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Rigpa

The Reptilian Brain and the Buddha Mind

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Jackson Peterson

Sept 6, 2018

The Reptilian Brain and the Buddha Mind

Putting all philosophical views aside, let’s look at our human experience.

The human animal evolved from much more primitive life forms. Many of the remnants of those earlier life forms remain in our anatomy. A fundamental aspect of our brain is controlled by the “reptilian-like” functionality known as the instinctual urges to survive and to reproduce.

The reptilian brain dominates our
limbic system in the lower brain. All the higher intellectual powers of the brain evolved only to further the survival capacities of the reptilian brain. The ultimate “boss” of our organism, especially when under stress and duress, is the ancient reptilian brain. It always looks out for its own survival and usually, possible mating opportunities.

All thoughts, concepts, thinking processes and emotional states are all sophisticated modes being used by the reptilian brain in order to accomplish its goals.

This accounts for our resistance to sitting in meditation because it doesn’t really fit into the overall reptilian plan of increasing wealth, security and reproducing. This is why many meditators report much sexual fantasizing and the like often occurring during long bouts of sitting practice. The “boss” is trying to get things back on the right track.

When we sit in an undirected, state of “observing” meditation, our awareness will begin to notice all the mental traffic. ALL the mental traffic ties into the overall goals of the reptilian brain, no matter how sweet and sugar coated those thoughts “seem” to be. Even kind and “compassionate” thoughts are only a regard for others of our own or our favorite species’, survival. Wanting to help and care for others to survive, is just part of the broader survival instinct.

The reptilian brain has its tentacles wrapped around all of our activities. It’s always a businessman in that even love is a transaction expecting some kind of consideration in return.

Now in stark contrast is our Buddha Mind. It’s not an organism, has no evolved anatomy and has no interest in survival or reproduction.

Knowing this, we can differentiate the mental activities of the reptilian brain from the empty and serene clarity of the Buddha Mind awareness during meditation.

Here is a partial list of the reptilian brain’s favorite topics and activities: thinking, conceptualizing, daydreaming, imagining, sexual interest, sexual thoughts, a sense of personal selfhood, desire, dominating, controlling, managing, accumulating wealth, wanting to reproduce, interest in drinking alcohol, doing drugs, watching porno, engaging in S&M, possessiveness, needing someone, wanting to hunt, anger, hate, hope, preferences, prejudice, tribalism, nationalism, being a capitalist, interest in enlightenment, pride, arrogance, maintaining a good reputation, revenge and having beliefs. (just a very small sampling).

In contrast the Buddha Mind has no thoughts, no concepts, no daydreaming, “no mind”, no dualism, no fear, no agenda, no goals, no interest in survival, is unconditional love, has no stress, is uncaused joy, is contented satisfaction, no money goals, insightful wisdom states of mind, no personal identity, and unchanging “presence” outside of space and time.

The life of the reptilian brain is always samsara. The life of the Buddha Mind is always nirvana.

Sitting in empty, alert and clear awareness, notice and ignore all the activities of the reptilian brain, with the instructional words of the Buddha; “not me”, “not mine” and “not my self”.

We need make no moral judgments regarding any of this. There are simply two paths; the way of the reptilian brain and the way of the Buddha Mind.

When in a state of rigpa, the reptilian brain immediately assumes a subservient position. Why does it yield its dominant position? It’s because it instinctually knows that rigpa will be a much better “captain of the ship”. The Buddha Mind has unlimited intelligence and power, where the reptilian brain has only the brain of a turtle with fox-like upgrades.

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Tao & Zen Community Forum

 


The essence of meditation practice in Dzogchen

“The essence of meditation practice in Dzogchen is encapsulated by these four points:
▪ When one past thought has ceased and a future thought has not yet risen, in that gap, in between, isn’t there a consciousness of the present moment; fresh, virgin, unaltered by even a hair’s breadth of a concept, a luminous, naked awareness?
Well, that is what Rigpa is!
▪ Yet it doesn’t stay in that state forever, because another thought suddenly arises, doesn’t it?
This is the self-radiance of that Rigpa.
▪ However, if you do not recognize this thought for what it really is, the very instant it arises, then it will turn into just another ordinary thought, as before. This is called the “chain of delusion,” and is the root of samsara.
▪ If you are able to recognize the true nature of the thought as soon as it arises, and leave it alone without any follow-up, then whatever thoughts arise all automatically dissolve back into the vast expanse of Rigpa and are liberated.
Clearly this takes a lifetime of practice to understand and realize the full richness and majesty of these four profound yet simple points, and here I can only give you a taste of the vastness of what is meditation in Dzogchen.

Source: Sogyal Rinpoche Quotes (Author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)


The Essential Nature of Mind

 

“Buddhist teachings make a distinction between what is called Big Mind, or Natural Mind, and “small mind,” or ordinary, deluded mind. Small mind, or deluded mind, is the buzzing, unpredictable, frequently out-of-control ordinary mind.

This is our finite mind, our limited conceptual mind; our ordinary, rational, discursive, thinking mind. The deluded mind has so many impulses and needs; it wants so many things. It’s frequently confused; it’s subject to mood swings; it’s restless. It gets angry; it gets depressed; it becomes hyper.

Some ancient traditional texts refer to this small mind as “monkey mind,” where it is pictured as a chaotic little monkey jumping from tree to tree, looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places.

What is meant by Big Mind is the essential nature of mind itself. This is what we call Buddha-nature, or natural mind. This is our true nature – the pure boundless awareness that is at the heart, and part, of us all. The Buddha described it as still, clear, lucid, empty, profound, simple (uncomplicated), and at peace.

It’s not really what we usually think of as our mind at all. It is the luminous, most fundamental clear light nature of our ground of being. This is Rigpa, the heart of enlightenment.

Dzogchen teaches that all we have to do to become enlightened is to recognize and rest in this natural state of mind. In Zen they call this original mind. This is raw, naked awareness, not something we’ve learned or fabricated.

This is the Buddha within – the perfect presence that we can all rely on. Waking up to this natural mind, this Buddha-nature, is what meditation is all about.”

~ Lama Surya Das ~
Awakening the Buddha Within


The essence of meditation practice in Dzogchen

ocean ocean waves

“The essence of meditation practice in Dzogchen is encapsulated by these four points:
▪ When one past thought has ceased and a future thought has not yet risen, in that gap, in between, isn’t there a consciousness of the present moment; fresh, virgin, unaltered by even a hair’s breadth of a concept, a luminous, naked awareness?
Well, that is what Rigpa is!
▪ Yet it doesn’t stay in that state forever, because another thought suddenly arises, doesn’t it?
This is the self-radiance of that Rigpa.
▪ However, if you do not recognize this thought for what it really is, the very instant it arises, then it will turn into just another ordinary thought, as before. This is called the “chain of delusion,” and is the root of samsara.
▪ If you are able to recognize the true nature of the thought as soon as it arises, and leave it alone without any follow-up, then whatever thoughts arise all automatically dissolve back into the vast expanse of Rigpa and are liberated.
Clearly this takes a lifetime of practice to understand and realize the full richness and majesty of these four profound yet simple points, and here I can only give you a taste of the vastness of what is meditation in Dzogchen.

Dzogchen meditation is subtly powerful in dealing with the arisings of the mind, and has a unique perspective on them. All the risings are seen in their true nature, not as separate from Rigpa, and not as antagonistic to it, but actually as none other–and this is very important–than its “self-radiance,” the manifestation of its very energy.
Say you find yourself in a deep state of stillness; often it does not last very long and a thought or a movement always arises, like a wave in the ocean.  Don’t reject the movement or particulary embrace the stillness, but continue the flow of your pure presence. The pervasive, peaceful state of your meditation is the Rigpa itself, and all risings are none other than this Rigpa’s self-radiance. This is the heart and the basis of Dzogchen practice. One way to imagine this is as if you were riding on the sun’s rays back to the sun: ….
Of couse there are rough as well as gentle waves in the ocean; strong emotions come, like anger, desire, jealousy. The real practitioner recognizes them not as a disturbance or obstacle, but as a great opportunity. The fact that you react to arisings such as these with habitual tendencies of attachment and aversion is a sign not only that you are distracted, but also that you do not have the recognition and have lost the ground of Rigpa. To react to emotions in this way empowers them and binds us even tighter in the chains of delusion. The great secret of Dzogchen is to see right through them as soon as they arise, to what they really are: the vivid and electric manifestation of the energy of Rigpa itself. As you gradually learn to do this, even the most turbulent emotions fail to seize hold of you and dissolve, as wild waves rise and rear and sink back into the calm of the ocean.
The practitioner discovers–and this is a revolutionary insight, whose subtlety and power cannot be overestimated–that not only do violent emotions not necessarily sweep you away and drag you back into the whirlpools of your own neuroses, they can actually be used to deepen, embolden, invigorate, and strengthen the Rigpa. The tempestuous energy becomes raw food of the awakened energy of Rigpa. The stronger and more flaming the emotion, the more Rigpa is strengthened.”
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Source: Sogyal Rinpoche Quotes (Author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)