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

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

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

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

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

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