Achieving Shamatha

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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HandsomeMonkeyking
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Achieving Shamatha

Post by HandsomeMonkeyking » Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:11 pm

I am currently readin "The Attention Revolution" by Alan Wallace.
And I have the luck to have plenty of time to practise right now, but that wont be forever like that. So I would like to make good use of it.

What are your suggestions, how to achive Shamatha? What preliminaries should be there, and what circumstances can help?

SeeLion
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by SeeLion » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:08 pm

It will certainly help if you give some details about what you are actually doing and how it is turning out. I'm not sure if you have any training, besides that book which I haven't read.

I will share some things which helped a lot in my progress.

Don't force your way through. If for any reason, you find that trying to practice creates physical or mental discomfort, stop and resume later. Persistence is still important, but you need to learn to apply that in a gentle and balanced manner.

Start your day with meditation and try to mix in many short meditations (few minutes) in your daily schedule.

Practice in a position that your body can work with comfortably. If your body becomes stiff, do a little self massage or stretching, or lay down and relax for few minutes.

You will need to find the balance between a relaxed mind which sends you to sleep and a mind which is too alert. This is related to position, for example you can lay down if you are too agitated, but need to find another position and turn on the light if you are feeling sleepy.

Reduce as possible things which agitate the mind. You can observe those for yourself, it can be TV, music, conflictual interactions with people, making plans for the future, thinking about the past, etc.

Don't become attached to goals.

Food is very important, needs to be something easy to digest, but still nutritious, not too cold or too hot or spicy, not too much in quantity. Sugar/sweets, stimulants, too much fat can be a problem. Diet obviously needs to be personalized, so I can't go into more details.

The point isn't to become obsessed about having the perfect comfort and atmosphere, which in fact are not a requirement for meditation.

Some things which I have listed above may seem random and may not apply to you, what you want to do is look at your own 24 hours and learn to understand what can be done to improve your harmony at a mental and bodily level.

TaTa
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by TaTa » Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:06 am

Maybe you could complement your reading with Alan's podcasts in sbinstitute.com ;)

Jesse
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by Jesse » Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:56 am

Main thing imo is to just relax and enjoy the time you meditate. If you spend each day frustrated trying to achieve some level of concentration, eventually youl end up hating meditation, and probably not meditate very well at that.

After you learn how to meditate properly, you should begin to feel very good after each session. Start with 15 minute sessions tops(1-3 times per day) and after a month maybe move to 30 mins etc.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

HandsomeMonkeyking
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by HandsomeMonkeyking » Mon Jul 13, 2015 12:18 pm

Thank you all for your replies.

I live in a peacful area, have few distractions.

Actually I am quite relaxed about it, not like I push to achieve it :)

My diet is vegetarian and I work from home 8 hours a day. So no commutes and all, this gives me good time to practise.
The only time where I have a lot of external input is when working. concentrating there and being on the internet.
But I am working on working relaxed too.

Still in involves many things doing at the same time, comparatively.

So far only doing Shamatha starting with mindfulness of breathing, of the body and then when all is feeling good I change to watching the mind.

Regarding feeling comfortable: I already do.

Looking forward to more suggestions.

Rroman
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by Rroman » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:31 pm

Sorry if it's a little long.....

This is the transcript of an interview Ven. Gelongma Zamba Chözom had with H.H. Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche in his house at Pharping Nepal on the 13th March 2014
Ani Zamba - Most of us we could not come here today as it was such short notice and they are now in Boudhanath; but the group have come from Australia and Brazil and Germany and most of them have come for the Dudjom Lingpa empowerments that we thought were going to begin in March. We all came because we heard Rinpoche was going to give these empowerments.
Dudjom Rinpoche - How many people in the group?
AZ - I think between 10 to 20 people from different countries. We did not know if Rinpoche would give the empowerments first or if he would go to Bhutan first. And many people came with the wish that Rinpoche would give the empowerments first, as they cannot stay, because they cannot wait till he comes back from Bhutan. So it’s quite sad for those people.
DR - The situation was that two years ago when I was here, I bestowed the complete transmissions of the empowerments and the reading transmissions of the 25,000 pages of Jigdral Yeshe Dorje’s (the previous incarnation of Dudjom Rinpoche) collected works due to the kindness of Khenpo Zangpo, who sponsored that at his monastery in Dollu and at that time there was some talk that - in the future maybe - some talk of bestowing the transmissions of Dudjom Lingpa; but actually no specific plans. Those details were not at all fixed, but many people started talking about it and thinking that it was something sure, but in fact this was not the case. But now there are really two main things that have to happen: First and foremost I would need the permission of my Tsawai Lama (Root Lama) Sangye Chatral Rinpoche to allow me to bestow these transmissions; without that, I would not do it. And secondly there needs to be someone who requests this kind of transmission because it’s not the case that just like that I would give all these wangs and lungs. And now as I have returned and I understand there has been a lot of talking about this transmission and Khenpo Zangpo has requested me to give it, so I’m considering that, but the main thing is that I need permission from Sangye Chatral Rinpoche since my activity in regards to this must be in harmony with his wisdom intent. Otherwise it would not be good at all for me to give this transmission. So this is kind of the way things stand right now regarding these transmissions. So unless that is the case, I’m not going to give them, it’s not at all a certain thing.
AZ - I’d like to explain a little bit to Rinpoche what is happening in Brazil at the moment. In Brazil now the main practice for many people is the Dudjom Tersar - for many people that is their Ngöndro practice more than any other Ngöndro practice they do the Dudjom Tersar, and now the Nelu Rangjung is being introduced into Brazil. When people heard that Rinpoche was going to give the Dudjom Lingpa empowerments then many people thought “how wonderful to be able to receive these from the emanation of Dudjom Lingpa himself”. There was just a whisper that Rinpoche might give the Dudjom Lingpa empowerments. Then anybody who had the conditions tried to come here, even though we knew it was not sure; even though we knew it was not sure, that possibility was such a great blessing for people, they came across the world in order to be here.
Can I show Rinpoche the books at the moment that have been published in English already? This is based on the Nelug Rangjung, actually the Shamatha section from the Nelug Rangjung (Stilling the Mind), it’s in English now. This is the Nang-jang (Buddhahood Without Meditation) in English, that one we know already. Then I’m not sure what this text is called in tibetan, okay, “The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers” - Do you know that text? Another of Rinpoche’s texts (I asked the translator but she did not know) and of course, Rinpoche’s, Dudjom Lingpa’s autobiography. So now there is so much interest, more and more interest.
So today I would like to ask what is the best way to approach the practice of the Nelug Rangjung - should people do the formal Ngöndro, if so which Ngöndro is the best to practice? Or the Shamatha practice from the Nelug Rangjung - is it enough to practice that, progressively working through the stages that are in the text, what does Rinpoche suggest is the best?
DR - These texts for example, the Nang-jang and the Nelug Rangjung probably within the entire body of collected works of Dudjom Lingpa are the most profound, the most important and also we could say the most volatile or the most powerful really, within the entire collected works. So therefore it’s my opinion that in order to practice these, it is important to actually complete the full practice of the preliminary practices of Ngöndro and also on top of that to fully engage in the main practices of Lama, Yidam, Khadro (The Three Roots) - accomplishment practices - and to fully go through all of those stages. And of course now - it is the times these days - that of course as there is quite easy access to these kind of texts - they have been printed and distributed - so I don’t think there is any harm in looking at it, studying it and so on. As these are the degenerate times and in this kind of situation that we have, since they are available, then I think there is no harm to study them. In fact if we really want to practice this level of teachings then it is really important that we actually clear away all of the negative karma, disturbing emotions and habitual tendencies that obscure us. As whomever we are, as sentient beings, once we have a body, that obscures us from being able to truly realize the fundamental nature of reality - which is what is being presented within the context of this level of great perfection teaching. And so these texts function as supports we could say, they support, they are helpers that bring us to a place from where we can really realize the genuine view of the great perfection teaching. But until and unless we have completely cleansed all of the obscurations and hindrances that we come with due to being endowed with negative karma - disturbing emotions and habitual tendencies and so on - then we’re really not going to be able to actualize that view and make use of this level of teaching. So this is the reason I think it is very important to do the Ngöndro practices, the full preliminary practices as well as the main practices of Lama, Yidam, Khadro - accomplishment stage practices - as this is what helps us cleanse. Through this we can gather the accumulations and cleanse our minds, so that a new kind of awareness can dawn within us whereby the practice of these will become fruitful and meaningful.
AZ - In the Nelug Rangjung, Dudjom Lingpa does not talk so much about the Ngöndro practices, not in the translation anyway, but there seems to be a lot of emphasis on Shamatha. Is it possible just to practice Shamatha? Because it seems the western culture has a strong connection with the Shamatha practice as a grounding practice, more than they do with the actual Ngöndro practices - that they find quite alien. Is that a good enough basis, to really develop Shamatha to go further into the path of the Nelug Rangjung?
DR - Basically, if somebody had the kind of discerning knowledge or wisdom - the mental capacity we could say - to directly enter that level of teaching then - and if there were signs of this - then of course, it is great and appropriate that they just go right into it in that way. But when we think about it, Shamatha, Shamatha practice, then generally many people in the world today are approaching Shamatha from the perspective of just looking for a practice that just gives some feeling of physical and mental well-being. There’s nothing wrong in that, that’s fine, but they are looking for a kind of a practice that also does not involve a lot of difficulties and that brings some measure of harmony and well-being in the body and the mind. Wherever, this is happening in the West, in China and so on. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, from the perspective of the lineage and the teachings of Dharma, we cannot really say that such is a kind of... perfectly pure way to enter into the teachings. Just practicing only that does not fully qualify for, we could say, a way of practicing. Actually to do that, only that, as the preliminaries for the Nelug Rangjung - to enter the level of the Nelug Rangjung - we cannot say that that is the perfectly perfect, cannot say it is a wholly perfect way to prepare ourselves to enter into that level of the teachings. Nelug Rangjung, what does it mean - Nelug it’s talking about the fundamental nature of all phenomena, actually the true nature of all reality, of all that exists. Rangjung as being this aspect of self-arising wisdom and this is what is being pointed out within this text, within this commentary - and actually this is extremely difficult to realise.
And just from the basis of some practice of Shamatha this is very difficult to directly realize - the fundamental nature of all phenomena as being self-arising wisdom - in this way. This is very difficult because of this reason. So therefore it would be one thing if Dudjom Lingpa had just taught the Nang-jang and the Nelug Rangjung, but in fact he has 25 volumes of teachings - he taught so much, he taught the practices of Ngöndro, he taught many different kind of sadhanas on the three roots and wrote a commentary also on the Ngöndro practice very, very extensively - and so one way that is good to think about these is kind of causal and resultant teachings: so those teachings of the Ngöndro and so on are the causes that bring one gradually, stage by stage, to that level of resultant teachings as presented within those two Dzogchen treatises. So for beginners, therefore to directly kind of arrive at the ultimate final result of the practices of Cutting through to Original Purity - Trekchö - and Crossing over into Spontaneous Presence - Tögal - practices of Dzogpa Chenpo is quite, quite difficult. So that being said, however, you know - take me for an example, or even anybody; whomever it is - we like these profound teachings whatever they are, the teachings of the Yeshe Lama, the teachings on the Nelug Rangjung, the teachings on the Nang-jang, teachings of the Sangwa’i Nyingpo, Guhyagarbha, those teachings that are so extremely deep and profound and nyingpo (of the essence, of the heart); we all like them very much and we have a kind of faith that is natural, a longing for them, an aspiration to practice them and so on, which is very good; but what we need to know is actually that when we’re looking at the words of those texts, those words are not that profound meaning; and so we can’t get mistaken by thinking that the words themselves are the actual deep profound meaning that is being revealed within this level of teaching, they are not. This ultimate meaning of this level of teachings is something that completely transcends any attempt to speak about it, to think about it and to express it in any way whatsoever, it is ineffable. So therefore, to truly realize that ultimate meaning of these teachings, then we depend on words. The words can be a support and it’s through them that we can arrive at the realization of the actual meaning of them - but again the meaning and the realization are not the words of these texts. It’s like any kind of teaching: the words of the Buddha himself, everything that he taught and so on - as well as all of the kinds of teachings contained within the Kangyur and Tengyur, all that was written by the later followers, all the aspects of the Treasure Revelations, Mind Treasures and Earth Treasures and so on - all of these are simply ways that we can approach the ultimate meaning based on the expression of it, based on the words for it. So this is one important thing to keep in mind regarding that.
I’m definitely not saying that it is not okay to approach those texts through Shamatha - I am not saying that it is not okay to do that, but I am saying it is not the fully perfect or qualified way of practice according to our lineage and to how things are done. But of course there is the tradition that we follow, however the master instructs and however our lama teaches us, so okay, “-Here’s the stages that we need to do, you have to practice this first and this second and to progress in a certain way.” So that’s according to our tradition, following in that kind of manner, of course that is unmistaken; there is no mistaken aspect in doing that.
AZ - This is how it has been generally introduced into Brazil: That you can either do the Ngöndro (the formal preliminary practices) or you can do Shamatha practice (Calm Abiding - Resting the mind). So Rinpoche’s clarification is so very important as it’s seldom taught that it is a necessity to do the Ngöndro practices. (As far as a prerequisite for the study and practice of the Vajra Essence - Nelug Rangjung. This is incredibly important to understand.)
DR - It’s also absolutely the case that, whatever practice we do, it is usually based on what we like and what we enjoy. Some people enjoy doing the preliminary practices of the Ngöndro teachings, other people mainly enjoy the main sadhana practices of different kinds and so on while other people are drawn to like the pith instructions that are more on the ultimate level and so on. We should understand that there are so many different kinds of Dharma teachings based on, depending on, the different mental faculties and incarnation’s dispositions of sentient beings. Of all these different ones that have been taught, it is important that people should practice based on what is in harmony with their own disposition and mental kind of condition. So it’s not at all the case that Dharma practice is something that is kind of ordered, or commanded, where someone says “-You must do this kind of practice”, so that’s of course not the case. No matter what it is that we’re doing - if we are engaging in some kind of worldly activity or engaging in more of religious activities that are directed towards the ultimate final results of liberation and omniscience - we should definitely go at them or come at them from the place of devotion, come at them from a place of real interest, being drawn to doing whatever it is we are doing from a place of real interest. Some people are very much interested in the Bodhisattvayana, the Bodhisattva path; other people are very much interested in the teachings of the Hinayana and some of the practices of Shyiné that are presented therein; other people just find themselves drawn to teachings where they do practices of Secret Mantra Vajrayana and so on. Some people are drawn to Throma others are drawn to Phurba - of course, there are so many different kinds of practices.
When we speak about Shamatha specifically, if we want to understand what is the specific kind of traditional type of progression, before we engage in these teachings it is not that, it is not with that practice that one would engage before the teachings of Nang-jang and Nelug Rangjung. Then shamatha is not that, it is not that. Nevertheless I think if you practice Shamatha continuously with great devotion and interest and faith in that, then I feel nothing but rejoicing for that; I am very happy about that, and so that is the most important thing: those aspects of feeling great interest and devotion towards whatever it is you’re choosing to practice. But without that, if we do not have that real regard and faith in the teachings and we’re just translating things here and there, just reading stuff without any of those aspects of respect and genuine devotion, then we run into some problems, and that we could consider as being somewhat mistaken.
AZ - That’s very helpful, thank you. I was Rinpoche’s student in his previous lifetime and in the 70’s I spent quite some time with Rinpoche. I was here for the Dudjom Tersar when he gave the Dudjom Tersar in his previous incarnation and then actually Rinpoche doesn’t remember me, but we actually sat here together with Rinpoche receiving a cycle of empowerments, from Moksa Rinpoche I believe, Rinpoche was about 8 years old at that time and they were given here, maybe even in this room (Rinpoche in the background is saying “Yes” he does remember and it was in this very room that we are presently sitting in. That was about 14 years ago).
I personally have been through the traditional path. So when I see these teachings being introduced into other countries, then there’s not so much emphasis on the Ngöndro at all, it’s like either or. But it seems they don’t see the real benefit, because they want more people to access the teachings which are not just connected with so called Vajrayana in the sense of all the elaborate practices. They want to introduce the Dzogchen teachings in a simpler way where people can just get grounded in their own mental processes by looking at Shamatha & Vipassana and Trekchö & Tögal without all the Yidam practices. I just wanted to hear from Rinpoche if that was a good approach or if one should not go that way at all.

DR - So, there’s many different ways of teaching the Dharma, that’s for sure. For some it is based on just getting familiar with the teachings of Shamatha and Vipassana and then directly after that going into the practices of Trekchö and Tögal. I really can’t say whether that’s good or that’s bad. I can’t say whether it is good or it is bad. The reason I can’t say whether it is good is because when we actually look traditionally at the way the Dharma has been presented and practiced then there is a definite order to the practices, beginning from the preliminary practices of Ngöndro and then proceeding one thing at a time up to those. But the reason I also can’t say it’s bad is because depending on the dispositions of individual beings, it could very well be the case that those who have some capacities and capabilities of extremely sharp minds - then these teachings will really genuinely be benefitting them. And so then, if I would be saying that is not good, then I would be basically be saying that a cause leading to the omniscient state of Buddhahood would not be good, but that’s certainly not the case. I’m never going to be saying that, but in general I would reinforce and reiterate that the Dharma needs to be practiced in a progressive manner, stage by stage. For myself, in the future this is the way I will teach - I will definitely present the teachings in this manner. It’s not that I couldn’t say directly “-Here are the teachings of Nang-jang and Nelug Rangjung and go right into this”. I am not going to present it in this way. And another reason for this: This is not the way my root teacher has taught me, not the way he enacted his enlightened activity of teaching the Dharma. In fact, he told me himself “-You have been born as a tulku with a very big name and so on, but just as any other person who comes into a body it is necessary for you also to consider yourself as a beginner and to engage in the preliminary practices of Ngöndro. Just the same as everybody else, and therefore this is what is important for you to do and well before you reach the teachings of Vajrayana” and so on. This is what he told me and this is the way I will teach.
So therefore I am going to go to Bhutan now and it might be the case that perhaps you won’t receive the opportunity to get these transmissions from Dudjom Lingpa. I want to really tell you please do not worry about that and don’t feel at all disheartened or sad that you lost an opportunity because I myself am going to make the prayers that in the future I will be able to give you whatever Dharma is needed, whatever teachings are needed. This is the hopes that I have. I will make prayers for this, so please don’t worry in any way at all about it.
AZ - I hope Rinpoche will come to Brazil. I really request, deeply from my heart, that he comes for the Brazilian people.
DR - Yes. I will also make prayers for that and even though I do not have one hundred percent great extensive knowledge about everything, I have said the few things that I know. Also in the future I will be able to teach you according to what I’m capable of and I’m making these aspirations myself.
AZ - If Rinpoche does give the Dudjom Lingpa empowerments when he comes back from Bhutan, does he know how long it will take?
DR - So yes, if it is conferred then probably when Rinpoche returns from Bhutan then he will rest for one week before beginning. So then it will last one month in total - one week for the wangs and the lungs take more time.
AZ - Thank you Rinpoche, Thank you very much.

madhusudan
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by madhusudan » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:49 pm

I've read advice from many Lamas to begin with more frequent short sessions. This was mentioned above. Beginning each session by taking refuge and generating bodhicitta and then dedicating all merit to the benefit of sentient beings at the end of the practice is good. Many masters also speak on post-meditation. Keeping the calm and open state in whatever you do next. Just some basic thoughts.

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monktastic
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by monktastic » Mon Jul 13, 2015 5:06 pm

I found The Attention Revolution to be very complete in describing everything one needs to attain shamatha. Is there some area in particular you'd like to know more about?
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa

HandsomeMonkeyking
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by HandsomeMonkeyking » Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:40 pm

Well, of course I feel how I get calmer and so on, but I doubt it's actual achievement of shamatha. So to use the time best that I have at my hands right now I thought I should get some hints what to look out for, to get around common pitfalls and so on.
Also I got the impression from Alans talks that in these time really few people actually achieve shamatha. I guessed this is because of all the distractions but thought maybe there is more to it and it cant hurt to ask somebody.

Otherwise I will just continue to practise.

Thank you all.

HandsomeMonkeyking
Posts: 160
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by HandsomeMonkeyking » Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:54 pm

Okay so I did some digging, and like I said all I practise so far is shamatha meditation, as taught in The Attention Revolution.
Now I came about the book Ngondro Commentary: Instructions for the Concise Preliminary Practices of the New Treasure of Dudjom and I wonder whether I should go and read it.
I dont have any preliminaries. But on the other hand, I suppose if I go reading this book I should know more about Guru Yoga, how it came to be and whether I can believe in it. Of course on first hearing it sounds like just following another person, which is unattractive to me. But this could definitely be because I have too few insight into the topic. So this would mean reading another book on Guru Yoga in advance. Which gives two thoughts: 1. which book? 2. do I really want to add more and more books to my list or rather practise?

Your thoughts on this? Especially welcome are hints from people who achieved shamatha or went a far way already, people speaking from experience.

Thank you.

Jesse
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Re: Achieving Shamatha

Post by Jesse » Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:06 pm

HandsomeMonkeyking wrote:Okay so I did some digging, and like I said all I practise so far is shamatha meditation, as taught in The Attention Revolution.
Now I came about the book Ngondro Commentary: Instructions for the Concise Preliminary Practices of the New Treasure of Dudjom and I wonder whether I should go and read it.
I dont have any preliminaries. But on the other hand, I suppose if I go reading this book I should know more about Guru Yoga, how it came to be and whether I can believe in it. Of course on first hearing it sounds like just following another person, which is unattractive to me. But this could definitely be because I have too few insight into the topic. So this would mean reading another book on Guru Yoga in advance. Which gives two thoughts: 1. which book? 2. do I really want to add more and more books to my list or rather practise?

Your thoughts on this? Especially welcome are hints from people who achieved shamatha or went a far way already, people speaking from experience.

Thank you.
Guru yoga relies heavily on faith, which is very helpful in alot of practices. State of mind can completely alter our experience, so if we have faith our guru is an enlightened buddha who is helping us along our path thing's would probably tend to be easier and more efficient.

This is just my opinion, but the same faith can be applied to the fact that we all have buddha nature, and our nature it'self is what hastens and helps us along the path. I guess some people would refer to it as an inner guru.

Either path is fine, I think you have the right idea in trying to understand what each practice brings, so ill leave it here and let people with more experience in that form of buddhism answer.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

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