The Core Practices of the DharmaMind Group
These teachings are known as The Five Pillars of Transformation and are the framework for realisation and freedom from samsara. They are practised within the all-embracing spirit sometimes referred to as the non-developmental or immanent model of the Mahayana. The name of each pillar indicates one aspect of a whole process of transformation that needs to be understood in order for the pillars to become a living practice, so enabling the transformation of our entrapment to self.
The first pillar is ‘Familiarity With Meditation’. Our meditation is non-conceptual and characterised by stillness and openness. Sitting meditation is our primary platform for insight but we also need to become ever more familiar with the experience of stillness and openness. Stillness and openness introduce us directly to our natural state of being (Buddha nature), but crucially we need also to develop trust with this state because at these times the self is not present, and this being so we can often feel vulnerable and insecure, even fearful.
The second pillar is ‘Taming Restlessness’. Restlessness is with us at all times. Whether in the body, mind or emotions there is always an experience of agitation, however subtle at times this may be. This is at the root of the existential unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) of the human condition. We need to bring commitment and discipline to harness and tame restlessness in all of its manifestations, whether it is during sitting meditation or any aspect of our daily life.
The third pillar is ‘Living in the Body’, whereby we train ourselves to turn our attention and awareness away from the habit that most of us westerners have of living in the head, where the self primarily obtains its identity, into living in the body. For it is in the body that wisdom is discovered, reintegration with the mind becomes possible, and true liberation is found.
The fourth pillar is ‘Transforming the Emotions’. We learn to contain the emotional forces which gather in the lower part of our body below the navel and become a powerful identity for the self. This driving force of the emotions provides the volition we need for the attachments we have that bind us to our world.
The fifth pillar is ‘Recognising our True Nature’. This takes place through the familiarity of stillness and cultivating the ability to go for refuge in this place of stillness away from the grasping self. It is here that we meet our true guide and teacher. By turning towards our true nature we also begin to open to our innate human qualities through the cultivation of the paramitas thus opening the door to the non-dual and the mysteries of the spiritual path.
In order to put each pillar into context it has become necessary to begin these teachings with a summary. By doing so I hope to create a framework in which each pillar will find its place, and by doing so play its part in creating the complete picture of transformation.
The summary that follows and the rest of the teachings, are from an audio transcription of a meditation retreat held in Scotland at the Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in 2007.