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To Know One’s Own Face through Meditation

We think we know our face. We know the shape of our nose, the shape of our chin, the color of our eyes–but what does it really mean? Through meditation, we can see and feel a greater sense of our reflection, our true face. Lama Tsultrim Allione, author of WISDOM RISING, reveals how to find that reflection. 

There is a Tibetan expression rang ngo she, which means “to know one’s own face.” It is often translated as “to know one’s own nature,” but I think it is more accurate to translate it literally as to know one’s own face because, paradoxically, our own face is continually with us, like primordial wisdom itself, yet we don’t see it unless we look in a mirror. And though our face is continually with us, in a world without mirrors or reflections we would have no way to know our own face except to feel it. It is through meditation, which is a kind of reflection in that we turn the mind back on the outward moving energy, that we begin to know our own true condition, our own true face. There is a Zen teaching by Dogen Zenji (1200–1253) that speaks to this:

You should therefore cease practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.

As we work with the five wisdom dakinis and their families, we should know that the real meaning of wisdom here is the wisdom of knowing one’s original face. In considering the spaciousness of the wisdom aspect of the buddha family, we can see how the family’s encumbered pattern has the potential for the wisdom in it. In other words, while the problem you may face in the encumbered pattern is spacing out, the wisdom of this family is actually being in a state of spaciousness, while being present and aware. The wisdom is one of total accommodation; there is an incredible vastness—we may call it a sky-like awareness or the wisdom of totality—that is constantly accommodating and holding in the fullest way all our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and experiences. Spaciness becomes spaciousness when it is transformed.


Have you heard of transcendental meditation? Learn more here.


Excerpted from Wisdom Rising by Lama Tsultrim Allione. Copyright © 2018 by Joan E. Allione. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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