Fall 2014 Shamatha, Vipashyana, Dream Yoga, and the Experience of Pristine Awareness in the Great Perfection Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism

00 Welcome and Introduction to the retreat

21 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Welcome to Thanyapura Fall 2014 retreat. This session outlined what will be covered in the retreat. The teachings are based on two texts: Padmasambhavas Natural Liberation, and excerpts from Dudj…

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01 Settling the Body, Speech and Mind in its Natural State

22 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts off by giving a meditation on settling the body, speech and mind in its natural state. He then elaborates on practices of mindfulness of breathing which follows three steps in the Therava…

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02 Mindfulness of Breathing

22 Aug 2014 Transcript available

The meditation was Mindfulness of Breathing with a literal interpretation on the theme from the Pali canon “When breathing in long one knows that one breathes in long”. Alan starts by reading from D…

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03 Continuing Mindfulness of Breathing

23 Aug 2014 Transcript available

This morning Alan: - asked for volunteers in an experiment over the retreat period - gave the oral transmission of the 7 line prayer of Padmasambhava (that will become part of the practice from tom…

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04 The Culmination of Mindfulness of Breathing

23 Aug 2014 Transcript available

It is crucial for our progress to be able to distinguish the qualitative difference between the clarity of substrate consciousness and the lucidity of rigpa. In the practice of Mindfulness of Bre…

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05 Mindfulness of Breathing

25 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Due to technical problems we apologize for the sound quality in the first eight minutes. Alan invites us to start each morning with the recitation of The Seven Line Prayer of Padmasambhava as a prel…

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06 Mindfulness of Breathing

25 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts off talking about shamatha as a contemplative technology. It is about making the mind serviceable and refining our mental awareness. Shamatha is healing and it becomes a path to exception…

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07 Faith and taboo

26 Aug 2014 Transcript available

As an introduction to approaching devotional practice and practicing with meaning, Alan talks of how faith in Buddhism differs from both western/Christian faith, and faith in science. He gives examp…

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08 Nyam, nyam, nyam

26 Aug 2014 Transcript available

The Tibeten term ‘nyam’ has no similar term in English. It is a class of experience that is part of the journey. Alan described a nyam as “an anomalous, transient, psychosomatic experience that is c…

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09 Transferring Consciousness to a Buddhafield

27 Aug 2014 Transcript available

We conclude the teachings on the transitional phase of living from the Vajra Essence with a meditation found in the text and a commentary on it. We practice the meditation as an exercise of prospecti…

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10 Introduction to Shamatha Without a Sign

27 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan encourages those following the retreat through the podcasts to obtain a copy of his translation of Natural Liberation, our text for the remainder of the retreat. The meditation that Alan guided…

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11 Awareness of Awareness

28 Aug 2014 Transcript available

After The Seven Line Prayer of Padmasambhava we jump right into meditation. We continue practicing awareness of awareness. Due to technical problems, however, Alan couldn’t give his talk after the…

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12 Awareness of Awareness: The Practice of Not-Doing

28 Aug 2014

After the meditation Alan elaborates on the practice of awareness of awareness, which is unique in the sense that the first phase does not require any effort - quite the contrary! Instead of trying t…

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13 Continuing Probing into the Agent or the Art of Bending a Rainbow

29 Aug 2014 Transcript available

We continue with yesterdays practice of Awareness of Awareness enriched with the probing into the agent of that which is inverting and releasing the awareness. The theme of todays teaching was the…

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14 Awareness of Awareness or Warming Up for the Marathon

29 Aug 2014

In this meditation we send the awareness out into space, starting with the space above, then to the right, to the left and downwards. This method of shamatha without a sign, where we release aware…

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15 Luminosity of awareness

30 Aug 2014

Alan gives advice on the practice of meditation regarding what to do when the mind feels so cluttered and agitated and how to overcome negativity. He emphasizes the importance to not make a habit of…

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16 Culmination of Shamatha without a Sign. Releasing mind into space.

30 Aug 2014

In this session we are finishing off the instructions of Padmasambhava. Alan goes right into meditation and the central theme is releasing the mind into space. After the meditation session Alan fi…

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17 Merging mind with space

01 Sep 2014

This session begins with the 7 line prayer of Padmasmbhava and on into the meditation. Alan clarifies the two excerpts he discussed yesterday from ‘The Vajra Essence’, and ’The Enlightened View…

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18 From shamatha to vipashana

01 Sep 2014 Transcript available

aka: An insiders approach to understanding reality Alan continues teaching from the text, beginning with the preface before heading into the meditation and the gentle transition from shamatha to v…

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19 The Relative Nature of Awareness

02 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Padmasambhava’s first vipashyana meditation is found on page 115 of Natural Liberation. Alan invites those listening to hear these words as the actual speech of Padmasambhava. To examine conscious…

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20 Searching for the Mind

02 Sep 2014

Just as we can answer the question, “Is Michael in the room?” by seeing only his face rather than every part of him, we can examine the mind by looking at an individual mental appearance. In the…

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21 On Behaviorism and the Like, or Viva la revolución!

03 Sep 2014 Transcript available

If you believe that the mind is the brain and you’re unwilling to change your opinion, you should not listen to this - otherwise your world view might be shattered. Alan gives a brief historical…

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22 On Behaviorism and the Like II, or Why Alan is Not Beating a Dead Horse

03 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In an enormously compelling and emotional talk Alan once again tackles how scientific and contemplative communities have tackled “the hard problem”, that is how one can explain the relationship betwe…

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23 Continuing the Search For the Mind - See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

04 Sep 2014

If you don’t listen to this podcast, you will miss the celestial music that spontaneously manifested in our auditory space, only The Who knows from where! After that musical intermezzo we continued…

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24 Tiptoing Into Identifying Awareness

04 Sep 2014

In the teachings Alan elaborated once more on the topic of seeing ones teacher as the Buddha, sharing some stories about his early times in India which relate to that topic. It is easy to see the rea…

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25 We don’t need another hero!

05 Sep 2014

Alan starts the morning session commenting briefly the earlier fairly elaborated discussion on this whole reductionism of our existence to just brains, to being animals or robots. Alan invites us to…

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26 Emptiness of the mind

05 Sep 2014

This session starts off with meditation. Following the meditation, Alan elaborates on the relationships with lamas and spiritual teachers. The closer we become to them, the more we identify with…

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27 Pointing out instructions - Rigpa

06 Sep 2014

This session continues the pointing out instructions from Padmasambhava, to cut through the substrate to pristine awareness (rigpa). Alan gives a preface to the meditation, explaining the ‘eight extr…

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28 What happens to an arhat after death?

06 Sep 2014

Alan references different buddhist schools of thought regarding what happens when a sentient being, who has realized nirvana, dies. After exploring the Pali canon, he looks more widely and brings us…

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29 Review of the Nature of Primordial Awareness

08 Sep 2014

Found on page 125 of Natural Liberation, the morning’s meditation session is a review of Padmasambhava’s pointing out instructions for examining the nature of primordial awareness. Alan then disc…

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30 A New Wrinkle on Mindfulness of Breathing

08 Sep 2014

Alan introduces a novel but utterly traditional approach to the mindfulness of breathing practice we’ve been doing to develop relaxation, stability, and vividness. After the silent meditation, A…

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31 Unstable Equilibrium, or How a Butterfly Can Throw You Off Balance

09 Sep 2014

Alan announces that the format of the sessions will be changed a bit in that he will simply give the commentary first, then we should meditate in silence. As we are meditating, we should not specific…

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32 Today Is a Day to Be a Loser

09 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan first comments on the text once again and explains some of the symbolism involved. He then continues to explain how the formless realm, the form realm and the desire realm are connected: That ou…

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33 Stop it! and how to translate that into Tibetan

10 Sep 2014 Transcript available

This morning we were listening to Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” skit that Alan had talked about a while ago. So everybody out there with wandering minds, low self-esteem and all the like, take this advice…

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36 Practice dharma, observe your own mind.

11 Sep 2014

Alan starts sharing his experience along the eight eight-week retreats that he has been leading in Phuket. He addresses the importance to practice the four immeasurables and vipashana with a solid fo…

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37 Carried away with enthusiasm

12 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Very short podcast where Alan talks of his boundless enthusiasm for the teachings before entering into a silent meditation (not included in the podcast).

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38 Is Dzogchen the unique domain of buddhists?

12 Sep 2014

Alan gives an alternative approach to guru yoga: asking us to give up our sense of being a sentient being, and releasing the sense of the guru as a sentient being. Meditation continues Padmasambhava’…

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39 Loving Kindness for Yourself

13 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan tells us this is a good point in the retreat to refresh our motivation and guides the practice he has taught many times, the four-fold practice of arousing loving kindness for ourselves. - Ma…

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40 A Standard for Judging Claims of Existence

13 Sep 2014 Transcript available

For this meditation Alan reads a passage found on page 136 of Natural Liberation in which Padmasambhava excerpts descriptions from various tantras about the nature of primordial awareness. After t…

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41 Loving-Kindness: Cooling the Blade

15 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan announces that from now on we will spend the morning sessions cultivating the 4 immeasurables. Whereas mindfulness, attention and intelligence are not intrinsically virtuous but can be afflictiv…

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42 On the Nature of Ultimate and Relative Bodhicitta

15 Sep 2014

At the beginning, Alan announces that from now on there will be more time for questions/discussion in the afternoon sessions. Then he starts the meditation, continuing with pointing-out instructions…

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43 Expanding the Field of Loving-kindness

16 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In this meditation session, we expand the field of loving-kindness, starting from the sangha listening by podcast into the boundlessness of space. Guided meditation starts at 05:20 min

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44 Who is Alan - Alan? Dr. Alan? Guru Alan? Lama Alan? Dr. Lama Alan?

16 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In today’s meditation Alan went on with the pointing-out instructions from Natural Liberation. In the teachings Alan discussed the different levels of teacher-student relationship and how we can bri…

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45 Power to change the world

17 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan welcomes two new participants to the retreat and emphasizes the importance of friendship and empathy among all of us. Meditation follows on the topic of compassion. Alan explains that there i…

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46 Unboundedness of Buddha’s awareness

17 Sep 2014

We start the afternoon session with meditation on mindfulness of breathing. After meditation, Alan briefly finishes the commentary on the vipashyana section of the book Natural Liberation. Alan…

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47 Freedom from the Suffering of Change and Its Causes

18 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan begins with a clarification of how the practice of silence at a Mahayana retreat is different from that at a Sravakayana retreat. The meditation is on cultivating the aspiration that we ours…

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48 A Spiral Through the Basics to Settled Awareness

18 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Because a runaway, ruminating mind may still be an obstacle at this point of the retreat, Alan leads a meditation that spirals through the well-known shamatha practices of open presence, tactile sens…

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49 Freedom from Existential Suffering

19 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Exploring the wisdom necessary to discern the causes underlying the unease and discontent that characterize our experience, Alan leads a meditation probing our delusory sense of self before generati…

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50 Introduction to the Transitional Process of Dreaming

19 Sep 2014

Alan begins with further instruction on a Dzogchen approach to mindfulness of breathing. After the silent meditation session, he introduces Padmasambhava’s teachings on the second bardo, the tran…

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51 Empathetic Joy, and Alan Filing a Class Action Suit

20 Sep 2014

Alan talks about the cultivation of empathetic joy, which among the four immeasurables is the one that is often easily overlooked. However, it is extremely important because it’s not simply about bei…

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52 Welcome to Padmasambhava’s Ontological Shock Therapy

20 Sep 2014

The meditation is all about going back to shamatha and Alan’s suggestions are: 1) Do whatever works, 2) As a general recommendation: balance earth and sky, so do mindfulness of breathing but then mer…

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53 Prospective Memory For Dream Yoga And Empathetic Joy

22 Sep 2014

In today’s meditation we took up the topic of empathetic joy again, which is often overlooked when we choose amongst the variety of meditation methods for our sessions. Specifically the kindness that…

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54 Mirror, mirror on the wall - Who is fairest of them all?

22 Sep 2014

In the teachings before the meditation Alan emphasizes that we have a choice in our daily lives whether we let ourselves be caught up in ignorance and delusion or not. This relates to dream yoga, to…

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55 Immeasurable equanimity, the foundation

23 Sep 2014

We move on to the culmination of the fourth immeasurable: equanimity. It is the antidote to reifying negative appearances that destroy our wellbeing and ruins our relationships with others. In this…

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56 Settling the mind in its natural state and the impure illusory body

23 Sep 2014

We continue deepening our practice of settling the mind in its natural state, which is considered the optimal technique for dreaming yoga practices. Alan elaborates on reification and the fact that w…

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57 Wide Open Awareness of Equanimity

24 Sep 2014

Alan guides a meditation on the fourth immeasurable of equanimity practiced with still awareness and within the context of taking the mind as the path. The practice begins with allowing someone t…

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58 The Pure Illusory Body

24 Sep 2014

Alan guides a meditation on the empty fluctuation of appearances arising in open space. In the commentary that follows, he muses about the instant that the breath ceases in the fourth dhyana as b…

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59 Great Compassion

25 Sep 2014

Since we finished the first cycle on the 4 immeasurables we moved on to a new dimension: The cultivation of great compassion. This is necessary due to the fact that it is difficult practicing equanim…

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60 Weaving Everything Together

25 Sep 2014

In this talk Alan weaves everything that we had a look at in the past weeks together: From Shamatha, Vipashyana, the 4 immeasurables to the Dzogchen perspective. The guiding topic is equanimity and h…

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61 Great Loving-Kindness, and The One Way to Cheat Death

26 Sep 2014

Before the meditation starts Alan talks about the practice we did yesterday, that is great compassion. He underlines that the first question in this meditation - why couldn’t all sentient beings be f…

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62 Balancing Your Practice and Night-Time Dream Yoga

26 Sep 2014

Before the silent meditation Alan talks about how the different practices that we had a look at in the past weeks work together and how they can be balanced in a non-retreat setting. So, Shamatha p…

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63 Moving On To Great Empathetic Joy And Its Best Buddy, Great Contemplative Observatory

27 Sep 2014

Alan started by providing us with the flow of context for today’s practice, Great Empathetic Joy. The Four Greats have the even-heartedness of equanimity as their foundation. The false facsimile of…

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64 How to Fall Asleep Lucidly for the Less and Less and Less Gifted (e.g. me)

27 Sep 2014

After the silent meditation we went on with Padmasambhava’s instructions on night-time dream yoga. He suggests different methods for becoming lucid, in addition to yesterday’s method of visualizing y…

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65 Great equanimity and its perspective from hinayana, mahayana and dzogchen

29 Sep 2014

Alan starts the session with a brief introduction of the meaning of the aspiration of immeasurable equanimity and its etymology. Further, Alan elaborates on the differences of equanimity among the d…

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66 Welcome to the world of emanation and transformation

29 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts the session recalling Gautama’s experience when he endured extreme hardships, which made him lose his samadhi. Alan emphasizes the importance of mindfulness of breathing in order to repai…

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67 Resolve — If You Mean It

30 Sep 2014

We have finished the cycle of meditations on cultivating the aspirations of The Four Immeasurables and The Four Greats and Alan urges us now to focus on bodhichitta’s indispensable ingredient, the ex…

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68 Dispelling Obstacles to Lucid Dreaming

30 Sep 2014

After some reflections on environmental crises and the radical inequality of the distribution of wealth in the world, Alan guides a meditation on Balancing Earth and Sky, the combined practice of min…

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69 It’s Never Too Soon to Develop Bodhicitta

01 Oct 2014 Transcript available

Since in October 1950 Tibet was invaded by Chinese troops and has been oppressed ever since, today is a good day to practice Bodhicitta. Alan tells the story of a Geshe Rabten he interviewed severa…

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70 Venturing Into Dreamless Sleep

01 Oct 2014

Before the silent meditation Alan briefly reviews what he has already explained a couple of days ago: If the visualizations keep you awake or you just can’t visualize them, then it’s better to either…

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71 Returning to the Vision Quest

02 Oct 2014

In today’s teaching we focused on the preliminary practices (Ngondro). If we do Mandala Offerings etc. with blind faith and without any understanding of their meaning, and instead just engage in an e…

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72 Apprehending the Clear Light of Deep Sleep

02 Oct 2014

Alan started the teaching this evening by posing the question why we should venture into these practices of apprehending the clear light of deep sleep at all, when he repeats all the time that this i…

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73 Expanding the Field of Loving-Kindness - But Am I Doing It Correctly???

03 Oct 2014

Before our session of loving-kindness Alan lists some of the benefits of the practice, like sleeping and waking up in comfort, having no bad dreams, being able to die unconfused etc. After the medit…

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74 Supercharging Your Practice

03 Oct 2014

Alan started the teachings today with the question of how we know whether we are practicing dharma or not. After all, you could e.g. do shamatha just as a technique for relaxation. What makes it a dh…

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75 Meditation on compassion and the three types of suffering

04 Oct 2014

This short podcast includes a meditation on compassion focusing on the three types of suffering: suffering of suffering, suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. Meditation starts…

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76 The Transitional Process of Meditation

04 Oct 2014

Alan starts the session commenting on the importance of the sense of community and supporting each other. Emphasizing this, he explains a story of Ananda to illustrate that having spiritual friends i…

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77 Compassion from the View of Pristine Awareness

06 Oct 2014

Alan prefaces the meditation with his reflections on compassion being a hard sell to avowed materialists. If not sick or dying, cultivating your own hedonic pleasure seems a good bet. But materialist…

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78 External and Internal Space

06 Oct 2014

Alan reminds us that the advanced practices of “not meditating on anything” (page 176, Natural Liberation) are intended for those who have already achieved Shamatha and the insights of Vipashyana, an…

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79 Aspects of the Guru

07 Oct 2014

Alan begins by emphasizing once again the importance in Dzogchen of the relationship between the student and the guru. In Sravakayana practice the guru is regarded as an emissary of the Buddha. In…

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80 Nothing on Which to Meditate

07 Oct 2014

In his brief instructions before the silent meditation, Alan reminds us of the importance, before all else, of releasing control of the breath. After the silent meditation session, Alan returns to…

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81 Equanimity, or This Little Light of Mine

08 Oct 2014

Once again we come back to the culmination of the 4 immeasurables: the cultivation of equanimity. By way of referring to the Dalai Lama as well as a Tibetan aphorism Alan emphasizes the importance of…

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82 Scientific Materialism on its Deathbed, or the Scent of a Revolution

08 Oct 2014

Alan reminds us that the text by Padmasambhava strikes one as religious and mystical if viewed from a eurocentric perspective. However, it is utterly important to acknowledge that while eurocentric c…

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83 Great Compassion - Unveiling All Layers Of Suffering

09 Oct 2014

Whereas the Four Immeasurables are the best friends of Vipashyana in weakening the mental afflictions before wisdom finally gives them the rest, the Four Greats go much deeper, lifting the last veils…

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84 How To Acquire The Stars Of Merit For Your Practice

09 Oct 2014

In today’s session Alan talks about the importance of purification and accruing merit in order to proceed quickly along the path. The Sanskrit term for merit is punya, and it literally means power. I…

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85 Bringing wisdom to the cultivation of great loving-kindness

10 Oct 2014

Alan highlights the practice of balancing earth and sky. The core of the practice is to develop a deepening sense of ease, relaxation and groundedness, while at the same time maintaining and accentua…

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86 Ripened and Liberated

10 Oct 2014

Before the meditation, Alan elaborates on the importance of preliminary practices and the accumulation of merit in order to prepare the mind. However, that is not enough since merit can be lost, espe…

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87 Great Mudita

11 Oct 2014

“Why couldn’t all beings never be parted from sublime happiness free from suffering?” This question beginning the meditation on Great Mudita, Alan says, is a synthesis of great loving kindness and gr…

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88 Turning Up the Heat on Learned Ignorance

11 Oct 2014

The session begins with a guided meditation on variations of taking the mind as the path, beginning with maintaining peripheral awareness of fluctuations of the breath before single-pointedly focusin…

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89 Great Equanimity, and the Importance of Views

13 Oct 2014

Alan starts by talking about his last dharma talk and once more making clear that his anger was not directed towards any person, but simply towards a certain view. This is important to stress because…

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90 An Approximation of Pure Land in Sight?

13 Oct 2014

At the beginning Alan shares extremely uplifting news as what concerns “Project Contemplative Observatory”. After having failed to build one in India and in Santa Barbara it finally looks as if a pro…

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91 Four Rivers Flowing Into One Resolve

14 Oct 2014

On the penultimate stage to the cultivation of bodhicitta we return to the great resolve: I shall free all sentient beings. Alan points how that the deeper this promise sinks into you, the clearer it…

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92 Achieving Buddhahood By Doing Nothing…ha ha

14 Oct 2014

In the silent meditation we are once again asked to balance earth and sky and to proceed at our own pace. After the meditation we finish the transitional process of meditation. The text shows how to…

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93 Becoming A Child Of The Buddhas

15 Oct 2014

What better way to end a retreat than with Shantideva’s beautiful verses about embracing bodhicitta! The verses cited today are often used for the liturgy when taking the bodhisattva precepts. Shanti…

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94 On The Journey to Sukhavati

15 Oct 2014

As a bonus, at the end of our retreat Alan presented to us the teachings on Sukhavati from Karma Chagme. If you missed your chance for the three modes of achieving enlightenment, then it is definitel…

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