Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

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Matt J
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Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by Matt J » Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:01 am

I practiced shamatha / vipassana from a Theravada view for many years. After talking in depth with a former Theravada vipassana instructor turned Vajrayana instructor, I have come to the conclusion that Mahamudra shamatha is not the same. I had to completely let it go.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:06 am
The other thing I've found is that I was carrying a lot of expectation and bias due to years of practicing shamatha/vipaysana, and I was expecting that somehow taking this on formally would be similar. So far it's not, I mean arguably trekchod is the union of shamatha vipaysana etc. etc..we could argue all day about whether or not and in what way they are theoretically equivalent, but the felt experience along the way seems quite different. Either way, emptying my cup and not keeping that stuff in my mind has helped to open up these practices a little.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

dharmafootsteps
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Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by dharmafootsteps » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:50 am

Matt J wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:01 am
I practiced shamatha / vipassana from a Theravada view for many years. After talking in depth with a former Theravada vipassana instructor turned Vajrayana instructor, I have come to the conclusion that Mahamudra shamatha is not the same. I had to completely let it go.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:06 am
The other thing I've found is that I was carrying a lot of expectation and bias due to years of practicing shamatha/vipaysana, and I was expecting that somehow taking this on formally would be similar. So far it's not, I mean arguably trekchod is the union of shamatha vipaysana etc. etc..we could argue all day about whether or not and in what way they are theoretically equivalent, but the felt experience along the way seems quite different. Either way, emptying my cup and not keeping that stuff in my mind has helped to open up these practices a little.
Interesting, could you elaborate on your understanding of the difference so far?

dharmafootsteps
Posts: 169
Joined: Sun Apr 30, 2017 8:57 am

Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by dharmafootsteps » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:54 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:06 am
Thanks to everyone for this thread and who sent me helpful PM's, it was invaluable in helping me figure out how to do this long term.

What I've discovered so far is:

Scheduled daily practice (even longish periods) is not sufficient for me to gain experience of these practices.

Upon some of the advice in this thread, advice received from teachers (DC and otherwise), I determined that the best way to do this is both daily practice -and- these sort of "mini-retreats" when i get a few hours alone.

The times where I have done long practice periods alone have given slow but steady progress. Also having a ton of texts on Mahamudra and Semde helps, though I am using Introduction to The Practice of Contemplation as my basic structure.

Basically, I need a long period with nothing to do, and no immediate responsibilities surrounding it. So far, having that has been indispensable to gaining experience of these practices, rare as such periods are.

The other thing I've found is that I was carrying a lot of expectation and bias due to years of practicing shamatha/vipaysana, and I was expecting that somehow taking this on formally would be similar. So far it's not, I mean arguably trekchod is the union of shamatha vipaysana etc. etc..we could argue all day about whether or not and in what way they are theoretically equivalent, but the felt experience along the way seems quite different. Either way, emptying my cup and not keeping that stuff in my mind has helped to open up these practices a little.
Which texts do you find to complement Introduction to the Practice of Contemplation well?

Simon E.
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Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by Simon E. » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:35 am

Matt J wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:01 am
I practiced shamatha / vipassana from a Theravada view for many years. After talking in depth with a former Theravada vipassana instructor turned Vajrayana instructor, I have come to the conclusion that Mahamudra shamatha is not the same. I had to completely let it go.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:06 am
The other thing I've found is that I was carrying a lot of expectation and bias due to years of practicing shamatha/vipaysana, and I was expecting that somehow taking this on formally would be similar. So far it's not, I mean arguably trekchod is the union of shamatha vipaysana etc. etc..we could argue all day about whether or not and in what way they are theoretically equivalent, but the felt experience along the way seems quite different. Either way, emptying my cup and not keeping that stuff in my mind has helped to open up these practices a little.
CTR sent a group of us to the Thai Vipassana teacher Chao Khan Dhammasudi with the specific intention of combining it with Vipashnya Tibetan style. We did this by a combination of different foci taught to us by Rinpoche. I won’t go into detail because it needs hands-on instruction..I’m just sayin’.
“Why don’t you close down your PC for a while and find out who needs your help?”

HH Tai Situ.

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Matt J
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Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by Matt J » Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:45 pm

The shamatha I learned in various Theravada schools tends to be focused and narrow. Like focusing a flashlight on a small area. It was effortful. For instance, you would focus on the breath and restrict your attention to the breath. Some teachers teach that the focus should eventually be exclusive--- just the breath, nothing more. However, in the Bhante G style, it was taught that you allow 10% of your attention to remain open.

The shamatha I have learned in Tergar is relaxed and open. Rather than, say, focusing on the breath, you are resting on the breath. However, you are not trying to cut off thoughts and other things, they can still arise. Mingyur Rinpoche has some public teachings on this. I have appended a link below.

In my limited experience, the Theravada style shamatha produced amazing results in a retreat style setting. However, it is was limited in its applications to dealing with daily stress and anxiety. The looser style doesn't produce the same experiences, (which is ok, since they are like mist anyway), but I have found it more useful for daily life.

https://learning.tergar.org/wp-content/ ... tation.pdf
dharmafootsteps wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:50 am
Interesting, could you elaborate on your understanding of the difference so far?
-----------

That may be the case, but that does not appear to be how he enshrined it in his Shambhala teaching. Shamatha in that case appears to be more like described above. I probably don't have the same depth of experience in it that you do, but given my limited interactions with the modern community, this has been my take away.

I think it is a matter of focus. In Theravada, there is also actually something of a split. There are teachers who teach "sutta jhanas," which is more in line with the relaxed, open style described above and there are teachers who teach "Visudhamagga jhana" which is the more effortful, focused described above.

I would say that both of these exist in the Tibetan tradition, and probably in the traditional, monastic context, both were mastered. The harder styles of shamatha, in my mind and the mind of many others, require extensive long retreats to master. However, when the texts turn to Mahamudra, the style is very different. In addition, Mahamudra in India and Vajrayana in early Tibet were practiced by lay practitioners, not monks. My speculation is that the harder shamatha is an add-on.

Simon E. wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:35 am
CTR sent a group of us to the Thai Vipassana teacher Chao Khan Dhammasudi with the specific intention of combining it with Vipashnya Tibetan style. We did this by a combination of different foci taught to us by Rinpoche. I won’t go into detail because it needs hands-on instruction..I’m just sayin’.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Seriously approaching Semde on ones own

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Sep 22, 2019 5:47 pm

dharmafootsteps wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:54 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:06 am
Thanks to everyone for this thread and who sent me helpful PM's, it was invaluable in helping me figure out how to do this long term.

What I've discovered so far is:

Scheduled daily practice (even longish periods) is not sufficient for me to gain experience of these practices.

Upon some of the advice in this thread, advice received from teachers (DC and otherwise), I determined that the best way to do this is both daily practice -and- these sort of "mini-retreats" when i get a few hours alone.

The times where I have done long practice periods alone have given slow but steady progress. Also having a ton of texts on Mahamudra and Semde helps, though I am using Introduction to The Practice of Contemplation as my basic structure.

Basically, I need a long period with nothing to do, and no immediate responsibilities surrounding it. So far, having that has been indispensable to gaining experience of these practices, rare as such periods are.

The other thing I've found is that I was carrying a lot of expectation and bias due to years of practicing shamatha/vipaysana, and I was expecting that somehow taking this on formally would be similar. So far it's not, I mean arguably trekchod is the union of shamatha vipaysana etc. etc..we could argue all day about whether or not and in what way they are theoretically equivalent, but the felt experience along the way seems quite different. Either way, emptying my cup and not keeping that stuff in my mind has helped to open up these practices a little.
Which texts do you find to complement Introduction to the Practice of Contemplation well?
I have a decent sized collection of books that cover similar ground, but lately I've found Pointing Out The Dharmakaya, and Vivid Awareness to be very useful.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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