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The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation: A Tibetan Buddhist Classic on How to Achieve True Freedom through Meditation


The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation: A Book Review




Introduction




Have you ever wondered what true freedom means? Is it the ability to achieve your goals and satisfy your desires? Or is it something deeper and more profound than that? If you are interested in exploring these questions from a Buddhist perspective, you might want to read The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation by Chögyam Trungpa.




The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation (Shambhala Classics) book pdf



This book is a classic of Tibetan Buddhism that was first published in 1976. It features a new foreword by Pema Chödrön, a renowned Buddhist teacher and author. In this book, Trungpa challenges our conventional notions of freedom and shows us how we can attain true freedom through meditation.


This book is relevant today because we live in a world where many people are suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction. We often feel trapped by our circumstances, our habits, and our emotions. We seek freedom in external things, such as money, fame, power, or pleasure. But these things are not reliable sources of happiness and can even become chains that bind us to more suffering.


Trungpa offers us a different way of looking at freedom. He teaches us how to free ourselves from ignorance, confusion, and negativity. He shows us how to cultivate awareness, wisdom, and compassion. He guides us on the path of meditation, which is the way of discovering our true nature and potential.


Main Body




The Meaning of Freedom




Freedom as a Myth




Trungpa begins by exposing the myth of freedom that we often believe in. He says that freedom is not something that we can achieve by fulfilling our desires or escaping our problems. He says that freedom is not a state of affairs or a condition that we can create or manipulate. He says that freedom is not a fixed or absolute concept that we can define or measure.


He explains that our idea of freedom is based on ignorance and delusion. We do not see reality as it is, but as we want it to be. We project our hopes and fears onto the world and create a false sense of security and control. We cling to our ego and its preferences and opinions. We avoid facing our imperfections and limitations. We resist change and growth.


He warns us that this kind of freedom is actually a prison. It limits our vision and understanding. It isolates us from others and ourselves. It causes us to suffer from attachment, aversion, and indifference. It prevents us from experiencing genuine joy and peace.


Freedom as a State of Mind




Trungpa then reveals the true meaning of freedom. He says that freedom is not something that we can obtain or lose. He says that freedom is not dependent on external factors or conditions. He says that freedom is not relative or comparative to others or ourselves.


He explains that freedom is a state of mind that we can cultivate and realize. He says that freedom is the ability to see reality clearly and directly, without distortion or bias. He says that freedom is the capacity to relate to ourselves and others with openness and kindness, without judgment or aggression. He says that freedom is the potential to express ourselves and our creativity with authenticity and skill, without fear or hesitation.


He assures us that this kind of freedom is our birthright. It is the essence of our being and the nature of our mind. It is the source of our happiness and well-being. It is the goal of our spiritual journey and the gift of our enlightenment.


Freedom as a Result of Meditation




Trungpa then shows us how to achieve freedom through meditation. He says that meditation is not a technique or a method that we can learn or master. He says that meditation is not a practice or a discipline that we can follow or impose. He says that meditation is not a hobby or a lifestyle that we can enjoy or adopt.


He explains that meditation is a way of being and a way of knowing. He says that meditation is the art of paying attention and being present. He says that meditation is the science of investigating and understanding. He says that meditation is the path of awakening and transforming.


He teaches us how to meditate in various ways and situations. He introduces us to the basic practice of sitting meditation, where we focus on our breath and observe our thoughts and emotions. He instructs us how to work with our emotions, especially the negative ones, and use them as fuel for our awareness and compassion. He advises us how to apply meditation in our daily life, in our actions, speech, and relationships.


The Practice of Meditation




Sitting Meditation




The core of Trungpa's teachings on meditation is the practice of sitting meditation. He describes this practice as the simplest and most direct way of cultivating awareness and freedom. He says that sitting meditation is not about achieving a special state of mind or a mystical experience. He says that sitting meditation is about being with ourselves as we are, without trying to change or escape anything.


He explains the basic instructions for sitting meditation as follows:



  • Find a comfortable and stable posture, either on a cushion or a chair.



  • Keep your back straight, your head upright, your shoulders relaxed, and your hands resting on your knees or in your lap.



  • Gently close your eyes or keep them slightly open, looking downward at a 45-degree angle.



  • Breathe naturally through your nose, without controlling or manipulating your breath.



  • Bring your attention to your breath, feeling the sensations of the air entering and leaving your nostrils.



  • Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered away from your breath, gently acknowledge it and bring it back to your breath.



  • Do not judge yourself or your thoughts, do not follow them or reject them, do not get attached to them or distracted by them.



  • Just be aware of whatever arises in your mind, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, clear or vague, calm or restless.



  • Continue this practice for as long as you wish, from a few minutes to an hour or more.



He emphasizes that the key to sitting meditation is to be relaxed but alert, gentle but firm, curious but detached. He says that sitting meditation is not about achieving anything or getting anywhere. He says that sitting meditation is about discovering who we are and what we are capable of.


Working with Emotions




One of the main challenges that we face in meditation and in life is how to deal with our emotions. Trungpa acknowledges that emotions are powerful forces that can affect our mood, behavior, and perception. He says that emotions are not bad or good in themselves, but they can become problematic if we are unaware of them or if we react to them in unskillful ways.


He suggests that instead of suppressing or expressing our emotions, we should learn how to work with them in a constructive way. He offers some guidelines for working with emotions as follows:



  • Recognize your emotions as they arise, without denying or ignoring them.



  • Name your emotions as they appear, without labeling or analyzing them.



  • Acknowledge your emotions as they are, without justifying or rationalizing them.



  • Feel your emotions as they manifest, without exaggerating or minimizing them.



  • Release your emotions as they subside, without clinging or resisting them.



He explains that by working with our emotions in this way, we can transform them into wisdom and compassion. He says that each emotion has a positive aspect that we can uncover and cultivate. For example:



Freedom as a Result of Meditation




Trungpa then shows us how to achieve freedom through meditation. He says that meditation is not a technique or a method that we can learn or master. He says that meditation is not a practice or a discipline that we can follow or impose. He says that meditation is not a hobby or a lifestyle that we can enjoy or adopt.


He explains that meditation is a way of being and a way of knowing. He says that meditation is the art of paying attention and being present. He says that meditation is the science of investigating and understanding. He says that meditation is the path of awakening and transforming.


He teaches us how to meditate in various ways and situations. He introduces us to the basic practice of sitting meditation, where we focus on our breath and observe our thoughts and emotions. He instructs us how to work with our emotions, especially the negative ones, and use them as fuel for our awareness and compassion. He advises us how to apply meditation in our daily life, in our actions, speech, and relationships.


The Practice of Meditation




Sitting Meditation




The core of Trungpa's teachings on meditation is the practice of sitting meditation. He describes this practice as the simplest and most direct way of cultivating awareness and freedom. He says that sitting meditation is not about achieving a special state of mind or a mystical experience. He says that sitting meditation is about being with ourselves as we are, without trying to change or escape anything.


He explains the basic instructions for sitting meditation as follows:



  • Find a comfortable and stable posture, either on a cushion or a chair.



  • Keep your back straight, your head upright, your shoulders relaxed, and your hands resting on your knees or in your lap.



  • Gently close your eyes or keep them slightly open, looking downward at a 45-degree angle.



  • Breathe naturally through your nose, without controlling or manipulating your breath.



  • Bring your attention to your breath, feeling the sensations of the air entering and leaving your nostrils.



  • Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered away from your breath, gently acknowledge it and bring it back to your breath.



  • Do not judge yourself or your thoughts, do not follow them or reject them, do not get attached to them or distracted by them.



  • Just be aware of whatever arises in your mind, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, clear or vague, calm or restless.



  • Continue this practice for as long as you wish, from a few minutes to an hour or more.



He emphasizes that the key to sitting meditation is to be relaxed but alert, gentle but firm, curious but detached. He says that sitting meditation is not about achieving anything or getting anywhere. He says that sitting meditation is about discovering who we are and what we are capable of.


Working with Emotions




One of the main challenges that we face in meditation and in life is how to deal with our emotions. Trungpa acknowledges that emotions are powerful forces that can affect our mood, behavior, and perception. He says that emotions are not bad or good in themselves, but they can become problematic if we are unaware of them or if we react to them in unskillful ways.


He suggests that instead of suppressing or expressing our emotions, we should learn how to work with them in a constructive way. He offers some guidelines for working with emotions as follows:



  • Recognize your emotions as they arise, without denying or ignoring them.



  • Name your emotions as they appear, without labeling or analyzing them.



  • Acknowledge your emotions as they are, without justifying or rationalizing them.



  • Feel your emotions as they manifest, without exaggerating or minimizing them.



  • Release your emotions as they subside, without clinging or resisting them.



He explains that by working with our emotions in this way, we can transform them into wisdom and compassion. He says that each emotion has a positive aspect that we can uncover and cultivate. For example:



  • Anger can be transformed into clarity and courage.



  • Desire can be transformed into generosity and joy.



  • Pride can be transformed into humility and gratitude.



  • Jealousy can be transformed into appreciation and admiration.



  • Fear can be transformed into confidence and trust.



He also warns us of the dangers of indulging in or repressing our emotions. He says that indulging in our emotions can lead to addiction, obsession, and violence. He says that repressing our emotions can lead to depression, anxiety, and illness. He says that the middle way is to acknowledge our emotions without being controlled by them or rejecting them.


Meditation in Action




Trungpa also teaches us how to extend our meditation practice to our daily activities and interactions. He says that meditation is not something that we do only on the cushion or in the temple. He says that meditation is something that we do every moment of our lives, in every situation and circumstance. He says that meditation is a way of living with awareness, wisdom, and compassion.


He gives us some advice on how to practice meditation in action as follows:



  • Be mindful of your body, speech, and mind, and act with care and respect for yourself and others.



  • Be attentive to your surroundings, and respond appropriately and skillfully to whatever arises.



  • Be flexible and adaptable, and accept change and uncertainty as natural and inevitable.



  • Be honest and ethical, and avoid harming yourself or others by your actions or words.



  • Be generous and helpful, and share your time, energy, and resources with those in need.



He emphasizes that meditation in action is not about following rules or rituals. He says that meditation in action is about being spontaneous and creative. He says that meditation in action is about expressing our true nature and potential. He says that meditation in action is about being free and happy.


The Open Way




Devotion and Guru Yoga




In the last part of the book, Trungpa introduces us to some advanced aspects of the Buddhist path. He explains that these aspects are not meant for beginners or casual practitioners, but for those who have a strong commitment and aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. He warns us that these aspects are not easy or comfortable, but challenging and demanding. He advises us to approach them with an open mind and a pure heart.


One of these aspects is devotion. Trungpa defines devotion as a feeling of admiration, respect, and gratitude for the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community of practitioners). He says that devotion is not blind faith or idolatry. He says that devotion is a recognition of the qualities and achievements of those who have gone before us on the path. He says that devotion is a source of inspiration and guidance for us on our own journey.


Another aspect is guru yoga. Trungpa describes guru yoga as a practice of connecting with a spiritual teacher who embodies the Buddha's wisdom and compassion. He says that guru yoga is not a cult or a dependency. He says that guru yoga is a relationship of trust and respect between a student and a teacher. He says that guru yoga is a method of receiving blessings and instructions from a living example of enlightenment.


He explains that devotion and guru yoga are essential for progressing on the path. He says that without devotion, we will lack motivation and enthusiasm. He says that without guru yoga, we will lack direction and clarity. He says that with devotion and guru yoga, we will develop confidence and joy.


Tantra and Mahamudra




Tantra and Mahamudra




The other advanced aspects that Trungpa introduces are tantra and mahamudra. He defines tantra as a set of teachings and practices that use symbols, rituals, visualizations, mantras, mudras (gestures), mandalas (diagrams), deities (archetypes), energy channels (nadis), winds (pranas), drops (bindus), chakras (energy centers), consort (partner), bliss (ecstasy), emptiness (voidness), transformation (transmutation), creation (generation), completion (perfection), skillful means (upaya), wisdom (prajna), method (thabs), insight (shes rab), compassion (karuna), emptiness (sunyata), great bliss (mahasukha), great seal (mahamudra), great perfection (dzogchen), great compassion (mahakaruna), great vehicle (mahayana), diamond vehicle (vajrayana), indestructible vehicle (adamantine vehicle), secret mantra vehicle (guhyamantra vehicle). He says that tantra is not magic or sex. He says that tantra is a way of using our body, speech, and mind as tools for enlightenment.


He explains that tantra is based on the principle of transformation. He says that tantra teaches us how to transform our ordinary perception and experience into pure perception and experience. He says that tantra shows us how to transform our impure body, speech, and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a buddha. He says that tantra enables us to transform our negative emotions into positive qualities.


He also explains that tantra is based on the principle of creation. He says that tantra teaches us how to create a new reality with our imagination and intention. He says that tantra shows us how to create a sacred space and time with our symbols and rituals. He says that tantra enables us to create a divine identity and relationship with our visualizations and mantras.


He emphasizes that tantra is not for everyone. He says that tantra requires a high level of motivation, dedication, and intelligence. He says that tantra demands a strict adherence to ethical conduct, vows, and commitments. He says that tantra involves a close guidance from a qualified teacher, who can initiate, instruct, and empower us.


Mahamudra is the ultimate goal of tantra. Trungpa defines mahamudra as the realization of the inseparability of bliss and emptiness. He says that mahamudra is the experience of the true nature of reality as it is. He says that mahamudra is the state of enlightenment that transcends all dualities and limitations.


He explains that mahamudra can be attained through two methods: sutra mahamudra and tantra mahamudra. Sutra mahamudra is the method of meditating on the mind itself and its emptiness. Tantra mahamudra is the method of meditating on the union of bliss and emptiness through the subtle energies of the body.


He teaches us how to practice mahamudra in four stages: one-pointedness, simplicity, one-taste, and non-meditation. One-pointedness is the stage of developing concentration and stability of the mind. Simplicity is the stage of recognizing the nature and essence of the mind. One-taste is the stage of realizing the equality and interdependence of all phenomena. Non-meditation is the stage of resting in the natural state of awareness without effort or fabrication.


The Six Paramitas and the Bodhisattva Path




The final aspect that Trungpa introduces is the six paramitas and the bodhisattva path. He defines paramita as a perfection or a transcendence. He says that paramita means going beyond our ordinary limitations and reaching a higher level of excellence. He says that paramita also means crossing over from samsara to nirvana.


He explains that there are six paramitas: generosity, ethical discipline, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, meditative concentration, and discriminating awareness wisdom. He says that these are the qualities and practices that we need to cultivate in order to become bodhisattvas: beings who aspire to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.


He gives us some examples of how to practice the six paramitas as follows:



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