Category Archives: Psychology

What do Kyerim and Dzogrim mean?

Every once in a while I inspired to share one of my website pages instead of a science-based entry. This time around I chose a more recent addition because I find it so inspiring how my Buddhist lineage uses such skillful means to meditate. Meditation and my Lama have unquestionably changed my life for the better. So here is the page in full.

In a previous page I detailed the difference between Shiné and Laktong, here I would like to highlight Kyerim and Dzogrim two closely related but very different terms so as to avoid any confusion as to how Vajrayana Tibetan meditations are often structured and how skillfully they have been put together to enable one to work with mind.

Kyerim sounds like Cherim it is the building up or generation phase and is closely linked to the practice of Shiné. One could almost call it Shiné plus, as the student does not just calmly pacify mind or rest mind on an object of meditation, the object of meditation interacts and provides feedback. Through a process called self-initiation, the meditator receives a combination of lights, syllables, and sounds from the object of focus or the Buddha aspect. Sometimes even a feeling is transmitted to the meditator. This feedback is said to trigger subtle psychological changes or responses in mind, the cumulative effect of such feedback is not to be underestimated. A typical example would be as follows: A white light from the Buddha form shines out towards us from an Om syllable on the Buddhas forehead towards our forehead at the same time we and or the group we are meditating with say the syllable Ommmmmmmmmm out loud for a few seconds. We feel or experience the vibration of the light and the sound together. This process is greatly magnified when we meditate in groups especially when we are in very large groups.

Khyrem can be translated to the moment when the Buddha is born. Here the Buddha or Buddha nature is clearly born and activated in our mind. This conscious feedback is also the same feedback one receives in Tibetan empowerments or initiations, albeit with less ritual. This is why this phase is sometimes referred to as self-empowerment as the lights, syllables, and sounds all correspond to the main chakras that are blessed by high Lamas and Rinpoches during an initiation. This self-empowerment provides the meditator with a strong blessing and enlightened contact regardless of where the lama is. One can also use the analogy of tieing ones rapidly changing stream of consciousness to a pole. Within the meditation, one has a series of approved distractions or highly detailed archetypal forms to focus on. Often one can simply rotate ones attention from one specific aspect to another at will within a much smaller field of attention than one is normally used to. These skillful means are very powerful mind training techniques.

Dzogrim or the completion phase can be compared to hugging or uniting ourselves with the Buddha form. The full mixing of powerful light energy and one’s own energy form imbues the meditator with the enlightened qualities of the Buddha aspect and one is filled with blessing. When the term dissolving phase is used it can be understood to be where we dissolve the barrier or distance between us and the enlightened qualities of the lama or Buddha aspect, here one simply feels inseparable from the teacher and all beings. One no longer is looking into the mirror of mind, we are the mirror, reflecting our own enlightened qualities. Perfection phase refers to the total understanding or the absolute realization of Mahamudra the highest teachings in Vajrayana Buddhism. This is a CLEAR experience of mind unadulterated by the veils of our disturbing emotions and basic ignorance. All three are Dzogrim. Dzogrim and Laktong often share the same place and time in most meditations but as Laktong is the insight the “ah ha” moment or the connection to one’s deepest awareness, beyond the normal understanding. Dzogrim clearly points to a pristine unadulterated experience of the LUMINANCE of mind. This CLEAR LIGHT, when seen from an outside perspective but still within the meditative experience, is the mechanism with which mind shines on the form and sound realms in order so that we may perceive them. This responsive outward shining of consciousness is what we are mentally reproducing in the Khyrem part of the meditation. In its very essence, we are the CLEAR LIGHT when there is no longer any distance or barrier between us and our experience and when we have total unity within our experience, sounds perfect doesn’t it?

 

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Flowing in the Stream of Consciousness

There is an old saying that you can never enter the same stream twice. This seems kind of odd to the uninitiated especially if you swam in a river or stream often as a kid, so what do we mean here? We have two Buddhist terms that I would like to introduce and discuss here in relation to the steam. The first is impermanence this is understood that everything is in a constant state of change and the second is “dependent arising”. Impermanence is simple and covered in detail here, but dependent arising can be a bit complex. Let’s use the following example of a stream to discover the meaning in dependent arising. We have a stream flowing past us the fresh cool water is clean and clear. As the water flows by it erodes the banks of the stream in some places and deposits the eroded earth in others, it changes constantly. When our stream meets another stream and the two merge and flow on together, soon we have a river. Then at the end of the long river, we often have all the sand or earth carried by the river deposited in the delta where the main river once again divides into smaller streams as it slowly meets the ocean. Once the river has merged with the ocean a new process takes over as the water evaporates into the air becomes clouds and falls back to the earth as rain to be collected by the stream once again. This natural environmental cycle is dependent arising constant and ever-changing based on the impermanence of the surrounding conditions. One part of the process depends on the other and when seen as a whole there is no beginning or end to be found. Take one part out and nothing exists. No start or creation point is then necessary.

“At first practice is like a river rushing through a gorge. In the middle, it’s the river Ganges, smooth and flowing. In the end, it’s where all rivers meet, mother and child.” Tilopa Ganges Mahamudra.

It is here where we realise Dzogrim or that we are a drop of water in the whole ocean.

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It is like this that we can understand our own existence here on earth one big cycle of ever-changing conditions and we can never be the same person twice like we can never enter the same stream or river twice. How do we compare to the river, certainly we are more complex? Here modern science would have to include our store consciousness, that is the sum of all the knowledge, thoughts, and actions we have ever encountered or our stream or consciousness. William James in “Principals of Psychology” used the phrase, stream of consciousness, to describe an unbroken flow of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings in the waking mind.

Buddhist theory calls our store consciousness “Alaya” this is the sum of all our experiences or our karma from all our lives since beginningless time. This Alaya is constantly mixing and interacting with our new life situation. Based on previous actions we decide the new course of action and we cycle through our existence without beginning or end just like the water in the stream. We are never the same person from each moment of mind to the next. The point here is clear we are the result of our actions and ideas, we should be more responsible.

This quote from the physicist Böhm sums it up quite nicely:

“I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment….”

D. Bohm, _Wholeness and the Implicate Order_, p.ix

The coherent whole is his comparison for the cycle of dependent arising that is never static or complete. And the unending movement of the river unfolds slowly as new conditions arise in mind.

Modern neuroscientists cannot find the mechanism of how our vast knowledge or memory is stored and then recalled, there are theories but none that are generally agreed upon. There is evidence that certain areas of the brain are associated with certain types of memory but the mechanism is unknown and much of what we know is based on the theory from one man Henry Molaison who has his complete hippocampus removed. After the removal, Henry could not form new long term memories. While this part of the brain certainly plays an important role in memory there is no proof of the storage processes in the brain then the storage could be somewhere else. Just my thoughts but the hippocampus is rather small to store all those memories. Not to mention it’s removal prevented new memories from being formed. The memories formed prior to the operation were still there, showing that the hippocampus is not the storage location.

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Alaya has no specific location it is said to be non-local, or more simply said, space is information, omnipresent or everywhere, like energy. It’s simple and beautiful think of it as a cosmic conscious internet or quantum network, flowing through the universe everywhere and always new. Our entire being changing with every new situation and experience. Like always in Buddhism, this responsibility is our own to decide what direction we take, ask yourself do you want a comedy or tragedy today? The choice and answer is clear, are they not?

QP

 

Your local Buddhist Centre is not a replacement for your Therapist.

In the last few years, there have been a growing number of Psychiatrists and therapists who have been successfully treating their patients with meditation. Meditation can be a powerful tool in one’s possession to help heal and integrate a patient’s troubles into a well functioning and mentally stable member of society. I am personally convinced that the Buddhadharma itself is a path to wellbeing like no other. It encompasses parts of religion, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and philosophy so seamlessly and effortlessly and at the same time, it stands alone in a category all unto itself. Buddhism is far more developed in the west now than the religious fad it was in the ’60s. Since then it has grown and matured such that in most major North America and European cities one can find many different Buddhist offers nearby at the stroke of a few keys and your favourite search engine. But in this day and age of fad treatments and rising health care costs can one expect to solve their mental health issues by just sitting on the meditation cushion and seeking solace in the welcoming arms of the well-meaning and altruistic Buddhists down the street? As with any big question, its answer has at least two sides that I would like to explore with you now.

I am blessed with many great friends and one of my favourite people in my friendship mandala is Franzi, she is a psychologist and works with people who have quite severe behavioural and mental disorders such as depression, psychosis, borderline, and schizophrenia. She had mentioned to me once or twice that she uses meditation in her practice and I thought that now was a good time to sit down with a good cup of coffee and have a chat with her. First I wanted to know how she used meditation in her treatment plan for her patients and how successful it is. For her openness to meditation in her patients was the first consideration. Many people would not consider it due to religious or cultural objections, and if there was openness the doctor-patient relationship needed to trusting enough to use it successfully. The next consideration was what meditation therapy was appropriate? The first of two main treatments was a simple awareness meditation designed to bring the patient into the here and now. For example, the patient was asked to walk through a park and find 5 things to touch, smell, and describe like fragrant flowers and colourful leaves. For many patients, this exercise was helpful to bring them into the here and now that you and I know, in a stable and easy way. This type of meditation was helpful especially for patients with PTSD. The second meditation uses breathing, or a basic Shine type meditation to relax and bring a patient into a calm mindstate. It is used with patients with depression of various degrees with good success as well, but this was almost never used in more difficult cases as many patients when relaxed were prone to mental disturbances arising uncontrolled and in damaging ways. Meditation was never used in Borderline and schizophrenia patients for this exact reason. Meditation was also never the only form of treatment and was always used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy in its many forms, “meditation is only one brick in the wall.” or as my picture suggests one tile in the complete mosaic of mental health. I then asked her if and when she would ever recommend a patient to go to a Buddhist centre and to learn meditation. She would gladly recommend things like yoga and Buddhist meditation but only as an option for patients who were already quite healthy, never for patients with severe disabilities.

The last part of our conversation focused on Buddhist centres and how they could deal with patients who are walking through their doors at an ever-increasing rate due to the very high cost of psychological treatment in countries with little or no public health care such as the US. I was surprised to hear much the same advice from Franzi as from my Lama. Severely mentally ill people should not meditate and in some cases such as with borderline patients, the group itself would be in danger with the behaviour of the patient. It is well known that Borderline patients are particularly challenging for even the most experienced groups of medical professionals let alone for a group of well-meaning, altruistic, but completely untrained Buddhist practitioners. Moreover, the complex meditations leading to very relaxed and open states of mind are completely inappropriate for many patients especially when there is no supervision. Some meditations like for instance Ngondro are designed to slowly pull the carpet out from under the ego, this is done in a slow and methodical way that leaves a meditator less and less attached to disturbing emotions and the ego illusion. But one needs a healthy ego in the first place to start this. If this is done by an individual who has an impaired sense of reality it can and likely will be dangerous. Franzi was clear the group should talk about anyone in attendance in the centre who is under the care or should be under the care of medical professionals and find a kind way to ask them to leave, and maybe even have an outside person not from the local group but within the tradition to help. This is not an easy task I can tell you from personal experience as I have had to do this once myself it was extremely challenging to do in good style.

Now for the good news and the other side of the story. Everyone’s life can be profoundly improved if they are lucky enough to come in contact with the Buddhadharma. The trick here is that meditation is not a tool to take lightly. Now, strictly learning about things like the four noble truths, the eightfold path, karma, compassion, and Metta would be of benefit to anyone including the mentally ill. But here is the key and its a problem Buddhists have had since the very beginning and the answer is wisdom. Wisdom must be balanced with compassion and be used in situations where mental health is an issue. Compassion without wisdom is mushy and stupid, wisdom without compassion is cold and hard, here we need the middle way. What does this mean? If you have a mild depression from a bad breakup or are neurotic with your cell phone use as the rest of us, in other words, normal, please feel free to practice meditation in any way in which you like but if you have a chronic, diagnosable, or serious mental health problem, seek out and follow the best medical advice and treatment you can find and follow their professional advice. Do not come looking for it in a Buddhist centre, we are not capable and not trained to help you.

Buddhist centres should also educate themselves about the warning signs of mental illness and be prepared to wisely deal with uncomfortable situations. And any Buddhist centre advertising a course on “dealing with disturbing emotions” should be aware of the Pandora’s box that they are opening when eager customers walk through their the door.

Do you have anything to add or a bone to pick please feel free to comment below,

 

QP