shine/shamatha techniques

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 1:17 am

I have seen a ton of different techniques for shamatha in Tibetan Buddhism, I was wondering if/how they differ i the sense of what they achieve, and the benefits of one object over another etc..

I know about forceful shamatha, natural shamatha etc..but I wonder, what is the difference between for example, meditating on an 'A', or focusing on breath, ithan one being visual and one being "inner" Is the choice of object of focus for the most part arbitrary, or are there specific usages and considerations involved? Is it just what works?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 2:56 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I have seen a ton of different techniques for shamatha in Tibetan Buddhism, I was wondering if/how they differ i the sense of what they achieve, and the benefits of one object over another etc..

If the practice is the development of śamatha then the purpose is generally to progress through the nine stages of settling the mind to the ninth mental abiding -- setting in equipoise (samādhāna) -- and beyond that to a form realm mind, which is an actual śamatha (either anāgamya or the first dhyāna).

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I know about forceful shamatha, natural shamatha etc..but I wonder, what is the difference between for example, meditating on an 'A', or focusing on breath, ithan one being visual and one being "inner" Is the choice of object of focus for the most part arbitrary, or are there specific usages and considerations involved? Is it just what works?

Yeah, in Tibetan presentations śamatha is sometimes classified as śamatha with an object or without an object, and the objects of śamatha are classified as outer/inner, impure/pure, etc. Sometimes this is presented as practice stages which progress from external objects (e.g. pebble, stick, buddha statue) to inner objects (e.g. visualized bindu, buddha form) to no object.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 3:51 am

Jnana wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I have seen a ton of different techniques for shamatha in Tibetan Buddhism, I was wondering if/how they differ i the sense of what they achieve, and the benefits of one object over another etc..

If the practice is the development of śamatha then the purpose is generally to progress through the nine stages of settling the mind to the ninth mental abiding -- setting in equipoise (samādhāna) -- and beyond that to a form realm mind, which is an actual śamatha (either anāgamya or the first dhyāna).

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I know about forceful shamatha, natural shamatha etc..but I wonder, what is the difference between for example, meditating on an 'A', or focusing on breath, ithan one being visual and one being "inner" Is the choice of object of focus for the most part arbitrary, or are there specific usages and considerations involved? Is it just what works?

Yeah, in Tibetan presentations śamatha is sometimes classified as śamatha with an object or without an object, and the objects of śamatha are classified as outer/inner, impure/pure, etc. Sometimes this presented as practice stages which progress from external objects (e.g. pebble, stick, buddha statue) to inner objects (e.g. visualized bindu, buddha form) to no object.


I get that stuff, but is the object always kind of secondary to the practice, or are there practices where the object itself serves some kind of function, outside of tantra? I'm just wondering if there is any concrete reason historically that some chose a Tibetan A, some taught certain visualizations as objects etc. I know in the case of winds and channels specific stuff it is obvious. Has Tibetan style Shamatha always been more a loose collection of techniques, or is there something more standardized I may not be aware of?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 4:31 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I get that stuff, but is the object always kind of secondary to the practice, or are there practices where the object itself serves some kind of function, outside of tantra?

In a sūtrayāna context a pure object such as a buddha statue or the visualization of a buddha form is beneficial if the practitioner considers the object to have spiritual significance. Gyatrul Rinpoche:

    There are great benefits in attending to the Buddha's body in this meditative context: by doing so, you store karmic seeds for attaining a Buddha's body yourself.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Has Tibetan style Shamatha always been more a loose collection of techniques, or is there something more standardized I may not be aware of?

There are standardized presentations such as in the Lamrim Chenmo and Dakpo Tashi Namgyal's Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā that primarily rely on the detailed systematic presentation in the Śrāvakabhūmi and a few other Indic texts. Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā also includes another section on śamatha based on mahāmudrā tradition.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I'm just wondering if there is any concrete reason historically that some chose a Tibetan A, some taught certain visualizations as objects etc.

I think you'd have to look into the specifics of each Tibetan practice tradition that you have in mind.
Last edited by Jnana on Tue May 14, 2013 4:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 4:40 am

Thanks alot Jnana, sounds like I should be headed for Moonbeams of Mahamudra.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby randomseb » Tue May 14, 2013 5:14 am

My mahamudra teacher is having me do shamata by just stare at a small object a few feet in front of me, and to focus on my diaphragm breathing, concentrating my attention on both at the same time.

In the Surangama Sutra the Buddha talks about how if you "purify" one sensory stream, you "purify" them all.. this to me seems to be the actual goal of this kind of practice, but that's just my theorizing!
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby kirtu » Tue May 14, 2013 5:27 am

Meditating on A (Tibetan A or even the Ah sound) is Dzogchen preliminary shamatha. It is like meditating on a Buddha statue except more powerful. However I have no text I can point to to back me up.

Basic shamatha - breath meditation
Shravaka/Mahayana - Buddha statue
Tantric shamatha - deity yoga
Dzogchen shamatha - A

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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 5:40 am

kirtu wrote:Meditating on A (Tibetan A or even the Ah sound) is Dzogchen preliminary shamatha. It is like meditating on a Buddha statue except more powerful. However I have no text I can point to to back me up.

Basic shamatha - breath meditation
Shravaka/Mahayana - Buddha statue
Tantric shamatha - deity yoga
Dzogchen shamatha - A

Norbu Rinpoche has said that there are a number of reason why the letter A is used in dzogchen preliminary śamatha: because it is also used in the
night practice, in phowa and other practices, and because it's the principal symbol of the natural state.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby randomseb » Tue May 14, 2013 6:37 pm

kirtu wrote:Meditating on A (Tibetan A or even the Ah sound) is Dzogchen preliminary shamatha. It is like meditating on a Buddha statue except more powerful. However I have no text I can point to to back me up.

Basic shamatha - breath meditation
Shravaka/Mahayana - Buddha statue
Tantric shamatha - deity yoga
Dzogchen shamatha - A

Kirt


I assume this is based on a Dzogchen teaching or text? I am finding a lot of "our way is the best way!" and "our guy is the best guy!" in buddhism, like in every other religions

:rolling:

The Surangama sutra says something like sound is the best thing to focus on, not objects of vision or mentation, but that's probably a preference of the author too hehe
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue May 14, 2013 6:45 pm

kirtu wrote:Meditating on A (Tibetan A or even the Ah sound) is Dzogchen preliminary shamatha. It is like meditating on a Buddha statue except more powerful. However I have no text I can point to to back me up.

Basic shamatha - breath meditation
Shravaka/Mahayana - Buddha statue
Tantric shamatha - deity yoga
Dzogchen shamatha - A

Kirt
Where does Mahamudra fit into this little hierarchy? Hmmmmmm...??? :roll:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 7:20 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
kirtu wrote:Meditating on A (Tibetan A or even the Ah sound) is Dzogchen preliminary shamatha. It is like meditating on a Buddha statue except more powerful. However I have no text I can point to to back me up.

Basic shamatha - breath meditation
Shravaka/Mahayana - Buddha statue
Tantric shamatha - deity yoga
Dzogchen shamatha - A

Kirt
Where does Mahamudra fit into this little hierarchy? Hmmmmmm...??? :roll:



On that note,. I really don't understand how Mahamuidra and Dzogchen shamatha are different, how is trekcho different from natural shamatha?

I've read so many books also equating the two, any differences mentioned seem so semantic.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Stewart » Tue May 14, 2013 7:26 pm

There are a couple of good books by Tsoknyi Rinpoche which clarify this...'Ground, Path and Frution' is the best one IMO.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 8:24 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:On that note,. I really don't understand how Mahamuidra and Dzogchen shamatha are different, how is trekcho different from natural shamatha?

Śamatha as a preliminary practice is considered preliminary in both mahāmudrā and dzogchen. That is, it isn't the same thing as recognition of the natural state, where śamatha and vipaśyāna are innate. Therefore, trekcho includes vipaśyāna.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I've read so many books also equating the two, any differences mentioned seem so semantic.

It depends on who you ask, and which tradition you follow.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 9:02 pm

Jnana wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:On that note,. I really don't understand how Mahamuidra and Dzogchen shamatha are different, how is trekcho different from natural shamatha?

Śamatha as a preliminary practice is considered preliminary in both mahāmudrā and dzogchen. That is, it isn't the same thing as recognition of the natural state, where śamatha and vipaśyāna are innate. Therefore, trekcho includes vipaśyāna.

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I've read so many books also equating the two, any differences mentioned seem so semantic.

It depends on who you ask, and which tradition you follow.



Doesn't natural Shamatha also include vipasyana-like experience though?

Anyway, I remain just as confused, but it's undeniable you guys gave me some great answers to think about, thanks.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 9:15 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Doesn't natural Shamatha also include vipasyana-like experience though?

Where are you getting the translation "natural shamatha" from?
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 9:19 pm

Jnana wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Doesn't natural Shamatha also include vipasyana-like experience though?

Where are you getting the translation "natural shamatha" from?



I don't remember for certain, I think one of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoches books uses it, but i've read it, or something similar a few different places I believe.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 9:33 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I don't remember for certain, I think one of Tenzin Wangyals books uses it, but i've read it, or something similar a number of places.

I think Bon uses the terms effortful śamatha, natural śamatha, and ultimate śamatha. But that's about all I know about it.
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Re: shine/shamatha techniques

Postby In the bone yard » Thu May 23, 2013 11:02 pm

"I get that stuff, but is the object always kind of secondary to the practice, or are there practices where the object itself serves some kind of function, outside of tantra? I'm just wondering if there is any concrete reason historically that some chose a Tibetan A, some taught certain visualizations as objects etc. I know in the case of winds and channels specific stuff it is obvious. Has Tibetan style Shamatha always been more a loose collection of techniques, or is there something more standardized I may not be aware of?"

External objects come first, then the natural progression is an internal object like the breath. It depends how fortunate you are (low, middling, or high intellect) where it's best for you to start.
The goal is to combine Vipassana practice with Shamatha practice. You can't engage in Vipassana practice (awareness) if you require an external object for meditation.

So when engaging on an internal object of meditation there is only a small amount of attention on it, the rest is Vipassana. So basically if you're using the breath as an object then the breath should be in your background, maybe 20% of your attention. Otherwise one will start to control one's breathing. The goal of Shamatha practice is Vipassana practice but there's not one without the other.

It's easy to get hung up on terms and what other schools do but it doesn't matter.
Once you find the meaning engage the practice.
Follow the school you most relate with and don't get distracted.
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