23 Aug 2014

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 tomorrow) - gave a guided meditation on settling the body speech and mind in its natural state, with an emphasis on being aware of the rhythm of the breath

Following the meditation, the discussion was on maintaining practice between sessions (listen out for the impressions of a young girl riding her plastic tricycle on the asphalt while screaming - and as soon as you are confronted with such distractions while meditating, simply follow Gyatrul Rinpoche’s advice: “View it!”).

Meditation starts at 12:09

Download (M4A / 22 MB)


O la so! When I was in my little micro-retreat in Scotland another intuition came to mind with the hypothesis, and it pertains to mindfulness of breathing and the achievement of shamatha and dhyana, actually all of the dhyanas, the first through the fourth dhyana. And as a hypothesis it can easily be put to the test of experience and it can be done rigorously. And so I came up with the idea of the hypothesis itself and then the way it could be tested and then my very good friend and colleague, James Elliot, who is the vice president of the Santa Barbara Institute, then he has a PhD in neuroscience, then he formalized that into a very rigorous scientific format so it can be studied. And so I’d like to give an invitation to all of you to be participants in this study. It entails nothing from the outside. It is totally unlike the Shamatha Project, in the sense that there are no outside researchers taking your blood, and examining, and questioning, and all that kind of business. It’s really, you are the researchers. [01:19]

Now James would be analyzing the data, so he would be certainly taking the scientific role there. But the real data collection would be you, yourselves, and it’s very simple and it will not take much of your time. And it would just be doing some very simple monitoring of your own practice for a relatively brief time towards the beginning of this retreat, middle of the retreat, and the end of the retreat. And moreover the hypothesis is not out of whimsy. I think, you know, doing research for the sake of simple curiosity is fine, it’s served science and the human community very well, you know, curiosity driven research. But this idea is not driven by curiosity alone, but rather the thought that this might actually really help people be much more efficient in achieving shamatha, really pragmatic benefit. I’m just too old for just mere curiosity. I won’t spend much time on it. And so, it leads for a question. And I’m not asking for any commitment, simply an expression of interest. How many of you here would be interested in participating as volunteers in this study? Thank you. [02:33]

And so, this is just only done now as expressing interest. And so what I will ask James or Sangay to do, Sangay being his wife, they’re my right arm, left arm for the Santa Barbara Institute, is they will send you the instructions; what to do, it’s very simple, and also some mp3 downloads, just a basic, simply a timer, a timer, just that. It’s a timer so you can engage in the study, monitoring your own practice, and so this leads to a question. Number one I think you all should have access to internet when you need to. Right? Isn’t that correct? Yeah. Who can say definitively? My under... [03:12 someone responds inaudibly] ... is in the room still... Ah, well Elizabeth, ask them to postpone, on my behalf, please ask them and get Khun Sonia [to] postpone that termination until, let’s say, the day after tomorrow.

Michael? [03:33 inaudible response]

Yeah. No problem. So this raises the second question and that’s: How many of you have access to what is simply called an mp3 player, so that can be a smartphone, that can be an iPad, or a computer, but just something you can listen to a recording, but having a buddy or anybody that you can have access to. Let me put it this way, is there anybody that just you don’t have any idea how to gain any access to a little device that can play a simple recording? Then maybe you can buddy up with somebody? There’s one ... [laughter] Okay, good. Then I think these are star crossed buddies, star crossed buddies [laughs] If the two of you can just find anybody else, if you’d like to participate in the study, then just find anybody else because it’s using it for a very short time. This is just a little data collection towards the beginning, middle, and end. It’s a very small amount of time. And then just have access. Maybe, in fact, this would probably be the easiest. Again Elizabeth is my liaison. If you could ask the people at the front desk. That is, you’ll get it, and just have or borrow somebody’s thumb drive and then somebody get a thumb drive, give it to the people there or just send it to them, to the front desk. They can give you their email, they can print it out. That’s just easier. The instructions are printed out. And they can bill it to Santa Barbara Institute. Okay? That’s fine. And I’ll pay up. I’ll pay up at the end of the retreat. Okay? [05:12]

Now having said that, once you’ve seen the instructions and all of that business, if you decide, “Uuh, I don’t think so.” Then just don’t do it. Just throw it away. Or at any time during the retreat, if you feel for any reason at all, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Then stop and just throw away your data. No big deal, okay? But I actually think there could be a lot of benefit from it, otherwise I wouldn’t take anybody’s time. Okay? So good. That could be interesting, and if the hypothesis turns out to be correct, I think actually a lot of benefit could come. You’ll learn about it later, because I don’t want to spoil the data, but it’s quite interesting, quite, quite interesting. Yeah. To my mind, I mean, it’s quite fascinating, actually. So, there’s one point. [05:56]

Then someone among you asked if I would give the oral transmission of the Seven Line Prayer to Padmasambhava and there’s no reason at all not to do it. I have received it from multiple lamas, but very explicitly from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche. Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, who passed away recently was one of the really major lineage holders of the Dudjom lineage, a close disciple of Chatral Rinpoche, of Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, good friend of my Lama Gyatrul Rinpoche. So some years ago at his center in the Santa Cruz mountains in Colorado he gave a transmission and commentary to the Seven Line Prayer. [06:35]

Transcriptionist’s note: Although Alan does say Colorado above, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche’s center is in the Santa Cruz mountains of California.

This is the classic prayer to Padmasambhava, and so, I’ll give it right now. It’s very short. It’s very simple. And I think maybe in the future. First of all, how many people already know it, whether or not you’ve received transmission? How many of you already know the Seven Line Prayer? That’s significant. Well, what I would invite you to do, anybody who’d like to join with us, is, it’s very short, and just reciting the Seven Line Prayer and then maybe one mala of the, you know, Vajra Guru mantra. That’s not a bunch and that would be a really nice way to start each morning I think, collectively. [07:09]

And so, I’ll give the transmission right now. We won’t do it this morning. Sangay will send you, everybody here, will send you the Seven Line Prayer in Tibetan in phonetics, because it’s really best to recite in Tibetan and not recite English translations. So, learn the meaning of it, but it’s just too sweet in Tibetan to try to, you know, recite it, at least collectively, in English. Sangay will send you the Tibetan, the phonetics, and translation. I just took it from the Rigpa Wiki site. It’s very, very good. And so I’ve taken it from that as a pdf file. She’ll send it to you shortly. [07:50]

And then, then my Lama Yangthan Rinpoche, who was one of my revered lamas, in 2006 he gave an oral commentary to the Seven Line Prayer. He’s one of the great ones. He’s a vidyadhara. He really is; he’s the real thing. He’s one of the great ones and he’s still alive. And I’ve had the great privilege to receive empowerment from him, teachings, and so on. He’s a close, old, old friend with Gyatrul Rinpoche. So, he’s given an oral commentary. I wasn’t there at the time, it was 2006, but I have the file. I’ve sent it to Sangay, she’ll send that to you too. Okay? So you’ll be getting a bunch of stuff in the mail soon. [08:28]

Alright, let’s just do the oral transmission. I’m going to read it just so I don’t fumble at all. [08:33]

[08:56] O la so!

Transcriptionist note: The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras (in Tibetan and English) and Guru Rinpoche Mantras (in Sanskrit) are written below.

The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras


In the northwest frontier of Oddiyana,


In the heart of a lotus


Sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava,


Who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi,


And is surrounded by a host of many dakinis.


Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice.


Please come forth and bestow your blessings.


Guru Rinpoche Mantras



So, [09:06 Alan recites the Tibetan for the title of the Seven Line Prayer] The Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche, and then it’s advent: [09:12]

[Alan then recites the Seven Line Prayer in Tibetan once.]

[09:31] I have to recite it two more times.

[Alan recites it two more times.]

[10:09] Then the Guru Rinpoche...,the Mantra:

[Alan then recites the shorter Guru Rinpoche Mantra three times.]

[10:24] So, there’s much blessing in that, much blessing in the mantra and the Seven Line Prayer. They go together. So starting tomorrow we’ll just do the very simple chant of the Seven Line Prayer, one mala or so of the mantra. Nice way to start the morning. Everything that’s being transmitted here and shared, all coming from Padmasambhava. [10:45]

And if I remember correctly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, not long ago, that as he looks to his own, kind of the lineage refuge... If I remember, I know two points, three points exactly, and I think there’s a fourth one that I also remember. But when he looks upon the lineage going back to Guru Shakyamuni, for him with his training as a Gelugpa, an outstanding, maybe the foremost Gelugpa geshe in the world, but also having been trained, you know, by some of the greatest Dzogchen masters of the twentieth century, especially Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was his primary lama for Dzogchen. As I recall, they said his root refuge is the Buddha Shakyamuni. And here’s a part I’m not quite sure he said, but I think next after that in the lineage was Nagarjuna. And then I know he said Padmasambhava and then after that, then Tsongkhapa. I don’t think you can do better than that. [laughter] [11:44]

O la so! So with that let’s go into a meditation. [11:49]

Meditation [12:13]

[12:44] Let your awareness descend into and fill the space of your body settled it in its natural state, the state of dynamic equipoise, imbued with the three qualities of relaxation, stillness, and vigilance.

[13:50] Settle your respiration in its natural rhythm, unconstrained and effortless.

And then as if you were soothing a troubled child, set your mind at ease, gently, lovingly. Releasing all concerns about the future and the past.

And let your awareness come to rest in stillness, the natural stillness that arises in freedom from grasping.

And rest in this still clarity of your own awareness, your mind settled in its natural state, relaxed, still, and clear.

[17:05] With your body and mind relaxed from the core, this, an essential sense of ease, relaxation, of looseness. Let your awareness remain still, abiding in its own ground without directing your attention to any object, without meditating on anything, and really without doing anything. Simply maintain this flow of mindful presence without distraction and without grasping. Whatever thoughts, images come up, let your awareness be like teflon. They come up but they don’t stick. They just pass right on through and they dissolve; they liberate themselves right back into the space of the mind.

[19:02] And then let an awareness that has perhaps been implicit become explicit. And that is of course the awareness of the rhythm of your breath. Let your awareness continue to remain still, resting in its own place, but with this peripheral awareness. When the in breath is long, note that it is long. When the out breath is long, note that it is long. And sooner or later in your session, or as the days go by, either incrementally or suddenly you may find that the in breath is short. And when this occurs, note that it is short. When the out breath is short, note that it is short. But very simple, keep it very simple, with no conceptual elaboration, little or no language. You don’t need to think. You can simply immediately know before your knowing makes its way into concepts and mental verbiage or words. So sustain this flow of nonconceptual cognizance with a very simple mission or task, already stated. Gently arouse, focus, concentrate your awareness thereby overcoming laxity with each in breath. Relax deeply, letting go while sustaining the flow of cognizance with each out breath.

[22:03] To the best of your ability sustain the flow of mindfulness, without distraction, without grasping. And to the extent that it’s helpful, monitor this flow of mindfulness with introspection, but bear in mind introspection is monitoring not only the mind, but also the body, the respiration. So now and again check up on your posture, but especially check up on the face. If any tightness, contraction is occurring in the face, especially around the eyes, the forehead, any hardening of the eyes themselves. Soften, release. Check up time and again to see that the breath is flowing as effortlessly as possible; that your not helping it. Pulling it in during inhalation. You’re not blocking it during exhalation. That you’re really out of the way, breathing egolessly, as if you were deep asleep, but mindfully aware of the rhythm of the breath.

[23:48] And finally take each cycle of respiration, as a complete meditation session in itself, arousing, focusing your awareness with each in breath, releasing with each out breath. Especially releasing thoughts, images, memories with every exhalation. This alone may be sufficient to balance your attention. But to the extent helpful to monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection, and as soon as you see that you have been carried away by distracting thoughts, by excitation, first of all relax. Release whatever captivated you attention and return to the present moment, awareness resting in stillness, in its own place. Relax, release, and return. Relax, release, and return.

[25:34] And with your faculty of introspection, monitoring the flow of mindfulness, whenever you see that you’ve lost your edge, the mind has become a bit dull, spaced out, the flow of clear cognizance has faded, refresh your interest in the practice. Restore your awareness in the present moment and retain that flow of present-centered awareness. Refresh, restore and retain. In this way, balance your mind. Settle your mind in an ever deepening state of meditative equipoise. And let’s continue practicing now in silence. [26:22]

End Meditation [36:13]

[37:02] O la so! I have a very special instrument here that I brought with me to show you the quality of awareness that we seek to cultivate with respect to the arising of thoughts, images, all the obsessive, compulsive flow of ideation. Very special, I think nobody else has something like what I have here - my eyeglass carrier. It’s very special, not like other ones. It looks ordinary, but it’s not ordinary at all. It’s quite exceptional. What you find here is a little circle of velcro, velcro, yeah. In most ordinary ones that you can just buy at any store, it has another little piece of velcro here so when the top part comes down and touches they stick. Right? But mine’s very special. This one was surgically removed, which is to say it fell off by itself. It was rang grol. It liberated itself. So now here, this is very graphic. I like visualizing things. This is your wandering thought, “Hi, Beatrice. I’m your wandering thought.” This is your awareness down here, “You want to play? You want to play? Come, I’ll take you [on] a ride. Come on, let me take you away.” Isn’t that fun? [laughter] I mean it can keep on pecking at you all you like but look how calm and unperturbed... Look how that little strip of... Just resting in equipoise like: doesn’t matter how many times they come up, it never sticks. That’s my show and tell for today. [38:37]

On a little bit more serious note here, we have these delicious hours where you wake up in the morning and you know you have only one thing to do all day is practice Dharma. Oh, how choice. And so, in between sessions, then, depending on the practice, whatever the practice may be, you really try to maintain as much continuity of the practice in between sessions. So, if it’s mindfulness of breathing, if you’re, let’s say, from Theravada, retreat center in Myanmar for example and you’re really focusing on anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing, then you do that not only formally but in between sessions, when you’re walking about, eating, and so forth. You maintain some peripheral awareness of the in and out flow of the breath so that you don’t slip back into the old ruts, wandering thoughts, but really staying present-centered, engaged, engaged. So whatever you’re doing, you give all the attention needed to eating, drinking, walking, washing your clothes, and so forth, but there you are maintaining that peripheral awareness - in flow, out flow. That’s for just straight shamatha practice. Right? [39:46]

But we’re not here for eight weeks just to practice shamatha. That’s our baseline. That’s to make the mind serviceable. And we do now have this mode of mindfulness of breathing which is very simple, very true I think to the Pali Canon, the Buddha’s own teachings here, but also very much in the spirit of Dzogchen. So, I would encourage you over these next few days as we continue in this practice as our baseline for the rest of the retreat, indeed to maintain, as you’re walking about, and so forth, as a substitute for just falling into this kind of semi-conscious rumination, blah, blah, blah, which is just a bad habit, not a sign of mental health, instead of that, substitute for that, then, this kind of peripheral awareness: breath flowing in, breath flowing out. [40:30]

But let’s not leave it at that. Whatever... Because bear in mind in this practice we’ve just been doing, we’re not primarily focused, like, you know, single-pointedly attending to breath coming in, breath coming out. We’re primarily just resting. Right? And then giving just as much awareness to note - it’s a very light, almost just like touching somebody lightly on the shoulder, just a light touch - ah. Long breath, long breath in, long breath out. Very simple, right? Doesn’t need much attention for that, but it’s enough. It’s enough. Right? And so, but primarily we’re just resting there, awareness resting in stillness, illuminating, knowing itself, in its own natural cognizance and clarity. [41:15]

But we’re here really fundamentally for Dzogchen, and the teachings of the view of the Great Perfection are all embedded and rooted in the view of the Middle Way of emptiness, the teachings of Nagarjuna. They’re not unrelated. No view of emptiness; no Dzogchen. You know. One is rooted in the other as the view of emptiness needs to be rooted in the same mind. To study Madhyamaka, to study the great Karikas of Nagarjuna and the great commentaries in [?] Tantra giti and Lama Mipham Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa and so forth and do all of that and learn how to debate your mind out, you know, [makes a blowing sound] and have no shamatha? How much benefit is that gonna be. I think you’d become very clever, very good mouth. Does it really address your mental afflictions? I don’t think so, not much. It will just make you very smart and not smart enough to have your mental afflictions calmed, subdued. So, for the teachings of emptiness and for the vipashyana to really bring about deep transformation, again it comes back to shamatha, exceptional mental balance and sanity. [42:21]

And so, in between sessions what I would encourage here is: whatever understanding you have of emptiness, of the empty nature of phenomena and how they arise in this mode of dependent origination, each event, each phenomenon arising as a dependently related event. I won’t give commentary on that, that all depends on your own training, studies, teachings you’ve received, meditation you’ve done on emptiness and dependent origination, but whatever understanding you have, use it now. There’s nothing else we have to do. Right? We have so few demands on our time. [42:52]

So make the time in between sessions, which is now really not in between sessions at all, it’s just a more active way of meditating, right, imbue that with whatever understanding you have. Bring that to bear as you’re maintaining this peripheral awareness, in breath flowing, out breath flowing. But whatever view of emptiness and dependent origination, Middle Way view, you have, don’t just believe it. View reality that way. See reality that way. That’s where it really gets into your marrow, your blood stream, right into the core of your mind. Right? [43:27]

But then, a number of you, I know, have already received pointing out instructions, other textual instructions, and so forth, and Dzogchen. I’m not teaching you for the first time. Whatever understanding you have of the Dzogchen view, right, view that, view that. Right? And so then you’re maintaining this outward peripheral awareness, in flow, out flow of the breath; more inwardly, the view of emptiness, emptiness of yourself, emptiness of all phenomena around you, personal identitylessness, phenomenal identitylessness, the kind of inner, and then the innermost. Oh yeah. As much as you can, viewing reality, from your best approximation of viewing reality from the perspective of rigpa. That is the Great Perfection: viewing reality from the perspective of rigpa, pristine awareness. [44:20]

If you’re a vidyadhara, and you have unmediated, nonconceptual, nondual realization of rigpa, then you simply are viewing reality. Your view of reality is the Great Perfection. Right? Well, you may not be a vidyadhara yet, but you do your best approximation. Whatever understanding, you use it. A little bit of understanding, use it. A lot of understanding, use it. [44:42]

So I’ll end with an anecdote. Years ago, many years ago when I was a graduate student at Stanford, living in family housing, some of you know this story, and I had been receiving teachings from and was under the close guidance of Gyatrul Rinpoche for a couple of years. But my wife and I were living in this family housing where in the morning when I’m meditating, you know, and as I start the day, don’t we all, there was one dad, because this is, you know, family... [45:13]

One dad had his little girl, cute little five year old girl, and he would have her... He would put her on her little tricycle, a little plastic tricycle, and he would go pushing her along, and, you know, they’ll be doing their little morning thing on this asphalt. And plastic tricycles on asphalt make an extraordinary amount of noise, [Alan demonstrates a grating, rasping sound], like that. And this little girl, the little mischief, she was really enjoying herself. What do little girls do when they enjoy themselves? They scream. [laughter] So I was getting: [Alan twice makes a grating sound followed by high pitched scream] like that. That sounded more like a horse than a little girl, but you know, [laughter] I’m not much good at imitations. [45:49]

And every morning, you know, just like [Alan demonstrates sounds]. And so I wrote to Rinpoche or I spoke to him and I said, “Rinpoche...” I didn’t write to him, I spoke to him and said, “Rinpoche, this environment where I am, it’s so noisy. It’s really getting to me.” It’s like, they sometimes say, “Noise is the thorn to samadhi.” It’s like an icepick in your ear. So I was getting a bit bugged. “That’s so noisy where I live. It’s hard to meditate. Ooh, Rinpoche.” He said, “View it.” And that was it, that’s all he said, “View it!” [46:43]

Well if you know Dzogchen, what he is saying is, “Shut up! [laughter] Quit crabbing, you little crybaby! You whiner!” What do the Brits call it? “You wanker, you wanker!” Isn’t that what they say? There’s a Brit here, isn’t there? Wanker? That’s one of those things... It sounds really nasty. “You wanker.” That’s, what he was implying and what he was actually saying was, “Hey, I’ve been teaching you Dzogchen for two or three years now. Use it.” [47:16]

View the noise, view the environment, view reality from that perspective and all of your complaints vanish. There’s nothing to complain about. Right? So, I remembered. I haven’t been practicing very much but I remembered this good story. Practice as much as I can. So that’s it. So, view it.

Enjoy your day. See you this afternoon.

Transcribed by Mark Montgomery

Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Final Edition by KrissKringle Sprinkle


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