Why do we need dualistic practices, such as generating merit, to reach a state that transcends duality? Because we have to start from where we are. Our mind’s true nature is covered by karmic turbulence caused by our grasping at self and our negative mental habits. “Grasping at a self” refers to the way we grasp at mental objects as truly existing, perceiving them dualistically as subject and object. The aspect of our mind that perceives this way is conceptual mind. Conceptual mind and the true nature of mind are like the surface and depths of the ocean: The surface is choppy with wind-tossed waves; beneath it is still and peaceful.
Most of us can’t glimpse into the depths, our true nature, because our conceptual mind is constantly churning out turbulence. Grasping at self tricks us, like a nightmare, into believing that we are separate from the world and each other. This triggers negative emotions, from craving and anxiety to jealousy and aggression, which spill out into unhealthy words and actions.
Every dualistic perception, every negative thought, feeling, word, and deed, leaves a negative karmic imprint in our conceptual mind that walls us off from our true nature. On the other hand, positive mentalities leave positive karmic imprints that open our mind, loosen grasping at self, and thin out the barriers to our true nature.
As long as we have dualistic concepts and emotions, the world is solid to us. Our suffering is all too real. Circumstances matter. If our surroundings are chaotic, it will be hard to find tranquillity. If we experience peace and joy, however, we will be inspired to generate even more peace and joy. Then whatever we say and do will be the words and deeds of joy and peace. We progressively loosen our grasping at self, and eventually we glimpse the luminous nature of our mind. If we perfect this realisation, we uproot grasping at self and become fully awakened.
by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche