A Clear and Concise Description of the Practice of Shamatha

Khenpo Pema Vajra Series by Khenpo Pema Vajra Homage to the lama! I prostrate to the buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs, who, like a sun of Dharma, Dispel entirely the darkness of confusion among beings of the three realms, With the brilliant rays that shine from the sun of their perfect wisdom, Drawn by the chariot-like winds of their great compassionate love. This is the lineage of the Lion of the Shakyas, the supreme sage, The three scriptural collections, a perfect path of unerring teachings, Brought together into an approach a single practitioner can follow And put into practice, in the tradition of the wise and learned masters. I will now in brief describe the way to take up this noble path, Which takes as its foundation moral discipline that is perfectly pure, So that on the basis of supremely peaceful, one-pointed concentration, One may gain the supreme wisdom, entirely free from any flaw. Any intelligent individual with a sincere wish to pursue liberation must take up the only genuine approach that can bring this about, the precious teaching of the buddhas. The way these teachings are taken up is as follows. First one must rely upon an exceptional and learned spiritual friend as a guide, and through studying his or her instructions, cut through any misconceptions about the three sections of the scriptures. Then one must apply the three trainings in higher realization to one’s own mind and put them into practice in the sequence described by the great master Vasubandhu: Observing discipline, and having heard and contemplated the teachings, One applies oneself intensively to meditation.[1] As this says, at first one must practise ethical restraint through the pure moral discipline of renunciation, which is the foundation of all qualities, and then through study and reflection on the stages of the path to be practised, one thoroughly trains one’s mind and embarks upon the actual path of meditation itself. Regarding the main practice of the path, the glorious Nagarjuna said: Without meditative concentration, there can be no wisdom, And without wisdom, there can be no meditative concentration, So by taking up these two together, the great ocean of samsara Becomes inconsequential, like a drop of water in a hoofprint. As this says, through the approach that unites meditation and wisdom, or shamatha and vipashyana, one is able to find liberation from the ocean of samsaric existence and progress along the path of peace. The logic behind this and the sequence in which they are to be practised is explained by Shantideva: Knowing that the mind’s afflictions are overcome

The traditions based on scriptural sources and the pith instructions mention countless methods of meditation. Then examine your mindstream very carefully: if you notice any strong thoughts or emotions that prevent your mind from resting in stillness—feelings such as desire. warrior-faring samadhi. there are also the common samadhis. The Ornament of Mahayana Sutras says: Placing the attention on an object of focus. first one develops the ‘one-pointed mind of the desire realm’ in which the grosser level of thoughts and distractions related to the level of the desire realm are all pacified. because they must be entered sequentially. In addition. five supercognitions and so on. pride or confusion—then apply the appropriate antidote. compassion.Through penetrating insight suffused with stable calm. one after another. Settle the mind on its object once again. ten totalities. such as meditating on unattractiveness. pray one-pointedly that you may develop pure samadhi. love. known collectively as ‘the nine successive absorptions’. Then. are nothing other than variations of the samadhi in which shamatha and vipashyana are united. vajra-like samadhi and so on—as well as mnemonic retention. with a gentle and evenly balanced gaze. eight spheres of dominant perception. unless one has the stability of the mind of calm abiding. Then adopt the correct posture. malice. You should first seek the peace of calm abiding. and so on. we come to the actual instruction on how to meditate. Then one gradually accomplishes the four dhyana meditations corresponding to the levels of the form realm and the four absorptions of the formless realm. and is added to these eight form and formless absorptions. but here let us follow the classical sources and mention first of all the nine ways of resting the mind in order to accomplish the one-pointed mind of the desire realm. when the mind is ready to focus on its particular object. in the full or half vajra posture. which are developed with a mind of the form and formless stages through specific mental activity on the various levels. These nine stages corresponding to the nine levels of the three realms are known as ‘worldly meditations’ or ‘childish concentrations. Quickly recognizing distraction whenever it occurs. and once you have performed the seven branches as a means of purification and gathering the accumulations. interdependent origination. confidence and all the infinite gateways to liberation. you can begin the actual practice of shamatha meditation. the inhalation and exhalation of breath and so on. Leaving busyness and ordinary interaction behind.[2] As this says. in a solitary environment. anger. to make nine in all. This is the actual main practice of meditative concentration or samadhi. Remain with that and do not be distracted. analyzing the psycho-physical elements (dhatus). such as the three liberations. Once these general points have been understood. begin by generating a mind of renunciation and bodhichitta. in order to make your mind more workable. one will never gain the wisdom of vipashyana. Then visualize in the sky before you all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. sitting up straight on your seat.’ and they provide the foundation for the supermundane path. When doing so. Which is found in joy and non-attachment for the world. Then there is the absorption of cessation. with your hands resting in the posture of equanimity. One should know that all the samadhis of the supermundane path in general and those of the noble bodhisattvas in particular—the illusion-like samadhi. so in the beginning one must cultivate shamatha. which is attained only through the supermundane path. . or however is most comfortable.

which is the confident belief arising out of this meditation that the flaws of the lower levels should be discarded. Covetousness. excitement. The diligent practitioner settles the mind With some application of effort. Secondly. you have to eradicate even the most subtle tendency towards distraction. the one-pointed mind of the desire realm. that is the ninth stage of resting the mind.’ At this point. and remain with single-pointed attention focused on the clear image that arises in the mind. the mental afflictions of the different levels of existence as well as the special qualities of dhyana meditation. hesitation and so on arise. Whenever any distraction does occur. Finally it happens naturally and spontaneously. but if you still do not have the bliss of physical and mental pliancy. As this says. and you can remain spontaneously in a state of stillness for as long as you wish. in order to experience real qualities. there are seven mental processes through which the main part of dhyana meditation is accomplished. Once pliancy is attained. mental discomfort and so on Are pacified in the same way. . sleepiness or lethargy. Should you begin to take pleasure in busyness or anything that is not conducive to stillness of mind. Not being satisfied with some slight stillness of mind. Firstly. When there is no longer any need to apply an antidote out of expectation or concern regarding something to be abandoned or its remedy. Dislike for meditation is pacified. You will extend the period of stillness in this way. and the need to deliberately apply an antidote. Mind must be controlled in samadhi. This is genuine shamatha. without becoming distracted by anything else. mental discomfort. pacify them by applying an appropriate antidote. however gross or subtle. Through familiarity. and settle the attention once again on the object of focus. there is the mental process of conviction. Seeing the disadvantages of distraction. such as covetousness. there is a foundation for developing the wisdom of vipashyana. those with intelligent minds. Recognizing the faults of distraction and busyness. Then. there is the mental process of precisely discerning characteristics. longing for objects of desire. and rest in one-pointed concentration. then reflect on the qualities of the buddhas and bodhisattvas in general. in which one understands the positive and negative qualities of the three realms and their respective causes. and generate enthusiasm for the practice. This is the preparatory stage which is known as ‘the capable stage. Then you sustain this image continually. reflect on the faults of samsara in general and especially the faults of losing your way and remaining in your ordinary state. Whenever any states of mind which prevent samadhi. you should recognize it immediately with watchful awareness.Increasingly. pacify the mind’s excitement. you have not yet reached the actual preparatory stage for the dhyana meditations. yet as long as there is still some concern about dullness or agitation arising in the mind. malice. that is still the eighth stage of resting the mind. If you experience fatigue and lack of enthusiasm for samadhi. you place your attention one-pointedly on a given object of focus. Should gather and focus their attention. and in particular the qualities such as the supercognitions and miraculous abilities which arise through the power of samadhi. while the qualities of the higher levels should be attained. regret. without applying effort.

the consistent and dedicated diligence that these two inspire. joy. which is called the ultimate dhyana because it is yet more peaceful. mindfulness. one attains the joy and physical wellbeing of mental and physical pliancy. physical wellbeing and samadhi. and the blissful pliancy that develops as a result are the four antidotes to . and so one deliberately focuses on a given object and carefully examines the mind. Those who are interested can consult the texts of the abhidharma or the prajnaparamita. The mental process of examination means that while the mind is abiding at a particular level. for fear that this would make the text excessively long. and this is known as the mental process of gaining joy. and samadhi. which is even more peaceful. the aspiration to attain these qualities. the mental formation of equanimity. That is just a brief description of the four dhyanas. The mental process of the culmination of engagement is the unimpeded path during which the antidote that overcomes the subtle mental afflictions of the lower level arises in the mind. and also because there seems little need for it. has five features: equanimity in which the concept of joy has been abandoned. the mental afflictions of the level below should not arise. The third dhyana. mindfulness. discernment. This is how the mind of the main dhyana practice is accomplished. nor have I gone into the ways of meditating on the formless absorptions. The first dhyana level which is accomplished in this way has five features: conception. which is more peaceful still. dullness and agitation. forgetting the object of focus. physical wellbeing and samadhi.Then. the following factors are important to bear in mind. joy. physical wellbeing and samadhi. watchful awareness. the mental afflictions of the lower level having been totally eradicated. I have not mentioned here their particular characteristics in detail. at which point there is no longer any need to apply an antidote. abandoning any afflictions that do develop. There are five faults related to meditation: laziness. Whichever type of samadhi one is cultivating. has four features: the perfect clarity in which conception and discernment have been relinquished. not applying the antidote due to being too relaxed. The mental process of the result of the culmination of engagement is the path of total release. The fourth dhyana. the mental process of thorough separation involves discarding the coarser type of thoughts that should be abandoned by applying the antidote to the mental afflictions of a lower plane of existence. When one is freed from these mental afflictions of a lower stage. Confident trust in the qualities of samadhi. The second dhyana. The antidotes to these are known as the eight applications. and applying the antidote again and again because one is too tightly focused and not content simply to rest. has four features: the neutral sensation in which the sensation of physical wellbeing has been abandoned.

5 [2] Engaging in the Conduct of a Bodhisattva. if one analyzes ‘the four gateways to the vision of reality’—the aggregates. It is through these that the mind of meditation is attained. as a means to overcome dullness and agitation. Watchful awareness is the antidote to dullness and agitation. whether the gradual approach or the direct ‘bypassing’ approach. should be learned only from oral instructions.org "Dharma. that becomes the unity of shamatha and vipashyana. VIII.lotsawahouse. such as the analysis of neither one nor many. Through this merit. And our own and others’ welfare be accomplished spontaneously! May it be virtuous! | Translated by Adam [1] Treasury of Abhidharma." A Wu Tai Shan Clan Joint . which is the great approach leading to the path of the noble ones and the complete uprooting of samsaric existence. 4 Search this and other Lotsawa House sites (and collaborators): www. psycho-physical elements. The antidote to under-application is to apply the antidote. the various methods for practising shamatha and vipashyana connected with the profound pith instructions. bringing to mind the reasons for practising shamatha and vipashyana. The entrance to the path leading to the peace of liberation. Besides this. may the realization of the paths and levels increase. Mindfulness is the antidote to forgetfulness. Is the samadhi in which shamatha and vipashyana are united. sense sources and interdependent origination—using the valid logic of ultimate reasoning. VI. On the House. and then remains one-pointedly in the ‘non-finding’ of anything at all. To fulfill the wishes of the diligent yogini Wangmo.laziness. and equanimity is the antidote to over-application. Once the mind of meditative concentration has been accomplished in this way. By the buddhist monk named Pema Vajra. This clear and brief instruction on how it is accomplished Was written and offered from an isolated practice hermitage.

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