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 responded, and not based on what happened to us during the practice. An important point is that shamatha and vipashyana practices can be very dry, not sweet, not warm; so the more we can sweeten our practice with devotion, with four immeasurables the more balanced our practice will become. We have to bring the heart, the moisture, the warmth to our practice, anyway we can. It’s really important. The teachings from Karma Chagmé, Panchen Rinpoche and Padmasambhava on vipashyana that Alan is presenting are intended for people who have achieved shamatha. In Natural Liberation, when Padmasambhava taught shamatha without a sign, he said: do this until your mind has settled in its natural state. And if you’re introduced to rigpa prematurely, it may become an object of intellectual understanding and there is the danger of one may succumb to dogmatism. So, for people in full time retreat, what Alan suggests is continue to emphasize shamatha - keep on laying the foundation.The deeper the relaxation, the more sustainable will be the stability. Then we can start to cultivate vividness, for which there is no upper limit. The practice we’ve done this morning is not quite a vipashyana practice. We’re not asking questions about or analyzing what we are seeing. It is a practice of shamatha without a sign. Next week, we’ll study classic Gelugpa methods but rooted in Indian Buddhism on Panchen Rinpoche text where he cites Shantideva: if you don’t see the target you don’t know where to shoot the arrow. Based on this, when we’re looking for a negation in our vipashyana practice, we should identify what is it that doesn’t exist. Tsongkhapa says: identify that which is to be refuted. This morning we took a step in that direction following Padmasambhava; in Alan’s words: “as you’re inverting your awareness in upon your experience of being the agent, don’t tell me what you don’t see - the question is, what do you see?” Is there an agent? Sure there is an agent. What does come to mind? Then we can ask questions like - is that me? Is it an image of me? Is it a portrait of me?

The meditation is a pointing out instruction of Padmasambhava, from Natural Liberation. But before meditation, Alan affirms: we don’t postpone vipashyana because we haven’t fully achieved shamatha. He gives us a meaningful parallel. Many years ago, when Alan was first learning of bodhicitta, he was daunted by it - aspire to become a perfect enlightened Buddha for the sake of all sentient beings throughout time and space? Then Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, his beloved teacher, gently said: “you’re wrong! It’s never too soon to start developing bodhicitta. Don’t let your life slip by, you can die at any time.” In a very similar way, in Düdjom Lingpa strategy, we examine the origin, location and destination of the mind, even before we start shamatha - we already sow the seeds for vipashyana. So we’re sowing the seeds of vipashyana and bodhicitta from the beginning, and then we get back to the step by step work.

The practice is not going to be easy. But we should take vipashyana as hot chili, just enough to spice our shamatha practice up a little bit. After the practice, Alan comments on it, emphasizing that we have to be able to identify what we are seeing when we direct our attention to our mind and who is directing the attention to the mind. Who is training the mind? Is there one mind or there are two minds? Is there one mind that trains and another one who is trained? Why don’t we simply discard the trainee and keep the trainer? That would be the Buddha, right? Maybe there’s only one mind. But when you say ‘my mind is agitated’, are you agitated too? So, is the mind one or more than one? Which answer to this question makes you feel more uncomfortable? Where are we getting here? The mind is not existent and not really non-existent; the mind is not one nor many; it doesn’t really arise and it doesn’t really cease; and it doesn’t really come and it doesn’t really go - Padmasambhava is trying to bring us to an awareness of the mind that transcends the extremes of conceptual constructs, viewing the mind from the perspective of rigpa and seeing the mind as empty of all extremes. Then, Alan goes back to Padmasambhava’s later incarnation - Panchen Rinpoche - reading and commenting on the five ‘ways to meditate by cutting through a basis or root to the mind’ (The Main Path of the Victors page 8). Then he proceeds to the session ‘Presenting having extracted the essence of those instructions’, up to The King of Concentration Sutra excerpt.

Meditation starts at 29:40, extracted from Natural Liberation - Engaging in the Search for the Mind (p.116).

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