Fall 2012 Shamatha, Vipashyana and the Four Applications of Mindfulness

00 Introduction to the retreat

25 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Alan welcomes the participants and explains some of the groundrules for the 8-week retreat. Teaching: Alan begins by presenting the framework for his cycle of teachings on shamatha, vipasyana, mind…

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01 Settling body speech and mind in its natural state

25 Aug 2012 Transcript available

It’s important to settle the motivation for the day. In Mahayana teachings the motivation is the base of bodhicitta. It’s important to have cognitive balance, which brings intelligence to our desires…

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02 Introduction to the 4 applications of mindfulness

25 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: Settling body, speech, and mind in the natural state; Bare attention; Application of mindfulness on the body Teaching: Alan begins by distinguishing between mindfulness, bare attention,…

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03 Mindfulness of Breathing (2)

27 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: focus attention on the in and out breath at the belly. With the in breath, arouse your attention. With the out breath, release any thoughts and relax. In order to maintain attention, i…

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04 Mindfulness of the body (1)

27 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: mindfulness of the body. For each of the following senses—1) visual, 2) auditory, 3) tactile—engage in the following steps 1) direct mindfulness to the sense objects, 2) observe to see…

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05 Mindfulness of breathing (3)

28 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: mindfulness of breathing at the abdomen using counting of breaths as a support. Counting does break the flow of mindfulness, so use it only if it helps stem rumination. Keep the counting…

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06 Mindfulness of the body (2)

28 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan begins by framing the quest as the pursuit of inner knowledge, contrasting the centrality of subjective experience and mind in buddhism with the emphasis on understanding reality from…

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07 Mindfulness of breathing (4)

29 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: mindfulness of breathing at the nostril. Focus mental awareness on breath coming in and out at the nostril or upper lip, wherever you feel the sensation most clearly. Engage with the fu…

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08 Mindfulness of the body (3)

29 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: body scan. Single-pointedly focus on sensations (both outer and inner) at one target area, scanning the body from top to bottom as instructed in the guided meditation. Teaching: Alan…

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09 Mindfulness of breathing (5)

30 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: mindfulness of breathing at the nostril. Same instructions as before. Use introspection to attend to the flow of mindfulness. If there’s excitation, relax, release, and return. If th…

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10 Mindfulness of the body (4)

30 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan begins the session by introducing the buddhist theory of causality. Here, one distinguishes between substantial causes and cooperative conditions in how effects are created. We…

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11 Mindfulness of breathing (6)

31 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan gives a brief teaching on Dromtönpa’s quote „Give up all attachment to this life, and let your mind become dharma.“ In shamatha practice, releasing excitation corresponds to giving u…

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12 Mindfulness of the body (5)

31 Aug 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan begins the session by presenting the 2nd and 3rd marks of existence. In the 2nd mark of existence, dukkha can be understood to mean the unsatisfactory nature of looking at any experi…

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13 Loving Kindness (1)

02 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan gives a brief introduction to the 4 immeasurables. Whereas shamatha and vipassana attend to reality that is already manifest, the 4 immeasurables concern the realm of possibility and aspiration…

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14 Mindfulness of the body (6)

02 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan reviews the view of reality according to the 3 turnings of the wheel of the dharma. In the 1st turning, in response to the question as posed by the Sautantrika of “What is real?”…

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15 Mindfulness of breathing (7)

03 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: A new cycle begins this week on mindfulness of feelings. When feelings arise, there is a strong tendency for us to grasp onto them as I or mine. Therefore, we need to learn how to releas…

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16 Mindfulness of feelings (1)

03 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan introduces the new cycle with the 2nd application of mindfulness on feelings. Feelings (Skt. vedana) refer to 1) like/pleasant, 2) dislike/unpleasant, or 3) neutral. Although fe…

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17 Mindfulness of breathing (8)

04 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan uses rats as an analogy for thoughts. When a cat (mindfulness) is present, rats (thoughts) stay away. During the bubonic plague, rats (thoughts) carried fleas (disturbing emotions) which carri…

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18 Mindfulness of feelings (2)

04 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: This practice of mindfulness on feelings using the space of the body is a nice prelude the settling the mind where we attend to the space of the mind. As in the latter, we need to disting…

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19 Settling the Mind in its Natural State (1)

05 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: transition from mindfulness of breathing with full body awareness to settling the mind. 
1) mindfulness of breathing with full body awareness: Feel the beginning of the in breath at th…

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20 Mindfulness of Feelings (3)*

06 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Note: This recording is of minor quality since we had to recover it from another device. Thank you for understanding. Teaching: This practice shines a bright light on feelings by attending to fee…

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21 Settling the Mind in its Natural State (2)

07 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Settling the mind in its natural state is the shamatha practice corresponding the applications of mindfulness on feelings and the mind. This practice itself lies on the cusp between shamatha and vip…

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22 Mindfulness of feelings (4)

07 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan elaborates on settling the mind in its natural state. While developing the 3 qualities of shamatha, we are observing external appearances and the (relative) dharmadhatu dissolve into the substr…

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23 Settling the Mind in its Natural State (3)

07 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Just as in physics where matter in the universe may be considered crystallization of the energy in space, tactile sensations may be the congealing of energies in the space of the body and mental even…

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24 Mindfulness of feelings (5)

07 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Shamatha should serve as a baseline or a base camp. However, people have different affinities for the various shamatha practices. Focus on the space of the mind as backdrop and note the thoughts, i…

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25 Compassion (1)

08 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan presents tips on dealing with subtlety in the shamatha practices.
1) mindfulness of breathing. The breath becomes increasingly subtle, and treat this an invitation to increase calm and clarity.…

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26 General Session

10 Sep 2012 Transcript available

As the 4 applications of mindfulness bring us knowledge of our experience, the 4 immeasurables bring balance in our emotions. If feeling down, practice loving-kindness and not its near enemy attachm…

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27 Settling the mind (4)

10 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Some take to settling the mind easily, and others have a harder time. For the latter, start by focusing on mental images (without the soundtrack) which everyone can do, then the soundtrack alone, an…

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28 Mindfulness of the mind (1)

10 Sep 2012 Transcript available

This week, Alan embarks on the 3rd application of mindfulness to the mind. As a prerequisite for this practice, you must be able to distinguish between stillness and motion and maintain single-point…

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29 Settling the mind pt5

11 Sep 2012 Transcript available

For those having difficulties settling the mind, Alan proposes mindfulness of breathing as a useful prelude. Use each breath—and in particular, the out breath, especially the end of the out breath—t…

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30 Mindfulness of the mind (2)

11 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan discusses causality and the relationship between cause and effect within the context of mindfulness of the mind. According to the Sautantrika, both cause and effect are considered re…

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31 Settling the mind (6)

12 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan reminds us that closely holding the mind causes suffering. There are two methods which free us from this suffering 1) relative bodhicitta where we identify with all sentient beings and 2) absol…

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32 Mindfulness of the mind (3)

12 Sep 2012 Transcript available

In these practices focusing on the mind, it is useful to stabilise them with a reference point: 1) awareness resting in its own place as a subjective reference point or 2) space of the mind as an o…

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33 Settling the mind (7)

13 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan comments that mindfulness of breathing and settling the mind are highly complementary. Mindfulness of breathing allows the prana system to settle and converge at the heart chakra which in turn…

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34 Mindfulness of the mind (4)

14 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan recounts the story of how Shariputra and Maudgalyayana first encountered the teachings of the Buddha. “Those phenomena that are causally created, the Tathagatha has shown their causes and he ha…

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35 Awarness of Awarness (1)

14 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Awareness of awareness is the most subtle and profound of all the shamatha practices. From the dzogchen perspective, we suffer because 1) we grasp onto that which is not I and mine as bei…

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36 Mindfulness of the mind (5)

14 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Who do you think you are? Are you identified with your body, your mind, or yourself? How does the I fit with the body and mind? We need to find out by probing experientially, not by thi…

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37 Empathetic Joy (1)

15 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Empathetic joy is taking delight in others’ virtues. As the only one of the 4 immeasurables which involves cultivating an emotion, empathetic joy also serves as the antidote to the ne…

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38 Mindfulness of the Mind (6)

15 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan reminds us that all the shamatha practices have been attending to the mind in that there is mindfulness placed on an object and introspection to the mind. In settling the mind, the o…

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39 Mindfulness of breathing (1)

17 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan draws parallels between settling the mind and mindfulness of breathing. 
In settling the mind, in principle, being present with all mental arisings sufficient for the mind to undo it…

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40 Mindfulness of phenomena (1)

17 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan introduces the 4th application of mindfulness to phenomena (dharmas). Whereas the first 3 applications of mindfulness are microscopic, the mindfulness of phenomena takes a step back…

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41 Mindfulness of breathing (2)

18 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan introduces some points from his translation of Asanga’s comprehensive explanations for mindfulness of breathing. While Asanga does not mentions following the breath at the tip of the…

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42 Mindfulness of breathing (3)

18 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan elaborates on some points from his translation of Asanga’s explanations for mindfulness of breathing, as advice for people with heavy rumination. Asanga mentions 4 stages in mindfuln…

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43 Mindfulness of breathing (4)

19 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan talks about the second of the five obscurations ill-will. As shamatha dredges the psyche, it is normal for ill-will to arise in response to memories, etc... The antidote is sukkha o…

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44 Mindfulness of phenomena (2)

19 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Continuing from Asanga’s Shravakabhumi, Alan introduces the second thorough training by way of the aggregates. Asanga begins by explaining the characteristics of achieving shamatha—i.e.,…

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45 Mindfulness of breathing (5)

20 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan talks about the third of the five obscurations laxity and dullness. Dullness occurs when attention is no longer fully engaged with the object. It is experienced from stages 1-4, whe…

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46 Mindfulness of phenomena (3)

20 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Continuing from Asanga’s Shravakabhumi, Alan introduces the 3rd thorough training by way of dependent origination. Asanga begins by attending to the breath which is dependent upon the bod…

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47 Mindfulness of breathing (6)

21 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan talks about the fourth of the five obscurations excitation and anxiety. Excitation is associated with restlessness and agitation. Anxiety is also known as guilt, remorse, shame, or…

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48 Mindfulness of phenomena (4)

21 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Continuing from Asanga’s Shravakabhumi, Alan introduces the 4th thorough training by way of the 16 phases: 1) breathing in, 2) breathing out, 3) the whole body, 4) tranquilising the bodil…

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49 Equanimity

22 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan talks about the fifth of the five obscurations afflictive uncertainty. While it is appropriate to be uncertain about that which is uncertain, when we wonder about whether or not it i…

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50 Mindfulness of phenomena (5)

22 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Continuing from Asanga’s Shravakabhumi, Alan gives the detailed explanation of the 4th thorough training by way of the 16 phases: 1) long breath, 2) short breath, 3) the whole body, 4) re…

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51 Loving-kindness (1)

24 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Alan notes that we’re starting the second half of the retreat. Afterwards, when we return to an active way of life, while our shamatha practice may be maintained at best, other practices may indeed…

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52 Mindfulness of the body (1)

24 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: As we revisit this section, Alan will present teachings from the shravakayana and dzogchen. 
According to the shravakayana, nama rupa should not be understood as two entities but as a…

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53 Loving-kindness (2)

25 Sep 2012 Transcript available

As opposed to meditations on suffering and impermanence, loving-kindness offers a gentle remedy for attachment, the near enemy of empathetic joy. The basis is seeing loveable qualities in oneself an…

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54 Mindfulness of the body (2)

25 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan draws the teachings into the 21st century by dedicating this session to a brief history of science culminating in the view according to quantum mechanics. Early scientists like Galil…

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55 Loving-kindness (3)

26 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: When you understand the causality of how others contribute to your well-being, a sense of happy indebtedness can arise. “How can I do more to repay their kindness?” We can contribute to…

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56 Mindfulness of the body (3)

26 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: As an appendix to last night’s talk, Alan introduces the placebo effect which is clearly a mental that happens and is well-known. However, there is no explanation in modern science for ho…

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57 Compassion (1)

27 Sep 2012 Transcript available

In solitary retreat, it is easy to get caught up with all your own stuff coming from your own mind. This is attenuated being in a group retreat with others around. The 4 immeasurables help cultivat…

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58 Mindfulness of the body (4)

27 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan continues with verses 85-87 in Ch. 9 of the Bodhicaryavatara covering components of the body. Just as we examined the body, we now examine parts of the body, going all the way down t…

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59 Compassion (2)

28 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Yesterday, we addressed the first of three forms of suffering: suffering of suffering or blatant suffering. Its primary cause is hatred/anger due to getting what we don’t want or not…

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60 Mindfulness of the body (5)

28 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan shares his translation of Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices on the 4 applications of mindfulness. The body is simply a configuration of various parts and compilation…

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61 Compassion (3)

29 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan introduces the 3rd and deepest level of suffering called all-pervasive suffering which is the fundamental vulnerability to suffering of body and mind caused by closely holding the…

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62 Mindfulness of the body (6)

29 Sep 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan continues with his commentary on Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices on the 4 applications of mindfulness. The body is filled with impurities, fragile by nature, and subje…

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63 Empathetic joy (1)

01 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan revisits the 3rd of the 4 immeasurables, empathetic joy. One of the early lamrim meditations is recognizing precious human rebirth (or literally, body) imbued with leisure and op…

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64 Mindfulness of feelings (1)

01 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan begins by exploring why it is said that dzogchen is particularly effective in degenerate times. He suggests that when the teachings are degenerate, society is degenerate, the mind is…

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65 Empathetic joy (2)

02 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan recounts 2 parables from Karma Chagme’s Naked Awareness. 1) foolish prince who likes horses but develops renunciation and 2) foolish prince who becomes a beggar due to amnesia bu…

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66 Mindfulness of feelings (2)

02 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan outlines the situation in the modern health system regarding mental disorders. There has been an explosion in brain research since the 1990s, and while knowledge of neuronal corr…

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67 Equanimity (1)

03 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan revisits the 4th immeasurable equanimity. The Pali canon emphasizes a sense of imperturbability or emotional balance. In this spirit, Alan reads a section from Dudjom Lingpa’s S…

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68 Mindfulness of feelings (3)

03 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: With respect to the Madhyamaka, 1) hearing means that you understand the View as presented, 2) reflection means that you relate the teachings to your own experience, and 3) meditation…

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69 Equanimity (2)

04 Oct 2012 Transcript available

In the Mahayana, equanimity is a sense of evenness or equality between self and other. In order to practice guru yoga where there is non-duality between your own mind and the guru’s mind, pure visio…

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70 Mindfulness of feelings (4)

04 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: In buddhist epistemology, valid perception depends on an object, sense faculty, and continuum of consciousness. While the Shravakayana takes all three as real, Madhyamaka asserts thei…

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71 Great Compassion (1)

05 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan begins a new cycle on the 4 greats. While the 4 immeasurables don’t require a particular world view, the 4 greats are firmly rooted in the buddhist world view. “With meditative…

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72 Mindfulness of feelings (5)

05 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan continues with his commentary on the section on mindfulness of feelings in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. Regard feelings as feelings which stills cognitive fusi…

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73 Great Loving-kindness (1)

05 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Great compassion is the principal practice of the 4 greats. Alan continues with great loving-kindness. Meditation. Great loving-kindness. Visualize the primordial buddha Samantabhadra, deep-blu…

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74 Mindfulness of feelings (5)

06 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan continues with his commentary on the section on mindfulness of feelings in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. When experiencing a painful feeling, develop great comp…

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75 Great empathetic joy (1)

08 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan continues with the series on the 4 greats with great empathetic joy. Unlike empathetic joy in the Pali canon, great empathetic joy is an aspiration. There’s a similar liturgy.…

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76 Mindfulness of the mind (1)

08 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan revisits the 3rd application of mindfulness to the mind. Mindfulness means recollection. Here, we are taking the impure mind as the object of investigation. Specifically, we ar…

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77 Great Equanimity (1)

09 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan continues with the series on the 4 greats with great equanimity. There’s a similar liturgy beginning with 1) why couldn’t all sentient beings abide in great equanimity free from…

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78 Mindfulness of the mind (2)

09 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan continues with verses 104-105 of Ch. 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Since awareness cannot precede, co-occur, nor follow the object of awareness, awareness is not inherently…

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79 Great Compassion (2)

10 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching. Alan repeats the series on the 4 greats, starting with great compassion. Focusing on the cause of suffering, we have experienced during the retreat that the mind caught up in rumination i…

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80 Mindfulness of the mind (3)

10 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan begins his commentary on the section on mindfulness of the mind in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. Where is the mind that becomes attached, hateful, or deluded?…

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81 Great Loving-kindness (2)

11 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan continues the series on the 4 greats with great loving-kindness. Hedonic well-being is important, and the understanding of cause and effect in the natural world by modern science…

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82 Mindfulness of the mind (4)

11 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan completes his commentary on the section on mindfulness of the mind in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. The mind is not really seen anywhere—e.g., inside, outside,…

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83 Great Empathetic Joy (2)

12 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching. Alan continues the series on the 4 greats with great empathetic joy. When you become lucid in a dream, happiness arises from knowing reality as it is. As long as you remain lucid, nothin…

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84 Mindfulness of phenomena (1)

12 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan gives his and the Dalai Lama’s commentary on the section on mindfulness of phenomena in verses 105-112 of Ch. 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Just as the mind does not come i…

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85 Great Equanimity (2)

13 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1. Alan completes the 2nd cycle on the 4 greats with great equanimity. Literally, it refers to freedom from attachment to the near and aversion to the far. There is nothing closer than…

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86 Mindfulness of phenomena (2)

13 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching pt1: Alan gives his commentary on the section on mindfulness of phenomena in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. This section challenges our view that we’re leaving the Mind Ce…

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87 Mindfulness of breathing (1)

15 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: All the teachings are included in settling body, speech, and mind in their natural state. According to Asanga, sensations of the breath become increasingly subtle until prana dissolves in…

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88 Mindfulness of phenomena (3)

15 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan completes his commentary on the section on mindfulness of phenomena in Ch. 13 of Shantideva’s Compendium of Practices. Composite phenomena are impermanent and unstable, rising quickl…

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89 Settling the mind (1)

16 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Meditation: Settling the mind preceded by settling body, speech, and mind. 
1) settling body, speech, and mind. Let your awareness come to rest in its own place. There may be knowing of knowing.…

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90 Practice post-retreat (1)

16 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan presents the conclusion from Karma Chagme’s Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Emanation of Padmasambhava’s speech, Atisha addressed how to combine all the teachings of the 3 yanas int…

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91 Awareness of awareness (1)

17 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Awareness of awareness is also known as shamatha without a sign. Sign refers to a target, so there’s no vector of attention. During the meditation, when you do the warm-up exercise of di…

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92 Practice post-retreat (2)

17 Oct 2012 Transcript available

Teaching: Alan shares the conclusion of phase 1 of the Dudjom Lingpa’s Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. Phase 1 covers taking the impure mind as the path aka settling the mind. You ident…

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