Four Reasons We Don’t Get It - Nalandabodhi International

The ḍākinī Niguma’s Vajra Lines of Self-Arising Mahāmudrā presents four flaws that make it difficult to recognize mind’s nature: the main practice of Mahāmudrā is to allow these four flaws to be free in themselves.

  1. Though our buddha nature lacks any meeting or parting, it is not recognized, because it is too close. This is like trying to press our eye against the surface of a table to see it better. Doing so gets our eye as close to the table as possible but also means that we cannot see the table clearly. Rather than seeing all its details because of being very close, we do not even recognize that it is a table, and it moreover hurts. The way ordinary beings do not realize their mind’s nature is exactly like that: it is too close to be recognized, and the more we try to zoom in on it the tighter our mind becomes, which hurts. Therefore, it is said that relaxation is important in the beginning when we start with the view, and even more important in meditation and conduct. The Mahāmudrā tradition says that those people who can relax the best have the best meditation, those who relax in a medium manner have a medium meditation, and it is obvious what happens to those who cannot relax.
  2. Not only is the nature of our mind too close to be recognized, it is also too simple. Though, or rather because, it is utterly simple, we do not trust it wholeheartedly, which is the reason why we cannot remain undistracted from its simplicity. If someone says to us, “You are such a simple person,” we usually do not take that as a compliment. But when we hear, “You are such a sophisticated person,” we are very happy and feel appreciated. We usually love sophistication: nobody wants a simple iPhone 1 anymore; it must be the latest model, no matter how overpriced it is or how few of its thousands of functions we actually use. Since our mind’s nature is what is most simple, we don’t get it and are always on the lookout for something more pompous.
  3. Though the nature of our mind is always present within us and even sends us wake-up calls all the time, we don’t recognize it, because it is too profound. It is not found in the ever-agitated waves on the surface of our busy dualistic mind with all its projections, but only in the depths of the vast ocean of mind’s luminosity and emptiness.
  4. Our buddha nature is too excellent: it is too good to be true. Its infinite spaciousness, overwhelmingly brilliant awareness, and limitless qualities of awakening do not fit into our small and claustrophobic, dualistic minds; thus, since we only know the framework of our little narrow mind, we lack conviction in the boundless freedom of Mahāmudrā and continue to roam saṃsāra.

Suggestions for contemplation:

  • Have you ever not seen something because it was too close? Once you saw it, how was that experience different from when you saw something that was too far away at first?
  • If you like simple things, why? What are they? If you don’t like simple things, what intrigues you in complicated or sophisticated things?
  • Are you challenged by something that is called “profound” by someone else or that you consider so? Or does that make you more interested and curious? Why would either be the case?
  • Have you ever encountered someone or something that seemed to be too good to be true? Could you readily embrace them or was it difficult to overcome doubts and suspicion?
Karl Brunnhölzl
Karl Brunnhölzl

Mitra Karl Brunnhölzl, MD, PhD, was trained as a physician and also studied Tibetology. He received systematic training in Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and practice. Since 1989 he has been a translator and interpreter from Tibetan and English. Karl Brunnhölzl is a senior teacher and translator in Nalandabodhi and at Nitartha Institute. Living in Seattle, he is the author and translator of numerous texts. His most recent books are Luminous Melodies, A Lullaby to Awaken the Heart, and The Heart Attack Sutra.

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