☸ An Interview with Mingyur Rinpoche
Many Westerners came to Buddhism because it seemed so logical. Impermanence made perfect sense, and was easily verified. And no-self made sense—that people and things have no intrinsic, unchanging identity. That we suffer is clear. However, in meditation, often the experience of these things is far more convincing than any of the logical proofs. Can you say something about that?
There are two approaches. The first is theoretical investigation. It means using our intelligence to find out what is fact and what isn’t. And if you know how to investigate intelligently, you will discover the Buddha’s truths. You will see what is real and what isn’t. You’ll see that it is true that composite things are impermanent. And if you really pay attention, you will also discover that there is no intrinsic personal identity, that all things are ultimately empty. And that deluded states—samsaric states—are painful. It’s a fact. That’s how it is.
It’s also a fact that calming down, practicing what we call shamatha, or calm abiding in the meditative state, has sublime qualities. This is another way you can attain conviction about what is real and what isn’t, gaining trust in what is. In this case, it doesn’t help to continuously analyze, because the act of analyzing actually disturbs the calm; you cannot be confident in the experience of calmness by being analytical. It’s self-defeating. And when it comes to vipashyana meditation—the experience of seeing clearly—it’s the same; you can’t really have the experience of insight if you continuously analyze. So a different approach is necessary. Aside from intellectual trust, you have to develop an experiential trust. The first kind of trust is only good if it creates circumstances that lead to the second, experiential type. This is gained through training personally in the experience of calmness, shamatha meditation, and also in vipashyana meditation, which leads to the insight of emptiness. Not as theory, but as an experience. Developing this kind of trust, combined with compassion for beings and devotion to the awakened ones, can lead you all the way to the awakened state of the Buddha; mere intellectual understanding will not. That’s the main difference between the two kinds of trust or understanding.