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 their progeny – the vasana, or mental imprints or seeds. A Jina is beyond that of an Arhat in the next step towards becoming a Buddha because a Jina, (a conqueror or victorious one), has extinguished both mental and cognitive obscurations. The cognitive obscurations stand between an eighth stage Bodhisattva and a Buddha, so eliminating them is the final step. Alan says that in his various condemnations of materialism, misrepresentation of Buddhism, or of fundamentalism and dogmatism, it is important to take a clean shot and target the delusion of what is asserted, rather than target the person making the assertion, to ensure there is no collateral damage as people have Buddha nature and can change their view.

In this holy war, Alan says there is a tendency to first bring out the elite troops of vipashyana or other advanced practice methods (Zen, Vajrayana, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, etc.). However, this is bad strategy as the machine gunners of coarse conceptualisation just mow down these methods. In order to wipe out our obsessive, compulsive ideation it is necessary to cultivate shamatha as it is the military analogy of grunt troops using machine guns to wipe out the obsessive, compulsive ideation associated with mental affliction.

Panchen Rinpoche suggests the strategy of cutting the obsessive thoughts off as soon as they arise. For the meditation of this session, Alan offers an extremely useful insight coming from the Dzogchen tradition. We start with mindfulness of breathing, and then we invert awareness right in upon itself, which is like the mouth from which all thoughts, desires, etc. emerge. If we observe the manifest nature of the mental affliction of attachment-craving for example, we will find that we get entangled in the story - it has a referent (we are craving something). While if we observe its essential nature, the hypothesis is that we may find pleasure, enjoyment (bliss). When actual anger arises, if we observe its essential nature we may find that it is bright, sharp (it is luminosity). When delusion, confusion, dullness, ignorance, stupor, bewilderment come up, if we cut through it we may find non conceptuality. These are the three qualities of the substrate consciousness, and in doing this coarse cutting-through, we de-toxify the mental afflictions. Note that unlike our everyday modes of knowing which are always embedded in concepts, non-conceptuality has to be imbued with cognizance, otherwise we fall back to misapprehension and delusion.

The Dharma taught by the Buddha - the Conqueror of all obscurations – provides a strategy that begins with ethics and then continues with cultivating samadhi. Once the five obscurations have been calmed thanks to shamatha practice, then we bring in the troops aimed at eradicating the reification of oneself and of all phenomena, thus realizing the identitylessness of both self and phenomena (the wisdom practices). Finally, thanks to the Dzogchen practices of cutting-through and direct crossing-over we rest in rigpa until we become fully-enlightened Buddhas.

Meditation is silent and not recorded.

Please contribute to make these, and future podcasts freely available.

Download (MP3 / 17 MB)


This lecture does not have a text transcript. Please contact us if you’d like to volunteer to assist our transcription team.


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.