Shamata Meditation 3

September 11, 1998

Find in Page:

Geshe la :

The individual can accomplish Shamta meditation through cultivating the nine stages of mental development, which ultimately lead to the highest form of concentration in the total absence of mental distraction and mental dullness. Once the individual reaches the highest form of mental concentration it is completely characterized by mental and physical suppleness that supports the maintenance of single pointed focus as long as the individual wishes to remain in a meditative state, hours and hours and months and months without breaking the meditation session. This highest form of mental concentration has the capacity to sustain the body. According to Buddhist metaphysics there are four things that have the potential to sustain our gross human physical body: Gross material food, sleep, meditation or samadhi, and smells. Meditation helps to slow down the metabolism, the gross physical bodily functions providing energy substance that sustains the body.

The nine stages of mental development are:

  1. Fixing the mind
  2. Fixing the mind with some continuity
  3. Patch-like fixation
  4. Close fixation
  5. Subduing
  6. Pacifying
  7. Fully pacifying
  8. Single pointed
  9. Meditative equipoise

The first and second stages of mental development are dependent on the power of listening to meditation instruction. The third one is dependent on recollection or mindfulness. The fourth and fifth are dependent on familiarization. The sixth and seventh are dependent on the power of vigilance. The eighth and ninth are totally dependent on further practice or pursuing constant meditation.

During the first stages of mental development the meditator has more problems with gross mental distractions. Gross mental distractions and agitations disturb their focus on the objects of meditation and therefore the time of fixation lasts a much shorter time than the time of mental wandering after thoughts, external situations, any objects of the five senses, or entertaining fantasies.

During these first two stages of mental development the meditator needs tremendous conscious effort to bring the mind to be more focused on the object of meditation, not allowing the mind follow after thoughts of meditation. The mind immediately follows after thoughts as soon as the meditator loses his or her conscious effort.

Once the meditator is able to fix his focus on the object of meditation a little longer then the meditator gains a fresh sense of calmness and inner relaxation. Because of this feeling of inner relaxation there is a danger of either falling into sleep, losing the alertness of mind, or the mind enters a state of blankness or numbness.

During the third and fourth stages of mental development the meditator has more problems with gross mental drowsiness because the meditator loses the alertness of mind very frequently. He or she must be sure to reinforce the freshness or clarity of mind, not to allow the mind to be influenced by gross mental drowsiness, which destroys the alertness of mind. The gross mental agitation and gross mental drowsiness no longer exist, they totally disappear. The subtle mental agitation and drowsiness remains and will disturb the meditator from reaching or accomplishing the effortless concentration.

During the fifth stage of mental development the meditator will have more problems of the subtle mental agitation. The meditator might engage in inner wordless chit chat that directly harms the intensity of mental stability or concentration or focus.

During the sixth and seventh stages of mental development the meditator will have more problems of subtle mental drowsiness. The meditator might fail to improve the quality of mental clarity because mind remains in a sinking state although the mind may not loose the objects of meditation at all. At the sixth and seventh stages many meditators confuse subtle mental drowsiness with right meditation not realizing they must further improve the quality of mental clarity. If the meditator confuses the subtle mental drowsiness with right meditation then the meditator is totally stuck there no longer able to improve meditation in order to reach the highest form of concentration. The highest form of concentration is characterized by physical and mental suppleness, which are essential for the successful practice of Vipassana meditation.

During the eighth stage of mental development, single pointed meditation, the meditator does not have all the five faults, the application of mindfulness and vigilance is no longer needed. But it still requires some degree of conscious effort to maintain mental stableness and mental clarity until one reaches effortless concentration. As soon as the meditation becomes effortless in terms of fixation on the object of meditation the meditator will gain enormous inner relief and a perfect sense of tranquility providing a tremendous mental joy or sense of joy or suppleness. This mental joy or suppleness provides the means to pacify the gross energy movements especially the gross wind or air movements in the physical body. Because of this the subtle energy and subtle air freely move and circulates in every part of the body without the influence of the gross energy movements. In this way, the meditator not only experiences inner mental joy but also physical suppleness making the body totally serviceable in every single virtuous deed or action.

Once the meditator accomplishes this effortless meditation there is no doubt that the accomplishment of vipissana meditation will occur in time without any difficulties. When the meditator is able to combine vipassana and shamata mutually assisting each other then the meditator is said to have reached the second path called the path of preparation or the path of linking. This is immediate or direct cause to experience direct or naked emptiness, which is the third path, the path of meditation. In the path of meditation the meditator sees things and objects as they are, not as they appear to our ordinary deluded mind. This profound realization directly helps the meditator to eliminate all kinds of gross delusions or kleshas such as attachment, anger, and anxiety.

From the second path, the path of preparation, the meditator moves from moment of meditation to moment of meditation. They continue gaining higher and higher and deeper and deeper realization until they reach the perfect Buddha state.

Student :: In sitting practice the object of meditation is usually the breath. What do you use as the object of meditation in movement such as when driving down the street?

Geshe la : If you are driving down the street you can focus on the road without mental tension, excitement, or depression then this is also meditation. But in many cases when we are driving down the street, although we are focusing on road
street our mind is filled with high mental tension or excitement. This cannot be a meditation.

Student :: Geshe La, how can the meditator distinguish between subtle mental drowsiness and right meditation?

Geshe la : Subtle mental drowsiness is very similar to right meditation. When we discuss right meditation we are referring to a single pointed state of mind. This is characterized by some degrees of mental stability and mental clarity. The subtle drowsiness also has some kind of quality of stability as well as clarity but there is no intensity of clarity at all! If we confuse subtle drowsiness with right meditation, meaning if we fail to see that there is no intensity of clarity, although there is some kind of clarity then we are not able to distinguish subtle mental drowsiness from right meditation and the meditator, fully satisfied with that state of meditative mind will not work to improve and intensify the quality of mental clarity.

Student ::: My question is in two parts. First, it seems to me that taking away our projections is a step towards seeing things as they are. Is this true? Second, are attachments a type of projection?

Geshe la : Yes, it is true but we really do not know how to take away our projections if we fail to see the way we are projecting on reality because we continuously assume that we are not projecting on reality. It is difficult to admit that you are. Once we are able to see the way we are projecting on reality, then we are able to remove our projections. Attachment is of course a type of projection. We become attached to things, objects and people based on our projections because we project certain qualities on them in fact, those qualities don't exist from the side of the object. Therefore, our attachment causes frustrations, disappointment, and anger when the quality that we projected on the object is no longer there. When we are projecting on things and objects we always go beyond the reality.

Student :: Geshe la, you mentioned that according to Buddhist metaphysics one of the four things that have potential to sustain our gross human physical body is 'smells'. I can understand sleep, material food and meditation, but could you explain how 'smells' sustain our gross human body?

Geshe la : It is a bit difficult to understand. A person who spends most of his time cooking in the kitchen does not eat that food. They don't need that much because the smells sustain them and they feel somewhat full. But they can gain weight and have a big belly! Many of the hunger ghosts and all of the bardo beings live on smells.

Student :: Geshe la, in response to my question on projections you mentioned "the way we project', that leads me to believe either we all have a unique way of projecting or there is a defined way in Buddhist thought as to how we all do this. What does that mean?

Geshe la : Yes, we all have a common way of projecting regardless of who we are human beings, devas, animals, whatever. This way of projecting is totally rooted in ignorance. Every being is born with this ignorance and there is no way to overcome it until the being fully realizes emptiness. There are also individual ways of projecting depending upon our karmic imprints from previous lives.

Student :: Geshe la, in the text "Calming the Mind" Gen Lamrimpa mentions that 'Mind' could be the object of meditation. "If you direct your mind toward the mind, all you end up with is clarity." This sounds like a wonderful idea, but wouldn't the meditator need some experience of mind in order to utilize it as an object of meditation?

Geshe la : Of course! Yes, the meditator needs some experience of mind. Only then can one use one's mind as the object of one's meditation otherwise it is something like trying to shoot an arrow in the darkness.



top of page

LinkExchange Member

[an error occurred while processing this directive]