Commentary from Lama Alan on Drupla Lama Karma's Shamatha Teachings - Nov 18, 2020

B. Alan Wallace, 18 Nov 2020

On November 18th, 2020 Lama Alan offered five hours of oral commentary to Drubpön Lama Karma’s experiential account of his own practice of shamatha and subsequent contemplative training. This was Lama Alan’s first teaching at The Center for Contemplative Research at Miyo Samten Ling in Crestone, CO.

The basis for this talk was a carefully translated transcript (a copy will be provided) of the teachings on shamatha given by Drubpön Lama Karma in Santa Barbara October, 2019. For anyone interested in shamatha this will be a very meaningful teaching. There is also an interesting story behind the translation, which Lama Alan shares during his oral commentary.

The original teaching from Drubpön Lama Karma can be found here

Download (MP3 / 291 MB)


Commentary from Lama Alan on Drübpon Lama Karma’s Shamatha Teachings 2020 Nov 18th.

Begins with Verse of Refuge and Bodhichitta x3


In the Buddha, Dharma, and Supreme Community, I take refuge until my enlightenment. With the collections gathered through my cultivation of generosity and so on may I achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings.

The Seven Line-Prayer to Guru Rinpoche x3


Hūṃ In the northwest frontier of Oḍḍiyāna, in the heart of a lotus sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava, who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi, and is surrounded by a host of many dākiṇīs. Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice. Please come forth and bestow your blessings. Guru Pema siddhi hūṃ

[02:23] Olaso. That was the bell. I thought, ‘where’s my vajra?’ [laughter] Olaso. Well, normally in a situation like this I would have some real dharma talk prepared, you know? I would have an outline, and I would try to be very professional and, you know, give a real dharma talk. But I don’t know. I’m not going to do that this time, because somebody – we say in American English, ‘beat me to the punch’ – and that was this extraordinary yogi, Drübpon Lama Karma. At my request, he gave teachings on shamatha, ah which I’ve been hearing since 1972 I guess. Many many times, from multiple traditions. But something quite exceptional occurred as he gave his two hours of teachings, the likes of which I had never heard in all the last 50 years or so. Quite extraordinary.

[03:14] So I’d like to give just a little bit of context for this. It was last October. I think it was October 20th. I had heard about Lama Karma, that he was a very experienced Bhutanese yogi who’d spent years and years in retreat, and he’d spent a couple of years teaching at Tara Mandala at the invitation of Lama Tsultrim Allione. Um, and I’d heard something I very rarely hear, just through the grapevine, but a pretty good grapevine, not gossip, but pretty, pretty good grapevine. There are multiple, you know: there’s the Grade A grapevine, Grade B. This was a Grade A grapevine, that he had actually achieved shamatha. Not that he’d achieved, you know, become a vidyadhara, because we hear that, about that all the time. [laughter] This lama’s, you know, a buddha, and that one’s a buddha, and no this one’s Vajradhara, and this one’s Manjushri. And I’m, I’m not saying that with any kind of sarcasm, but it’s pretty common, you know. And I say that with reverence. But I also never, never quite know what to make of it. You know. Do we all take it, every single one literally?

[04:17] Whereas when it comes to shamatha, it’s either you have or you haven’t. You know, it’s pretty straightforward. And so in terms of my own – this’ll be very brief – but in terms of my own, now it’s pretty much 50 years of training in Buddhism, first, the first lama with the – well actually the very first one who, all he taught me for the whole year, I think he probably knew, he knew I was a very slow learner. But it was the first Tibetan lama I ever met, was in Germany at the university. And he was a rinpoche. Dzongtse Rinpoche. And he taught me Tibetan, colloquial and written. But he knew the only reason I wanted to study Tibetan was to learn dharma, and so he taught me dharma. Over the year, he taught me the Ten Non-Virtues. And that was it. So I think he wanted to make an impression there, that ethics is the foundation, and don’t you forget it! You know? And I haven’t forgotten.

[05:10] And so, began there, and then from there down to – this will not be a long story – but then, as kind of a launching pad for my one-way ticket to India, where I was planning to spend maybe 10 years or so, I went down at the, with the encouragement of Dzongtse Rinpoche to the monastery where he had been a monk. And I spent, spent a good deal of the summer there, the summer of 1971, and the lama under whose care I came was a wonderful, very incredibly gentle and sweet Sakya lama by the name of Sherab Gyaltsen. He was like a mother. He was really like a mother. That’s how I always remember him, just the sweetness, the tenderness. [Alan sighs heavily, clearly choked up] So he – I didn’t see that coming! [laughter] He just guided me like his child, you know? Then taught me the “Parting From the Four Desires” and so on, some absolutely core root texts from the Sakya tradition. And he taught me in Tibetan, because I’d been studying Tibetan for the last year. And then off I went on my one-way ticket to India, made a bee-line to Dharamshala, and then just a matter of a few weeks later then I began my formal training under Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, who taught us, first of all, lamrim.

[06:29] And everything I just found, just like I’ve come home, you know? Like, this is, this is where I live. This is where I’ve lived for a long time. But in the course of the lamrim, well through it, when he came to shamatha, that made a very deep impression on me. I’d never heard anything like that before. I come from a religious background, so I’ve, I’ve heard religious teachings, and I’d already been reading, reading a lot of books on Buddhism so nothing was terribly surprising as I was receiving the teaching on lamrim. It was wonderful; the orderliness, the sequence and all of that made terrific sense. But I don’t think I’d ever really encountered any teachings on shamatha. And so when he came to that portion of the lamrim, my ears really perked up like, ‘I didn’t see this coming’. And I listened with enormous interest, and I was hearing something the likes of which I’d never heard in all of my background as a western civilized person, through all the education in Germany, I was educated in Switzerland, educated in America, and so on. And I’d never heard about any practical teaching for training of attention, mindfulness, introspection, samadhi. And it just struck me as he was teaching: this is the key. We have brilliant philosophers for centuries, millenia! We’ve had brilliant philosophers in the west: Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, and on through. I mean, people mind-boggling intelligent. You know? Incredible insights. But no training in shamatha.

[07:59] And then the, the wealth, the breadth, the depth, the majesty of modern science rising up over the last 400 years. It’s utterly awe-inspiring how much they’ve learned in these mere 4 centuries, isn’t it? And so that, but then there’s no training in shamatha. And then religion. We have magnificent religions from the Abrahamic, from the, from the Near East, of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each one is a treasure trove, treasure trove of insights. Each one producing great saints, great sages. Myriad discoveries. I had no doubt about that. But in all the education I’d had – which was very limited, I was only 20, 21 years old – I’d never heard of any teaching on shamatha. And it struck me as I was receiving these teachings of them, very laid-out, very systematic, very scientific – because that’s where my background had been from my first two years of university. I was going to be an environmentalist, a biologist, wildlife biologist and so on. So I knew science. I knew science. I knew what scientific reasoning looked like: experimentation, observation. I was introduced to that. Studied it extensively in high school. I was already planning to be a scientist.

[09:02] And I listened to the teachings on shamatha, I thought, ‘well, this is, this is like how to build a laser!’ You know, I can’t say that those thoughts actually went through my mind at that time, but certainly something akin to that. This is like building a telescope. This is building an instrument of observation by which you can make very rigorous, penetrating, sophisticated, and replicable observations. That was all clear. It’s not, it’s not difficult to see here, right? And that this was the technology, because it immediately preceded – I’m using my terminology now, I didn’t have this terminology when I was 21 – but immediately preceding the teachings on vipashyana. And boy, if there’s anything such as contemplative science in Buddhism, don’t look elsewhere than vipashyana. That’s it. That’s the method. Those are the observations. Those are the experimentations. And that’s where you find the insights, the discoveries. But unlike all the discoveries in modern science that I knew of, these are discoveries that you make by way of vipashyana that radically and potentially irreversibly transform the person who’s gaining the realizations. That’s not true for any of the sciences. And that’s not deprecation. It’s just like saying, ‘The sun rises in the east.’ That’s just, that’s just true.

[10:10] And I didn’t come to, I didn’t drop everything and, and leave behind all sources of security and so forth – or imagined security – with my one-way ticket to India, without having enough money for a return ticket, I didn’t do that just to acquire more information. You know, that’s what libraries are for. We had no internet back then. You remember? Way back when? But we certainly had good libraries, and if all I [had] wanted [was] information then I would’ve gone off and get a, gotten a BA in, in religious studies, and a PhD and maybe even got a, become, you know, something I, I failed to do: become a professor! [laughs]

[10:44] And so, he really caught me. And when he was pretty well through the teachings – this is Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey – when he was pretty well through the teachings, we kind of had the taste of it, had the hang of it. We knew, we know what it’s about. We’d been hearing and thinking, so ok. You know the ropes. He said, and then he was sitting up there in his very simple dharma throne, and [pauses] this man was solid. He’s a kampa. And he’s chunky, and he’s strong, and when he sits down, you figure he, he just put his roots into the ground. You remember? And so he sat down, and he said, and he turned to us, there were all eight of us in this class, a one year class. Eight of us. And I was the only one that came from abroad for that class. The other ones were all local yokels. They had already come to Dharamshala, and this was the first time they had opportunity to receive systematic teaching. They were just getting a little teaching here, a little teaching there. But it was very hard, because there was hardly anybody who could interpret. So this was the first time. And we had a first-rate interpreter. Let me silence my phone here. We had a first-rate, the best interpreter I think that could be found was Sharpa Rinpoche. And he was outstanding. Really, really good. I think he was the best in the world at that time. And so he was our superb translator. Could not have asked for better.

[12:01] And so then, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, with Sharpa Rinpoche translating, then he said, ‘Ok, now let’s practice a little bit.’ So, BOOM. The lion has landed. And he sat there, and then his eyes went down, and you know, monkey see, monkey do. We all sat there, all eight of us. And we were following the instructions he gave. And after about 15 minutes went by, I was thinking, ‘Ok that’s good! Good! I got it. That’s, that’s nice. Good! Good. I’m getting a little bit uncomfortable here, but that’s good.’ And I’m not saying that, you know. I’m thinking, ‘that’s good. That’ll do.’ And then another half an hour, another 15 minutes went by and I: ‘that’ll definitely do.’ [laughter] And another half hour went by. I said, ‘this is, this is not fun.’ [laughter] And another went, another hour went by, and I’m thinking, ‘wow this is torture.’ And another hour went by. He sat down there like a stone Buddha for three hours, and he did not budge. And I’m just going, internally I’m just screaming my head off: ‘My back hurts! No, my knees hurt! No, my hips hurt. No, my back hurts. No, the back hurts more. No, the knees hurt more.’ And I’m like, wow this is agony. I don’t know what the other ones were like. I was just kind of swimming in a field of my own little misery here.

[13:27] And then after three hours, he opened his eyes very gently, and he said, ‘Shamatha’s not easy.’ So that was my introduction. You can imagine that would make an impression. You know? That he didn’t give us good, simply good textbook instruction that was spot-on, but he sat down there and boy, this man. You can’t fake that. You all know that. You can’t fake that. You can’t sit down, you know, in a proper posture and maintain that for three hours unwaveringly. You can’t, you can fake a lot of things. You can fake a lot of things. I don’t need to give you a list of all the things we can fake. You know, put on a good show. Talk the good talk. But you can’t fake that one. And I thought, ‘oh he’s not only an outstanding teacher,’ which he was. He was, of all the geshes that were teaching at that time, and there must have been hundreds, of all of them, he was the one His Holiness chose to teach these for-, foreigners who were coming here. Actually they were already there. But you know! I came. But he was the one that he, he was the one he chose. And he taught there for years and years. And he was there for a good reason. He was an extraordinary teacher. And whenever I th – [Alan sighs deeply, clearly choked up] – whenever I think of him I just think of his joy in dharma. You remember? Every time. Every time. He would just teach out of joy. Out of joy. Out of joy. His love for his students. And his love for dharma. There was nothing about him, I think there was not anything about him that was not just saturated by dharma. So I’m just rambling on and on.

[15:10] But that was my first introduction. In the meantime as we met six days a week, Monday through Saturday, down to the library and received teachings, then I also, during that same period, cultivated a relationship with a yogi up on the hill. There were a number of yogis up on the hill, but there was only one, for all the months or years before I came in ‘71, there was only one lama in all of Dharamsala who was giving teachings to westerners. Because he was, number one, he was a superb scholar, absolutely world, you know, number one scholar. But when he finished his geshe degree and could’ve become an abbot pretty much anywhere he wanted I think, he was so outstanding and a brilliant teacher as well, but he decided now he wanted to pay [Alan, again, clearly choked up] – do you want to just see me cry all day? [laughter] Um, he wanted to repay the kindness of his lamas, and he thought the best way would be just to go single-pointedly into, into practice, do nothing but practice. Go into retreat. So he found, literally, a cow-shed. It was a cow-shed up in the hills above Dharamshala, Mcleod Ganj. And he went into retreat there for years and years.

[16:21] But he had a disciple, Gongzar Tulku, who knew some English. Wasn’t fluent, but he knew more than anybody else. You know? And so then periodically before I came, an individual here, individual there would go up and they would get, they would get Gongzar Tulku Rinpoche to translate for them. But it was not long after I arrived that one of the western students asked Geshe Rabten if he would please teach them, um it was Gampopa’s teachings on the preliminary practices. Would he please teach this. He didn’t ask him for Gelugpa teachings, and Geshe Rabten, his name of course, was an outstanding Gelugpa teach-, uh geshe. But he asked him, no, for Kagyupa, Kagyupa ngondro teachings. And he did. And then Gongzar Rinpoche translated for him in his broken English, but he got the message across. You know, you don’t have to have utterly polished, fluent, fluent English. And so those were the first teachings I received from the yogi up on the hill. So one more in a little bit, tiny bit academic setting, but it wasn’t really it was just pure dharma. And the other one, the yogi on the hill.

[17:23] So then, over those coming months and years then, I continued receiving teachings from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Geshe Rabten up on the hill, and so – and this story’s going a but longer than I anticipated, but then fast forward. After four years there, studying extensively, so just leaving that, at the, with the encouragement of His Holiness going back to Dhar – to Switzerland, where I had studied four years earlier, training under Geshe Rabten, and uh – actually going back just a tiny bit! During that time in Dharamshala, then I went to Geshe Rabten and asked whether he would tell me his life story, because by, this is 1972 and none of us knew what the word ‘geshe’ means. It’s not ‘geisha,’ in case you’re, it’s not ‘geisha.’ That’s Japanese. [laughter] This is ‘geshe’, you know? So spiritual friend, enkalianamittra. But no, it’s a title and we knew it was a title but we didn’t really know what it stood for, what it meant. This is 1972. Nobody’d done anything, and there was hardly anybody that was bilingual. So in order to learn what a geshe, geshe means, what, you know, what that entails, then I asked him for his autobiography, whether I could write his, whether he would tell me his autobiography with an, a special emphasis on his training. And he did. And it was just utterly awe-inspiring.

[18:34] And as, as I listened to his, his whole life story, and then his 24 years of rigorous training the likes of which I’d never heard, heard anything like it before, and then the grand culmination and then his going into retreat. I wrote all of that down. And then years later, so 1975 when I went back to Switzerland to serve as his interpreter, continue as his student at the request of His Holiness, then we turned this into a book. And then Geshe Rabten told me, ‘Well I gave you my life story,’ and it was in a question and answer format, he said ‘but I’d like you to add some other things in addition, some basic teachings like vajrasattva meditation and shamatha.’ And shamatha. And he said, ‘Alan, you write it. You’ve already, you know that stuff, so I’m not going to give you another teaching on it. You’ve had it, so you write it. In fact, you write all of that stuff.’ So all of the teachings of Geshe Rabten, they were teachings of Geshe Rabten, but he didn’t write them. He told me to do it. So I did. And it, it was published back in 1980. But again it was, it was shamatha. Big emphasis on shamatha. Of all the topics he could have added for the life and teaching of Geshe Rabten, shamatha figured very prominently.

[19:41] So then just fast forwarding. You all know, of course, that I emphasize shamatha a lot, but it’s not, it’s not my personality trait, or it’s not a quirk or simply something I like, like I like dark chocolate over milk chocolate – and don’t tell anybody! [laughter] It was just the way I was brought up! You know, and it came up again, and again, and again. And years later on genda-, Gen, Gen Lamrimpa, well I did organize a shamatha retreat, but he taught shamatha, oh with such depth and clarity. And then from 1990, then receiving teachings from, from Gyatrul Rinpoche, my primary Dzogchen lama, and again and again everything he taught, it always started with shamatha. Shamatha and the path. Shamatha and the path. Not shamatha ever for the sake of itself. You know, bliss out, have bliss, luminosity, and non-conceptuality; you’ll really love it. It was never that way. It was always to the path. It’s a step to the path. And so that’s just what’s been going on for all the teachings I received through the mid-’90s, early and mid-’90s.

[20:41] And then afterwards, I lived with, with ga-, Gyatrul Rinpoche for a couple of years. And again, always coming back to this. Um, and it didn’t stop there. With, years later, Yangthang Rinpoche giving us his pith instructions. Shamatha. It was just, every single time from all the teachings I received from the, from the Gelug, the Sakya, the Kagyu and the Nyingma. And then Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, my teacher in Sri Lanka, Theravada master, extraordinary once again. Scholar, meditator, teacher. Um, shamatha again. So that’s just the way I’ve been trained. And if I should teach something else, then you know one of my lama’s would say, ‘Um, didn’t you get what we were telling you for the last 50 years?’ You know. Because that’s what I’ve been given.

[21:27] But the last time I saw His Holiness in person, one on one, we talked about various things, and lo and behold shamatha came up. And he said, ‘nowadays hardly anybody achieves shamatha.’ And when he encouraged me to come back in 1980, after 10 years of pretty solid training, mostly in, well in both in India and Switzerland, about half and half, then I, all I wanted to do was meditate. And so in 1980 he said, ‘well you want to meditate? If you like then come back here and I’ll teach you.’ So he taught me shamatha. And back then I asked him – I didn’t ask him of course, I’d not be so brazen as to ask him, you know, ‘what’s your realization?’, I’m not that foolish – but I did ask him, ‘do you know anybody who has achieved it?’ And he said, ‘yes, yes I do. Yes I do. There’s a Gelugpa geshe, his name is Geshe Nyima. He’s down at Gamden. And he’s achieved it. Definitely. He’s achieved it.’ And he told me a little bit more, and I said well ok, it’s still possible. Still possible.

[22:28] So that’s just the history I bring to this. Um, because shamatha, if you just isolated shamatha from every, everything else, I don’t know that I’d be very interested. Because it’s something you can achieve and you can lose it, and it doesn’t bring about any irreversible transformation at all. So I don’t think I’d be all that interested. I’d probably be more interested in simply focusing on bodhicitta, or the Four Immeasurables and so on. But when I saw it time and again from multiple perspectives, multiple traditions, the emphasis on Path, and Path means irreversible transformation, liberation. That in this and all future lifetimes you’ll never be parted from dharma. You’ll always be continuing your spiritual journey, and you’ll never be left on your own. You’ll never have a lifetime with no dharma, because you’re a bodhisattva. You know? And I thought, ‘well what could be more important than that?’ It’s not that important to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. If you don’t, I mean, you know, who would notice? But if you could achieve the path. And Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey again – and going way back now to, I don’t know whether it was the first time I trained it down to him or the second time, when I went back and received further teachings from him when I went back in 1980-81, I was in Dharamsala mostly – but in one of those times, either the early ‘70s or the very early ‘80s, he emphasized path. And he said, ‘Champa Gyaltsan,’ I was a monk at the time, ‘if you don’t reach the Path in this lifetime,’ because I was young you know, ‘if you don’t reach the Path in this lifetime, then you can really ask yourself “well, what have you been doing? What was more important than that?”

[24:04] So that got to me. This is a conversation, what, 47 years ago or something like that? So if you remember a conversation that many years ago, you can say it must have made a real, a real impact or imprint. So that then we fast forward to years and years of translating texts, writing texts, receiving teachings, giving teachings, and again it always come back to it again and again and again. And so when His Holiness, in my last meeting with him, said nowadays very few people – pache yomaday – almost no one achieves shamatha, then I really thought boy. And then if you don’t have that then, then if almost nobody’s achieving shamatha then almost nobody’s reaching the path. And how can that be? How can that be? And so it just once again poured fuel on the fire of my own passion, my own enthusiasm to go as far along, you know, to, to reaching the Path, progressing along the Path and, since I have been trained after all in the bodhisattva way of life not just to turn my back on everyone else and try to do it just for myself. That was really not an option.

[25:17] And so when I heard then – now we come, come to the teachings here – when I heard that this Bhutanese lama who, I say with glee and joy, is not very old and in very good health, and I’d heard that he’d achieved shamatha, then I thought well I’d really like to meet him. I’d really like to meet him. Because I’m, I have certainly met other lamas, no doubt, I have no doubt. Gen Jhampa Wangdü, for example. He spent about 35 years in retreat. Lama Zöpa Rinpoche said he’d achieved shamatha, and I knew him and he was, he was, he was radiant. Gelugpa geshe. But boy, what a hard core meditator. Wow. He was. I could go on and on just about him. Yangthang Rinpoche, nobody in his right mind could doubt that – shamatha? This man is working up, you know, he’s way up there. Shamatha? Of course. Of course. He only slept an hour and a half a night. Woke up at 1:30 in the morning and just meditate. You know? Oh I remember. It was, yeah he would, he would be sitting up all night and then his night, his sleep was…[you may watch the video of this lecture, it’s free, go to the link: ] He’d be sitting up all night. So people guessed that maybe he was getting a whole hour and a half of sleep per night.

[26:37] So that’s just the way I’ve been trained. So nobody should think, I, I hope, I don’t think anybody, I think you all know me well enough, or at least most of you do, that this is, this emphasis on shamatha is, is not my schtick. You know people say, oh I’ve written and I talk and talk and talk, as if this is Alan’s thing. But it’s just not. It’s just, that’s what I’ve received from my teachers. And these are magnificent teachers of all the traditions. And so, so we, so I invited him and happily, um Sangay Wangmo who is our administrative backbone and executive director for Santa Barbara Institute for years now, she knew Lama Karma from the time she was a child. Her mother, grandmother were patrons of his, or matrons of his. They sponsored him. And so he would come when he was a wild and wooly yogi with his hair, hair all in dreadlocks, this wildman from the caves, he would come to their home on occasion. And Sangay, a little girl then [laughter]. And they hosted a number of great – her mother and grandmother were very, very deeply religious. Deep, deep devotees of dharma. So Sangay Wangmo was raised in this. So she knew him personally, you know, from the time she was a child.

[27:46] So the invitation was extended. I asked him, ‘would you, would you please come to Santa Barbara?’ And I had no idea whether I could understand his dialect. I mean, he speaks very good Tibetan, but also Bhutanese a little bit woven in. So I wanted to make sure that, if he agreed and he came, that we’d have somebody who could interpret for him, who would, who’d understand every word. And I did not have the confidence that, that I, that I had the ability, and in fact I didn’t, and I don’t. Um. And so a wonderful khenpo, a very, very knowledgeable, extremely bright khenpo by the name of Khenpo Namchak, Namchak Dorji, he, he has known Lama, Lama Karma for years. So he very graciously agreed to come and serve as the interpreter, and Lama Karma came. He spent about 10 days in, in Santa Barbara. But just two days of teaching, gave an Amitayus empowerment and then gave some preliminary teachings. And then on the second day – it was a Sunday – then he devoted the morning to responding to my request: ‘would you please give teachings on shamatha and vipashyana?’ And he did. He did.

[28:48] So I don’t recall, but I since I had heard that he achieved it, I don’t recall the actual words that I expressed to him in my, had to be a written invitation, but he knew that I was hoping that he would draw from his experience a bit, you know? And so he did. And I think that’s enough of a prelude. I’ve taken up enough of your time. But we have a lot of material here. And I’ll tell you just a little bit about the, the document in front of me, and you’ll all have it soon if you don’t have it already. And that is, Khenpo Namchak gave a very lively, I would say vivacious, enthusiastic, a very personal translation of Lama Karma’s teachings for that whole time. And I was listening closely, but not following everything. And, and Khenpo Namchak clarified, or translated things, a number of things I just didn’t hear, I didn’t understand. Um. But I could tell that, that Lama Karma was giving really high, high density teachings. Like he’s writing a, a textbook for, for grad, post-graduate seminar. It was really high density, and really professional. This was not a general, introductory, ‘howdy y’all I’m going to talk about shamatha a little bit, it’s really cool!’ No this was like BOOM. Supersonic. And I had a sense, probably not everything he said got through the translation. Because it was hard! If I’d been translating, I couldn’t have gotten it, even if I’d understood everything he said. It was really high density, compact disc, like put it in a zipdrive.

[30:20] And so, about a year, well months later, this was October last year – I guess it was about a month ago or so – I had a fair amount of leisure at home and I thought, ‘I think I’d like to go through, just listen every line and pause, and pause, and pause and do a written translation. Because I think there’s probably more there than got across in the oral translation.’ And that almost always is true. So I meticulously, I took hours and hours and hours, I don’t know how many, but many, many hours on my laptop just play and then pause and then back, and then play and then pause and back and, and, and finally after many, many hours finished about a ten page transcript. And I said, ‘well there are, there are gaps here that I don’t understand, but I think this got a lot of information through.’ Because I was listening to Khenpo Namchak and Lama Karma, so I had been there for both. So I wrote it all down. But there were gaps, there were emptinesses, and there were some, sometimes 30 seconds would go by and I just didn’t know what he said, and I didn’t hear it in the translation either.

[31:21] And so then, um, you know that Yangchen has been editing my works for, for a number of years now, doing a superb job, and she’s better at it than I am. And she also had better technology. I have to say, you know, she’s better than me, but she has better technology and that’s how come! [laughter] Because she had a recorder where she could slow it down to 80%. Because he would speak quickly. So she did a better job than me, but it’s only because she had better technology [laughter]. She’s not really better than me [laughter]. No she did a very good job, and she went through it meticulously, because that’s what she always does. And she went through it, and there, still there were areas that neither one were so clear about. And then I thought, ‘well, just humbly request Lama, Lama Namchak, Khenpo Namchak!’ Here we have a transcript, and, and Yangchen or Eva then put in a lot of comments on the side with Tibetan, we think, um, we think we hear, she, I think I hear this, and she would write out the Tibetan.

[32:14] And so I sent it both to him, Khenpo Namchak, who was the translator at the time; but Khenpo Sonam, who you know translated more recently for him, also Bhutanese. And so I sent it to both of them, because I didn’t know whether either of them would respond, because they’re both very busy. And lo and behold they both did. They both did, so graciously and so generously. And so Khenpo Sonam sent, sent very rapidly, sent in his comments, how we can polish it. And the Khenpo Namchak, my goodness! The amount of time he put into it. He would take whole paragraphs and write them all out in Tibetan. Transcribing in Tibetan what Lama Karma had said. And so that was really above and beyond. There was no duty, it was above and beyond anything. I was just blown away. And I knew that we had scheduled for me to give a talk on this today, but I just felt it would be rude. And it would’ve been rude. I’m asking these two outstanding khenpos who have, you know a full docket. Khenpo Namchak was in, in a retreat doing four sessions a day! And so I, I, I, I try not to be rude, and I felt it would just be rude to say, ‘By the way if you could possibly get it done before Wednesday, I’d really appreciate it.’ [laughter] That’s just too much! You know, you don’t, when you ask people a favor you don’t, ‘Oh by the way the way I want it tomorrow!’ If you’re paying somebody, then you say, ‘make it snappy!’ But no.

[33:23] Lo and behold they both got it into us, was it yesterday? Day before? [audience member: ‘Monday night and Tuesday morning’] Monday night. Without my asking anything, I think just blessings of Guru Rinpoche, because they, they did everything. And then I just turned everything over to her! [laughs] Because it was one heck of a lot more time. And so I had a delightful afternoon yesterday, I met for the first time Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Never met him. And so I, he, one of his assistants or students came down to fetch me here because the road there is pretty, pretty gnarly and – Susie – and she showed me around their beautiful temple there, gorgeous. And then I came in and met Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche after the kata, sat down and it was just this extravaganza of a 3hr conversation where we’re just going back and forth, back and forth: quantum mechanics, Aristotle, Dzogchen, oh Sautrantika versus Prasangika and we were just, we were just dancing! It was like a dervish dancing. I don’t even know what that means. [laughter] But it was, it was a dance and it was holy. It was just so, just scintillating conversation. It really was. And then towards the end – marvelous lama. And so knowledgeable. And so in tune with the west. Of course he’s thoroughly trained in his own tradition, that goes without saying.

[34:49] But he and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, there are not a whole lot of others who are so utterly fluent in English. And they don’t just have the lingo, they really are in tune with the culture, and they’re listening, and they’re listening. And towards the end of our conversation – 3 hours had gone by, it had gotten dark and so forth – and I’m thinking, ‘she’s going to have finished her editing, and I need to review the editing, I need to meditate on it – and so finally I pulled myself away at about 6:30, and but before, during the last 15 minutes or so, then Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche said, ‘what do you think about pointing-out instructions?’ Rigpa morteba. Just out of the blue. ‘What do you think about that?’ If a lama asks me a question, I’m going to answer. You know? And if it’s controversial, it’s controversial. But I said, ‘well, if people come marvelously prepared, you know for years and years of training, and then they come into the presence of a great being, like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who is the root lama of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, they come into a great being, a master who has realization and gives you something akin to a mind-to-mind transla – transmission, of pointing-out instructions, and they actually do identify rigpa, it’s possible they may be able to sustain that realization, but by and large, my experience is, and it’s just you know listening to other people, is that people may, may and not necessarily, but they may have a very meaningful experience, some glimpse, some taste of rigpa. But then the obscurations just come clouding over again, and then they have a really good memory. It may be a marvelous memory; it may be even the best memory of their lives, but they are not able to sustain it.’

[36:28] And then I went into my little thing, you know about sustainability and energy and economy and so forth, and I said, ‘if we don’t do that, then human civilization is doomed.’ And that is true. But I said, for everything else, if you, if you’ve just ta-, had a taste of rigpa but you don’t have some realization of emptiness, you won’t be able to sustain that awareness of rigpa. If you don’t have shamatha you won’t be able to sustain vipashyana. And likewise for bodhicitta, if you want uncontrived, spontaneous bodhicitta, you won’t be able to sustain that either if your mind is still under the domination of the Five Obscurations. Your mind is not workable. It’s not serviceable. It’s not fit for duty. That’s what the classic teachings say. So I was just going into this, and he said, ‘well my conclusion is that what’s most important’ – now he’s been teaching for years and years, he’s 56 years old, so long, a lot of experience teaching Westerners, has many students – he said, ‘my conclusion is, we should be really focusing on shamatha and vipashyana and the union of the two. And within shamatha, mindfulness of breathing, very good, but it doesn’t really nurture the heart so much. Or at least not always. And therefore I think instead of just teaching mindfulness of breathing, also teach Four Immeasurables.’ [laughter] That’s familiar!

[37:49] And I mentioned, ‘Oh yeah 13 years ago, we had something called “The Shamatha Project”! And uh, I had people practicing, I was teaching them, guiding them in two 3-month retreats, and we did shamatha and the Four Immeasurables.’ And so it was just, it was just delightful to see that on very independent trajectories – you know, I’d never met him, he knew of me, I knew of him, and that was it – we come to the same point. It keeps coming back to this: we need to lay a foundation here. Whether you’re following Theravada, or Chan, or Zen, or Nyingma, or Gelug: making your mind serviceable and uniting that with the wisdom that cuts through mental afflictions. And we commented, oh we talked about so many topics, all of them fascinating, and all of them woven into a kind of a tapestry of just an utterly delightful dialogue. That we went back to the time of the Buddha himself, the great samadhi tradition that was already there in place before Gautama came along. And then Gautama’s great innovation, perhaps his most important innovation in the contemplative culture of India was to take that was, that which was already there – the shamatha, samadhi – and unite that with vipashyana, and the union of shamatha/vipashyana. They had mundane vipashyana to explore the form realm and formless realms, but they did not have the vipashyana of realizing identitylessness. And so the union of those two: that was, that was the great revolution in contemplative culture of India at that time. And it’s flavored every school of Buddhism that’s flown, that’s grown out of that root.

[39:25] So I think maybe that’s enough, but that’s context and I think it’s not, it’s not irrelevant. Um, and then we turn to his teachings. And I can say now with deep gratitude to Lama Karma himself for being so utterly transparent, open, forthcoming, and just providing such insight and practical guidance. Above all to him. And then secondly to Khenpo Namchak, giving this very lively translation, which was very helpful. But then coming through, I mean just in spades, just, he couldn’t have done more to make this just an impeccable translation. And Khenpo Sonam, who is also Bhutanese, knows the language inside and out, he also adding his grace notes. And so then polishing. And then Eva’s an outstanding interpreter, I think, well, editor, and writer, scholar. She, she just does wonderful work. And so then I actually played a very small role in this. It’s really the work of mostly of other people. So I’m passing on the work of three other people. And then the years and years and years of retreat, of realization and experience of Lama Karma. So I’m rather a small player here. I’m a small player here. I’m a replaceable part. Because anybody could’ve asked Lama Karma to do that, and a lot of people could’ve transcribed. So I’m a replaceable part. But Lama Karma’s not replaceable, and Khenpo Sonam, and Khenpo Namchak, not really replaceable. And in terms of an editor: she’s the man, [laughter] or whatever. So here’s the translator’s introduction.

[41:00] [So] “in the following account – [this was teachings given, given on shamatha on October 20th, 2019, and here’s just a very brief, one-paragraph introduction] – in the following account, Drübpon Lama Karma describes his practice of shamatha under the guidance of his spiritual mentor, Lama Neljorpa Sönam Druktop. His formal shamatha practice in solitary retreat took just six months.’ [And he finished it. Six months.] ‘But it was preceded by 20 years of study and practice in Tibetan Buddhism, sutrayana and vajrayana. Extensively. Beginning at the age of 8. [So he went into shamatha retreat when he was 28.] As he explains here, this 6 month retreat was later followed by 5 years of integration of his meditative equipoise into a more active way of life, in serving as scribe to the treasure-revealer, the tertön Pegyal Lingpa, who in his previous incarnation was one of the 25 disciples of Padmasambhava. [Extraordinary, really extraordinary tertön – and Khenpo Namchak has done extensive work in this lineage – as of course is the lama who is currently the root lama of Lama Karma, and that is Tulku Sanak, Tulku Sanak Rinpoche [complete name: Gochen Tulku Sanak(or Sang ngag) Rimpoche]. So he’s really like the crown jewel in that mandala there. So Khenpo Namchak is his disciple, Lama Karma is his disciple. I have yet to meet him, but by all accounts, really quite an extraordinary lama.]

[42:24] [And so Lama Karma spent that time serving as the scribe, as Pegyal, Pegyal, Pegyal Lingpa was basically downloading, downloading his treasures. And somebody has to write it down, because he’s just in his flow. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. But then for 5 years, at the behest of Lama Neljorpa, then Lama Karma served as his scribe. But] “during those 5 years, Lama Karma spent that time in constant practice of mindfulness, but not in strict, close retreat. [And so what his lama told him is, after he achieved shamatha, is ‘now I want you to go for full integration. I want you to practice now, so that 24 hours a day, and while you’re not just sitting practicing meditation, but when you’re socially engaged, you’re doing something, you’re working as a scribe.’ And very deliberately – he didn’t have to give him a scribe job. Somebody else could have done it. But he wanted him to do something, and learn how to thoroughly integrate that level of mindfulness that he had achieved through shamatha, and integrate that homogeneously, 24 hours a day. Every moment of the day, he would never waver in his mindfulness. Not for an instant. And then not only during the day, as we’ll see, but actually remain lucid all night long, all day long, all night long, all day long. And practice until you achieve that.]

[43:47] [So that was his task. I’ve never heard of that before. Never in my life have I heard of that before.] “So Lama Karma commented at the time that he was sad not to be in formal retreat. [He achieved shamatha! Like, you know, what else would I want to do? I just want to, you know, continue in retreat. Carry on. And Lama said, ‘Nope!’ Come out! Come out, come out, wherever you are, and integrate into a more quasi-socially active way of life. So he said he was sad not to be in formal retreat, but Lama Neljorpa replied that it was indeed retreat since he was not engaged in mundane activities. So I think for those of you who are going into retreat here, and this is being recorded so this word will go out to something like 30 or 35 of my students around the world who are right now already in full-time retreat or will soon be, with the same motivation, same aspirations as you here. It’s about 30, 35. And so we’re all now a virtual sangha. You know? And so this will all go out to them. Um. But as you’ll, many of you will have heard me say many times, ‘What does it mean to be in retreat?’ It means you’re living in a situation where you have nothing else to do besides practice dharma. And you are not doing anything other than practice dharma, all day long. So that’s not a matter of how many hours are you formally sitting on the cushion. It’s are you doing anything else? Dilly-dallying around in mundane activities, checking the stock market, surfing the internet, whatever. Are you kind of doing a bit of dharma and then a bit off the cushion? Are you kind of in and out, in and out?]

[45:18] Or are you just in, like a stream-enterer into dharma? And if you are just finding whatever comes up, you know enough dharma, you have a rich enough bouquet of the flowers of dharma, that do you know how to apply each one, different practices for whatever is coming up, and never is there an instant in which you say, ‘oh, well I don’t have any idea how I’d practice dharma now!’ Never. Never. So we know people like Lama Garchen Rinpoche, who spent 20 years in a concentration camp, a labor camp, under the guidance of a Dzogchen master who was the Dzogchen master for that labor camp, Khenpo Munsel. And they had nothing else to do except practice dharma, and whatever manual labor they were required to do. It was a labor camp. And so Khenpo Mintzel. And they had a number of spec-, disciples that turned out to be spectacular masters, including Garchen Rinpoche. Great holy men. That, they had nothing else to do. So they were in retreat. Garchen Rinpoche was in retreat in a concentration camp for 20 years. And I’ve met other lamas. Yangthang Rinpoche. Same thing. 18 years or so. It was a retreat. So none of us really have any excuse for not being in full-time practice all the time, unless we’re just not interested enough.

[46:37] But to my mind, if that’s what you’re doing, then you are in retreat. So I’m simply echoing the words of this great master, that if you’re not doing anything else, then that’s what being in retreat is. Because the retreat is you’ve withdrawn from all mundane activities. You’ve created a tzam, a border, a, you know, a fence around your activities so that you never leave, you never jump the fence and enter into non-dharmic dilly-dallying, killing time. Wasting time. You don’t do that. You stay within the fence of your dharma practice, which may include the 7-point mind training, lamrim, vajrasattva, stage of generation practice, shamatha, vipashyana and so on. But you just never, in other words you’re following Dromtönpa’s pith instruction: give up all attachment to this life, let your mind become dharma. Then you’re in a retreat.

[47:23] So his, his teacher said, ‘you are in retreat because you’re not engaged in the mundane activities.’ That was five years. “And that period was followed by about 13 more years devoted to retreats in the wilds of Eastern Bhutan, meditating in charnel grounds, in caves, in meditation huts, and so forth.” 13 years straight. So then we turn to Drübpon Lama Karma. So he states now – and I would just want to emphasize, I’m very, so very, very confident now that what I’m reading with you, no one’s ever heard before. No one’s ever heard before. I mean Lama Karma, Khenpo, Khenpo Namchank, Khenpo Sonam, and then Eva and I – we’ve all read this. But nobody heard this who teaching, who was listening to his teachings. Because this maybe has maybe 50% more. Maybe 50% percent more content. Um, due to nobody’s fault. It’s just so high-density. And sometimes he’d speak for 5 minutes at a time. Well, unless you have an eidetic memory, you’re not going to get it all through.

[48:27] So he begins, but I think you can say the person speaking now is Lama Karma, because I’m just insignificant. Anybody can read! Anybody want to read? You can sit right here! Anybody can read this. But you’re hearing his words in a very, very careful English translation. Ok? You can have that confidence. I wouldn’t have it if it was just me, or even Eva and me. But with the two khenpos involved, then it doesn’t get any better. Now we’re following the olden tradition: the lotsawas and the panditas. Two and two. That’s the best. That’s as good as it gets. So now, with that 45 minutes preamble, [laughter] are you ready? Are you ready? Okey dokey! I want to, I want to see enthusiasm here. Because this is so rare. I mean, this is not rare. This is unprecedented. 50 years I’ve been listening, I’ve never heard anything like this. And so now you’ll hear it for the first time.

[49:19] “I was asked to give an account of the stages of my practice when I was in retreat. In general, I don’t like talking about my experiences. Not even my dreams. And my lamas would not be pleased. They say that someone who does that is a jaded practitioner who spills from the mouth, whose mind is incorrigible and untamed by the dharma. There’s no custom to talk about these things publicly. But Lama Alan [laughter] asked me to talk about what I requested of my lama when I was practicing shamatha, and what kinds of certainties arose through my practice, including the conjoined practices of shamatha and vipashyana.”

[50:04] So he’s blaming me! Now, let’s just keep it real here. He’s a great lama. He’s renowned in Bhutan, one of the, the, the Drübpon. One of the very, very accomplished. The elite among the elite, in a country that’s thoroughly Buddhist, or massively Buddhist. And so he has great authority, and he trained under one of the greatest yogis, and served as scribe for one of the greatest tertön in all of, in all of Bhutan. So he speaks with a magisterial authority. And let’s just keep it real: I have none. I didn’t even, I didn’t even get to become an assistant professor. And I’m not a khenpo, not a geshe, or anything else, so. So if I ask a lama to do something, and the lama feels the request is inappropriate, you know what he’s going to say: ‘who do you think you are?’ Or ‘No! Why are you asking that! Do you have no manners?’ You know he’d have no problem – I just want to emphasize – he would have no problem, if he felt this was inappropriate response for the reasons he just gave, it’s, what’s easier to say than ‘no’? I find it easier to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’. [laughter] ‘No’ is so easy! And he could’ve said no. But he didn’t. And I’m sure it had nothing to do with me. But he has a very broad vision. And he knows, in this time, he knows as well as anybody else, it’s very rare for anybody to have prepared himself for the achievement, achievement of shamatha and fully achieve it. It’s very rare, as His Holiness himself corroborated.

[51:35] And he himself, without my needing to explain, for people to know in this year, last year, this year, for people exactly like us, whether they’re Bhutanese or Tibetan or anywhere else, to know that this is not a dead tradition. It’s not too late. And I can tell you, there are many, many lamas, good lamas that take very seriously the Buddha’s own prophecies about the gradual decline of his own dharma, from 500 years, to 500 years, 500 years, and now here we are, you know 25(00) years has passed. This is the age of the dregs. And there are many fine lamas, knowledgeable lamas who say ‘the age of realization is finished. It’s too degenerate. About the most we can hope for is monks, keep your vows. And the rest of you monks and nuns, well try to learn dharma, try to learn dharma, understand it, and practice as well as you can, but don’t get your hopes up. Because the days of realization are over, the good old days of Marpa, and Milarepa, and Atisha, and the great mahasiddhas and so forth, and you know and going back to the time of the Buddha. Those days are over folks! You know, so just, we’re just watching the dharma, kind of like watching the Titanic slowly sink under the waves. So bid it farewell, get really good imprints in this lifetime, get empowerments, do your sadhanas. Know, you’re not going to achieve any of them, but you know, do your best and get good imprints and make good prayers of dedication and hope for the best for the future life. Or if you have faith, take birth in a pure land.’

[53:03] I heard His Holiness just recently remarking about what we’re doing to the ecosphere. And he said, ‘wow given the prog, prog, you know the prognosis, I would encourage all of you, think very seriously about Sukhavati because you probably won’t want to be here 50 years from now. It’s not looking good. You know? So. So there it is. So many lamas, and I was hearing this, I was hearing, I heard this multiple times during the first couple of decades. Never from Gyatrul Rinpoche. Never from His Holiness. Never from Geshe Rabten. Never from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. Never from Gen Lamrimpa. Never from Yangthang Rinpoche. Never from Lama Karma. So since he knows it would be so utterly easy to say, ‘Alan, one’s own experiences, they are private, and you know that, but I’d be happy to teach shamatha. I’ll give some good,’ and no and he agreed. So I think it had really nothing to do with me. But his seeing that, in this time, if people can be inspired – because it was so perfectly obvious. Anybody that knows him, you know this is a lama that you can’t even imagine he’s tooting his own horn. It’s inconceivable. Like, ‘Look at me I’m something special!’ Inconceivable! Right? So for people like that, for people like Milarepa and others, they really can be as open as they wish, because they’re so far beyond any possibility of being a “jaded practitioner”, you know, that it’s just, it’s just being reasonable. I’m not speaking out of some deep faith here – I am – but that’s not the motivation. It’s just being reasonable. There’s only one reason he would open up in that way: because he knows that his realization is rare, and among those who achieve it, virtually no one would talk about it.

[54:50] Yangthang Rinpoche, when he gave, when he completed these spectacular teachings that were so obviously experiential on the view, meditation, and conduct of Dzogchen, I can’t quote him verbatim, but he said, ‘of course I’m utterly unqualified to give these teachings, and so if I’ve made any’ – and he’s talking to his 30 students, western students mostly – ‘so if i’ve made any mistakes, please correct me.’ You know. Or Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, one of the, he’s passed away but a great, great Sakya lama. I never met him, but I saw him on a video. And just watching on the video, I just, my heart stilled. Like [sigh]. Never met him. But just seeing him and hearing him talk, my heart stilled like, ‘oh this is a holy man.’ And he said, ‘I have no realization! No realization. But I do have very strong faith!’ You know. His Holiness Dalai Lama said, ‘Oh I’m not a bodhisattva. I’m not a bodhisattva. But I have great yearning to develop bodhicitta!’ That’s what you expect. And for people who know the neighborhood, you say, ‘well, that’s what they do!’ This is an expression of their humility. And so it’s very rare to see anybody do otherwise.

[56:04] But Lama Karma saw dulapopsom: the time has come. Ok, I can be open here. Now he didn’t tell us anything about what happened during the 13 years of retreat. And I knew you can only go so far and you just don’t ask for anything more! 13 years on top of that. Can we even imagine? And the answer is no. Unless you’re a vidyadhara yourself, we can’t even imagine the heights that he ascended to during 13 years. Under that kind of guidance? With that kind of momentum? Utterly awesome. So he’s alive and well, and he’ll be giving more teachings. He gave teachings on loving-kindness and compassion recently, he’ll give two more lectures within the next month or so. And so there we are. And lo and behold, he taught us shamatha and vipashyana. And then I simply asked for more teachings, and then he chose the topic. He said, ‘how about Four Immeasurables?’ So Lama Karma, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, and so forth. There’s a convergence here which is quite extraordinary. Ok.

[57:04] [So,] “continuing on from yesterday,” [the preceding morning he gave the Amitayus empowerment, and then kind of prepared us for – gave teachings including the Nine-fold Expulsion of Stale Air, and so forth – prepared us for, it was really all preparation for the teachings he gave then on Sunday: morning, Shamatha; afternoon, on vipashyana.]

[57:24] [So he writes here,] “continuing on from yesterday, when we were about to meditate, [when we were about to, that was just the end of the session the preceding day,] continuing on from that, today I will explain different levels of shamatha meditation, including shamatha with a sign, [has a clear referent,] shamatha without sign, without a sign, and the sravaka’s way of meditating. [And I did scan through it, about the first half of it, because I knew I wouldn’t have to cover all of it today, um, and it’s quite clear when he refers to the “sravaka’s” way of meditating that he is referring to the teachings he’ll be giving very shortly on mindfulness of breathing. So, and I’ll elaborate on that later. But he gives at least one other method as well.]

[58:07] [So] “there are different, many different methods taught by the lamas of the past, and today I will first discuss the way of meditating that relies upon counting the breaths. Counting the breaths is said to be a way to determine shamatha, [to determine it, nail it, accomplish it] or settle your mind in its natural state.” [That “sem nel du bapa”, that’s really classical phrasing that is most typical of Mahamudra and Dzogchen tradition, and it works on multiple levels. So on the relative level, your mind has settled in its natural state when your coarse, human mind – female mind, male mind, old, young, Bhutanese, Australian – this configured mind, configured by the human brain and so forth, your personal history, when it’s settled in its natural state, which means the configuration of your mind as a human mind on the basis of your human brain has settled, melted, dissolved into the primal flow from which it arose, arose. And you’ll know, because I’ve taught on this many times, that’s referring to the alayavijnana, or substrate consciousness. So on a relative level, once your coarse mind has melted, dissolved away, and your mind, your mindstream has dissolved into, it’s no longer a human mindstream, it’s the alayavijnana, which is a stem-consciousness in the sense that it is not yet configured as human, animal, or anything else. And this space of awareness, this, this space of experience right now that we’re experiencing, all these appearances, the gray, the gray color of your shirt for example. Well, it looks – oh it’s a very classy shirt, by the way – um, the gray that I see, of course we all, and I’m going to run this really quickly because you know what I’m going to say already, but the gray is not in the molecules and it’s not in the photons. And even though they speak of “gray matter,” none of the molecules actually turn gray. And so the grayness is not in physical space, out there, in between, or inside, so all these appearances – visual, auditory, and everything else, all of our thoughts and images, and all of our dreams at the night, in the night-time – all these appearances are taking place within the substrate. The alaya, right?]

[1:00:09] But it’s heavily populated, heavily furnished with our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, visual, auditory, sensory of all kinds. So it’s a space, but it’s like a warehouse filled with junk. Or called the ocean of samsara. That was kind of a mixed metaphor! [laughter] But it’s, it’s heavily layered and covered with all kinds of stuff, right? Human perceptions, human visual perceptions, human thoughts, human dreams, human memories and so forth. But this space then, when you practice shamatha, it’s emptied out. And so your mind dissolves into the substrate consciousness, and this space – because this is the substrate in which all these appearances are arising – it becomes an empty room, because all the appearances dissolve back into the ground. The snow-globe, all the snow flurries in the snow-globe have all settled down on the ground. All the kinetic energy of the mind has settled down into potential energy. And that space is now an empty space illuminated by substrate consciousness, and that’s “settling your mind in its natural state.” And that is simul-, the achievement of that, of having settled your mind in its natural state and having achieved shamatha: those two are simultaneous and they are equivalent.

[1:01:24] And so. Now the wording is very interesting, because not once does he say or use the term that we encounter all the time in both the Pali Canon and in Sanskrit sutras, and sutras and commentaries. In Pali, “anapanasatisamadhi”: samadhi, or the unification of the mind by way of mindfulness of breathing in and out. That’s the name. Asanga writes, you know I translated his extensive commentary on that, that’s the name. The Anapanasati, “Anapanasatisutta”, that’s the name. And he doesn’t use it once. He doesn’t say “achieving shamatha by way of mindfulness of breathing,” or “achieving samadhi,” but he says “counting the breaths.” Now, even though Lama Karma repeatedly said, “I’m not a scholar, I’m not a scholar,” well when he was quoting texts right, left, and center, then you see well – he’s not a khenpo, that’s true. Or a geshe. He doesn’t have that sustained, rigorous academic training that a khenpo will have, or a geshe will have. But 20 years? That was a lot of teaching he received. And then followed by something like 18 years of full-on practice. So he’s certainly very knowledgeable. And he would certainly know the term – [Alan softly speaks a few words] – uchung, uchung wup tami tingen sen in Tibetan, that’s exactly the translation. But he doesn’t use it, and I think that’s significant. He says “counting the breaths.” “Counting the breaths.”

[1:02:51] [So this is – I’ve been teaching mindfulness of breathing since I began teaching. 1976. And I’ve always emphasized, this practice is not focusing on counting, it’s focusing on the breath. And the counting is just a little helper. That’s not what he says! I don’t think I was wrong, but he’s certainly not wrong, which means different approaches. And so,] “there are many different methods taught by the lamas of the past. Today I will first discuss the way of meditating that relies upon counting the breaths. Counting the breaths is said to be a way to determine shamatha or settle your mind in its natural state. Normally, we have never tried to take care of or control our minds with our minds, but we let our minds follow after whatever thoughts and appearances come up. That is how the ordinary mind operates.” [The ordinary mind is one that’s just never been trained. You may have, you know, you may have a Nobel Prize in Physics, or be a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist or anything else, and never have trained your mind like this. Never have trained. It doesn’t come up. If you are a professional dancer, a professional chess player and so forth, you will certainly have very good concentration skills, but not even in the ballpark of what he’s talking about here. Doesn’t even come close.]

[1:04:11] [So, so,] “that is how the mind operates. But if we are going to meditate, [and bear in mind “meditation” in Sanskrit is “cultivate”] if we are to cultivate our minds, [as he said, if we’re going to “meditate”] we have to take care of our minds. And a method for that is to count the breaths, which leads to good experiences, proper ascertainments, and clarity of mind.” [I love his phrasing. I’m so glad we can have it now just phrase by phrase, and not a paraphrase or an overview or like that, or a summation. I love the phrase itself, “we have to take care of our minds.” So for all of us, whether we’re practicing an hour or two a day or going into full-time retreat, if you have that as, if you ask yourself “what am I doing here?” I’m caring for my mind. I’m caring for my mind. Isn’t that a lovely thought? I’m caring for my mind? What a sweet thing to do. What a lovely thing to do, really. And if you’re not doing it, nobody’s doing it. Because however much other people may love you – your parents, your spouse, your lamas and so forth – nobody can care for your mind. Either you do it, or it’s an uncared-for mind. And isn’t that sad? Just hear the words: an uncared-for mind. Isn’t that sad? Like you have a dog that nobody took care of? Nobody fed it, nobody took, took, cleaned it? Wouldn’t that be sad? If you had a field of fertile ground, fertile ground, and you didn’t sow anything in it? Nor is it growing just naturally; I, we don’t have to cultivate everything. But just to just leave it empty, you know so it’s not growing natural things, but it’s not growing anything else! Wow, you had, you could’ve done so much good with that land. You could’ve fed so many people and you didn’t care for it! You didn’t cultivate it! And here we term, “bhavana.”]

[1:06:05] So it’s a sweet phrase. And so, as you’re practicing, as you go into practice, and sometimes there’s just no doubt about it: you’re going to experience upheavals. There’ll be difficult days. And you’ll say, ‘why was I aspiring for so long to be here now? What? What did I have in mind? There are so many other better things to do!’ You know. And then you think, ‘Oh! Oh yeah! I’m not here just to achieve shamatha or blah blah blah, I’m here to care for my mind.’ That could really get you through a lot of rough days. You know. Because it’s the kindness about that. Mothers caring for their children. That attitude. Care for your mind lovingly, gently. But just like a loving parent, not wishy-washy, not never scolding, and ‘oh I don’t want to hurt my child’s feelings!’ You don’t go that extreme. I mean wishy-washy. But you don’t want to be a disciplinarian. Something in-between. And exactly that. That’s exactly that. You want to be firm, you’ll want to definitely discipline, cultivate, tame your mind. But you don’t want to break your mind’s spirit. You don’t want to make yourself unhappy. You don’t want to get your mind afraid and tense, and nervous and anxious. ‘I’m not achieving fast enough. I’m not progressing fast enough. My lama will be disappointed. I better not tell him!’ And so forth. And you better not! [laughter] You know. So it’s lovely. The words are very, very important. And those were his words. So, if we are to meditate, we have to take care of our minds.

[1:07:29] And so then, we turn to a theme now that, for those of you who follow the teachings of Dudjom Lingpa, or transmitted by Dudjom Lingpa in text after text – “The Sharp Vajra”, “The Enlightened View of Samantabhadra”, “The Vajra Essence” – how many times have you heard now, at the very beginning before going into shamatha or anything else, which is primary, body, speech, or mind? And you either get that right or go back, and back to the drawing boards again. If it takes you 10 years to get over materialism, for which the right answer is “body is important, primary, and your mind is simply a function of,” you have to get over that. Because that will be a very unsuitable launching pad. You’ll be a launching pad for one of those rockets, we’ve all seen it right? [ed. Alan makes rocket launch sounds, in which a rocket partially launches, then falls and explodes] That will be your launching pad. Materialism is the launching pad for hedonism and consumerism. It’s a great launching pad for that. It’ll give you that single-pointed samadhi on pursuing hedonia, and consuming as much as you can as quickly as you can. And that’s what modern civilization is doing. So there, modern society is in samadhi. Whether they’re Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever, but meantime six days a week, modern society is absolutely materialistic. And then materialism gives rise to hedonism, because your happiness is to be found out there, and how? By consuming. Right? And that’s what‘s killing us. And David Attenborough, the great naturalist, says we have about 20 years to turn this around, and if we don’t, then we’re seeing the end of civilization within this century. And this man is not airy-fairy. Man, he knows, he knows the neighborhood. So this is why I speak with such urgency. You know? And we have to strike that balance. The fate of humanity hinges on the species that we’re wiping out right, left, and center. Ecosphere, we’re just decimating as if we had a spare planet to hop over to as soon as we wipe this one out.

[1:09:20] There’s no melodrama here. There’s no exaggeration. And the scientists are doing all they can. And the people in technology are doing all they can. And enlightened businesspeople are doing all they can. And enlightened government people, like, you know, Jacinda Ardern in, in New Zealand and so on. They’re doing all they can. They’re all doing all they can, and it’s not enough. We burned more fossil fuels last year than any year before. So they’re all doing all they can, and something more is needed. And I don’t know what that can possibly be that could turn this around so we don’t destroy our own planet, and wipe out the futures of our children and future generations. I don’t see what that missing piece could be if it’s not dharma. And in my conversation with Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche yesterday, when we both came to the conclusion, in terms of he’s guiding his students, I’m guiding my students, my dharma friends: shamatha, vipashyana, Four Immeasurables. There it is. And then he said, ‘and we really need some siddhas. We need some siddhas.’ Drupdop. Drupdop gogudor. And I said yeah. Yeah I agree. I agree.

[1:10:26] When scientists make great realizations, great discoveries, great breakthroughs, they can, they can strut their stuff. They can show and tell. They don’t just say, ‘hey we’ve discovered that, you know, these discoveries in quantum mechanics, they can turn out and give you a $50 wristwatch that’s better than a Rolex a hundred years ago! Much, much better!’ Right? For fifty bucks. And so all the technology we have, the fact that we have the video, and internet and all of that is all quantum mechanics. So then one thinks, maybe we should take quantum mechanics seriously because it’s delivered the goods for technology. That’s why people believe in science, not because they appreciate space-time curvature, but because they really like, you know, all the stuff. You know? Indoor plumbing! I think that’s really great. And that’s part of modern technology. Tibetans never invented septic tanks. No indoor plumbing in Tibet, you know? I like it! [laughter] And so, so it’s up to us. And I’m just speaking dharma, dharma practitioners of the world, unite. Muslim and Christian, Hindu, Buddhist. Humanist. You don’t necessarily have to be religious. You have to be virtuous and ethical. That’s what you have to be. And then cultivate your mind. But it’s up to us. Contemplatives of the world, unite. Because if it’s not on us, then who’s going to do it? Because everybody else is doing all they can, and it’s not enough. So there we are.

[1:11:47] [So] “Among body, speech, and mind, [ok? He starts right there, as the Lake-Born Vajra and so many other great masters] – the mind is like the king of the body, speech, and mind. It has great strength and tremendous ability. But it has very little ability to place limits on itself.” [It can’t control itself! Like an alcoholic. Like an alcoholic has, you know, a practicing alcoholic knows he shouldn’t do it. He knows, it, it, you don’t have to be even intelligent. You need mediocre intelligence to see this is really harmful, it never turns out well. They know that, but their ability, their minds can’t place limits. They can’t take one drink and enjoy that and say, ‘now that was enough, no danger, no harm, it’s good for the digestion, one glass of red wine.’ They can’t do that. And people who are addicted to anything else, including obsessive-compulsive thinking. We’re addicted to that. We’re all addicts of that, you know. And it doesn’t turn out well either. As Shantideva says a person whose mind is distracted lives where? Between the fangs of mental afflictions! So we’re addicted, and we know we shouldn’t be, and yet how many of us are still addicted to rumination, obsessive-compulsive thinking?]

[1:13:01] [And so, whose minds? My mind! I’m not, I wish I was, I really wish I was some great master. Then I could say, ‘Hey! I’m going to be really humble: I have no realization!’ [laughter] I can’t even say the words “I don’t have realization,” because then you might think I’m one of those people. I would just say, I’m just going to shut up, and just talk about other people, you know? I’m just trying to do my best. That’s it. And so,] “it has great strength and tremendous ability.” [I mean, the power of the mind! What is more powerful on planet earth than the power of the mind? Because it’s the power of the mind that’s destroying the ecosphere. No mind, no science, no technology, no wiping out of other species. You have to, you have – only human beings can do that. Chimpanzees have no ability. If they all got it together, all the chimpanzees go, ‘hey let’s wipe out all other species, starting with human beings!’ They couldn’t do it. They’re not smart enough. You know. But we’re smart enough to wipe out 60% of the wildlife in the last 50 years. How smart we are!]

[1:14:00] [So, very powerful but it doesn’t know how to control itself. Like that elephant in rut, and so forth and so on.] “Therefore when the time comes to meditate, we must reach the point where we can bring the mind under control.” [And what leapt to mind, rather than the un-, rather unsavory, unsavory image of a wild elephant, which kind of I find a bit frightening, because they were the biggest weapons of mass destruction in India a thousand years ago, I, I just think of an untamed horse. It’s a gentler, a gentler image. But an untrained, a wild, bucking bronco – hey, we’re here in Cali-, Colorado, right? They must have wild horses here. And if a wild horse that will just kick you off as soon as you even approach it, then, then the horse is doing fine for itself, but it’s not, you know, it’s, it’s, you can’t do anything with it. And so I like that image better: the mind being a wild, untamed horse. But how can you be like, you know, what was his name? The horse whisperer? What’s that name of that netflix? {audience member: “Buck”} Buck! How can we be like Buck? One of the best movies ever done about horses, probably the best one, I think. But the Horse Whisperer that loved his horses so much that they loved him in response, and they wanted, they wanted to please him in every moment, because he knew he, he was taking care of them. It was a love affair. If you haven’t seen that movie, it’s worth seeing.]

[1:15:20] But to be a horse whisperer of your mind, not the bucking bronco that, where the cowboy jabs his spurs into the horse and freaks it out, and so it’s in a frenzy trying to get this terrible thing off its back. That is not the way to train the mind. You’re not caring for your mind that way. And so here it is. We need to bring the mind under control, but in a gentle way, a sustainable way, in a way that has the mode of the flavor of caring for the mind as Buck cared for his horses. Beautiful. It really is beautiful.

[1:15:50] [And so] “when you are able to bring the mind under control in this way, then gradually your mind turns inwards, and does not follow freely after involuntary thoughts. Little by little, it is corralled within. So you must train your mind to be able to settle in its own place.” [Or as that quote I’ve cited so many times, as Pascal said, ‘develop the ability to sit quietly in your chambers, because the root of all of the conflict, the distress, the violence of men’ – and he was gender specific – ‘of men, is men’s inability to sit quietly in our chambers.’ Shamatha’s the key to world peace. If the politicians that are running the government right now, not just one man but, you know, the legislature, if they all – I mean, just imagine. And this is Republican, Democrats, and the Independents and the Greens, imagine if everyone in government, just imagine, everybody in government, they all developed the ability – and they can be atheists, they can be materialists, that’s their business – but imagine all of them developed the ability to sit quietly in their chambers. Can you imagine? And in so doing, maybe get some insights into what really makes one happy, and what really makes one unhappy. And it’s never out there. Can you imagine? If all the business leaders and all the political leaders, they could just sit quietly in their room. Wouldn’t that, wouldn’t that do it? Wouldn’t that turn everything around? Well then we have to teach by example, you know? And then, from the rooftops. This is not a conversion to anything. It’s learning how to bring your mind under control.]

[1:17:27] [So,] “little by little it’s corralled within. When we, [and so now we turn to the method.] When we practice counting the breaths, once we become well-ac, well-experienced in that, with no need to continue counting the breaths, the mind naturally settles. [So you count the breaths for as long as is useful. And that’s not ‘do it, do it, do it and then don’t do it ever again.’ It’s probably, ‘do it, do it, do it a little bit less, a little bit less, do it a bit more, a bit less, and then phase it out.’ So you just don’t need it anymore, because it’s more of a nuisance than it is a help. Right? So, and only you can determine that.] Normally in our daily lives, the mind becomes distracted by an amazing number of involuntary thoughts. [These are vikalpa, or namdo in Tibetan.] And when we’ve culti-, but when we’ve cultivated shamatha, there’s a state of mind with no thoughts at all, which, marvelously, you can experience with ease.” [As you know from the, is it still up there? Wherever it is, the, the elephant and then the, you know the nine-fold path of leading to shamatha. The further you lead, you proceed along the path of shamatha, the less and less and less effort you need, until you come to the culminating phase, and it’s completely effortless. So it’s just getting better and better and better, with less and less effort. That’s really a good outlook. And that’s true, equally, of the whole Dzogchen path. The whole Dzogchen path. The beginning is a lot of effort! I mean, really turning arou-, your mind around in four different ways, these radical revolutions of perspective, which are so diametrically opposed with almost everybody is raised with: that’s not easy. There’s just no way that’s easy. And then let alone, you know, the training in the 7 Point Mind Training, and the four immeasurables and so forth. It’s just not easy. There’s just no way it’s easy.]

[1:19:17] And as we’ll, as we’ll see from, from Lama Karma’s shamatha practice, boy the in, at the beginning, it was just brutal! Just brutal. He was almost like screaming his head off, ‘I want out of here! I want out of here!’ You know? At the beginning, difficult. And then, you progress a bit more and it get a bit easier, a bit easier, a bit easier, until you’re able to, with your shamatha/vipashyana and having identified rigpa, be able to simply rest in rigpa, and then it’s just effortless. And everything else comes effortlessly by not striving, by not meditating, by not activating your human mind to do anything at all, and then all the bounties of the Buddha mind rise to you, one could say by grace. Or simply arising, of course, from within. The dharmakaya just blossoming and filling your whole being with all the qualities of enlightenment. And that’s just free. And effortless. So we get over the, we, it’s, it’s, you know coming from California, I have to, I can’t give a, a long dharma talk without talking about surfing. You know, but getting out through the break. I’ve, I’ve gone out just through five-foot waves, but they beat you up! Just a five-foot wave, let alone those 100-foot waves off the coast of Portugal. But even a five-foot wave, let a 10, 15? They beat you up as you’re trying to get out through them. You’re just knocked around, and the bigger the wave, the more you get thrashed. Well, when you go into retreat, expect you have to get through the break. But once you’re on the far side, then easy-peasy. You know? So there we are! So. So we pick up.

[1:20:59] [Oh, we have to go up, up, up, up, I thought it was further down. {Audience member: “very top of the page”} Up. Very top of the page. Yeah I was thinking way down there. So. All the more so. Ok! So just, the, that last par-, that last,] “marvelously you can experience, you can experience a state of mind with no thoughts at all, which marvelously you can experience with ease. [Really, very beginning!] All the more so once you’ve achieved shamatha. [Well, this is renowned. Once you’ve achieved shamatha, you can slip into it effort-, effortlessly, remain in just superb samadhi for a minimum of four hours, and of course effortlessly come out. And it’s effortless during the interim. So, this is good news.] All the more so, once you’ve achieved shamatha, you can go there. But it would be, be difficult to go there all at once. [That is, you can’t just be gung ho and say, ‘ok I’ll achieve shamatha in a really short time,’ let alone in one cushion.] So as a method for going there, we depend on the respiration. In the beginning you train in dependence upon the respiration and then, like ascending a staircase one step at a time, you can’t get to the second step without reaching the first step, and without reaching the second step, you can’t ascend to the third. So just like gradually ascending a staircase, you need to understand the stages of practice, and then the shamatha of those who have gone through the experience of entering into it properly will become stable. This is a special method for making progress in shamatha.”

[1:22:26] So I won’t go off on a long tangent, but I will make this for a context. He said he would be teaching a method taught by the sh-, in the shraman-, the, the Sravaka tradition. Well, the counting of breaths is right there. I’ve, many of you have heard me say so many times: in the Pali Canon, the Buddha taught 40 different methods for achieving shamatha. Among them, he said only one is suitable for people heavily prone to vikalpa, this obsessive-compulsive thinking. Uh, and then as we see, as Tsongkhapa systemized the teachings, or Longchenpa systematized the teachings of Dzogchen, Nagarjuna systematized the teachings of Madhyamaka, so did Buddhaghosa systematize the teachings of the Theravada, especially in his great opus, the “Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification”. And there he goes into, into authoritative, definitive detail on the stages of mindfulness of breathing, and it begins with counting. And it begins with counting, as I recall – it’s been years when I, I’ve scrutinized it, but I have – is counting I think only five breaths. And as I recall, either there or some auth-, some other authoritative source I’ve, I’ve read from the Theravada tradition, when you’re first just beginning, maybe count only to five, but not only that, but as you’re breathing in, you breathe in “one, one, one, two, one, one, one, two, two, two,” you don’t just count one cycle per breath. You’re keeping it going. And it’s really like, it’s really like, ‘I’m going to create such a screen of thinking here, that nothing else can get in. Because I’ve just said one, and I’m going to say one again before something else, Oh how about strawberries! One, one, one, tomatoes! One, one, Tahiti! One.’ And they just, they just can’t get in. They may be able to pop their heads up. But pardon the extreme – guillotine, of just, Off With Their Heads! You know? They just. Because not your, you’re not attacking them, you’re just busy. Because you’re filling that space with counting. And that’s the way Buddhaghosa teaches it, as I recall. And I’ve had teachings from multiple Theravada teachers. But I know that came up. I know I didn’t make it up. And so here it is.

[1:24:44] “For beginners, it’s best to count just seven breaths, for the siddhas of the past have said that one should have short sessions, and many of them. [Did I miss something? {audience member: A paragraph.} Oh, a paragraph! What’s a paragraph here between friends?] Count one breath – [ok thank you! At 11:21] – count one breath for each full cycle of exhalation and inhalation. [So one count for the whole cycle.] Don’t count two for one exhalation and one inhalation. For example, if you exhale and then inhale in a very relaxed way, that is called one cycle of respiration.” [So again, this is so characteristic of Mahamudra and Dzogchen masters, of that emphasis right here: relaxation, relaxation, relaxation. It’s so easy as with – you’ve heard me say how many times? – the jet fighter pilot, the air traffic controller, the professional chess player: they can already concentrate for long times, and the longer they concentrate, the tighter they get. Tighter they get. Five hours in the cockpit, 24 hours of R&R, otherwise they’re wasted. Right? And so that’s how the world concentrates. They concentrate by tightening up. And that’s the way I tried when I went back to Dharamshala in 1980. I, I said, ‘I’m young, I’m virile, I’m strong, I’m enthusiastic, I’m determined. Shamatha or bust!’ And I contracted, and it didn’t work. You know?]

[1:26:01] [And in a way, every, you know, I can say these words, and in a way, everybody has to learn it for themselves, because we almost always try too hard. You want to try just hard enough, just hard enough, bare minimum of hard enough that your, that the mind doesn’t just fly off the handle. But not more! Because if it’s more, excessive, and the more will tap you out, stress you out, tighten you up, and then you’re going to hit a dead end only sooner or later, probably sooner. So] “in a very relaxed way. So in the beginning, count each of those up to seven cycles of the breath. Don’t count a lot of breaths. [Don’t count to 21 or 50 or 100.] Don’t count a lot of breaths, for this will create obstacles from the involuntary thoughts arising in between.”

[1:26:47] So if you’re counting 100 breaths, for example, you’re counting 1 - it’s very easy to get complacent. 1 – I wonder what’s for lunch? The lunch they brought me yesterday was very nice. 2 – the dessert was quite tasty. I wonder if it’ll be the same dessert as yesterday? 3 – nothing? Ok! 4. You know! They’re going to get in there, you know? Like cockroaches. And they’re going to get in there. They get through the cracks. You know? And so, you don’t let there be any cracks. You keep it short. So it’s really like you have a dh-, a meditation session of 7 breaths long. Just 7 breaths. I’ve often done this: I say, ‘everybody, ok for five seconds, see if you can watch one cycle of the breath without losing it.’ You know I’ll be speaking to 700 people. You think shamatha’s difficult? Let’s see how difficult. Breathe in and out once, one cycle, and see if you can maintain a continuity of mindfulness of one breath. And then we take out, you know, 5 or 10 seconds. And people find, that was easy! I said, ‘well that’s how it should always be.’ But it’s not. Because if you think, ‘I’m going to be here for an hour, I’m going to count 100 breaths,’ then immediately, ‘Oh in that case, I’ve got time to kill!’ But if you have only one breath, you don’t have any time to kill at all! If you let your mind dist-, be distracted, you’ve just shot half of your session. Or maybe all of it.

[1:28:09] [So, few breaths. That’s exactly what Buddhaghosa said. So this is Sravakayana. So, but now, again so we don’t have false expectations, which you will have. You will have false expectations. I will tell you until the cows come home, expectation is the found-, foundation of failure. The pith instructions His Holiness gave me when he guided me in shamatha 40 years ago. And we’ll still probably have expectations. And so, although, so don’t expect that thoughts will stop. Because I’m doing it right now. I’m doing it right, right? Don’t expect that they’re going to stop just because you’re doing it right. So he helps you not fall into that unrealistic expectation. He says,] “although involuntary thoughts continue to arise, here is a method so that you don’t fall under the-, fall under their domination. You merge the many thoughts into just one thought for each cycle of the respiration, like many streams merging into the one Ganges River. Then in the course of counting one cycle of respiration, thoughts will still be there, but once you have channelled them altogether you make them into one thought, and then gradually it will be easy to reach stability. [“Stability” means continuity, coherence, quiet.] If you continue to let your mind follow after all the various thoughts of the three times – [past, present, and future] – you’ll not be able to stabilize your shamatha.”

[1:29:43] [So, when I see that this is simply – there was, there was, I, there was, was there any editing? I don’t recall any, doing editing, hardly any at all, maybe 1% of editing that he said something that he kind of like, lost his sentence or whatever. {audience member (Yangchen): “very, very few unfinished sentences”} Very, very few! This is a man just speaking for two hours straight. You can hear. This is just so high density. Every sentence, like just an arrow striking one, one arrow after another striking the bull’s-eye. And there’s no fluff here. There’s not one sentence it’s, ‘well that was extraneous. Why did you go down that?’ Me, I do that all the time. But him! That’s why I’ve gone already an hour and a half, and maybe one and a half pages. But he’s covering, he’s really covering this so succinctly, and as you’re reading over this again and again over the coming months or years until you achieve shamatha, don’t miss a beat. Don’t miss a sentence. Because he doesn’t-, there’s no fluff here. There’s no fat. It’s all very lean. But the point of “many thoughts converging into one.” So this is different from the way I teach, and now I teach in different ways. Because the way taught, I have taught, been teaching for 44 years – because in the first retreat I ever read I was teaching mindfulness of breathing, in addition to Satipatthana – uh, and that is, I would teach ‘this is mindfulness of breathing not mindfulness of counting.’ But I think from the very beginning, I was saying ‘one succinct count.’ Staccato count. And in between counts, let the mind be really, really silent. Right? I don’t think that’s wrong. But for many people, it’s not realistic. Because thoughts will come up and then what do you do? Then you feel, ‘oh then I failed! He said “one count” and then I just had three, in between the count to the breath.’

[1:31:22] And so, as I’m listening to this, and what I’ve said don’t do, is if you count at the very end of the inhalation just before the exhalation begins, don’t count ‘o-o-o-n-e’ as you’re breathing out. But rather ‘one’ and then silence. Arouse as you inhale. ‘Two,’ staccato. I don’t think this is incorrect. I practice. I find it helpful. But it’s clearly not the only way. Because that’s not bringing many thoughts into one. That’s saying ‘one’ and then silence. It’s different, right? And so when he says ‘one’, I think one could interpret this – he doesn’t tell us exactly what – I think one could interpret this is, ‘go ahead! This is counting the breaths! So go ahead, as you’re breathing out, if you are breathing out ‘o-o-o-n-e,’ maybe even ‘o-o-n-e,’ or even ‘o-n-e, o-n-e, o-n-e, o-n-e, o-n-e, o-n-e,’ all the other thoughts that could have arisen during those 5 or 10, 15 seconds, all brought into those. So you simplify, and you make sure your thoughts are really boring. Because there’s nothing interesting about counting the breaths. But having distracted thoughts could be much more interesting, like ‘what will I have for dessert today? And will there be dessert? Or is that, was that only one, a one-off? [laughter] It could be. Thank goodness I brought some chocolate.’ That’s much more interesting than ‘two’. Right? And so, but this is the whole idea. I mean this, right at the very root system of mindfulness of breathing, we’re shifting our prioritization away from hedonia – stimulus-driven pleasure, as in ‘what will I have for lunch? Or what will be dessert?’ – to a sense of well-being that comes from within with no pleasant stimuliza-, stimulation. And counting breath is not a pleasant stimulation. And so then we aren’t already going, we’re staying on the wagon. We are not falling back into the addiction, we’re not heading into the bar of vikalpa, you know? Because we’re just staying on the wagon the whole time, and thinking boring thoughts and letting them supplant all the mildly interesting thoughts, or annoying thoughts, and so forth.]

[1:33:29] So I think it’s a very, very interesting skillful means. And lo and behold, this is very resonant with classic Theravada, and it’s almost certain he has, has not read Theravada, because it’s not translated into Tibetan. So if it’s true, it’s true. Theravadans teach it, and so forth and so on. And counting the breaths, it actually even comes up in the Maha-, the, the Sanskrit sutras and tantras as in the, I believe it’s the either the “Kitigarbatantra”, or it’s the Mulamanjushrimantra-, “Mulamanjushritantra”. One of the two. It’s a va-, it’s a vajraya-, it’s a m-, it’s a tantra, the teaching on mindfulness of breathing, it says, ‘count the breaths.’ It’s in my, in my classic, you know ‘classic,’ my habitual outline on shamatha. So there it is. So then we continue. So], “for beginners. [Ok now where did it go? Ok? When you think? {audience memeber (Yangchen): It’s best to count just seven} Say it more clearly. {audience member (Yangchen): 14:25} Thank you right at the top!]

[1:34:27] “For beginners. [Ok?] It’s best to count just seven breaths, for the siddhas of the past have said that one should have short sessions and many of them. [You’ve heard that many times. It’s true.] There’s great value in this. I have much experience in this regard. When you think, ‘now I am going to meditate,’ and then stay there meditating for a very long time, sometimes the mind wanders around in the past, present, and future. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s clear and undistracted, but you cannot remain there. Rather, when counting the breaths, you should think, ‘I might make a mistake!’” [And it was in his intonation: noyong! Noyong! Like that. It, there’s a-, in, Tibetan is very, what’s, what’s the adjective? {audience member (Yangchen): ‘onomatopoeic? Or tonal?} Intonal? Tonal! It’s very, very tonal. The same, the same phrase with a different intonation will give you an entirely different meaning. ‘Noyong! Noyong!’ I could err! I could err! It’s not, ‘I could err!?!’ It’s not freaking out. It’s not terror. It’s not complacent. It’s just, ‘I could err.’ So it’s that caution. It’s that caution. So it’s a balance, again. You don’t want to be too heavy, you’ll start freaking out; too light, you’ll be complacent and sloppy.]

[1:35:45] [And so,] “I might make a mistake! And then really focus as you exhale and inhale. [Really want, and I, you real-, and really wanting not to miss, to lose count. It’s just seven breaths after all! See if you can make it through seven breaths without losing count. It’s just that simple. Not thinking you have seven breaths with no thoughts at all, but they won’t captivate you, and they might, won’t make you lose count. And can you do that for seven breaths? And then you just finished a session. And the next breath starts your next one. And you can do that in three sessions, four sessions, without losing count. ‘Noyong!’ I could mistake! And really kind of wanting to care for your mind, but also discipline your mind. So, ‘Oh I could make, I don’t want a mistake! I want to, I, I want to do it well!’ I think many of us who are, you know, pretty intense achievers in school, ‘I want to do well, I want to get a good grade, I want to please my parents, I want to do, I want to please my teachers!’ Just that! I was never terrified by my teachers or my parents. They never punished me for getting a bad grade. But you want to please them. Right? And so it’s like that. So,] I might make a mistake, and you really focus as you exhale and then inhale. And when you make your mind remain on that, you gather all the thoughts together into a single thought, with a concern that you might lose count. When you sustain this mindfulness, [and that means ‘bearing in mind,’ of course] then in this meditation, there is the mindfulness of shamatha, which is without forgetfulness.” [So ‘forgetfulness’ being the antithesis of ‘bearing in mind’, forgetfulness is the antithesis of mindfulness.]

[1:37:18] “Then with each exhalation and inhalation count once, maintaining your mindfulness with constant concern that you might lose count. [So be a little bit edgy. Nothing, ‘ah everybody makes mistakes, I’m just human after all,’ and be a lackadaisical, namby-pamby, wishy-wishy-washy and so forth. No! I want to excel here. And how you excel is not by giving intense effort for a little while, but by just very regularly, regularly just maintaining that simple task of counting one to seven without losing count.] If you count more than seven, involuntary thoughts will infiltrate your mindfulness. But as a beginning, as one successfully counts from one to seven again and again, [“as a beginning” or “at the beginning” what do you think? {audience member (Yangchen): I’d have to check but I think it’s correct} It’s ok, yeah, it’s certainly not wrong,] so as a beginning – [when you’re starting out] – as one successfully counts from one to seven again and again – [so this is your norm. You might blow it once in a while, but normally you’re, you’re just ‘one to seven,’ ‘one to seven’ not losing count at all,] – when you can do that, after getting trained in that, [or familiarized in that], then without ever becoming distracted by infiltrating thoughts when counting from one to seven, then you can count up to 12. [Yoohaw! And lets you lengthen it. Ok?] So normally, during the first second we’re thinking about one thing, and then during the second second we’re thinking about something else, and then the third second yet another thought arises, and since the mind isn’t under control, we don’t recognize that these thoughts are arising, for they’re like water that spreads out over the plain. But now by counting the breaths, like draining all the water into one channel, thoughts are merged into the thoughts of counting, thus decreasing in number.”

[1:39:16] That’s very clear. Very clear. So bear in mind, the distinction here is not that those thoughts of past, present, future and so forth, they won’t come at all-, come up at all. They will pop up. But very much like the more advanced practice of resting in awareness and simply observing thoughts arise without being carried away by them, in the same way, now you have something a little bit to hold onto. And we need that, because we’re addicted to grasping. We’re addicted. Whenever we know something, we’re always knowing ‘something,’ and it’s a dualistic, like, dualistic grasping, and we’re holding onto it. Likewise when you focus on an image, then we’re grasping onto it. So this is how we know anything, is by grasping onto something. And if we’re not grasping onto something, we’re kind of just spacing out and falling asleep. And so we’re trying to cultivate something here, so we give ourselves a little bit of something to grasp onto. It gives us like, like being out in a hurricane and being able to wrap your arms around a pole. So it’s a 150 mile an hour wind, but if your legs and your arms are wrapped around the pole, you probably won’t be swept away. So your pole is the counting. And the winds of these vikalpa will keep on buffeting you: ‘dessert this, and that, and that, and that.’ But if you wrapped your awareness, your mindfulness around bearing in mind the counting, that’s what keeps you from being swept away, abducted, kidnapped, and so forth. You know all the metaphors I use. And so it gives you something to hold onto, as long as you still need to hold on. But then the wind-, when the winds of vikalpa have died down, then you may be able to, to stand at ease as you’re resting in awareness, and all of the thoughts and emotions can’t blow you away. But this is a wonderful footstool into that carriage of taking the mind as the path.

[1:41:03] So you gather all the thoughts together and you place them into one count, into the count.] “And when you – [did I, I did, did I skip something? Ok?] – when you follow the explanation given according to experience, then as a result when you meditate for a long time like that you gain experience, and you will understand.” [So this is one of those things, you know can, one can read all kinds of books about meditation, and I think it’s a strong analysis-, analogy is you can read a lot of books about mathematics. There are many, many popular books about mathematics. But unless you practice mathematics, you’ll never know it. You can study philosophy of mathematics. I have. But if you study it, you’ll never know how to do mathematics. And the only way, and I had my training at, at Amherst when after 14 years of no mathematics, then I jumped in and refreshed up calculus, brushed up and so I could do quantum mechanics. But the only way you can know mathematics is by doing it. And the only way you really anybody have a clue of what happens in meditation, how you meditate, is by doing it. And I know there are plenty of writers, I, I read some of them very briefly, that write about what you can and cannot do with math-, in meditation. And it’s so obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about, because they’ve read about it. You know? And yet because they have some academic position or what have you, some people think, ‘oh but this person from this university, that university,’ or ‘this person that did this brainscan and that brainscan.’ You know? Well that’s all very well, you know about the brain, you know about what others say about meditation, you won’t have a clue about what actually happens. This is why there are some people that, I read this in, I think it was in “The Guardian” [An English News Journal], there was an article, “Maybe-,” “May Meditation Be Bad for You?” Let’s just phrase that: “May Cultivating the Mind Be Bad for You?” Yeah that sounds dangerous! You know, but the use of ‘meditation,’ then ‘oh yeah let’s read on! Maybe mediation is, I didn’t want to do it anyway! This will be a good, a good excuse not to do it anymore!’ [audience laughs]

[1:42:52] But you know the basis of that is, nyam come up, passions come up, unhappiness comes up, boredom comes up, low self-esteem comes up, lust comes up. ‘Oh you see? Mediation’s terrible for you!’ You know. This is like having a clogged sewage system. You, your whole septic tank is clogged to the gills, and then the plumber comes and open up, and the stink comes up and you say, ‘plumbers are bad for you.’ [laughter] Because you, it smelled good before the plumber came. It was no problem, except you can’t flush, but you know you can’t have everything. But those plumbers! I think we should probably sue them, you know, because it stank when they came. It’s the same! You’re dredging your psyche, and don’t expect it to smell good! [laughter] I’m speaking from first-person experience! I don’t know what your minds are like, but I know what my mind’s like. And so, I keep on losing where I am. Next sentence please? {audience member (Yangchen): “but if you just hear and talk about it a lot} Yep. I’m looking for it. {audience member(Yangchen): under 19:37 seconds, the third sentence} Oh! Ok. Ah ha!

[1:43:59] “But if you just hear and talk a lot about meditation, you have no experience.” [And I read a very excellent, when I was a graduate student at Stanford, I read a very good kind of history by, it was a Jesuit scholar as I recall. He wrote a very, very good book on the history of Christian contemplation and its decline. Its decline. And he gave a one-liner. Why was it, this immensely rich tradition with so much wisdom and practice and methods and so forth, and it went into decline, there’s just no doubt. And he said, ‘how did that happen?’ And as a devout Christian, the answer is, ‘because more and more people just talked about meditation rather than practicing it.’ And that’s how it happens. Well, Christianity, Buddhism. It’s the same. It’s the same. And so. I’ve lost my place again! [laughter] {audience member(Yangchen): But if you just hear and talk a lot about meditation, you have no experience} You have no ex-, you have no experience, yeah. That’s because every time I speak, I go into sam-, speech samadhi, you know. That’s why I complete-, get unhinged from everything else. It’s not a good samadhi, but it is kind of a myopic view.] [laughter]

[1:45:05] “A long time ago, I requested of my lamas the instructions on how to meditate. And then I meditated a great deal, and later when I was meditating – [so he’s fast-forwarding here, to much later in his, in his evolution] – so when I was meditating near a river gorge, at first I’d hear, hear the sound of the river outside. But as my mind gradually calmed down and remained still, I would hear the sound of the river from within. I’d hear all the sounds, all sounds within. Such experience arises through familiarization, and you need to know how far your meditation has progressed.” [So he just fast-forwarded years, years ahead. And so all sounds arising from within. And I can think of two ways of interpreting that, to under-, trying to understand that. And one is, that you’re experiencing all the sounds, after all, the auditory cortices are inside your brain, and it’s in dependence upon them that the experience of sound arises, so one way of interpreting that is all the sounds of the surrounding environment, well actually there are no sounds in the surrounding environment. There are no sounds out tha-, there, any more than there are any colors coming to you, or any scent, smells or aromas coming to hit you in the nose, as if they’re out there. They’re not. Right? There are no colors out there, no sounds out there, no smells out there, there’s no taste in your food independent of, you know, a tongue and so forth. So one way of kind of a, very kind of flat-footed way of looking at this is, well you’ve got that right, there aren’t any sounds out there! There are sound-waves out there, but they’re silent. Sound-waves don’t make noise, any more than photons have color. And so all the sounds are actually generated in dependence upon electro-chemical events inside the brain. So that would be one kind of flat way, flat-footed way of thinking about it. But I don’t think for a moment that’s what he was getting at.]

[1:47:04] But rather, when we’re still operating from the context of human mind, then people often point to their heads, or feel their mind is very local, that it’s inside their body at least. Many people think inside their heads. And so, we’re in here. It’s, so mind is localized. But when you even go as far as shamatha and resting in the substrate consciousness, or even getting a taste of it before achieving shamatha, you know that the substrate consciousness has no barriers, no boundaries, no limits. Has no shape, no size, etc etc. You know the drill. So already then it’s open-ended. In which case, there actually, just the substrate consciousness, there’s nothing – in terms of your experience as a human being, as a sentient being – there’s nothing that happens, there’s nothing you ever experience during the dream state or the waking state, nothing you ever experience that is arising from outside of your substrate consciousness and the substrate, which is the field of all appearances. And what is more within than your substrate consciousness and the substrate? Right? So in that context, everything is within because there’s nothing outside anyway, right? But I think he’s thinking-, I think he’s referring to something deeper than that, and that is, as we’ll see I’m going so slowly here, but once you have tapped into and you’re resting in, sustaining the awareness of rigpa itself, well that cuts beyond any kind of subject/object duality. It’s utterly empty of dualistic grasping. You can’t rest in rigpa and bring your dualistic grasping with you. And so therefore, as it’s so often stated in Dzogchen literature, there’s no appearances in samsara or nirvana that lie outside or are other than the displays, creative displays of pristine awareness. There’s nothing outside of dharmadhatu, there’s nothing outside of dharmakaya.

[1:48:58] So everything is within, and there is no outside versus within, because ‘within’ means you’ve just melted any barrier of outside and inside. So this is open to interpretation. And he’s not interpreting. He’s simply saying, ‘this is what I experienced.’ So I’ve met scientists – one who leaps to mind is Anton Zeilinger, world-class experimental physicist, working the foundations of quantum mechanics, he’s one of the most radically empirical people I’ve ever met, that he says, ‘this is the experience, and I’m not going to interpret it. This is what the experience. BAM. And you can deal with it.’ And when he wrote an article for a book, for a, a volume that I edited on Buddhism and Science, I took the transcripts of his talk that he gave to the Dalai Lama and then I edited it just for good English, and I sent it back to him, and he said, ‘take your edits out. What I said is what I said.’ I said, ‘fair enough.’ Fair enough. And that’s what he’s doing here. This is what happened. So.

[1:49:56] “Normally we don’t even notice tiny sounds, but when meditating with familiariz-, familiarization over long periods of time, over a long period of time, on occasion you’ll very clearly experience momentary sounds like that of your own heart beating, which we don’t normally hear when we’re doing other things. When we do, this is a sign that involuntary thoughts have subsided, and once they have subsided, various sensations and experiences continually arise. [So he’s talking about just overall the heightened vividness, temporal vividness, qualitative vividness of awareness, that everything becomes just more vibrant, more crystal-clear and internal. The, the very bifurcation of inside and outside is melting away, and that’s even with just shamatha alone, as we’ll see.] Once you have brought your respiration to a pace that is slow and gentle, that’s enough. You don’t need to make the breath faster or slower, you don’t need to breathe more quickly. Breathe gently, with your mind relaxed and happily settled. After you’ve practiced a lot in that way, when your practice of shamatha is going well, then sounds like that of the wind, cars, airplanes, and human voices will be experienced inside.” [Inside the space of your awareness. Rather than – don’t we, don’t we, how commonly feel, when we hear a dog barking, we say, ‘Oh the dog, I wish that dog over there would shut up! Oh that, that sound out there is really bugging me, that’s the, that’s the thorn of samadhi. I wish that would stop! Those people outside, I wish they’d be quiet!’ And then there is no outside. And the sound is simply arising within the space of your awareness. So maybe something like that.]

[1:51:49] “When you focus outside, outer appearances will be unimpeded. [So when you focus outside, like in between sessions.] When you focus outside, outer appearances will be unimpeded and very clear, like a drawing made of rainbows. And then when you look at visual objects such as mountains, rivers, snow, sky, gardens and forest, you will see them clearly and without obstruction. [This emphasis is one that Tsongkhapa makes, and that is, once you’ve achieved shamatha, and within your meditative experience you, you, you reach unprecedented degrees of vividness, acuity, luminosity, intensity, brilliance of awareness, and it’s the awareness, it’s your own awareness that is brilliant. And that’s on the cushion. Right? And then you come off the cushion, and you’re experiencing the world around you, and everything like the voltage has gone up from 100 watts to 1000 watts. Everything around you is just, just intense, bright, sharp, vivid. And that’s because the light with which you’re illuminating all appearances is a 1000 watt bulb rather than 100 watt bulb. So this is, this is just the experience of what happens. So.] Meanwhile, [so that’s when you look outwardly,] meanwhile when you look inwardly, it will seem as though everything is of the nature of emptiness and luminosity, with nothing to be seen. [Emptiness as in a target, a migpa, something that’s out here, that you bounce off of. Something existing from its own side. So everything is empty of substantiality. It doesn’t mean you’ve already realized emptiness and gained direct realization of shunyata, but as Lerab Lingpa says in his quintessential, one-page summary of Taking the Mind as the Path, he said, ‘by the power of doing this, you will see empty forms when you are off the cushion.’ ‘Empty forms.’ And that is, instead of, as you’re viewing visually, seeing a bunch of chunky stuff that has colors, and has shape, but is really chunky, you’re seeing all these appearances and you see them as they are just appearances. And although there, there will be tactile sensations if you walk over to that cabinet and you touch it, that’s just one more empty form. It’s an empty, tactile sensation. But there’s nothing substantial behind it, it’s just sensations all the way up and all the way down. It’s empty appearances. Although phenomena appear, they’re not really there.]

[1:54:09] So even before you practice vipashyana, you’re already, just purely experientially, because you’re overcoming that deeply ingrained tendency to reify everything, substantialize everything, fortify and, you know, concretize everything just by the power of resting. Not eradicating the tendency of reification, off the cushion you see everything as luminous, just sheer luminous appearances and their empty forms. Empty sound, empty f-, empty tactile sensation, empty, empty, empty. And this is just a dividend of shamatha. The best is yet to come. You haven’t even begun vipashyana yet. So there’s nothing to be seen, no target. As His Holiness said, ‘what is to be refuted? That which you point your finger at, that’s there from its own side!’ That’s something to be seen. ‘Oh I can see that cabinet over there.’ That’s exactly, you’re just seeing empty appearances.

[1:54:59] “When you meditate on the union of these two, [and that is, focusing outside and inside for as long as those two words mean something. When they no longer mean anything, then you, you know, like a pair of worn-out shoes, you don’t walk around in them anymore. But as long as there is at least a strong remnant of dualistic grasping – “outside and inside” mean something – then you unify them. And so, when you medi-, so] when you meditate on the union of those two, all sounds will be experienced from within. This comes with a-, from a great deal of shamatha meditation. If you’ve not yet reached even just the f-, the Single-Pointed Yoga of n-, Yoga of Mahamudra, [4 yogas, the first one is Single-Pointed Yoga], if you’ve not reached even that, you won’t understand these things. [So we can guess, we can speculate, we can imagine, but you won’t know what he’s talking about, he says right here, unless you’ve achieved the first of the four yogas, the fourth one culminating in buddhahood itself. So he’s going to elaborate on this. It just gets more and more fascinating the further he goes. But you won’t know unless you’re doing the practice.] From shamatha, you go to the Single-Pointed Yoga. [That propels you up to the single-pointed yoga. There’s more to it than that, but shamatha is indispensable to achieve the first of the four yogas.] From shamatha, you go to the Single-Pointed Yoga, and you eventually progress to the Yoga of One-Taste, and the Yoga of Non-Meditation.

[1:56:24] [So to fill in the gap, the First Yoga is Single-Pointed Yoga, the second one is Yoga of Freedom from Conceptual Elaboration – that’s when you become a vidyadhara, achieve the arya bodhisattva ground – and then beyond that is the Yoga of One Taste, and beyond that is the Yoga of Non-Meditation, the culmination of which entails the achievement of buddhahood itself.] “This is the way to progress in Mahamudra. [So you have to get to the Single-Pointed Yoga, right?] This is a practice for arriving at shamatha.” [The Single-Pointed Yoga. It’s not sufficient. That’s very clear. I’ve had extensive teachings on this from primarily Gyatrul Rinpoche, but then twice from Garchen Rinpoche and then that wonderful text we just looked at from Atisa. So shamatha alone is not enough to get you there, but if you don’t have it you won’t get there. It’s just like what the Lake Born Vajra says in “The Vajra Essence”: if all you’ve achieved is shamatha, then that’s indispensable, but if that’s all you’ve achieved, you’ve not moved one hair’s breadth onto the path of Dzogchen. This is all clear, and it’s homogeneous. No difference anywhere here.]

[1:57:28] [So, you have to get to Single-Pointed Yoga, right?] “This is a practice for arriving at shamatha, the Single-Pointed Yoga. So we have to understand these things which I’ve explained earlier. Another sign of progress is that you can remember events from previous lifetimes, or else from a long time ago in this lifetime that you had completely forgotten.” [And this is common, not at all-, from past lifetimes not that common but it does happen, but memories coming up from events 20, 30, 40 years ago? Common. Even among, when I’ve lead, I remember leading a retreat for scientists, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and this one I think he’d never meditated before in his life. And during that time he had a memory of something that occurred 50 years ago, and it came up in such vivid, clear detail – this is a really smart guy, and very critical, I know him rather well – that there was no doubt in his mind, this was not fantasy, he was remembering a little girl he knew when he was 10 years old. And it was so vivid. And he found it very weird. And that was a person who was not a meditator. He just doing a one week and maybe 5 hours a day. So this is common.]

[1:58:36] “But when you are cultivating shamatha, it is possible for the memory of them to return. [Things you’ve totally forgotten, they just crop up. They just pop up spontaneously. There’s a story of one great meditator who lent a book to his friend, and he forgot about it for many years. And then one day when he was meditating, the thought suddenly arose that, ‘oh! One day years ago I lent this book to so-and-so!’ He remembered this! Now this is good meditation. So you can remember anything. This is what Milarepa says: [And we quote now, with the thanks of these two khenpos, we have the Tibetan, so here’s a very direct translation] Milarepa says in one of his songs: ‘please doubt the mistake of thinking self-emergent spontaneous effulgence and many memories showing up directly are all just the same, same, same.’ [So don’t conflate these two. Well Lama Karma’s going to give a commentary here.] Right now for us, self-existent, spontaneous effulgence – [which is this very, very sublime terminology from Dzogchen of the creative displays of pristine awareness, I mean it’s, you know, the top – ahh for, but now where we are here, down, way down at the base of the building in shamatha, now for us,] “self-emergent, spontaneous effulgence” means memories from many past lives in this context. Being able to remember clearly things you did from an earlier part of this life. Having that memory reawakened is what “having many memories showing up directly” refers to. [So these two phrases.] “But this can happen even to those who have not yet practiced meditation.” [It can happen just daydreaming, and suddenly BLOOP! It comes up a memory. You know?] “We can have all sorts of memories about things we did in the past, and those are not “self-emergent, spontaneous effulgences”, but rather just memories showing up directly. “Self-emergent, spontaneous effulgence” means remembering distinct events from our past lives. Sometimes this can indeed happen. It is coming from the root of practice. But then there’s also just the reawakening of memories from the earlier part of this life.” [Of, of earlier part of our lives.]

[2:00:50] [So there’s that just spontaneous coming-up of memories, but on a relative level, this “effulgence” is referring to memories from past life. But on a much, much deeper level, of course, then it’s referring to the creative displays of rigpa. Let’s go for one, one more paragraph.] “Another method is to focus on an image.” [Well that’s a lot. Now let’s not. Because it’s a very rich; we’ve really finished one section here. So I think I won’t need to go so slowly in the second half. If it does, then we go longer. But maybe I can be a little bit more, mm, terse. Fewer words. But he covered, that was his presentation of mindfulness of breathing, and that was his Sravaka, and then he’s going to go into the classic Mahayana practice of focusing on an image of a deity. But he teaches it in a way that I’ve not heard before. And this is what I heard from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey back in ‘72. But the way he teaches it is different, and it’s very user-friendly. Very user-friendly. Very gentle. So Lama Karma, just by his temperament – I don’t know him well, I’ve just spent hours with him, and during the 10 days he was there in Santa Barbara I met with him privately a number of times – but what was very clear, he’s a very gentle soul. Very gentle soul. Very soft-spoken, humble, very grounded. Very loving relationship with his wife, for whom he showed tremendous respect. Real respect, as a yogini. Really accomplished. He said, in one practice in particular, ‘oh she’s farther than I am.’ He said of his wife. You know. So just a sublime lama, and he’s now one of my lamas that I, to whom I pray, ‘always catch me with the hook of your compassion, until I’m awakened.’ He’s a keeper. If you have, if you don’t finish your path in this lifetime, I hope you’ll connect with him. You can at least by way of the internet, and that’s good enough. But really extraordinary lama, and uh, so it’s my privilege, and I hope I’m not just muddying up the waters by all the, my little, as Gyatrul Rinpoche says of his own commentary, ‘all my garbage.’ I hope I’m not just throwing garbage on these precious words. Maybe if it’s the case, then it’d just be better to give the straight transmission. But uh, I think you, you probably couldn’t tell me even if you thought I’m going too much. But I’ll cut down a bit, so I don’t – I don’t want to muddy the waters of what he’s saying here.]

[2:03:10] Mantra recitation Verse of Refuge and Bodhichitta x3


In the Buddha, Dharma, and Supreme Community, I take refuge until my enlightenment. With the collections gathered through my cultivation of generosity and so on may I achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings.

The Seven Line-Prayer to Guru Rinpoche x3


Hūṃ In the northwest frontier of Oḍḍiyāna, in the heart of a lotus sits the one renowned as Padmasambhava, who achieved the wondrous supreme siddhi, and is surrounded by a host of many dākiṇīs. Following in your footsteps, I devote myself to practice. Please come forth and bestow your blessings. Guru Pema siddhi hūṃ

[2:04:53] Olaso. So we’ve completed Lama Karma’s introduction to counting the breaths as a method for actually achieving shamatha. I think if we look back, we would see this is a method for determining shamatha and settling the mind in its natural state, clearly implying that that is, by itself, a sufficient method for going all the way to achieve shamatha. And that’s exactly what is stated in the Pali Canon, and clearly stated by Asanga in the, in the Mahayana writings. And I’d like to give just a very brief account for this, because this is something I’ve had about almost 50 years to reflect upon, um how this can occur. So I’m going to very-, very concise, try not to ramble quite as much as I did this morning, and that is, you’ll, you’ll be aware – many of you are very seasoned scholars and contemplatives within the buddhadharma – that when you actually settle your mind in its natural state, it’s at that moment that your mind, your whole awareness shifts from the desire realm, crosses the threshold over into, into the form realm. So you know that. Which means that, at that point, all of your senses, sensory and mental, are all withdrawn from all of these appearances to our six physical senses that appear by, in dependence upon our human brain and so forth. And so then you just go right into that sheer vacuity of the substrate, that’s that sheer space devoid of appearances, and your mind has slipped down into, or dissolved into the subtle mind, the alayavijnana. But then the qualm that arose for me years ago is, as I was taught various methods – focusing on the sensations on the sensations at the nostrils and so forth – in so far as you’re still attending to the breath, then how – if you’re attending to that, you’re kind of dropping the anchor of your mind in the breath – then how could you ever then shift over to the form realm when your mind is locked into an object in the desire realm? It would drag you there. It would never let you lift off.

[2:06:46] And so I had a lot of time to reflect upon that, and practice, and the conclusion I’ve drawn, and I actually feel very comfortable with – that doesn’t mean it’s correct, it just means that maybe I’m very easily comforted [laughter]-- and that is that, as you go deeper and deeper, whether you’re focusing on the, on – many of you were taught, you know this whether you’re following Asanga’s method, foll-, attending to the tactile sensations, or the sensations of the rise and fall of the abdomen, or the sensations at the apertures of the nostrils, or you’re taking the Dzogchen approach and just simply noting the rhythm of the respiration without deliber-, deliberately attending to any of the tactile sensations, which are clearly in the desire realm – any of those four methods, or this one! Now we have five methods, the method of counting the breaths. Well as he said, there will come a point where it’s no longer helpful. The, the how do you say, cost-benefit analysis suggests too much cost, not enough benefit to keep on counting, because it’s more of a distraction that takes you away from maintaining just a continuous flow of mindfulness of the in and out breath. So here’s my solution. And I haven’t seen, I, I settled on this a number of years back and I haven’t any reason to budge, because it seems to be congruent with everything I know from the buddhadharma, and that is, you’re going deeper and deeper. You are disengaging, kind of just letting go gently, gently, with any of the tactile sensations, but even with your tactile awareness of the rhythm of the respiration, you’re letting that go, letting that go, and so that you can be aware of just the rhythm.

[2:08:12] Now recall – some of you will remember this – in a lucid dream, in a lucid dream when you’re completely oblivious of any tactile sensations generated by your body because your mind is totally within the mental domain and the only experiences you’re having are in the mental, it turns out to be the case, and this is a scientific discovery, that if you follow the rhythm of your breath in the dreamscape – you’re breathing in and breathing out mindfully, where you don’t have a body and there’s no breath, you’re breathing, there’s no air in the dream – it turns out to be the case that the rhythm of your breath in the dream corresponds exactly to the rhythm of the breath of the body lying in bed. It turns out to be the case. And so you’re following the same rhythm, rhythm, even though you’re completely oblivious of your body, your body and tactical sensations arising in the body. So my sense here is, I’m very confident about this, is you go deeper and deeper, you become less and less aware of anything within the desire realm – tactile sensations or anything else – the mind itself is dissolving, quieting, quieting, and you’re just left with the sheer rhythm. Just the rhythm, without any referent to the rhythm. Just the rhythm. And that’ll take you, take you, take you down, down, down. And then you release that, and your mind goes right into the substrate consciousness. So that’s my interpretation. It concerned me for a while, for, for a number of years: ‘how can you cross over the form realm if your mind is still anchored in sensations in the desire?’ And I think that does it.

[2:09:41] So, now we move onto another method, and this one again he surprised me, because when I first learned shamatha, it was the classic lamrim approach of looking at a visual image or a thangka, for example, but then turning your attention away and imagining it, visualizing it. Well, it turns out that’s not what he’s teaching here. When he began teaching, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, here it goes, what I’ve been hearing for 49 years.’ It turns out not. So let’s – are you ready? The adventure begins. So here’s his approach.

[2:10:10] “Another method is to focus on an image such as the form of a deity, such as the body of a buddha, which is a kind of shamatha with a sign, and is a practice for us Buddhists. [Because we are Buddhists, we have faith in the Buddha, then it makes really good sense to generate an image of the being in whom we take refuge. And it’s shamatha without a sign {correction: “shamatha with a sign”}, because that has a clear referent, or target, to which you are focusing your mindfulness. That’s clear.] For this, you first prepare the painted scroll of the body, [so exactly like this thangka behind me,] the painted scroll of the body, not too large or too small, not larger than one cubit. [And now you’ll see the, the beauty of, the relativity of dimensions in the Tibetan tradition, because a “cubit” is the distance from your elbow, I think up to the top of your hand. But of course, my cubit’s, my cubit’s larger than your cubit. [laughter] And then, you know anybody taller than me probably, or longer arms, has a longer cubit. So the cubit is, well who’s cubit? So you saw they’re pretty relaxed about that. You know, like Indian Standard Time. It’s kind of like, more or less an hour, but it could be a half an hour or two hours. So likewise dimensions. So, that’s a cubit but more or less, that’s enough. It’s your cubit! It’s your cubit. Ok? So what does he say?] Not larger than one cubit, and not smaller than one handspan, [and that would be this,] in height. [Ok? So, very clear.] It should be clear but not shiny. [Not shiny, because if it’s shiny it can kind of irritate, irritate a little bit. You know like, catch your attention. Flickering and like, like that. So clear, but not shiny.] And in a relaxed – [Dzogchen master speaking, right?] – in a relaxed, joyful way – [I’m, I know this doesn’t need to be said, I’m going to say it anyway: make a top priority enjoying your practice, and if you find you’re not enjoying it then go for a walk or something, or refresh your inspiration, or practice guru yoga, or bodhicitta, but it’s so important that you really do enjoy it. That every day, if not every session, every day you feel, ‘there’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than this.’ And it’s not always pleasant, of course. But there’s nothing I’d rather do, you know? Even like athletes, who are sometimes working out and bench pressing 200 pounds and so forth, I don’t think it’s really pleasant, but there’s nothing they’d rather do, you know? Because they enjoy getting the greater strength, the resilience, and so forth and so on.]

[2:12:24] [So that kind of enjoyment. Not that it’s like eating ice cream all the time, but you always have some sense of meaning, ‘this is what I love to do, I’m delighted to be able to do this,’ good companions and all of that. So I really can’t overemphasize that and I’ll probably repeat it more often, because I know what it’s like to get into kind of a grind, and I’m doing my work, and I’m trying hard, and I’m doing my best, dog gone it. And why am, why am I not prac-, progressing faster, and so forth and so on. And all the joy goes out. All the joy goes out. And so I’d really encourage you: nip that in the bud. Keep on coming back, and just make a baseline, ‘I’m enjoying being here, having these wonderful companions, this practice to engage in.’ So,] “in a relaxed, joyful way focus on that, not too close or far away. A distance of about a length of an ox yoke. [It’s about six feet. About six feet in front.] If it’s far away, involuntary thoughts will be more scattered, and if the image is too large, that will cause involuntary thoughts to scatter. [So not too far away, not too large]. Having a smaller object is a method for drawing thoughts inward’ – [for really, how do you say, composing your mind, unifying, drawing your mind altogether, right? It’s good for that. So I can just interject very briefly. Having a small top-, a small object is good for enhancing vividness. Vividness, right? And so, because then you bring higher resolution to it, otherwise you just have a little blur. But a smaller object, then you bring in higher resolution. Exactly like that, like on a,a computer screen. And so.]

[2:14:05] “So in the state of generation practice, in the samadhi of generating the deity, we focus on very tiny visualizations, such as the seed syllables inside the samadhisattva, but they must be very clear.” [And so you may, for example, visualize, oh, Samantabhadra at your heart, and at his heart, the syllable “hung.” Well if Samantabhadra’s only this big, and then you’re visualizing a seed syllable in his heart, well that’s, and this could be very high resolution. Ok? And so that’s very good, and then especially focusing at the heart, then that draws the energy into the heart, which, if you’re doing it very gentle and enjoyable way, that can be also a skillful means for drawing the prana into the heart, which is where they go when you achieve shamatha.]

[2:14:54] And so, “These are powerful means to withdraw the mind inwards, but if the visual object – [and this is the important point. He is saying “visual object.” Because I was assuming he was saying “mental object” all the time, but no, he literally means the “visual object”] – if the visual object – [in other words you’re looking with your eyes] is too small, so that you cannot see it clearly, it’s hard to focus on it. [So this is not good, ok?] The object of meditation should not be fluttering due to wind. [So if you have a thangka and it’s being, you know, blowing by the wind, that’s not good. And it’s, so it should not be flu-, or] so it should not be fluttering due to wind or moving about, but should be stable. A stable object helps to stabilize the mind. And there are extensive explanations of the many benefits of practicing shamatha in this way in the Samadhiraja Sutra, but this is a rough account of the re-, of the reasons for practicing like this. [So Lama Karma’s just giving a, a brief overview. But there’s more to come. And here it is.] First, this method serves to calm the mind. And secondly, focusing on the body of a Buddha develops a state of mind with intense clarity.”

[2:16:03] I’ve, this is especially true if one – people differ by temperament – but some people, really by temperament, are much more devotional, they feel that great reverence, faith, devotion, that, and so when such a person – and of course it’s just not yes, people, people are or not, are not, there’s a gradient there – but the more genuine devotion, reverence, admiration, awe, worship, a worshipful attitude one has towards, whether it’s Tara or Buddha Shakyamuni, it just makes it all the easier to focus. Just like, and it’s not a, it’s not a terrible analogy, just like if one is deeply in love, let’s say really, genuine love, sincerely in love, not just an infatuation but really in love with someone, you know in a very sweet way, very meaningful way. That can happen, yeah? That then one may just love to gaze upon the face of the loved one, right? Now clearly there’s, there can be some attachment in that. But frankly, if a person like myself, ordinary being, if I gaze at Tara, well she’s very central to my heart, very, very, very close. And so will there be a little bit of attachment? Yeah. But nothing, nothing I’m going to worry about, right? And so that, that attachment you can just transmute right into dharma. But it’s an analogy that I think is not, it’s not trivial, that if you really love that, in terms of reverence, and – just that, I don’t need to fill in the words – then it can actually make it a lot easier, rather than just focusing on a stick or a seed syllable, right? So it can be helpful. Ok. So.

[2:17:35] “And so this serves you well for both the practice of shamatha and the stage of generation. Now, when you focus on the image of the Buddha’s body, at the beginning, focus your gaze on the coil of hair between the Buddha’s eyebrows. [It’s a very famous coil, because you pull it out, and pull it out, and pull it out, and you can probably pull it out like a mile, and then you release it and it springs right back in. I don’t know the significance of that, but that’s what I was told from very early on. It’s one of the 32, must be one of the 32 Major Marks. So there’s probably some deep significance; I don’t know what it is. But you focus on that right there. And then,] when you get bored or dull, shift your gaze to different parts of the body, such as the eyes, nose, arms, legs, and implements [as in the case of Tara for example, or Manjushri], and then you can also focus on the whole body, and again narrow in on specific parts of his body.” [So you’re doing kind of a sometimes wide-angle, and just looking at the whole body, and then you zoom in on the coil here, or on the eyes, or the face, or maybe it’s, it’s a hand - like that. And so you focus in. Maybe you look at the, the garb, the garb and so forth, you really focus there. You look down at the cro-, the folded legs, and then you go out to zoo-, zoom and then you go like that. So you kind of keep it fresh, but you’re familiarizing yourself with the whole form by seeing if you can hold it all together at the same time, but then as you focus in you go for higher resolution. And then you back up, and you try to hold the whole.]

[2:19:01] [Now, this is the first technique I was ever taught. And I’ll tell you something again, again, the guru can save you some time? Well my gurus have saved me a lot of time. And in this practice – this is pith instruction – if this is the approach you’d like to take, then the point here is between stability and vividness in the ini-, earlier phases: number one relaxation. Many people don’t mention that. So be very relaxed, or enjoy the practice. On that basis though, between stability and vividness, prioritize stability, the continuity, that you’re able to not lose focus for a minute at a time, two minutes at a time, rather than going in, oh, you know, for the detail, the vividness, the acuity. But there’s a surprise coming, if you, if you don’t recall this already from his teachings. So here it is:] “At the beginning when you are training, you should foc-, look with your eyes and focus your mind on what you see with your eyes. It is a method to tame your mind. And sometimes when your mind becomes stable and thoughts have subseeded-, subsided, then even if you close your eyes you will still see the image mentally.”

[2:20:08] That’s not how I, that’s not how I was taught! And that I was taught you kind of, you look at the thangka, and you kind of, ‘oh I’ve got it! I know what White Tara looks like!’ And then you turn your eyes down, you close your eyes if you wish, and then from scratch, from an empty, empty canvas of the space of your mind, you generate some facsimile of what you saw. Now what you saw is 3D {correction: 2D}, it’s flat, and it’s not a person or a be-, a being. But as you generate it mentally, you ment-, you generate it three-dimensional, and you really focus on it as the image of Tara as if she’s actually there, but as a pure visualization. That’s not what he’s teaching! He’s teaching that you actually look with your eyes. And you’re actually directing your eyes to the coil of hair beh-, between the eyebrows, and the eyes, and the face, and then you’re looking. And so you’re doing all this with your eyes, where of course your mental awareness is piggy-backing on your visual awareness. But you really, the visual awareness is stabilizing your attention, because your eyes are not going to probably wander that much. The mind wanders so easily, but if I just focus on, on Tad’s face, well that’s easy! My, my, my eyes don’t want to jerk around. That’s easy. And then I say, ‘Ok, my, my, my eyes have already locked in and stabilized on an object because it’s so easy.’ Just focus there. But then I piggy-back on that my mental awareness, so I’m paying attention to Tad’s face and not just looking but having my mind wander elsewhere.

[2:21:32] So this is how you’re really familiarizing yourself with the object, and you keep on, and this is your shamatha practice. The stability is the mental stability, but it’s locked onto the easy stability of just focusing on the same place and just moving your eyes around on the object as he’s explained. And then he says as you become more and more and more familiar, just like with the face of your, your loved one, or it could be your child, it could be anyone, but you just gaze upon that image again and again and again, then you know, and if you’re doing this hours per day, then it’s not going to be very long before you become so familiar with it you close your eyes and it just comes up. Right? Well, when I re-, when I fi-, when I got what he was actually saying here, which I’d never heard before, I thought, ‘well this is familiar!’ This is like kasina practice in the sravakayana! Because kasina practice – I’m going to be brief here, I’m going to try to really be a bit, edit myself a bit more – but in kasina practice it can be a kasina or emblem of earth, water, fire, air. Many of you have heard me talk about this. Classic Theravada practice. Not many people do it anymore, but some do. But you just take an emblem of the earth element, which is kind of just of clay, of soil in a, a disc, and you focus on it visually and then mentally, and you even recite the Pali term for earth, ‘earth,’ ‘earth,’ you think ‘earth,’ ‘earth,’ ‘earth’ and you’re just absorbing your visual awareness and your mental awareness on that, that very smooth disc of clay, of an emblem or a token of the earth element, and then when you’ve become very familiar with it, then you go into a darkened room or into your kuti, your little meditation hut and then, because you spent 10, 15, 20, 30 hours focusing on them visually, when you go into your hut, then it just comes up spontaneously because you’re so familiar with it. You’re not visualizing it. It’s an after-image. But it’s come up so easily because you’ve drenched your mind in it.

[2:23:25] And then you’re, and so that initial sign – this is shamatha with a sign – is the visual object, and the acquired sign is that after-image that comes up spontaneously and you focus on that and sustain that. Right? And that’s for the long-haul. And if you-, if it, and if it gets vague, it phases out, then you go right back and gaze visually again until you’re very, very familiar with it. And then for awhile you’re just so familiar, you know, that you just take that acquired sign and that takes you all the way to the counterpart sign, and that’s what, when you’re seeing that, this acquired image breaks apart and you see, like the conceptual quintessence or archetype of the earth element of the universe, and that’s emerging right from the form realm. And when you see that, that’s when you’ve achieved shamatha. Right? So I just found this very interesting, that it’s much more akin to the kasina method than it is what I heard, where you’re generating it from scratch. And frankly, many people find that very difficult, very difficult, and unsatisfying and frustrating. They say, ‘I’m just no good at visualizing; it’s so vague, it’s, has no continui-, no definition, no stability, and I’m really bad at it.’ And then many people just give up. A few don’t. People who are artists, architects, people who work, really work with a lot of visual imagery, sometimes they just have a knack for it and it’s really good for them. Most people, including Tibetans – because I’ve, you know I’ve lived with yogis – they find it very difficult. Right? But this way, that’s not nearly so difficult! So I found that fascinating! Never heard it before! Ok? And I’m an old geezer. I’ve heard a lot of shamatha teachings. And so.

[2:25:06] So, and so that’s it. That’s the method. And so if you want to achieve shamatha with that method, you keep on coming back to your visual image as long as you like, for as long as it’s helpful. Just like counting the breath. When it’s no longer helpful, you say, ‘I, I, I got, I got it, you know? I just, it comes up spontaneously!’ That’s your shamatha practice. And then, as Asanga describes in his “Sravakabhumi”, he describes this in detail and Tsongkhapa cites him repeatedly, of the actual achievement of shamatha, when you’ve actually achieved the shamatha, let’s say on an image of Buddha Shakyamuni that is now a purely a mental image, and when you’re there at Stage 9, almost have achieved shamatha, it’s, those who have accomplished this say it’s a purely a mental image, it’s as high-definition, three-dimensional, it’s as if you are looking at it with your eyes. And moreover, you can just maintain it with hardly any effort or no effort for 3, 4 hours no problem. And your 5 physical senses have shut down. You’re in Cinema #6, the cinema of the mind. And all the other cinemas have shut down. The other 5 domains have shut down, and there’s just a space, your awareness, and the buddha image.

[2:26:12] And it’s effortless, it’s, it’s very, very high-definition, radiant vividness, utter stability – no flickering, no, no wandering at all – and then when you get to that point, then I’m not going to go the whole detail. I mean, there’s these chang-, the shifts in the, the prana within the body and so forth. You can read about that elsewhere. But what’s very interesting here, because this is now Asanga – again, speaking with tremendous authority – but when you get to that point, where you can just go in and for four hours there’s just you and the Buddha image, then you release the Buddha image into the space of the mind and then you just rest right there. And it’s at that point exactly when your mind, your human mind that was sustaining, the human mind with human mindfulness sustaining the human-generated image based upon something you saw from the desire realm – you release that and then WHEW the human mind dissolves into the substrate consciousness, the substrate becomes empty, and that’s when you achieve shamatha. But you release it. I found that very, very interesting. And I learned that years ago from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. Very helpful.

[2:27:20] [And so. And then, then I translated Tsongkhapa’s “Medium Exposition” in his “Medium Lamrim” of, of shamatha, and it’s brilliant and concise and definitive, and he cites Asanga on this point. So, what is beautiful about shamatha too, there are bound to be differences among the four different schools, and there’s noth-, I don’t, I’m not troubled by them at all. Differences in vipashyana approaches and differences here. Why not? You know? That’s, otherwise they’d all be one tradition. But when it comes down to shamatha? This is my doctoral dissertation! I looked at shamatha in the Theravada tradition rather at length, and in the Gelugpa tradition at length. I translated Tsongkhapa’s definitive presentation. And I looked at shamatha in the Mahamudra tradition, and in the Zen tradition. I saw no significant difference. None. What is shamatha? What is access to the first jhana? The methods are different, of course. But I saw no significant differences at all. And that suggests, this is again, just as the Four Immeasurables are universal virtues – in any galaxy loving-kindness is a virtue. There won’t be any galaxies where loving-kindness will send you to hell. Right? Can’t be! We can’t be living in such a universe.

[2:28:27] And so in any galaxy, in any religion, or any absence of religion, the Four Immeasurables are sublime virtues and that’s that. Right? And so they, they are – how do you say? – they are transportable anywhere, to any, any frame of reference, human or non-human. Devas can practice and so forth. And likewise shamatha is a universal technology. Universal technology. It has no tags on it. ‘Oh you have to be religious! You have to believe in Buddha, you have to believe in God, or in reincarnation!’ No it’s just a straight, universal technology. And the discoveries made by people over here, people over there: this is like a scien-, the scientific theme of people operating in independent laboratories, and sometimes using different methodologies, and honing in on the same reality. It happens often. And that’s the gold standard. You know this is not – and here’s the, here’s biologists – you know then that’s not an artifact of your system of measurement. If another group independently, using another system, and you’re discovering the same thing – this happens a lot in astronomy – then you know, ‘ok this is not an artifact, it is not a concoction, or a fabrication, or a hallucination generated by your instrument.’

[2:29:30] And so, does this mean that what you’re observing exists inherently by its own nature? It would certainly seem so if you’ve never been introduced to Madhyamaka, but the answer’s no. It simply means there’s an intersubjective corroboration, but that doesn’t mean existing by its own inherent nature. It’s a subtle point, but I won’t elaborate. I don’t want to drown out Lama Karma’s voice here. And so. And so he’s finished with that. But that’s it. And I find it quite brilliant and simple. And it’s not that complicated, and if you want more details, then look in any of the classic descriptions of the ch-, the nine stages of shamatha and so forth. So. But he’s finished with that. And now he gives a lovely story, and the tr-, it’s very carefully translated, like everything here. So here’s the story.

[2:30:16] “There was a shepherd boy who became a disciple of Milarepa known as Luksirempa-, Luskirepa, who later became a mahasiddha. When he was looking after his flock of sheep he encountered Milarepa, and asked him to teach meditation. Teach him meditation. Milarepa instructed him just to visualize, on the tip of this nose, an image of the Buddha. Remain there single-pointedly, and then come back to me, he said. Come back to me.” [I have to interject. This is one of those points where you want to make there’s sure there’s a very clear distinction between the focus of your visual gaze and of your mental gaze. Got it? {laughter} And your eyes will start giving you a splitting headache, you’ll have migraines, and you’ll, you’ll be in really bad, bad waters if you try to achieve shamatha by going cross-eyed. So this is one case where you keep your gui-, gaze utterly vacant. This is equally true if you’re focusing on the tactile sensations at the tip of your nostrils. Anybody that starts focusing in on it like that, you’re bound for a real head-on collision, uh and migraines and all of that. So but, but here he was. Interesting enough, Milarepa, who could have taught him anything, taught him image of the Buddha on tip of your nose, this means keep your eyes vacant and unfocused, and only focus mental awareness on this image. So that was, that was his practice. Milarepa can teach anything he likes. He’s Milarepa.]

[2:31:41] [And so,] “so he went away. [He got his pith instructions from Milarepa. Wouldn’t that be cool to be a shepherd and just bump into Milarepa? That’s pretty good karma.] And so he went away and found the wall of a ruin, and while leaning against it with his body straight and his hands in meditation posture, he meditated on a tiny image of the Buddha. But after some time he forgot all else and seven days went by unbeknownst to him. [Seven days went by!] He was a shepherd, and his parents and other relatives were worried that he’d become lost. They looked for him everywhere and eventually came to Milarepa and asked him whether their boy had come here. And Milarepa told him that their son had come to him to learn how to meditate. He taught him to visualize the Buddha, and then he left. They asked him how long ago this had happened, and he replied it had been about seven days. So eventually his family, they found him, but he seemed to be zoned out and his eyes, with his eyes downcast. And when they touched him, they aroused him and asked what he’d been doing. He replied that he’d been meditating. ‘Is that what meditation is about?’ they asked, commenting that they hadn’t seen him for seven days. And he replied that he just set, sat down to meditate. ‘I just sat down! What seven days?’ From his perspective only a moment had gone by, but his mindfulness of all else had been lost and seven days had gone by, oblivious to him. This happened several times. So they told him, his family told him they couldn’t look after him anymore. [He’s not a very good shepherd, if he keeps on zoning out, you know? Hope the sheep will be ok, you know, seven days later. And finds a lot of very happy wolves.] And so they told him they couldn’t lak-, look after him anymore, for they had brought, for this had brought them much distress. So he should return to Milarepa.” [You know? You, now, you’re a total disaster as a shepherd. Hang out with your, your meditation buddy!]

[2:33:44] “And so the medi-, the shepherd reported to Milarepa that he’d focused on Shakyamuni’s body, but he’d lost mindfulness of all else without any sense of the passage of time. Only afterwards when he saw how the sun had moved did he recognize that time had passed. When he entered meditative equipoise it was evening, and when the clarity of his mindfulness was restored [he opened his eyes and he engaged], it was morning. Oh! But it felt like a moment. Right? Only in that way could he believe that time had passed. Milarepa told him, ‘this is called stagnant shamatha, and is not a sign of having achieved shamatha, nor a virtue of having reached the path. Nor is it something that should or shouldn’t happen. But if you revive this, he counseled him, if you revive this – [refresh this, restore this. You remember my little slogan? Lose clarity and what do you do? Refresh, restore, retain. So? I picked that up from somewhere. I don’t think I ma-, don’t think I made it up.] So he said, ‘if you revive this with vividness of attention, this will help you in the practice of vipashyana.’”

[2:34:58] Quintessentially, shamatha is all about stability, vipashyana’s all about vividness, or clarity. Quintessentially. Ok? And so if, with respect to your meditative object in shamatha you’re really enhancing, intensifying clarity, that’s going to set you up for taking that clarity and applying it to the inquiry that you engage in when you’re practicing vipashyana. And so for example or as an analogy I should say,] “just as the sun rises gradually, so do the signs of the path in meditation occur only gradually. You should not think they’ll hap-, that they, they should not think that they happen all of a sudden.” [Like the signs of the nine stages of shamatha, that somehow they’ll just suddenly burst upon you. It’s gradual. The analogy I like is sowing a seed in the soil, fertile soil, tending to it, and then as the seed germinates, and what you’re looking, let’s say it’s, let’s say it’s a kernel of corn and you’re looking, the end, the end product is a, is a whole stalk of corn with full, you know, sheaths of corn on it, well you know for to go from that single kernel of corn to the fully-ripened cornstalk with it’s great corn, you know there are stages you have to go through and you can’t skip any of them. Right? It’s just ordinary botany, even for an amateur like myself.]

[2:36:18] But it has to go through each one of those stages. And Panchen Rinpoche, in his root text and commentary on Mahamudra, he said, this is true of the nine stages of shamatha. Whatever method you’re practicing, whether it’s Mahamudra, mindfulness of breathing, buddha-image, whatever, you will pass, whether you even know it – you don’t need to memorize all nine stages. You don’t need to know about the nine stages! Not all yogis do. But you will pass through all nine stages, just like going from the, from the kernel of, of corn to the fully-ripened stalk. You can’t skip them. It’s an organic growth, and each one leads to the next. That’s rather important. Yeah? And so, it doesn’t happen all of a sudden.

[2:36:58] “When you meditate, signs of the qualities of the path arise, but you shouldn’t think stagnant shamatha is something excellent.” [So, I remember when I was assisting Gen Lamrimpa in 1988, leading the one-year shamatha retreat. I organized it, I invited him. He was the master. And I was 38 at the time, so I really took on the role of apprentice. I interpreted for him, and I gave a little bit of subsidiary guidance to the students, because they were all my students. But I remember there was one fellow, not among our twelve who went for the one-year retreat, a fellow who was practicing Zen. And he heard about us and he just dropped in and wanted to meet with me. And very pleasant fellow. Very sincere, clearly. And he sat down and he told me about his practice. And I, I didn’t know anything about him, but he’s telling, ‘this is my practice.’ And he said he would wake up early in the morning, every morning, and meditate from 4 to 7. And he said during those 4-, those three hours – it was the same every single morn-, every single morning – he would go into his three hour session, he’d be calm, no thoughts would arise, it was homogeneous, it was stable, it was bland, and it was the same every d-, every day! And he asked me then, ‘what is this?’ And it was only three hours, but it wasn’t maturing, it wasn’t ripening. It was like a stunted corn of stalk {sic} that just wasn’t getting enough water and it kind of just sits there and starts to wither. And so thinking back, this is now – gosh! – 32 years ago. I think I, I already kind of sensed it already: he did not have sufficient vividness, and his vividness was not growing from a deepening stability. It just hit a stagnancy of just bland, same old, same old, same old every single day. So he wasn’t really developing anything, he was going into this bland, vague kind of stability. Not really clear, not really dull. And so I think that was probably another instance of this stagnant shamatha. It’s not something excellent. So I, I gave him the counsel that I’d heard. I passed it on. I’d been practicing for 18 years at that point.]

[2:39:04] [So now, we continue.] “Now, if you can remain – [so Milarepa is telling him] – signs of the path will arise, but you shouldn’t think that stagnant shamatha is something excellent, [he’s telling this shepherd, but now he says], now if you can remain with me for 12 years, devoted to the practice of vipashyana, then you can report on your practice in vipashyana, and if you can’t do that, you won’t be able to give such a report.” [In other words, you have to kick yourself out, bootstrap yourself out of this stagnant. You need to infuse vividness into it, and then you can get that ball rolling and actually fully achieve shamatha. Riding on the crest of the wave of vividness: that can take you to shamatha. Then take that vividness, apply that to vipashyana for 12 years, and then you really get somewhere. So, very, very powerful, isn’t it? So there we are.]

[2:39:56] [And so,] “the shepherd then asked Milarepa to guide him, saying, ‘I enjoy meditating, and with thanks, please teach me.’ And later he became a great Mahasiddha known as Luksirepa. And “luksi” means shepherd, and “repa” – [like Milarepa] – is the “cotton-clad” shepherd.” [So he became a mahasiddha. So. It’s also one of the beauties about shamatha, that some people are highly intelligent, and specifically intelligent for philosophy, they, they introduced to Madhyamaka and they’re just rolling, you know, like a fire, raging through it. They really get it. And some people find it very difficult. Some people find visualization very difficult. Some people find devotion very difficult. But here’s a simple shepherd, and so he, whatever his IQ was, level of erudition probably very, very limited, but it was enough. And he clearly achieved shamatha with that guidance. And that I’m, I’m certain – even though I don’t know this, I’m still certain – Milarepa didn’t give him textbook teachings on Madhyamakāvatāra and so forth. He gave him pith instructions, and it’s reasonable, yeah? He’s a shepherd, for Heaven’s sakes! He’s probably illiterate. But he gave him pith instructions on vipashyana in the Mahamudra tradition, and that was enough for him to realize emptiness and from that, spring right-, springboard right into Mahamudra, and became a Mahasiddha. So this, I think we can kind of imagine this is probably a person of ordinary intelligence. And you don’t need to be extremely gifted in this way or that way, but you do need to really have that motivation, the dedication, and do the practice. And then, if we practice like Luksirepa, then we will achieve like Luskirepa. So.]

[2:41:36] [So that was 12, that was for 12 years, but] “for the years in between he said that, whether for 5 days or 6 days, every two days or three days it was difficult because he would lose mindfulness and could not gain control of his mind. [So it was not 12 years of smooth sailing. He would really have some real downs, and probably felt like giving up.] But he had Milarepa to ly-, to rely on, he could always go back to him, and he, he managed to get through all the upheavals, all the down days and so forth. And later he wrote down his autobiography of how he practiced, what kind of experiences he had, and how Milarepa corrected him.” [Well, that’s what I asked of Lama Karma, you know. And, in a way he wrote a part of his autobiography. So, lovely! So there are cases when a person is so profoundly realized, they can do so without recrimination by their peers or their lamas, and no downside to anybody. Only inspiration for others. And then the lama will do it. Milarepa was completely unabashed about telling others of his own enlightenment, because there was no downside to it.]

[2:42:44] [So, Lama Karma continues], “those are examples of practices of shamatha with a sign, and the stages of practice on that basis are set forth definitively in the sutras and treatises in nine methods for stilling the mind, or nine mental states by which one engages samadhi. But we’re not able to practice all of them now.” [So it’s very important to recognize that we see, literally it’s sem nepé tab gu, nine methods for stilling the mind. Literal translation. And so we, nine methods you might think, ‘whoa! You mean like one’s mindfulness of breathing, the other one’s focusing on buddha image, the other one’s like that…’ It’s not like that at all! But it could look like it. Nine methods! Oh! Well, we only had three, now we have nine!]

[2:43:27] And so I remember reading one book years ago where the person writing the book was under that impression, that you could start practicing shamatha and on the first day you could practice the first method, and the second day the seventh method, maybe pop down to the third method, and then the ninth method, and then the fifth method, and kind of just do it all helter skelter, whatever you feel like. And that’s not the way it is! In fact, they are utterly sequential. And they’re not so much methods – like for example, mindfulness of breathing, the method is the same, but how it’s engaged from stage 1, 2, 3, 4, the method is the same but your experiences are very different. So it’s not like you have nine different practices. You may have, as in taking the mind as the path, that’s the same practice from day 1 to day zenith. The end. It’s one method. But how it will be experienced from one stage to another, oh that, that, that, that varies radically. And so this is a very important point.

[2:44:21] [That, the problem is if, if one’s conceptual understanding of a practice is wrong, everything will f-, everything fo-, that will follow will be wrong. And you may have tremendous motivation, renunciation, bodhicitta, zeal, enthusiasm, discipline, and everything, and be wasting your time completely or even screwing yourself up. So this is why the understanding from hearing and from thinking, and knowing you have an authentic source, and it’s been clearly explained, is so important. Because people can waste time meditating, let alone harm themselves. And I’ve seen both happen. I’m sure I’ve done it myself on occasion. So we continue.] “So we can’t practice all of those nine stages now. For now, the first three methods of stilling the mind are important, so they should be known. And they are – [to call them by name] – they are directed engagement, continual engagement, and resurgent engagement. For shamatha, these are extremely important.”

[2:45:19] So years ago, it was a long time ago, when I published the book “The Attention Revolution”, and I commented there, I made it, made it where some people really objected to it, they’re quite upset with me. Um, the, the question is, if you’re living a householder’s way of life, with socially active and doing many things, how far can you expect to pro-, progress along the nine stages? And I said well, there are always gifted people, but I, realistically speaking, you’re probably not going to go beyond stage 3. And people were really pissed off at that: ‘oh this is elitist and blah blah blah.’ They wanted to think they could make no sacrifices, same old lifestyle, priorities, everything the same, and by the way I’ll take one, one dose of shamatha thank you very much. It doesn’t work that way! And so, I said first three stages, that is really a distance you could probably travel even in a socially active way of life. Very gifted ones? Who knows. It’s not for me to say.

[2:46:09] But I don’t believe in giving false advertising. His Holiness has often commented about three year, three month, three day retreats. And sometimes the propaganda’s come out, ‘oh if you practice one of these, then you have a real chance of achieving perfect enlightenment! Three years, three months, three days!’ And he said, ‘this is, this is like Chinese Communist propaganda!’ He said that many times, is that, yeah if you’re Milarepa, maybe. But otherwise, you know, that’s just misleading. And then people get two, two thirds of the way their three, three year retreat and they say, ‘well am, am I on the sixth bhumi yet?’ You know. And so, giving false expectations then gives rise to discouragement, and then they come and, and the whiplash comes around: ‘you deceived me! Like false advertising! You, you deceived me! I was relying on you. Taking refuge in you. And what am I, you’re, you’re telling me I, I suck? You’re telling me I’m really a loser because I’m not on the sixth bhumi after two d-, two, two years? Shall I feel bad? Or shall I feel you’re bad? Or is this whole system all a bunch of hooey?’

[2:47:07] So this is why false advertising is terribly important to avoid. And that’s what he’s doing right here. Don’t have any – you can, you can expect some things. If you practice, it should benefit. But not having false expectations. It just harms everybody, and robs the whole buddhadharma of credibility. When we find people – and I’ve seen this, very unfortunately – people claiming to be arhats, and then redefining arhatship, and then saying, ‘oh well if this is, oh, oh this is arhatship, oh well then why did we even bother? This isn’t such a big deal!’ And they’re claiming arhatship when they haven’t even reached the path yet. And I’ve seen this. And it misleads a lot of people. And I think it’s very unfortunate.

[2:47:47] [So these are degenerate times, so at least we can push back clear misrepresentations of dharma, and there’s a lot of it out there. I won’t elaborate. I have on many other occasions. Not now. Let’s hear Lama Karma continue to speak. The first three. We’ll focus on those. So we continue], “when you begin, when you begin practicing shamatha [this is a classic], involuntary thoughts seem to increase.” [That’s what Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey told us back in 1972. When you start practicing shamatha, you’ll feel you’re getting worse. Before you practiced shamatha, ‘my mind was pretty good! I could focus when I wanted to, and I could play ping pong and tennis, and I could watch a movie, and I was focused on everything I’m doing, and now I’m sitting, watching my breath and my mind is all over the place! Meditation is clearly harmful. Because now I’m having so much more rumination, and mind-wandering, excitation. Wow, meditation looks like it’s really bad for you. Because I was pretty good before, and I wanted to get better, and all I did was get worse!’ It’s very, very common. It’s standard! And so, when you know it’s standard, then you won’t be discouraged.]

[2:48:53] “So involuntary thoughts seem to increase. In fact, they’re always arising. [They were always there, but you weren’t noticing. You weren’t noticing, because your mind was directed elsewhere. That’s exactly what Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey said. And so,] they were always arising, but we don’t take-, but in fact they’re always arising but we don’t take charge of them, or recognize them. But when we practice shamatha, we can clearly recognize how many thoughts come up, and how the mind works.” [So I’m sure many people are quite oblivious of how their own mind works, for the very simple reason: they’re not paying attention. They’re paying attention to other peoples’ behavior, and the stock market, and the traffic, and their kids, and entertainment, and their health and so forth. And they’re just never even pausing. I’m sure there are people who are metacognitively impaired, and I’ve met some of them.]

[2:49:47] I’m, I’m not speaking sarcastically or in a derogatory way, but meeting a person who is extremely intelligent, and then telling me in a very bold, authoritative voice, ‘you cannot observe your thoughts! You can only think them!’ And I thought, ‘wow.’ I didn’t say anything. I felt no re-, no value in confrontation there. But I thought, ‘wow this person is profoundly metacognitively impaired.’ He doesn’t even, never even experienced – obviously! – never even experienced witnessing a thought. He only thought them. And a friend of mine who was a neuropsychiatrist at UC San Francisco, he wrote an excellent paper – this is very brief – but he said, in effect, and what he said as a professional, not a Buddhist or a meditator, but he said, ‘if you’re metacognitively impaired,’ and I’m using it very literally and he did too, ‘you’re just not aware of the desires, emotions, thoughts, you’re just not aware of them because you’re focusing outwards all the time. If you’re metacognitively impaired, this is more crippling to your mental health and well-being than being blind, crippled, or deaf.’

[2:51:54] I think it’s literally true. You could be blind and have a, be a bodhisattva, or be immen-, immensely productive and happy and joyful, and have a very meaningful life. Likewise people are deaf. Why not? A person who’s, you know, physically challenged, in a wheelchair. They, they, many of them live wonderful lives. But he’s saying, for your mental health, if you’re not even aware of what’s going on in your mind, then this is really a major impediment to your mental health and well-being. And I’m sure that’s true. And so then, it would just be so wonderful, how, how has it not happened already, that in every elementary school on the planet, children are taught how to develop their metacognitive awareness for emotional intelligence, for developing attention skills, for doing well in school, for social, social relationships and so forth. How could we have missed that, you know?

[2:51:44] When William James wrote about it so brilliantly 110 years ago, and almost nothing’s been done. A few here, Waldorf School here, and that here and there, but I’m just wondering, how did the 20th century slip by and we never even thought of it? And I do find that staggering. But here we are, we are very fortunate to be able to listen to the great yogi explaining what does actually happen. So we, we not only recognize how many thoughts come up, but in the process of this, you’re going to get very up close and personal with your own mind, and you will start to see, even without vipashyana, you will see how your mind works. Just by observing it, and being aware of introspectively what’s coming up.

[2:52:25] “As involuntary thoughts increase, they seem to arise as unhappiness. [And that is, they’re disturbing, they’re upsetting, they’re irritating, they’re exasperating. You wonder, well are they ever going to stop? They’re generally not pleasant. Psychologists have found that, in terms of rumination, which is very close to this, about 80% of rumination is unpleasant. 80% across the boards. So,] as involuntary thoughts increase, they seem to arise as unhappiness, or as though we are being tossed about in a great storm. [So again, just see if, does that resonate with your experience or not, where your mind is just throwing you topsy-turvy.] Everyone experiences many of these kinds of powerful involuntary thoughts, which are unlike anything they’ve experienced before, when they practice shamatha. And they may feel discouraged, thinking they’re really poor at meditation, and that they won’t be able to get anywhere in meditation. [So how many times have I led 8 week retreats, 8 week retreats, and so on, and with the, used to be weekly, weekly interviews when we had fewer people, like 36, how many times have I heard people coming in for their 15-minute interview per week, and saying, ‘Alan, I’m sure I’m the worst of all the students here.’ And I say, ‘Get in line! I think there’s about 35 people that said all that already!’]

[2:53:44] [Because you don’t know who to compare yourself with! All you know is, ‘this isn’t what I was expecting! I expected to be getting better, and I’m getting worse! That must, I mean, I must be extremely dull faculties. And should I even continue? Teacher, should I just drop out so I’m not wasting your time?’ And I’ve heard that many times. And not once have I said yes. And so] “they should seek advice,” [such people, when they think ‘Maybe I’m not getting anywhere, am I wasting my time? I could be working in a soup kitchen, I could be helping children, social work, I could be working for the environment, and here I am just watching my breath go in and out? Is this kind of maybe shameful? That I’m not even progressing, for Heaven’s sakes? Shouldn’t I go out and do something good? Give traf-, give traffic directions! Look for people that are lost. You know? Anything more than this! Because I seem to be wasting everybody’s time, and just getting discouragement.’]

[2:54:34] “Such people, then, they should seek advice from a qualified lama who will tell them that this is a sign of experience. This is the first sign of success. [That you feel you’re really, really awful. And your mind is total mess. So this is a sign of experience! This is the first indication of progress! This is what Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey told us years ago, and that those involuntary thoughts were occurring all along, but they weren’t recognized.] The lama will then tell them, this is a meditative experience of recognizing involuntary thoughts.” [The meditative experiences: “nyam.” This is the first big nyam. And so recognize it, the first mile-post or whatever: you’re making, you’re getting some progress. You feel you’re getting worse. That’s the first step, that you’re actually getting somewhere.]

[2:55:21] [And so], “I personally [Lama Karma says], I personally have a lot of difficulties with this. I had a lot of experience with this. Previously when I was meditating, thoughts would rise up strongly. I found it very difficult when I was practicing shamatha in retreat for 6 months while sealed inside a mud hut. It happened to me just like that. That phase is known as the meditative experience of recognizing involuntary thoughts. If you don’t meditate, you won’t recognize involuntary thoughts.” [And that is, if you’re being kidnapped every day. Every day, somebody comes to your home and kidnaps you, and then at the end of the day just drops you off at home, and the next morning they kidnap you, but the first thing they do when they kidnap you is put chloroform over your nose, and so you’re kind of out all day and then you drop, they drop you back at home, you’ll feel you’d never been kidnapped.]

[2:56:19] Whereas when you’re practicing shamatha, you’re still getting kidnapped, but with no chloroform. {laughter} And you say, ‘this is awful! I don’t like being kidnapped every single day! Give me a break!’ And it doesn’t. Your mind will just do this, it seems endlessly. And you may want to give up. So, if you don’t meditate, you won’t recognize involuntary thoughts. You have to stop putting the chloroform over your metacognition and be aware that it’s happening, and then face the music. This is your first nyam. And what do you do when a nyam encounters? Be aware of it. Be aware of it without getting caught up in it, without identifying it, without reifying it, without hope or fear and simply continue the practice. So, back to his personal narrative.

[2:57:06] “When I came to Lama Naljorpa to regres-, re-, request guidance in my meditative practice, he first gave me a practice to purify the body, speech, and mind. [So among that 20 years, because he, he didn’t begin his training with Lama Naljorpa at the age of 28. He’d been under him for some time. So 20 years, what kind of practices might, well vajrasattva for sure. Other practices, 4 Immeasurables very, very likely, and so forth. So, practices, purification – sattjang, sattjang for 20 years accumulating merit and purifying obscurations. 20 years, yeah?] If one failed to pass the test related to that – [if you just skip the preliminaries, say ‘well nevermind that I just want shamatha,’ if you skip that,] – then if one failed to pass the test related to that, then he would not grant the instructions on investigating the origin, location, and destination of the mind.”

[2:57:58] I find this just ex-, extraordinary, because before he’s teaching shamatha – you’re doing the, you’ve done your purification, you’ve done the preliminary, one way or another! Five sets of a hundred thousand, or doing the Common Preliminaries and the Seven Uncommon Preliminaries, as we followed last, last spring. But one way or another, and there’s not just one way to accumulate and to purify, but one way you need to do that. But, now what was the point here? Yeah! And that is, on that basis, then the first thing that he teaches him is not shamatha. It’s vipashyana. And specifically vipashyana on the nature of the mind before going into the shamatha practice. Right? Well, all of you have received teachings from the Dudjom Lingpa, you know that’s exactly what he taught every single time. Before the shamatha practice, you ch-, you check out – remem-, this is so important, and it’s coming exactly here. But he’s not following Dudjom Lingpa. That’s not really his tr-, his tradition. It’s long-, Longchen Ngintik, it’s other, and then it’s Peg, Pegyal Lingpa, and Lama Naljorpa, but big emphasis on Longchen Nyingtik. Not Dudjom, not Dudjom Lingpa, not so much. But Dzogchen is Dzogchen. But here we see the same point he already highlighted: among body, speech, and mind, mind is primary.

[2:59:14] What’s next? Origin, location and destination of the mind. Vipashyana to at least soften up, or begin to, to erode, the strong, unquestioned reification of the mind, so that when you take the mind as the path, it doesn’t have that power from its own side that it seems to have when you reify every thought, emotion and so forth that comes up. You have at least some insight that this mind that beats you up, and calms you, and soothes you, and terrifies you, that it’s not really there. It never came into existence, it’s not really located anywhere, and it doesn’t really go anywhere. At least some insight into that. So you, you soften the blows of the mind as you take the mind as the path, and those meditative experiences, the nyam and the lung, the upheavals, they’ll at least be somewhat – how do you say? – the power will be attenuated because of some insight into the emptiness of mind. And that will increase as you simply follow the path.

[3:00:14] You sow the seeds of vipashyana into the stream of shamatha, and those seeds will be generated even while you’re simply taking the mind as the path. A powerful method, and to see this is exactly the same method that I’ve been taught, especially in these five treatises of Dudjom Lingpa, I find very, just, kind of, it strengthens the confidence like, ‘wow! It’s the same!’ But he would not teach him this, this pith instruction on vipashyana on the nature of the mind – origin, location, destination – until he was really sure you’ve done that groundwork. You’ve done that groundwork. So, exactly as in the “Vajra Essence” and so on.

[3:00:53] “When I did succeed in that, then he guided me for several months in inquiring into the origin, location, and destination of the mind.” [He taught him f-, for several months he taught him the vipashyana before going into the shamatha. So that was not just a little quickie: ‘I got it! I got it!’ I mean, it’s so easy. Origin? Yeah, I didn’t see one. Location? I didn’t see one. Destination? Nope! Ok next! It’s really easy to feel, ‘yeah but why should I do that again? I already get it! I already get it!’ Except it’s had no imprint at all, and the insight is completely conceptual. So here’s a man who’s been practicing for 20 years, and he spends a number of months doing just that every day. So clearly, when we think of professional neuroscientists, and psychologists, and artists, and painters and so forth, and we know what that entails, this is professional training.]

[3:01:49] And we hardly have it in the modern west. We hardly have it. And not many Tibetans have it. They’re doing the formalized approach, the formulaic approach, which I don’t criticize. Doing a three year retreat can be very beneficial, great virtue and so forth. But will you achieve shamatha? Almost certainly not. Vipashyana? Almost certainly not. Reach the path? Get outta here. And even if you do two or three of them, and doing the same thing over and over again, again it’s more and more virtue. But I asked Tsokni Rinpoche, when he told me about some yogis that had been meditating togten, meditating 12, 15 years, and they were doing the Six Yogas, every year they were doing the Six Yogas, going through, cycling, cycling through Stage of Completion practice on Six Yogas, and doing that year after year after year, Six Yogas. And I said, these yogis, I mean they’re really formidable beings, and I said, ‘have they achieved shamatha?’ And he said, ‘oh no!’

[3:02:45] So, so that’s good that they’re doing such virtue and getting such imprints, but listening to Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche, Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche himself, he knows this inside and out. That’s his tradition! And he’s drawing the conclusion: maybe we should be thinking more about the shamatha and vipashyana, which is easily overlooked as one gets cau-, gets caught up in all the liturgies and the visualizations and the mantras of Stage of Generation and the protector prayers and maybe even doing the tsalungand the trul khor and so forth and so on, and getting pointing out instructions, and even doing tögel. People can do all of these things – and it’s all good – but if you don’t have shamatha/vipashyana, you’ll never reach the path and you can do that for a hundred years. And that’s not an opinion. And so there we are. Here’s a man that really took it step by step.

[3:03:34] “So when I did succeed in that, then he guided me for several months in inquiring into the origin, location, and destination of the mind, and then he taught me the triad of stillness, movement, and awareness.” [So you remember the union of stillness and movement? That’s classic now, Mahamudra-Dzogchen approach to mindful-, to taking the mind as the path. Stillness of your awareness, movement of the mind, and that movement is flooded by, illuminated by your still awareness. So you don’t conflate them. Your, your awareness is not merged with every thought, emotion, desire that comes up. You’re not captivated, you’re not kidnapped by each one. You develop the ability to sustain the stillness of your awareness, while simultaneously observing the movements of the mind. And all of this illuminated by self-illuminating awareness, and awareness that illuminates the movements of the mind. So that triad. Now that’s quintessential, core shamatha practice.]

[3:04:30] “And so he taught me the triad of stillness, movement, and awareness, after which he introduced to me, introduced me to pristine awareness, saying, ‘now your meditation is this.’ [So all there in one capsule, one unit. He taught him vipashyana to be the ice-breaker, to start breaking down the reification of the mind, including the mind that is meditating. And then the quintessential shamatha. And then the pointing-out instructions. He got it all in one bundle, and that one bundle is enough to get you to reach the first of the Four Yogas of Mahamudra: the path. That’s it. That’s all that’s necessary. Not stage of generation, completion. Those three: shamatha, vipashyana, and identifying rigpa. That gets you to the path of Dzogchen, and that gets you to the first yoga, the f-, first yoga out of four.]

[3:05:23] [There is it, I mean, clean-, as clear as daylight, as clear as the skies in Crestone.] “Now your meditation is this. [So he pointed it out precisely with his finger. Pointing-out instructions. Then, that’s when he began his six-month retreat. It’s clear, yeah?] Then, during the six months in the sealed meditation hut, for two months I didn’t even recite my daily commitments, but solely practiced shamatha.” [So you do that only with the dispensation or the permission of your guru. When Gen Lamrimpa was leading the one-year shamatha retreat, uh, he had freshly come, so when he arrived he wasn’t the guru of anyone except for myself. And so people asked, ‘well I have, you know, these commitments, such and such and such.’ And he said ok, he did not feel the authority – and of course I wouldn’t – to say well, ‘ok you received this commitment from this lama, and that one and that empo-,’ he said ‘I don’t have the authority to tell you you don’t have to do that. What I can tell you is, cut them back to the bare minimum that still keeps your commitment, so you’re doing just enough. Because every practice you do in addition to shamatha during this retreat is for the sake of shamatha. It’s not something in addition to, like multitasking, so you really want to cut it way back.’]

[3:06:41] [Well Lama Naljorpa was so central in the spiritual practice of Lama Karma, that clearly he ga-, he authorized him, ‘ok now for a greater kind of gurpaywampay, because there’s a great purpose here, I now authorize you to not fulfill all those daily commitments – prayers and visualizations and so forth – but just single-pointedly go for shamatha.’ And so for two months, he didn’t do anything else kind of day and night. It was just shamatha.] “After about seven days [now this is so personal. This you almost never get. Not a single other of my lamas has ever been this detailed], After about seven days I became extremely depressed with the amount of involuntary thoughts that were coming up, with one thought coming after another relentlessly.”

[3:07:00] “And when I recognized all through the night with my eyes wide open, they would arise constantly. And that was torture. I thought, ‘I’m making this suffering for myself. I can’t handle it!’ If this is the kind of difficulty that arises if one meditates, it would be be-, it would be better just to try to enjoy myself! It’d be better to do something else. To recite mani mantras, or to offer the regular ganachakras, or perform rituals, or meditate on the stage of generation.” [Anything but this! I didn’t say that, but pretty much, NOT THIS! Anything but this! And many of you will remember those two, three pages of the nyam that arises, where you start suddenly feeling, ‘oh I think I need to learn something else! I, probably divination, or I should, astrology! I haven’t heard-, I haven’t learned Pali. That’s it! I should study Pali. Anything but this, right? Because this is torture! And it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at all. This is wonderful.]

[3:08:34] So later when my lama came to see me, he told me this was happening to you all along, but in the past you weren’t aware of it. Involuntary thoughts were occurring constantly, and now due to your practice as you’ve been cultivating shamatha, you’re recognizing what’s going on in your mind, and this is called “the meditative experience of recognizing involuntary thoughts”. [That’s a, that’s a phrase. It’s a catch-phrase.] This is the first barrier to jhana.”

[3:08:59] [Not that you have the meditative experience, but it’s like a hurdle. If you can’t jump over that hurdle, you just hit it like a horse that comes up to the hurdle and then just digs in, then that’s the end of the race. You are now finished. You’ll no-, go nowhere in shamatha, but you’re also not going to go anywhere in any practice that depends for its sustainability on shamatha. So you’ve just put your brakes on your practice altogether. This is a hurdle you have to, you have to get across. And it’s painful, but the only thing more painful than dharma is samsara. But dharma practice is finite, and samsara is self-perpetuating. There’s no end to it all by itself. He said,] ‘if you don’t cross this hurdle’ – [if you don’t cross over this hurdle, if you try to avoid it by doing something else, you know?] – ‘since you won’t be able to recognize thoughts, your practice will develop only partially. Only one out of a hundred can get through this. It’s difficult.”

[3:10:00] [So, be the one out of a hundred! That’s it! That’s why we’re here, to be one out of a hundred. Because hardly anybody tries this and carries through. They’d much rather do anything else. And they do! And a lot of it’s virtue, but you won’t reach the path. It’s difficult.] If you can meditate [his lama tells him], then you will become adept in coping with these naturally arising feelings and experiences.” [Not just a lot of thoughts, but all kinds of feelings and emotions, memories and desires that can just be sheer torture. He was not exaggerating. This can be really torture.]

[3:10:40] “If one doesn’t meditate, one may meditate for an hour or two a day and then rest and become distracted, but one won’t progress.” [And that is, meditating for an hour or two a day is what His Holiness Dalai Lama often calls “psychological hygiene.” Meditating for an hour or two a day, is that better than not meditating at all? Yeah. That’s good. You’ll have more peace of mind, maybe more empathy, more mindfulness. All good. But will you reach the path? No! No chance. No chance. Many-, if you maintain physical hy-, if you work out for a half an hour every day, stretching doing a bit of, uh how long will it take before you’re invited to join the Olympic team? Never. Even if you were born with the perfect body, like Michael Phelps for a swimmer. He had the perfect body, you couldn’t get, have a better body. He had these great big duck-like hands, and great big long arms, and great big feet, and he was tall. He had the perfect swimmer’s body. But you can imagine if he trained for a half an hour, he would’ve been really good on his high school team, and that would be the end of him. So there it is, you know.]

[3:11:42] [Some people are more gifted, some people less, less gifted, but if you really see the urgency – and if there was ever a time in the history of Buddhism, I mean literally, when we realistically should have an intense sense of urgency, it’s when it looks like human civilization hangs in the balance in the next 20 years. That’s never been true before. And could we have an impact? Well the only way we’ll know is if we succeed, and then we’ll see. Become a siddha, as Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche said yesterday. We have to have people achieving, becoming siddhas. That would do it. That would really open peoples’ eyes. Start showing the-showing the technology of profound realization, which scientists do every single day. Yogis should do that as well.

[3:12:28] And His Holiness the Dalai Lama said this, like, almost 50 years ago. Just about the time I moved to Dharamshala. I heard through the grapevine that His Holiness, again 50 years ago when he was 36, he said, ‘You know we don’t have enough people achieving-achieving siddhis. So people, you folks,’ he’s talking to his monks in Nam Getatsang and so forth, ‘hey you monks, you should really start practicing shamatha and developing siddhis.’ That didn’t happen! And ever since then, all over the world – in Australia, in Depung and so forth – all over the world, it’s been going on for years now, he’s calling out to laypeople, and Russians, and Australians, and Tibetan monks and saying, ‘You should really practice shamatha, really practice shamatha.’ It’s not happening! So, well yes it is happening - here we are. Here we are. And it is hap-, and we’re not alone, but we’re really finally doing, I think, what needs to be done and we have the perfect environment for it. And so. Powerful stuff, this.

[3:13:32] So…so that’s an hour or two a day. Good! Psychological hygiene. But don’t even dream about, don’t get any false expectations that doing that for a hundred years will, somehow you’ll just, you’ll achieve shamatha by sheer endurance. No you won’t! “You have to meditate single-pointedly after you’ve sealed your hut. So that’s what he’s just, his, his lama told him. Seal your hut and then you have nothing else to do. It’s shamatha alone. When you meditate single-pointedly, then the first meditative experience of jhana, the experience of movement, occurs when involuntary thoughts burst forth like a cascading mountain brook. Now we’re back to the classic five analogies. And it’s classic because it happens every single generation for, you know, 20 generations or longer going to back to the mahasiddhas a thousand years ago. It’s just what happens. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Mahayana or a Hinayana or a Sufi or a Christian saint. You will encounter its essential nature - you will encounter the essential nature of your mind, the essential nature of involuntary thoughts. In the Mahamudra instruction known as The Ganges, the Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa said, “That for novices, thoughts flow like a mountain brook.”

[3:14:47] And so here again a little word from Yangthang Rinpoche, which I found very, very helpful. Because I’ve been aware of these metaphors ever since Geshe Rabten taught us. This was seventy-, forty-six years ago. No forty-four years, 1976. And that is, cascading waterfall, the mountain brook down to the river and so forth - I’ve known those for a long, long time. But it was just several years ago when we received the pith instructions from Yangthang Rinpoche, why the mountain brook? And he explained it.

[3:15:10] The mountain brook – we’ve all seen it, you don’t have to tr-, to walk very far to find one – is the mountain brook, sometimes it’s a lot of whitewater. It’s splashing, it’s {Alan makes a trilling, sound}, a lot of froth, and then it comes down and you have a still pool. And then it trickles, and then more whitewater, and then a still pool. So that’s the mountain brook. That in that phase, sometimes it’s again like, it’s like a cascading waterfall, but then after a while it subsides and you get this nice, peaceful quiet. Alright, that’s quiet, a stillness. And a gentle current. And then suddenly {Alan makes trilling sound} all over the place! And then like that. So, not just still and not just, but alternating back and forth. Those are the words of experience. He had to be ex-, talking from his own experience. I’ve never seen that written anywhere. Yangthang Rinpoche. He had achieved shamatha and far beyond. And so…

[3:16:01] So. So they flow like the mountain brook. So that’s the metaphor, you have the cascading waterfall, and then the mountain brook.] “These thoughts weren’t absent previously but you weren’t aware of them. Once you cross over the first hurdle [where you just want to, I want to get out of here, anything but this], then gradually over time, you must reach the meditative experience of “recovering from preceding involuntary thoughts”. [And this is referring to that, that third phase of resurgence where you lose it but then you quickly retrieve. You s-, you quickly recognize your mind has wandered, and quickly bring it back, and then you’re in for, for a more continuous time. You lose it briefly but you quickly bring it back. And so that comes simply through familiarization, not by some special techniques. You just got to get more and more familiar with it.]

[3:16:51] [So,] “Then little by little, they gradually withdraw. From that point, gradually going from the mountain brook to the river, and the, the river in the valley, to the ocean, and then finally like Mount Meru. Now you have recognized thoughts, [his guru is telling him], and you must definitely cross over this hurdle. If you cannot cross this hurdle, then no matter what practices or rituals you perform, fine experiences will never come.” [So this is the first experience. So he spent a lot of time on that. Because, you know, I’ve been teaching people meditation for a long time, and ever since the Shamatha Project 13 years ago teaching students who were in full-time retreat for months or years on end. And, um… you know, people often get frustrated – exactly this point – and then feeling, ‘Should I do more vajrasattva, should I be doing some ritual practices, should I be doing anything but this?’ You know? And the answer is, well that’s what you should have done before going into shamatha. And if you fear you’re really not ready then, ok! Bail out! I’m, I, I never ask anybody to stay in retreat and they don’t want to. I’ve never done that. It’d be silly. It’d be ridiculous. But the point is, ‘Oh I should be doing something else!’ No! This, this is the practice, to be present with them and then watch them gradually subside and self-release.]

[3:18:08] “This is the first experience. [So he continues now, this first-person narrative.] For six months I focused solely on shamatha in the sealed hut. Sometimes various thoughts would arise a bit more strongly, sometimes the practice would be pleasant, and I had all kinds of experiences. When I emerged from my meditation hut after six months, all appearances manifested as never before. [So we find classic teachings on this, of how everything appears differently and so forth. But those are the classic teachings, and they’re great. They’re, they’re collating the experiences of yogis over centuries, and putting into generic “this is what happens”. But this is his own experience, first-person, just a matter of a few decades ago, so it makes it very fresh and very personal.] Outer – [so, how do they manifest as never before?] – outer appearances of the grass, rocks, crops, trees, and mountains arose, but when assessed with mindfulness and introspection I saw them differently.”

[3:19:12] “When I reported” – [because of course, the mindfulness and introspection you’re cul-, you’re cultivating on the cushion doesn’t stop when you get off the cushion. The clarity you arouse doesn’t stop. The inner stillness doesn’t stop. It’s not the same as meditative equipoise, but it really flows over into and will radically transform your post-meditative experience. Tsongkhapa comments on this point that while you’re resting in shamatha, none, none of the Five Obscurations come up – the hedonism, the ill-will, laxity, dullness, excitation and anxiety, and afflictive uncertainty – they’re all dormant. They’re all dormant. They don’t manifest at all in meditative equipoise. But what Tsongkhapa points out – and again he’s collating, like this is the, ‘this is n=1’, and Tsongkhapa the great scholar is, ‘n=1000, or 10,000’. And that’s also powerful. It doesn’t have that personal quality, but this is a huge endeavour gone on for centuries upon centuries, and what they have reported over centuries is: in between sessions once you’ve achieved shamatha, your mental afflictions arise far less frequently and with far less power, and have far less ability to dominate your mind. In other words your psychological immune system has been just incredibly empowered. And that’s generic, that’s just what happens.]

[3:20:28] [And but he’s describing now simply his first-person experience. It’s priceless. So] “When I reported this to my lama, he knew from his experience that this was the realization based in practice that is like space [space-like], and this is the best type of tid.” [The tid is “guidance.” So this is good to know also. The best – so there’s three types of guidance. There’s the shedtid, where a person has studied the texts very well, they understand them, they can articulate them, pass on the information accurately, and they may never practice at all, but the teaching’s they’re giving are authentic. So it’s an “explanatory guidance,” and it’s authentic, but you’re basically like person who is really hungry and gets some food and then passes it on to the customer, and you never taste it yourself. But it’s good food! But you don’t actually know that.]

[3:21:23] [The other one, the next one is nyongtid, nyongtid, yeah, nyongtig, and this is where the instructor, your meditation guide, not only knows the material – of course that – but also speaks from experience. So that’s fusion of learned knowledge, and then that fused together with, sweetened with, moistened with the yogi’s own experience. Well that’s, he knew from his own experience. And then finally, the optimal one, which very rarely happens, it’s called the nyamtid, the “together guidance”, and this is where your instructor not only has experience, but gives you, like a mother spoon-feeding her baby only one spoonful at a time, just gives you enough instruction that you will practice that until you have realized it, and then gives you the next instruction, and each one coming from the, from the instructor’s experience, but you don’t get everything at once. You get it spoonful by spoonful. This means you need to be living with the yogi, or having internet access to the yogi, uh, that can give you that kind of experiential, step-by-step guidance. That almost never occurs nowadays. Um, even Marpa. Marpa didn’t move into the cave with Milarepa. He had all the satjang, all the purification, and then he downloaded, gave him all the teachings, said, ‘Ok! Skidaddle!’ And so then he continued. So that would be like more like the nyongtid, the experiential guidance. Ok.

[3:22:44] “He knew from his experience that this was realization based in practice that is like space, and he quoted the saying from Jetsun Milarepa, ‘Please doubt the mistake of thinking that being stuck to the nectar of shamatha and having taken hold of the eternal kingdom is all just about the same, same, same. [So this is again a mistake made countless times in Tibet, let alone relative neophytes like ourselves: people achieving shamatha and then thinking that they’ve taken hold of the eternal kingdom, that they have realized rigpa, or the, the Yoga of One Taste, and so on. It’s happened countless times. And so Milarepa’s saying please, you know, doubt that mistake, don’t make that mistake.] So he told me that I had not yet taken hold of the eternal kingdom of the indwelling mind – [that’s rigpa] – but some say that meditation which takes hold of the eternal kingdom of the indwelling and being stuck to the nectar of, of shamatha are the same!” [His teacher told him, some people think this is the same! Achieve shamatha and now you’ve achieved, you’ve realized rigpa! Because they look, in principle, quite similar: luminous and blissful and still. One could easily understand why one would mistake one for the other, and this is why you need a qualified guru, because otherwise you’ll be stuck there in the, the sweet nectar like a fly stuck on a, you know, stuck in honey and really enjoying the honey, except for by the way you’re not going anywhere. So a word to the wise.]

[3:24:08] [So Lama Neljorpa continues to counsel him.] “Right now, whatever you see and whatever you feel and whatever you look at is arising as an experience in the nature of clear luminosity and emptiness. [This is how you should view in between sessions.] So if, [he continues] whatever you look upon you remain without moving, with your mind completely unwavering, then whatever you see will have the aspect of clear luminosity so you will see everything as having become empty, and a state of mind will arise that realizes things to be completely devoid of true existence.” [So coming back to this classic strategy in “The Vajra Essence”, which is the same strategy for all the other works of Dudjom Lingpa: mind is primary, origin, location, destination of mind, achieve shamatha, and then once you’ve achieved shamatha, then as we go into Phase 2 and 3, then that total deconstruction of all of reality, seeing that all phenomena are empty of inherent nature, full-on vipashyana on the ab-, emptiness of inherent nature of the self, and then of your body and everything else, and when you see the emptiness of all phenomena, ok now you’ve laid the foundation for being then fully iden-, then identifying rigpa and carrying on to the trekchö.]

[3:25:34] And so that’s exactly what his guru’s telling him here. He gave him the, the seed of vipashyana on the nature of mind earlier, he achieved shamatha, and now he’s saying, ‘continue with that flow, but take that seed of realization of emptiness of the mind and then watch the dominoes fall as you apply that insight of the emptiness of your own mind to all objects of the mind, and you will see – with very little effort and very little analysis – that because the mind that perceives all objects is itself empty of inherent nature, therefore the objects it apprehends must be empty of inherent nature. And you remember Karma Chagmé Rinpoche’s analogy: if you cut the root of the tree, just the taproot of the tree, then all the branches will all dry up with one cut, rather than having you strip-, snip each branch off and having it dry up individually. If you realize the emptiness of the nature of the mind, then very quickly, in a matter of days – he’s not speaking of months, years, or lifetimes – in a matter of days, by having cut the taproot of reifying the mind, then the reification of all of the phenomena can just wither, dry up, and be blown away, which then poises you perfectly for identifying rigpa.

[3:26:52] [So this is universal. This comes in Karma Chagmé, in his union of shamat-, of, of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. This is just classic, it’s perennial, it’s universal, it’s deep, and it’s within the palm of the hand. We can do this.] “Once he had said this, my lama laughed and said, ‘You’ve been practicing shamatha quite a lot, so you’re stuck to the nectar of shamatha! But as for taking hold of the eternal kingdom of the indwelling, in the future with respect to all of this, if you continue to meditate a great deal then you will come upon something like that, and at that time you will take hold of the eternal kingdom. [Now this is rigpa itself. It can’t be anything other than rigpa.] Right now your shamatha has become stuck to its nectar.”

[3:27:39] And you remember Dudjom Lingpa, or the Lake Born Vajra, saying once you’ve, it’s going to be so hard once you’re experiencing all at the same time, the three things you’ve always wanted more than anything else for all of your lifetimes in the past. You’ve always wanted bliss. You got it! But you also wanted that thrill, the excitement, the-the intensity. You got that too! But you also wanted serenity, and peace, and stillness. And you get that too! And it’s called – what’s that, chocolate, vanilla, and? And va- {audience members: Neapolitan}. You get Neapolitan shamatha! You get all three at the same time. Why would you not be satisfied, and say, ‘I’m never coming out except for to pee, and have a bit of tsampa.’ Really be such a happy camper. And that’s exactly what he said. This is the trap. You’ve got to get there, otherwise no path. If you get stuck there, you haven’t moved one hair’s breadth onto the path. This is perennial wisdom, once again. Same metaphor.

[3:28:39] [So it gives confidence, doesn’t it? To see it’s not just a one tradition, or one lineage, or one religion or whatever. This is just true.] “So right now your shamatha has become stuck to its nectar. [The nectar is bliss, luminosity and non-conceptuality.] You’ve achieved a partial degree of vipashyana. [Because that was introduced before he began his shamatha, right? Enough to recognize it, but it’s not actual, definitive vipashyana. [You haven’t nailed it. You haven’t achieved confidence.] Because, as it is said – [and here’s a, here’s an aphorism without giving the source] – when you recognize the self-cognizing awareness, which is luminous and free of grasping as spontaneous actualization, you have reached the end of the Single-Pointed Yoga.”

[3:29:32] So this makes it very, very clear. To access the three stages – small, medium, and great – of each of the Four Yogas. You come to the concl-, the culmination of the first of the Four Yogas only when you have achieved shamatha, of course, you’ve unified it with vipashyana, of course, especially on the emptiness of your own mind, and maybe not yet the emptiness of everything else, but you’ve cracked open the door, and you’ve at least had some taste of rigpa. Those three. If you have just the first two, you may enter the Sravaka path, and the Mahayana path if you have bodhicitta, but you’ve not entered the path of the, of Mahamudra. You’ve not entered the path of Dzogchen if you’ve not identified rigpa. But you’ve not entered, you’ve not entered the path if that identification of rigpa is not fortified and sustained with vipashyana, and the vipashyana is not fortified and sustained with shamatha. So it’s really clear, and he’s saying the same thing here, so this is not one school versus another. This is the way it is. And complete congruence between Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

[3:30:35] [So he continues. This is Lama Neljorpa.] “When your mind is clee-, clear and free of grasping, then from the perspective of your state of mind, it is not holding onto anything at all, and you have actually seen that, you have seen that. This is an aspect of vipashyana, but at this point, actual, definitive vipashyana has not yet arisen.” [So he’s tol-, he’s told him how far he’s come, and how far he’s not come. And that is really the ability of a qualified master. And his teacher was a master. Lama Karma is a master. And for us, like myself who’s an ordinary being, a good messenger service, uh Lama Karma is about one email away. So I checked all of this out. I know how to contact Pegyal Lingpa’s daughter, who is looking after Lama Karma up in Arcata. So I have her email, her name, and her telephone number, which is right there. But Lama Karma and I did this by way of Sangay, Sangay Wangmo. She gave me all the information. And then Lama Karma knew I was getting my feelers out, ‘how do I keep in contact with you?’ And then he said, by way of Sangay Wangmo, uh if I, if I want to contact him, then contact him through Khenpo Namchak, who was his interpreter for the first time, for the first teaching he gave in Santa Barbara.]

[3:31:53] [And I’d have to say really, Khenpo Namchak, I think we really have a now, really a sweet relationship. I don’t know him well, but I have such appreciation for him. He’s a superb scholar, but so friendly, so warm. And boy did he, boy did he come through! I mean, Eva and I came out with a good, good translation, but we couldn’t have, not without his help. So Eva did her part. Thank you! I did my part. Thank you! But he was the one that gave us the initial one, that we got anything at all. And he came in just like gangbusters, and he clarified every single point. So really, namo to Khenpo Namchak. So generous in his time! And he’s now our liaison. So when you’re, any of you are practicing, or my, my dharma friends in Castelina, and in Pennsylvania, and in Russia, and in Mexico, and Brazil, all over the place, about 30 of them in full-time retreat, uh if any of you have questions where I don’t feel really confident that I can give you really sound advice – and I really have no qualms at all about telling you ‘I really don’t know the answer’. I have no qualms about that at all! As I’ve told you many times, the only time I feel totally confident is when I say ‘I don’t know’! Because when I say I do know, I could always be mistaken. But when I say I don’t know, who’s going to challenge me? Go ahead, try to beat me in debate when I say I don’t know, right? [laughter]

[3:33:13] So I have no qualms about that at all. At all. And I’ll be the first one, you know? I’ll just call him right up, and we can speak in Tibetan. But we’re only a call away. So really, you do have Lama Karma as your guide. Doesn’t have to be in the same room. But he’s there. He’s there. And he’s-he knows what we’re doing, as does Gyatrul Rinpoche. Every time I tell him – he’s a man of few words, unlike me. I’m a cascading waterfall of words. [laughter] But Rinpoche basically, ‘Wonderful!’ ‘Wonderful!’ And Sakye Dhamala, ‘very good!’ His Holiness gave us his wonderful endorsement. So then, those are your lamas. I’m messenger service, a messenger service. If I die it’d really be ok, because you, you know, the lamas are there! And Lama Karma’s still there. And I don’t plan to die, I hope not soon, but you’ll be-you’ll be fine. The lama’s there, and it’s this lama. This lama. So there we go. So]

[3:34:15] “That was my may-, that was my, my way of meditating, [Lama Karma says.] I’ve been asked to speak about this, so I have. [laughter] My lama told me that from now on I should not let my mind to wander, I should not let my mind to wander, [thank you! We still have a few little fleas to pick out!] I should not let my mind wander at any time. [This is after you’ve achieved shamatha. Ok now, no more wandering. Zero tolerance. Zero tolerance.] I was to sustain my mindfulness and introspection without distraction 24 hours a day. From that point on, that was for 5 years, I didn’t engage in any studies of deceptive dharmas. [Anything other than ultimate reality, I didn’t – you know there’s all kinds of things to study – I didn’t study anything! These are relative truths, decep-, deceptive reality. I didn’t study anything! He had one task: do not ever waver from mindfulness and introspection. Simple marching orders. So]

[3:35:17] “For 5 years I didn’t engage in any studies of deceptive dharmas, but focused solely on sustaining mindfulness and introspection I developed earlier. [That is, on the cushion in meditative equipoise.] For just 5 years of such practice, my mind would still become distracted at night, but I was able to maintain continuous mindfulness throughout the whole day.” [“For just,” I’m sure that’s what he must have said, but my understanding was “after 5 years or so” that he succeeded for all the daytime practice, but when he fell asleep, then he would lose mindfulness and introspection. He had non-lucid dreams, non-lucid dreamless sleep. So, ok, ⅔ of the battle is won. But his teacher didn’t say “every waking moment,” he said “24 hours a day.” Ok?]

[3:36:04] “During that time, [and this was at the request, the command of his lama, Lama Neljorpa] during that time I served as the scribe for Pegyal Lingpa as he was narrating his mind treasures. [So he’s just downloading. Downloading, downloading.] And according to my lama’s instructions, I would examine how much my mind would wander even as I was writing every word - line by line, page by page. [So it’s stillness and motion, but here the motion is his writing down the words of his lama while he’s maintaining ongoing mindfulness and introspection, noting every single thought that comes up. That’s much harder than sitting on the cushion and just resting in shamatha or even practicing vipashyana. This is stillness in the midst of motion – off the cushion.]

[3:36:57] “I would observe how long I could maintain mindfulness during one session with him – [and that is, serving as a scribe] – without becoming d-, without becoming distracted, and how often my mind would wander after a session finished and I was walking, step by step. I had a long way to walk home, for I lived up in the mountains. And sometimes I’d go by car with my lama, and sometimes I’d go, sometimes going by foot. On all such occasions, I had no other practice than to maintain undistracted mindfulness, staring down the face of appearances. [Not just glancing off and then spinning off into rumination, but just that relentless coming to his senses and staying in his senses. Just being totally present, face to face with appearances, and taking them nakedly.

[3:37:46] And remember Yangthang Rinpoche’s instructions, that his instructions on conduct were, now that you’ve achieved shamatha and vipashyana, and you’re resting in rigpa – which he could do, because he’s achieved the First Yoga – then from moment to moment you’re always in that stillness, not just of awareness but of pristine awareness. You’re maintaining that while your illusory body is writing this, and your illusory mind is remembering this, and you’re witnessing this all from the perspective of pristine awareness. And so it’s stillness in the midst of motion, even the motions of your own handwriting, and your mind thinking and remembering, and getting into the jeep, and driving and so forth.

[3:38:26] This is the foretaste. It’s the s-, the similarity of the path and the fruition, and the fruition is non-abiding nirvana, where you’re, the mind, the dharmakaya, the mind of a buddha never wavers, never parts from nirvana, and yet is fully present with, attentive to, and responds to the Six Realms of Existence and the needs of sentient beings, while never parting – inconceivably and nondually – never parting from the full-on nonconceptual, unmediated realization of nirvana. Well, that’s buddhahood! And you see what he’s doing here: he’s taking the fruition as the path, and its closest facsimile, because he’s resting in dharmakaya and he’s performing the deeds of a bodhisattva as serving as a scribe for a great terton. So this is why this is vajrayana, even if you kno-, don’t practice any stage of generation and completion. This is vajrayana.

[3:39:22] But technically – and I’m not making this up – you don’t need an empowerment to practice these Four Yogas. I’ve twice received complete pith instructions from Garchen Rinpoche. There was no empowerment. No empowerment. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have one, but also on other occasions – full teachings on Mahamudra and Dzogchen from Gyatrul Rinpoche – no empowerment. And so if you do, number one you don’t need, you don’t need empowerment – with deities and bells and all of that – to practice shamatha. That’s, you do that at Theravada or Mahayana. You don’t need that for vipashyana, of course not. But you don’t need to have, you know, water and bells and all of that kind of thing to identify rigpa. And that’s it. And so… receiving empowerment can be of great blessing, but as very clearly stated in the, uh, the Mahamudra tradition that Atisa received from Avidudhipa and from other mahasiddhas, he taught Mahamudra in a Sutrayana form.

[3:40:25] That was passed onto Gampopa – as we recently read if you listened to the teachings – and Gampopa had two ways of teaching, since he received the Kadampa training and the te-, and the lineage of Milarepa going back to Marpa and Naropa and Tilopa. He’d received the Mahamudra thoroughly embedded in Vajrayana, and cheek-by-jowl with, and integrated with the Six Yogas, and that’s completely Vajrayana Mahamudra – and for that you need the whole bells and whistles, the empowerment and everything and all the samayas – that’s Vajrayana Mahamudra. But Gampopa also taught others of his students a pu-, the Four Yogas but purely as a Sutrayana practice, and for that, no samayas, no empowerment, and among those disciples there were those who realized Mahamudra. And this is exactly what Garchen Rinpoche when, I-answered when I asked him, ‘If you practice in the Four Yogas, is that enough to achieve perfect enlightenment? Or must that be augmented with the Six Yogas or stage of generation and completion?’ And he stated unequivocally, ‘Not necessarily. These four are sufficient.’

[3:41:28] So this can be a straight Sutrayana practice, but even as a Sutrayana practice it already bears the earmarks of what makes Vajrayana powerful, and cuts three countless eons down into a few lifetimes or even one lifetime: taking the fruition as the path. That’s it. That’s the key to everything, of Guyasamaja, Kalachakra, Vajrayogini and everything. If you’re not taking the fruition as the path, that’s just not Vajrayana. Here you’re taking the fi-, the fruition as the path without Vajrayana, but it’s still taking fruition as the path, and hence you can achieve Mahamudra, even perfect enlightenment, even in one lifetime without necessarily going full-fledged into Vajrayana practice as a whole. This makes this also universal. Because I just don’t think it’s legitimate to take, like, a Vajrayogini empowerment if you’re not a Buddhist. I just don’t, I just don’t, you can’t do that. Because it’s rooted in refuge in Buddha, Dharma, Sama-, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, for Heaven’s sakes, and bodhicitta, for Heaven’s sakes. So I just don’t, I don’t think it’s possible to take a Vajrayana empowerment if you’re not a Buddhist. I don’t think so. Could you practice the Four Yogas? Why not?

[3:42:33] And again, my example here is the Bön tradition. The Bön tradition. There’s no doubt that over the last thousand years there’s been a number of great Dzogchen masters in the Bön tradition who are not Buddhist, didn’t become Buddhist, but they practiced Dzogchen – trekchö and thödgyal – achieved rainbow body, and they didn’t say, ‘Now I d-, now I’m not longer a Bönpo and now I’m a Buddhist now that I’m a buddha.’ They never became Buddhists. They’re following their own tradition all the way through. Now, how much they borrowed from Nyingma I don’t know. Don’t really care, but it’s authentic Dzogchen practice - about that, there’s no doubt. And Tibetans of the Kagyu, Nyingma, and so forth, they know that it wasn’t only Buddhists who achieved rainbow body. And so if the Bönpos can do it – and they’re, they’re just not Buddhist. A Bönpo is no more a Buddhist that a-a Daoist is, or a Hindu, or a Jew. Just not at all. Different lineage entirely. But they practice Dzogchen, they achieve rainbow body. So that really suggests the universality of this practice that Lama Karma is teaching us right here. He’s a Buddhist. I am a Buddhist. So, that’s easy. But I think there’s something very deep – perennial – about these teachings here. And of course, when it comes to purification and accruing merit, well you don’t have to be a Buddhist to do that. Anybody can do that. And so there we are. So…

[3:43:58] “Sometimes I’d go by car with my lama, and sometimes by foot. On all such occasions I had no other practice than to – [there we go!] – than to maintain undistracted mindfulness, staring down the face of appearances in reliance upon mindfulness and introspection. After about 5 years, from the time I awoke in the morning until I went to bed at night, I was able to sustain continuous mindfulness. [And we have in square brackets, “of pristine awareness.” Well since he’s already identified that he had achieved the First Yoga, then ha-, that has to be the case, because you don’t achieve the First Yoga if all you have is shamatha and vipashyana, let alone just shamatha. You haven’t even reached the path! And so I think this is a correct interpolation, interpolation, that he maintains continuous, a bearing-in-mind or continuity of his awareness of pristine awareness. Otherwise you’re not on the First Yoga. So this was probably the – well here we go! I used too many words, because he says it.]

[3:44:56] “This was probably the Medium Stage of the Single-Pointed Yoga. [Have-, I just can’t emphasize – it’s so rare to have a lama be that explicit. Like I’ve never heard it before. And so,] It was not the Great Stage. At that point I was able to experience luminosity not only during the day, but also through the night. [After five years then he tackled the final mountain of maintaining ongoing lucidity as he’s falling asleep and going into deep dreamless sleep, and into dreams, and back to dreamless, into dreams, back, and then waking up again. A continuous stream of mindfulness and introspection. That was the final hill to fulfill, to cross over, to fulfill his guru’s instruction: 24 hours a day. So] Sometimes while dreaming at night, afflictive, habitual propensities were aroused, and the dreams were imbued with those. [He had bad dreams.] Sometimes dreams would arise as the clear light. [He would see them as clear effulgences of pristine awareness, which of course they are.] And sometimes I’d be able to observe the stages of dissolution.”

[3:46:09] [I’m going to be concise here, because we have a lot, lot more pages to go, but the stages of dissolution – now this is common knowledge, but not ev-, to everybody necessarily who is listening – and that is the stages of dissolution are what one classically passes through when you’re dying. So as you’re dying, the five senses implode, and then you, your mind implodes and your breathing stops. And then you have this white appearance. Then you have the red efful-, the red emergence. And then you have the dark-the dark near-attainment, the blackout, and that’s where everything is dissolved into the substrate. So if you’re an ordinary person and you’re passing through all of this non-lucidly, then when you come to the Dark Near-Attainment, it’s basically identical to, experientially, to falling into deep, non-lucid, dreamless sleep, where you could be asleep for a hundred years and you wouldn’t know whether it’s a hundred years or a hundred seconds because you’re not explicitly aware of anything.

[3:47:03] Now that’s how normally people, normal people die. And they slip into that Dark Near-Attainment that can last for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea, or – according to the Lake-Born Vajra in “The Vajra Essence” – you could be in that state for as long as three days. And people might, if they didn’t, if they were really savvy – because your body will not decompose, because your subtle consciousness is still there – but you could just be resting in the Dark Near-Attainment, a cheap imitation of shamatha, or you could be lucid. I asked Gyatrul Rinpoche on one occasion, ‘If you’ve achieved shamatha, then what are your chances of being able to pass through the entire dying process, all, you know, every moment of it including the Dark Near-Attainment and pass through all of it lucidly, so that when you come to the Dark Near-Attainment it’s tantamount to being in a lucid, dreamless sleep? What are your chances?’ He said ‘Very good.’

[3:47:54] You don’t, not-, know vipashyana or Dzogchen or anything, you should be able to get that far. You should be able to be dead and know it, whereas most people when they’re dead – because that’s what happens when you’re Dark Near-Attainment, then you’re dead – they’re not lucid so they don’t even know it. Just like when you’re in deep, deep, dreamless sleep, not many people know they’re in deep, dreamless sleep. But if you’ve just practiced shamatha then you get to that, then like following that same trajectory, that same dissolution, when you’re achieving shamatha you’ll pass through those stages, you’ll come to the substrate consciousness and you’ll be aware of the substrate and you’ll be lucid but incandescently lucid because you’ve gotten there by way of shamatha.

[3:48:32] So the parallel between achieving shamatha and the parallel of dying are very, very strong, but the third parallel here is the process of falling asleep. And the same process – it’s called the factors of dissolution of falling asleep – that, as you’re falling asleep, outer appearances dissolve into mental consciousness, the human mind dissolves, becomes, it goes dormant, and in a very subtle and very fleeting way, you will experience as you’re going into deep, dreamless sleep the White Appearance, the Red Emergence, the Dark Near-Attainment and then you’re in deep, dreamless sleep, stage 4 non-REM sleep. Well, every, we do that five to seven times every night, normal people. But he did this now lucidly, having conquered the however many hours he stayed awake every day, then he extended that right through the night so he’d watch the whole process.

[3:49:27] These moments of the flash of the White Emergence, the White Appearance, Red Emergence, Dark Near-Attainment, go into deep, dreamless sleep and be lucid. The thousand-watt bulb is still on, right? And he would rest there for some time, and then the karmic energies move. The symmetry of just resting in that substrate is broken and out of that substrate {WHEW} comes the dreamscape, and you would be born into the dream lucid, because he was already lucid before it began. So in the first instance there was no ignorance and therefore no delusion, and therefore when he was dreaming he’s not getting anything wrong. This is what he achieved. I’ve never heard any lama give this kind of account, and now you’re getting it with greater clarity than anybody ever has that I know of. I have to, that I know of. This is simply breathtaking.]

[3:50:22] “So sometimes dream would arise as clear light. [Now if you’re just an ordinary, lucid people, uh person – and I’ve led a number of, what six 10-day workshops with Stephen Laberge, we had a lot of gifted people coming to him who had no dharma, no shamatha, no vipashyana, they’re just very gifted. And so a number of his students – they were primarily his students, not mine – but a number of them were very gifted, and they could regularly have lucid dreams, and in the lucid dream go easily, because it’s really very simple to go from a lucid dream to lucid dreamless state, they could easily go there. But the only clarity they’re bringing to their lucid, dreamless state is the clarity of the ordinary mind, because they did none of the hundreds or thousands of hours of training of shamatha. So they’d become lucid in the non-, in the, how do you say, substrate, but it would just be the degree of clarity we, an ordinary person has right now. Not any better.]

[3:51:09] And so they would come from that. And these were ordinary people who were gifted. They would rest lucidly in lucid, dreamless sleep, and then they would come into a dream, and they would go into the dream lucid, and then they would be lucid from the get-go, and they would practice lucid dreaming, transformation, emanation, or having sex, whatever they wanted to do. But they would just be seeing all the appearances of the dream as creative expressions of what we would call “substrate consciousness.” They didn’t have the term unless they studied Buddhism, but they would, they would recognize the dream as a dream, and then they would know they could play with it any way they like.

[3:51:47] But they would see it merely – or a person who has a-, achieved shamatha, that has no teachings on emptiness or no teachings on Dzogchen could very easily become lucid in dreamless sleep, lucid in the dream, and then recognize with total certainty all the appearances of the dream, including your own appearance as being a person in the dream, all of these as being the play of substrate consciousness, which is what it is. But that’s a deceptive reality, a relative truth that obscures the deeper reality, and the deeper reality is: you are dharmakaya, and all these displays of the dream are displays of the clear light of dharmakaya.

[3:52:34] And I’ve heard something just recently when I was listening to His Holiness’s online teachings that I believed for a long time. I was really banking on it, although I’d never heard anybody say it. But it was from His Holiness, and he was talking about the context of Guyasamaja. Guyasamaja. Don’t think he made – it was just a long paragraph that I wrote down in my journal. But it was, yeah. It was, he was teaching Russians. He was teaching the “Bodhicittavivarana: Commentary on Bodhicitta” by Nagarjuna. And it was talking about the bases of indication of self. Now you know the drill: ‘I’m a tall person. Why? I have a tall body. It’s not me, but the basis of designation. I’m relatively intelligent. What’s the basis? My mind.’ But then if I say, I should say, ‘In a past life I was such-and-such. In a past life I was a-a lhasa apso, and my owner was a great lama.’ You know?

[3:53:24] And I could re-, you know, this is hypothetical. I could remember that, and I could say, ‘I was a lhasa apso who belonged to the previous incarnation of Tichen Rinpoche.’ Whoo-hoo! You know? That could be a true statement, and what’s the basis of designation for saying I was a lhasa apso in my past life? Well the only thing that conti-, that connects that lhasa apso with me, and that’s the substrate consciousness. And that’s a deeper basis of designation by which one could also say in a future lifetime I could be born in Sukhavati. Well, the basis of designation is the Sukha-, is the substrate consciousness. That’s al-, that is not a person, it’s empty of person like every basis of designation is empty of the designated object always. But it’s a deeper one than saying, ‘I’m tall, or I’m reasonably intelligent, well-educated.’ That I am. But then he said, ‘the deepest basis of designation of “I” is the indwelling mind of clear light.’ I love to hear it stated so clearly and succinctly, such that on the basis of rigpa, you can say, ‘I am Samantabhadra, I am Padmasambhava, I am Yeshe Tsogyal.’ And it’s true. Because that is a suitable basis of designation for saying, ‘I am Buddha.’ And it’s the only basis of designation for which that would be true. But it’s already true, because your pristine awareness is already there.

[3:54:46] So if you just stop – you or me or anybody else here – if you just stop identifying with things that are not you, which give you very little payback, like you’ve got a, ‘I’m a man with a great beard. I’m a-I’m a very bearded man.’ Well that’s true! But it doesn’t take you that far, you know? Not that far! Got you here, I guess that’s something! {laughter} But you know, that’s the basis of desig-, on the basis, basis of a beard. Why not, you know? Or actually, my identity is pretty much caught up in my hair at this point. You know? I have a good head, I’m a good-haired man, you know? So there, ok that’s good, but it doesn’t take you very far. Basis of the sub-, substrate consciousness, that’ll take you further. But the one that takes you all the way to the end is the one that you have, you can get to if and only if you’ve stopped identifying with and reifying anything else! If you’re still thinking, ‘I’m a Stanford PhD AND I’M ALSO A BUDDHA,’ then you’re just making a joke of the whole thing. You know.{laughter}It’s a joke. Or, ‘I’m a tall buddha.’ Or I’m, you know. You have to throw all that aside, you know? So there we are. So that was all a spin-off on something here, but I think it was relativ-, relevant. {Audience member: ‘Appearances that arise as the clear light.’} Yeah that was it.

[3:56:03] “So sometimes dreams would arise as the clear light, and sometimes – [wait a minute, and] – and sometimes I would be able to observe the stages of delusion {editor: according to the text, this should be “dissolution”}. For us right now, [then he’s coming back to the room, he’s talking to us] when we fall asleep our minds dissolve into the substrate consciousness, we dream, and apart from the time when we are-when we wake from sleep we don’t understand what is going on at all.” [We get everything wrong, and that’s why, especially, it’s really kind of ontological shock therapy in Dzogchen. They say, ‘None of this exists, all these appearances are delusive. They don’t exist at all. You’re not a sentient being at all. And you’re not really here at all!’ They’re trying to like, I don’t know, throttle you, to shake you up, or ‘Phet, phet, phet!’ or slap you with a sandal or anything. ‘Not at all!’ That’s not what Tsongkhapa; Tsongkhapa takes you the, through the shallow end of the pool. But Padmasambhana just throws you into the deep end: ‘none of this exists at all, it never has, you’ve never been a sentient being.’ Right?]

[3:57:04] And so, we don’t understand what is going on at all, just exactly as in a non-lucid dream. You maybe have a PhD from Stanford in the non-lucid dream. But no you don’t! That was just a matter of appearances and what people say. That’s it. Nothing more to it. So] “we don’t understand what’s going on at all, and when you practice shamatha a lot, you can recognize the stages of dissolution and reemergence.” [So dissolution down to the Dark Near-Attainment, and the emergence back to the world of appearances. So] the stages of dissolution and reemergence of the Dark Near-Attainment, the white appearance and the red emergence, and when I was about to wake up I could observe all the dream appearances dissolving back into the substrate. And then when mindfulness was restored and appearances – of course mindfulness – emerged, I could observe the gradual arising of daytime appearances. So when shamatha is cultivated, it is useful for us in that way. And that was my way of meditating.” [Whew!]

[3:58:08] And that’s all rooted in six months of shamatha with a good prelude. You know? So. And achieving the First Yoga. That’s right. But again, the emphasis here cannot be overemphasized, and I’ve had it repeatedly from multiple, absolutely, you know, gold standard sources: if you achieve shamatha, gaining insight into the emptiness of the nature of your mind is just not that difficult. Not that difficult. And if you’ve gotten that far, identifying rigpa: it’s just not that difficult. And if you have those three, then you’ve entered the path! So the one that’s difficult is shamatha, but the later stages of that are not difficult at all. It’s really, get over the first hurdle. And that’s difficult.

[3:58:54] And that can take you years. That can take you years. Or it can take you months. It all-all depends then on how much purity, momentum, prayers, dedication you have coming in. And some people – Lama Zopa Rinpoche mentioned, I think a Tibetan nun that achieved shamatha in, what was it, one month? Three months? Really, really fast. One month, yeah? Three? Three. People of sh-, classic teachings I received from Geshe Nyawang Thargyey, people of sharp faculties? Three months. Medium faculties: six months. Dull faculties: nine months. So nine months from now, I expect to be sitting in a room just full of people just radiating light because you’ve achieved shamatha. Not! {laughter} I don’t, I’m not so foolish as to have that expectation, but we’ll practice as well as we can, and that’s enough. So where am I? {audience member: ‘uh, 1:17:29’}

[3:59:52] “For ordinary sentient beings, whatever appearances arise throughout the day, they don’t recognize pristine awareness. So they’re dira-, distracted to appearances, they’re caught up in involuntary thoughts, and habitual propensities are stored in their substrates. When they fall asleep all the appearances to their six modes of consciousness dissolve inwardly, and then in the end they go into the Dark Near-Attainment. [And this is the very same Dark Near-Attainment that you will enter while on the path. It’s, ‘are you lucid or are you not?’ That’s the difference. The same, it’s the same Dark Near-Attainment.] So that is what happens at death also, right? But right now, while we are practicing, after we have crossed beyond the Dark Near-Attainment of the substrate, then from the reversal of that Dark Near-Attainment, mindfulness is restored, and subtle consciousness and appearances emerge. Dreams emerge the whole night long using habitual propensities stored in the substrate, and one sees those dream appearances.” [So now we’re back to the facsimile of dying, but the little mini-facsimiles happen multiple times every night. Whereas when you die, then you don’t get a human brain anymore, so you don’t get, you don’t get that human mind again. You may get another one, although that would be one the basis of another human brain. But you’ll never be you again, you’ll just remember being the you of this dream that we call “this life.”]

[4:01:22] “Then, when they are worn out – [those dream appearances] – and the eon of those dream appearances are finished – [and it is the word “eon” as in kalpa, and kalpa’s the same in Sanskrit and Tibetan] – when the eon of dre-,” – [and I think, I’m not going to elaborate a lot here. I’ve thought a lot about it. I’ve given extensive explanations elsewhere of my best take on what it means. But an “eon” means kind of like… a whole phase of existence. And when you’re in the midst of a dream, that’s your whole existence, from the time you were born into that dream until you come to the end of that existence. And that for you is an eon. You know? So eons are relative. Bear in mind that time is not inherently existent. So as we know from just going to, from a, from a human realm to a deva realm, you know, what is it? One instant there is like three hundred years here or vice versa. Which is it? But time is relative. So what is maybe just a few seconds or five minutes, ten minutes from one perspective can be an eon for another. So the-the relativity of time has been in Buddhism from the time of the Buddha, and for all the buddhas. And so…]

[4:02:39] “And so when they are worn out and the eon of dream appearances are finished, they dissolve back into the Dark Near-Attainment, and when the Dark Near-Attainment reverses sequence, a current of appearances arises from it again whether as dream appearances or as waking state experiences.” [So this goes back and forth such that we’re deluded during the dream state, and if we don’t recognize pristine awareness we’re deluded during the waking state. Again, His Holiness – it really struck me because he, he wasn’t even teaching Dzogchen, but he came into there again and he said, ‘Ignorance, ignorance. What is the fundamental ignorance that keeps us in samsara? The ignorance of not knowing who we are.’ He stated really clearly. You don’t know who you are.]

[4:03:24] You think you do, and you’re wrong. And you keep on identifying with that which you are not, and you’re wrong. So the sequence is: first recognize what you are not – and thoroughly fathom that, that they’re not even there, let alone are they not you – and only then are you ready to identify who you are, and for that, the basis of designation of “you” is your own pristine awareness. So, really clear. And once again, one dharma. No difference here. Guyasamaja, Dzogchen: same.] The buddhas realize that appearances in the dream state and the waking state are both devoid of true existence, and they recognize that dreams and the waking state are equally delusional. [So they realize this without delusion. We don’t realize that.] We may think we’re deluded in the dream state, and that nothing is truly existent. [That is, when we wake up and look retrospectively, ‘Oh I was deluded! Oh what a stupid guy I was!]

[4:04:28] “But during the waking state we think everything is real and truly existent.” [I think that happens commonly in psychology. The psychologists actually think they’re sane. And they think they’re helping people who are mentally disabled. Whereas from the Buddhist perspective, all of the, all of the psychologists are delu-, are delusional. I’m not being pejorative or sarcastic. But if they haven’t achieved shamatha, or even vi-, or vipashyana, then they’re just all are, like they’ve all taken datura. And they’re helping people who’ve also taken datura, but are a bit crazier than they are. I got basically evicted from a university for saying that! {laughter} I was invited to a Buddhism and Science conference at the University of Pisa, and I said something like that, and they never wanted to see me again. When they invited His Holiness to have, come for a Buddhism and Science dialogue, they made a big point, ‘We’re not inviting Alan Wallace! He is persona non grata!’ Because they gave His Holiness a honorary master’s degree in psychology. They didn’t give him a PhD! They gave him a master’s degree. The PhDs gave the Dalai Lama an “honorary” which means “wink wink” master’s degree! Well they gave me “Get the hell out of here!” {laughter} And I’m very happy. All is well.]

[4:05:59] “So buddhas know that all our currently appearing appearances of phenomena are deceptive, and when you come to know that, then with the practices of the path on the basis of your shamatha you use the awareness of vipashyana and then you’ll be able to establish many objects of consciousness with the taste of pristine awareness. Now we should probably abbreviate. [He’s saying that of himself, let alone for me! We should’ve taken a big hatchet, a machete, and cut off most, so much, most of what Alan said. But] now we should probably abbreviate. When, whenever we meditate, there are two very important instruments to be put to use: mindfulness and introspection. When we first focus our attention on an image such as that of the Buddha, when it appears in its entirety before the mind and the mind quickly comes to it, this is called ‘directed mental engagement.’” [And that’s the first of the nine stages. “Directed mental engagement.” And that is, you’ve made contact with, you’ve engaged with the meditative object. You’re not wondering, ‘is it there? I’m not quite sure. Have I made it? No?’ Contact. You’ve made the contact. There’s a buddha image? Ok. It’s only there for two seconds? Still, that’s, you’ve made the first, first stage. It’s very clear.]

[4:07:14] “When it appears in its entirety before the mind, and the mind quickly comes to it – [like an embrace, embrace with the Buddha, or shake hand, or 6 {feet} social distancing, whatever] – that’s called ‘directed mental engagement’. Maintaining your attention on that appearance without abandoning it is called ‘mindfulness’. There are two meanings of ‘mindfulness’ [or ‘dran pa’ in Tibetan]. On the one hand it refers to recollecting past events, including actions we’ve done long, long ago. In that case we call it ‘remembering.’ [Well I call it retrospective mindfulness.] But here we’re not using that mental affe-, that mental faculty. In the context of shamatha ‘mindfulness’ refers to sustaining our focus, for example on the image of the deity which is appearing in its entirety, without letting it become distracted. [So ‘mindfulness’ is bearing in mind without forgetfulness or distracted-, distraction. Very simple.] In addition, it, it – [that is mindfulness] – enables us to be aware of the vivid and empty aspects of the object without slipping into laxity or excitation.”

[4:08:23] [So the vivid, that would come from shamatha. And the empty aspects of the omed-, the, the, the object would come from infusing your shamatha with the insight of vipashyana, which you’re encouraged to do from your initial investigation of origin, location, destination. Yeah? So this is mindfulness. That’s classic. That’s mindfulness. He nailed it.] “When we’re counting our breaths – [so now he’s basically giving a summary, going back and then bringing everything into a nutshell] – when we’re counting our press-, breaths it is with mindfulness that we sustain our attention as we count ‘1, 2, 3,’ taking extreme care not to lose count. When our attention strays and we lose track of the count, this is due to the loss of mindfulness.”

[4:09:09] [We forget what the last number was. We just forget it. Or we forgot, we’ve distracted, we’re thinking about something else. So either you forget it because you’re not thinking about anything – you just spaced out – or you forget it because you got distracted. But that’s when you lose count. Those two reasons. Then] “‘mental engagement,’ which means, means the object is appearing to the mind. When the object is appearing but our attention is once again distracted, the mental faculty by which we recognize this fault is, in mindfulness, is called “introspection,” that monitors the flow of mindfulness, recognizing quickly whether your attention has strayed into laxity and dullness, or excitation and anxiety. Mindfulness and introspection are our most important tools.” [So these are faculties of mind everybody already has, and they can be refined and developed and intensified, strengthened, beyond anything imagined in, in our modern world. We have no clue.]

[4:10:09] “These are also, there are also two distinguishing qualities of our minds: the quality of mind by which we clearly distinguish the particular characteristics of the external objects to which we may direct our attention, such as identifying ‘that is light, that is a painting, and so on,’ as well as using investigation and analysis to identify individual characteristics such as ‘that is white, that is red, that is black, and so on,’ may be called ‘self-cognizing and self-illuminating.’ [So rangrik, rangsell. These are qualities of awareness itself. So we have the more of the general, and then the more particular. And when he speaks here of investigation and analysis, he’s referring to two of the five jhana factors that arise like cream emerges from milk when you churn it, likewise just practicing shamatha, just flat-out shamatha, then five jhana factors will emerge through that process and they’ll come into really their splendor when you fully achieve shamatha. And that is: single-pointed attention, of course, a sense of well-being, a sense of bliss, and then investigation and analysis.]

[4:11:19] And these all come out, these are just the natural effulgences, creative displays of your substrate consciousness when you’ve unveiled the substrate consciousness by removing the five obscurations, which are hedonic fixation on sensual pleasures, ill-will, laxity and dullness, excitation and anxiety, and afflictive uncertainty. So the five dhyana factors act one-by-one as specific remedies for each of those five obscurations, and so in the course of achieving shamatha, the five obscurations naturally subside as they act as antidotes for the five, the five dhyana factors gradually increase as they serve as natural antibodies for the five obscurations. And in that way you unveil the natural 24-hour a day luminosity of your substrate consciousness. So what he’s talking about here is utilizing faculties you already have: mindfulness and introspection, and investigation and analysis. So going from general characteristics to the specific. Investigation and analysis.

[4:12:27] “And along with that, the part of the mind that experiences the onset of the thoughts that identify individual qualities such as color is called’“introspection.’” [So introspection is said to be a derivative of the mental factor of intelligence, prajnaya. So it’s a separate, separate mental factor, it’s a separate mental factor, but it’s a derivative of intelligence because the very nature of introspection is {that} it’s discerning. It distinguishes between mindfulness that is well-balanced, whereas-, in contrast to mindfulness that’s falling into laxity or dullness, or into excitation and agitation. And so it’s an expression of intelligence, and it’s always inwardly directed. So as Shantideva says in the closing verses of the fifth chapter of Bodhicaryavatara, introspection is this ongoing monitoring of the body and mind, or in fact the body, speech, and mind. So in shamatha you’re really overwhelmingly monitoring the mind, but you should be checking up now and then on your posture.]

[4:13:27] I’ve witnessed when I’m teaching meditation, I have hundreds of people in front of me, and I’ll watch people and they’ll start out – one, one leaps to mind, a person I know – and sitting very upright, you know, good posture, approximation of the Seven Points of Vairocana, and then as the session goes along watching this happen: {editor: Alan does a physical imitation of this person, but does not describe it - presumably losing form and slumping}. And staying there. And evidently not even noticing. That’s not a good posture! I think that’d probably be really bad for your neck. Do that for, you know, eight hours a day for a couple of months? Don’t think it’s good. That’s not, that’s not one of the, that’s not Vairocana sleeping. It’s not one of the postures. So you want to check up now and then that you’re not slumping, that you’re maintaining that.

[4:14:11] And likewise you want to check up – and I really emphasize this, this is my little tiny experience, my thimble. Lama Karma’s giving an ocean, I’m tossing in my little thimble. Now and then check up on the breath again, again and again, because it’s very, very easy, when you start to get really focused, that it will start to constrain your breathing. And then if it’s constraining, because you’re really focusing, then you’re not letting the breath settle in its natural state, your mind will not settle in its natural state. You’ll start to get stressed out, wired, uptight, and then think the meditation really sucks. Ok? So keep on coming back. So, you’re not talking so you don’t have to monitor your speech, but you know speech and breath are strongly correlated. So now and then check up on your posture, now and then see that your breathing is flowing unimpededly and effortlessly. And then continuously monitor, with introspection, your mind. Bit of pith instruction. Because I have a tiny bit of experience! I can be helpful! Ok?

[4:15:09] “This is the precise place where we point out the name “introspection.” [Or, the psychological term “metacognition,” that without which you’re in bad shape in terms of mental health and well-being.] Therefore – [but then, what we don’t know in modern psychology we’ve been doing here for 2500 years in Buddhism. How do you develop metacognition? Not just have it, develop it. And this is where Buddhism has a tremendous amount to offer to modern med-, um, mental, mental healthcare, with joy and with humility. Because you know, I didn’t make up, you know, I’m sharing the wealth but I didn’t come up with any of this. I’m just passing on the wealth of 2500 years of Buddhism. Makes me look really smart, but no, I just know how to, I just know how to talk well. I listen well, know how to talk well. So,] therefore with a focus on experience, when you meditate there will come an experience where there are no thoughts at all. Where amazingly, they’ve all been pacified.”

[4:16:11] “You can experience this. At the same time, in order to be able to main-, remain in this peace you need strong enthusiasm. Whether” – [and that is “enthusiasm”, some people, it’s virya, and some people translate it as “effort.” It’s more than that. “Diligence”: more than that. “Enthusiastic perseverance”: that’s really good. But the Tibetan definition of virya or tsundu is gewala trowa: “taking delight in virtue”. And so that’s the enthusiasm. You’re enjoying the practice. And that’s why I said from the first day of your meditation retreat, do your very best to enjoy it. What’s not to enjoy, you know? So that’s what really keeps it, that’s, to maintain the susten-, sustainability of your peace, the joy in the practice. The satisfaction. You know?]

[4:17:00] “Whether meditation goes well or not depends on mindfulness and introspection. If you’re someone whose mindfulness is stable and introspection is sharp – and if you actually do meditate! – then when you meditate your meditation will go quite well. Even if med-, if mindfulness is present, if introspection lapses then our mindfulness will not be restored to its object once it has been distracted elsewhere, so you will not be able to attain ‘resurgent engagement’.” [And that’s the third one, where you lose it only briefly but introspection is sharp enough, on duty. So it’s not like one of those sol-, soldiers, the sentries who falls asleep on duty.]

[4:17:39] During warfare, you probably know, you can get shot for that. If you’re a sentry and you fall asleep, you could, you could be executed for that. Because you’ve put your whole troop in danger, everybody in danger, because you fell sleepy. And so they literally do speak of the sentry of introspection, and that how distraction is like a thief, and if the introspection has gone asleep, the thief will steal away all the jewels of your meditation. It will rob you of mindfulness and everything else, and you’ll just be sitting there like a dummy either falling asleep or wandering like a blind fool, wandering around in circles in rumination. And that’s because your sentry fell asleep. So if your sentry of introspection actually falls asleep, I’d say put it against the wall and POW. Give it a pop in the head. Zero tolerance! Ha! Ok. So that’s that.

[4:18:35] “So when relying on mindfulness – [so he’s really unpacking this now, summation. Everything he’s saying now is relevant to everything he said previously. Right?] So when relying on mindfulness and introspection you are, you are able to sustain your attention for a while, that is called ‘continual engagement’.” [And the, the little signpost for that. How do you know when you’ve shifted, you’ve achieved the second stage versus the first? The first is you’ve made contact. You see the Buddha image in its entirety if that’s what you’re focusing on. But how continual does it need to be to feel that confidence, ‘I’m now on stage 2’?]

[4:19:09] And it’s a very simple answer I learned from Geshe Nyawang Thargyey many years ago, and that is once you’ve engaged with your object, if you can not lose it entirely. It may waver, it may get dull, may see only a part of it, but you don’t lose it entirely. Ok? For as long as it takes to recite om mani padme hum once around the mala. And that’s, depending on how fast your mouth is, about a minute or so. If you can maintain unbroken coarse continuity, coarse mindfulness – remember coarse, medium, and subtle – if you can maintain coarse mindfulness for up to, on occasion, about a minute, that’s continuity. Now most of the time you’ll still be off the object, but on occasion and repeatedly, up to a minute, thirty seconds, forty-five seconds, a minute and fifteen seconds: then you can say, ‘ok, the median is sometimes I’m not there, but and sometimes a bit better, but the median is yeah I do this frequently. I can be there without losing entirely, completely forgetting the meditative object.’ Then you’re on stage 2. That’s continual engagement.

[4:20:16] And with ‘resurgent engagement’ you develop even greater continuity. So it’s, it’s said there that now, they say for the first time, that your – and this is wonderful; it has a sense of humor to it I think, as well – when you’ve achieved that stage three, now for the first time, they say your attention, the flow of your attention is interrupted. You say, ‘well wait a minute, it was extremely interrupted in stage 1, and still very interrupted in stage 2. Why are you saying for the first time that on stage 3 you interes-, your, your attention is interrupted?’ And there’s a reason for that. In stage 1, it’s more like your distraction is interrupted once in a while with a tiny bit of meditation.

[4:21:00] And on stage 2, you’re still spending most of your time off the object, but once, once in a while you interrupt the flow of rumination with a little bit of mindfulness of breathing. You know, a little dessert. And then you’re back to rumination, whereas by the time you get to stage 3, most of the time you’re on the object and now you can say your mindfulness is interrupted now and then, briefly but repeatedly, with distraction. So that’s why. That wasn’t exactly a real haha movement, but uh, I think that’s why they, they don’t even talk about ‘interrupted mindfulness’ until you’re that far. Ok. Because they say at the beginning you have no continuity at all. Like, three seconds and you’re out. And that’s common, and therefore one should not be discouraged.

[4:21:43] “So with resurgent engagement, at that stage if you cannot remain engaged with the object continuously, [even] if not you’re immediately able to recognize when your mind has become distracted by a single involuntary thought. [So you recover it really quickly. Like, the thief comes to your door and you recognize as soon as he shows up, not when he’s already in your bedroom and going through your jewel, your jewel cabinet or whatever. And so] your mind, [so] recognize when your mind has been distracted by a single involuntary thought such as drifting off into memories of going to India, visiting Bodhgaya, when the involuntary thoughts flow on and on, taking your mindfulness with them. But at the stage of resurgent engagement you immediately recognize with introspection that your attention has strayed and you’re bringing it right back to the object. Introspection is like a shepherd, for it looks after the mind – [remember? Caring for the mind] – it looks after the mind to prevent it from being carried away by involuntary thoughts.” [So the shepherd is protecting his sheep from the wolves that will be very happy to snatch the, the lamb and take it off, off yonder.]

[4:22:51] “When the attention strays, introspection restores it again and again to the meditative object. It is not res-, if it is not restored, then involuntary thoughts will flow continuously. So at the moment when the mind has settled well for a given session, it’s important to cut off any scattering. If you don’t cut off scattering before involuntary thoughts have had a chance to arise in a stream, then stability will not arise.” [So this “cutting off” – I think it’s a correct translation because I think it’s very been, very carefully monitored – but it doesn’t mean combatting each one, like shooting a soldier when he comes across, you know, over a trench. It’s not like that. But simply every single one, you recognize it immediately and that’s enough. Because if you recognize the thief, and it’s a sneak thief, as soon as the thief knows that he’s been recognized then he won’t go any further. But the thief, it’s the sneak thief that knows he’s gone undetected that will come in and then take as much as he can.]

[4:23:55] [So I think it’s important not to take an overly aggressive approach, thinking you can beat, beat each thought down, because yogis have been saying for centuries that attent-, that won’t work. That won’t work. But it’s important to cut off scattering, where you get caught up and carried away, because] “if you don’t cut off scattering before involuntary thoughts have had a chance to arise in a stream, then” – [and then “in a stream”. So this is the point. You don’t them, let them go into a stream. You catch them in the first instant. An instant is not a stream. A stream is two instances or more. So this is coming back to Yangthang Rinpoche, maintaining that ever-fresh, in-the-moment awareness of nonconceptual, intense presence of awareness so as soon as a thought comes up your awareness, you are aware of it immediately. You can’t prevent that – and you don’t need to! – but you don’t let it captivate you and then carry on in a stream. It’s a subtle point, but a very important point of skillful means.]

[4:24:52] “Right now our practice of meditation is not stable. Until the mind is stabilized and involuntary thoughts no longer infiltrate, you need to correct for scattering. [And this is where it’s not only that mindfulness gets finer and finer, sharper and sharper, that is you’re not only utilizing but refining mindfulness so that you can, refining mindfulness so your, your continuity is finer and finer and finer, but also you’re refining introspection so that it can detect coarse and medium and subtle excitation, coarse, medium, and subtle laxity. So the acuity of it is just getting sharper and sharper, so it just means that there are less and less chance of any of those involuntary thoughts, or the slippage into laxity, actually captivating your awareness. So this is really a simultaneous enhancement of both mindfulness and introspection. So] until involuntary thoughts don’t arise at all for five or ten minutes, or even half an hour, you should have short sessions again and again. For if you do that, involuntary thoughts won’t as easily carry you away.” [So the phrase “many sessions of short duration” is an aphorism for shamatha practice, and general meditation.]

[4:26:16] “That’s what has been taught by past supreme siddhas, and it’s important. One might thi-, one might think it’s important to have long sessions.” [So people, sometimes people, I’ve heard this, people priding themselves, ‘Oh I can meditate for now two hours at a stretch, I can meditate at three hours a stretch.’ That may be good news or may be bad news, because if it’s three hours of sloppiness, all you’re doing is creating a really, really bad habit that gets more and more entrenched. So it’s better to have short sessions of high quality than being able to proudly proclaim even to yourself, ‘Oh I can meditate for one hour, two hours, three hours!’ But if the quality is still rotten, then it’s just three hours of rotten. A very important point.]

[4:26:59] So this is, but one might think it’s important to have long sessions, but unless one’s meditation is inwardly stable, coarse or subtle undercurrents of involuntary thoughts will continue to flow like water flowing beneath grass, hay, or husks of grain. [So here we come from a farmer, you know a farming background. You can always imagine it, that grass, hay, or a husk of grain, it’s stable on the top, you don’t see anything moving, but the undercurrents of thought – and it’s literally, I remember the term: ‘og gyu’. It’s exactly “beneath movement” or “undercurrent” that they’re just chattering along, and you’re not aware of them because you’re looking at the hay, and the thought is subliminal. For practical purposes, it’s subconscious. And you need to bring your awareness down to illuminate what would otherwise be subconscious, make it conscious. And so you’re illuminating that which would otherwise be an undercurrent, and now it’s above current, because you know how deep to dig.]

[4:28:03] So attention will stray as if it had been carried away by a thief. You need to recognize whether or not your mindfulness is stable, and when you restore it, and when you’re able to stop involuntary thoughts, they’re like waves that subside back into the ocean. [And again you stop them by not hitting them with a hammer or shouting at them. Just by noticing them. And that should be enough, that then they release themselves. Or, so it’s] like waves that subside back into the ocean, or like a rainbow fading back into the sky. And once you’ve recognized the nature of your mind, it’s best if thoughts simply disappear into that basic nature. [So they still come up. But they come up, rang shar, they arise by themselves, rang dröl, and they release by themselves. And you don’t have to do anything except to maintain that ongoing flow of clear, present-centered mindfulness and introspection.] It’s important to properly recognize stillness. [So this is a crucial point. You’ve heard me emphasize it many, many times. That which enables you to achieve the first of the Four Mindfulnesses of Single-Pointed Mindfulness, you must recognize experientially stillness when it’s there and recognize movement when it’s there and not just be carried away. So he says] it’s important to properly recognize stillness. If you don’t, then the proximate enemies – [laxity and dullness] – will arise. [You have to be vividly aware of stillness, because if you’re only kind of non-lucidly aware of stillness, stillness will slip right into laxity and dullness and falling asleep. And you’ll feel, ‘Oh but I’m not agitated, I’m not excited, I’m not, I’m not ruminating, I’m, I’m’ {Alan makes a snoring sound}. You fade out and you don’t even notice it. So introspection.]

[4:29:51] [If you, so,] you need to recognize movements of the mind, and if you don’t, then undercurrents of thoughts will flow. And likewise you need to recognize awareness. [So here it is. You remember these pith instructions: after origin, location, destination, then, then stillness, movement, and awareness, and here it is. Here’s the pith instructions. So] if you don’t, then undercurrents of thoughts will arise. Likewise you need to recognize awareness. If you don’t, you will be lost in confusion. [So if not awareness, then unawareness. And unawareness gives rise to confusion. Simple.]

[4:30:24] [And now a comment from Khenpo Namchak Dorji that we interpellate because it’s so valuable. He comments here: ‘There is, there’s a practice that is called ‘staring down the face of appearances’, or ‘staring down the face of pristine awareness’, and this means that whatever appearances arise, you recognize them with mindfulness and introspection.’]

[4:30:46] So I’m very confident here. It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize this is exactly what Khenpo-, the Lama Neljorpa was telling Lama Karma to do after he’d achieved shamatha. All day, and then all day and all night, never waver. Constant flow of mindfulness and introspection, and this boils down to exactly what Yangthang Rinpoche was saying when he was giving the pith instructions on conduct. Not different at all. Ok? So there we are. Then back to Drüpon – so that was a little interpolation from Khenpo Namchak Dorji, and now back to Drübpon Lama Karma.

[4:31:23] [And he states here] “apart from staring down the face of appearances there is no other practice. [Now this is clearly practice, I mean, of course, on the cushion, but once you’ve mastered that, as Lama Najorpa told him, ‘great! Now master it all the time!’ And it took him five years, plus some time to be able to extend that all the way through the night. So] apart from staring down the face of appearances there is no other practice. [And then he quotes:] ‘Whether walking, standing, or lying down, rely upon the mind. This is what it means to practice virtue without sessions or in between.’ There is no period between sessions. There are neither sessions nor post-meditative sessions. When you’re practicing Staring Down the Face of Appearances, during sessions you’re gluing yourself to meditative experience, so with regard to post-meditation it is not as though there is one and then a second. During both, you are practicing Staring Down the Face of Pristine Awareness, or Staring Down the Face of Appearances.” [And as I recall, I think I missed this entirely. I don’t think I got this at all. I think this is probably filled in from Khenpo Namchak. Because just sometimes I just didn’t follow. So this is wonderful. So again, namo to the lama that shared this, and namo to Khenpo Namchak that made this clear, because I’m kind of saying, ‘wow! I didn’t get that!’]

[4:32:48] [And so that is the completion of his formal instruction, and then he paused and said, ‘ok? How about some guided meditation?’ And he kept his meditation very short, like 10 minutes. So here’s his, now, pith instructions on meditation. So our time is short. We have 25 minutes and I think it’s probably better to not go beyond three hours, so I’ll try to keep-, so I’m just going to read this through. But you all have this, and so you can take this as guided meditation. And something you might try is record yourself reading this and then put it on your earjacks, and read it at the pace you like – not too fast, not too slow – and let Lama Karma guide you in your meditation with your voice. Right? That’s quite nice. And use it again and again until you don’t need it anymore.

[4:33:36] [So here’s his guided meditation.] “Whether our meditation sessions are short or long, they should be comprised of three stages: preparation, the actual meditation, and the conclusion. The preparation, is the generation of bodhicitta. The actual meditation is non-referential – [and here he’s going to shamatha without a sign. Also when you’re practicing vipashyana, it’s non-referential because you have no inherently existent target that would be the referent. And of course when you’ve identified rigpa it’s non-referential, because it’s, it’s free of dualistic grasping. So you can have non-referential in three phases: shamatha, vipashyana, and treckchö. So the actual meditation, that’s the stream right there: shamatha, vipashyana, and trekchö] – and the conclusion is the dedication. The preparation, the generation of bodhicitta, is virtue, so your practice is imbued with skillful means. Regarding the non-referential actual meditation, neither involuntary thoughts nor the roughness of involuntary thoughts, as it were, arises within the meditation. The mind settles in its own nature, or awareness settles in its own nature, which means that it’s not sullied by thoughts of the past, future, and present, but is perfectly pure.”

[4:34:52] I’ll pause there, because remember on the one hand, I think all of this is vivid because we’ve had it all in one day, but as you’re going deeper and deeper, whether in shamatha or you go beyond that into vipashyana or trekchö, you hear all sounds of the cars and so forth all taking place within, and not hearing a sound way over yonder. Right? So then a clear distinction, that’s outside. But from the tiny bit of experience I have – and I say that with no humility at all, relative to people like Lama Karma I’m a rank beginner. That’s not humility, that’s just being honest. I think you deserve that, right? And so, from my little bit of experience that when you’re resting in awareness, then the thoughts are all outside, because the thoughts in that stream of that nonconceptual, self-illuminating, self-cognizing awareness, the thoughts are not in there. The emotions are not in there. I’ve done this. Sometimes a bit of sadness or dismay or whatever arises, and I’ll just rest in awareness. And there’s no sadness in awareness. There’s no emotion in awareness. There are no thoughts in awareness. It’s distilled water with no additives. It’s just luminous and cognizant. That’s it! You go into the mind, and it’s got all the additives you can imagine, you know?

[4:36:12] And so if you’d like to be not caught in the grips of your desires, involuntary thoughts, emotions and so forth, just view them as if from afar. Rest in awareness. And I’ll tell you: depression doesn’t get there. And low self-esteem doesn’t get there. The demons don’t get in there. They’ll get into your mind. They’ll wreak havoc in your mind, and if you’re identifying with your mind, they’re going to beat you up. But if you’re observing the mind and resting in that, then as he says right here, this awareness settling in its own nature, it’s not sullied by thoughts of the past, present, and future, and that means it’s not sullied with any of the emotional charge and feelings and thoughts and so forth, and memories and so forth. It’s not, none of those. The thoughts are all bound up with emotions, desires, and so forth. They come in a package, and they’re all taking place in the mind.

[4:37:02] But you have, if you are able to rest in the stillness of awareness and observe these as movements of the mind, it’s like observing a documentary. A war documentary. Or other awful documentaries of atrocities and injustice and so forth, and you’re seeing something really awful, but you’re not harmed by it. Like this lama that we visited in 1992 who’d been in a shamatha retreat for six years, and I was with the, with these neuroscientists. And they showed this yogi – his prac-, he was the only one who was just doing shamatha, been there for six years. And they showed him the video. Uh, this was 1992 and it was 199-, 1986 I think it was when there was a Tibetan uprising. And you’ve probably seen the videos of the, of the, of the police, the Chinese police beating with truncheons the monks, and they’re cowering, and beating them and beating them. It’s very hard to watch.

[4:37:56] And so with the yogi’s permission, and the Dalai Lama’s permission – so these, these scientists were impeccable. Really impeccable. Ethically, they did everything in accordance with the lama’s wishes, and, and any yogi could say, ‘No thank you’. And Gen Lemra-, Gen Lamrimpa said, ‘No thank you,’ and that was the end of the conversation. He said, ‘No I, I choose not to be a subject,’ and for a very good reason. And others with very good reasons said, ‘Yes I’ll be a subject’. But this yogi, they showed him this video that is just tragic. I mean, you know, you look and it makes your heart cringe. I mean, the monks just cowering and being beaten and beaten. And we watch this, and then the, so the yogi is watching the video, and there’s a camera on his face, and all the yogis {scientists?} are watching his face, and here’s his face as he’s watching this awful, awful imagery: and here’s his face {consult video to see what Alan is doing} That’s it. There was nothing! He was fully attentive. You saw he wasn’t falling asleep or withdrawing or anything like that.

[4:38:52] He was fully present. But there was nothing. There was not a flicker of anguish or sadness or anything. And then it was over, then the scientists ask him, ‘well we didn’t see anything. When you were watching this video, this documentary and it was real, this was not, this was real, and it was monks just like you being beaten, savagely beaten! What were you experiencing? Because we didnt -.’ You know these were experts in facial expression, and they’re expecting something to show up, and there was nothing. I was watching too. And they said, ‘what were you experiencing?’ And the monk said, ‘I was watching images on the screen, so why should I have any emotion? I’m watching flickering images on the screen. There’s nobody there, and so no I didn’t feel any special sadness.’ And then, ‘but you are aware this really took place seven years ago?’ ‘Yeah I’m aware of that, but I knew that already. This was no new information. I knew that already. But it’s not just seven years ago, this kind of thing is happening now! The concentration camps, it’s going on now! And I’m always aware of this! But that’s just Tibetans! I’m aware of the hell realms, and the pretas, and the animals! I’m aware of the ocean of suffering of all time! Why should I be moved by seeing a video of flickering images on the screen with something that happened seven years ago?’

[4:40:21] And suddenly like, whoa. His awareness is so far beyond any flickering images that make us cry. They said, Whoa. Now that’s renunciation. And that’s compassion. There was no big jolt of compassion by watching empty, flickering images on a video screen. Because there’s nobody there! And there’s nobody suffering there now. This is seven years old. What has passed is no longer existent, so why should he be upset about something that doesn’t exist at all anymore, anymore than we should be upset about a future that hasn’t happened yet. And all that was real that he was watching is what he saw to be real, and that’s empty, black-and-white images flickering on a video screen. I think that was quite shocking for the scientists. That’s intelligence. Ok? So. And I was there. It was very, very interesting.

[4:41:20] “So awareness, this awareness is not sullied by thoughts of the past, present, and future. It is perfectly pure.” [The Buddha himself in the Pali Canon saying, ‘this mind is luminous, adventitiously obscured, adventitiously not obscured, but it’s always luminous. It’s always pure.’ And that’s where you’re resting. Resting in your closest approximation of the substrate consciousness is resting in your closest approximation to pristine awareness. And neither one of those is defiled from within. Ok?]

[4:41:51] “So the mind’s essential nature is empty. It’s manifest nature is not simply vacuous, but it’s luminous, so there’s a union of emptiness and luminosity, and when it arises vividly it will not succumb to laxity and excitation, and this is called ‘the non-referential actual meditation’.” [You can meditate on that for a year and you won’t run out. That was pith.] Whatever roots of virtue you practice, the end of the session should not be obstructed with negative thoughts. After you’ve finished practicing, continue with authentic prayers of dedication of all your virtue for the sake of all sentient beings throughout space. This is like pouring a drop of water into the ocean, so that until the ocean dries up, your drop of water” – [so this is kind of communism. Communism of all your, it goes into the commune, and nobody will starve as long as there’s food in the commune. And Buddhism is much more akin to socialism than it is to capitalism. That’s true. So the, as the Dalai Lama said, ‘I’m a socialist’. He used to say, ‘I’m communist’, but I think I persuaded – I don’t know! But he asked me once what I thought about that. I said, ‘Communism is following Marx. I don’t think we really want to do that.’ Religion is poison? I don’t want to follow anybody who says that. But in any case, socialism, sure. New Zealand? I can live with that.]

[4:43:15] “So likewise your roots of virtue will not be extinguished until enlightenment is achieved, but will increase more and more. Longchenpa spoke of these three things to cherish as you traverse the path to liberation, and whether your sessions are long or short, they must be imbued with these three: preparation, the main practice, and the conclusion. Within the triad of teaching, listening, and practicing meditation, we have finished teaching and listening, so now it’s time to meditate. May all sentient beings throughout space achieve the precious state of enlightenment. First engage in the Ninefold Cleansing of the Stale Winds. [And Lama Karma demonstrates how this is done, with fists on the knees. So I think you’ve seen that. I won’t interject now. We have 15 minutes to cover about two pages. So it’s there. And you can also check him in Google. “Ninefold” – you can find it. It’s easy. {Laughter}] So then with” – [but he gave really wonderful instructions, so if you haven’t listened to the teachings, do.]

[4:44:11] “Then there are some – [and he talked about it on the preceding day. That’s why he didn’t go into detail on this day.] – then there are some winds, there are some winds remaining that have not entered, so you want to take in the remaining winds.” [So those of you who are familiar with the vase breathing, you may proceed with that. If you’re not familiar with the vase breathing, you can simply release the remaining breath gently through the nose and mouth with your hands on your knees. Relax your mind. So when he’s done the alternate breathing, and he’s breathing through the two, then {Alan demonstrates}, he lets it out and then POOF. A little puff at the end. He did that each time. Ok? So, and that’s to expul-, you know it’s stale winds. Just POOF. Pop them out. Puff them out. So.]

[4:45:04] “Relax your mind. [Dzogchen master!] Then as it is said, if you make the auspicious form with your body then realizations will dawn in your mind, so adopt the Seven Point Posture of Vairocana with your legs crossed in the Vajra asana, or if that is uncomfortable then you can sit up straight in the bodhisattva posture. [And I think you all know that. So over the last ten minutes I can easily do that. And that’s just everything flat. Just like that. That’s the bodhisattva posture. It’s a good one, especially if you have some good support at the base of the spine. And so] your entire body and mind should be relaxed. Then offer prayers of supplication to the lineage of your lamas, finishing with ‘come my precious root guru shining in glory, sit atop the, sit atop the lotus and moon upon my crown, and in your great kindness take me after you. Please grant me the siddhis of body, speech, and mind.’” [And we have the Tibetan here.]

[4:46:07] “And then you can visualize the one whose essential nature is your root lama in the form of our teacher, Shakyamuni, coming to be seated upon the lotus and moon above the crown of your head. Then call for blessings that your meditation in this session will go well, and imagine you receive blessings and then your lama melts into light and as a ball of light enters your crown chakra, descends to the center of your heart, and finally dissolves into your heart. And then imagine that the Buddha’s body and your mi-, the Buddha’s mind and your mind become inseparable of one taste. And once you’ve come to that point you enter the actual meditation. View thoughts of the past as aspects of your mind and prevent them from entering. Do not usher in thoughts of the future, but stop them. This brings your consciousness to the present, and don’t investigate or analyze this consciousness.”

[4:47:01] “When practicing shamatha, this consciousness that is the dominant condition what you call “your mind” has no place where it is established. Therefore when you observe the essential nature of your mind, when you can’t point to it, you see that it’s empty. But not only is it empty, but the luminosity of visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile sensations remains unimpeded. As Milarepa said to Rechungpa his spiritual son, ‘may this wish-fulfilling jewel of the precious samadhi of luminosity and emptiness arise in your mindstream, Rechungpa my son.’ [So we see here clearly he’s crossed the threshold from shamatha when you speak of luminosity and emptiness. Then on a relative level, just practicing shamatha like, you know, resting in awareness, the luminosity is the luminosity of the substrate consciousness, and the emptiness is the emptiness of materiality. And that’s true.]

[4:48:04] And that’s a truth that most cognitive scientists have not figured out yet. They still think that somehow mind is physical, with no reason at all except for they’re believers. So that’s a relative understanding of luminosity and emptiness, and you realize that by realizing substrate consciousness. What I don’t, I can’t imagine how a person could achieve shamatha and realize substrate consciousness, and come out a materialist. I just, I just don’t think that’s possible, because you have seen that that’s just not true. Without any reasoning, you know it’s not true. Then of course on the deeper level, it’s the luminosity of substrate consciousness which is empty of inherent nature. And that’s deeper. And that’s on the Sutra path. But if you go even deeper – as we follow the instructions of Yangthang Rinpoche for example, or here, Lama Karma – you’re realizing once again the emptiness of inherent nature of your substrate consciousness, you cut through to the essential nature of your mind, but resting in there you see that it’s not just an emptiness, it’s also a luminosity and you identify that luminosity. That’s the clear light, and that is the unborn clear light of pristine awareness, and that’s the point in which you complete the triad of shamatha, vipashyana into the empty essential nature of the mind, and the trekchö, the cutting through to the original purity of the clear light of your own awareness, which is the unborn luminosity of pristine awareness. And now you’ve entered the path. That’s what he’s teaching here.

[4:49:34] [We’re right on time!] “The mind has the two inseparable aspects of luminosity and emptiness. Its emptiness is devoid of laxity. [So right back to shamatha.] Its emptiness is devoid of laxity, and its luminosity is devoid of dullness. [Ok? Another level of luminosity and emptiness.] Laxity and dullness are transcended. You’ll never quite arrive at the consciousness of the present moment that transcends origination, cessation, and inviting, which is empty awareness, but you remain right there for as long as you can, and that is called ‘meditative equipoise’.” [So that’s the meditative equipoise of shamatha. And in Padmasambhava’s “Natural Liberation”, and in Panchen Rinpoche’s root and commentary on Mahamudra, when they say, ‘some first gain understanding by way of the view and then enter the meditative state, and some enter, enter, enter the meditative state and from that comes the view,’ the meditative state is that. It’s the meditative equipoise of shamatha.]

[4:50:41] “So whatever thoughts arise simply release them. Don’t try to block them, for you’ll never succeed. Also don’t fall under the influence of an autonomous stream of involuntary thoughts, for that’s delusional.” [And it’s delusional in exactly the same way that a non-lucid dream is. You’re flat-out crazy! I mean, literally you’re insane in a non-lucid dream, because a person, like, who is suffering from schizophrenia or other kind of psychosis cannot distinguish between real and what is completely a fabrication of your mind.]

[4:51:18] So as you know, in my early days in Dharamshala I had, weirdly, I had immediate close contact with three women who were psychotic. And, and why me? Because I was living in the home of the Dalai Lama’s personal physician, and they were brought there for treatment. They didn’t receive effective treatment, but I had three very, whoa, intense experiences. And one woman, I sat up with her all night. She kind of took refuge with me in my little cottage, my little room on the ceiling, of the, the roof of Dr. Dhonden’s house. And I sat up with her all night, and she, the devil was inside of her, and she talked, all night she talked. And it was the devil, the devil inside of her and so forth. And I just listened to her all night. That’s all I could do, having no skills whatsoever. But at least she didn’t commit suicide, and there was a little bit of fear of that.

[4:52:06] And there were two other women as well, and so I got to meet all of them. But they could not distinguish at all what we see as our consensual, intersubjective, deceptive reality, which can be authentic. They couldn’t see the difference between that, between that and sheer fantasy. And that’s exactly what happens every time we fall into a non-lucid dream. We can’t tell. We don’t know what is a sheer fabrication and what’s actually has some consensual – well on a mini level, every time we fall into this autonomous stream of involuntary thoughts, it’s like a little, mini, non-lucid dream. And while we’re there, it’s obsessive, it’s compulsive, and it’s delusional in the sense that we think what we’re thinking is true. So that’s delusional.

[4:52:57] “We need to discover the state of consciousness where thoughts are released into their own ground. [The relative ground is the substrate. The ultimate ground is dharmakaya.] We need to release every kind of delusive thought into the mind of the present moment, which is unborn and unceasing. The ground in its empty aspect. [Well that’s dharmadatu.] We need to gain a conviction that sustains the moment of the essential nature that is free of identification. [And that’s that dual-, identification is occurring when there’s dualistic grasping. “I” identify “that”. Both reified. “I” and the subject and an object.] This practice [in square brackets] is said to be free of identifying and of not identifying. [So it’s not not identifying as in spacing out and not knowing anything at all, and it’s not identifying as in identifying by way of dualistic grasping. So it’s free of both extremes.]

[4:53:49] “Rechungpa said, ‘thoughts of the past have ceased and disappeared. Those of the future have not yet arisen. And those of the present are unrecognizable.’” [You can’t, in the present, I mean and we’re talking about the immediate present, present, present, right in that instant of the present moment. In that ins-, within that instant you can’t reach out and nail it, because by the time you reach out it’s already gone. So as Shantideva says in the ninth chapter, ‘a single moment of awareness cannot identity itself.’ Not unless it’s rigpa, and that’s off the, that’s off the screen. But within conventional reality of a sentient being, a single moment can at best recognize the immediate preceding moment, but that’s already gone! So by the time, as you’re resting in a stream of awareness of awareness of awareness, the awareness of which you are aware is already non-existent by the time you’re aware of it. Because it’s retrospective. But the s-, as, just as a candle cannot illuminate itself, and a knife blade can’t cut itself, so can a single instant of awareness not recognize itself. And that’s what he’s saying here. ‘Those of the present are unrecognizable’ because by the time you recognize them, they’re already gone! Because it’s a retrospective identification. ‘Re cognize’. Recognize.]

[4:55:07] “It is called transcendence of recognition. The mind whose essential nature is free of recognition finally leads to the Madhyamaka view, the Mahamudra view, and the view of the Great Perfection. When cultivating shamatha, depending on the level of your practice be it great, middling, or small, on the qualities of your channels and elements, the strength of your courage, or how far one has advanced, for some people due to the purity of their karma it is possible for them to recognize their own pristine awareness.” [So by doing just this practice, when cultivating shamatha. So this comes up. Many of you re-, you’ll recall in Natural Liberation, shamatha without a sign. Just probing into that which observes, that which is meditating. Padmasambhava says right there, ‘that may be sufficient for identifying pristine awareness without practicing vipashyana separately, or some other practice of trekchö’. It’s possible.]

[4:56:06] And His Holiness just recently commented, purely in vein, in line with Dzogchen, there is a way in Dzogchen, without any analysis, without any, without any identification of the object to be refuted and then assaulting that with reasoning – is it the same as its parts? Is it separate? – without any of that. In a purely nonconceptual way, you may cut right through to pristine awareness and by the power of identifying pristine awareness, and viewing reality from the perspective of pristine awareness, because you are viewing phenomena from pristine awareness, you recognize all appearances as effulgences of pristine awareness and therefore they cannot possibly be existing by their own inherent nature. And so therefore by the power of identifying rigpa, by the power of that you can already realize emptiness. And without going by way of Nagarjuna and so forth.

[4:56:56] [Now by and large, most people can’t do that, and that’s why then step-by-step for other people. But it is possible. And His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who knows Tsongkhapa probably as well as anybody alive, said ‘yeah this is possible too’.] “So it’s possible for them to recognize their own pristine awareness. The mind that is free of thoughts of the three times is the best. When you hear the sound of the chime fading away – [so he, he sets, strikes the chime at the beginning of the session] – when you hear the chime, the sound of the chime fading away, settle your mind in its natural state. And from that point onwards, do your best not to become distracted.” [So Lama Karma, in square brackets, he sounds the beginning chime. And the ending chime comes at, oh, twenty-three minutes later. Twenty three minutes later.]

[4:57:47] “Meditative equipoise – [and then he continues, having sounded the chime at the end. He continues now]. Meditative equipoise” – [so what I would suggest is, if you like record all of this and then set your timer for twenty-three minutes, and when it chimes, then pick up on his concluding advice. Yeah? I’m just so, I just can’t, I can’t, I can’t say how much, I so appreciate Khenpo Namchak making this intelligible at all the first round. I missed so much, I could not possibly have translated it. I would’ve been a shoddy translator. Just didn’t understand a lot. But not only doing that, but filling in so many of these points. Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!] So meditative equipoise is said to be space-like, for it is like empty space. When you arise from meditative equipoise with your space-like, luminous, empty mind, if you think, ‘Now my session’s over so I don’t need to meditate!’ Don’t think you’re now on vacation. Between sessions, you must sustain the mindfulness of meditative equipoise and blend it with your everyday activities, and you should unify your meditative equipoise and post-meditative state.]

[4:59:00] So reading this, it just strikes home that there are many professions that are enormously demanding. They require a real radical change of your whole lifestyle. So to become, prep, prepa-, prepa-, to become a professional dancer of world class status, well you just have to change your whole lifestyle. Isn’t that correct? Yeah. To become an Olympic, Olympic athlete, your whole lifestyle has to change. To become, to get a, to get a medical degree, for six years you can’t do much else. And so forth for many other things. You know, you really, it has to, you know, there is no profession that is more demanding than that of the contemplative. There’s no profession. Even as a professional dancer or a scientist or, you know, Olympic gymnast, you can have a bit of time off. Have a glass of wine, you can go to the movies, you can hang out, you can have sex, you can do, do fun things, you know? And still be a really good athlete. But this! You see it’s relentless! He’s not giving you a breath. He’s saying 24 hours a day.

[5:00:01] There is no profession that is as demanding as this. Not any of them. I think we know the spread – you tell me – that never lets you have a break, even for one second? There are no coffee breaks. Mindfully, introspectively, what thoughts came up during the first sip? What thought came up for the second sip? You know? Nobody’s that demanding! [Laughter]. Coffee breaks are times you can just hang out and let your mind go into rumination. So this is demanding, but then as it is demanding, so is this more rewarding than any other profession available to humanity. There is nothing more rewarding than this, and I say that with total conviction. Not that my wor-, my words really, you know, I have no authority but I do have that confidence.

[5:00:46] “So you should, so between sessions you must sustain the mindfulness of meditative equipoise – [that is, that pure unification, that blending so there’s no abrupt discontinuity between being in meditative equipoise and then being fully engaged with the world] – blend it with your everyday activities day and night, and you should unify your meditative equipoise and post-meditative state. When you’re first practicing you may practice for an hour of formal meditation – [now this, I’ve never heard this before. I said, ‘this knock your sh-, knock your socks off] – when you’re first practicing you may meditate, practice for an hour of formal meditation and shorter periods of post-meditation such as ten minutes, which you try to blend with your meditative state.” [So practice formally for an hour, take a ten minute break but try to blend, go back for an hour, come out for ten minutes, blend, blend, ok. Yeah. Ok? Now].

[5:01:36] “But as you’re able to maintain your meditative mindfulness through your post-meditative period, periods, then you should extend the post-meditative practice to twenty minutes. And eventually you should train with one hour in meditative equipoise and one hour of post-medita-, post-meditation.” [So this is not meaning that you’re taking, you’re getting kind of like going into semi-retirement. It means that you’re maintaining, you’re staying on the same plateau for a whole hour. That is, you, you hit your, your booster rockets. You know? Your booster rockets are all fully aflame, full charge, full speed ahead in meditative equipoise for an hour, and then you pick up so much momentum from doing nothing other than practicing that for another whole hour the momentum you picked up while on the cushion carries you through the whole next hour while you’re doing anything else you need to do, including writing down the words of a, of a tertön.]

[5:02:36] [So he says that’s much more challenging than having an hour on the cushion and ten minutes off. Much more challenging. That’s why his, I think we can easily imagine, this is why Lama Neljorpa told him, ‘I know you want to be in strict retreat. This is harder! But this will take you faster, and this will better prepare you for the next thirteen years in which you will be in solitary retreat.’] “Gradually you decrease the time spent in formal meditation and increase the time in the post-meditative state.” [I see how people can really play with that. ‘Oh I’m already there!’ {laughter}. ‘I’m already only meditating an hour a day, and I’m in post-meditative fifteen hours a day!’ Ok, we can all see how that can be quite silly.] With the increase of pliancy, during all your activities of eating, washing, walking, and sleeping, you can integrate the mindfulness of meditative equipoise with your post-meditative experience. [So this is that prashrapta or shin jang in Tibetan, that pliancy you’re explicitly cultivating in shamatha, above all.]

[5:03:43] There’s another dimension of it from vipashyana, and another dimension of pristine awareness. Each one has its own pliancy. But as you’re cultivating that on the cushion, this is this pliancy, malleability, buoyancy, and serviceability – these are all basically synonymous – that carries you through everything in between sessions. You don’t lose it, but you apply it to everything else. And as Tsongkhapa says, when you achieve shamatha, then the power of your samadhi will suffuse your dreams. Well, we’ve seen that, but we’ve seen that’s how. Generically, a thousand yogis in his database: yep, samadhi suffuses your dreams once you’ve achieved shamatha. And here’s n=1: in that way, the dissolution in forward and reverse order and so on.

[5:04:29] “And so you can integrate the mindfulness of meditative equipoise with your post-meditative experience, and when you can indivisibly merge the two so that they are unified, you will be able to arrive at high levels of meditation.” [So presumably that’s what Lama Karma did for thirteen years after full integration, unification of meditative equipoise in post-meditation. Then thirteen years. So I think, for myself, I can’t even imagine imagining what he might have gone through during those thirteen years. With that kind of foundation? Inconceivable. But all of that, that’s his business. I’ll never ask. I don’t think I’ll ever ask him. That’s for me to practice and try to find out for myself.]

[5:05:12] “In his Three Phases that Strike the Crucial Points, which synthesizes all the crucial points of the Great Perfection, Garab Dorje – [the most famous text] – uh, states, ‘there should be no difference between meditative equipoise and the post-meditative state, and no separation between meditation sessions and between session periods.’ Meditative equipoise occurs during your formal sessions, and between sessions the mind tends to wander. But if your meditative equipoise can enter into the times between meditation sessions, then meditation persists without distraction. When the mindfulness and introspection of your meditative equipoise enters into your activities, then you’ve made those two periods inseparable and no difference exists between meditative equipoise and the post-meditative state.”

[5:06:04] “So for siddhas of the past, if in the beginning they were meditating in mountain hermitage {audience member coughs} – [I want to read that again. We all have to cough, but I just wanted this be, just, I want this to go in] – for siddhas of the past, if in the beginning they were meditating in a mountain hermitage and then practice until they can successfully blend sessions and between-session periods, then whether they were teaching disciples or wandering about on the town it made no difference, for they had achieved stability within. If you practice gradually and reach a high level, then this will happen.”

[5:06:45] So we’re almost finished here, and we’re a little bit over [Alan says some words that are masked by the loud coughing of an audience member: “but that’s ok” ?] but I’d really like everybody to bear this in mind, that when we think of going into retreat, think about reaching that, thinking about your time of being useless to the world on a tangible, observable way. You’re useless. You’re just eating, eating food and making poop and pee, and so really you’re just, you know, just contributing to global warming on that level, right? But then don’t think of it as, ‘I’m going into life-lon-, life-long retreat.’ I don’t think that’s a good attitude. Think of it, ‘I’m going into retreat until I no longer [need to?] be into retreat, and I’ll never be out of retreat even if I’m teaching to a thousand people or hopping on jets, flying all over the world, or I’m working for Greenpeace or anything else. There’s no, there’s no list, there’s no limitation to how you might manifest your wisdom and your compassion. It’s not just as a dharma teacher. It can be manifest in any way your heart moves you. But you’ll never be out of meditation, you’ll never be out of retreat because you’ve reached that level. So I’d really encourage you to think of your retreat as finite. It’s just for a while. And then, as soon as you can come out, as we say in my old three-fold balance act: ‘achieve relaxation without losing clarity, then achieve the union of the meditative state and the post-meditative state without losing the meditative state.’

[5:08:13] And when you can do that, there’s no reason to be in meditation. There’s no be-, there’s no, there’s no reason to withdraw, because there’s no place to withdraw! Because you’re already resting in awareness. You’re never coming out of meditative equipoise. Now that is the non-abiding, non-abiding practice on the path that is a precursor of the non-abiding enlightenment of a Buddha. So I think that’s a really healthy attitude for all of us, that just for a while – you can tell your parents, your friends, and so forth – it’s for a while. But the whole nature of this path is I’m going to be doing everything I can, in a straight line, to realizing that. And so these are the siddhas of the past, and you’ll become a siddha of the present. And I really believe if we don’t have siddhas of the present, human civilization is down the toilet. I really don’t see any other way, because the scientists have done all they need to do and we’re not following it. So we need, humanity needs an existential shock therapy, to have siddhas popping up here and there and telling me, ‘you’ve got, you are all delusional!’ You’re getting everything wrong, and I’ll so, I’ll demonstrate that to you.’ I think then that’s hope. And I don’t see anything else.

[5:09:28] Otherwise, I’d probably become a scientist. But if I had been, I’d just be pulling my hair out after the last four years of seeing an administration trying to demolish everything good. I mean, literally, everything down to opening season on red wolves. I mean, really down to the last iota, doing everything they could to undermine every attempt – I mean I cry! Whew! And I’d be suicidal if I’d just spent the last five years as an environmentalist. Or I’d be a terrorist. One of the two I think. Because what has happened in the last four years, I mean how could they, how could they have done worse? Hopefully, this will be over quickly. But we still, it won’t be enough. Biden won’t be enough. Democrats won’t be enough. Greenpeace isn’t enough. Because they’re doing everything they can, and it’s still not enough. And so it’s easy to, how do you say, villainize people: Trump, the Republicans, that’s very easy. They’re the bad guys. But it still won’t, even if they all converted to Dem-, democracy and Trump went into life-long retreat, that still won’t be enough either. [aughter] That’s something to pray for!

[5:10:31] “So if you practice gradually and reach a high level, then this will happen. [That’s not maybe, maybe hope so and pray. It will happen.] At the beginning you should, you should not meditate with your eyes closed, nor should they be wide open but partially open, looking out in front of you. And if you familiarize yourself like that, in the future you’ll be able to achieve clairvoyance, the deva eye, and the eye of wisdom and so forth. If you meditate with your eyes closed, for awhile it seems better but later you’ll fall, you’ll fall, you will fall towards sleep, because your meditation will not have attained stability. When you ach-, when you achieve quite a good degree of stability, then you’ll be just like Milarepa who said, ‘even if I cover my head with a shawl, I can clearly see all the worlds.’”

[5:11:15] And there was a lama I, I got to know a little bit. From Samye. Lovely lama, with a very simple name. Lama Yeshe. Lama Yeshe. He was the head lama and meditation teacher at Samye. I met him there. I met him on, I met him also on the Holy Isle a couple of times. And he was a real yogi. Real, real yogi. Did multiple 49-days dark retreats. He was really a master of it. And he’s still alive and he has the oral transmission. It’s a very special oral transmission. Kagyupa, Mahamudra. And he said when he was in his dark retreat, on occasion where you’re in a room that is pitch black for 49 days, he could see things taking place in the environment around, around, outside of the building with his mental awareness. So. Precursor of Milarepa. Well, maybe? Maybe he achieved the same realization, I don’t know. But this is not just ancient times. This is recent.

[5:12:14] “So when you have taken hold of the eternal kingdom with undistracted mindfulness, then it won’t make any difference whether your eyes are open or closed, but for us, but for us right now keeping your eyes closed is not the way to practice shamatha, for now. Now that we’ve participated in teaching, listening, and practicing meditation, let us dedicate whatever roots of virtue we may have gained, so that all sentient beings may achieve enlightenment simultaneously as one.”

[5:12:45] “It is written in the old textbooks – [and now we end on this lovely light note, so Tibetan and Bhutanese! So we’ve done really deep, deep water. Ready? Are you ready for a little, for something a little bit lighter?] It is written in the old textbooks that siddhas of the past have said that if you can maintain the stability of your mind or samadhi through the practice of shamatha for as long as it takes for a louse to crawl from the top of your head to the tip of your nose – [that is, for a few minutes] – you’ll be able to purify instantly the negative karma accumulated over 80,000 eons. [So if you want to try that, I would suggest find a fast louse! Louse is like a cubit, some go slow, some go fast! You know? But there it is, {laughter} a louse running a marathon down to the tip of your nose, and if you can maintain stability, negative karma from 80,000 eons, PHOOT, finished! He says] this was declared by the Buddha himself. {laughter} [That’s an analogy, you know? But he includes in the final grand finale of this teaching here is,] ‘the siddhas in the old days had a lot of lice! But now, we can say this refers to a few minutes.” [Tada! His teachings are finished.]

[5:14:12] [So he gives us a bit of laughter at the end, which is all good. Let’s quietly – I don’t think we need to chant something. Let’s quietly dedicate merit of listening to, reflecting upon, and now we have our lives before us to put into practice, and practice in the footsteps of great masters like him. Dedicate merit and then we’ll be finished for the afternoon.]


[5:14:50] Olaso. So I’m not quite sure, it might’ve been more useful if I just gave you the lung and let all the, the flowers blossom from that fertile soil and the seeds he planted in it. So then you can always just read it on your own. But I thought maybe that would be useful to offer some commentary. I don’t know. Don’t really know. But I’ve offered what I can, and so this is all recorded, and so Tad and anybody else who’s involved with this, really I’m saying what Gyatrul Rinpoche has, has said, that if you find stuff that I said just not useful, you don’t even have to ask me. Just cut it out. You know? Just cut it out. Because you know sometimes, especially the first session, kind of wandering off and maybe not so useful. So anything not useful, then just cut it out. Well, one thing don’t cut out is, you would never cut out anyway, but that was the gold.

[5:15:38] And if I were covering it with the dirty rag of my commentary then, you know, throw away the rag! The gold’s still there. Or if I said something useful, then I’m very happy. Time well spent. But I think I’ve offered the best I can for today, and, uh, maybe I’ll teach it again sometime later; hopefully that’ll be better. But that’s it for now. So I’m glad we were able to join together. Sublime teachings, the text. And again, I just, so much gratitude to everybody involved. And above all to Lama Karma that was willing to be so candid, so open, and to, for one simple reason, to inspire us, that this is not ancient history. And he was not identified as a tulku, a rinpoche. And he’s not even terribly well-known, you know? He’s not very renowned. And there he is, this hidden jewel.

[5:16:23] He’s, he’s like that, like that Buddha image wrapped in the soiled cloth of modernity. Nobody’s fault, but this man is a wish-fulfilling jewel, you know. And so he’s come to the West. I’m very happy to say that, in dependence on the, uh, the donations, or the, the offerings for the teachings he’s given in the past to SBI, apart from the offering to him and to Khenpo Sonam, to Namchak Dorji, virtually all the rest of it we gained we offered up, quite suitably, to pay for his and his wife getting green card. Because it costs quite a lot. And so that’s covered by the teachings, offering given for his teachings. So what more appropriate than that? And so then, I think we’ve done all we can to ensure that, since he came here to really live here and offer Dharma, that we’ve done what we can financially to help him get the green card.

[5:17:18] And so then hopefully he’ll be able to be here, available, uh, for – and he’s only like 63 or so – so hopefully a long life. And that many, many people can benefit from the incredible depths of insights and experience and knowledge that he has. So hopefully this will inspire many people to seek him out and to be able to receive benefit from him. So if I, if my services can just help people, like pointing-out instructions. I’m pointing out him, {laughter} You know? And turn away from the secretary, from the pizza-delivery man, you know? Turn away! Who cares? Because this is the gold. And I’m just the finger pointing to the gold. And the gold of the gold, of course, is relying not on the individual, {but} the teaching. And this is the Dharma. And this is what you can bring home to you, and this is with you every single day, and this is what you can practice. So I’d say this is your root text – our root text. And so, gratitude to everyone. Gratitude for you, making this available. And, uh, that’ll do for now. So! Sarvamangala! See you later.

Transcribed by James M. French

First revision and final edition, respectively done by:

Rafael C. Giusti and Kriss Sprinkle, from the beginning of the lecture till the end of paragraph 1:06:05

Kriss Sprinkle and Rafael C. Giusti, from the beginning of paragraph 1:07:29 to the end of paragraph 2:08:12

Kirsty Stevenson and Annette Dorfman, from the beginning of paragraph 2:09:41 to the end of paragraph 3:11:42

Sueli Martinez and Meredith Leston, from the beginning of paragraph 3:12:28 till the end of paragraph 4:15:09

Joanne Mananis and Claire Lamme from the beginning of paragraph 4:16:11 till the end of paragraph 5:17:18 (end of the lecture)

Transcript formatted and posted on the website of the course by Rafael C. Giusti


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