19 Sep 2012

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 or well-being. You are experiencing sukkha when you enjoy and get into the flow of the practice. Sukkha comes through shamatha. Further support for the antidote comes from mudita or empathetic joy. On the spiritual path, we need to make a gentle transition from 100% dependence on hedonic well-being to genuine happiness. Find interest in the breath. Find interest in the quality of awareness. The latter will come in handy through the various bardos.
Meditation: mindfulness of breathing per Asanga. Release the mind into the present. Utterly release yourself into the breath. Let your awareness observe the space of the body and in particular, the flow of the breath between nostril and navel. Relax deeply all the way through. Let the mind be especially calm at the end of the in and out breaths. With every out breath, release long-standing habit of rumination. Be right there for the beginning of each in breath.

Meditation starts at 16:45

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This morning we will turn briefly to one of the five obscurations, ill-will, that obscures the very luminous, blissful and pure nature of our own awareness, and look at the natural antibody [meaning: a substance produced by the body to produce disease] that is a quality that we already have that can counteract that and dispel ill-will. So it is very cool: you have the built-in problem, you didn’t get that from Buddhism, I didn’t give it to you, but the antibody also you do not get from Buddhism, I did not give it to you, so your are the package.

(0:45) The second of the five obscurations - now that I’ve already a couple of days ago discussed this fixation on hedonic well-being or hedonic pleasures - the second one is ill-will. So consider ill-will, enmity, resentment is a big one; all of that is in the same package and we can carry the seeds of that mental affliction or that obscuration with us whether or not we ever meditate, ever practice any kind of Dharma, that is a problem that we come to Buddhism with, we did not get it from Buddhism. But also when you practice any kind of meditation, but especially when you practice shamatha a lot, those seeds are just bound to be watered as you dredge your psyche and the mind settles and you start remembering things and emotions start coming up, it is utterly common, it is totally normal to be sitting there minding your own business in a nice pleasant environment and getting really pissed-off just by memories and just by stuff coming-up and just finding Woe! And so it happens, it’s normal, get used to it. But then you do not want to wallow there, you don’t want to stay there, right? So then look for the natural antibody, and what is that? It is suhkha, you should learn that word, and the opposite is duhkha (suffering), you already know dukkha. Suhkha means well-being. There are all kinds of sukkah for sure, but what we are referring to here is not some sense of bliss or ecstasy or mind-boggling inconceivable joy; suhkha is just a sense of well-being, and a number of you have expressed that even in your own meditation let alone enjoying this environment – what’s not to enjoy? - but some of you have found oh, I’m getting to the point in my meditation where I actually enjoy it. I’m finding I’m starting to enjoy mindfulness of breathing: that is sukkah. When Elizabeth said yesterday, “Oh, I found that mindfulness of breathing interesting”, that is sukkah. When you say ‘I find this interesting’, that is an expression of pleasure. If you get a rash, you don’t say, ‘Woe, that’s interesting.’ It catches your attention but you don’t call it interesting.

(3:47) How then can we arouse suhkha? Well as I said this is a natural antibody that comes through the practice of shamatha and really comes into flowering when you actually achieve shamatha, achieve access to the first dhyana you get all five of the antibodies, a great bouquet of antibodies, the five dhyana factors. But within the shamatha practice itself whether it’s mindfulness of breathing, settling the mind, awareness of awareness, we cannot simply, when we see resentments coming up, resentment, anger, hostility coming up, you cannot just say, “Oh, then I will turn on sukkah”, it does not work in that way. So then how can we arouse sukkah? One thing is go back to the practice and find a way, be skillful, find a way to enjoy your meditation practice, find a way to enjoy it. As the Buddha said, when it’s cultivated and developed - mindfulness of breathing - then it brings out this sublime state, an ambrosial state, and that is just through practice, it’s by persevering, persevering to the point that you say, “Oh, I am starting to get into the flow, I enjoy that, I am starting to get periods when my mind is really calm, I like that, the mind is starting to get clear and like that, I am getting very relaxed in the meditation, I like that”. That is sukkah. And so from the meditation itself, just by developing and cultivating it, sukkah will gradually start percolating-up, like water just filtering up in the sands of the desert, it is pretty nice.

But it is not just on the cushion doing shamatha; that is, we can give a little bit of help from the outside. So among the four immeasurables, mudita, empathetic joy, that is really helpful for just getting yourself in a different mindset, than the mindset of: what are all the rotten things that anybody has ever done to me? And what are all the rotten things that are happening in the world; and why can I be depressed, and *self-righteously unhappy and miserable at other peoples’ behavior? There’s one way of looking at the world. And then we look for an alternative and empathetic joy is a pretty good alternative. So just reflecting upon the extraordinary range of virtues in human history, that is taking place in the world nowadays, among your Dharma friends right here in this room (Mind Center) where there are a lot of virtues, very sincere. Nobody is coming here (Mind Center) for phony reasons. There are plenty of sincere people here coming to cultivate their heart and mind, that is a nice community to be in, that is something to rejoice in, to rejoice in your own virtues, to rejoice in your practice, to be aware of the opportunities that you have in this life, to take delight in those opportunities, to really very deliberately focus your attention on things that bring about a sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of well-being, of happiness, of satisfaction, take the reins of your horse, of your attention and direct it out to grassy meadows, if you really feel, “Oh, there is really a lot to be happy about” and you can settle there in this environment of empathetic joy. Actually there is a lot more to rejoice in than be grumpy about; there are a lot of people in the world where that it is not true, they have no dharma at all, how many of them are suffering in poverty, an enormous number, how many are right now suffering from really severe disease and do not have the medical care they need, that is tough, how many are really old and do not have anyone to take care of them, that is really tough and the list can go on, and we do have Dharma.

*[self-righteously: a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment; confident of one’s own righteousness, especially when intolerant of the

behavior of others.]

(9:52) You do not go from mother’s milk to a rare steak. So be gentle, let your whole approach to Dharma be loving, loving for yourself, gently transition, and so even here (Mind Center) there are enjoyments, number one this is a really beautiful place, and then just take it at your own pace; and that’s what Sundays are for also, if you can be happy on Sundays meditating ten hours a day in your room, then why go outside? But if that is a bit too intense, then that is not the right way, maybe you may enjoy going to the beach or going to the pool but that is for you to decide, to find that nice balance, but the orientation here is that we gradually wean ourselves - not off of hedonic well-being - because if you read the songs of experience of people like Milarepa and others there is a tremendous appreciation of the beauties of nature and the joys of many things in the world, they enjoyed that. And so it’s not that we should wean ourselves off of hedonic well-being, happiness, pleasure like enjoying a good meal, nice music, the beauties of nature and so forth, but rather weaning ourselves off of the dependency on them, the attachment to the hedonic pleasures.

To sum up then in terms of the shamatha practices: if you can take enough interest in the practice of mindfulness of breathing, noticing, being attentive to and enjoying the details of the in and out breath and the intervals between, if you can find that interesting, if you can enjoy breathing, then you tap into eudhamonia, you tap into a source of genuine happiness because you are enjoying being alive; that is, breathing is not something in addition to being alive, it is part of the program.

(12:48) So if you can enjoy breathing that means that you can enjoy simply being alive; that is a really good foundation for enjoying hedonic pleasures when they are dished-up, but not missing them when they are not [present], because you already have your little teaspoons full of genuine happiness coming in. And then if you can enjoy settling the mind in its natural state not by the entertainment value of what is coming up but by the quality of awareness that you are experiencing, then you really are in a position to enjoy the dying process, because you’ll stop breathing so you won’t be able to enjoy that anymore, it is finished. But there is more to come, there are coming attractions after the breath stops, there is a sequence, an ongoing flow of mental experiences in Samadhi. So if you’ve already gotten used to enjoying watching your mind dissolve into its natural state, boy I have good news for you, when you die that’s going to happen all by itself and you’re going to get natural Samadhi. You may be worried by seeing that you cannot see anything, you cannot hear anything. Of course you cannot, you are dying. But if you can enjoy what is left over as your senses are imploding and say, “yes, this is what I’ve been striving for all along, if I have not achieved shamatha already, ok, let’s give it one last shot”, then you can enjoy dying. So number one, mindfulness of breathing you can enjoy living, number two settling the mind you can enjoy dying. And if you can rest in awareness of awareness and enjoy that then you can enjoy being dead because now the mind has settled in its natural state, your course mind has dissolved into substrate consciousness, you are dead.

(14:57) Then I think we have a complete package here, you can enjoy living, dying, and being dead. Now the last one is the shortest one, because that’s only going to be a matter of hours and that is your little dark retreat will be finished. But if you’ve had some taste - by whatever practice it is, Mahamudra, Dozgchen, whatever it may be - if you’ve had some taste of rigpa, some glimpse, some genuine realization of rigpa, pristine awareness, then when the clear light of death spontaneously manifests, rigpa is unveiled following being dead, then you have a real chance of, and this is a lovely metaphor, of the child crawling up onto the lap of the mother. Or recognizing an old friend that you lost contact with and then you see Oh! my old friend, and that is sometime during the life you had some contact, some acquaintance with rigpa, you probably lost it, but now you recognize: here is my old friend. Of course it is only a metaphor, but it is now coming home, you are coming now to ground rigpa, the rigpa was always there and now finally is unveiled because everything else is gone, even your substrate consciousness has evaporated away for a while, so then this non-dual realization of rigpa, the clear light of death, and now if you can taste that and ascertain it you can actually enjoy being who you are and who you’ve always been. So enjoy it. Let’s practice shamatha.


As if slipping into a cool swimming pool on a hot summer day let your awareness slip into the transparent depth of the space of your own body right down to the ground.

(18:25) Set your body at ease, culminating in softening your eyes.

(19:25) And now utterly release yourself into the breath.

(19:56) And release your mind into the present moment: simplify, simplify, releasing that which no longer exists, releasing that which does not yet exist, and settling into the one reality you can know directly.

(22:40) And now it is time to learn how to breathe by not breathing, by not being involved, not interfering. Let your awareness be as non-reactive as space itself, as non-possessive as space itself. As if you are having an out body experience where your awareness rests in the space of awareness itself, open and expansive. Observe the flow of energy from the nostrils down to the level of the navel, flowing down as you breathe in, flowing up as you breathe out, and let your mind be especially quiet, silent. When you come to the end of each inhalation note exactly when that occurs, note the pause, the interim inhalation and the beginning of exhalation as you relax deeply all the way through. And especially as you come to the end of the out breath fearlessly relax in the body, totally release the breath, let your mind be pin-drop silent as you note the very end of exhalation, you note the interim exhalation whether it is short or long. And you are right there when the inhalation begins, allowing it to flow in of its own accord whether it is a very shallow breath or deep, however it may be, simply witnessing without inhibiting it or helping it along.

(32:37) There is a lot of momentum behind rumination, long-standing deep-rooted habit, but breath by breath like a flow of water carving a path through rock, with every out breath release and carve a new habit, a habit of quiet sanity and clarity, relaxed and still.

Final comments after meditation:

(41:39) I just had a flight of fantasy and imagined an education system where children from pre-school on were being taught like: mommy, daddy, eudhamonia. That would be part of their working vocabulary very early on, that would be part of the education system to just show children the avenues into genuine happiness by way of our conduct, by cultivating the mind, bringing in very, very gently, very simple, fun exercises, cultivating the attention, empathy and so forth, and then just having that continuing all the way through elementary school, secondary school, right into college, and through college so when students graduated in whatever field, it could be civil engineering but of course the students would always be minoring in eudhamonia. Why not? Because civil engineering is very good but will not ever bring you eudhamonia and why would you want to have only hedonic when you could always have both? So that would be flowing all the way through the education system so when students graduate from college they would be well equipped to face the modern world, making a living to find hedonic wellbeing but they also would have fifteen years of training, exploring their internal resources and graduating as happy people. Wouldn’t that be weird?

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Erik Koeppe

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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