11 Oct 2012

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 has made important contributions. In union with shamatha, knowing reality as it is through the wisdom of dependent origination and emptiness leads to durable eudaimonia.
Meditation. Great loving-kindness preceded by mindfulness of the body and the mind. 

1) mindfulness of the body. Seated on its throne, awareness illuminates the space of the body and appearances therein. Closely apply mindfulness to the body, withholding all concepts and labels. The appearances are empty of concepts, empty of the body. Sustain the flow of mindful knowing without distractions, without grasping. 

2) mindfulness of the mind. With your eyes open, direct awareness to the space of the mind and mental events, withholding conceptual designations. They are empty of concepts, empty of the mind. Withdraw the light of awareness from all appearances and turn it onto itself. Attend closely to awareness in the present moment. Where is awareness to be found? It is unfindable, unknowable, empty.

3) great loving-kindness. Turn your awarenss outwards. All sentient beings have primordial consciousness, so 1) why couldn’t we all find happiness and the causes of happiness? 2) May we all find happiness and its causes. 3) May I lead each one to happiness and its causes. 4) May I receive blessings from the guru and all the enlightened ones to do so. With every in breath, light comes in from all sides, filling your body and mind. With every out breath, that light flows out in all directions, leading each sentient to their own awakening.
Teaching pt2. While in retreat, we’ve been breathing in meditative equipoise. As we leave retreat, we need to breath out the 4 immeasurables, especially when reality is not dishing out the circumstances for shamatha. Dharma practice requires balance, and we need to be able to respond to reality with great mental suppleness.

Meditation starts at 5:10

Download (MP3 / 18 MB)


Teachings 1:


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 has made important contributions. In union with shamatha, knowing reality as it is through the wisdom of dependent origination and emptiness leads to durable eudemonia.

Alan’s teachings/comments:

This morning we return to Mahama three - great loving kindness, the aspiration and the resolve that we can all find happiness and the causes of happiness. So now just to say that few things are familiar - hedonic wellbeing ever so important, to feel well in the body, well in the mind, live in a peaceful surrounding, have enough to eat, all of our basic needs being met. And for this understanding cause and effect is really crucial, absolutely central, and to my mind that is just the tremendous strength of modern science, of navigating - that is learning what’s going on in this natural world, what’s going on in the natural world of our bodies and the bodies of other people and surrounding environment. What’s going on and what are the patterns, what’s the pratityasamutpada the patterns of causality of dependent origination within the natural world? And how can we understand these so that we can flourish in this world, and follow those causes that give rise to our hedonic wellbeing and avoid those like illness and poverty and so forth, social unrest, conflict and so forth, that we can avoid those? So humanity really has benefited tremendously from science and the practical application of science and technology, especially these last four hundred years, tremendous boon.

(2:09) And then for dharma, I have been wondering, what kind of label shall I give to science, and I am really not content yet, but you know one that might not be bad – Hedonic Science. And then, dharma, of all kinds, Christian, Jewish and so forth and then some that don’t have a religious name to them, maybe if we could just call that Eudemonic Science – maybe, because what are the causes and conditions that give rise to eudemonia? Not the strength of science, just as agriculture and so many other things are just not the strength of any spiritual tradition, it’s not their strength, but then there we are living in this world where both are so crucial.

So the pinnacle of this pursuit of eudemonic wellbeing of course is wisdom, as Shantideva says in the 9th chapter - everything that has preceded this, the teachings on bodhichitta and all the first five of the perfections, the paramitas, are all for the sake of the 6th one – the perfection of wisdom, right?

So as we move to this cultivation of great loving kindness, let’s link this up now with realization of emptiness and specifically the union of shamatha vipashyana, because that’s where you get the lasting value, which is durable, profoundly and irreversible transformative. Vipashyana by itself just doesn’t have that and shamatha by itself doesn’t have that, right? But that union of shamatha vipashyana.

(3:40) If we really wish for ourselves and others, may we find genuine happiness and its causes, that’s durable, that’s lasting, that’s not just a little peek and then we lose it, it’s there it is, the strategy is perfectly clear and transparent, the fusion shamatha vipashyana, the realization of insight, the realization of emptiness by way of insight, dependent origination, and because of the reality of dependent origination therefore everything that dependently arises must be empty of inherent nature.

(4:10) I think there’s a strong link there, as with compassion, may we all be free of at least blatant suffering, suffering that’s in our face, that hurts. Shamatha is really the great boon, the great retreat, the great respite, right? A moment of peace, where when you’re just dwelling there luminously having achieved shamatha, there just is no suffering in sight, you’re there in this really quite spacious domain of your own substrate, but there in your surrounding environment, this empty vacuity, this luminous vacuity, there’s no suffering, you really have a time out, right? But then we must venture back into the world and for that the only way to be in the world actively participating and to find happiness is really to know reality as it is, and so that calls for the realization of emptiness. So let’s link those two, let’s plunge into the practice.


Releasing grasping all the way through, body, speech and mind, settle each one in its natural state.

Letting your awareness rest in its own state, sitting upon its own throne, let your awareness brightly illuminate the space of the body and whatever appearances, whatever sensations, feelings arise within that domain, this sub domain of the substrate, closely apply mindfulness to this space and the appearances that arise within it, while withholding all conceptual designations, all labels, observe that which is empty of concept, empty of names and therefore empty of body, and sustain the flow of this mindful knowing, without distraction, without grasping.

And then with your eyes open or closed as you wish, direct the light of your awareness to the space of the mind and to whatever mental events objectively appearing phenomena such mental images, mental conversation, subjective mental impulses, observe the space of the mind and whatever arises therein, once again while withholding all conceptual designations all thoughts, all names and observe that which is empty of names, empty of concepts, empty of mind.

Now withdraw the light of your awareness from the space of the mind, from its contents, withdraw the light of awareness into itself, withdrawing from all appearances. And now attend closely to this awareness right now, awareness of the past no longer exists, it’s not real, not now. Awareness of the future doesn’t yet exist, so it too is not real, not now, and the awareness of the present is incapable of being aware of itself in the present, just as the blade of a knife cannot cut itself, a flame cannot illuminate itself, a fingertip cannot touch itself, so can a present moment of awareness not ascertain itself either. So examine closely where is awareness to be found, this real awareness that exists in and of itself, if it is not in the past, not in the future and if it’s unobservable in the present, is it not utterly unfindable and therefore unknowable, and therefore empty of any true existence?

And now let your awareness illuminate the world of sentient beings, each one striving like ourselves for happiness, hedonic and in some cases eudemonic, each one wishing to know - what are the true causes of happiness, what will really make me happy? And since the essential nature of the minds of all sentient beings is pristine awareness, primordial consciousness, then

1) Why couldn’t we all, all sentient beings, find happiness and its causes? If it is so within our reach.

2) May we all find happiness and its true causes.

And drawing from the depths of your own awareness, the ground of your awareness arouse if you will, the resolve, the commitment, the promise:

3) I shall bring each one to happiness and its causes.

4) And may I be blessed by the guru and all the awakened ones to enable me to carry through with this resolve.

And with each in breath imagine this light of blessing in a form of radiant white light converging in from all sides, above and below, in upon the space of your body and mind, permeating, empowering, energizing, enabling, filling to saturation point, and as you breathe out, breathe out this light in all directions and imagine each ray of light doing exactly what needs to be done, to guide each one, to help them to find their way, find the path.

And with each out breath let this aspiration and this resolve flow, and moving into this realm of possibility, imagine each sentient being finding the path by knowing reality as it is, following the path to their own awakening, their own perfect flourishing.

Release all appearances; let your awareness rest in its own luminosity.

Teachings 2.

Alan’s Teachings comments:

So returning very briefly to that first yoga, among the four yogas on the path of Mahamudra, the yoga of course of single pointedness, that one out of four covers a lot of territory, covers the entire path of accumulation, small, medium, great stage and all four stages of the path of preparation, in fact Karma Chagmé Rimpoche says - when you come to the culmination of that first yoga, you’ll feel like you are almost a Buddha, you’ll feel , this must be the yoga of non-meditation, which is the culminating one – uh uh. But that shows how grand it must be, but that’s covering a lot of territory, the whole path of accumulation, the whole path of preparation, that’s a lot, and it’s said throughout all of Buddhism, this takes an enormous number of merits, call it energy, call it momentum, call it whatever you like, but it needs a lot of jazz, a lot of energy there to move through to that degree of purification of the mind and that evolution that takes place.

And so practicing vipashyana, and of course the practice of viphasyana, the realization of emptiness going into and meditative equipoise, the realization of emptiness coming out and practicing this dream like Samadhi, so as much as possible you’re maintaining that insight as you’re attending to what everybody else calls - the real world, that would be, that is actually crucial, and there’s great merit in that, clearly, but it’s just not possible without the union of shamatha vipashyana, that’s just utterly fanciful, right, got to be the union of those two. Therefore shamatha is obviously indispensable, but it’s not enough as powerful as that is, there must be also of corresponding growth, a maturation, a ripening, a development of bodhichitta, and so how better to cultivate, to deepen the bodhichitta than through these four immeasurables, and then the four greats and it’s with those two together, skillful means and the wisdom, and then, especially it’s through Vajrayana, as much integration as possible of those, that moves you through.

And to finish the session and reminding that the retreat will be finished in one week, Alan said:

So today’s Thursday, which means we have one more week here, so we’ve had 7 weeks of breathing in, 7 weeks of being in retreat, withdrawing from the world, with a few hiccups on Sunday, I think, but more or less, withdrawing in, a time to come into shamatha, a time to cultivate our best approximation to meditative equipoise, really going deeper, temporary withdrawal – a 7 week retreat. But of course the time is coming soon when we must go out, we must breathe out. And it’s very likely that as we’re breathing out into Phuket airport, and breathing out into anywhere else we are going that we will find that the mind center is receding in our rear-view mirror. And that is where my shamatha was – I think I left it in that room over there some place, oh bye – bye, as we’re heading off over the horizon. So, we may feel we are leaving our shamatha behind, that is as they say, when one door closes, another one opens, time to breathe out. Time to breathe out. Breathe out into the four immeasureables, breathe out into the four greats, embrace fully what’s coming. Because without the breathing out, there is no breathing in. And if we are really quite intent on moving on this path and not just having an 8 week retreat, it’s got to be that balance. So for those of us here, for those, I know some of yogis around the world, in full time retreat now, listening by podcast, and others as well – there are times when reality rises up to meet us and it’s telling us – now is not the time for shamatha, at least that’s not the primary emphasis, not time to let it go, not time to say okay I will just give up and ruminate, but reality is not presenting itself as something quiescent, quiet, solitary, simple – a conducive environment. In which case reality is rising up and telling us - you need to balance out now, now engage, mindfully with relaxation, stability, vividness, but then manifest it, manifest it above all through the four immeasurables, the four greats, because it’s only in this way that you are going to be able to develop enough merit to actually achieve shamatha. And it is only through shamatha that you will be able to deepen your practice of the four immeasurables, the four greats and finally bodhichitta. So, we can be so like a gymnast, or a very fine adept of yoga, people who have really trained their bodies, or some dancers also, there’s this body it seems like it’s all water, not in a sense of lacking strength, but just so fluid, so resilient, so adaptive, that whatever’s coming up, reality is always being in flow, reality is never rigid, it’s always flowing, changing moment by moment. And if we are responding in a similarly fluid way, saying – okay, what’s up reality? And we are always there, flexible, smooth, resilient, supple, ready to rise up, like a dance, but let reality lead. Don’t try to lead and then follow the steps, and see if from moment to moment, day to day, how can I dance with this? Because reality is always dishing something, one more opportunity to practice dharma. Sometimes it’s pleasant, and sometimes it’s hard, it’s really hard, but it needs to be, it needs to be. So let’s practice dharma all the time. Give up attachment to this life, let your mind become dharma.

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.