Unable to visualize

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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smcj
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by smcj » Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:50 am

madhusudan wrote:"My master Dudjom Rinpoche used to say that it does not matter if you cannot visualize; what is more important is to feel the presence in your heart, and to know that this presence embodies the blessings, compassion, energy, and wisdom of all the buddhas. "

-Sogyal Rinpoche
It would have been nice if I'd heard that, like, 30 years ago... :tantrum:
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Admin_PC » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:59 pm

Reading this thread has been an eye opener for me. I thought visualize was to literally create a vision, like the earlier statement about thinking "that you're supposed to make images out of the light you see behind your closed eyelids." The wording of the Visualization Sutra from Pure Land talks about an image that you can see whether you're eyes are open or closed, so I thought it was something more substantial than just holding like a visual memory of an image in my head. This thread makes me think of imagining something visually & creating a mental picture, rather than trying to manifest something that only you can perceive (not sure if I'm adequately describing the nuance here). If that's the case, I'm still fairly weak at it, but maybe not as bad as I thought.
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Punya » Mon Dec 28, 2015 8:43 pm

I have no problem visualising images of the masters I admire but I find deity visualisation harder. All the advice in this thread is helpful but I'd be interested in views on this.

It seems to me that it's easier where the visualisation is based on a photograph or, of course, where you can visualise your teacher/guru in person. It's not only the medium but also the emotional connection. For deities, the visualisation is based on a thangka, drawing, statue or a photograph of a large image. I have trouble generating the same feeling of connection. Any suggestions on how to make the deity seem more real (but not too real :smile: ) and connected to your teacher in guru yoga?
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Ayu » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:35 pm

Why "but not too real"?
I can imagine this could be the point that curbs your visualization?

For me there is no difference visualizing a photo or a diety. The only reasons why I cannot visualize or why it is going well, are inside my mind. If I drink too much coffee, I have no chance visualizing anything. Or if I am excited or concerned - no way.
The picture improves, the more I am used to the practice of that certain diety.
If I take some vacation at a holy place, everything is very easy. Visualization, not matter what, are very clear and bright.
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by BrianG » Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:35 am

Punya wrote:I have no problem visualising images of the masters I admire but I find deity visualisation harder. All the advice in this thread is helpful but I'd be interested in views on this.

It seems to me that it's easier where the visualisation is based on a photograph or, of course, where you can visualise your teacher/guru in person. It's not only the medium but also the emotional connection. For deities, the visualisation is based on a thangka, drawing, statue or a photograph of a large image. I have trouble generating the same feeling of connection. Any suggestions on how to make the deity seem more real (but not too real :smile: ) and connected to your teacher in guru yoga?
Try visualizing your teacher in the form of the deity.
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Punya » Tue Dec 29, 2015 9:46 pm

Why "but not too real"?
Well, because the advice about deities says things like "as if actually present". To me, that's not the same as trying to imagine a flesh and blood person standing in front of you but maybe I've got this wrong. I agree with your other comments Ayu. That has been my experience too.
Try visualizing your teacher in the form of the deity.
Yes, I understand that this is a method. Sorry I wasn't clear about that. But "in the form of the deity" means you need to visualise the deity. The images I generate of deities seem rather wooden. Maybe what I'm asking is how to connect more deeply to a deity.

I can go with the advice madhusudan posted, which is basically the same as the advice from my practice supervisor but I'd like to persist.

I should add that I find it easier to visualise myself as the deity than to visualise the deity in front of me.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Losal Samten » Tue Dec 29, 2015 11:01 pm

Punya wrote:
Why "but not too real"?
Well, because the advice about deities says things like "as if actually present". To me, that's not the same as trying to imagine a flesh and blood person standing in front of you but maybe I've got this wrong. I agree with your other comments Ayu. That has been my experience too.
Khenchen Thrangu:
  • A beginner who visualises the body of a deity and does not know the distinctive characteristics of the different aspects of consciousness would think that the deity must be seen as clearly during the mental meditation as if seen directly with the eyes. The eyes, however, have a much coarser way of perceiving concrete forms. Beginners do indeed meditate in the hopes of attaining such clarity. Nevertheless, it will not arise, because the meditation on a deity does not happen through the medium of the eye consciousness, but through the medium of the mind consciousness. The objects of the mind consciousness are much less clear. The mind consciousness most definitely does not work like the eye consciousness. That's why some meditators who perceive a vague mental image think they are not capable of meditating correctly on a deity. The result is that they develop an aversion for their meditation. Those, however, who understand that each consciousness perceives in a different way know that mental images aren't as clear as the forms perceived with the eyes, and therefore are content with their meditation. They know how to meditate, do indeed so meditate, and thus their meditation works well.
The images I generate of deities seem rather wooden. Maybe what I'm asking is how to connect more deeply to a deity.
Do you have an emotional connection to the deities you practice?

Instead of them being static, maybe feel them as if they actually want to be there, with their mind of compassion directed towards you yourself, you looking at them in their eyes and they looking at you in yours; instead of it being this cold, one-way street.
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
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ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Punya » Wed Dec 30, 2015 10:27 pm

A very helpful quote from Thrangu Rinpoche. Thank you.

You're right. I am finding it difficult to establish an emotional connection to the deity. I'll try what you are suggesting. I probably also need to read more about the deity to make that connection.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by BrianG » Thu Dec 31, 2015 7:21 am

Punya wrote:
Try visualizing your teacher in the form of the deity.
Yes, I understand that this is a method. Sorry I wasn't clear about that. But "in the form of the deity" means you need to visualise the deity. The images I generate of deities seem rather wooden. Maybe what I'm asking is how to connect more deeply to a deity.

I can go with the advice madhusudan posted, which is basically the same as the advice from my practice supervisor but I'd like to persist.

I should add that I find it easier to visualise myself as the deity than to visualise the deity in front of me.
I'll give you my tips on how to do external generation stage practice. I practice according to the Lamdre point of view, so if you practice according to Dzogchen point of view, you should adjust accordingly.

1. The goal of generation stage
The goal of generation stage is to break free from the fantasy of Samsara. This is accomplished by deity yoga. Generation stage is used to purify the fantasy of Samsara, with the fantasy of Nirvana.

2. Using fantasy to your advantage
Have you ever done shamatha mediation, or zazen, then found yourself lost in a fantasy? Normally, that fantasy, or day-dream, works against the mediator. In Vajrayana we use fantasies, or day-dreams, to our advantage, so that they work for us, not against us. We are just a little forceful, and give them direction.

3. Visualization is a bad word
I prefer the word “fantasization”. Every kid plays games like “cops and robbers” with their friends. That's precisely what is done in generation stage, but it is deeply profound. I'm having a fantasy that the deity is in front of me. Not merely just visualizing it. To get all inceptiony, we are having a fantasy within a fantasy.

4. Bliss first
Since we are purifying the fantasy of Samsara, with the fantasy of Nirvana, it's important that everything you fantasize, be as blissful(or happy) as possible. So if you are fantasizing Chenrezig in front of you, you should imagine him as being made of pure, bright, blissful, sublime, light. You could also imagine that he is literally made out of the four immeasurables, and relative bodhicitta. He is beyond handsome, so perfect in appearance that it's like something you could only witness in a dream. Fascinating to look at, like you can't help but stare.

5. Be creative
You aren't merely trying to make a photocopy of a photograph with your mind. For instance, I find most Tibetan thangkha's of Tara to be really unattractive. So I fantasize about her being more attractive than every supermodel combined. Same ornaments, same colors, etc, but my version blows the artists away.

6. The deity you are generating is not an actual entity
This is going to be a little confusing, but the deity doesn't exist until you have generated it. The Buddha appears in many forms to benefit sentient beings. We are creating the causes to see the actual Buddha, by making a facsimile . The facsimile you create will not be talking to you.

7. How this benefits you
You will realize that what your experience as reality, is just a flimsy, blissful, “visualization”.

8. Obstacles
I can't sustain the “visualization”
This is a meditative realization. Just as your visualization is impermanent, so is Samsara.

I feel no emotional connection to the deity
Read the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Tenpa2010 » Thu Dec 31, 2015 3:44 pm

1. Shamatha&vipassana improves visulalizations
2. try to stay in complete darkness, do your meditation, it will go up

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by philji » Thu Dec 31, 2015 6:30 pm

I think this quote from Dzongsar Khyentse reveals the essence of visualisation practice.
"The main purpose of visualization practice is to purify our ordinary, impure perception of the phenomenal world by developing “pure perception.” Unfortunately, though, pure per­ception is yet another notion that tends to be misunderstood. Students often try to re-create a photographic image of a Tibetan painting in their mind, with two-dimensional deities who never blink, surrounded by clouds frozen in space, and with consorts who look like grown-up babies. Practicing this erroneous version of visualization instills in you a far worse form of perception than the one you were born with, and in the process the whole point of pure perception is destroyed."

The quote is from a longer article titles ' pure, clear and vibrant' available n Lions Roar website.

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Punya » Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:15 pm

Thanks to everyone for your comments and resources. I've also done some reading over the last few days, especially from the texts repeatedly recommended on DW threads about this topic, so I've now got some ideas to work with.
Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches
So you come to resemble who whomever you follow.

~Words of My Perfect Teacher

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Aryjna » Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:54 pm

conebeckham wrote:
Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:43 pm
I dunno if this is really an "Alternative health" answer....but I think folks who say they are unable to visualize may be trying too hard, or missing the forest for trees, or something like that...

Anyway--calling an image to mind is something almost everyone can do. If I say, for example, "Think about a Stop Sign" you will call to mind the image of a stop sign. Then, if I say, for example, "now concentrate on the letter "S" on the sign" most people can do this, for an instant or so, at least..... Visualizing deities is the same--one needs to be familiar with the image, and call it to mind. What's hard, much of the time, is thinking of oneself as that image. If such is the case, than recall that it is one's mind that is the nature of the deity, --what is called to mind, as an image, is of a piece with the mind itself.

Punya wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:41 pm
CTR: You are a New Yorker, right? Can you picture the yellow cabs on Fifth Avenue?
Student? Sure.
CTR: That's it!

I'm curious about the apparent inability to visualise described by Inge. I would have thought we all have this ability to a greater or lesser degree.
I am resurrecting this thread as I just came across it and it is something I've been thinking about lately.

One problem is that it is not really possible to know what other people who are good at visualization are actually doing, and what is expected exactly. The two examples of bringing to mind something you have seen before, such as a stop sign or the cabs, doesn't seem to be enough when it comes even to simple practices.

For example, if you need to visualize the form of a deity in front of you, the instructions are often to visualize it as being transparent, made of light, etc. If you just bring to mind a jpeg you've seen on your computer screen or a painting it will not be the same thing. The image flashing in your mind will be that of a two-dimensional solid painting, not a deity made of light. In addition, if you need to sustain that for more than a second, then other issues may start appearing, such as centering and distortions of the image. The whole thing may turn into a complete mess if you then need to try to make the visualization clearer, improve the details by focusing on specific parts of the visualization, add other things such as letters, or effects such as lights etc.

Another point is whether the visualization should be, at least partially, tied to physical space and/or within the body through vision and bodily sensations, which can encourage problems like the ones mentioned above, or if it should be purely imaginary, where ideally all input from the eyes and body are temporarily completely ignored.

Of course getting agitated or trying too hard makes this even worse, but, even without doing so, it does not look like success for even the simplest visualizations is guaranteed for everyone.

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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by Vasana » Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:13 pm

Practicing at night or in dark room helps too and I believe it is reccomended by certain teachers, especially for beginners. It gives your mind's eye a more uniform blank canvas to work with. This may not be suitable when tired or drowsy.
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Re: Unable to visualize

Post by passel » Thu Nov 02, 2017 2:32 am

Any practice has a life of its own. Why would it conform to your expectations? You could always just get the ball rolling and then let the yidam do the work. It is diety yoga after all.
"I have made a heap of all that I have met"- Svetonious

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