15 Oct 2012
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 into space. Conceptualizations diminish further and further until mind slips into non-conceptuality. Keep it simple. It’s the nature of the practice.
Meditation: Mindfulness of breathing preceded by settling body, speech, and mind.
1) settling body, speech, and mind. Let your awareness illuminate the non-conceptual space of the body. Settle the body in ease and comfort. Settle the speech in silence. Let the breath flow in its natural rhythm. With every out breath, relax more and more deeply without losing clarity, utterly release the breath and let go of rumination, so your are especially silent and present at the end of each out breath. The in breath comes of its own accord. Release all thoughts of the past and future, and settle awareness in stillness in the present.
2) mindfulness of breathing. When the in breath is long, know that it is long. When the out breath is long, know that it is long. When the in breath is short, know that it is short. When the out breath is short, know that it is short. Let your awareness illuminate the space of the body and whatever tactile sensations arise therein, without distraction, without grasping. Awareness is not fused with the space of the body and its contents. Mindfully breath in and out, attending to the whole body.
Q1. In equanimity, does it mean we should react with satisfaction and contentment with things as they are?
Q2. In formal and semi-formal shamatha retreat, should we hold the view between sessions by visualizing oneself as the deity and the environment as a pure land? If so, should we recite the mantra as well?
Q3. As for the dying process, how can we help? How can non-buddhists prepare?
Q4. How is remote viewing possible without dependence on the visual cortex?
Q5. Returning to a socially engaged way of life, the qualities of relaxation, stability, and vividness will decline. Should we do intermittent short/long retreats for upkeep?
Q6. According to the Madhyamaka, rigpa and buddhanature are also empty, suggesting nihilism. Rigpa and ultimate reality are in some sense real, but if we say they are real, that may be construed as eternalism. Nihilism is more prevalent in the modern world, and of the two, eternalism appears less dangerous.
Q7. How should we plan practice at home? Should we maintain a weekly structure as we have here, or do whatever we feel like? Practice shouldn’t be just limited to shamatha.
Meditation starts at 5: 35
[There was some talk about adjusting the sound equipment]
All right. Since what I’m about to say is not utterly essential, um, I’ll go ahead and say this now as we hope to get that fixed.
It’s just a little anecdote but it’s one that’s part of my own life and it’s obviously remained with me for a very long time, I think I was maybe twelve or so when this happened. It was in school and so the class gathered, I can’t even remember which teacher it was but the teacher said, “Alright class we have now a very limited time for you to, and this is going to be a test on how well you follow instructions. And there’s a set of directions of things that you need to do and you have a relatively short time to do them. So I want you to follow the instructions very, very carefully and you will be tested on this or graded on this and before you begin read through all the instructions and then begin. Okay?”
(3:05) So it was rather a long list of things, trivial kind of mundane pointless tasks. Um, and so I like I think every other person in the class, every other student in the class glanced through the whole set of instructions but it was a lot of them and we knew that the time was very short and so basically just started to work and it was like, “take this piece of paper and rip it in three places here, and now do this.” Just one meaningless task, but a lot of detail and one step by step and looking at the clock, and we’re running out of time …and now do this, and write three little lines here, and just one trivial meaningless task after another, one after another, after another and then finally as we see that the hour has about come to an end, I came to the final point of instruction and that said, “ignore all the previous instructions and sit quietly.” [laughter] And I looked at all the others students and they also had shredded pieces of paper and all kinds of... all the crap that they put us through and I was one of them and there was no way you could hide it, no way you could kind of [demonstrates hiding] like, you know [laughter]. And of course the instructions were at the beginning, “read through all the instructions before you begin.” And not one of us did it. And in the meantime we spent the whole hour devoting ourselves to completely meaningless trivia. Only to get humiliated at the end. That was our reward. [laughs] All right. And so, what’s the moral of that story?
This whole eight weeks has begun with a very, very simple practice that’s very very easy to forget entirely about and that is: settling your body, speech and mind in its natural state. Right? And one could almost say that the whole of the teaching is included there. So that’s what I’d like to do this morning. Now as you well know, we’ve finished with our one on one meetings, but what I’d like to do now for the remaining four days, including Thursday of course, is I’ll stay with you until 10 o’clock, and we’ll have a guided meditation each of the mornings and we’re going to do shamatha for each of the mornings, just do a twenty four minute session and then I’ll try to deal with the mail here and also try to find some balance of responding to live questions right here, okay?
So that will be the mornings, the afternoons will be something different each afternoon. And so, it’s pretty reasonable now, the echo’s gone. Comme ci, comme ca, yeah? Just okay. But our time is very precious so let’s just jump in. Danny if you can continue tweaking that, that would be great. There’ll be no new material here, at least not for a couple of days, uh, but I would like to go back and just give you a refresher course. And this morning it will be...mindfulness of breathing.
In the spirit of loving kindness for yourself and others, which is to say the aspiration to find genuine happiness and to cultivate its causes, in the spirit of kindness, let your awareness descend into the body or illuminate the space of the body, right down to the ground. You’ve entered a non-conceptual space so to the best of your ability don’t bring any concepts with you, any rumination, any chit chat; it simply clutters the space. While letting your awareness rest in its own place, seated upon its own throne so to speak, let your awareness illuminate the whole space of the body. And here and there by way of the density of the earth element you may note, areas that feel constricted, tight. Gently attend to them as you breathe in and as you breathe out release.
Soften all of the muscles of your face, especially those around the eyes, let your forehead feel spacious, let your eyes feel soft, relaxed.
Having settled your body in a posture of ease and comfort and optimally if not during this session when you are meditating on your own, in the supine position, to utterly relax the body and from that ground let your body be still and at least psychologically adopt a stance of vigilance, of clarity. If you’re sitting upright let your sternum be slightly lifted, keeping your abdomen loose and relaxed, let the sensations of the breath flow down to the belly. Then moving on to a subtler challenge in order to gently let your mental speech come to rest in its natural state of effortless silence, take on the increasingly subtle challenge of letting your respiration flow in its natural rhythm. And this can be done if and only if your mind is very quiet, you’ll drown it out with rumination and that will prevent the respiration from settling deeper and deeper into its own natural and healing rhythm.
Remember that the key is the out breath, taking advantage of each one as an opportunity to relax more and more deeply in the body, surrendering your muscles to gravity, to utterly releasing the breath and to simply letting go of rumination. And the key to the out breath is the very end of the out breath, you must be especially silent here so that you can be thoroughly present in the present moment, releasing, releasing all the way through the end. And if there is a pause, let there be a pause, and when the time is ripe let the breath flow in of its own accord without pulling it in, without inhibiting it, freely receiving the breath that flows in of its own accord so that you remain as relaxed as the breath flows in as you were when it flowed out.
Releasing all thoughts pertaining to the past and the future, and allowing thoughts to arise pertaining to the present only insofar as this internal coaching or guiding yourself in the practice is helpful. Apart from that let your awareness come to rest in stillness in the present moment.
The balance here is to relax more and more deeply especially with every out breath without losing the clarity with which you began.
And when the in breath is long note that it is long and when the out breath is long note that it is long.
As your mind quiets and the whole system of body and mind settles into a deeper state of equipoise, when the in breath is short, simply note that it is short and when the out breath is short, note that it is short.
Let the light of your awareness illuminate the whole space of the body and bring to this space exactly the same quality of awareness of mindfulness that you bring to the space of the mind when you settle your mind in its natural state, attending closely, freshly, moment by moment, observing the tactile events, earth, water, fire and air, observe the tactile feelings or somatic feelings that arise within the space but whatever arises simply observe its nature without distraction, without grasping, without preference, without identification, whatever arises just let it be. Letting your awareness illuminate this space and whatever arises within it, but without your awareness becoming cognitively fused with that space or with the events that arise within it. View the somatic space as if from the perspective of the substrate consciousness, clear, luminous and non-conceptual.
Quietly and clearly let your awareness illuminate the whole space of the body, mindfully breathing in, mindfully breathing out, attend to the whole body.
In the shamatha practice of mindfulness of breathing we selectively attend just to those sensations associated with the in and out breath which become subtler and subtler and subtler as you mindfully breathe in and out and the whole composite system of your body is soothed and calmed as it settles in a state of equipoise and your mind does likewise.
The natural course of this practice following the teachings of Asanga involves the sensations of the breath, of the prana, becoming subtler and subtler. And simultaneously along that same course, conceptualization will diminish and diminish further and further until your mind slips into non-conceptuality. The sensations of the breath, the prana, dissolve into space and your awareness shifts from the desire realm to the threshold of the form realm and you achieve shamatha. Keep it simple. It’s the nature of the practice.
Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Revised by Mark Montgomery
Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti