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Imagine You're Enlightened

No Half Measures

Needless to say, fully embodying an awake personality as a means of letting go of self is not a beginning practice. It assumes that you have a solid relationship with basic attention, mindfulness, compassion, and some experiential acquaintance with non-self and emptiness. You have to be able to tolerate not being you, at least for short periods of time.

From these examples, you can see that any personality can be used in this practice. But there is one requirement: whatever personality you pick, you have to embody it completely. No half measures! You have to completely embody whatever you choose, and you experience everything in terms of the union of awake mind and that personality, so that there is no separation between you and what you experience. You leave no part of your ordinary self in the picture. In fact, you let go of any notion of a centralized, solid self altogether.

That release is the very point of deity, or yidam, practice. The Tibetan term yidam is often explained as being composed of two words, yid and dam. Yid means mind, the emotional mind, the mind associated with personality. Dam means to join to or to commit to — you commit to being awake in this personality.

Empowerment

A key step in deity practice is empowerment. In empowerment, the energy, experience, and understanding of the teacher join with the confidence, trust, and ability of the student. This joining creates the conditions for the student to experience vividly, if momentarily, what it is like to be the deity — for example, what it is to be awake compassion, awake pride, an awake loser, or, to name some traditional yidams, The Great Sorcerer (Skt., Mahamaya), The Lord of Mystery (Guhyasamaya), or The Savior (Tara). The personality or deity we work with is decided in consultation with our teacher, who knows us and knows both our potential abilities and our internal patterns.

If we are embodying compassion, for example, the experience of empowerment puts us in touch with the emptiness, clarity, and fearlessness of awake compassion. We come to know the difference between awake compassion and conventional forms of compassion such as sympathy, pity, or doing good, which are often tainted with subtle expressions of identity, pride, and control. For pride, the empowerment plants the seed of all-embracing equanimity, free from any sense of complacency, and the seed of delighting in the richness of all experience, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If we practice without these seeds of experience, we may flail around in a fog, grasp at phantoms, and be led astray by the ghosts of our ordinary, self-obsessed personalities.

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