Fall 2011 Shamatha Retreat



Dharma talks and guided meditations given six days per week during the Fall, 2011 eight-week Shamatha retreat at the Thanyapura Mind Centre in Phuket, Thailand, with B. Alan Wallace. Podcasts will be posted daily during the retreat.


  • 77 Shamatha without a sign, part 2

    11/10/2011 Duration: 01h38min

    Deep…During this extremely inspiring afternoon, Alan started by explaining how to recognize the object of attention of the practice of awareness of awareness for those that find this practice elusive. Also he explained, with the parallel of mosquitoes flying around a fan, how the oscillation works against thoughts. At the end, this practice leads to resting the mind into luminosity and emptiness. After this clarification, he went on to present his opinion of some aspects of how is being presented the dharma related to these degenerated times. We should try to avoid to be playing the last piece of music with the orchestra of the sinking Titanic by relying on the notion of the path that starts with afflictions and finishes free from them. He mentioned again the lack of emphasis put into shamatha nowadays. Moving on, Alan kindly shared with us another sublime passage from Dudjom Lingpa’s Vajra Essence that distinguishes the ground of the coarse mind from rigpa, giving detailed and extremely inspiring description

  • 76 Empathetic Joy, part 2

    11/10/2011 Duration: 38min

    Instruction and meditation on cultivating Empathetic Joy: Calling upon the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gurus for blessing and remembering that they are not outside of ourselves but within us. Meditation starts at 11:26

  • 75 Shamatha without a sign, part 1

    08/10/2011 Duration: 01h31min

    Alan talks about the up and downs of the practice and how to keep the enthusiasm and where to draw the inspiration from. Then he shares an excerpt from Dudjom Lingpa's The Vajra Essence about the difference between the substrate, the substrate consciousness and rigpa. The practice for today is awareness of awareness (46:53) Alan shares some more stories, and then there's one question (79:44) about Shambhala

  • 74 Empathetic Joy, part 1

    08/10/2011 Duration: 39min

    Why couldn't we all never be parted from genuine happiness free from suffering? Cultivating Empathetic Joy is not just an emotion but also an aspiration. When we take on the personal commitment, "May I make it so" we go from immeasurable Empathetic Joy to great Empathetic Joy. We place a marker in the future for this commitment that we can't fulfill right now. Alan calls the Four Immeasurables the heartbeat of Bodhicitta - the four great steads that pull the Mahayana chariot with wisdom as the charioteer. Meditation starts at 11:34

  • 73 Settling the mind in its natural state, part 3

    07/10/2011 Duration: 01h34min

    Alan goes into greater detail about ascertaining the space of the mind between mental events in settling the mind. He explains the danger of complacency at Stages 4 and 7 and the importance of overcoming remaining faults by sharpening the blade of introspection in order to progress further. Guided meditation on settling the mind in its natural state (36:23) Questions (71:34) Q1) If it takes 2 years to achieve shamatha, how long does it take to achieve vipashyana, trekchö, and thodgyal? Q2) If the Buddha could see all his past lives at enlightenment, why not the first? Q3) In a personal interview, Alan mentioned that grief was a wholesome emotion. How can we learn about the range of wholesome emotions? Q4) If labeling is not part of the shamatha practice and may be counter-productive, how can we know if we’re on track? Note: For a series of free online recordings of Tenzin Palmo on shamatha and the 4 immeasurables, check: http://www.tushita.info/resources/audio-downloads/287-jetsunma-audio

  • 72 Compassion, part 3

    07/10/2011 Duration: 38min

    Compassion, understood as the suffering of conditioned phenomena, is conditioned by ignorance. Suffering in its broadest manifestation involves the understanding of a dualistic vision. How we tend to see others as outer, ourselves as inner, and experience suffering as if we are its personal victims. But there are 7 billion people on earth, meaning that there are 7 billion universes. The core message of Dzogchen is that we have all created our personal universe, and that we can all be free, if we simply understand what’s going on. Meditation starts at 14:03

  • 71 Settling the mind in its natural state, part 2

    06/10/2011 Duration: 01h32min

    Alan takes us through a comparative study of texts from the time of the Buddha up until the 19th Century, comparing the way shamatha has been dealt with amongst a variety of Buddhist traditions. Meditation starts at 38:04 He reveals the particular relevance of settling the mind in its natural state to dealing with the suffering of change and answers questions (75:53) regarding the karmically neutral nature of the substrate and the problems that arise from concepts of beginninglessness and infinite time.

  • 70 Compassion, part 2

    06/10/2011 Duration: 39min

    “Give up attachment to this life and let your mind become Dharma” Alan explains how to approach the suffering of change and elaborates on the role of shamatha in dealing with this particular kind of suffering. Meditation starts at 14:31

  • 69 Settling the mind in its natural state, part 1

    06/10/2011 Duration: 01h33min

    Settling the mind in its natural state. When mental afflictions come up, if you recognize them as such, you have a choice regarding whether you act on them. If you don’t recognize them you will simply act on the basis of the mental afflictions. Be present and observe with interest all that comes up even if they are not pleasant. Description of how to do the gentle vase breathing. Discussion of prana and the dangers of practicing pranayama without a qualified teacher; it is much easier to damage prana than to repair it. Meditation starts at 49:58 Questions (75:01) Question on the differences in Alan’s books particularly between Genuine Happiness and the Four Immeasurables. Question regarding the emptiness of the mind – that practice as the soft spot on the death star, leading to realization of other emptiness. Question regarding emptiness as a negative, what is the positive aspect? Discussion of different strategies between Tsongkhapa where it is just the sheer absence of inherent nature, and Mahamudra

  • 68 Compassion, part 1

    06/10/2011 Duration: 41min

    Meditation on Compassion. Why couldn’t we all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering? There is a dearth of knowledge regarding the causes of suffering. When resting in awareness of awareness, how many mental afflictions do you experience? Cultivate compassion from the perspective of purity – from your Buddha nature to theirs. Compassion coming from a place of purity addressing a place of purity. Meditation starts at 13:27

  • 67 Mindfulness of breathing, part 3

    05/10/2011 Duration: 01h35min

    Instruction and meditation on Mindfulness of Breathing: the focus on anapanasatti (focusing on the sensations at the opening of the nostrils and/or on the upper lip under the nostrils) The problem with this foundational practice is that the mind has a thirst for entertainment and it gets bored with the practice and makes up its own entertainment. Thoughts will come up in this practice but you do not cognitively fuse with them (fall into daydreaming). The problem with Settling the Mind in its Natural State is that you get sloppy and just get caught up in what arises in the mind. In Awareness of Awareness, the most common error is just sitting there, zoning out and not knowing anything – which is the root of samsara. In Mindfulness of Breathing, the antidote to restlessness/too much kinetic energy is to relax and release the energy gently on the out breath. If it gets boring when the sensations become very subtle, attend closely while releasing all control of the breath. If stability isn’t getting better, yo

  • 66 Loving kindness, part 3

    04/10/2011 Duration: 39min

    We continue with the practice of metta, or loving kindness, expanding out as in the Pali suttas, combined with the Tibetan liturgy of Mahamaitri (great loving kindness) Helping others can mean to help them hedonically, not just to fulfill legitimate needs/desires but also ultimately to help them see through 'hedonic fundamentalism' Why couldn't we all find happiness and the causes of happiness? May it be so! We can! With the help of the Buddha, deity and guru may I make it so! Celebrate different aspirations for happiness - diversity of desire Meditation starts at 14:50

  • 65 Mindfulness of breathing, part 2

    03/10/2011 Duration: 01h32min

    Welcome to all! This afternoon Alan started by stating that stability is usually regarded as the core of the shamatha practice and how it is developed by the rope of mindfulness. Then following a text of Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen that describes that with practicing settling the mind in its natural state one can attend also to the luminosity and cognizance of the mind (which is none other than awareness of awareness). So the two ends of the rope of mindfulness will be applied to the practice of this afternoon: mindfulness of the breath focused on stability (49:58). Next Alan covered a wide range of topics from the different control over the bardos by bodhisattvas and common sentient beings to the fact of being able to remember when we become lucid but never when non-lucid. All of these topics were to point out the fact of the common and permanent denominator of them: the presence of awareness. After the practice we got two questions (80:14): one about the different explanations of our need to sleep and

  • 64 Loving kindness, part 2

    03/10/2011 Duration: 40min

    Meditative cultivation of Loving Kindness: The focus was Great Loving Kindness, seeing through the outer manifestations of people, including ourselves, and attending to the essential Buddha nature of each sentient being. Meditation starts at 7:20 If you have trouble with the “ball and chain” you carry around that is the picture of yourself that you have constructed from your past, “reboot” you system. Recreate yourself. See yourself as having Buddha nature, as the Dalai Lama, as Chenrezig. You created the negative picture of yourself; you can create the new picture.

  • 63 Mindfulness of breathing, part 1

    01/10/2011 Duration: 01h36min

    Once again we start the cycle, beginning with mindfulness of breathing. Alan first gives an overview of the whole path, from settling the body, speech and mind in their natural state, all the way up to dzogchen, by using the analogy of a computer. We start with a very old, big and clunky computer that barely works, and we upgrade it over and over with the "software" of shamatha, vipashyana, bodhichitta, etc. that reboots and enhances it until we end up with a perfect machine, which stays turned on "for as long as space remains, for as long as sentient beings remain..." Quite nice! Meditation starts at 38:00 Questions (63:08): 1) Why is it said that when we see a negative quality in someone else like anger, we're reflecting our own, like a mirror; when the Buddha got rid of his defilements couldn't he see any more anger, envy, etc in other people? 2) Differences between science and buddhism in terms of goals (hedonic vs eudaimonic) and how each treats meditation accordingly

  • 62 Loving kindness, part 1

    01/10/2011 Duration: 31min

    In this round, Alan will lay emphasis on the Mahayana approach to the 4 immeasurables. „Why can’t all sentient beings find happiness and the causes of happiness? May all sentient beings find happiness and the causes of happiness. I shall make this happen. By the blessings of the guru and yidam, may I be able to do so.“ Guided meditation (6:33) on envisioning our own flourishing. What is our heart’s desire? What would we like to receive as support? What qualities would we like to be rid of, and what qualities would we like to attain? What would we like to offer?

  • 61 Shamatha without a sign, part 4

    30/09/2011 Duration: 01h36min

    Alan reviews the process of relinquishing control/agency in the 3 shamatha practices. Given the buddhist assertion that something true should appear truer with increasing scrutiny, the truth of emptiness is now reinforced with insights from modern quantum physics. Yet the insight in modern science does not appear to alter lifestyles and world views, whereas buddhist practice grounded in ethics, concentration, and wisdom do. Guided meditation (46:20) on projecting awareness up, right, left, down, center, release, and rest. This meditation should be considered a stretching exercise to help us understand that awareness is totally open, without center nor periphery. Questions (71:13): Q1) How can we overcome the lion at the gate of „I am the observer“? Q2) What are other methods to weaken the veils of luminosity in addition to oscillation in awareness of awareness? Q3) When does the birth process begin? Q4) What are the Tibetan terms for settling the mind in its natural state and awareness of awareness

  • 60 Equanimity, part 2

    30/09/2011 Duration: 45min

    Equanimity is the final fruition of the path. In the Theravada tradition, equanimity is envisioned as a composure of imperturbability, of not being thrown out of balance by adversity or felicity. In the Mahayana literature, it's also seen as an even open-heartedness and caring for all sentient beings without exception. Three steps to descend to deeper levels of authenticity are outlined, involving ethical restraint, settling the mind in its natural state and uprooting the conceit of 'I am.' Meditation starts at 21:19

  • 59 Shamatha without a sign, part 3

    29/09/2011 Duration: 01h31min

    Alan expands upon some of the ideas from physics he dealt with in the previous day’s talk and explains how the Dzogchen view and the Prasangika-Madhyamika view are complementary. He weaves this within a broader explanation of the path of taking the breath, mind and awareness as one’s object. The practice for today (41:14) deals with probing more deeply into the agent. Questions (65:53) raise issues such as the benefits of solitude and the cultivation of the 4 immeasurable in this context, how karmic imprints travel from life to life, the concept of the ‘mere I’, the ineffability of rigpa, how one can view the idea of beginninglessness and the benefits of mantra.

  • 58 Equanimity, part 1

    29/09/2011 Duration: 39min

    Alan covers the prerequisites for the development of equanimity, which involve one transcending one’s ordinary deluded outlook. He discusses how one may become able to do this: how one may cultivate a sense of contentment, how one may more strongly identify a common ground between self and other and how to then develop an evenness of caring that is founded upon reality based hope and warmth. Meditation starts at 12:03

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