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 the practice the Buddha did both on the night of his awakening, and also at the time he entered his parinirvana. Alan went on to emphasize the importance of relaxation, namely in the body, with some comments about the key role that exploring, and developing the capacity to practice in shavasana, can have on the shamatha path. He then proceeded to explore the relationship, and feedback loop, existing between the key qualities developed in shamatha: relaxation, stability and vividness.

The meditation, on mindfulness of breathing, was not guided.

After the meditation, we began analyzing a new text: chapter fifteen of Karma Chagmé’s “Great Commentary to Buddhahood in the Palm of Your Hand”, which is on shamatha. This was the first text that Gyatrul Rinpoche taught back in the beginning of the 90’s, for which Alan served as his interpreter. We explored the initial section of the text, that sums up authoritative views (Shantideva, Atisha, Nagarjuna, the Buddha) on the importance of shamatha on the Buddhist path. (A note for those listening by podcast: this text has not yet been published, so if you’re interested in getting a copy to follow the discussions on the retreat, please contact the Santa Barbara Institute).

The session ends with a passionate critique by Alan on the relatively low importance given to shamatha by some modern “teachers” in the vipassana movement, and the critical consequences that such misleading approach can have for those seeking a genuine path to liberation.

The meditation is silent (not recorded).

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