tonight. Best, Eman

  7. mike edelman

    dropping the backpack…

  8. mike edelman

    This is one those kind of posts which has me reflecting again and again. After first reading, my thoughts in response to these 6 mistakes varied between “no, yes and maybe” and seemed as a reasonably solid personal assessment. Throughout the day as thoughts returned to this very insightful piece, I realized my initial response was not so solid and defined after all. If it were a question of let’s say, eating meat, there would be much clearer means to assess and make choices as to our actions. But, to have a clear view of often times extremely subtle mistakes, while being totally immersed in them, is far more difficult. So how do we clearly recognize our condition?

    “Those who realize the nature of their mind knows
    That the mind itself is wisdom-awareness,
    And no longer make the mistake of searching for enlightenment from other sources.
    In fact, enlightenment cannot be found by searching.
    So contemplate your own mind.This is the highest meditation one can practice; This very mind is the perfect awakened nature, the birth place of all the enlightened ones.”

    1. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

      You’re totally right, Mike. It’s very difficult. And at the same time, isn’t it always possible – to question ‘how is this mind?’ – to be more aware, mindful, to discern, and chose a better course?

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    Thank you Erik. We westerners need much more direction with meditation, so thank you for more of this.

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    Very very nice website, Erik !!! I will use it more often 😉

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