B. Alan Wallace, 31 Aug 2012

Teaching: Alan gives a brief teaching on Dromtönpa’s quote „Give up all attachment to this life, and let your mind become dharma.“ In shamatha practice, releasing excitation corresponds to giving up attachment, and resting in awareness, 5 antidotes naturally arise to counter the 5 obscurations to the substrate and rigpa: 1) sukkha vs. malice/ill-will, 2) single-pointed attention vs. desire/attachment/fixation, 3) coarse investigation vs. laxity/dullness, 4) bliss vs. excitation/anxiety, and 5) precise analysis vs. afflictive uncertainty.
Meditation: mindfulness of breathing method of your choice. If there is tension, you may want to practice full-body awareness. If there is rumination, you may want to practice mindfulness of breathing at the abdomen. If the mind is loose and calm, you may want to practice mindfulness of breathing at the nostrils. For any of the practices, use staccato counting if helpful. As always, monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection and apply antidotes to laxity and excitation.

Meditation starts at 12:53

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Dromtönpa’s quote „Give up all attachment to this life, and let your mind become dharma. “

Many of you recall a story of Dromtonpa, the great disciple of Atisha in response to his fellow that was doing devotional practices and then studying and meditating and each time Dromtonpa said: Oh very good to do devotional practice, very good to do study and very good to meditate and even better to practice Dharma. The fellow exasperated said what is that?

The two liner, that is really worthwhile memorizing, Dromtonpa’s quintessential advice: “give up all attachment to this life and let your mind become Dharma.”

It may sound that giving up attachment to this life means suicide or depression or something like that. It is nothing like that. It is not give up this life it is just give up attachment, the mental afflictions that are clinging to the hedonic bounties of this life.

Give up attachment to this life and then let your mind become dharma, the practice of shamatha, the simply practice of mindfulness of breathing really can epitomize that, it can but of course does not have to, it could be just attentional training for any purpose. But, give up attachment to this life, every time that your mind is caught in excitation, by definition excitation is arising from desire, from attachment, there are others kinds that mind is wandering, driven by faith, by devotion, by anger, all kind of things but generally speaking that which draws our mind off into distraction, which we call excitation, is desire, and the desire coming from attachment to this life. So every time you releasing that, you are releasing rumination, you are releasing, you are giving up attachment to this life.

And then as you settle right there, just resting in the nature of your awareness, whether you are attending to the breath, or observing the mind, you are resting in awareness of awareness, right there you are resting in the nature of your awareness, which by nature is pure, luminous, and by resting there, gradually the natural resources of your own awareness do emerge, in this non conceptual way, that is it is not discursive, it is not generated, it is just the simply placement, this placement meditation of shamatha, just by so doing then these so called five dhyanas factors naturally emerge.

I am in awe at the sheer brilliance of this, because on one hand we have these five obscurations translated as the five hindrances. But when you see obscuring, you can ask obscuring what? And what is obscuring is the natural luminosity, the pure nature of your own awareness, let alone rigpa, the substrate consciousness and it is exactly those five: ill- will, fixation on hedonic pleasure, laxity and dullness, excitation and anxiety and then finally afflictive uncertainty. That is the set of obscurations that obscure the nature luminosity and purity of your own awareness.

But then we have the natural antibodies:

1) sukkha vs. malice/ill-will

In terms of ill-will, as you become familiar with it, adept in the practice of mindfulness of breathing, a sense of sukkha, it is just a sense of well-being, it is not bliss, it is not ecstasy, it is just that sense of well-being, sukkah. A sense of well-being arises right from the nature of awareness, and it is genuine because it is not stimulus driven, you do not need something to make you happy, it is just a sense of well-being because it is a symptom that the mind is coming to balance, just like the symptoms of the body that is injured or ill, it feels bad and is really good that it does, because it catches your attention so you heal your body. But then when your mind comes into balance then you start to feel good, and that is sukkah, whereas the mind insofar is upset with mental afflictions it feels bad, and that is also good because it would be really rotten to have your mind just inundated by mental afflictions and feel really happy at the same time. Then you would not have any incentive to get out of samsara, you say, no, my mental afflictions feel so good, I mean I really like them. So it is really a wonderful thing that the mental afflictions afflict, because if it did not we would not have any incentive whatsoever for getting out of samsara.

You can see it, it is transparent when your awareness does rest in the center of well-being that is not stimulus driven, whether it’s food or your sensory, your intellectual, pleasant memories, happy fantasies, or contrived optimism, none of the above, it is just a symptom that your mind is coming into balance. It is quite obvious when your awareness, your mind, has a sense of well-being , it will not at the same time be caught up in ill-will, malice. It cannot happen, one has to go and it cannot be together. So it is a natural antibody.

2) single-pointed attention vs. desire/attachment/fixation,

And then, there is the whole fixation on hedonic pleasure, it is the attachment to the bounties of the desire realm, it is not just sensual craving for ice cream or sex and so forth, it is just the whole range of the fixation on these facsimiles of happiness: I have this, I have that, etc, just getting over it. How do you get over it? What is the natural antibody that comes right of the nature of awareness that surges as a direct remedy for this attachment, fixation, obsession with - all these symbols of happiness and none of which are actually the real deal? And it is simply the unification of the mind, the single-pointed attention, it is so interesting, but actually does it, see for yourself whether it is just dogma, speculation or whether this is really experimental.

But when your mind gets unified just right there with thoughts like, “Oh, that one you make me happy”, it is gone. It is a natural antibody.

3) coarse investigation vs. laxity/dullness

The natural antibody for laxity and dullness is coarse investigation.

Pay attention, look, attend, observe closely. Laxity and dullness cannot be there when you are really investigating.

4) bliss vs. excitation/anxiety

Excitation and anxiety is where rumination lies. Bliss it is the natural antibody, a sense of well-being but the real sharped one, it is joy.

Excitation by definition is always arising from attachment and craving. Craving for what? That one will make me happy, this one make me happy, etc.

When you already have bliss why do you go anywhere else? So actually bliss will act as a natural antibody for looking elsewhere because you already got it, and that is natural, it is transparent, right?

5) precise analysis vs. afflictive uncertainty

Oh, I am not progressing, I am progressing slowly, I do not think that I can do it, I doubt, maybe I can, I doubt it. It goes on and on and on, it will just never give you a break.

How long does it take? Other people have done it? Are they like me? There is no end to that discourse. That will screw you forever. It is not just for shamatha, this afflictive uncertainty is for anything, for developing the four immeasurable, for developing insight, for developing patience, to get a new job.

How do you overcome it? It is necessary to use precise analysis, then really now look at it and get sharp, get sharp. It is just shut up and look carefully, and let’s get the answers from experience. Can I or I cannot, let’s find out and shut up. I am busy now I am practicing now and I am practicing very intensely, I am really paying attention. So that is precise analysis, and that is a natural antibody. You do not have to get it in someplace else, it is built-in, precise analysis is a sheer habit that can be developed.

Then when you just practice shamatha then the five antibodies natural arise. The five obscurations are gone, welcome to substrate consciousness. Give up attachment to this life -you come to rest in the substrate consciousness and that is where you wind up in the culminating process of death. But you are healthy, so there is nothing unhealthy about authentic shamatha practice. There is already some good evidence, if anything it increases your life- span, that was really an interesting discovery from the Shamatha Project, it actually increases your mental health, increases the sense of well-being, increases the balance, the harmony of your nervous system. And yet your mind, coarse mind, dissolves in the substrate consciousness, which where you go when you are dead. So you get a sneak preview at the death zone while you are still alive and vigorously well.

So give up attachment to this life, allow your mind to die while unveiling the natural luminosity of your own awareness. And then of course when you come out of samadhi you get your mind back, but will be a new and improved version, an upgraded version , because those five obscurations will be massively diminished, not eradicated because that requires vipashyana, but they will really be like gut punched. Each of your five obscurations, even when you come out of samadhi. Gut punched, that is what the five obscurations feel like. The five obscurations cannot screw you up because you really knocked them. You really knocked them, it is not a death blow, but you have really disable the five obscurations for a while, and while they are gasping, then bring the sword of vipashyana and just put them out of their misery. And then you become arhat, foe destroyer. You have to be very macho to practice shamatha.


So the sense of giving yourself the greatest possible gift, then to enter into the practice in the pursuit of genuine happiness, to discover your own extraordinary internal resources. Let your awareness descend into and fill the space of the body, settling it in its natural state and your respiration in its natural rhythm.

Give up all attachment to this life as you release every vestige, every trace of rumination, speculation, cogitation about the future and the past, and even about the present, as you let your awareness rest non-conceptually, non-discursively in the present moment in stillness.

And then venture into any of the three methods of shamatha of mindfulness of breathing of your choice. If you find a lot of tension, a lot of tightness in body and mind you may go to full body awareness, phase one. If you find you are not particular tight but the mind is quite agitated, a lot of rumination is coming up, you may go for phase two, the rise and fall in the abdomen. If you feel fairly loose, relatively calm, then focus on these increasing subtle sensations of the in and out breath at the apertures of the nostrils. And for any of these three methods you may count insofar if you find it helpful. Monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection, identify the occurrence of laxity and excitation and apply the appropriate remedy.

Let’s continue practicing now in silence.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised Cheri Langston.

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


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