Shamatha Meditation

Whether one becomes an unsurpassable practitioner or not depends upon your motivation. If you have a perfect motivation, you will be a perfect practitioner. All sentient beings wish for happiness and wish to avoid suffering. So first look at yourself and see how much you want peace and joy.

All sentient beings have this same wish. From this we develop the altruistic motivation to benefit all beings. Whatever practice you do is your choice. But it should be done with the motivation that it will benefit all sentient beings. At the end of any practice you should dedicate the merit to all beings without keeping any for yourself. If you have a goal you would like to accomplish in this life, you should dedicate all your merit to all sentient beings. The result will be that you will get all the benefit. Milarepa said that the merit of benefiting others will be a joyful happy life. Buddha became enlightened by benefiting other beings. But other beings still wander in samsara from not having the same motivation. To benefit other beings we must practice the dharma properly. Sometimes we think we are not helping others enough financially. But if your motivation is correct, you don’t have to worry about that. If you keep the proper motivation, one day you will achieve realization.

There are many traditions in Buddhism and they explain practice in different ways. If you practice in the Vajrayana, you can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. But it doen’t matter which tradition you practice. The accumulation of merit is the same. So the question arises, why does the Mahayana path take three kalpas, while the Vajrayana is so quick? The difference is in your motivation. The Hinayana teaches that the nature of samsara is suffering we need to achieve enlightenment to free ourselves. But since their motivation is to benefit themselves alone, it takes thousands of kalpas to achieve complete liberation. In the Mahayana also understands samsara is suffering and wishes to attain enlightenment. But since they know that all beings desire happiness, they wish to liberate all beings and not themselves. And they do all their practices with this motivation. So they achieve enlightenment more quickly, in three kalpas. In the Vajrayana you practice your chosen deity and visualize yourself in the deity’s form. For example, you can meditate on Chenrezig or Tara. We are not saying you should try to visualize an impossible or contradictory to fact state. Because we have buddha nature, the potential to attain enlightenment is already in you., and visualizing ourselves as a deity is not contrary to fact. If we practice, we will achieve that.

So the topic for tonight is shamatha meditation. That is is Sanskrit word, the Tibetan word is Shinay. There are two kinds of shamatha meditation, with characteristic and without characteristic. Meditation with characteristic is subdivided into meditation with an object and without an object. The practice with an object is for a beginner. The object can be a pebble or a piece of wood, or an image of Buddha. The last is preferred by Tibetan lamas, as it aids in learning the development stage practice of deity yoga. At first you should just look at the curl between the Buddha’s eyes. That is enough to start. Your mind will wander into discursive thought. When you notice that, stop right there and bring it back to your object of focus. It is difficult for a beginner. At first your mind is like the Niagra Falls. Eventually your mind will become accustomed to meditation and remain stably on the object of meditation.

When this is attained, you can practice objectless meditation practice. There are two types of this practice, with the breath and without the breath. The practice with breath is to watch the inhalation and exhalation of the breath in a calm and relaxed way. At that time your mind will be like a meandering river. That is called objectless meditation with breath. The second kind has no object of meditation. At that time your mind is very peaceful and calm and you don’t need to use any object of mental focus. A discursive thought might pop up, but there is no need to modify it. Your mind is like an ocean, that may have waves on the surface, but the waves come from the ocean and will go back to it. You may have some discursive thoughts but you don’t need to control them, as they will return back to the mind. So do you have any questions?

Q: Would Medicine Buddha be a good figure to meditaie on?

A: Yes, any deity is fine.

Q: Sometimes meditation seems easier than other times. If you have trouble, should you end the session?

A: Take a break and then begin again. At the beginning your mind will be unstable. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself or feel guilty or worried. It will only make things worse. Bodily posture is also important for good meditation. Your body and mind depend on one another, so you should keep the sevenfold posture of Vairochana. The most important point of posture is to keep your back straight.

There are two types of shamatha meditation without characteristic. One is strict and one is relaxed. For the strict practice, take the sevenfold posture. You should practice with the motivation to exclude all discursive thoughts from your mind. You should practice without the least laziness and with no regard to hardship. In the relaxed practice you shoulld leave your mind as it naturally is. Just blocking conceptual thought is not enough. You need to see the nature of your mind. Your mind is the unity of clarity and emptiness. It’s not enough to see this once, you need to practice it again and again. When you do this you will have the experience of bliss, clarity, and non-thought. You should not attach to any of these. If you do not and continue to practice, you will achieve the realization of mahamudra.

Q: Sometimes when I meditate will get distracted by a fly or other insect. What should I do then?

A: Ignore it. Whether the distraction is external or internal, one deals with it in the same way.

Q: How much effort should you use in keeping your mind focused.?

A: It’s like a guitar string. It should be tuned so it is neither too tight or loose.

Q: So the relaxed meditation is an advanced practice?

A: Right. A beginner needs a quiet place to practice. But an advanced meditator can practice anywhere. Naropa practiced at night and at first he was disturbed when the farmers woke up. But later it was not a problem.

Q: Should the meditation with object a visualized object or a physical object?

A: It should be a physical object.

Drupon Thinley Nyingpo
Susquhanna Yoga Center
April 12, 2008