Help on shamatha

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
MatthewAngby
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by MatthewAngby » Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:41 am

Vasana wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:01 pm
How much shamatha with an object have you done and for how long to be able to distinguish when it is personally beneficial for you in steadying the mind? You can use objects other than the breath.

Read the books from those who are considered authoritative on this topic. Don't be satisfied with just one source. Survey the teachings. Meditating before studying isn't the most effective way of going forward. How do you know you have a correct or comprehensive understanding about formless shamatha or shamatha in general if you havn't read the advice from those who are well trained in it? I mentioned some of these above to keep you busy and of course you're practicing Kagyu, right? See what the renowned Kagyu masters say. There are easily accesible YouTube teachings if you can't get any books right away.

I also really can't recommend the book from Gen LamRimpa /Alan Wallace enough. So much so that I wish I encountered it years ago!
Erm tbh only yesterday I tried without object. I would say maybe 2-3 weeks I have been practicing with breath? But I find it more relaxed to just be aware of my busy mind and relax in that state.

madhusudan
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by madhusudan » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:42 pm

Here is a lovely instruction on meditation from Dudjom Rinpoche.

https://youtu.be/qbJ7u_nJb54

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:46 pm

practitioner wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:31 am
Wisdom Posdcast has 2 episodes with Alan Wallace where he spends a great deal of time discussing shamatha. I think you may find them helpful.

PS. There is also one with some guy named Malcolm...
Alan Wallace's view on shamatha and its relationship with the rest of practice is kind of insane, IMO.

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practitioner
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by practitioner » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:33 am

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:46 pm
practitioner wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:31 am
Wisdom Posdcast has 2 episodes with Alan Wallace where he spends a great deal of time discussing shamatha. I think you may find them helpful.

PS. There is also one with some guy named Malcolm...
Alan Wallace's view on shamatha and its relationship with the rest of practice is kind of insane, IMO.
Maybe I need to go back and listen again. I seem to remember the gist of it being that stable shamata is important for further practice (I believe this is true) and that often people tend to skip shamata in order to jump straight to more "exciting" and "higher" practices (I also believe this is true).
One should do nothing other than benefit sentient beings either directly or indirectly - Shantideva

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:14 am

practitioner wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:33 am
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:46 pm
practitioner wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:31 am
Wisdom Posdcast has 2 episodes with Alan Wallace where he spends a great deal of time discussing shamatha. I think you may find them helpful.

PS. There is also one with some guy named Malcolm...
Alan Wallace's view on shamatha and its relationship with the rest of practice is kind of insane, IMO.
Maybe I need to go back and listen again. I seem to remember the gist of it being that stable shamata is important for further practice (I believe this is true) and that often people tend to skip shamata in order to jump straight to more "exciting" and "higher" practices (I also believe this is true).
That's the gist of it yes, but it's the details I remember as being insane. From what I remember of this interview, Wallace was saying that someone needs to reach a level of shamatha where you can stop breathing for 2 weeks before you can consider yourself "on the path". The take-away I remember was that no one can be considered ready for practice of anything beyond shamatha unless you've done isolated retreat for several years.

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Vasana
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Vasana » Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:32 pm

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:14 am
practitioner wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:33 am
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:46 pm


Alan Wallace's view on shamatha and its relationship with the rest of practice is kind of insane, IMO.
Maybe I need to go back and listen again. I seem to remember the gist of it being that stable shamata is important for further practice (I believe this is true) and that often people tend to skip shamata in order to jump straight to more "exciting" and "higher" practices (I also believe this is true).
That's the gist of it yes, but it's the details I remember as being insane. From what I remember of this interview, Wallace was saying that someone needs to reach a level of shamatha where you can stop breathing for 2 weeks before you can consider yourself "on the path". The take-away I remember was that no one can be considered ready for practice of anything beyond shamatha unless you've done isolated retreat for several years.
This isn't quite his view. He distinguishes the actual 'attaining' of shamatha from the training/practice we usually just call shamatha/calm abiding. The actual attaining of shamatha I think he reserves in the technical sense of reaching the 9th stage of the 9 stages of Shamatha. However, In a teaching retreat of his he said that since the criteria for actually attaining the stability of full shamatha is so high, that it's possible/acceptable/appropirate, in his view, for people to apply their Vippasana / Mahamudra / Dzogchen instructions at around the 5th of the 9 stages since there is at this point there is a considerable ammount of stability in quiescence for the vippassana to have a chance of being stable.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:20 pm

Vasana wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:32 pm
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:14 am
practitioner wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 12:33 am


Maybe I need to go back and listen again. I seem to remember the gist of it being that stable shamata is important for further practice (I believe this is true) and that often people tend to skip shamata in order to jump straight to more "exciting" and "higher" practices (I also believe this is true).
That's the gist of it yes, but it's the details I remember as being insane. From what I remember of this interview, Wallace was saying that someone needs to reach a level of shamatha where you can stop breathing for 2 weeks before you can consider yourself "on the path". The take-away I remember was that no one can be considered ready for practice of anything beyond shamatha unless you've done isolated retreat for several years.
This isn't quite his view. He distinguishes the actual 'attaining' of shamatha from the training/practice we usually just call shamatha/calm abiding. The actual attaining of shamatha I think he reserves in the technical sense of reaching the 9th stage of the 9 stages of Shamatha. However, In a teaching retreat of his he said that since the criteria for actually attaining the stability of full shamatha is so high, that it's possible/acceptable/appropirate, in his view, for people to apply their Vippasana / Mahamudra / Dzogchen instructions at around the 5th of the 9 stages since there is at this point there is a considerable ammount of stability in quiescence for the vippassana to have a chance of being stable.
That does sound much more reasonable. Somehow, I don't think that point was made in the video I linked. Perhaps Wallace has changed his views over time.

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Sennin
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Sennin » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:43 am

Royal Seal of Mahamudra gets to the nitty gritty. Probably my favorite text on meditation.

It covers everything from physical posture, key points of voice, settling the mind, eliminating the faults of shamatha, refining shamatha, sustaining shamatha and much more.
Namo Guru Bhyaḥ

WeiHan
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by WeiHan » Sat May 05, 2018 2:02 pm

Vasana wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:54 am
I reccomend this transcript from the preliminary teachings of a 1 year shamatha retreat led by Gen LamRimpa who has over 20 years retreat experience. It's translated by Alan Wallace and has some excellent advice and guidance. It's based on a Tsongkhapa/Gelug text but the training it's self is applicable to all schools.

Samatha Meditation: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on the Cultivation of Meditative Quiescence

" what does that term, 'extremely stable mind," mean? It means a mind sufficiently able to focus upon emptiness without wavering to any other object ."

Definitely don't neglect shamatha. The first step is just as you are doing - to find out the advantages and benefits of shamatha.

Even if someone has a brief glimpse of the union of shamatha and vippassana, without stability, that insight is said to be like a candle exposed to the wind. Shamatha is like putting a protective layer of glass around the flame so that it can remain stable.

Also check out Jamgon Kongtrul and Kamalishas writing on Shamatha and vippassana.
This Jamgon Kongtrul's book on meditation looks very useful and easy to read. Do you have a scan of the content page? Is it practical in your opinion?

WeiHan
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by WeiHan » Sat May 05, 2018 5:59 pm

MatthewAngby wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 12:45 pm
Does anyone have any advice given by great masters or rinpoche on their advice for Shamatha meditation? I’m currently doing it on a daily basis. Also , what does Shamatha aim to achieve ultimately ?
I guess/assume that you are trying to practice Mahayana Buddhism. From this perspective, I'll try to give you an idea of the position of Shamatha in the overall scheme of the graduated practices.

We have Relative and Absolute Bodhicitta. Within relative bodhicitta, we have the aspirational and action bodhicitta. Aspirational bodhicitta is the Mahayana intention: "I wish to attain the stage of Buddhahood so that I can benefit all sentient beings." Action bodhicitta is generally speaking the six paramitas practices of which the last paramita of the list of six is the Wisdom paramita which Shamatha and Vipassana are classified under. To put it concisely, Shamatha is to prepare you for Vipassana so that absolute bodhicitta (the full realisation of emptiness) can be realised. It is generally accepted that without accumulated merit, wisdom cannot arise, that is why before we attempt Vipassana or other higher practices, it is generally advised to do alot of practices that purify negative karma such as 35 buddhas recitation or Vajrasattva and alot of practices that accumulated merit such as smoke offering, mandala offering, water offering etc..

To get a clear idea of the entire path, it is better to start with for example the Lam Rim of Gelug, Three Visions of the Sakya, The Four Dharmas of Gampopa or one of the Nyingma text "the words of my perfect teacher". In these well presented graduated path texts, the purpose of Shamatha is well presented.

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Vasana
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Re: Help on shamatha

Post by Vasana » Sat May 05, 2018 6:51 pm

WeiHan wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 2:02 pm
Vasana wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:54 am
I reccomend this transcript from the preliminary teachings of a 1 year shamatha retreat led by Gen LamRimpa who has over 20 years retreat experience. It's translated by Alan Wallace and has some excellent advice and guidance. It's based on a Tsongkhapa/Gelug text but the training it's self is applicable to all schools.

Samatha Meditation: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on the Cultivation of Meditative Quiescence

" what does that term, 'extremely stable mind," mean? It means a mind sufficiently able to focus upon emptiness without wavering to any other object ."

Definitely don't neglect shamatha. The first step is just as you are doing - to find out the advantages and benefits of shamatha.

Even if someone has a brief glimpse of the union of shamatha and vippassana, without stability, that insight is said to be like a candle exposed to the wind. Shamatha is like putting a protective layer of glass around the flame so that it can remain stable.

Also check out Jamgon Kongtrul and Kamalishas writing on Shamatha and vippassana.
This Jamgon Kongtrul's book on meditation looks very useful and easy to read. Do you have a scan of the content page? Is it practical in your opinion?
The pages and quotes I shared are from the Gen LamRimpa teachings. I only posted an image relating to Kongtrul Rinpoche. It is very systematic and clear. The Gen LamRimpa is the most practice orientated since it consists of practice instruction and refinement. The other texts give brief overlays and some general instruction but don't go in to as much detail - they do have lots of useful quotes and citations about shamatha and vippassana....both sides are needed imo. An abundnace of citations to inspire confidence and motivation when it is lacking and actual practical instructions.

It's from the Treasury of Knowledge, chapter 8 (Kongtrul)
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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