B. Alan Wallace, 20 Jun 2019
How to distinguish between rigpa and the substrate consciousness? Is it possible to have a glimpse of the substrate consciousness before having achieved shamatha?
My question is regarding His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I watch all of his webcasts and I try to watch them live as much as possible as opposed to recordings. Many of them are teachings, empowerments, transmissions, etc. So when I’m watching them, listening and repeating what needs to be repeated, and then he gives the instruction, the transmission, and he says do like a hundred repetitions of this everyday. Is that then a samaya or commitment with him, even though I’m not present there physically? So one of the parts was that he said to repeat the instruction or this mantra like a hundred times a day, so you follow that?
On the first day we covered the prerequisites for achieving shamatha. I found some of those conditions really demanding. Also I remember on the second day you mentioned that even if we practice for like eight hours a day, but if we’re not careful enough in between sessions, it will be like taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. So my question I guess is twofold. Would you recommend the general population to practice shamatha, even knowing that there’s no way they can achieve it? Because most of them in modern society, they don’t have the luxury of keeping other activities to the minimum. And the other question is, how can we keep the continuity of practice when we’re off the cushion, while at the same time not disengaging from the world?
I had a comment and a question last night, but today the question was answered through Padmasambhava, so now I just have a comment. I wish to basically bear witness to the truth that you, throughout the week, have spoken of the vast benefit of recognizing events of the mind as events of the mind. With regard to PTSD, some years ago, about 6 years ago, I was the “victim” of a violent crime, and I say that in quotes because I’m so grateful not to identify with that statement, it’s the statement of the judicial system. And for many of the last 6 years I have struggled deeply and gone through therapies and therapies and on and on and on. And last fall in New York at the Garrison center for the dream yoga retreat, my dear friends brought me to this experience and it was radically life changing with regard to the PTSD, which prior to that point, even last year I would have debilitating episodes where at times I could not even physically move, like paralyzing. And throughout the rest of the time it was like huge surges of having to deal with that, and so I’m just so happy to report the efficacy of that practice. Just in the months between last September and now, I would say that the analogy I think of most is, it’s like a tiger that was defanged. Before my mind would be bloodied, and often physically I would have very difficult symptoms. And now it’s like, every now and then it’ll be gumming me, and it’s annoying and sometimes it brings disruptions but nothing like what I experienced before. Exactly just some saliva but not anything of lasting import, so I give thanks and I’m thankful to you on behalf of myself and my partner who has experienced alongside me these things and now bringing into the world this little being who is on his way. I thank you on his behalf as well.
I think you know I’m getting ready to go into retreat and I was going to ask you about this, and then I realized it was kind of a good question that actually follows up on what you were just talking about. I’m kind of the person that you just mentioned in that when I started practicing seriously my daughter was about 2, and she’s almost 30 now. I’m a grandmother now but that’s a lot less requiring. So what I wanted to ask you about was, I had this really interesting experience, because when she was little I would do the week longs, but I couldn’t do much more and then I don’t need to reiterate because you said the exact same trajectory. When she went to college I was able to do longer and my first 30 days and so on, and so over the last few years I’ve done increasingly, you know 3 to 5 months retreats on and off as you know. And one thing that I noticed, I don’t know if I’m refuting you but I would question you because I haven’t heard you refer to this directly. You’re absolutely right, when I’m on full time retreat and I’m practicing, I notice there’s a certain momentum that goes. And then when I come out of formal retreat, even though my life is pretty radically simple at this point, I live in the country, pretty simple, but I noticed the practice kind of diminishes in its vividness and its clarity of course because I’m doing other things. But what I have noticed is when I go back into retreat, that momentum isn’t lost. One thing that you talked about, the ways you can get derailed by getting too intense and headaches and all that, I’ve been there, thank you. But there was one derailment that happened last time that I haven’t heard you mention, and I wanted to mention it and just kind of ask you about it because I guess it will come up again. When I was in my last retreat maybe 3 years ago, my last full time retreat, I had this explosion of art, like a whole new art form came out just like BOOM, but it totally derailed my practice. I just figured it out in the last year, what happened is there was so much energy of creativity that came out that the next thing I knew, my retreat cabin turned into an art studio. And I was practicing but all of a sudden, and I mean it took a long time to figure out what had happened, my meditation and the little bit of art that was just supporting my meditation practice had something to do with my hands when I was listening to Dharma talks, became me doing a lot of art and there was a little Dharma playing in the background. And so as I’m getting ready to go back into retreat, I will obviously probably still create art, I want to keep that from happening again so any advice on that?
So if you were me, a beginner meditator, just having received this radical download, I don’t have children, a spouse, these things, what would the next week, month, year of your life look like?
I almost think my question is redundant because it feels very related to all of the previous ones, but today you talked about the sacred tension, and I think you said that we shouldn’t assume or aim to always be on one side of the spectrum. And so my question is how do we know we’re making the right choice when going back and forth, when switching, or maybe it’s not always a choice per se?
You mentioned a couple of days ago that you had gone into a 2 year agreement with Wisdom Publications, I think you mentioned that. Does that include more online classes? I’m a believer in those courses, I’m just about to finish my 7th of your courses, when I found out you were coming I told my wife: “I have to go meet my teacher”.
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