A Meditation Retreat on Shamatha, Vipashyana, Mahamudra, and Dzogchen

01 Setting out on the 8-week Voyage

29 Mar 2016 Transcript available

Alan begins the retreat by thanking all the staff at ILTK, starting from the Director Filippo, his wife and everyone else who has been helping to offer such a wonderfully conducive environment. We wi…

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02 Asanga’s Method of Meditation on Mindfulness of Breathing

30 Mar 2016 Transcript available

Alan says that for each morning session we will proceed directly to meditation practice on the basis that each of us have individually undertaken our daily preliminary practices and prayers of Refuge…

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03 Meditation on the Vision Quest and Commencement of Teaching on the “Lamp So Bright” text

30 Mar 2016 Transcript available

Alan begins by stating the only suitable focus of our motivation as Mahamudra practitioners is on Bodhicitta as it is integral to the Mahayana path. However the Bodhicitta vow is like a promissory pl…

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04 Stillness and Motion in Asanga’s Method of Meditation on Mindfulness of Breathing

31 Mar 2016 Transcript available

Alan explains that the theme of “Stillness and Motion” contains a simultaneous awareness of the stillness of the awareness and the movements of everything else. According to the vision of the shravak…

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05 Welcome to the Mahayana Vows of Refuge

31 Mar 2016 Transcript available

Alan began by sharing with the group a question from a student, regarding how can we actually develop Bodhicitta. He replied by saying we should start where we feel comfortable, in something that mak…

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06 Existential Relaxation - Asanga's practice of Mindfulness of Breathing

01 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan starts highlighting the deep similarities between the approach to Mindfulness of Breathing taught by Asanga and a practice many of us are familiar with, Settling the Mind in its Natural State. W…

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07 Compassion, Refuge & Bodhicitta

01 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan invites us to move day by day through each of the Four Immeasurables in sequence and we´ve already started with Loving Kindness. Alan´s interpretation is that this is a good place to start, espe…

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08 Insight into Impermanence, Dukkha and Non self by way of Settling the Mind in its Natural State

02 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan starts with an announcement regarding the practice on Sundays which has no schedule. There will be a shift of the day off from Sunday to Saturday, starting next week, to allow us to do some shop…

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09 Balancing the Four Immeasurables, Meditation on Empathetic Joy and the Stages of Bodhicitta

02 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan continues on the topic of the four immeasurables, now turning to the third one, Empathetic Joy. He explains that each of the four immeasurables serves as an antidote when another of the four imm…

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10 Why Go Through Unpleasant Meditative Experiences (Nyam)?

04 Apr 2016 Transcript available

This morning, Alan returns to the theme of parallels between the practice of settling the mind in its natural state and the mindfulness of breathing as taught by Asanga. He begins by making a crucial…

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11 Equanimity and Taking the Bodhisattva vows

04 Apr 2016 Transcript available

This afternoon we finish the cycle of four immeasurables by meditating on equanimity. Alan says that this is the grand finale, the indispensable basis for bodhicitta. Equanimity has different meaning…

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12 Q&A session on Asanga’s method of Mindfulness of Breathing

05 Apr 2016 Transcript available

The meditation starts immediately and it is silent. The practice is the full-body awareness of mindfulness of breathing. Questions: (1) Is there a written account of Asanga’s specific technique o…

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13 Great Compassion, Refuge and Bodhicitta

05 Apr 2016

Alan begins with a commentary on the four immeasurables that ended yesterday with the meditative cultivation of equanimity, and explains how we are now left on an even open field which is in many way…

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14 Alan’s Advice on Addressing Obstacles in the Practice of Mindfulness of Breathing

06 Apr 2016

Alan says that the aspiration for Awakening and Bodhicitta takes us out of the present with a goal that has great significance and provides direction in our lives – the path of Dharma. One understand…

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15 Great Loving-Kindness for All Sentient Beings Without Exception

06 Apr 2016

Alan says he was advised that he inadvertently overlooked part of the oral transmission of Karma Chagme’s Naked Awareness text so he now delivers it for completeness (page 18 beginning “You are the p…

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16 Balancing Faith, Intelligence, Enthusiasm, Samadhi and Mindfulness

07 Apr 2016

Alan starts explaining that balance is a crucial theme in shamatha training where we cultivate relaxation without losing clarity, stability of attention without losing relaxation and vividness withou…

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17 The Third of the “Four Greats”: Great Joy

07 Apr 2016

We begin by exploring the third in the sequence of “Four Greats”, which is Great Joy or Maha Mudita. For Great Joy, as for the other great qualities we’ve analyzed so far (Great Compassion and Great…

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18 Balancing the five faculties and putting a pin in the valve of your tire - and let's achieve shamatha in the homeland of Galileo

08 Apr 2016

Alan returns to the balance of the five faculties, starting with the different modalities of faith - appreciation, aspiration and belief - and the relation of belief with karma. The belief in karma d…

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19 Great Equanimity & the Paths of Mahayana and Dzogchen

08 Apr 2016

Alan begins the lecture by presenting the fourth of the Greats: Great Equanimity. Then Alan introduces Martin Buber’s explanation of an “I-you” relationship as opposed to an “I-it” relationship. In t…

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20 The Buddha’s Discourse to Bahya - Shamatha & Vipashyana

10 Apr 2016

Alan explains that as we go deeper into the practice of shamatha, it appears more clearly that the three qualities of relaxation, stability and vividness are not only sequential, but they also reinfo…

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21 Beyond the Four Greats: An Extraordinary Resolve to Free All Sentient Beings

10 Apr 2016

Alan now goes beyond the sequence of The Four Greats (Great Compassion, Great Loving-kindness, Great Joy and Great Equanimity), to the Extraordinary Thought (tib. Lhag Sam), which expands on the mome…

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22 Between Sessions View Reality Like a Dream

11 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan addresses the theme of continuity which is essential for the path. In our shamatha practice we may often wonder if we are doing the practice right. Alan points out that the answer lies in whethe…

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23 It Is Never Too Soon To Cultivate Bodhicitta

11 Apr 2016

This afternoon we come to the culmination of the series of discursive meditations which started with the four vision quest and the four immeasurables - bodhicitta. The definition of bodhicitta may se…

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24 Taking Appearances and Awareness as the Path, Both During and Between Session

12 Apr 2016

The Dharma talks have been so good so far that a bird found us in the field as we were walking over to the meditation hall. He followed us over and hung around outside the hall before the session thi…

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25 Bodhicitta & Vipashyana: What is Your Signal to Noise Ratio?

12 Apr 2016

After two weeks in which we have seen a crescendo that culminated in aspirational and engaged bodhicitta, everything else now may seem an anticlimax. Actually this is the beginning. We arouse bodhici…

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26 Cultivating Sustainable Peace of Mind by Resting in Awareness

13 Apr 2016 Transcript available

For the morning sessions, Alan says we will continue to focus on cultivating our shamatha practice, where a loose translation of shamatha is ‘peace of mind’ or, in Jackson’s translation of the Panche…

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27 Resting in Awareness and Appearances on the Path to Convergence on Rigpa

13 Apr 2016

Alan begins by commenting that all teachings and sequences of practice have the goal of converging on realising the ultimate nature of mind, rigpa. This includes cultivating loving-kindness up to rel…

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28 Shamatha and the Close Application of Mindfulness to the Body and Feelings

14 Apr 2016

This morning Alan moves on to the four close applications of mindfulness, focusing on the body and feelings. The Pali word “Vedanā” refers to primal feelings like pleasure, displeasure and neutral. F…

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29 The Central Role of Shamatha on the Buddhist Path

14 Apr 2016

We begin the session with a review of a central practice in shamatha, mindfulness of breathing. Despite being so simple, mindfulness of breathing has its profundity validated, for instance, by being…

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30 Using our Full Intelligence to Dispel the Suffering of Ignorance

15 Apr 2016

In order to explore the differences between shamatha and vipashyana, Alan begins explaining the meaning of the term bare attention coined by the great German scholar and practitioner named Nyanaponik…

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31 Does Buddha look more like Galileo or Moses?

15 Apr 2016

We return to the radically empirical observation of that we’re immediate aware of - appearances and the awareness of them. To understand the Dzogchen interpretation of where these appearances are com…

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32 From Shravakayana to Dzogchen, Earth & Sky

17 Apr 2016

The topic of this 8-week retreat covers the broad bandwidth from shamatha to vipashyana, to Mahamudra and Dzogchen because the text Naked Awareness is the Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Alan is dra…

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33 Overcoming the Problem of Subjectivity

17 Apr 2016

Alan opens the afternoon session quoting professor Paul Davies and the emphasis that is commonly given in science to search for meaning outside ourselves: "Whatever strategy is used, searching f…

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34 Special Theory of Ontological Relativity

18 Apr 2016

Alan begins by reminding us that in yesterday’s afternoon session we took a roundabout approach of settling the mind in its natural state by first concentrating on the visual, then the auditory and t…

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35 How To Stroke The Sun And The Moon With Your Hand

18 Apr 2016

The session starts with meditation focused on the mind. Alan instructs us to discern the origin of mental events, to observe where those mental events arise and manifest, and to determine where they…

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36 Introspection and the Lab of the Mind

19 Apr 2016

Alan starts off this morning’s session with a story about a delightful interaction between physicist Anton Zeilinger and His Holiness the Dalai Lama that took place at the 1997 Mind and Life Conferen…

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37 Shift your Perspective, Shift your System of Measurement and you See a Different Reality

19 Apr 2016

We begin the session by returning to the practice of Taking the Mind as the Path. In the introductory comments to the meditation, Alan mentions the two-fold division of Buddha-nature (1. the naturall…

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38 The Benefits of Shamatha and its Potential Pitfalls

20 Apr 2016

Following up his commentary in the last few days on the description of mastering the dhyanas and the resultant siddhis, Alan says that in all traditions there is no specific “meditation manual” on ac…

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39 The Four Aspects of Taking the Mind as the Path

20 Apr 2016

Alan says we will now return to the central theme of balance, grounding our shamatha practice in relaxation and stability. We will later move to being aware of the sensations and movements of the bod…

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40 Analyzing Simple and Complex Negations in the Practice of Taking the Mind as the Path

21 Apr 2016

Alan explains that phenomena that arise to the mind can be affirmations or negations. The negations can be further divided into simple and complex negations. In the discourse of the Arhat Nagasena wi…

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41 A Succinct Exploration of Shamatha

21 Apr 2016

Alan begins the session by frontloading the silent meditation session, and in the follow up of the morning session, asked us to investigate the distinctive qualities of space and awareness. To help u…

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42 The Big Bang was not Accidental

22 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan started by bringing back the theme of the ultimate nature of mind, citing some approaches: (1) recalling the foray we made into an ontological probe into the nature of mind in terms of origin, l…

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43 Unpacking Flawed and Flawless Shamatha. Intelligence: Use it or Lose it!

22 Apr 2016

We’re going to return to the practice of taking the mind as the path. When we are attending closely to the space of the mind, do we have a sense of just a sheer emptiness, nothing, and then something…

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44 The Defining Characteristics of Consciousness

24 Apr 2016 Transcript available

Alan begins by unpacking the distinctive characteristics of consciousness, which help us identify it vs. anything else that is not. Its characteristics are luminosity and cognisance. It’s very import…

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45 Conclusion of Karma Chagmé's Text on Shamatha and Conditions that Give Rise to Serenity

24 Apr 2016

Alan begins the session with a brief introduction to meditation that will follow, instructing us to meditate on the Shamatha method that we find most useful, and not to be worried if the method is ad…

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46 Balancing on One Leg on a Telephone Pole

25 Apr 2016

Alan shares with us an image that came to him this morning, originating probably from a martial arts film. In this image a trainee in martial arts is told to stand one-legged on the top of a telephon…

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47 Balancing Earth and Wind

25 Apr 2016

Alan introduces the afternoon meditation by making a few comments about space. Our most primal space is the substrate. In dreamless non-lucid sleep, in anaesthesia and at the point of dying the subst…

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48 Acquiring the Sign of the Mind: I see you

26 Apr 2016

Alan begins the session with a sutta from the Pali Canon - the Suda Sutta or cook discourse, which begins with a foolish cook who didn’t take the king’s preferences into account and highlights the im…

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49 Pointing out the Relative Nature of the Mind

26 Apr 2016

Alan begins by recalling that Panchen Rinpoche presented two methods for dealing with thoughts. One of the methods that Alan didn’t cover yet in this retreat consists in cutting off thoughts as soon…

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50 Shamatha in the “Holy War” to Destroy Mental Afflictions

27 Apr 2016

Alan says he is starting with a bang this morning and explains that an Arhat is a foe destroyer of mental afflictions (klesha) in that they have completely annihilated all mental afflictions and all…

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51 “Tightly Focused, Loosely Relaxed” - The Shamatha Practice of Awareness of Awareness

27 Apr 2016

The theme for this session comes from the pith instructions that we’ve recently covered from the Panchen Rinpoche’s text (stanzas 16 to 23), which are prevalent in the Mahamudra lineage. Alan’s prelu…

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52 Pointing out the Nature of the Mind

28 Apr 2016

Alan starts explaining that throughout times, lamas have given pointing-out instruction on the nature of the mind. With respect to this it is crucial not to conflate the different dimensions of consc…

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53 Pointing out Instructions by Padmasambhava

28 Apr 2016

Alan begins the session on a playful tone, saying he invited a guest speaker to lead this afternoon’s meditation session. After a brief commentary, we then move on to the session, that consisted of A…

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54 There is Hope! Alan introduces Donald Hoffman

29 Apr 2016

Alan starts remembering the pointing out instructions of Padmasambhava that he read yesterday. In the preface, Padmasambhava says he is pointing out to what he called by many different names: atman,…

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55 Taking Vipashyana as Hot Chili, Just Enough to Spice our Shamatha Practice a Bit

29 Apr 2016

Alan starts by giving us a suggestion: for our whole life, from now until our enlightenment, we should evaluate our practice in a eudaimonic way - based on what we brought to the practice, on how we…

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56 Engaging in the Search for the Mind

01 May 2016

Alan reminds us the pointing instructions of Padmasambhava when he repeatedly said “observe your mind, observe your mind”. For some people that may be sufficient, for others perhaps just observing th…

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57 Padmasambhava’s Instructions that point out Rigpa

01 May 2016

Alan begins by recalling Padmasambhava’s pointing out instructions presented earlier, stating that if one is extremely gifted, ripe, that could be sufficient to cut all the way through to rigpa, pr…

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58 Non-Duality of Luminosity and Emptiness

02 May 2016

In this morning’s teaching Alan elaborates on the notion that rigpa is right where we are looking when observing the mind. But do we see it? We are looking right at it but not seeing it clearly due t…

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59 Vulnerable Spot of the Death Star

02 May 2016

Before the meditation, Alan comments on the uniqueness of the contemplative practice. He refers again to Kurt Danziger’s article (link available in Retreat Notes), explaining why introspection was la…

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60 Acquiring a Telescope and Merging the Mind with Space

03 May 2016

Alan begins by talking about the fact that he would love to see a revitalization of contemplative inquiry, and he reiterates the idea emphasized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that in Buddhism there…

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61 The Sharp Sword of Intelligence - Identifying the Object of Negation

03 May 2016

As we begin to venture into the next section of Panchen Rinpoche’s text, in this session Alan starts the inquiry into the object of negation. The object of refutation is a self that exists prior to a…

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62 Taking Responsibility for Skilfully Addressing Obscurations

04 May 2016

Alan reminds us of Padmasambhava’s pith instruction that makes the path to enlightenment so easy - to observe one’s mind. However, for most people this is not sufficient to progress as we have obscur…

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63 Reification Is the Root of All Mental Afflictions

04 May 2016

Alan says we will return to vipashyana territory, based on the current theme of the Panchen Rinpoche’s text on emptiness. Alan describes two technical terms central to Prasangika Madhyamika – the bas…

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64 What Do You Want?

05 May 2016

Alan reminds us that we are now more than five weeks in retreat and during that time he taught a variety of methods for shamatha, vipashyana and mahamudra. All the teaching he is transmitting are res…

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65 Examining our Manifest Nature

05 May 2016

Alan begins the session by frontloading the meditation, indicating what sort of inquiry we will find later when we return to the Panchen Lama’s text, by reflecting on three questions: (i) how do we e…

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66 Caring is What Abides, the Lovable Quality

06 May 2016

This morning, Alan integrated all theories and practices we’ve been doing during these last five weeks. He started by coming back to the pith instructions from Panchen Rinpoche yesterday: examine ver…

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67 Because Suffering has No Owner

06 May 2016

We continue to follow the strategy presented by Panchen Rinpoche, examining carefully the way we abide, in contrast to the mode of appearances. As we all know, we appear in very different ways, ever…

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68 Two Routes to Liberation & the Power of Loving Kindness

08 May 2016

This morning’s session outlined that there are two routes to liberation – one of faith and one of contemplating enquiry. The route we are studying during this retreat is the latter. Alan explained t…

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69 Further Investigation of Inherent Existence

08 May 2016

We started the session by going directly to the Panchen Lama’s text, as Alan revised an initial translation he had proposed for an earlier part of the text. After that update, we continued on that se…

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70 Rewrite the History That Is Blocking Your Heart

09 May 2016

“I’m in the mood for weaving” - with these words Alan begins the morning session. And he does weave together - loving kindness, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, Shakespeare, Shantideva and much more…L…

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71 What Is a “Smordge” and How Does It Exist?

09 May 2016

In the next section of the text, Panchen Lama is taking us from the limited domain of examining the self and establishing the absence of inherently existent self to the domain of all phenomena. Alan…

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72 Compassion for Oneself and The Path

10 May 2016

Alan talks today about the second of the four immeasurables, compassion. Like loving kindness, compassion is an aspiration and requires conative intelligence. It is the wish for sentient beings to be…

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73 The Emptiness of All Phenomena

10 May 2016

NOTE: only the first 50 seconds come from the back-up recorder, and the quality is not optimal. Apologies for that. Alan begins the session by commenting on the difference between the way phenomen…

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74 Practicing Compassion by Taking Suffering onto the Path

11 May 2016

Alan continues the meditative contemplation of compassion that we may be free of suffering and its causes by describing the aspiration as simple, yet deep and subtle. This is because there are three…

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75 Cultivating Intelligence in Meditation Practice

11 May 2016

Alan says that in the context of shamatha meditation there is a pyramid with the foundation being the ease, relaxation and stillness whereas at the top of the pyramid there is the clarity, vividness…

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76 Writing Your Own Namtar - Empathetic Joy

12 May 2016

Following the classical sequence of the four immeasurables, Alan today turns to empathetic joy or mudita. He explains that the near enemy of compassion is grief and despair or, expressed in a modern…

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77 The Four Types of Mindfulness in Taking the Mind as the Path and Vipashyana

12 May 2016

We started the session with a quick review of the four types of mindfulness, with Alan mentioning that usually, for the untrained mind, there’s not even the capacity to distinguish between stillness…

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78 Have a Heart Like an Ocean

13 May 2016

Alan starts by saying that this retreat has been embedded in the Buddhist teachings. It would be meaningless to teach Mahamudra in a secular way. It’s been wonderful to be totally immersed in a way o…

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79 Why do Scientists Refuse to Look through Buddhists’ Telescope?

13 May 2016

Alan starts by explaining that there are two approaches to Mahamudra: the Vajrayana and the Sutrayana. The Vajrayana approach is embedded in the Kagyu tradition, where Mahamudra is placed in the culm…

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Alan Wallace's response to the article "Buddhist meditation and cognitive sciences"

14 May 2016

Dear Friends, This is a trimmed version of podcast 79, which includes only Alan’s response to the article “Buddhist meditation and cognitive sciences”, by Daniel Simpson. Link to the article.…

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80 Developing Pure Vision & the Power of Equanimity

15 May 2016

Alan began by introducing the practice of Equanimity and by giving a snapshot of his experience the day before at a virtual reality laboratory founded in 1991 in Pisa. Alan then drew a deeply meaning…

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81 Assessing Different Levels of Realization

15 May 2016

Alan began the session with the warning that this afternoon’s session would be dense, which prompted laugh from everyone in the room, given that all previous sessions have already been pretty dense!…

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82 Prince or Beggar? Who You Really Are… & Cultivating Great Compassion

16 May 2016

The “four immeasurables” we meditated on last week are common to many Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions. They can be cultivated while striving for individual liberation. Today, however, we cross t…

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83 Rigpa Is Your Warp Drive to Enlightenment

16 May 2016

Tonight we return again to the theme of the path and to the four applications of mindfulness discussed yesterday. This time, Alan gives a presentation of the four application of mindfulness in the co…

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84 The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel and Great Loving Kindness

17 May 2016

Alan begins the session by talking about the importance of settling the body, speech and mind in their natural states. After that he goes to “An Introduction to a Parable and its Meaning Taught by Si…

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85 “Non-meditation” & The Fivefold Practices

17 May 2016

Alan begins by saying that Panchen Rinpoche has made a magnificent job in bringing together these two great traditions of Gelug and Kagyu. Alan then comments that if we are operating from the perspec…

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86 The Renaissance and The Revolution Can Begin in Galileo’s Homeland - Maha Mudita

18 May 2016

Alan continues the teaching on the four greats by venturing into Maha Mudita, Great Empathetic Joy. In the Mahayana Buddhist context, reaching the path of accumulation entails the achievement of sham…

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87 A Parable with Pointing Out Instructions to Cut-Through to Rigpa

18 May 2016

Alan first reads and discusses two of the parables and commentary in Karma Chagme’s text “Naked Awareness” on page 88 of the orphan son, and page 89 of an old man losing his cord. He comments on real…

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88 Great Equanimity in the light of Dzogchen

19 May 2016

Note: this is the only lecture for today, 19th May, because Alan will give a public talk at the University of Pisa. Alan starts with reading “The analogy of seeing a rope as a snake” from “Naked A…

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89 What Do You Want? Be Content or Become a Siddha?

20 May 2016

Alan begun this morning Dharma talk with one of his favorite parables (Naked Awareness p.93), and it is about a king who asked an illusionist to create an illusion as a means of causing his son to be…

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90 Alan Has Arranged a Marriage with Avalokiteshvara for Us

20 May 2016

The next session of the text in this chapter is on guru yoga (Naked Awareness p. 273). In the introduction, Karma Chagmé says “The best way to counteract obstructive forces, avoid pitfalls, and enhan…

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SPECIAL: A Shower of Blessings from Tuscany - Group Visit to the Retreat Land

21 May 2016

Dear Friends, Today the whole group made an historical visit with Alan to the site of potentially the first Contemplative Observatory - a land blessed by Khadro-la where people can achieve shamath…

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91 The Essence of Buddha Nature or Sugatagarbha - Bodhicitta

22 May 2016

To introduce the essence of Buddha nature, Alan reads and explains the final parable of the chapter “An Introduction to Parables and Their Meanings” from page 94 to 96 of Naked Awareness. There is an…

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92 Conclusion of Naked Awareness & Pointing-out Instructions from The Vajra Essence

22 May 2016

Alan started the session by going directly into meditation, in a practice where we directed our awareness towards the space of our body, the space of our mind and, finally, awareness itself. Foll…

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93 Final Meditation and Q&A session

23 May 2016

Alan started the session with a guided meditation summarising all the practices we have done during this retreat, culminating in Dzogchen non-meditation. It is never too soon to begin the Dzogchen pr…

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94 Dedications & Celebrations!

23 May 2016

Alan ends the 8-week retreat with a meditation. Celebrations follow.

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