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.


  • 57 Shamatha without a sign, part 2

    29/09/2011 Duration: 01h38min

    We all experience taking voluntary action such as raising an arm. Who is the agent for voluntary actions? In Awareness of awareness meditation during the inversion into awareness, look for the agent who is doing the inversion and release. In the seen there is just the seen – Buddha said when you look at appearances you are not with them. Discussion of scientific views regarding physical world and its objectivity. Discussion of quantum mechanics. Anton Zeilinger’s position that nothing which exists is independent of our system of measurements. Alan presents other physics theories that he views supports the philosophical view of emptiness and refutes materialistic scientific views. Afternoon meditation (69:51) – Awareness of awareness looking for the agent of voluntary actions. Sorry, no time for questions this time!

  • 56 Empathetic joy, part 2

    29/09/2011 Duration: 37min

    Morning talk – Empathetic Joy – Finding commonality with others Meditation (13:12) Taking Joy in others joy – first in conventional joy, then in those creating virtue through their service to others, then in those creating virtue through Samadhi practice and finally taking joy in those creating virtue by practicing wisdom.

  • 55 Shamatha without a sign, part 1

    27/09/2011 Duration: 01h34min

    Many people have expressed confusion about this practice, probably because of looking for something to happen that isn’t happening. Therefore, they miss what is happening. The basic practice is something you already know: being aware of being aware. You know when you are aware. Begin there. The oscillation is between being aware of your own awareness and releasing into something brighter, emptier, non-conceptual, and of no objects. You can mount the oscillation on your breath at first and then do it at your own pace. But release the oscillation in the middle. Let it rest in its own place. It is the best approximation of the substrate consciousness. Meditation starts at 47:35 Q & A (72:32): Is the dark near attainment before the clear light of death the same as the substrate? Let's say my girlfriend wants to dance and I don’t. What would be examples of the applications of the Four Immeasurables in this circumstance? What is dream yoga and what is it for?

  • 54 Empathetic Joy, part 1

    27/09/2011 Duration: 39min

    We come back to the cultivation of mediate, starting with oneself, but not an immutable self, a dependently arisen self. Alan again comments on our way of evaluating our practice: "Meditation, what have you given me this week?" No, no, no! All that comes up is a maturation of our karma From the lo jong (mind training) teachings: everything that comes up, transmute it into fuel for the path. "This happened. Others see it as poor you. I take it as a lesson to deepen my practice and wisdom." Become the alchemist of your life. From the perspective of rigpa: with deep intuitive faith seeing all experiences arising as coming from Buddhas to help us become enlightened - we can have an ongoing flow of gratitude for this! The one taste of felicity and adversity Meditation starts at 14:21

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

    27/09/2011 Duration: 01h30min

    Alan started the session of this afternoon explaining why among the immense variety ofmethods to achieve shamatha, he presents these three, and how they are fit for modernity. Then he enlightened us with a global parallel between each of these practices with one of the three yanas: starting from the roles of mindfulness and introspection in each of these three until the different lifestyles of the shravaka, the bodhisattva and the tantric or dzogchen practitioner. Also he covered how each practice deals with the coarse, subtle and very subtle minds. After this he connected this presentation with the practice of settling the mind in its natural state practice that followed up (42:17). Finally, the questions (67:04) addressed the topics about the connection between body and mental feelings and how to focus only into the mental for the practice of settling the mind; reincarnation and Christianity; what does it mean “ola so” (I thought it was Spanglish); and how to consider those that seem that go in an opposi

  • 52 Compassion focused on pervasive suffering

    26/09/2011 Duration: 41min

    Dharma talk on Compassion Suffering relates to the “conceit of ‘I am’” – the delusion that there is an “I” that exists outside of conceptual constructs. There is a current trend among some people that one must develop a strong sense of “I am” before one can meditate. However, it is important to develop confidence rather than ego. Confidence and humility along with a sense of gratitude for one’s teachers can be developed simultaneously. Rather than a strong ego, one must have a realistic sense of who you are. A dream sign to develop (regarding lucid dreaming) is the psychological impulse of “I am.” Develop this in your so-called “waking state.” Observe your reaction when you are either blamed or praised, not given enough respect. There is a surge of emotion. When you experience anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, self-loathing, pride, do a “reality check” (or as is done in developing lucid dreaming, a “state check”). Ask “Is there really somebody here or is it just a thought?” Meditation (16:00) on all

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

    24/09/2011 Duration: 01h31min

    Alan starts by explaining the concept of rang dröl (self-liberation or natural liberation) in the context of shamatha practice. He then talks about the 5 obscurations and its antidotes, which are: The five factors of stabilization remove the five obscurations 1. The factor of coarse examination removes the obscurations of laxity and dullness. 2. The factor of precise investigation removes the obscuration of uncertainty. 3. The factor of well-being removes the obscuration of malice. 4. The factor of bliss removes the obscurations of excitation and anxiety 5. The factor of single-pointed attention removes the obscuration of sensual craving. Water similes of the five obscurations 1. Sensual craving is like water mixed with various colors. 2. Malice is like boiling water. 3. Laxity and dullness are like water covered over by moss. 4. Excitation and anxiety are like agitated water whipped by the wind. 5. Uncertainty is like turbid, muddy water. Today we continue with the practice o

  • 50 Compassion focused on the suffering of change

    24/09/2011 Duration: 46min

    Back to Compassion focusing on suffering of change because of the mental affliction of attachment. The internal antidote is samadhi. Alan relates a true story of a hyena and a lion which perfectly illustrates why we should have compassion even for those who apparently have a great life hedonically. In the meditation session we start with ourselves. Meditation starts at 17:10

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

    23/09/2011 Duration: 01h29min

    Alan begins by giving examples of how one could experience the substrate directly before achieving shamatha. As with emptiness and rigpa, such direct experiences of the substrate are veiled by concepts. As such, the first quality of the substrate to strive for is non-conceptuality. Reminder: the core practice is to attend to mental phenomena without distraction, without grasping. Guided meditation (17:55) starting with focusing one’s attention on the visual, the auditory, and the tactile before moving on to the mental. Alan explains the meaning behind snapping his fingers before sitting down. Questions (43:07): Q1) At what stage can vipashyana be integrated with shamatha? Q2) At advanced stages of shamatha, breathing gets less frequent, stopping for periods at a time. What are the 4 immeasurables good for then? Q3) Developing buddhanature according to dzogchen. Q4) What’s the difference between buddhist teachings and buddhism in the highest levels of shamatha? Q5) Can we experience the substrate

  • 48 Compassion focused on blatant suffering

    23/09/2011 Duration: 38min

    The most obvious form of suffering is blatant suffering, which is both physical and mental. Physical suffering involves lack of necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, health, while mental suffering is such that people can be in wonderfully endowed in all the necessities but suffer terribly mentally. The black plague of mental suffering is carried on the fleas of mental concepts - suffering encroaches via concepts. With mindfulness of breathing, one blows concepts and thoughts away with the out-breath and the stages of shamatha involve the progressive diminishing of this conceptual realm. Achieving bodhicitta is a second way of achieving liberation. By cherishing others more than yourself, this too leads to the cessation of mental suffering. Meditation starts at 14:10

  • 47 Mindfulness of breathing, part 3

    22/09/2011 Duration: 01h35min

    “When did the Buddha stop teaching?” Alan launches into a wide ranging discussion loosely revolving around shamatha but focusing upon the authenticity and reliability of the teachings of different Buddhist traditions. After the meditation (48:40) focusing on the sensations at the apertures of the nostrils, he then deals with questions (73:29) about differences between Buddha Nature and the substrate consciousness, their location, how one rests in each and the uniqueness of the Vajrayana method of realization in general. He also refers to some writings dealing with the 5 factors of stabilization and 5 obscurations.

  • 46 Loving kindness, part 3

    22/09/2011 Duration: 37min

    Alan leads a meditation in which one utilizes one’s own experience of loving kindness from a person who embodies such qualities as a means to develop greater loving kindness in oneself. He notes that our limitations in being loving come substantially from the limitations we impose and accept upon ourselves. Meditation starts at 8:07

  • 45 Mindfulness of breathing, part 2

    22/09/2011 Duration: 01h35min

    Afternoon talk Mindfulness of breathing. Cultivating stability of attention while focusing on the rise and fall of the abdomen. Maintaining the same sense of relaxation. Breathe in to arise wakefulness and eliminate dullness. Breathe out to release all distractions. Discussion of counting technique with breathing. One thing you bring to the practice is your substrate consciousness with its stillness. Clarity is an intrinsic quality that gets covered over but not eliminated. Importance of releasing grasping. Meditation starts at 30:43 Questions (55:55) How do you know when medium and subtle excitation are occurring in the settling the mind in its natural state meditation? How about medium and subtle laxity? Is it true that merely attaining shamatha, the body remains fresh after death? What level of realization is needed to be liberated in the bardo of the Dharmata? Why do we need to be in solitary retreat to attain shamatha? Question regarding free will and the self. How does rigpa impact the coars

  • 44 Loving kindness, part 2

    22/09/2011 Duration: 35min

    Morning talk Four immeasurables – Loving Kindness. Why can’t all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness? In the Tibetan prayer it is posed as a rhetorical question because the answer it that they can because the causes of happiness are within each sentient being. Meditation (8:47) Meditate on the causes of happiness and the wish that all sentient beings develop these causes. Includes visualization of specific individuals and sending this wish to them in the form of light.

  • 43 Mindfulness of breathing, part 1

    21/09/2011 Duration: 01h33min

    Alan mentions that he inverted the teachings. The Loving Kindness Immeasurable was given during the morning session. However, the teachings are complementary. Teaching: What is your vision of happiness? How much do you really need? After several weeks of intense practice, people might be re-evaluating their priorities. There is a possibility of dissolving the mind into the substrate. Perhaps you see that you might need long-term retreat of a year or more. But is it worth the risk of two years of practicing? Is it a good investment? What if you don’t achieve shamatha? You have to have your motivation rooted in reality: see how the cultivation of attention contributes to the causes of sanity. You want to live longer so that you can practice dharma more. Long-term retreat has to be at the right time. You cannot just ditch young children for two years. If you find the timing is right, you have to ask “What do I bring to the practice?” For this two-month retreat we have the right conditions for basi

  • 42 Loving kindness, part 1

    21/09/2011 Duration: 33min

    We have begun to see the promise and the obstacles - our minds bare and naked. We have seen some glimmerings of our potential. In the vajrayana path we can take the fruit as the path. Go where you have never been before and invite this into the present actuality through imagination. We are at an important moment in history - a lot changing and going and being destroyed. A lot of possibility will be dharma to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But few teachers can show a full path to liberation - not many out there who know the real path. There is no way to peace, peace is the way. There is no way to freedom, freedom is the way. We come back to the practice of loving kindness focused on one self, again posing these four questions: 1) What would make you truly happy, and provide you with a sense of fulfillment, the realization of your innermost heart's desire? 2) In order to find the fulfillment that you seek, what would you love to receive from the world around you; hedonically, which of co

  • 41 Equanimity, part 2

    20/09/2011 Duration: 01h34min

    As riding a dolphin… Today, as the last session of a 10 day cycle on Shamatha and the 4 Immeasurables, the session was about equanimity conjoined with tonglen. Before jumping into it, Alan touched the topic of how mindfulness of breathing, once the breath is settled in its natural rhythm, can never be boring because the cause itself of boredom is removed with this practice, and it becomes like riding a dolphin. Next, he explained how these three methods to achieve shamatha help or can provide depth for the cultivation of equanimity, going to the substrate and from that perspective carry on with this discursive meditation (36:14). Finally, we had three detailed questions (61:05): one about the measure of releasing during each out-breath when settling the respiration in its natural state; second one was about until which point does the practice of settling the mind in its natural state purify unwholesome deeds, and if it might be needed additional purification practices; the third one was about the Buddhist a

  • 40 Awareness of Awareness, part 4

    19/09/2011 Duration: 31min

    Instruction and meditation: Awareness of awareness (“The Shamata Express”) The most common question/concern asked by current retreatants about this practice is “Am I doing it correctly?” It is simpler than you think. In fact, don’t think. If you have uncertainty, it is a sign that you are doing more than necessary. There’s already the seed of the practice in both the mindfulness of breathing and settling the mind in its natural state. Now we are just peeling away the layers, seeing what is left: awareness. Don’t elaborate or adorn. You are simply not attending to anything else except awareness. You are withdrawing into awareness. It’s not that you are coming into your head, into a cramped space. It’s not that. Awareness has no locus/no location. However much you extend your awareness is where it is. It’s not attending to appearances or locality. It is no place in physical space. You might feel hyper, tense or tight – especially in your chest. Then balance the practice with mindfulness of brea

  • 39 Equanimity, part 1

    17/09/2011 Duration: 01h30min

    Back to meditative cultivations of equanimity, Alan emphasizes maintaining the equilibrium in the face of whatever arises. Alan also talks about the cognitive and affective aspects of equanimity. Meditation starts at 34:46 Questions (59:40): Alan answers questions about the feeling of energies in circulating in the body while practicing, the visions a non-Buddhist can expect in the dying process in reference to the descriptions posed by several texts on the bardos, if the acquired sign can arise if one focuses on a rock and about the conditions and time necessary to achieve shamatha.

  • 38 Awareness of Awareness, part 3

    17/09/2011 Duration: 39min

    Shamatha without a Sign - all discovery no development. With Awareness of Awareness we discover bliss, luminosity and non-conceptuality of the substrate consciousness. Alan discusses the things that are in the way of discovering our natural inner resources: looking outside instead of inside, to many commitments, addiction to hedonic pleasures and mental afflictions. The lion guarding the gate is a sense of self which is just an appearance, a mental construct. Meditation starts at 14:29

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