05 Oct 2012

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-blue in color. From now until perfect awakening, take refuge in Samantabhadra, the dharma revealed by all the buddhas, and the sangha of vidyadharas. At the crown of your head, Samantabhadra melts into light, streams down your central channel, and reforms at your heart chakra, merging with your body, speech, and mind. 1) Why couldn’t we all find perfect happiness and its causes? Each one of us has pristine awareness, the cause, and are awaiting the contributing circumstances. 2) May we find perfect happiness and its causes. With out breath, light from Samantabhadra at your heart chakra spreads in all directions, leading each sentient being to fulfillment. With every out breath, arouse the intention 3) May I lead every sentient being to perfect happiness and its causes, and imagine each one finding perfect awakening. 4) May the gurus and the buddhas bless me, so that I may be enabled. With every in breath, light from all enlightened beings come in from all directions. With every out breath, light flows out to all sentient beings.
Teaching. Qualified teachers of the Mahayana and Vajrayana usually say that one needs a lot of merit in order to achieve shamatha. This is true. However, we shouldn’t think that we don’t have enough merit, so it’s not worth trying. As Dromtönpa said, give up all attachment to this life and let your mind become dharma. While you are actually cultivating shamatha and practicing the 4 immeasurables, you are accumulating merit.

Meditation starts at 04:40

Download (MP3 / 34 MB)


Teachings 1:

Great compassion is the principal practice of the 4 greats. Alan continues with great loving-kindness.

We are going to move this morning from great compassion to this great loving kindness, definitely moving very deeply into the realm of possibility here. It is good and as we envision ourselves and others rising above in the ocean of suffering, getting to some peace, equilibrium, relief, then it’s quite natural that one’s horizons would expand, one’s imagination, possibilities arise of finding a far greater sense of well-being, happiness. When you are really overcome with suffering it’s hard to imagine happiness, and my sense too, maybe I am just odd, maybe I’m not, how shall I phrase it, this is my own unique perspective, I don’t know, but just generally speaking I find spontaneous compassion easily arises, when I see somebody suffering, compassion arises, that’s just I think, normal. Loving kindness – a little bit harder, you have to look a little more carefully to see the lovable qualities. For suffering, oh, kind of in your face, when it’s blatant suffering. And likewise when one is suffering oneself, being explicit, you really know it, hard to really be caring all that much about others, and hard really to envision one’s flourishing when you are just feeling like you are road kill. So good I think this is why just intuitively I feel among the four greats, the great compassion and so forth, the Great Compassion is maybe most practical, and it is the one that’s emphasized, that is moving into Mahayana territory, of course there is great loving kindness yes, but mahakaruna as you saw from the quotes I sited yesterday, that will be one that he really, really highlights.

So what are the roots of suffering for which we wish freedom with this great compassion? Mental afflictions. But if we let our imagination soar, into the limit, in terms of wellbeing, then it would be the wellbeing, not simply of an arhat which is quite extraordinary but actually the wellbeing of a Samyak sambodhi - one who is perfectly awakened. That is really exceptional, and so to move beyond the peace, the serenity, freedom of suffering of an arhat to the fulfilment, the wellbeing, of one’s own interests, I mean completely expanded, realizing one’s own interests as well as the interests of others, the capacity to be of service to others. Then for that a much subtle level of obscurations needs to be dispelled so the coarser level, obscurations of mental afflictions, obscurations to the liberation, to nirvana.

But to realize our full potential, to completely unveil the capacities of our own Buddha nature, pristine awareness with that in this most subtler level of cognitive obscurations, that must need to be dispelled and with the vanishing, the evaporation, dissolution of those, then the full splendor of our primordial consciousness comes back at us. So as long as we are reaching for the stars, we may as well reach for the galaxies.

So let’s go right into the cultivation of Great Loving Kindness. Mahamaitri .


Quiet, calm and balance your body speech and mind by settling them in their natural state and calming the discursive mind with mindfulness of breathing.

As it was mentioned before, the cultivation of great compassion, great loving kindness makes sense only if one enters into such practice with the view of emptiness, with the view that awakening, the perfect awakening is truly possible, and has been realized by many beings of the past, Buddha Shakyamuni, and continues to be realized to this day.

So I invite you if you to wish, and to bring to mind and visualize as clearly as you can the primordial Buddha, the embodiment, the personification of your own pristine awareness, Samantabhadra, the primordial Buddha, deep-blue in color, seated in full lotus, hands holding a vajra and bell, symbolizing skillful means and wisdom, embodied with the wisdom and compassion of the essential nature of your own mind.

And now until the day of clear light when we realize perfect awakening, trust and take refuge in the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, the dharma revealed by all Buddhas, and the sangha, those who’ve realized the primordial dimension of consciousness, the vidyadharas, for the sake of all sentient beings throughout space that realize perfect awakening and call the blessings of Samantabhadra to enable me to do so.

Inviting him at the crown of your head, sitting in the same direction, Samantabhadra melting into light, streaming down to the central channel, and reforming in Samantabhadra in your heart chakra, merging my body, speech, and mind with Samantabhadra, and from this perspective, the best approximation of viewing reality from this perspective of pristine awareness, raise the question:

  • Why couldn’t all sentient beings find happiness and the causes of happiness, perfection and perfect awakening itself and allow our awareness to attend to the world of sentient beings. However they may manifest, they are so transient, one by one to the next. Each one is imbued with this dimension of purity, pristine awareness, equally. So why couldn’t we all achieve happiness, perfect joy of full awakening, essential we already have the cause, simply awaiting the contributing circumstances.
  • May all sentient beings find genuine happiness and its causes. With each out- breath, imagine boundless streams of light emerging from Samantabhadra reaching out in all directions, inviting the cooperative conditions, leading each sentient being to their own fulfillment. And with each out breath, arouse this resolve if you will - I shall make it so; I shall do it to all sentient beings, every sentient being, genuine happiness and its causes. And with every out breath imagine a light contributing to flow from this inexhaustible source, flowing out in all directions and imagine here and now, sentient being by sentient being, each one finding their own fulfillment and finding perfect awakening.
  • May I lead every sentient being to the perfect happiness and its causes, and imagine each one finding perfect awakening.
  • May the guru Samantabhadra and all the manifestations of Buddhas all bless me, so that I may be enabled to carry through this resolve, and with each in breath imagine a light emerging in upon you from all sides above and below inviting wisdom and compassion from enlightened beings emerging to one point, flowing in, as a gift without being taken. And with every out breathe the same light flows out in all directions to all sentient beings, going out effortlessly, and imagine each one finding the path of awakening and following that path to its final fruition.

And release all appearances and aspirations and let your awareness rest in its own natural luminous nature.

Teaching 2.

If you go to any lama, qualified Mahayana teacher, and ask, is it possible to achieve shamatha nowadays in these degenerate times? You will of course get a variety of responses, one response you may well get is – it’s possible, but it takes a lot of merit. That’s a good answer. Completely true. It’s like setting out on a long journey, you need a great big tank full of gas to be able to go that far. From that stand that is really quite reasonable, okay thank you for a good answer, solid, true, authentic answer. But then the question comes up – how do I get a lot of merit? How shall I accumulate a lot of merit? By teaching dharma? Starting a business, getting a lot of money and giving it to dharma centers? So then I just have to tell you my all- time favorite dharma story. You may have heard it many, many times but you get to hear it again. Dromtonpa, disciple of Atisha was out and he saw someone circumambulating the stupa, doing some devotion practices, om mani padme hum, doing some devotions, he said ah, very good to do your devotions, circumambulate stupas, all very good, even better to practice dharma. The man was somewhat perplexed, he thought he already was, but out of respect for Dromtonpa he put on his thinking cap and thought about it. How can you really practice dharma if you haven’t studied dharma, learned about dharma? So he sat down and really started studying dharma, reading and studying. Dromtonpa saw him doing this, he said ha, very good to study, read texts, memorize, very good, but even better to practice the dharma. The guy thought some more and then finally he thought, what’s the point of teaching, of doing devotional practices, of studying, of all of this, it’s all for the point of cultivating your mind, it’s meditation. That’s where all the roads are pointing to, that cultivates your mind, purifies your mind, so he sat down and started practicing meditation, this time probably with hopeful anticipation that Dromtonpa would come and finally say – good! So there he is meditating away, maybe waiting for Dromtonpa, and Dromtonpa does come by and says, I see you’re meditating, even better to practice dharma. So now he is really totally perplexed because I think he thought he had gone through his whole rolodex, gone through all the options – shall I teach dharma, start a dharma center, build a statue of a holy being? So he really doesn’t know. Dromtonpa said – give up all attachment to this life, let your mind be comfortable. That is really the most quintessential dharma advice I’ve ever heard. So it is true, in order to achieve Shamatha, we must improve right now. Is there really any more effective way to improve our abilities and limitations, is there anything that we really can do, this is an open question, not a rhetorical question, is there anything that we can do that would accrue greater merit than devoting ourselves, 100 percent, full time, to making the mind serviceable so that we can use that for everything else? So that we can one day accrue the merit that would otherwise take us a 100 lifetimes? Devoting ourselves to the cultivating, the realization of shamatha, but of course not as an isolated single practice, but empowering us, strengthening, the cultivation of the four immeasurables, great compassion, great loving kindness, bringing with whatever wisdom we have to the practice, day by day, breath by breath. Is there anything we can do that would be more powerful or accumulate merit, now that, I think, in order to accumulate enough merit to achieve shamatha, the way to do that is not by not practicing shamtha, not by not meditating, not by not developing the four immeasurables, is there some other way that’s more effective to accumulate merit, I would really like to know about it. So, I see no reason to say oh I don’t have enough of that, I can tell you, you can hold that position, I probably don’t have enough merit, you can hold that position and just hold it for countless lifetimes, and unfortunately it will always be true. That is one of those self-fulfilling prophesies. Oh I don’t have enough merit – yeah, you don’t, sit down and start meditating! Let’s get tired of just doing a bit of practice and dying. Unless you have something better to do, then you should do that. I just can’t imagine, maybe that is my imagination deficit.


Qualified teachers of the Mahayana and Vajrayana usually say that one needs a lot of merit in order to achieve shamatha. This is true. However, we shouldn’t think that we don’t have enough merit, so it’s not worth trying. As Dromtönpa said, give up all attachment to this life and let your mind become dharma. While you are actually cultivating shamatha and practicing the 4 immeasurable, you are accumulating merit.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post.