Instructions on Vision in the Middle Way
Root Verses with Commentary
After examining and purifying mind
Finding the absence of a personal self
And with certainty of this crucial insight
'I' become the composition of the parts.
Examining what is still unknown
Distinguishing between conditioned and unconditioned,
Analysing each form of experience,
This is called 'this' and that is called 'that'.
Practice of the previous meditation induces certainty that 'I' does not exist in
any substantial form. Discovering, however, that what was previously considered to be a
concrete entity is a composition of parts which for convenience were categorised under the
five groupings of bodymind, the tendency is to identify with the sum of the parts.
Continuing meditation by examining whatever arises in the mind, the distinction should be
made between the experience of the parts of the bodymind complex and the unconditioned
states of concentration which should become more frequent as meditation progresses.
Gradually each experience will become well defined, but the object of experience will
continue to appear as an independent entity, existing regardless of the other ingredients
of the perceptual situation, namely, the organ of sense and the sensation. The habit of
belief in the material existence of things is difficult to break. A chair will still be
considered as 'existent' even after the perceiver leaves the room.
Still clinging to the various forms of the flow
Searching for substance, nothing is found
Then going beyond the 'irreducible duality'
(This is explained by science)
Ever finer reductions establishing nothing
An interdependent field appears
Consisting of both the manifestly real
And the fictional fantasies of mind.
So long as there is a belief in the existence of forms independent of the
perceiver, the search for the self-existent substance continues. The categories of mind
and matter, subject and object, are transcended in this search. But the all-important
transformation occurs when all things are seen as an inter-related field evolving in its
entirety from one pattern into another. The belief in any 'self' or 'entity' is shattered
in this vision of totality. However, the realisation of this higher reality may not be
achieved immediately, but more likely, it will first appear as a bright possibility and
only with constant perseverance in meditative practice will it become clear. The fictions
of mind, the fantasies which have been mistaken for the genuine reality remain to colour
the vision in ways that obscure it. These are deeply ingrained habits of perception,
insisting that somewhere there is a fundamental distinction between 'I' and 'it', between
subject and object, between the poles of every duality.
Focusing whatever must be examined,
Both manifest reality and mental fantasy,
Closely inspecting with penetrating scrutiny,
Neither root nor base is discovered.
So nothing is.
But like illusion and dream,
Echo, faerie or the moon's reflection in water,
Hallucination or mirage, chimera or phantom,
Meditating on the nature of the apparent Emptiness of Illusion --
Emptiness is in form and form in Emptiness.
Continuing to search for the base of existence, everything which enters the mind
is scrutinised. Although a vision of reality excluding the limitations of duality and
selfishness is dimly perceived, the same process of examination and purification during
meditation is essential. Gradually as the vision becomes a constant mode of perception,
all things take on an illusory quality, they become lighter and shimmer as if immaterial
and gossamer. The realisation dawns that the Emptiness which contains release from the
weight of mundane existence is nowhere but in the forms which are perceived. There is
nowhere to go to, nothing to discover but the nature of mind.
Such is the specific ultimate reality.
But with the certainty of this realisation
And with an ongoing vision of magical illusion
Understood through unsullied insight,
Still bound by the fascination of form
And failing to relax hypnotic ideas,
Balked by conceptualisation,
The essential pervasive passivity is unseen.
Here the vision is sufficiently developed to perceive the Emptiness in every
form and the form in Emptiness, but because of the obscuring function of profoundly rooted
habits of thought, the particularising tendency prevents full understanding of the
identity of all forms. The intellect still has sufficient power to intensify the
discriminating faculty at the expense of the underlying compassion. The details of
manifestation still bind attention by means of their decorative quality, and the
preconceptions fortified by the common sense assumptions which have previously provided a
supporting value system still block pure awareness. In the post-meditative state reality
sustains the dreamlike quality which has been developed and insight does not vanish with
the completion of formal practice, yet the root causes of delusion remain as subtle and
elusive obstacles to full understanding.
When certainty in this magical vision arises,
Focus the fascinating vestiges of delusion
And thoughtfully examine them --
No substance to these objects exists.
Then finding no mind which is clinging,
Relax, detached in simple freedom,
And thus composed, the outer and inner
Stream of images flows unbroken.
The subtle obstacles to the stream of spontaneously apparent forms are removed
in the same way as the grossest forms of passion --by means of close attention while
searching for the essential nature of the object. The momentarily arising visionary field
has some snags in it and pulls mind in that direction, limiting the scope of vision and
preventing the full awareness of the breadth and depth of reality. Attention to them,
discovering their substantial Emptiness, destroys their fascination. In the same way,
attention to the mind which is attracted and which imposes a delusory fiction upon the
tapestry of perception discovers no mind. Then having finally destroyed all attachment to
both external and internal forms, the distinction between subject and object is destroyed
and the all-pervasive ultimate reality is understood. The flow of perception is unimpeded.
In this original state of detachment
All that is woven into the continuum
Primordially unborn and unimpeded
Free from grasping and fascination
Is identified in the realm of self-sameness.
Without assertion of something or nothing
In the flow of ineffable significance
Only unquestionable experience dawns.
With the realisation of the realm of free space in which all things are
identified, anything which enters experience is known to be unborn in its origin. This is
the attainment of the ultimate refuge, for with complete certainty in the essential
reality of whatever is experienced, no fear arises to begin the process of action-reaction
producing attraction and aversion, clinging and anxious repulsion and complex reaction
patterns. Detached, without any tendency to slow the natural progression from unitary
totality to the intimately related flash of the following moment, no doubt or fear arises,
no expectancy remains unfulfilled simultaneously with its arising. Rather there is a
continuous sense of amazement at the ineffable beauty and sublimity of the being in life
and understanding. Nothing need be asserted and nothing need be negated, for the
perfection of the moment excludes the possibility of detracting expression which both
positive and negative assertions imply. The precise discriminating awareness which is
inseparable from the realm of self-sameness prevents the overbalance into an entranced
state of blissful unknowing. The particulars of every situation are perceived, but none
bring disquiet for the ultimate relationship between the parts is the harmonising,
The transcendent, all-pervasive ultimate reality is seen
As the suchness of all aspects of experience,
Active self-awareness of distinctions
By passive, undivided understanding.
Meditation is the constant spontaneity
Of coincident Emptiness and relativity,
The two truths become one in the authenticity
Of the Master Adept of the Middle Way.
This is the ultimate reality in which there is no attempt to postulate any
formula or metaphor descriptive of the experience of the unity of Emptiness and form.
There is nodivision between thought and experience. Thought has been transformed into the
underlying understanding which is inseparable from the self-awareness of the form which is
discerned. Like sugar dissolved in water, like heat and fire, or like water and wetness,
there is not one without the other. The two truths, the relative empiric truth and the
ultimate and absolute truth become one, and the yogin is the knowledge holder in this
authentic state of being. This is the culmination of the Madhyamika Path in what is known
to the Tibetans as Umachenpo, the Great Middle.
This nondual immanent understanding
Free of the objectifying process of mind
When desired, can be immediately realised
By following Mantrayana instruction.
Or this ultimate crucial height
Can be reached after purifying inspection
Attaining gradual conviction on the path
In the Middle Way meditation practice.
The mental state or level of consciousness with which the reader has apprehended
the above information and visions is the ground, the starting point. The Nyingma tradition
offers two possible vehicles to travel the path to a realisation of the inadequately
expressed goal which the visions imply. The first is the direct and immediately
efficacious Mantrayana, and the second the Madhyamika path of the Mahayana which is an
easier, slower, and less dangerous means of attaining the same ends.
When a man is parched by thirst
The thought of water brings no relief --
Only drinking can quench his thirst:
So information differs from experience.
The exhausting search for information
For mere objective knowledge
Becomes needless with meditative experience
Which quickly leads to equanimity.
The necessary study which teaches skill in self-expression, metaphysical
postulation, logic and other arts and sciences precedes practice. It is customary to look
at a map before starting out on a journey. However, to believe that the knowledge which is
gained from the map is the terrain itself is to mistake the concept for the reality. No
mere intellectual certainty is valuable when faced with the naked reality of the depths of
mind. Like accumulated wealth at the moment of death or the gift of snow in the tropics,
theoretic knowledge has no relevance out of its own sphere. The spontaneous expression of
the view perceived in profound equanimity, which is the acceptance of whatever may arise
without addition or subtraction, replaces the preconceptions of dogma and philosophical
These verses were written by the great Nyingma master Lama Mi pham writing under
the name 'Jam dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje on the twenty ninth day of the eleventh month of the
water-dragon year so that all beings may realise the meaning of the profound Middle Way.
Commentary by Keith Dowman.