Fall 2014 Shamatha, Vipashyana, Dream Yoga, and the Experience of Pristine Awareness in the Great Perfection Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism

00 Welcome and Introduction to the retreat

B. Alan Wallace, 21 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Welcome to Thanyapura Fall 2014 retreat.

This session outlined what will be covered in the retreat. The teachings are based on two texts: Padmasambhavas Natural Liberation, and excerpts from Dudjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence. The teachings focus on three of the six bardos (living, meditation and dreaming).

Alan describes himself as a dharma chef, serving up a juicy offering. Shamatha is the starting point.

There are 36 people on individual retreats at Thanyapura, but all crew members together - so be considerate to others. Now give up all attachment to this life and devote it to Dharma.

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01 Settling the Body, Speech and Mind in its Natural State

B. Alan Wallace, 22 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts off by giving a meditation on settling the body, speech and mind in its natural state. He then elaborates on practices of mindfulness of breathing which follows three steps in the Theravada tradition: Focussing on the whole body experience, being aware of the rise and fall of the abdomen and finally paying close attention to the sensations at the nostrils. Alan, however, presents a Dzogchen approach to mindfulness of breathing which does not follow these steps but proposes to let the awareness rest still. That way you do not explicitly focus on the sensations of the breath, but you are implicitly aware of them - just as in a lucid dream in which your eye movements as well as the rhythm of your “dream breath” correlate with the movements of your physical body. In such a state you are also simply implicitly aware of your physical body but you don’t explicitly focus on it. This then explains how one can transfer from the desire realm (in which you are focussed on your bodily sensations) to the form realm: by simply letting the body do its job without interfering in the natural flow of the breath (the body knows it better than you do anyways!) and letting your awareness hold its own ground.

Meditation starts at 01:18

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02 Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 22 Aug 2014 Transcript available

The meditation was Mindfulness of Breathing with a literal interpretation on the theme from the Pali canon “When breathing in long one knows that one breathes in long”. Alan starts by reading from Dudjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence, the beginning passage of the first three bardos or transitional phases. Alan stresses that in order to get the most benefit out of these teachings, we should recognize who is presenting the teachings to us. It is important that we don’t reify the teachers, but see through the lineage of teachers that passed this down to us right to Samantabhadra, who stands for our own pristine awareness. According to the Vajra Essence, we are in the transitional phases as long as we are not liberated. The essential nature of the transitional phases is pristine awareness. But since we don’t realize this, pristine awareness cristalyzes into the ethically neutral state of substrate consciousness, which itself doesn’t wander in samsara, but becomes the ground from which a sentient being within the six realms arises. Dudjom Lingpa then lays out the sequence in which the coarse mind of a sentient being manifests out of substrate consciousness. The substrate itself is of the nature of unknowing, and therefore as long as the substrate consciousness is dissolved in the substrate, like a sword being hidden in its sheath, it is in a state of only implicit awareness. Then due to the germination of karmic seeds, the substrate consciousness gets catalyzed and it becomes explicit. Then from the substrate consciousness afflicted mentation (klishta manas) arises, which is the primary root of self-grasping, the raw sense of “me” being over here and “not me” being over there. Then out of this, subtle and coarse mentation (manas) arises, with the subtle mentation being still non-conceptual, a simple differentiation of this versus that, and the coarse mentation being fully conceptual, enabling us to make sense of the world. Finally, the coarse mind (citta) arises in response to appearances. Questions: Q1: In the metaphor of the sword and the sheath, what is the sheath referring to again? Q2: Why does the Vajra Essence state that the substrate consciousness is being free throughout the three times?

Meditation starts at 08:02 min

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03 Continuing Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 23 Aug 2014 Transcript available

This morning Alan: - asked for volunteers in an experiment over the retreat period - gave the oral transmission of the 7 line prayer of Padmasambhava (that will become part of the practice from tomorrow) - gave a guided meditation on settling the body speech and mind in its natural state, with an emphasis on being aware of the rhythm of the breath

Following the meditation, the discussion was on maintaining practice between sessions (listen out for the impressions of a young girl riding her plastic tricycle on the asphalt while screaming - and as soon as you are confronted with such distractions while meditating, simply follow Gyatrul Rinpoche’s advice: “View it!”).

Meditation starts at 12:09

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04 The Culmination of Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 23 Aug 2014 Transcript available

It is crucial for our progress to be able to distinguish the qualitative difference between the clarity of substrate consciousness and the lucidity of rigpa.

In the practice of Mindfulness of Breathing, awareness illuminates the field and notices fluctuations in the field produced by the rhythm of the breath. The fluctuations become more and more subtle as continued practice produces a decreased volume of the breath.

By following the simple instructions of the Buddha to maintain stillness of awareness while noting that the breath is long or shot and by attending to the entire field of the breath, the practice can lead to the the complete cessation of breathing at the singularity of the fourth jhana of the form realm.

Meditation starts at 42:26

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05 Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 25 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Due to technical problems we apologize for the sound quality in the first eight minutes. Alan invites us to start each morning with the recitation of The Seven Line Prayer of Padmasambhava as a preliminary. We recite it in Tibetan accompanied with the visualization and mantra recitation of Padmasambhava in order to receive his blessings. Following the meditation, Alan quotes a verse of the 100.000 verses of Perfection of Wisdom Sutras in which it claims that by achieving the the fourth jhana one achieves a number of paranormal abilities or siddhis just by the power of samadhi although it is still tainted. When samadhi is imbued with vipashana it becomes untainted. Then, Alan compares spiritual development with running a business, one has to create the causes for shamatha to be achieved and not just pray to receive siddhis. Alan encourages us to practice by quoting William James and His Holiness Dalai Lama, emphasizing that it is possible to achieve siddhis in this degenerated era. Alan reinforces the importance to become lucid. If you are not lucid you are just a victim all the time. When the mind becomes empowered, then the laws of physics, biology, etc. start to melt out. However, as long as this power is not manifest, the mind is just dysfunctional. Therefore, Alan invites all of us to bring about a revolution right now!

Meditation starts at 08:08

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06 Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 25 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts off talking about shamatha as a contemplative technology. It is about making the mind serviceable and refining our mental awareness. Shamatha is healing and it becomes a path to exceptional health and mental balance. For the first time, Alan gives instructions of a different technique to use before the shamatha meditation. It has been used by many yogis in the past and also has spread widely nowadays. It is called the nine fold expulsion of the residual prana.

After the meditation, Alan emphasizes the importance of ‘mindfulness of breathing’ by quoting the Perfection of Wisdom sutras in 10.000 stanzas. Alan elaborates on the meaning of the last sentence “…by dwelling with introspection and with mindfulness, eliminates avarice and disappointment towards the world by means of non-objectification…”. Alan reflects on sukkha and the genuine sources of happiness versus hedonic pleasure.

It follows by two questions from the participants: - Clarification of the answer Gyatrul Rinpoche gave once to Alan regarding the practice of Dzogchen: “view it”. - A retreatant comments on her preference to short breathing.

Meditation starts at 23:35

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07 Faith and taboo

B. Alan Wallace, 26 Aug 2014 Transcript available

As an introduction to approaching devotional practice and practicing with meaning, Alan talks of how faith in Buddhism differs from both western/Christian faith, and faith in science. He gives examples including Galileo’s role, based on his belief which he validated with empirical evidence, in overturning the physical sciences and Aristotle based thought of his time. Nothing similar has happened in the mind sciences. Buddhist faith has the depth and beauty of western traditions, but also has empiricism and the passion to ‘know’.

Following the meditation, Alan picks up on the notion of ‘taboo’ and the idea that what you don’t look into keeps you blind. He talked of how understanding the body was advanced once the taboo of opening up the body with dissection was overcome. You know where this is heading … one of Alan’s favorite topics: the western taboo of not giving credence to introspection in the sciences. Introspection is still taboo, and if you don’t look, you don’t learn. The session ended with an exhortation from Alan the revolutionary to “burn down the city walls” where there is (scientific) faith without the balance of intelligence.

Meditation starts at 34:48

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08 Nyam, nyam, nyam

B. Alan Wallace, 26 Aug 2014 Transcript available

The Tibeten term ‘nyam’ has no similar term in English. It is a class of experience that is part of the journey. Alan described a nyam as “an anomalous, transient, psychosomatic experience that is catalyzed by authentic meditative experience” and went on to describe various nyam that have arisen or may arise. You cannot tell what kind of nyam may arise, no one has plain sailing. The point is to be with it and not reify it, and the analogy to a lucid dream was given (when you are non lucid in a dream you reify it as being real). Recognize it for what it is.

In the second part of the session, Alan continued the reading from Dudjom Lingpa’s “The Vajra Essence” on the bardo of living, and providing a commentary that ranged from Milarepa, to lucid dreaming, shopping ’til you drop to the great transference rainbow body and everything in between.

One question was asked - on moving from the desire to form realm on the breath

This session began with a silent meditation that is not included in this podcast

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09 Transferring Consciousness to a Buddhafield

B. Alan Wallace, 27 Aug 2014 Transcript available

We conclude the teachings on the transitional phase of living from the Vajra Essence with a meditation found in the text and a commentary on it. We practice the meditation as an exercise of prospective memory so that after death, in the bardo of becoming, we will recall our backup plan for becoming lucid and attaining enlightenment.

The crossing over practices of Dzogchen are done without visualization, but according to masters who have achieved this stage, primordial consciousness spontaneously appears as the absolute space of the great bliss of Akanistha with five of its aspects manifesting as the five Buddhas.

A primary tenet of Dzogchen is to not look for the Buddha outside yourself. Only when you cut through delusive appearances do you recognize who you are.

Meditation starts at 09:28

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10 Introduction to Shamatha Without a Sign

B. Alan Wallace, 27 Aug 2014 Transcript available

Alan encourages those following the retreat through the podcasts to obtain a copy of his translation of Natural Liberation, our text for the remainder of the retreat. The meditation that Alan guided is found on page 105 of the text.

The familiar quality control monitor of introspection is not mentioned in shamatha without a sign practices because there is no vector for awareness. In this practice the oscillation between the arousal of the intensity of awareness and its release will by itself dispel laxity and lethargy.

Between sessions, as you move through the day, try to maintain stillness of awareness amidst the motion of appearances.

Meditation starts at 11:42

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11 Awareness of Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 28 Aug 2014 Transcript available

After The Seven Line Prayer of Padmasambhava we jump right into meditation. We continue practicing awareness of awareness.

Due to technical problems, however, Alan couldn’t give his talk after the meditation but promised to comment on the practice in the afternoon session.

Meditation starts at 06:15

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12 Awareness of Awareness: The Practice of Not-Doing

B. Alan Wallace, 28 Aug 2014

After the meditation Alan elaborates on the practice of awareness of awareness, which is unique in the sense that the first phase does not require any effort - quite the contrary! Instead of trying to fix an unbalanced body or mind, you simply give both, body and mind, up. Thus, the path lies in the non-doing, which is simple but not easy. This technique then shows its full strength whenever the body or the mind seem just too messed up to be healed: If it seems that they can’t be healed, simply release them. So whereas with other practices there can be obstacles in your way that keep you from achieving your goals or of mastering the practice, this can’t be the case with awareness of awareness due to the fact that there is no striving. And if there is no striving, there can be no obstacle. After all, where would that obstacle be? Between you and your awareness? What kind of a “you” would that be if it were without awareness? Thus, it is a practice that everybody who has practiced mindfulness of breathing or settling the mind in its natural state has always already been doing - only now you just do this and you drop the focus on the body or the mind. The second phase then requires a bit of effort in that you are asked to oscillate your awareness between intensification and releasing. While doing so you observe who it is that is doing the intensifying and releasing. That way you get a sense of being the agent. But at the very same time you might question the very essence of that agent. Towards the end of the talk Alan explains the differences between Shamatha without a sign and Dzogchen by showing how the same practice can be different if your perspective on the practice shifts. Finally, Alan addresses the question whether you should first get the right view and study and then meditate or the other way around. The “answer” to this question, however, will remain hidden from you, dear reader, unless you listen to the podcast…

Meditation starts at 1:17

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13 Continuing Probing into the Agent or the Art of Bending a Rainbow

B. Alan Wallace, 29 Aug 2014 Transcript available

We continue with yesterdays practice of Awareness of Awareness enriched with the probing into the agent of that which is inverting and releasing the awareness.

The theme of todays teaching was the question of whether we have free will or not, which kept Christian theologians busy with quarreling for centuries, and then also philosophers and more recently cognitive scientists. In order to answer this question, “Have I free will?”, we must define what “will” is, what “free” is, what it means to “have”, and all this finally leads us to the question of todays meditation, what this “I” really is. When we ourselves in this experimental philosophy probe into the referent of this word, we first find our own mind, the psyche, that’s limited in its freedom by mental afflictions. When we completely release our own body and mind, we then come down to the substrate consciousness, which is full of karmic propensities and therefore also not really free. So if we release even this, we finally come to realize our own buddha-mind. And that is in its own nature completely free, and at the same time without any choice as it is helplessly manifesting within this world out of boundless compassion.

So, that just leaves you with the question: What’s that all got to do with the rainbow bending? Well, go off and get your own rainbow and find out for yourself…

Meditation starts at 05:48 min

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14 Awareness of Awareness or Warming Up for the Marathon

B. Alan Wallace, 29 Aug 2014

In this meditation we send the awareness out into space, starting with the space above, then to the right, to the left and downwards.

This method of shamatha without a sign, where we release awareness into an open expanse without any target (again to be done for just one day), is like warming up, the stretching before the final marathon of merging mind with space that should be done until shamatha is achieved. Then we go through some Sanskrit vocabulary that often comes up in Dzogchen teachings, like cittata, tathata, tathagatagarbha etc. We then compare the Western definition of “universe”, which means one (uni) world out there that exists independently of the observer, with the Dzogchen perspective of multiple worlds, one universe for every sentient being. And each universe arises in dependence upon a consciousness, it arises from the karma of the sentient being. So it actually reflects the consciousness, changing with it. When reaching the culmination of the path and you are just about to cross the threshold to awakening, what’s your universe like? From outside you are just located somewhere in Chicago or Phuket, but from the inside you are actually in Akanishta. As you shift your citta, your perspective of viewing reality to rigpa, you shift your whole universe and all the appearances within it. But if you only get a glimpse of rigpa, i.e. by way of instructions being pointed out to you, you slip right back into your ordinary perspective afterwards. So what is obscuring rigpa? The substrate consciousness is obscured by the five obscurations. Rigpa itself is obscured by different layers, like the layers of impure appearances that we see due to our impure vision, then the grasping onto the sense of identity of being a sentient being, the cognitive and afflictive obscurations and on the basis of all of this, the wandering mind.

Meditation starts at 15:19 min

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15 Luminosity of awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 30 Aug 2014

Alan gives advice on the practice of meditation regarding what to do when the mind feels so cluttered and agitated and how to overcome negativity. He emphasizes the importance to not make a habit of frustration in one’s meditation practice. Alan comments that a disturbed mind is a symptom of unbalance and disturbance of the prana system. Alan strongly recommends to work with the supine position until we master it. He further comments on a technique to stop the chitchat. Further on, Alan elaborates on the approach we are taking from Padmasambhava to meditate first, and later on it comes the view. In the trajectory of shamatha, which is based on relaxation, stability and vividness, we increase brightness and approach the unmediated clarity and luminous of awareness of substrate consciousness. With this practice of shamatha we may break through to pristine awareness and lucidity. It becomes a radical shift in the way of viewing reality from a lucid and awakened state (rigpa). Further on, Alan elucidates the two ways of ascertaining pristine awareness by comparing it with the two ways of becoming lucid in a dream. Alan concludes the session stating that if one really wants to follow this spiritual path he encourages to move on gradually to shamatha based on a strong foundation on ethics, purifying the mind and gathering virtue.

Meditation starts at 07:41

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16 Culmination of Shamatha without a Sign. Releasing mind into space.

B. Alan Wallace, 30 Aug 2014

In this session we are finishing off the instructions of Padmasambhava. Alan goes right into meditation and the central theme is releasing the mind into space.

After the meditation session Alan finishes reading and explaining the section on shamatha from Natural Liberation. He continues giving advice on how to practice in between sessions by way of maintaining awareness of space. Alan quotes Shantideva and illustrates how his thoughts resonate with dzogchen. In this practice we are giving up everything for the sake of nirvana. We are giving up everything we are attached to and everything that we identify with. We surrender all at once by releasing the mind into space! Alan goes back to the book Vajra Essence and explains the procedure to be followed by the three types of beings according to their capacities: great, middling and inferior with regards the practices of the Great Perfection.

To conclude the session Alan comments on what Dudjom Lingpa said regarding people encountering these profound teachings. He said that these people had already a vast contact and engaging with Buddha-Dharma in past lives. These teachings only come with a lot of previous momentum. Therefore, do not let yourself be intimidated by these profound teachings. If inspiration arises while listening the teachings, that’s all you need to have in order to be ready for these practices.

Meditation starts at 00:50

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17 Merging mind with space

B. Alan Wallace, 01 Sep 2014

This session begins with the 7 line prayer of Padmasmbhava and on into the meditation.

Alan clarifies the two excerpts he discussed yesterday from ‘The Vajra Essence’, and ’The Enlightened View of Samantabhadra’ regarding the placement exam of merging mind with space and the paths that beings of various capacities should take.

Listen out for the wonderful response Gyatrul Rinpoche gives Alan when Alan talks about giving up teaching and focusing on meditation (a response we are all happy Rinpoche gave).

Meditation starts at 05:33

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18 From shamatha to vipashana

B. Alan Wallace, 01 Sep 2014 Transcript available

aka: An insiders approach to understanding reality

Alan continues teaching from the text, beginning with the preface before heading into the meditation and the gentle transition from shamatha to vipashana.

Following the meditation, Alan discusses the contemplative laboratory concept, and the desire to bring His Holiness’ vision to fruition - breaking down the barriers between contemplative traditions (beyond Buddhism) in the name of research. Alan likens mundane vipashana to science in that it is asking questions.

The subtitle of this podcast is explained through how Himalayan practitioners refer to themselves as ‘insiders’ (looking inwards for answers). He (Alan) asked us to strip down our consciousness and make a discovery, reminding us that we are on the ‘fast track’ and there is no time to waste.

There was one question relating to being stuck inside the skull, in which Alan references a 1960’s TV show and a soap box in Hyde Park in his reply.

Meditation starts at 19:42

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19 The Relative Nature of Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 02 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Padmasambhava’s first vipashyana meditation is found on page 115 of Natural Liberation. Alan invites those listening to hear these words as the actual speech of Padmasambhava.

To examine consciousness we need first to improve the signal to noise ratio with shamatha practice so that we can identify clearly the object of our investigation. It is important to immerse ourselves first in the examination and then afterward find the words to report our discoveries to our teacher.

It is vitally important to do this practice with the eyes open. There is a discussion in Dzogchen practice of the hollow crystal kati channel. This channel is different from the central and side channels described in other tantras. It originates at the heart and terminates at the pupils of the eyes. Inside the hollow crystal kati channel at the heart is the bindu of internal space which manifests as external appearances to visual awareness.

The hollow crystal kati channel becomes central to the later stages of Dzogchen practice.

Meditation starts at 8:23

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20 Searching for the Mind

B. Alan Wallace, 02 Sep 2014

Just as we can answer the question, “Is Michael in the room?” by seeing only his face rather than every part of him, we can examine the mind by looking at an individual mental appearance.

In the foundational vipashyana practice of the Four Applications of Mindfulness we pose three questions as we examine mental appearances: 1) Is it static or changing? 2)Is it a well-spring of happiness or is it bound to be unsatisfying? 3)Can I discover an inherently-existent “I” in the appearance itself?

We do Vipashyana practice at this stage of the path, because after leaving the meditative equipoise of shamatha, we continue to reify our own minds, which is the greatest obscuration of rigpa.

Meditation starts at 58:43

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21 On Behaviorism and the Like, or Viva la revolución!

B. Alan Wallace, 03 Sep 2014 Transcript available

If you believe that the mind is the brain and you’re unwilling to change your opinion, you should not listen to this - otherwise your world view might be shattered.

Alan gives a brief historical overview of how the mind was viewed in the scientific community from the 1900s up to today. Starting with William James the mind was off to a promising start: James emphasized radical empiricism and was therefore open to include introspection in psychological research. However, soon after his death John B. Watson, a pioneer of behaviorism, declared that psychology should never use, refer to or in any way work with the concept of consciousness. He simply banned it without giving any empirical reasons for doing so - and people believed and followed him. Later people such as B. F. Skinner argued in the very same vein and such views still dominate academia and the press today. Luckily, there are also some fresh voices out there, such as John Searle, Christof Koch and Paul Ekman, who all (to varying degrees) allow for consciousness to play a vital role and do not simply equate it with the brain. At the end, Alan emphasizes that this is not a case of “Buddhism vs. Science” or anything the like - it really is simply a battle between open empiricism and dogmatism.

Meditation starts at 08:29

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22 On Behaviorism and the Like II, or Why Alan is Not Beating a Dead Horse

B. Alan Wallace, 03 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In an enormously compelling and emotional talk Alan once again tackles how scientific and contemplative communities have tackled “the hard problem”, that is how one can explain the relationship between qualia and its neural correlates. Alan first looks back on the 8th and the 14th century to show how Tibet was once a barbaric force that was then completely transformed by Buddhism. This brought about an immense contemplative culture and tradition that now reaches our Western/modern civilization by way of e.g. Gyatrul Rinpoche teaching Padmasambhava’s text “Natural Liberation” to everybody who is filling to listen with faith. All the while the European civilization was in relation to its philosophical tradition still nowhere! That it didn’t exactly “get better” in Europe shows the dominance of behaviorism in the 20th century and scientific materialism. Furthermore, Michio Kaku’s book “The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind”, which sounds very promising and is all the more disappointing and - if anything - proves that a theoretical physicist with no training in psychology, neuroscience or any kind of mind science should not write a book about the mind. As it turns out, Michio Kaku boldly states that there is a smooth continuum of consciousness from the thermostat (as the lowest form) to humans (the highest form). Thus, the human brain is nothing else than an extremely complex thermostat - which sounds very much like Aristotle’s theory (which is equally unempirical) that the brain is nothing but a refrigerator that keeps the body cool. Taken the absurdity of that argument (especially because it’s not backed up by evidence), it might come as a surprise that there are even more people who share that opinion. One of them is Daniel Dennett, a philosopher, who argues that humans are simply largely autonomous robots with no qualia at all! This is exactly what Descartes once assured Europeans of in relation to animals. That very view was then used as a justification for treating animals in such cruel ways that leave most of people speechless. The same view was then used to justify the violence against black people, Native Americans, Jews, and with every other group of people that somehow stood in the way of the dominant in-group. And as different as the historical contexts might be in all these cases, the argument always ran: “They are not like us, they don’t feel the same way we do, they are just animals”. The view that Dennett and the like represent is what Alan calls human racism as the whole of mankind is being treated like mindless robots. One does not even want to think about what atrocities could be justified with such a view of people as robots… Alan, however, ends on a positive note by quoting John Searle and most and foremost Shantideva to inspire us all to do our best to change the world for the better.

Meditation starts at 00:13

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23 Continuing the Search For the Mind - See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

B. Alan Wallace, 04 Sep 2014

If you don’t listen to this podcast, you will miss the celestial music that spontaneously manifested in our auditory space, only The Who knows from where! After that musical intermezzo we continued our search for the mind from yesterday, at the end of this session foraying into identifying awareness, even pristine awareness, which will be the dominating topic from this afternoon on. In his teachings Alan highlighted the necessity to come out of the peace of shamatha to arouse the mind for the inquiry of vipashyana. As the Buddha himself found out after he had mastered the deepest levels of samadhi, when he came out of it again, his mental afflictions were still present as before. So you only reach the pinnacle of samsara in the deepest samadhi. If you want just peace, you are wrong here, vipashyana is meant to be upsetting. Then we came back to yesterdays topic of this psychotic split between ones views and ones everyday behavior. If we don’t bring Buddhism into the 21st century, this same split takes place in us, the split between the “Sunday mentality” with its unquestioning, simple faith and the “working-day mentality” where we switch into our intelligent, inquiring, questioning mode. We have to integrate, unify our scientific world view with the religious one. Otherwise our practice will fade out when we leave from our retreat, due to the discontinuity that breaks us apart into two modes of being.

Meditation starts at 07:11 min

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24 Tiptoing Into Identifying Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 04 Sep 2014

In the teachings Alan elaborated once more on the topic of seeing ones teacher as the Buddha, sharing some stories about his early times in India which relate to that topic. It is easy to see the really great lamas, like the Karmapa or H.H. the Dalai Lama as totally unlike ourselves, we can imagine them as being Buddhas. But if we see our ordinary lama, who is giving us the everyday teachings, in a different way, because after all they seem to be almost like us, we have just missed the point. Then we practice simple idolatry. We have to see them of being of one nature, all from the same source. Then we had a clarification regarding how to deal with upheavals that come up as a result of the practice, and the comment from Dudjom Lingpa in his Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra is not to reify them, otherwise you will get stuck. The grasping onto them as inherently existing is the problem, not the upheavals themselves. Regarding todays practice, what we have to do here is to release the notion of practicing this from the perspective of a sentient being. There is no effort involved, no modification or fabrication, and it involves not doing anything. There is a dimension here that is always rigpa, and it never falls into marigpa (unknowing), it never wandered in samsara. From that perspective there is nothing to be done, but from the perspective of a sentient being we have a lot of work to do.

Questions: Q1: Regarding the long quotation from Karma Chagme Rinpoche in A Spacious Path to Freedom (“What do you mean you can’t…”), and that will be included on the webpage for download very soon. Q2: In regards to the translation of the Compendium of Practices chapter 13, which is translated by Alan right now so it will still take a bit of time, we will receive it later. Q3: Regarding the intensification in the oscillation of Awareness of Awareness. Q4: In intense practice of Mindfulness of Breathing the mind isn’t very sharp anymore. Am I getting old? Q5: During meditation it feels like sounds are passing through my body. Well, that could be The Who again…

Meditation starts at 01:02 min

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25 We don’t need another hero!

B. Alan Wallace, 05 Sep 2014

Alan starts the morning session commenting briefly the earlier fairly elaborated discussion on this whole reductionism of our existence to just brains, to being animals or robots. Alan invites us to start a revolution and not fall into the domination of people. Trust your own experience. In a world dominated by materialism, Tina Turner sings: “we don’t need another hero”. This really resonates with dzogchen. We don’t need to look outside again for a buddha. Rather than waiting for another hero to whom pay homage, Alan encourages us to discover the inner buddha inside ourselves. Padmasambhava is not manifesting physically but he does so by way of speech. Dharma speech is the greatest gift.

Alan continues talking about the only suitable motivation for dzogchen, which is bodhicitta. Further, he elaborates on what underlies great compassion and the sublime importance to realize pristine awareness.

Alan mentions how amazing it is that three great yogis have just passed away in the last week abiding in the clear light of death: two superb monks and one lay woman who had children. There is no time for discouragement, we have options to become realized yogis. Therefore, it is up to us to practice and attain realizations. Hence, it becomes crucial to engage in dzogchen practices in these degenerated times. This is the time in which dzogchen is most needed.

We finish the morning session with meditation, in which Padmasambhava’s words are coming directly from his mind. In this way, we receive pointing out instruction directly from Guru Rinpoche.

Meditation starts at 35:50

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26 Emptiness of the mind

B. Alan Wallace, 05 Sep 2014

This session starts off with meditation.

Following the meditation, Alan elaborates on the relationships with lamas and spiritual teachers. The closer we become to them, the more we identify with them. Therefore, the more we can identify with them with regards pristine awareness. If we purify our minds and maintain pure visions without reifying and making projections, we will be able to identify rigpa in ourselves.

Alan reinforces again the importance of the preliminary practices and purification of the mind. The more we fertilize the soil of our own mind, the easier shamatha and vipashana is going to be. There is a sequence in the spiritual path. Before entering the vajrayana, it is crucial to train in foundational practices of the sravakayana such as the four noble truths, the three higher trainings of the path: ethics, concentration and wisdom. Further on, it is vital to engage in bodhisattva’s practices such as the six perfections, the view of emptiness and so on. In this way, there is no sectarianism and we built a strong foundation that prepares our minds for higher practices.

With vipashana practices we need to shut off the reification of our own minds and shut off the reification of our own substrate consciousness. We need to realize the emptiness of the coarse mind and the lack of inherent existence of the substrate consciousness. Then, we will be right next to the door of dzogchen.

For the last half hour of the session Alan reads and brightly comments on the vipashana section of the book Natural Liberation. Don’t miss Alan’s explanations about the sublime experience of realizing emptiness!

Meditation starts at 3:49

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27 Pointing out instructions - Rigpa

B. Alan Wallace, 06 Sep 2014

This session continues the pointing out instructions from Padmasambhava, to cut through the substrate to pristine awareness (rigpa). Alan gives a preface to the meditation, explaining the ‘eight extremes of conceptual elaboration’ that Padmasambhava uses, and that identifying rigpa is a process of elimination. He also touches on that for something ‘beyond speech and thought’ there is so much written about it, and how to approach the guidance.

The later part of the session takes the idea of the mind as empty, and when you emerge from shamatha, appearances are illusory even while engaging in a physical world. Alan quotes suicide statistics, suggesting that many choose suicide due to being enmeshed with the mind. They are betting their lives on the belief that the appearances to the mind exist inherently.

Let your awareness be still between sessions. We are on the move, that’s what it means to be a sentient being. Whereas rigpa is still: not because it is held still, it is still because it is beyond time. It is not still versus movement, it is stillness behind coming and going.

Meditation starts at 16:41

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28 What happens to an arhat after death?

B. Alan Wallace, 06 Sep 2014

Alan references different buddhist schools of thought regarding what happens when a sentient being, who has realized nirvana, dies. After exploring the Pali canon, he looks more widely and brings us back to our current meditative practice: pristine awareness (rigpa).

Following a brief explanation of the text in ‘Natural Liberation’ (p.125) there were two questions: - one on nyam - and one on being lucid in dreamless sleep.

Meditation starts at 01:05

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29 Review of the Nature of Primordial Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 08 Sep 2014

Found on page 125 of Natural Liberation, the morning’s meditation session is a review of Padmasambhava’s pointing out instructions for examining the nature of primordial awareness.

Alan then discussed the meaning of the statements that primordial awareness transcends categories of existence and nonexistence; birth and death; singularity and multiplicity and thus is free of extremes. It is also free of “bias and partiality,” but this impartiality is vastly different than the attempt of modern science to view the uni-verse from a “God’s-eye view.”

Meditation starts at 5:20

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30 A New Wrinkle on Mindfulness of Breathing

B. Alan Wallace, 08 Sep 2014

Alan introduces a novel but utterly traditional approach to the mindfulness of breathing practice we’ve been doing to develop relaxation, stability, and vividness.

After the silent meditation, Alan recounted the story of the wandering ascetic who encountered the Buddha shortly after his enlightenment. If the 32 major marks characterizing the body of a Buddha were there from there own side to be perceived, why did the ascetic pass on with a sarcastic remark?

We must grapple with our habitual reification of both a self and phenomena in order to make any progress in Vajrayana or Dzogchen.

The break for the silent, unrecorded meditation starts at 20:27

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31 Unstable Equilibrium, or How a Butterfly Can Throw You Off Balance

B. Alan Wallace, 09 Sep 2014

Alan announces that the format of the sessions will be changed a bit in that he will simply give the commentary first, then we should meditate in silence. As we are meditating, we should not specifically focus our attention on what we just heard but simply let our awareness rest in stillness. Very often - in Alan’s experience - this is a good way of letting ideas develop on their own. After the meditation Alan comments on the ups and downs of the quality of our attention. He explains that 1) this is normal in a Shamatha retreat, 2) that stability and stillness will increase with practice, 3) that real stability and stillness in meditation will only be experienced as soon as one has achieved Shamatha, 4) that Shamatha, however, only guarantees stability and stillness as long as one is alive - so when you die, you are lost again. Therefore, only breaking through to your ground awareness offers absolute stability and stillness.

Meditation starts at 19:12

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32 Today Is a Day to Be a Loser

B. Alan Wallace, 09 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan first comments on the text once again and explains some of the symbolism involved. He then continues to explain how the formless realm, the form realm and the desire realm are connected: That out of the formless realm emerges the form realm, and out of the form realm emerges the desire realm. He adds that once one is dwelling in the form realm one can see the desire realm that acts almost like a holographic display. You can then manipulate the five elements in the form realm and thereby their displays in the desire realm. However, once you practice the Thodgal phase of Dzogchen, visualizations of the Buddhas come up - whether you are Buddhist or not, that does not matter. After the meditation Alan explains three terms that are central to Dzogchen practice: What they all come down to is giving up everything and thereby “winning” everything. In such an approach you thus take the fruition as the path. After the meditation, Alan answers two questions: 1. Concerning the pointing-out instructions: What does it mean when “mental appearances” merge? And are they sense objects or not? 2. If Daniel Dennett were to go to the valley of rainbows, what would he see?

Meditation starts at 38:05

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33 Stop it! and how to translate that into Tibetan

B. Alan Wallace, 10 Sep 2014 Transcript available

This morning we were listening to Bob Newhart’s “Stop It” skit that Alan had talked about a while ago. So everybody out there with wandering minds, low self-esteem and all the like, take this advice to heart. As for today’s practice, Alan was front loading the session again with Padmasambhava’s pointing-out instructions, giving us the seeds for the silent, non-discursive meditation. Your own distinct awareness is pristine awareness, don’t look outside of yourself, but give up all attachment to and identification with your own body and mind. After the meditation Alan discussed the two strategies to deal with distractive thoughts, emotions etc. in shamatha practice. In Taking the Mind As the Path, you just let them self-release. The other strategy is that, when these distractions come up, to just cut them right off. You can do the same in lucid dreaming when something unpleasant happens. Finally Alan compared the images used by Dudjom Lingpa in his Vajra Essence when describing how sentient beings emerge from the ignorance of the ground with the way Roger Penrose describes light rays.

Silent meditation cut out at 26:00 min

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36 Practice dharma, observe your own mind.

B. Alan Wallace, 11 Sep 2014

Alan starts sharing his experience along the eight eight-week retreats that he has been leading in Phuket. He addresses the importance to practice the four immeasurables and vipashana with a solid foundation on shamatha, but shamatha alone is meaningless. Practicing shamatha by itself does not make you walk the path to enlightenment. Alan explains the two main obstacles for the spiritual path: self-centered and self-grasping. Then, Alan explains how to use mental afflictions in order to transform them into the path. When they arise it is a wonderful opportunity to check if we are reifying. This becomes crucial for the practice of dzogchen. Practice dharma, observe your own mind. Following that, Alan elaborates on what we observe is always relative to the instrument of measurement, either in science or in the investigation of the mind. Alan comments on the important role of the observer. Alan raises the issue described by madhyamika prasangika school and how it resonates with quantum mechanics: when engaging in analysis you can’t find the object of observation. Nowadays information is so relevant in our lives. Therefore the awareness, that is the person who receives and possesses the information is fundamental. Meditation starts at 00:53

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37 Carried away with enthusiasm

B. Alan Wallace, 12 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Very short podcast where Alan talks of his boundless enthusiasm for the teachings before entering into a silent meditation (not included in the podcast).

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38 Is Dzogchen the unique domain of buddhists?

B. Alan Wallace, 12 Sep 2014

Alan gives an alternative approach to guru yoga: asking us to give up our sense of being a sentient being, and releasing the sense of the guru as a sentient being. Meditation continues Padmasambhava’s citation of tantras.

After the meditation Alan picks up on John Wheeler’s quantum universe concept that all constructs are coming out of semantic information (and also rely on the ‘one that is informed’, the information and the referent). Not only can the universe be considered an information processing system, but so can ‘man’. This brings us to an empirically based view relative to the observer/participant. Parallels are drawn to madhyamika through the intersubjective invariant. Placebo (subject expectancy) effects are potentially explained through the information and processing model. Throw in some Stephen Hawking, strange loops etc and eventually Alan asks “what if Dzogchen is not the unique domain of buddhists?”

Meditation starts at 17:16

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39 Loving Kindness for Yourself

B. Alan Wallace, 13 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan tells us this is a good point in the retreat to refresh our motivation and guides the practice he has taught many times, the four-fold practice of arousing loving kindness for ourselves.

  • May I experience the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.
  • May I receive from the world what I need to realize my aspiration.
  • May I realize the inner transformation necessary to realize my aspiration.
  • May I experience meaning and fulfillment by offering to the world the greatest good possible with my own unique skills and background.

Meditation starts at 7:00

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40 A Standard for Judging Claims of Existence

B. Alan Wallace, 13 Sep 2014 Transcript available

For this meditation Alan reads a passage found on page 136 of Natural Liberation in which Padmasambhava excerpts descriptions from various tantras about the nature of primordial awareness.

After the meditation Alan discusses Freud’s statement in The Future of an Illusion that a view of the universe that doesn’t take into account the role of mental perception is an empty abstraction of no practical interest.

He then proposes a playful approach for how concepts in Buddhist cosmology such as the four continents might be integrated with contradictory scientific evidence without resorting either to fundamentalist denial or opening the gates to all claims and saying they have equal validity from their own perspective.

Meditation starts at 0:55

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41 Loving-Kindness: Cooling the Blade

B. Alan Wallace, 15 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan announces that from now on we will spend the morning sessions cultivating the 4 immeasurables. Whereas mindfulness, attention and intelligence are not intrinsically virtuous but can be afflictive, the 4 immeasurables - loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity - directly lead to the cultivation of virtues.

Meditation starts at 14:29

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42 On the Nature of Ultimate and Relative Bodhicitta

B. Alan Wallace, 15 Sep 2014

At the beginning, Alan announces that from now on there will be more time for questions/discussion in the afternoon sessions. Then he starts the meditation, continuing with pointing-out instructions from Natural Liberation. After the meditation Alan explains one crucial sentence from the text. As he explains that sentence, he touches upon the different understanding of ultimate bodhicitta in the Sutrayana tradition and Dzogchen. In the Sutrayana tradition ultimate bodhicitta is understood as realizing the emptiness of all phenomena and relative bodhicitta as the desire to achieve awakening for the sake of all sentient beings. Now, whereas in the Sutrayana ultimate bodhicitta and relative bodhicitta both have to be cultivated and balanced out (like the left and the right hand) in order to avoid any extremes, Dzogchen once again refrains from that effort. In the Dzogchen tradition you “simply” release all grasping onto your identity as a sentient being and thereby practice from the perspective of a Buddha. From that point of view, achieving ultimate bodhicitta then means that you realize rigpa - which includes the realization of emptiness. Therefore, no cultivation of relative bodhicitta is needed! You don’t need to find a balance, to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing since your knowing goes beyond the split of a right and a left hand. Alan then finishes by taking into account the loving-kindness practice that we did in the morning and connects that to his considerations.

Questions: 1) How do you practice critical analysis while keeping the pure view? 2) Concerning intersubjective invariants: Does the vision of e.g. the Dalai Lama (really what you see) only depend on the level of your purity? That is, would an equally pure Buddhist monk, an alien and a dolphin see the same thing when they looked at the Dalai Lama? 3) Given that there are as many universes as cognitive frameworks of reference, does that mean that all cosmological theories are equally valid?

Meditation starts at 2:19

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43 Expanding the Field of Loving-kindness

B. Alan Wallace, 16 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In this meditation session, we expand the field of loving-kindness, starting from the sangha listening by podcast into the boundlessness of space.

Guided meditation starts at 05:20 min

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44 Who is Alan - Alan? Dr. Alan? Guru Alan? Lama Alan? Dr. Lama Alan?

B. Alan Wallace, 16 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In today’s meditation Alan went on with the pointing-out instructions from Natural Liberation. In the teachings Alan discussed the different levels of teacher-student relationship and how we can bring the Indo-Tibetan understanding of it into our modern world. In a way the relationship between teacher and student is completely symmetrical, and that regards the courtesy and respect between both sides. Where it is not symmetrical is on the level of knowledge, the student comes to the teachings to learn, the teacher to be of service, and the relationship is established totally for the sake of the student. In the Indian tradition the teacher is called guru, and that could be translated for us as spiritual mentor, somebody who has a great knowledge and leads us to true insight. The Tibetan understanding of lama is different from that, it is more a spiritual guide, somebody who is leading you along a path, so that you don’t fall into pitfalls or have to take detours or the like. But that means that you need trust in your spiritual guide, that he will actually be able to help you along the path. Then Alan gave some commentary to the pointing-out instructions from today’s meditation, and finally he ended on his rationale why he keeps giving us all these citations from philosophy, science and the like, in order to help us to respond to our non-Buddhist environment when we are asked what we actually do and why we are doing this.

Meditation starts at 03:00 min

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45 Power to change the world

B. Alan Wallace, 17 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan welcomes two new participants to the retreat and emphasizes the importance of friendship and empathy among all of us. Meditation follows on the topic of compassion.

Alan explains that there is a meaningful sequence to the four immeasurables with profound wisdom. Loving-kindness involves a vision and action, it is not only an aspiration. We cultivate the causes of happiness for the sake of people to flourish.

Elaborating on the topic of loving-kindness, Alan makes reference to the importance of Gross National Happiness of Bhutan versus Gross Domestic Product of USA. We need vision in order to see that samsara and mental afflictions are in the nature of suffering. With this, one needs to have loving-kindness, to know that one is worthy of happiness and to identify the roots of virtue within oneself, otherwise there is no hope. Compassion is about truly opening you heart to the suffering you experience and then opening your eyes to the suffering around you. What we attend to becomes reality. In order to cultivate compassion, there must be vision and hope that it is possible to alleviate suffering. Then, there is tremendous power there. Power to change the world and transform ourselves. Let’s practice dharma.

Meditation starts at 21:50

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46 Unboundedness of Buddha’s awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 17 Sep 2014

We start the afternoon session with meditation on mindfulness of breathing.

After meditation, Alan briefly finishes the commentary on the vipashyana section of the book Natural Liberation.

Alan comments on Buddha’s awareness, which is omnipresent throughout space and time. If one can cut through to primordial consciousness, this opens the door to reality. The practices we have been doing are not only for the sake of fathoming the nature of the mind, but also phenomena. Therefore, knowing the mind implies knowing the physical world.

Alan elaborates on the topic of tumo, levitating and other incredible and extraordinary experiences arising from samadhi.

The role of consciousness has been marginalized by the mind sciences. Alan encourages all of us to create a revolution. Let’s have contemplative observatories!

Meditation starts at 00:01

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47 Freedom from the Suffering of Change and Its Causes

B. Alan Wallace, 18 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan begins with a clarification of how the practice of silence at a Mahayana retreat is different from that at a Sravakayana retreat.

The meditation is on cultivating the aspiration that we ourselves and others be free of the suffering of change and the mental afflictions of craving and attachment that give rise to it.

Meditation starts at 24:30

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48 A Spiral Through the Basics to Settled Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 18 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Because a runaway, ruminating mind may still be an obstacle at this point of the retreat, Alan leads a meditation that spirals through the well-known shamatha practices of open presence, tactile sensations of the breath, and taking the mind as the path before settling into objectless awareness.

Following the meditation, he answers questions about the role of vipashyana inquiry in awareness practice; a standard for judging the validity of views; dharmakaya as informed and informant; the logic of taking the fruit as the path; and what Buddhism has to offer to people who are mentally handicapped.

Meditation starts at 1:10

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49 Freedom from Existential Suffering

B. Alan Wallace, 19 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Exploring the wisdom necessary to discern the causes underlying the unease and discontent that characterize our experience, Alan leads a meditation probing our delusory sense of self before generating the aspiration that we and all beings be free of this deepest dimension of suffering.

In the teaching afterward, Alan discusses how the misunderstanding of “not self” as “no self” whatsoever can be allied with the tenets of materialist neuroscience to justify the catastrophic view that humans are robots with no moral responsibility.

Meditation starts at 5:20

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50 Introduction to the Transitional Process of Dreaming

B. Alan Wallace, 19 Sep 2014

Alan begins with further instruction on a Dzogchen approach to mindfulness of breathing.

After the silent meditation session, he introduces Padmasambhava’s teachings on the second bardo, the transitional process of dreaming (Natural Liberation p. 141) with a discussion of buddha nature.

Alan emphasizes that included in this section of the text are practices for seeing the illusion of dream appearances in both nighttime and daytime. Even people who have little recall of their dreams while sleeping will have plenty of practice to do.

Break for silent, unrecorded meditation at 11:12

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51 Empathetic Joy, and Alan Filing a Class Action Suit

B. Alan Wallace, 20 Sep 2014

Alan talks about the cultivation of empathetic joy, which among the four immeasurables is the one that is often easily overlooked. However, it is extremely important because it’s not simply about being happy, but about cultivating a feeling of a shared joy. Furthermore, it is the antidote for the near enemy of compassion: depression or despair. So when we are cultivating empathetic joy, it is important to note that we are, of course, not deluding ourselves into thinking that all is good. However, as humans have the tendency to focus on the negative, we are merely balancing that out a bit by focusing our attention on the positive in a positive manner. Thus, we change the “What” and the “How”. After the meditation Alan elaborates on our habit of reifying the past. The meditation we just did serves as a good example: How often has it happened that when you do that meditation, you think of the same three or four events? That shows how extremely selective our memory is and how small a portion of our past we actually remember. On top of that, these three events are of course by far not a real representation of what actually happened - they are a story we tell ourselves of what happened, a story that is true only in relation to our cognitive framework in the present. Thus, we have the capacity of reshaping the way our past influences us in the present. These thoughts then lead Alan to talk about the naturalistic approach of Buddhism. This approach is based on observations, observations that any individual can make. Such observation then shows that mental states have as much causal efficacy as physical objects such as rocks, dogs, etc. So the mind is as real as anything else. What might cause confusion, however, is that often scientific materialists nowadays speak of themselves as naturalists, meaning: “Nature is that which is not supernatural; supernatural is that which is not physical.” However, up to this day no scientist has ever been able to show with empirical evidence what the nature of the correlation between subjective experience and neural processes is! Thus, from that point of view all mental states are supernatural. The problem, however, is not that this has not been proven, but that many scientists, journalists etc. act as if it had been proven, which is not empirical. If you look at quantum mechanics which has not been able to make significant progress in interpreting its own findings, you have to acknowledge that at least they are honest about it and admit not knowing what quantum mechanics implies. Whereas in neuroscience many people cover up the hard-problem simply. This is best illustrated by the placebo effect: the name suggests that the placebo is what does the magic, but this is fundamentally wrong, otherwise one could just tweak the brain - but one can’t because it’s faith that does the trick. Alan then calls for action and requests that today’s science, which is largely dominated by wealth, power and prestige, moves beyond that, moves beyond determinism or the theory of pure chance which gives the individual no motivation to act and no moral responsibility for the actions.

Meditation starts at 18:54

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52 Welcome to Padmasambhava’s Ontological Shock Therapy

B. Alan Wallace, 20 Sep 2014

The meditation is all about going back to shamatha and Alan’s suggestions are: 1) Do whatever works, 2) As a general recommendation: balance earth and sky, so do mindfulness of breathing but then merge your mind with space. At the beginning of the talk, Alan comes back to the topic of causality, which he addressed in the morning session. He quotes George F. R. Ellis, a brilliant mathematician and cosmologist, who proposed a fourfold model of reality consisting of matter and forces, consciousness, physical and biological possibilities, and mathematical reality. Ellis argues that all of these are ontologically real and, while being distinct from each other, all related through causal links. The question Alan then raises is simply: Well exactly how real are they? He then continues to explain how mereological sums work, that is e. g. that we call the sum of all planets we know, plus the moons, plus the sun, our solar system. However, what happens if you take one planet away? Is it still our solar system? What if just the sun is left? When does it stop being a solar system? The short answer to this question: When we stop calling it that way. This then shows how the basis of designation is never the same as that which you designate upon. Alan then ventures into dream yoga, or what he calls Padmasambhava’s ontological shock therapy and quickly explains that the first step in day-time dream yoga is to recognize that things are not as permanent as they appear to be. Apart from that, Alan points out one major difference between dream yoga and lucid dreaming, namely, that the assumption underlying lucid dreaming is that when you’re awake, you are not deluded, you see things as they are. That is where dream yoga and lucid dreaming fundamentally part ways as in dream yoga as long as you are reifying things and think they are inherently real, you are most definitely dreaming. This is the best and most obvious dream sign you can have. So, wake up, wake up, wake up…

Meditation starts at 6:14

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53 Prospective Memory For Dream Yoga And Empathetic Joy

B. Alan Wallace, 22 Sep 2014

In today’s meditation we took up the topic of empathetic joy again, which is often overlooked when we choose amongst the variety of meditation methods for our sessions. Specifically the kindness that our parents showed to us throughout our lives is something we easily forget, we tend to focus more on the bad things that they did to us. For in-between sessions Alan recommends again to train our prospective memory. On the one hand this regards dream yoga, recognizing during daytime anomalies that we encounter, and remembering to do something, like a state check. Then, when we go to sleep we should remind ourselves to recognize it when we dream. On the other hand, prospective memory can also be trained for empathetic joy, that we remind ourselves during the day to keep our eyes open for others’ happiness and their virtues. We don’t remember things we don’t attend to, so specifically looking out for all the occasions of virtue that we witness, also virtue done by us, will give us more material to recall during our meditation sessions on empathetic joy.

Meditation on empathetic joy starts at 05:58 min

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54 Mirror, mirror on the wall - Who is fairest of them all?

B. Alan Wallace, 22 Sep 2014

In the teachings before the meditation Alan emphasizes that we have a choice in our daily lives whether we let ourselves be caught up in ignorance and delusion or not. This relates to dream yoga, to know the dream as the dream, which means to know that whatever we experience does not really represent something, it is just an empty appearance. But likewise during our waking state, when traumatic experiences or mental afflictions arise, we have the choice whether we want to be a victim and get abducted by them or whether we learn to see them too as empty appearances. We don’t have the choice whether they arise in our minds or not, but we can choose to remain like a piece of wood, as Shantideva puts it, and let them dissolve back into the space of the mind again. If we want to be able to make that choice it is important that we learn to recognize our mental afflictions, thoughts etc. as soon as possible as they arise. The method that can help us do this is Settling the Mind, which we did in the silent session today. Following the meditation we go on with Daytime Dream Yoga from Padmasambhava’s Natural Liberation, and that’s where our magic mirror comes in. In the first session, adorn yourself in a beautiful way (no joke), and praise yourself beyond limits. Let the natural creativity of your own mind come to its full play. When pleasure arises due to your exuberant praises, remind yourself that this body is just an empty appearance, and that there is nothing about it that is actually you. As if that weren’t enough, you will now turn around the wheel and start abusing yourself, and try to be really good at that, too, Padmasambhava is listening… When displeasure arises, again remind yourself that it is just an empty appearance that is abused. Then alternate between praise and abuse until your reaction to it is even. In the second session, you should ideally go to a place where you have good echo, but make sure you are alone. Okay, most of us don’t have such a desolate place, so don’t overdo it this time… When you speak different words to yourself, again remind yourself that your voice is just an empty appearance, too. Then for the mind, all thoughts should be regarded as being of the nature of a mirage. They can’t hurt you, only if you get deluded. Even if you don’t like Settling the Mind, do it at least for one session each day, because this will definitely help you to see your thoughts as empty, and to actually have a choice whether you react to them or not. Alan underlines the importance of this practice, that it could actually be a step towards worldpeace if it were taught in a broader context, i.e. in schools.

Silent meditation cut out at 35:00 min

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55 Immeasurable equanimity, the foundation

B. Alan Wallace, 23 Sep 2014

We move on to the culmination of the fourth immeasurable: equanimity. It is the antidote to reifying negative appearances that destroy our wellbeing and ruins our relationships with others. In this podcast Alan briefly comments on the powerful and transformative practice of tonglen.

Meditation starts at 06:25

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56 Settling the mind in its natural state and the impure illusory body

B. Alan Wallace, 23 Sep 2014

We continue deepening our practice of settling the mind in its natural state, which is considered the optimal technique for dreaming yoga practices. Alan elaborates on reification and the fact that we become so vulnerable to suffer when doing so. Alan gives the instructions for this practice, which is built upon being free of distraction and grasping, either gross or subtle. The perspective we are trying to emulate in this practice is that of the substrate consciousness. We are seeking to approximate viewing the mind not from inside the mind but rather from the perspective of the discerning but non conceptual luminous bright and blissful substrate consciousness, which is the origin from which all the subjective impulses emerge. This practice is a fantastic daytime preparation for lucid dreaming.

After meditation, Alan continues with the text on page 145 regarding the ten analogies of the impure illusory body. Alan elaborates on the practice of equalizing when encountering situations that the eight mundane concerns take place and the application of the wisdom of the absence of true existence. Settling the mind in its natural state is the foundation for more advanced practices such as generation and completion stages, trekcho, togal, etc.

Alan finishes the session making reference to the signs that makes one to be a good practitioner: not only when one has equalized the eight mundane concerns but most important when one develops an incredible and genuine sense of good cheer, warmth, kindness, joy and wellbeing.

Meditation starts at 38:40

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57 Wide Open Awareness of Equanimity

B. Alan Wallace, 24 Sep 2014

Alan guides a meditation on the fourth immeasurable of equanimity practiced with still awareness and within the context of taking the mind as the path.

The practice begins with allowing someone to arrive in awareness unbidden and joining compassion for their suffering to the in-breath and the wish for their genuine happiness to the out-breath. This tonglen practice can be done between sessions with all beings who make an appearance within the space of the mind.

Meditation starts at 5:48

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58 The Pure Illusory Body

B. Alan Wallace, 24 Sep 2014

Alan guides a meditation on the empty fluctuation of appearances arising in open space.

In the commentary that follows, he muses about the instant that the breath ceases in the fourth dhyana as being – from the perspective of that meditator – the last trace of having a body. Similarly, the daytime dreaming practice of the impure illusory body leads to an emptying of the body and mind until only awareness and space remain.

At that point one is prepared for the practice of the pure illusory body, which begins with perceiving the empty nature your own guru as Vajrasattva. You then perceive the entire world of illusory appearances as being empty of inherent nature and primordially pure, which is good preparation for liberation in the bardo that follows death.

To conclude, Alan answers questions about merging mind and space and the role of humor in dharma practice.

Meditation starts at 0:40

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59 Great Compassion

B. Alan Wallace, 25 Sep 2014

Since we finished the first cycle on the 4 immeasurables we moved on to a new dimension: The cultivation of great compassion. This is necessary due to the fact that it is difficult practicing equanimity when so many elements are just so uneven: You have physically attractive and unattractive people, smart and not so smart, funny and boring, some like you while others don’t, some are more virtuous and some less. So, if our physical appearance, our personality and our psyche is all there is, then we will face a hard time practicing equanimity. Thus, we need wisdom - wisdom of emptiness of self and all phenomena. It is the wisdom that really gets to the roots of the problem, which is delusion. While practicing equanimity in its basic form we can overcome aversion and attachment to a great degree, but we never get to the root (delusion). Apart from that, Alan explains the meaning of what Westerners often just perceive as “the Asian way to say hi”, that is having your palms pressed together and turned inward with your thumbs pressing against each other. This is to symbolize Buddha-nature that is at the center, the two thumbs symbolizing method and wisdom - and therefore, when you bow to someone and make this gesture, you bow to the Buddha-nature within that person.

Meditation starts at 43:28

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60 Weaving Everything Together

B. Alan Wallace, 25 Sep 2014 Transcript available

In this talk Alan weaves everything that we had a look at in the past weeks together: From Shamatha, Vipashyana, the 4 immeasurables to the Dzogchen perspective. The guiding topic is equanimity and how it manifests in different types. These are: 1) In your Shamatha practice equanimity can be understood as the releasing of action. So when you achieve the 8th stage on the way to Shamatha you can drop introspection altogether, because there no longer is anything to be monitored. In that sense, when you finally achieve Shamatha you release all action. 2) When you achieve the fourth dhyana you experience equanimity in terms of feeling: no pleasure, no pain, no indifference, just flat-out evenness that is peaceful but not pleasant. 3) The equanimity that is cultivated when practicing the 4 immeasurables is again different in that it is imperturbability or even-heartedness. 4) As you continue on your path you will have to back up your samadhi with wisdom and as you develop that you finally slip into meditative equipoise. That is again a type of equanimity as it is absolutely free of conceptuality. 5) Finally, when you reach enlightenment you reach perfect equanimity: You are simultaneously aware of everything and you do not prefer either nirvana to samsara or vice versa.

Alan then continues to elaborate on the two ways of walking towards that goal. Path A: You look outside at the effulgences of rigpa and thereby realize rigpa. This is analog to the situation of being in a dream and becoming lucid by looking at the dream phenomena, seeing an anomaly and thereupon seeing the dream for what it is. What is more, this seems to be the path that Western science chose and e. g. quantum mechanics went astonishingly far and deep - so deep maybe that soon, through being able to explain the role of the observer, even more wisdom can be drawn from it.

Path B: You look within and you realize rigpa by cutting through the emptiness of your own self and all phenomena. This is of course the Dzogchen perspective in which you develop that type of equanimity which lets you view reality from the perspective of rigpa. That approach is comparable to falling asleep lucidly and then being able to watch the dream come into “being”.

Alan ends before the meditation on the note that science as well as contemplative science at their best both look for objectivity.

After the meditation Alan just quickly touches upon Night-Time Dream Yoga as we ran out of time.

Meditation starts at 55:24

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61 Great Loving-Kindness, and The One Way to Cheat Death

B. Alan Wallace, 26 Sep 2014

Before the meditation starts Alan talks about the practice we did yesterday, that is great compassion. He underlines that the first question in this meditation - why couldn’t all sentient beings be free from suffering? - is a provocative question and not at all meant as a rhetorical question. Basically, people can suffer mentally and/or physically. Dharma of course offers a solution to the first type of suffering. However, as what concerns physical suffering e.g. caused by aging, sickness and death there are two strategies to deal with it. Option 1 is you find an effective treatment and then you are hedonically better off. Whether that is in the form of a pill, or physiotherapy or reaching the stage of completion, at which point you can change the constitution of your body down to the molecular level, doesn’t matter much. Option 2 is the one you need when there seems to be no effective treatment in which case you need to either release all grasping onto the pain you experience as intrinsically yours or (if you go even deeper) realize the emptiness of the phenomena you conceptualize as “pain” and then withdraw the conceptual designation. Despite the pleasant outlooks that both options offer you will still die at some point…unless you realize rainbow body - the only possible option to cheat death! In a nutshell, this is possible due to the fact that all phenomena are effulgences of rigpa and by realizing rigpa you will be able to reverse the process. Thus, matter will “melt” right back into primordial awareness, which leaves you with no body that can die (put like this it really sounds like a piece of cake, right?). Whereas different types of rainbow body can be distinguished (high, medium and small), these are only different in their appearance but not in their experience of Enlightenment, which is complete and absolute in all cases.

Meditation starts at 37:30

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62 Balancing Your Practice and Night-Time Dream Yoga

B. Alan Wallace, 26 Sep 2014

Before the silent meditation Alan talks about how the different practices that we had a look at in the past weeks work together and how they can be balanced in a non-retreat setting. So, Shamatha practice offers us the possibility of leaving the fight-or-flight mode and finally relax. But it is more than just simple relaxation as you develop a sense of ease and acceptance in relation to your identity. As Alan puts it: It’s ok to be who you are now (just don’t stay that way but keep practicing). You are definitely going in the right direction. When it comes to lucid dreaming your Shamatha practice will come in handy because what often happens to novices of lucid dreaming is that they get excited at realizing lucidity and immediately wake up. Thus, what you need is the sense of relaxation and stability from your Shamatha practice. Then, however, you want to engage with the dream, sustain lucidity and explore the dream world. This exploration is actually Vipashyana as you need both vividness and insight. In a non-retreat setting it is then important to balance your practice and really think about what you need at that moment when you sit down. Alan uses the analogy of a fridge full of tasty food: You have a range of practices to choose from, but you have to check your appetite. If you had a rough day you might just want to do the infirmary and not go for more advanced practices; if you feel grounded, you may just as well take the mind as the path; and if you feel balanced already, then why not have a session of awareness of awareness. Furthermore, think about how you combine your choices/sessions. After the meditation Alan goes back to the text and explains several issues concerning night-time dream yoga. He goes into detail as what concerns appearances. In the waking state as well as the dream state all appearances are empty and have the same origin: your substrate. However, the appearances that you experience in the waking state also appear to other people in a similar fashion, which makes them intersubjective invariants. This also allows for the possibility of you dying in your sleep e.g. from a rock (of which you have no experience since you are asleep) smashing your head into pieces: All you will experience is substrate, quickly a lot of pain and then substrate again. Alan then continues and draws the distinction between the appearances and the phenomena. As it says in the text first: All phenomena are LIKE a dream. This means that from the perspective of a sentient being they are dreamlike. However, from the perspective of rigpa all phenomena are part of a dream.

Silent Meditation cut out at 19:05

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63 Moving On To Great Empathetic Joy And Its Best Buddy, Great Contemplative Observatory

B. Alan Wallace, 27 Sep 2014

Alan started by providing us with the flow of context for today’s practice, Great Empathetic Joy. The Four Greats have the even-heartedness of equanimity as their foundation. The false facsimile of equanimity is aloof indifference, which could lead one to aim only for one’s own liberation. So it is Great Compassion that could serve as a remedy to pull us out of indifference, since it opens our eyes and our hearts to the suffering of the world. Then we move on to Great Loving Kindness, where we focus on the positive that is also found in the world. We then move further on to Great Empathetic Joy, and the classical Tibetan liturgy for that starts with the question: Why couldn’t all sentient beings be never parted from sublime happiness devoid of suffering? It is clear that “sublime happiness” cannot mean hedonic pleasure. To feel pleasure or strive only for pleasure even when the world around us is full of suffering would be a totally deluded attitude. But how is it possible to maintain the state of sublime happiness despite viewing all suffering? The only perspective from which this is possible is the perspective of rigpa. To rest in rigpa, sustain this view and remaining totally inactive, but inactive only as a sentient being, while at the same time being totally active in the world, and all your activity being just spontaneously actualized. Well, right now we only have some foretaste of what this would be like… Alan then shares a story about a yogi up in the Himalayas, and explains how we bring that into our situation. This yogi stated that when he attends to the suffering, he first opens his heart to it with empathy, and out of that some vision arises that there is a possibility for freedom. This means you develop a vision about the causes and conditions that are necessary to bring this about, and that’s what your aspiration is rooted in, that you will bring this about. Then you do what is right for now, and out of that comes your well-being. So what can we do to bring it about, what is good for right now? It again boils down to creating a suitable environment, having companions, spiritual guidance… Wait a minute, doesn’t that sound like a contemplative observatory?

Guided meditation starts at 46:09 min

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64 How to Fall Asleep Lucidly for the Less and Less and Less Gifted (e.g. me)

B. Alan Wallace, 27 Sep 2014

After the silent meditation we went on with Padmasambhava’s instructions on night-time dream yoga. He suggests different methods for becoming lucid, in addition to yesterday’s method of visualizing yourself as your chosen deity, with a little resemblance of the deity in your throat chakra. This again should draw the pranas into the throat chakra, where they normally are located while in the dream state. Try to keep the visualization with a light touch, but with sustained intent to become lucid. If this does not work, then imagine a lotus with different seed syllables at your throat. In addition to drawing your attention to the throat chakra there might be an effect of the frequency of the sounds that facilitates lucidity. When that works, you directly end up in deep dreamless sleep, and you enter the first dream like a tulku enters the next rebirth, lucidly. Alan takes us here on a short side trip, starting with the example of dreaming, where your first moment of a non-lucid dream starts with a state of unknowing, and therefore the dream from your perspective has no beginning. There is nothing for you to remember, if you started out with unknowing in the first place. In the same way, during meditation when you get carried away by a wandering thought, this wandering thought has no beginning for you. And even on the largest scale, the same is true for samsara. Since it started with unknowing, avidya, it has no beginning. Alan then points out that the habits we create during our lifetime will show up during the dying process. So if you look at your upheavals during meditation, be sure that this is what comes up while dying. Becoming lucid means that you are free, that you have a choice how the story will go on, and this is what lucid dreaming also prepares us for. If the above mentioned methods didn’t work, then try it with a bindu at your throat. And if you still do not succeed, then there might be obstacles, like broken samayas, and you need to purify before your dream yoga practice actually works. The signs that you might be coming closer to lucidity is recalling more dreams, then the dreams become richer, clearer, and then they will be apprehended. Finally we end with an outlook on next week teachings, where we start to learn how to develop our dream lab, exploring siddhis in the dream state. Alan then proposes a hypothesis: once you have achieved Shamatha, if you become a really good practitioner in dream yoga, training your siddhis in the dream state and gaining thereby insight into the emptiness of all phenomena in the dream state, and in addition train yourself in daytime dream yoga, may that be your ideal preparation to display the same siddhis in the waking state as one who has reached the 4th jhana?

Silent meditation cut out at the beginning

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65 Great equanimity and its perspective from hinayana, mahayana and dzogchen

B. Alan Wallace, 29 Sep 2014

Alan starts the session with a brief introduction of the meaning of the aspiration of immeasurable equanimity and its etymology. Further, Alan elaborates on the differences of equanimity among the different vehicles.

In the context of the sravakayana, which is focused on the selflessness of persons (the emptiness of an autonomous, independent and permanent self), they realize the emptiness of self but not the emptiness of the skandhas, as they consider they are truly existent. Therefore, the practice of equanimity is for the sake of one’s own liberation, to purify their minds and attain nirvana in order to get rid of samsara. It is interesting to see that according to Buddhaghosa, the catalyst for equanimity is taking responsibility for one’s own actions. It is based on recognizing how karma works. Virtue brings happiness and non-virtue brings suffering.

In the mahayana context, in which wisdom and compassion work together as the two wings of a bird to fly, not only the self is empty of inherent existence but also the five skandhas. Because everything is mutually interdependent, there is no self without others and no others without self. Therefore, there is no difference between self and others. In this way, the realization of emptiness deepens the sense of equality between self and others and vice versa. Equanimity is an aspiration based in bodhicitta.

From dzogchen perspective and having an insight into rigpa, one apprehends what is close as pristine awareness. And one apprehends what is far as samsara, especially when viewing others’ behavior and mental afflictions. Then, one generates the aspiration to release the preference for nirvana, which is what one has already tasted, and abide in equanimity without preference for samsara or nirvana, for adversity or felicity. In dzogchen, equanimity is the equality of samsara and nirvana. All displays of samsara and nirvana are equally pure, samsara being a display of rigpa.

Meditation starts at 40:17

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66 Welcome to the world of emanation and transformation

B. Alan Wallace, 29 Sep 2014 Transcript available

Alan starts the session recalling Gautama’s experience when he endured extreme hardships, which made him lose his samadhi. Alan emphasizes the importance of mindfulness of breathing in order to repair the damage that has been done by neglecting the body. For this reason, it is crucial to master the shavasana posture, to breath effortlessly while relinquishing any control in order to meditate well.

The meditation on balancing earth and wind combines mindfulness of breathing with taking the mind as the path. Also in this practice we have been introduced to the world of emanation and transformation of mental appearances.

After meditation, Alan uses an analogy to describe the feeling of lucidity as opposed to a wandering mind. Then, we move on to the next section of the book: the world of emanation and transformation. Alan gives advice on how not to lose stability in the dream after becoming lucid. In dream yoga practices we train to transform our dream body into our own personal deity. In this way, one develops pure vision.

When dreaming we are in deep samadhi. On the other hand, daytime awareness is very diffuse since we are also attending the sensory field. Taking advantage of this vividness of samadhi, one can transform everything in the dream into manifestations of enlightened beings. Here, one is deepening insight into emptiness through active engagement with transformation practices.

These practices prepare oneself for becoming lucid in the transitional phase of the bardo. It is especially important in order to subdue demonic apparitions and upheavals. For this reason, we practice taking the mind as the path during the night time. Alan gives advice on how to take the worst nightmares as the path. At the beginning one doesn’t dare due to clinging to self-grasping. However, with familiarity and a good realization of emptiness, one realizes that whatever comes up, nothing whatsoever can harm you. Therefore, there is no reason to escape and to avoid the situation.

The critical point of all this is training in the illusory body and the dreamlike nature of daytime appearances. This enables one to powerfully anticipate the dream state.

Meditation starts at 29:38

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67 Resolve — If You Mean It

B. Alan Wallace, 30 Sep 2014

We have finished the cycle of meditations on cultivating the aspirations of The Four Immeasurables and The Four Greats and Alan urges us now to focus on bodhichitta’s indispensable ingredient, the extraordinary resolve that “I myself will do it.”

Before making this pledge witnessed by all sentient beings and all the buddhas, we must first know how to deliver on it or we will be making an empty promise. Once made, the promise becomes an IOU with no expiration date.

In this silent meditation we should honestly ask what we are willing to dedicate ourselves to. If our pledge is empty rhetoric, we should back off to a level more heartfelt.

The break for the silent, unrecorded meditation starts at 38:12

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68 Dispelling Obstacles to Lucid Dreaming

B. Alan Wallace, 30 Sep 2014

After some reflections on environmental crises and the radical inequality of the distribution of wealth in the world, Alan guides a meditation on Balancing Earth and Sky, the combined practice of mindfulness of breathing with awareness of awareness.

After the meditation, Alan continues with his transmission and commentary on the text Natural Liberation with the discussion that begins on page 157 of dispelling obstacles to lucid dreaming.

The obstacles of waking up and losing the dream because of excitement at initial lucidity; becoming non-lucid after initial lucidity; not becoming lucid at all; not being able to sleep; and having shallow, fleeting motivation each have specific antidotes that can prepare you to recognize the transitional process after death.

And have you heard the one about the wishing fulfilling gem that washes up on the beach of a desert isle inhabited by three shipwrecked sailors?

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69 It’s Never Too Soon to Develop Bodhicitta

B. Alan Wallace, 01 Oct 2014 Transcript available

Since in October 1950 Tibet was invaded by Chinese troops and has been oppressed ever since, today is a good day to practice Bodhicitta. Alan tells the story of a Geshe Rabten he interviewed several times to be able to write down his life story. This Geshe explained to him that all of Dharma appears to him as either 1) being preparation for bodhicitta, 2) being bodhicitta, or 3) flowing out of bodhicitta. This underlines the importance of cultivating bodhicitta and not striving for the achievement of nirvana and then leaving everybody behind - which Alan sees as the only situation in which the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ is actually true. However, this would be to realize only half of your buddha nature. Alan then starts with pieces of his own biography and how he was unsatisfied in his twenties with western, secular education as it was too fragmented and not infused with meaning. It seemed to have no center. What Alan later encountered and what the Dalai Lama often emphasizes as another way of educating people is that the core of all of education should be the science of the mind - that is, understanding the whole universe of experience from the inside-out. In a traditional Nalanda approach, there are four doors that lead to this center: 1) Healing: Whether you are a doctor, therapist, physiotherapist, etc. your aspiration is to heal. But you do not stop with healing the body - you see the interconnectedness of body and mind and therefore strive to heal all afflictions. 2) Reasoning: This concerns people with sharp minds such as philosophers, mathematicians, (quantum) physicists, etc. Their aspiration is to penetrate deep enough by way of logic so they will find nirvana. This is what is meant by the perfection of wisdom. 3) Creating: Technology, all of the arts, architecture, engineering and the like are in this category. Here the goal is to create in order to be of service to other sentient beings. However, here again one should acknowledge that one is also one’s own creator by being able to shape one’s mind. 4) Sound: This category relates to music, the voice and truth-speaking. All four lead to the center - science of the mind - which marks the fifth category: the inner approach, which goes directly to the center. Alan finishes his talk by citing Shantideva. The quote shows how one should not just aspire for bodhicitta but really engage in bodhicitta up to the point at which a continues flow of merit marks one’s actions, even if one is distracted or asleep. Thus, in such a state no matter what you do, your motivation to do it is always bodhicitta.

Meditation starts at 46:59

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70 Venturing Into Dreamless Sleep

B. Alan Wallace, 01 Oct 2014

Before the silent meditation Alan briefly reviews what he has already explained a couple of days ago: If the visualizations keep you awake or you just can’t visualize them, then it’s better to either settle your mind in its natural state (if you tend to fall asleep easily) or practice mindfulness of breathing (if you’re one of the poor souls who can’t fall asleep). After the meditation Alan once again looks back first only to then venture into the practice associated with dreamless sleep. As said before, in the dream state your power of imagination is more brilliant than in the waking state unless you have very stable samadhi. What you see in your dreams then, are the effulgences of your substrate. This is important to note since an encounter with Padmasambhava or Einstein (or Lady Gaga for that matter…) is quite likely not really Padmasambhava/Einstein/Lady Gaga but your imagination of them. While real encounters in the dream state happen (more so with Padmasambhava than with Lady Gaga, so I’ve heard), you have to be an experienced practitioner to be blessed with such an event. However, just because it’s not “the real thing” it does’t make it worthless - quite the contrary, as such dreams are rehearsals or good preparation for when it really matters. Alan then goes into the text and explains the five poisons that are mentioned from different perspectives. The poisons (craving, hostility, delusion, envy and pride) are mental afflictions. So, if you become an arhat then just vanish and all the seeds for those afflictions are terminated. However, from a Vajrayana perspective then don’t simply vanish. Rather you maintain pure vision (as well as possible) and, thus, once mental afflictions arise you see their empty nature by the power of your imagination. Consequently, you don’t terminate them, but transmute them - you see them as facets of primordial consciousness, take away all their energy and use them for your path to enlightenment. From a Dzogchen view, however, even that is unnecessary because you can also simply release those mental afflictions. You don’t have to imagine anything, and neither do you have to terminate anything, you simply view them from the perspective of rigpa.

Silent meditation cut out at 11:46

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71 Returning to the Vision Quest

B. Alan Wallace, 02 Oct 2014

In today’s teaching we focused on the preliminary practices (Ngondro). If we do Mandala Offerings etc. with blind faith and without any understanding of their meaning, and instead just engage in an empty ritual, such action is meaningless according to Shantideva. 100 000 * 0 stills equals 0. But if there is really faith and understanding behind our practice, there will be signs of purification sooner or later. Then Alan quotes several Mahayana Sutras that emphasize the importance of meditative equipoise, shamatha, as a foundation for all higher realizations. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have an insight into emptiness or an experience of rigpa, but you just will not be able to sustain it. After the meditation Alan quotes from Dudjom Rinpoche that according to some the main practices are most important, but to him the preliminary practices are most important, and Alan stresses that this is really shamatha, bodhicitta and vipashyana. If you focus on these practices, you can lead a life without regret.

Meditation starts at 22:11 min

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72 Apprehending the Clear Light of Deep Sleep

B. Alan Wallace, 02 Oct 2014

Alan started the teaching this evening by posing the question why we should venture into these practices of apprehending the clear light of deep sleep at all, when he repeats all the time that this is meant for people who have achieved shamatha and vipashyana. According to one advice he has received, one should spend around 75-80% of the day’s practice on something one is familiar with, that corresponds to the actual state of maturation one has reached, and from which results an observable effect in our daily life. But about 25% of the practice should be spent on what we are not quite ripe for at the moment, but which gives us a vision of where we are aiming to go. Then Alan emphasizes the importance of taking our body seriously, to give it a chance to calm down, to heal in our practice. This is often overlooked in all schools of Buddhism, while the Buddha himself found it important to first get his body back into balance again before he was determined to totally go for enlightenment. And to achieve this healing of our body he again recommends Mindfulness of Breathing, with having a special eye on the phase where the breaths become short, they can be either deep or shallow during that time, since this is the phase that is most soothing for the energies and for the body. During this phase we should be releasing deeply into our breath. After the silent meditation we went on with Padmasambhava’s Natural Liberation. During one meditation session of apprehending the clear light one should focus the awareness again at the heart, and without losing the sense of indivisibility of luminosity and emptiness just slip into deep dreamless sleep, and the clear light will be apprehended. For those who find this just too simple and who want to go for something more elaborate, he then recommends another meditation session where one apprehends the phases of dissolution of the elements, starting with earth dissolving into water etc. This same process happens during the dying process, so again this practice provides the ideal preparation for dying lucidly. Alan then draws a parallel of the end of this dissolution process, where air dissolves into the conditioned consciousness, and then the conditioned consciousness dissolves into the clear light, with the last phases of Settling the Mind, called absence of mindfulness and self-illuminating mindfulness. Questions: Q1: How does a dream arise out of rigpa?

Silent meditation cut out at 27:52 min

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73 Expanding the Field of Loving-Kindness - But Am I Doing It Correctly???

B. Alan Wallace, 03 Oct 2014

Before our session of loving-kindness Alan lists some of the benefits of the practice, like sleeping and waking up in comfort, having no bad dreams, being able to die unconfused etc. After the meditation he comes back to the old problem that one does a practice, even doing it correctly, but then having doubts about it. For loving-kindness one might think that there is no feeling of warmth and affection coming up during the practice, so this can’t be it. But actually there are indications that you do it correctly, and it’s not about generating feelings or emotions. Those can come with loving-kindness, but not necessarily have to. You could also have just emotions, and no loving-kindness at all, since loving-kindness is an aspiration. As a result of the practice one should observe that whenever one sees a sentient being around one that is in need of help, one is more and more poised for action, and one has less and less of an internal struggle or resistance to helping. This implies that you really attend to other beings, “drink them in” as Shantideva calls it. For the practice in-between sessions Alan suggests to conjoin loving-kindness with the breath whenever we attend to somebody around us.

Meditation starts at 17:44 min

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74 Supercharging Your Practice

B. Alan Wallace, 03 Oct 2014

Alan started the teachings today with the question of how we know whether we are practicing dharma or not. After all, you could e.g. do shamatha just as a technique for relaxation. What makes it a dharma practice is when you have a definitive sense of emergence from samsara, coupled with a vision of the path that will lead you all the way up to liberation. If we want to further empower, to supercharge our practice, we should practice from the viewpoint of being indivisible from our root guru. After the silent meditation we went on with the Natural Liberation. Padmasambhava describes the method of apprehending the clear light of realization, which is equivalent to the vertical aspect of pristine awareness, leading into the depth of reality. Then he introduces a method for apprehending the visionary clear light of experience, and that corresponds to the horizontal aspect of pristine awareness, fathoming the breadth of reality. By doing this method one can become aware of the physical environment while being deep asleep. Alan compares that to out-of-body experiences of brain dead people, who can also have a clear apprehension of their surroundings, witness conversations going on etc. Then in a second session Padmasambhava explains a method that lets you fall into deep sleep with an energetic boost, by visualizing a red bindu within the central channel at your heart, and apprehending the clear light by this way. Alan then comes back to the question how much Buddhist background one needs in order to do such practices. According to his own guru, Gyatrul Rinpoche, it is sufficient if we are intuitively drawn to such practices, have faith, aspiration and a deep yearning to practice. After all, how do we know with what karmic seeds we were born with, we might be really qualified to practice this without even knowing our qualifications. Question: Q1: In empathetic joy the near enemy is frivolous joy, the remedy is loving-kindness. Could you explain that?

Silent meditation cut out at 14:08 min

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75 Meditation on compassion and the three types of suffering

B. Alan Wallace, 04 Oct 2014

This short podcast includes a meditation on compassion focusing on the three types of suffering: suffering of suffering, suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering.

Meditation starts at 05:31

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76 The Transitional Process of Meditation

B. Alan Wallace, 04 Oct 2014

Alan starts the session commenting on the importance of the sense of community and supporting each other. Emphasizing this, he explains a story of Ananda to illustrate that having spiritual friends is the whole of the practice.

After the silent meditation and before entering into the third and final bardo that we will be focusing in this retreat, Alan does a recap from the beginning of the teachings to place in context the upcoming chapter. The overall theme is the decrease of grasping. If grasping is occurring the view isn’t there and one is not viewing reality as it is. There is a gradient in grasping from extremely coarse to extremely subtle. The aim of all these practices is to release all the layers of identification and grasping along the path.

We make the segue to the next chapter on page 169 of the book Natural Liberation: the transitional process of meditation. Alan mentions that the prerequisite for the practices of the transitional process of dreaming is the achievement of shamatha and vipashyana, while the prerequisite of this next transitional process of meditation is the realization of rigpa. After that, comes the process of rigpa releasing itself from all concepts, grasping, veils and configurations.

In this phase one gains mastery over pristine awareness. One can identify it and dwell on it for as long as one wishes without grasping and without conceptualization. This is where one moves to the mode that simply sustains the dzogchen view at all times, not doing anything other than resting in rigpa.

At the end of the podcast Alan responds to two questions:

1.- When meditating in taking the mind as the path, a participant experiences a very continuous flow of images and wonders if this is an indication of grasping. Also he mentions that his appearances resemble those when he is falling asleep.

2.- A speculative question on a sravakayana arhat that realizes emptiness. Can he realize pristine awareness and attain enlightenment if he practices all the practices of dream yoga?

Silent meditation cut out at 09:19 min

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77 Compassion from the View of Pristine Awareness

B. Alan Wallace, 06 Oct 2014

Alan prefaces the meditation with his reflections on compassion being a hard sell to avowed materialists. If not sick or dying, cultivating your own hedonic pleasure seems a good bet. But materialists who truly open their hearts to the suffering so apparent in the world today, risk being crushed by despair.

Materialists, Alan says, must protect themselves from their worldview with an Orwellian-type “double think,” denying the hedonic states of others. But true protection from despairing over others’ suffering, he says, occurs only when it is viewed with the pure vision of pristine awareness.

Thus, bodhisattvas are able to be always spontaneously cheerful while simultaneously on the verge of weeping over the suffering of samsara.

Meditation starts at 23:15

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78 External and Internal Space

B. Alan Wallace, 06 Oct 2014

Alan reminds us that the advanced practices of “not meditating on anything” (page 176, Natural Liberation) are intended for those who have already achieved Shamatha and the insights of Vipashyana, and identified rigpa as well. The job at this point is to rest there in pristine awareness and view the display of appearances from that vantage while releasing subtler and subtler forms of grasping.

After 44 years of gathering data, Alan has confirmed for himself the hypothesis that once the aspiration for genuine happiness begins to orient your life, the universe will rise up to meet you with blessings. Although the universe is eudaimonically friendly, it is not necessarily hedonically friendly. The blessings bestowed when you need them support the development of wisdom not comfort.

After the silent meditation Alan comments on the practice described here in the text of using visual awareness to discern external and internal space. Between sessions one should engage in all activities with the meditative equipoise gained during the sessions, a practice we should remember after we leave retreat.

The break for the silent, unrecorded meditation starts at 44:04

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79 Aspects of the Guru

B. Alan Wallace, 07 Oct 2014

Alan begins by emphasizing once again the importance in Dzogchen of the relationship between the student and the guru.

In Sravakayana practice the guru is regarded as an emissary of the Buddha. In Mahayana practice the guru is viewed as if he or she is the Buddha. But in Dzogchen it is paramount for students to view both the guru and themselves as being free from the illusory qualities of a sentient being. The faith students have in their guru, in Padmasambhava, or Samantabhadra is rooted in the faith they have in their own buddha nature, which expresses itself as intuition.

The meditation that concludes the session is on cultivating mudita, empathetic joy. Take delight in virtue you see performed in the world and feel satisfaction and gratitude for the activities of those who promote the hedonic well-being of others and those who inspire others to pursue genuine happiness and its causes. Rejoice also for those devoting themselves single-pointedly to liberation from samsara as well as the good that you yourself have brought to the world.

Meditation starts at 1:00:40

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80 Nothing on Which to Meditate

B. Alan Wallace, 07 Oct 2014

In his brief instructions before the silent meditation, Alan reminds us of the importance, before all else, of releasing control of the breath.

After the silent meditation session, Alan returns to his commentary on the text (page 178, Natural Liberation) and explains the meaning of the statement, “When meditating, do not meditate on anything at all, for in the absolute nature of reality there is nothing on which to meditate.”

At the conclusion Alan answers the questions: - How different is it necessary to make the posture when ready to fall asleep after meditating in your bed for a time preparing to fall asleep?

  • For those of us who have not yet ascertained rigpa, how do we practice Dzogchen?

The break for the silent, unrecorded meditation starts at 2:34

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81 Equanimity, or This Little Light of Mine

B. Alan Wallace, 08 Oct 2014

Once again we come back to the culmination of the 4 immeasurables: the cultivation of equanimity. By way of referring to the Dalai Lama as well as a Tibetan aphorism Alan emphasizes the importance of wisdom and compassion. We need both and they need to be balanced. As what concerns the meditation, Alan asks us to release all identification with the body, mind and even awareness (almost like Watzlawick in his explanation of “the pursuit of unhappiness” Alan gives an easy recipe: if samsara hasn’t dished up enough suffering for you, it’s best to start identifying with ever more things!). The only aspect we are told to identify with in this meditation is all sentient beings: Think of whoever appears in the space of your mind as a person who has once been your mother, brother, sister, father, etc. In this manner, practice equanimity.

Meditation starts at 36:19

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82 Scientific Materialism on its Deathbed, or the Scent of a Revolution

B. Alan Wallace, 08 Oct 2014

Alan reminds us that the text by Padmasambhava strikes one as religious and mystical if viewed from a eurocentric perspective. However, it is utterly important to acknowledge that while eurocentric concepts have been of great value in certain areas, these are CONCEPTS - not truths. Thus, if one steps outside the domain of eurocentric culture one has to be careful with applying the same concepts and frameworks. In a buddhist context, the text appears and presents itself as sound science, providing knowledge as well as specific techniques to reproduce the knowledge. Alan then shows just how eurocentric media and science are when he quotes at length an article about a scientific study that “for the first time” proves that people can be aware of their surroundings up to 3 minutes after the heart has stopped beating and the brain has shut down, which means after clinical death. To many cultures, this is not exactly breaking news… However, despite the flaws in the article it shows how some scientists are willing to probe into such issues and with each study done the framework of scientific materialism crumbles ever more. The dominoes have started falling. Alan then gives a short update on how creating a contemplative observatory in Europe might actually be realized. After the silent meditation Alan goes back to the text which deals with the questions of what to do when you come out of meditation.

Silent meditation cut out at 49:37

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83 Great Compassion - Unveiling All Layers Of Suffering

B. Alan Wallace, 09 Oct 2014

Whereas the Four Immeasurables are the best friends of Vipashyana in weakening the mental afflictions before wisdom finally gives them the rest, the Four Greats go much deeper, lifting the last veils to become a fully awakened buddha. In this meditation of Great Compassion we attend to the different layers pertaining to the question why all sentient beings couldn’t become free from suffering. We should take this question really serious, it is not meant to be a philosophical question. Alan gives the parallel to medicine, where a resolve was made to free all human beings from the suffering of Ebola or other diseases, and with intelligence and effort it is made a reality. First we have the blatant suffering that is caused by hatred, which means caused by views i.e. of racism, and these views could be eradicated - not the people that hold these views, they are equally worthy of our compassion. This type of suffering pertains to specific problems that we encounter, and each of them could be addressed, one by one. For those of us who cannot become full-time yogis because of responsibilities for their families etc., we can alleviate this type of suffering by acting as bodhisattvas in our daily lives. The next layer is the suffering of change, which is related to craving and attachment. It could be solved by being content, by valuing eudaimonia over hedonic pleasures, and the way that leads out of that suffering could be taught to children from kindergarten on. And finally, we have the deepest level of suffering, the all-pervasive, existential suffering related to delusion. This depth of suffering can only be addressed by wisdom, and we find the wisdom capable of this in every religion, in true science and philosophy. If we look deep enough, we find the Great Perfection in all of them. Alan ends with a great appeal to all of us. Since scientific materialism with its consumer-driven way of life, its worldview and its hedonic values is dragging human civilization down into an abyss, the primary responsibility for each of us is to save this planet.

Guided meditation starts at 36:30 min

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84 How To Acquire The Stars Of Merit For Your Practice

B. Alan Wallace, 09 Oct 2014

In today’s session Alan talks about the importance of purification and accruing merit in order to proceed quickly along the path. The Sanskrit term for merit is punya, and it literally means power. It is that which propels you along the path. And if you want merit to really flow, then think about what Atisha said about the ability to accumulate merit once you have achieved shamatha. Another way to supercharge your merit according to the Buddha is by concentration on suchness, which means emptiness. And finally, when you develop bodhicitta you accrue merit, and once you are on the level of engaged bodhicitta it will just be an ongoing flow of merit no matter what you do. That’s for accumulating merit. And how to purify? Well, how about shamatha, insight into emptiness and bodhicitta? If you might think that all this emptiness and Dzogchen stuff is just too way up for you, you can’t really do this, then this is one of the three types of laziness, the laziness of putting oneself down. So no excuses, especially since Alan lists the remedies for all three types of laziness! The realizations e.g. of emptiness don’t appear out of the blue, they come from hearing, reading, trying to figure it out, meditating about it, and sooner or later a true understanding will arise. This will still come and go, so you need shamatha to stabilize it, and to get so familiar with it that it becomes the natural way of viewing reality. After the meditation we return to Natural Liberation, continuing from yesterday’s topic of viewing hatred from the perspective of rigpa. Alan gives an advice that he himself has received from Gyatrul Rinpoche when anger comes up in the mind: Don’t be troubled, just look at it and try to trace it back to its roots. The same can be done for the other poisons; craving and delusion. You can trace them back to their relative origin, which is substrate consciousness, and from that perspective all three poisons are nothing other than luminosity, bliss and non-conceptuality. But here in Padmasambhava’s text they are seen not from the perspective of substrate consciousness, but from the perspective of rigpa, and that means that they are nothing other than the three aspects of primordial consciousness: mirror-like, discerning and Dharmadhatu. Padmasambhava states that from the perspective of rigpa hatred never comes into being, is empty of location, and doesn’t go anywhere. Which means, you can’t even lose it. If an Arhat thinks that he has cut hatred at its root, that isn’t really true. You just reduce it back to where it comes from, or better to say, it releases itself if you can rest in rigpa.

Silent meditation cut out at 27:25 min

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85 Bringing wisdom to the cultivation of great loving-kindness

B. Alan Wallace, 10 Oct 2014

Alan highlights the practice of balancing earth and sky. The core of the practice is to develop a deepening sense of ease, relaxation and groundedness, while at the same time maintaining and accentuating clarity. Alan explains how he started to practice earth with the Theravada tradition and how everything unfolds until getting to dzogchen.

In this session, we return to great loving-kindness. Alan quotes a sutra from the Pali canon in which Buddha addresses for lay people the types of happiness they might cultivate and realize: ownership, wealth, freedom from debt, and blamelessness. The last one directly relates to genuine happiness. Buddha encourages his disciples to find out what really constitutes true happiness and based on this understanding, to pursue it. Once again, it is about wisdom.

Alan also quotes another sutra in which Buddha describes three types of happiness: blamelessness and contentment; the one gained from samadhi; and the supreme happiness of complete freedom through realization, which is the joy of knowing reality as it is.

Therefore, in this meditation session we will bring wisdom to the cultivation of great loving-kindness.

Meditation starts at 32:22

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86 Ripened and Liberated

B. Alan Wallace, 10 Oct 2014

Before the meditation, Alan elaborates on the importance of preliminary practices and the accumulation of merit in order to prepare the mind. However, that is not enough since merit can be lost, especially when generating anger towards a bodhisattva.

Therefore, what are the signs that purification is happening? When one ventures into deeper practices, one can get some sense that obscurations are attenuating. Then, the practitioner gains serenity, inner calmness, contentment, composure, etc. This happens not only when everything goes well but even during bad times. Mental afflictions also arise but they have lost power. In brief, a clear sign of having accrued virtue is having an enduring and robust inspiration.

When one takes seriously the preliminary practices and they bring about a transformation, then the practitioner is ripened and liberated. The ripening part comes from the preliminary practices, and the fruition of that is liberation.

After comes a guided mediation on taking the mind as the path, which is directly correlated to the next passage of the text.

After meditation Alan continues with the oral transmission and explanation of the text Natural Liberation on page 180. The main topic is the four great ways of liberation. Thoughts are primordially liberated, self-liberated, instantly liberated, and completely liberated.

In this passage we come to see that all mental afflictions are unborn and self-liberating. Moreover, knowing that an instance of thought is unborn and self-liberating, we know that every thought is unborn and self-liberating. Then, by implication one understands the nature of consciousness as being unborn, empty of inherent nature, and self-liberating. Self-liberating means liberating oneself right down to rigpa. And one can do that on the basis of a single instant.

This is an irreversible revolution! When you see it and fathom the four great ways of liberation, nothing remains as before. The text says: “Whatever appears, let it go as self-liberating. Do not meditate; let awareness roam freely.”

Viewing reality from the perspective of rigpa, all sentient beings are actually free but they don’t know it. They are striving so hard when being already primordially free, self-liberated, instantly liberated and completely liberated.

Alan finishes the session talking about the hell realms and concludes that one can’t by any means stay in hell when having great compassion.

Meditation starts at 25:16

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87 Great Mudita

B. Alan Wallace, 11 Oct 2014

“Why couldn’t all beings never be parted from sublime happiness free from suffering?” This question beginning the meditation on Great Mudita, Alan says, is a synthesis of great loving kindness and great compassion.

After contemplating the ingredients necessary to make ordinary happiness sublime happiness and the causes that lead to it, recall next the kindness of others whose actions helped bring you to this point on the path. In the Dzogchen view, when traced to its deepest source,the true agent of all their actions as well as all your own is Samantabhadra.

Recognizing this, the wish to repay the kindness of all beings naturally arises and what better way is there to express your gratitude than with the aspiration that they all actually will realize sublime happiness free of suffering.

The aspiration leads to the authentic and realistic resolve to personally insure that it happens and and the meditation concludes with the supplication of blessings from your guru and the awakened ones to enable you to do so.

Meditation starts at 37:05

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88 Turning Up the Heat on Learned Ignorance

B. Alan Wallace, 11 Oct 2014

The session begins with a guided meditation on variations of taking the mind as the path, beginning with maintaining peripheral awareness of fluctuations of the breath before single-pointedly focusing awareness on the space of the mind and whatever arises there.

Alan then returns to page 182 of Natural Liberation for further commentary on the lines we concluded with yesterday, “Due to being obscured by the three kinds of ignorance, they do not know the manner of their liberation.”

Viewed from the perspective of rigpa, even hatred will self-release without any additional antidote. Before we reach that sage, however, it is important to maintain conscientiousness along with mindfulness and introspection in our practice. Conscientiousness is established in non-attachment, non-hostility, and non-delusion, and coupled with enthusiasm, it expresses itself as intelligent, ethical concern.

Shantideva discusses conscientiousness in the fourth chapter of A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and Alan cites a number of passages highlighting the theme that when it comes to mental afflictions, Buddhism is neither pacifistic nor “non-judgementally aware” of whatever comes up in the mind. The Great Bodhisattva declares he is obsessed and with vengeance will wage battle against the enemy, the perpetual causes of all miseries.

Returning then to the three types of ignorance, Alan describes the first, “ignorance regarding a single identity”, as the most deeply ingrained. This is the ignorance of our “one nature” as Samantabhadra, primordial wisdom.

The second form of ignorance, “connate ignorance” is the delusional identification with a self that is permanent, unitary, independent, autonomous, substantial, and existing prior to and independent of conceptual designation.

The third form of ignorance, Alan translates as “speculative ignorance.” It is fabricated, conjured up, and acquired with learning.

The most pernicious acquired ignorance of our time, Alan says, is materialism, and perhaps we have not been honoring the fierce attitude of Shantideva in our accommodation with it.

Alan reads from an article printed in the current New York Times with the headline “Are We Really Conscious?” The author, a Princeton neuroscientist and psychologist, presents what he claims is a scientific resolution of the mind/body philosophical issue with the assertion that we don’t actually have inner feelings in the way it seems.

The brain is not subjectively aware of the information it processes, the author states, but rather is accessing internal models that provide wrong information. It is all an elaborate story about a seemingly magical property, awareness, and there is no way the brain can know it is being fooled by the illusion. There is no subjective experience of the color green or the sensation of pain, there is only information in a data processing device, he concludes.

“This is the most grotesque false view I think that I have seen in the history of humanity,” Alan responds. “He says we are mindless computers!” This speculative, learned ignorance, Alan states, is the most superficial of the three types, but it can destroy civilization.

“This is my hot kitchen,” Alan says. “And I will torch, I will incinerate, and I will not stop until that is looked on with contempt by everybody.”

Meditation starts at 0:20

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89 Great Equanimity, and the Importance of Views

B. Alan Wallace, 13 Oct 2014

Alan starts by talking about his last dharma talk and once more making clear that his anger was not directed towards any person, but simply towards a certain view. This is important to stress because in the West often a view is conflated with a person. Alan emphasizes how important views are and they are clearly the most horrible non-virtue of all because they justify any kind of behavior. That is why also Dharma talks can be very intense and unpleasant. If a certain view is being burned and you identify with that view (e. g. that the mind is the brain and your awareness is a cartoon, thus, you are not a sentient being but a mindless robot), the dharma talk will not be comfortable for you and the lama might manifest as wrathful.

As what concerns great equanimity we are asked to release all attachment to the near, which means our views. But not only that; we should also release the extreme of peace and the aversion to the world of becoming, that is, as much as we like to be in a peaceful retreat we have to let go of that preference over the uncertain world “out there”. That then finally to the ultimate equanimity which means letting go of the attachment to nirvana. On that note, Alan tells two stories that illustrate these points, one being about a Geshe, who saved a calf from drowning in filth, and the other about Franklin Merrell-Wolf, who experienced such a “complete transcendence of all opposites”.

Meditation starts at 47:02

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90 An Approximation of Pure Land in Sight?

B. Alan Wallace, 13 Oct 2014

At the beginning Alan shares extremely uplifting news as what concerns “Project Contemplative Observatory”. After having failed to build one in India and in Santa Barbara it finally looks as if a promising piece of land in Tuscany is available. The land is cheap and big enough to support not only a contemplative observatory but also a mind center. With retreatants maybe even planting organic food there, it would truly be as close as we get in samsara to a pure land! After a silent meditation we return to the text. Alan explains that the four great types of liberation can only manifest once you completely stop all conceptualization. These four types are then described as: 1) primordial liberation, which means that you don’t need to remedy anything and take no external refuge 2) liberation by itself, because after you have investigated enough (practiced vipashyana) you find clear insight and you then simply release into that insight 3) instantaneous liberation 4) complete liberation, which means that it takes no effort at all Alan then points out that whereas a while ago he quoted Geshe Rabten who argued that all of Dharma either lays the foundation for bodhicitta, is bodhicitta or leads to bodhicitta, this is different from a Dzogchen perspective. From that view all of dharma is a preparation for discovering who you are, and that is rigpa. Not only does Alan contrast the Madhyamaka and the Dzogchen approach in this way, but also by explaining in what ways things arise. Nagarjuna shows that it is not reasonable to say that things exist, nor that they don’t exist, nor both, nor neither. However, from the Dzogchen perspective everything self-arises - but, of course, only from the perspective of rigpa!

Silent meditation cut out at 27:18

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91 Four Rivers Flowing Into One Resolve

B. Alan Wallace, 14 Oct 2014

On the penultimate stage to the cultivation of bodhicitta we return to the great resolve: I shall free all sentient beings. Alan points how that the deeper this promise sinks into you, the clearer it becomes that it only makes sense from the perspective of rigpa. Also, after having cultivated great compassion you are bound to go on to the other 3 greats - you no longer have a choice. Then the four are like four rivers coming together to a massive stream that will take you directly to bodhicitta. And once again it is important to realize that our perspective is that of rigpa, which is said to be one (in the sense that it’s the one truth) but at the same time infinite (because it manifests in every sentient being) - it’s neither singular nor plural. Alan then quotes Shantideva to inspire us for the meditation. After the meditation Alan mentions how there are two doors leading to the same path: either you cultivate relative bodhicitta and it will lead you to ultimate bodhicitta, or you can go the other way. Towards the end Alan wishes us a good day but then quickly comes back to correct himself. In the sound file the very beginning of his addition is missing, that is why it starts abruptly.

Meditation starts at 17:47

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92 Achieving Buddhahood By Doing Nothing…ha ha

B. Alan Wallace, 14 Oct 2014

In the silent meditation we are once again asked to balance earth and sky and to proceed at our own pace. After the meditation we finish the transitional process of meditation. The text shows how to get to the point from which you no longer affirm virtue nor do you reject non-virtue; you do not visualize anything; nothing is outside of it. Whereas objects are illuminated on the coarse level by substrate consciousness, on the deepest level they are illuminated by rigpa in the space of all phenomena. However, in rigpa there is no duality between the space and the light illuminating it. The process of developing stable samadhi to realizing rigpa is, simply put, an ever-deepening release of grasping: it might start with a five year-old with a monkey on its belly to feel the breath and release all control over it, and then years later you release all grasping (once again, it sounds pretty simple :)). And once you dwell in rigpa you see how all appearances arise to assist you in your path to full awakening: All mental afflictions are suddenly as great as all virtues. However, it is once again vital not to cling to appearances - just as in a dream. Once you start clinging to dream appearances you are more or less begging to stay non-lucid. However, once you don’t cling to those appearances and realize that nothing can harm you, there’s no reason for you to have any preference. Finally, Alan explains the three ways of becoming a Buddha: 1) you realize the 4 great types of liberation and achieve rainbow-body. That way your body disappears into the energy of primordial consciousness. 2) you become a Buddha while dying or during the transitional process of dharmata
3) you become a Buddha by being released in the nirmanakaya pure realm in the transitional process of becoming, that is you either shift your environment to pure land (the way you practiced during lucid dreaming) or you choose a nice birthplace that gives you access to dharma and then you achieve buddhahood there.

Silent meditation cut out at 05:37

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93 Becoming A Child Of The Buddhas

B. Alan Wallace, 15 Oct 2014

What better way to end a retreat than with Shantideva’s beautiful verses about embracing bodhicitta! The verses cited today are often used for the liturgy when taking the bodhisattva precepts. Shantideva’s verses are not meant as a teaching to an audience, they are more like an invitation for us in the sense of the “Ehipassiko”, the “Come and see” of the Pali canon, and Shantideva invites us into his own mind with them. When you take the Pratimoksha or the Tantric precepts, you need to receive them through a certain lineage. The guru is the channel through which you receive the blessings and the guidance of the Dharmakaya when taking these vows. The Bodhisattva precepts are an exception, you can take them even without a guru being present. The Dharmakaya and therefore the Buddha is present everywhere, and he himself will be your witness. You can then also imagine all sentient beings being present as your witnesses, too, because they are the ones you are going to serve. When we deeply resonate with this extraordinary resolve, we can just take the vows in such a way. Regarding the meditation, as we did for the teachings of Padmasambhava before, we can look through the transparent veil of Alan as the person reading it and it will be Shantideva himself speaking the verses.

Guided meditation starts at 17:34 min

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94 On The Journey to Sukhavati

B. Alan Wallace, 15 Oct 2014

As a bonus, at the end of our retreat Alan presented to us the teachings on Sukhavati from Karma Chagme. If you missed your chance for the three modes of achieving enlightenment, then it is definitely not Alan’s fault, with all the podcasts up to now you guys had your opportunities. If not, don’t start crying yet, there is still the light of hope on the Western horizon, and that’s Amitabha’s pure land. There are different levels of pure lands that can be reached by beings, depending on their abilities. If you have already achieved a high level of realization you have full choice. Would you like to be in Akanishta or is it not challenging enough for you to go there? Well, most of us might want to start trying with Sukhavati first, that is more within reach of ordinary beings who are still prone to mental afflictions. What could prevent you from going there are the five deeds of immediate retribution. But other than that, the entrance examination is comparatively easy. Once you have achieved rebirth in Sukhavati you are all set. You can achieve enlightenment either there or in any other pure realm of your choice, Alan’s favorite will be Shambala. I am sure that he will establish the tradition of the 8-week retreats there, so make sure you will be able to join!

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