New Dhamma Questions

These questions and responses have been selected for their topics of general interest from Samaneri Jayasara’s ‘Wisdom of the Masters’ YouTube channel. They’ll also be added to our Q & A page here.


Q: I can not distinguish between the false ‘I’ and the ‘I’ source, even though I listen and practice meditation also… Please do you have any recommendations or advice for me?! 

A: Regarding your concern about how to distinguish between the false ‘I’ and the real ‘I’ or source – or you could say the FALSE as opposed to the REALITY – there are some important things to keep in mind during your meditation or self-enquiry.

Firstly, the real ‘I’ or Source/Reality is not a thing to be possessed or attained. It is actually your true nature. But it has no characteristics and transcends this dualistic, conditioned world which is marked by the characteristics of impermanence, change and not-self. The real SELF is also not really ‘a self’, in the sense that we think of it as something having substance or permanent characteristics. It transcends all conceptual, intellectual, rational understandings, ideas or beliefs.

However, you can come closer to being what you truly are when you let all concepts and thoughts go. The Reality can only be fully realised when the ego self is completely allayed, but in the process of our practice we may glimpse it and rest in it when we give up our clinging and grasping to everything – the body, mind, emotions, thoughts, ideas, sense impressions, etc… These things, when grasped at, constitute the false sense of ‘I’.

The more we can practice peace, stillness, silence, inner calm and relaxation, the more we come back to the ‘Source’ – our true home and real nature. The more we abide in it the more pronounced this will be and the false ‘I’ will drop away.

Q: How do I think from the heart and stay there? I do not want to be in the mind for the mind causes depression…

A: Indeed, the mind can be either our greatest enemy or friend. To ‘stay in the heart’ and abide there, as Ramana encourages us, means to allow the thought waves to settle and to stop identifying with them as ‘me’ or ‘mine’. They are simply energy vibrations which in Reality have no real substance to them, yet we give them power by consistently focusing on them and identifying and clinging to them. See this habitual pattern and behaviour that happens, wake up to it, and in seeing it clearly without judging, condemning, pushing away with aversion, or clinging, thoughts will naturally dissolve. It does take some commitment though to be present and aware. I wish you all inner peace and contentment.

Q: Even calmly abiding in the Dharmakaya for a few moments is a blessing. An awareness of the proliferation or its resolution seems natural and harmonious. I was blown by Padmasambhava’s assertion that the true nature doesn’t even have a tendency to proliferate. It just happens. It is its nature. But since the source has no need to proliferate thereby creating the samsara, why does it happen? What purpose does it serve? Why is the confusion caused only for it to be resolved time and time again?

A: The simple answer as given by the Buddha is – ignorance (avijja/ma-rigpa) is the cause. The slightly longer answer is ignorance, karma, craving/clinging is the cause.

Regarding the question, WHY? I quote Ayya Jitindriya – “The search for meaning is a pursuit of the ego.”
Finally, to quote a Dzogchen Master who responded to the question, “Where does ignorance come from?” He said, “If there’s ignorance it has to come from somewhere; but if there’s no ignorance it doesn’t have to come from anywhere!”

I hope some of these reflections help.

Q: Thank you so much for this meditation; [this] most profound focusing on the breath and the body was a light bulb moment for me… I have read it, and listened to so many teachers saying the same thing but up until now did not understand it. So, so grateful! How does one loose this ego?! I don’t like myself.

A: How does one lose this ego? Recognize that Ultimately there is no ego – it is simply the mental proliferations moving at a relentless speed and density and giving the ‘appearance’ of a personality self or ego. Look deeply, look gently and quietly and soon you will see the delusory ego-trickster. Don’t believe the thoughts that prey on you – they are just conditioned phenomena from lifetimes… Your ‘not liking’ yourself is part of this faulty conditioned processing. See with Awareness and they simply resolve and release. This is how the so called ego dissolves.

Q: During my morning meditation listening to Tilopa’s teaching on Mahamudra I had a magnificent experience that I want to share and would like to hear if this kind of thing is normal and what it might be...

At the end of the meditation, energy exploded in my body and I can’t really describe how it felt, but very much bliss/orgasm like through the whole body and light entered my closed eyes.

As I needed to go to work, I was trying to assemble myself, but I had so much energy and started to shiver in pure ecstasy, as I now write I feel this same energy below my belly-button and it feels like it can burst out anytime.

Is it possible to get a bit clear of what is happening to me?

A: It’s good to hear that Tilopa’s jewel of a teaching had such an impact on you. These things can happen spontaneously from time to time and it is a good sign and experience if it is understood and worked with properly. 

The bliss and ecstasy you experienced is really just your own nature waking up to itself. When the mind becomes deeply calm and still in meditation and thoughts begin to dissolve, this inner bliss sometimes bursts forth and can feel very strong and sometimes overwhelming. There is nothing to be concerned about, but equally one has to be very careful not to get fixated on it and desire it with every meditation.

Like all experiences and states within this phenomenal world (and worlds beyond this world) they are all impermanent, changeful and not-self. If we can just allow these things to flow through us without any sense of ego gratification thinking we have ‘attained’ something, or cling to it as the best experience ever, we are on the right path of wisdom. Bliss and ecstasy are very nice and very intoxicating but ultimately it is not liberation if clung to and identified with as ‘me’ or ‘my experience’ or if one becomes overly excited by it  – so we need to discern this and keep working with it.

Within the yogic tradition, these experiences are termed kundalini awakenings and they can appear to originate in the lower chakras and feel like full body orgasms. They speak of it as a latent serpent, coiled in the lower chakra that wakes up suddenly and causes these intense waves of bliss and ecstasy to surge through the body. It’s all good, and is a sign that your energy is definitely moving and waking up. Just enjoy and flow with it but don’t get attached to it. These experiences and energies can become addictive – like narcotics – so we should be wary of this. When we cling and become addicted to them and constantly look for and desire them, then it is just the ego playing itself out again and again.

It’s worth just investigating that when the mind puts down all concepts and is fully relaxed, letting-go in each moment, what naturally arises is bliss and peace. As the energy settles down and you keep practising, you might notice that the energy settles and you experience more of a calm, all pervading peace, and the energy might move more to your heart chakra. When it resides more in the heart chakra, the feeling is one of openness, compassion, love, tenderness, forgiveness and a connection to all beings – seeing and feeling none as separate from ourselves. This energy is more conducive (as it’s less overwhelming) to settle into and for allowing the liberating insights to emerge of themselves. 

I would simply advise you to keep practising – keep listening to Tilopa’s teaching from time to time as there are so many layers contained within it. The depth of wisdom it contains is immense and the more you listen to it the more you will understand in your heart what this incredible Master is pointing to. It has all the jewels of true Dharma contained in it and can help us awaken more and more to Ultimate Reality and Liberation.

I hope some of these reflections and explanations might be of help for you in understanding this process and what is going on.

What’s Love got to do with War ?

A couple of weeks ago Jayasara asked if I would write a reflection for the website… I agreed to of course, but in truth, I’ve been so taken up with keeping track of news about the war in Ukraine (and closer to home, the unprecedented deadly floods that engulfed parts of Eastern Australia this month), that I hadn’t made a start.

She asked me again today, and though very willing, when I contemplated what I might say, I realised I felt a great inner vacuity of words in the face of the huge drama playing out in Ukraine, and the subsequent implications and reverberations moving across the whole world.

Keeping track of the war via the rolling thread of real-time news and images has stirred such a range of emotions and reactions. In my earlier years I was never particularly interested in geo-politics and daily news feeds, but in the last few years, often out of necessity, the internet and the global news network has become a much bigger presence in my life. With having to keep track of news about the devasting bushfires burning across Eastern Australia (some of which threatened our monastery and village at the time); then right after that the onset of the global pandemic and trying to fathom and keep track of what was happening in the world (and the ever-changing regulations in our own society); and now this gruesome and critical conflict playing out in Ukraine, being virtually live-streamed for us all to see and respond to… It’s absolutely phenomenal really. And yet, from the large-lens Buddhist point of view, well, it’s just another day in samsara, isn’t it? Nothing much seems to change on that level, hmm?!

Even in the Buddha’s day, over two and a half thousand years ago, as he and many people around him were awakening to ultimate truth and getting enlightened, there seemed to be plenty of deadly wars, coups, plagues and disease playing out in the society around them.

Personally, due to modern technology, I’ve never felt so close to a war – the senseless and devastating destruction; the unfathomable ignorance behind such an egregious attack; the continued aggression despite the obvious untold cost on all levels for everyone; and feeling the utter tragedy and human trauma in the making. But the odd dissonance is that I am residing about 15,000 kms away from Ukraine, on the other side of the world in a different hemisphere, and in a relatively idyllic location amidst a peaceful community. My life at present feels blessed indeed; and yet, I recognise how circumstances can flip so easily, as it did for those in Ukraine and Russia just a month ago, as it can in any part of the world at any time. Of course, there are plenty of conflicts and dreadful circumstances simultaneously playing out around the world that we don’t always get such rolling coverage of… and the danger is, the longer such conflicts, crises, or social problems persist, the more easily they become ‘normalised’ in our perception. The danger of complacency increases.

When contemplating what to write about here, a theme did pop into my mind: ‘Love in a Time of War’… But, wasn’t that the name of an old book or movie? I googled it. Would you believe that two new books with that very same title have been released recently, (one of fiction and one autobiographical). I wasn’t thinking of a love story per se, but love as in the ‘power of love’. Jayasara recently uploaded a video called ‘Peace for the World’ to her YT channel with inspiring words from Mahatma Gandhi. The very last phrase was: “The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” That seems to sum up a big part of the problem, doesn’t it… the love of power.

We are all conditioned to want to stay in control at some level, it seems like a basic instinct, and fear of the loss of control is perhaps its driver. The need for having a certain degree of power and control, whether in our personal life or in the world at large, can be relatively rational and expected and held in appropriate perspective, or it can become irrational, grandiose and disproportionate to reality, abusive and dangerous, and completely unhinged. But it is all related to the ego-sense of self… that largely imagined entity, which mistakes itself for this ‘skin-bag’ (as the Buddha called this body), and is a condition which fears any sense of threat to its perceived existence, fears feelings of vulnerability, humiliation, and obliteration. Projected large however, it becomes completely unruly and the cause of so much suffering.

Unless we can come to understand this complex predicament and the ‘mistake’ of the uninformed mind, it seems the love of power will continue to play out in repeated cycles of conflict and war, as history bears witness to. But how can we harness the power of love in our world, and in response to the love of power? I bet you would love an easy answer to that here! And I wish I could provide it for you too… However, we each have to make that enquiry ourselves, take it inwards, sincerely and deeply; go to bed with it at night and get up with it in the morning; and repeatedly ask ourselves ‘How…?’. The true answer can be found, but only by embarking on that journey of discovery and transformation for ourselves — each one of us, in our own life, our own everyday world, with whatever we are encountering. Only in this world, can we truly find the power of love, not in a projected ideal of how the world should be, or could be, or how we should be, but in direct relationship with how it is for us in this moment, moment by moment.

Love for peace is not attachment to peace… True love (in the unconditional sense) is able to face anything and survive, as it is the very basis of existence, the very fabric of reality, and ultimately, has nothing at all to fear. If we can connect with that, then peace has a chance. In writing these words, I am acutely aware that this seems far too easy to say when not in the midst of wartime atrocities oneself… However, it doesn’t diminish the truth of it, and the very real possibility, indeed the imperative, to connect with it.

I wish you love, I wish you peace, I wish you courage, I wish you freedom.