03 Aug 2015
While maintaining relaxation with clarity in our practice of mindfulness of breathing, Alan encouraged us to cultivate a further emphasis of enhancing stability without losing one’s sense of ease. To achieve this, one of Vashubandu’s recommendations on technique in his six phases of mindfulness of breathing is to continually repeat counting from 1 to 10, with the count occurring on each inhalation. Do no more, nor less, and if one messes up, start again at one. However be playful with this technique. Keep continuously counting in blocks of 10 until you achieve samadhi!
Alan commented on resting in the substrate consciousness, whereby its light illuminates all appearances but does not enter into, merge or fuse with them. This resting is effortless and the technique of counting during Mindfulness of Breathing should be from that restfulness by just letting the mind do the counting.
Prior to meditation practice, we commenced our daily devotion by reciting once in Tibetan, once in English and then once silently, the prayers of going for refuge and of bodhichitta, and the seven line prayers and mantras (see separate post on Mahamudra Retreat Notes for these).
The meditation is on Mindfulness of Breathing
Following meditation, Alan spoke of finding balance in our meditation effort and referred to the familiar Tibetan drawing of the elephant, monkey, rabbit etc on the path of nine stages of shamatha meditation each with diminishing effort. The technique of counting during Mindfulness of Breathing can assist to balance the effort. Whilst 3 hours daily meditation practice is a good effort, the real catch is that the rest of our daily life also has to be one of contemplative effort. Alan said that we need to be cheerfully relentless in maintaining our flow of mindfulness, attentiveness and bodhicitta in everything we do.
Meditation starts at 31:03
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Olaso. So this morning we’ll do, we’ll begin with the devotions which I mentioned earlier, then we go right directly into the meditation. And before the devotions I’d like to make a few comments about the shift in the practice of mindfulness of breathing that I’d like to initiate this morning. For those of you who are familiar with the, kind of the sequence, we are moving now from the the emphasis on relaxation without losing clarity, to the second phase, the second emphasis really, of enhancing stability without losing that sense of ease. It’s very easy to lose the sense of ease when we concentrate, when we bear down, when we start to want to accomplish something, when we want to start pushing, getting goal driven and ego comes in. A bit of frustration comes in, “I’m not progressing fast enough”. That’s when you start to see something, it’s like an engine with no oil in it, so don’t do that. [laughter]. Don’t do that.
But I was reading, reading Vasubandhu’s account of mindfulness of breathing yesterday. I was alerted to this by a friend of mine, [? 1:27 ] I don’t know him very well, he attended a retreat that I gave in France a couple of months ago and he had been given personal advice by Gyalwang Karmapa, the current Gyalwang Karmapa. When he told him that he was interested in mindfulness of breathing and Gyalwang Karmapa suggested that a Kagyupa text that referred to actually, and paraphrasing gave some commentary, on mindfulness of breathing as taught in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosha or the [[l 5:Tibetan 1:58 ]. And as soon as he showed me that, he showed me the Tibetan text, I translated it and copied it down for my own notes and then yesterday I was looking at the original, the auto commentary. I won’t elaborate on it, Vasubandhu, the brother of Asanga, ah, presents mindfulness of breathing into six phases and the first of these is counting, counting. And he takes a slightly different approach than his brother Asanga, brothers do differ you know.
And he said OK here’s how you count and this is what I’d like to suggest you do this morning. I tried it, I like it. Count one to ten, and no more and no less, and just keep going one to ten no more, no less, better than I... [laughter] And don’t go ten, eleven, twelve, no. [Alan makes a ssst noise] and as soon you see you screwed up go back to the beginning. So in the 21st century here’s what I suggest: Play this like a video game. [Laughter] I know Morgan really loves video game, this is why I specially suggested it for her. [Laughter] [laughter.] What I mean by that is playfully.
(3:20) Just have fun with it, that’s what I’m really saying. I see my little, my little grandson playing video games, boy he can play them forever and he never gets tired you have to get like Charlton Heston you know - to take my rifle out of my dead hands, take that little video game out of my grandson’s dead hands, you know he’s clinging to it, but kids you know that’s what kids do. But the real theme is kind of a playful approach. So we’re moving now to stability without losing sense of ease. Well this means, as you may already be familiar with, what I’m suggesting here, following Padmasambhava actually. Is this oscillation of arousal - release, arousal - release you know, really helpful and he emphasizes that a lot.
And so with each cycle of the respiration when you arouse during inhalation release during exhalation, then you can take each cycle as a little mini session all by itself. Just like you know, when we did the five second thing(clicks his fingers), you’ll find it so easy (clicks his fingers), five seconds rest (clicks his fingers) rest your awareness in it’s own state, ah so easy, you know. And so if similarly you’d say OK, and now, don’t change positions, don’t do anything just breathe in/out one cycle and be aware. Are you ready? Let’s do it right now. (Pause). I think you’ve almost achieved shamatha. [laughter] It wasn’t easy wasn’t it, one cycle right? So just do one cycle, again and again and again. And there it is, as you breathing and arousing, you’re overcoming laxity, you got to do that, and as you relax, relax, relaxing and releasing with the out-breath you are overcoming excitation. Hey problem solved, you know.
(5:06) But then he says counting. Vasubandhu says counting, and interestingly enough he says: Count one through ten, one through through ten, one through ten, until you achieve samadhi. Yeah that’s what he said. Then you achieve samadhi. And that is this unification, the mind totally in the flow. So ten cycles, ten cycles. As your whole body/mind system settles down, calms down, needs less air you may find, I’m not trying to lead you here, guide you here, make this happen, but you simply may find that after some time the breath does kind of become shallower, not a whole lot of volume coming in and especially when that happens, ten cycles goes by pretty quickly. So then have ten cycles, on through ten, let that be one session. Made up of ten little sessions. So the long session could be less than a minute, right, less than a minute, ten cycles not very long. But then playfully, you know, just, and I would suggest, you know keep with the earlier technique, one count to the end of in-breath, of inhalation, so you are arousing, one [breathes], arousing [breathes again] two, releasing, and if you had one of those screens on top of your head all you would see will be an empty screen with one, two [laughter], that’s all that would be there.
(6:55) But play, play with it, see if you can count one through ten and not lose count, and not dribble over into eleven, twelve, thirteen. (laughter) And as soon as you screw up, then playfully just like you are re-booting a video game or whatever, just go right back to one. If you’re on seven and you got confused, you lost it, go back to one and see how many perfect games you can score. Score a perfect game, okay. Playful, Let it be light, let it be kind of fun. A whole bunch of short sessions. And keep quiet in between counts, that’s the whole point. And I thought of a nice, to my mind it is a useful analogy, in America, I know in California, I’ve seen this a number of times, if you’re coming down on a freeway, highway, motorway, autobahn, autostrada, one of the big highways, when you’re coming down a steep incline and it goes on and on, the really big trucks, the 18-wheelers, sometimes their brakes burn out,right, so they’re coming down and boy one of those things got a lot of momentum and if it’s got no breaks, there’s going to be really some hurt you know, if he just crashes in the cars and so forth. So what they have, many of you have seen it I’m sure, when they get kind of maybe halfway, two thirds down this very steep incline, they’ll have a place, they have an alert “Trucks with no breaks, take a right here.” And it is just a very gentle slipping off to the right and then it just goes on and on and on gravel, and the whole idea is we’re assuming you are probably travelling at 80 miles an hour with enormous momentum behind you, and now you’re going to go on this gravel until you have no brakes , but it’s just going to slow you down until you come to a dead stop, and nobody gets hurt. Very nice, yeah, even if only one out of, you know, 5000 of those needs it, that’s a really nice way to have the great momentum just grind to a halt, but gently to a halt. OK.
(9:08) The train of thought, obsessive ideation, it’s called [Tibetan?]Has it ever, your own mind when it’s just going bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla,bla bla, does it ever remind you of a great big truck going down a hill at very high velocity with no brakes? And you just can’t get it to shut up. You’ve got no brakes, you like, oh, nothing happening [Laughter] be quiet mind, you be quiet, bla,bla,bla, be quiet mind, you be quiet bla bla bla bla, be quiet, please be quiet, bla bla bla, shut up yourself, you know, you know it’s just [makes a long crunching sound] [laughter) just crushing everything in its way - rumination you know- runaway truck. So you can try to put on brakes. One kind of brake that is used often in classic teachings is visualizing Buddha image, that’s called a brake. You know, look at a Buddha image like this one it’s a lovely one right here, o look at it closely and then, then put it and generate it in your mind and focus on it single pointedly and kind of continuously. Good luck with that. [laughter]. You know.
(10:14) If you’re living in Tibet in 5000 meters a hundred years ago I think that really worked, ‘cause their minds are so spacious, I’m not saying they’re more realized or anything like that, but you know really if you’ve ever been at 5000 meters and you’ve hung out there for a while with no cell phone or nothing, your mind is more spacious, more relaxed just because that’s the whole nature where you are, and that’s, imagine you live there. So really this technique has worked many, many, many times, many. many times, but I’ve been up to that altitude and frankly visualization’s easier. That’s my experience. Up at 5000 meters, much much easier. And then if you’re living there and you have no electronics, no reading, no entertainment, no nothing, just you and a whole lot of sky, maybe a few yaks, you know, it’s easier. You have some brakes, but for us living in modernity I don’t think we have any brakes. And so the Buddha himself thought mindfulness of breathing as “the technique” for people who are especially prone to obsessive thinking, rumination, that’s the one he taught. And I really think the mood of it is very much like those run-off ramps, where the great big truck with all of it’s momentum, just goes off of there and it doesn’t slow down quickly, but it does slow down, until it just comes to a stop and the truck driver achieves samadhi or at least stops the truck
(11:40) So there is that point. Second point in this regard - where from the very beginning as we did in the very first session, we’re seeking to rest in awareness in a way that is our closest facsimile to resting in the substrate consciousness. It would be nice to rest in rigpa, but right now that may not be so accessible, but substrate consciousness, [Tibetan ?12:06] to be resting there. And I’ve mentioned this, and I mentioned it before, but what I’m getting to right now is a very important point and that is in the experiential descriptions of resting in the substrate consciousness, this point is made, and that is the light of your substrate consciousness illuminates appearances, thoughts, whatever comes up, any objects. The light from your awareness, the substrate consciousness illuminates appearances, but it does not enter into them, it does not merge with it, it does not slip into them and become fused with them. It remains in its own place and illuminates them, right. So we’re not looking for a nonduality of your awareness with the sensations of the breath, that would be like oil into paper. Here your awareness of resting in its own place, illuminating the sensations of the breath, but not slipping into, fusing with them, not going for a non-duality with the sensations of the breath. Right.
(13:04) This is important. Just rest there. So even as you’re counting, one more point, this is all actually very practical, it can actually even I think save you a lot of time. Hm. Rest in awareness, we’re going to do the devotions shortly and then practice, but rest in awareness and let your mind do the counting. You don’t have to think about it, one, two, three, you know how to do that without even thinking about it, they just come up right? Just one, two, three, you don’t have to think - oh what comes after three, [laughter) you know, you’ve got it so just let the mind you know, just turn the mind on, mind - here are your instructions, it’s kind of like turning on the computer and say: “Here, here’s your program, count one to ten, and now, you know, leave me out of it though”, ‘cause it doesn’t need my intelligence to get from three to four, you’ll handle that, you’re already programmed. So just turn your mind on, at the end of each inhalation count one right through ten and then go back to the beginning and then you know the instruction - if you lose count go back, if you go beyond, go back, and then in between counts just be quiet. But in the midst of all that, rest in awareness and let the mind do the talking, let the mind do the thinking. Don’t get caught up in it. Don’t meditate on the counting. So the counting is kind of the counting themselves, again another analogy close to the to the off ramp for the runaway truck or lorry is counts are like speed bumps. So you breathing in and go bla.bla,bla,bla, one, bla, bla, bla, bla, two two, you know you start to run away and you hit another speed bump, and another speed bump, three, four, five, every time there’s a count, whatever thoughts are coming up, that should kind of like bump it (Alan makes a sound), finished, shut up. So just let those little intermittent counts just be a little reminder, this is the only thoughts that are allowed in this domain. Everything else is noise, not useful, shut up. And let the mind just go one through ten and have nothing else to do, and you don’t even do that, you just rest in awareness, okay?. This practice, I think we need to be as clever as we possibly can. But we’re pretty clever folks, you know, we’re pretty clever folks, got a great big brain, and so we need to use all our cleverness, because we’re coming with kind of a, a lot of, how to say, baggage, baggage and modernity. The hook. You know, I’m not going to belabor the point, but you know the current, the current of modern society is not exactly going towards enlightenment, going heavily and very quickly in the opposite direction. So that’s our baggage, but we’re also very clever, and we also have access to this wonderful array of teachings now, from Theravada, from, , from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Indian Buddhism, we just got like this feast of teachings, now they’re all at our fingertips. Lot of good translations, many good teachings so who’s ever had such access, even the Tibetans didn’t have access to Theravada, Theravadans didn’t have access to Chang , Chang didn’t have access to you know, also Tibetan Buddhism. And so, you know, that’s not a problem in of itself, but now we have access to all of these.
(16:15) And then we know what do we want to do? Well make the mind serviceable . So, so now that I used only those words I don’t need to use many when we’re actually in the meditation. So now if maybe .. OK Rhonda, Rhonda’s coming. It’s fine, Rhonda will will take care...we’ll just pass this out. [ talking indiscernible]. Yes if you have your, a tablet or laptop here please don’t take. Yeah and all we’re doing here maybe this should even be on one page, but this is the way it is. You can see the devotions are just very short. And they’re right there, only up to, all we’re going to do right now is to the Guru Rinpoche mantra, the first one which is the classic one. And then you’ll see the text after that from The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers. So all we’re doing here is simply the refuge, the Bodhicitta, Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche and then the mantra so it’s very simple. And this is classic, this is some of the most, how to say, mm. commonly recited, but very very meaningful. So as I mentioned yesterday, as we’re almost getting all out, as I mentioned, that is two days ago on Saturday. What I’d like to do here is recite first in the all capital letters, and for everybody listening by podcast you should have this online so you can download this at your leisure, you can be practicing along with us just a little bit line time, and so we’ll be reciting it first in the Tibetan where there is really the blessings of the tradition, clearly a ritual, but can be very meaningful one. And then we’ll recite it and we’ll do this one for the refuge in Tibetan, the second time of refuge we recite it in English, the third time I’ll just pause in silence and just reflect upon the meaning. We’ll do the same thing for Bodhicitta, and then we’ll do the same thing for the Seven Line Prayer, and then finally do the mantra,OK?
So here’s what I would suggest, generally speaking devotions are, unless one is really, how do you say, physically disabled, in that case do whatever you need to do with the body. But generally speaking for, for devotional practices , sitting upright is best, sitting upright is best. But as soon as we’ve finished, I’m just going to go smoothly, seamlessly right into the meditation, at that time I invite anybody who would like to shift posture, go into the supine for example, do that right after we’re finished with the devotions, right, and that will be every day, Ok, clear? Olaso. (19:10)
Transcriptionist note: Refuge, Bodhichitta, The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras (in Tibetan and English) and Guru Rinpoche Mantras (in Sanskrit) are written below.
NAMO LA MA DE SHEG DÜ PAI KU
NAMO In the lama who is the embodiment of
KÖN CHOG SUM GYI RANG ZHIN LA
the Sugatas, of the nature of the Three Jewels,
DAG DANG DRO DRUG SEM CHEN NAM
I, together with the beings of the six realms,
CHANG CHUB BAR DU KYAB SU CHI
take refuge until our enlightenment. (Repeat three times)
SEM KYED DRO WA KÜN DÖN TU
For the sake of all beings, I generate the spirit of awakening and
LA MA SANGYE DRUB NEI NI
Cultivate the realization of the lama as Buddha.
GANG LA GANG DÜL TRIN LEI KYI
By means of enlightened activity I shall train each being according to their needs.
DRO WA DRÖL WAR DAM CHA O
And I vow to liberate the world. (Repeat three times)
The Seven Line Prayer and Mantras
HUNG ORGYEN YUL GYI NUP JANG TSAM
HUNG In the northwest frontier of Oddiyana,
PEMA GE SAR DONG PO LA
In the heart of a lotus
YAM TSEN CHOG GI NGÖ DRUP NYEY
Sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava,
PEMA JUNG NEY ZHEY SU DRAK
Who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi,
KHOR DU KHAN DRO MANG PÖ KOR
And is surrounded by a host of many dakinis.
KYED KYI JE SU DAK DRUP KYI
Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice.
JIN GYI LAP CHIR SHEK SU SÖL
Please come forth and bestow your blessings.
GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
Guru Rinpoche Mantras
OM āḥ hūṃ VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI hūṃ
Oṃ āḥ hūṃ Vajra Guru Padma Tötreng Tsäl vajra
SAmayajaḥ siddhi phala hūṃ
(22:50) And now here’s what I would suggest, as we recite the mantra. Visualize Padmasambhava in the space in front of you, image ase the one here, the classic image of the Guru Rinpoche. And just as we attend to a loved one, a friend, by way of the mental images that come to mind what we’re actually attending to the person him or herself. Similarly direct your awareness to Padmasambhava himself, his living presence of the Buddha by way of the image that comes to mind so not just focusing on a mental image as a mental image. We’ve invoked Padmasambhava, imagine Padmasambhava actually to be here now, gazing upon you with the eyes of great compassion. Imagine on the crown of his head the white syllable OM, at his heart the red syllable AH, that is, did I say heart, that is throat, the red syllable AH, at the heart the blue or indigo deep blue syllable HUNG and at his navel chakra the red syllable HRI. OM, AH, HUNG, HRI. White, red, deep blue and again red. You can visualize these as Tibetan letters or in Roman letters, as you wish. And then as we recite the Guru, Guru Rinpoche mantra, imagine white light, radiant white light flowing from the white OM at the Guru’s crown chakra entering your crown chakra, and filling your body, your body and mind entirely with this radiant white light. Purifying all obscurations of the body and sowing the seeds for realizations of Nirmanakaya. As you continue reciting the mantra imagine ruby red light flowing forth from the red AH at the throat chakra of Guru Rinpoche entering your throat chakra, filling your body, speech and mind with this red light, purifying all obscurations of the speech, all negative karma of the speech and sowing the seeds with the realization of the Sambhogakaya. And then imagine indigo light flowing forth from the HUNG at the Guru’s heart, entering your heart, filling your body speech and mind with deep blue purifying light of Buddha mind, purifying all negative karma, all stains, all obscurations of the mind and sowing the seeds for the realization of Dharmakaya. And finally from the HRI syllable, at the Guru’s navel chakra imagine again ruby red light flowing forth entering your navel chakra, filling your body, speech and mind with this purifying red light, simultaneously purifying all obscurations of body, speech and mind and sowing the seeds for the the realization of the svabhavikakaya - the nonduality of all the three proceeding three kayas.
(26:55) So engage in this visualization as we recite the mantra. OM āḥ hūṃ VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI hūṃ. [Alan is reciting the mantra silently}. Pause.
OM āḥ hūṃ VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI hūṃ.
(28:36) And now at your invitation, imagine Guru Rinpoche indivisible from your own guru coming to the crown of your head, diminishing in size. Instantaneously facing in the same direction as yourself and then blissfully melting into light, and this light flowing down your amar duti down the central channel to the lotus moon and sun disc at your heart. Imagine Guru Rinpoche forming there, appearing there at your heart and imagine your own body, speech and mind becoming indivisible with the enlightened body, speech and mind of Guru Rinpoche and all the Buddhas of the three times and rest there for just a moment.
(30:31) And now if you’d like to switch postures, please do so now.
The remaining session will be just 20 minutes.
Meditation starts at: 31:10
With a sense of descent, descend into the body, right down to the ground. Settle your body speech in the natural state striking this balance, this equipoise between relaxation and vigilance.
(33:00) And rest your awareness in its own place in stillness and knowing that stillness.
(33:49) Still resting your awareness in its own place without moving, direct the light of awareness to the sensations of the rise and fall of the abdomen with each in- and out-breath. Again, as soon as you’ve noted those sensations, there’s no need to visualize the belly, or any part of the body. Just focus on the bare tactile sensations themselves. Arousing with each in-breath, relaxing with each out-breath and straight away, at the very end of the inhalation count mentally and very succinctly: one, and then remain silent as you relax during the out-breath. Arouse during the in-breath and in this way as described before count one through ten. Again the balance is to increase the continuity the sustained coherence of the flow of awareness, directed attention without tightening up. And this release with every out-breath can really facilitate that. Now let us continue practicing in silence.
(51:49) So I’m sure many of you have seen the illustration of the elephant, the monk, the monkey, the rabbit, the nine stages of shamatha, the winding road there leading up to to the achievement of shamatha. And if you recall clearly then at the very beginning there’s a kind of a bonfire, bonfire, that symbolizes effort and enthusiasm but really kind of heroic effort which along the course of that path gets smaller and smaller and smaller until stage nine that’s out, there’s no, there is no effort. And so when first seeing that then one can think, OK to achieve shamatha, I really need to, really clamp down and squeeze and try really hard at the beginning. Try as hard as I can then I’ll succeed really quickly. That’s what I did when I went into my first shamatha retreat I just tried as hard as I could, and son of a gun I got really good stability, just bearing down you know. Good macho California cowboy, cowboy, football player, no pain no gain kind of approach. Son of a gun it worked, I could sit there and I could be there for minute after minute with no wandering I just would be on it, like you know, like a rottweiler got his teeth into a rat, you know grrrrrr. I thought wow this is going really well I’m going to achieve shamatha really quickly, I think in about 27 and a half days, ‘cause I had them all graphed out. [Laughter].
(53:18) And then lo and behold I was surprised, that after a while it wasn’t getting any better at all, I was just getting more and more and more tense and unhappy and wound up, so then I had to be be reboot. So in the beginning it’s quite true, relative to the rest of the path of shamatha, that’s when you need the most effort, that’s true, that’s the truth that’s not going away. Along those nine stages you need the most effort in the beginning and then it does gradually decline until it’s zero. But how much? How much? And that’s where you really need to strike the balance. If you’re giving too little, if you kind of so emphasizing relaxation at the very outset, then you’re just going to hit, slip into this kind of sloppy approach that becomes habit. Like well, he said relax, so I’m kind of relaxing, bla, bla, bla, I’m kind of meditating, kind of not, bla, bla, bla, but at least I’m really relaxed and he said don’t fall asleep and I’m not, bla, bla, bla you know, and you just kind of hang out there indefinitely, that’s not achieving shamatha. So then you know that’s one extreme, the other extreme is bearing down so much that you’re just getting stressed out, tightening up and so forth. So find the middle way, find that middle way. And the counting can be helpful in that, especially bring a playful quality to it, kind of a light quality, you know, kind of a like make it some fun. So there is that.
(54:46) Now especially for people who are listening from home, maybe in some, not in retreat at all, some quasi retreat some actually in retreat listening to podcast. Here is a question that comes up a lot and I have an answer from a very accomplished yogi, his name was Geshe Yeshe Togten oh a wonderful, wonderful yogi, spent I don’t know, something like 35 years in retreat just embodied, this is what a contemplative, this is how a contemplative manifests and he was asked on one occasion - how many hours a day do you need to practice shamatha in order to really have a chance of progressing along that path and not just kind of practicing shamatha going along around and around in circles? And his answer was very clear, he said . Three hours, three hours, with three hours of daily practice you really have a chance to actually proceed along the path and this not stop, continue going all the way, but then where is the catch? Three hours, that’s not too bad, that’s like a serious hobby. But unlike a serious hobby like golf or chess or video games or what have you, the catch, the caveat ), the fine print is the rest of your way of life has to be very contemplative. That doesn’t mean you have to be in strict solitude, but it does mean you’ve got to be present, you’ve got to, that is in Basketball they call it full court press - that is you’re there the whole way, the whole way, that is you just don’t stop practicing dharma. You’re answering your e-mail, you’re preparing breakfast, you’re washing dishes, cleaning the clothes, driving to work and so forth, and you’re relentless, you’re relentless but cheerfully relentless not bearing down gritting your teeth, you know, shamatha or bust. Cheerfully relentless but just don’t give them an inch. That whole stream of bla.bla, bla, the rumination, don’t let them in, don’t let them in. You know, just be relentless, like what do they say, just say no or zero tolerance, we’ve got all kinds of words for that. As much as you can just remain sane constantly throughout the entire day without losing your mind at all.
(56:38) If you do that without being in strict retreat , but you’re really maintaining that flow of mindfulness, that introspection, that presence of mind, sustaining your bodhicitta, sustaining whatever practice of guru yoga you have then that was his word. And here’s from a really seasoned yogi, right. So for those listening by podcast, you are temporarily in retreat you should be able to do more than three, here in this environment more than three hours I would hope so. But even if one, this is from Atisha, the great Atisha he says if you’ve not assembled the necessary causes and conditions, the prerequisites, you know the necessary factors, then even if you practice for a thousand years you won’t achieve shamatha, you know. And that does include the outer, you won’t have a conducive environment, but especially emphasis on the inner. I won’t go into details right now, but the point here is even if you are in full time retreat you have nothing else to do and you go out for month and month and month maybe practicing eight or nine, ten hours a day, and that’s pretty substantial, but what are you doing with the rest of the hours? And during the rest of the hours if it’s just kind of business as usual the mind wondering around, mundane thoughts, mundane aspirations, bit of of e-mail here, bit of this bit of that, in other words you’re walking backwards every time you’re off the cushion, and you’re walking forwards every time you’re on the cushion, even if you’re on the cushion eight hours a day, that’s another day you’re walking backwards. So, so do the math, eight hours forward, eight hours backward. Do it for a thousand years. And the math is clear. So there it is, it will always come back to this point
(58:09) Tsongkhapa made this point. If you want to really progress on this path it has to be continuous and specifically said it for shamatha. It’s not enough to really bear down and really focus and be you know really meditating when you’re on the cushion and then when you’re off the cushion just having your mind go bla, bla, bla, bla, he said you’ll never achieve it, you won’t achieve it. It’s got to be, he said with respect to visualizing a Buddha image he said, if you’re doing that, even in between sessions you’re just gently holding peripherally the awareness of that Buddha image, gently as you’re attending to whatever else needs to be done, so a bit of multitasking, right. Don’t lose touch, don’t completely disengage, and that’s difficult with a mental image you are trying to hold all the time, but it shouldn’t be so difficult with breathing. ‘Cause here the sensations, the object of meditation is being presented to you every moment anyway. The Buddha image isn’t there if you’re not visualizing it, whereas the sensations of the breath are, right. So really maintain that. We’re between sessions now, you’re breathing all the time, maintain that peripheral awareness, the gentle flow, be present in the body aware of the ebb and flow of the breath, as much continuity as you can bring. Then when you go into the session it will be smoothly going to session and going deeper, coming out and not walking backwards. Just maintaining, and then smoothly into session and going deeper. We have to be really clever here, because there aren’t that many people practicing shamatha. We don’t have lots and lots of examples of people that achieved it, There are people now who have achieved it, but they’re not very common, simple reason - not many conducive environments, not many people teaching it, not many people practicing, among those practicing not many people doing it in order to really achieve it. So do the math, of course it is going to be rare. So therefore we have to be very clever so let’s be clever and enjoy the day. See you later.
Transcribed by Renee Elisabeth Hossmann
Revised by Rafael Carlos Giusti
Final edition by Cheri Langston