Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shamatha, Vipasyana and Rigpa

Dannon Flynn
Samatha is perfected in Rigpa, effortlessly
Like · · September 18, 2013 at 4:22am

    Siddha Babananda Is it traditionally still called shamatha when talking about entire effortlessness? I've classified it so that first shamatha, then vipashyana and then further to non-meditation (skt. abhAvanA), such three distinct stages of practice. I suppose non-meditation could also be called calm abiding but as it really is non-abiding, then I think this term is not the best fit.
    September 18, 2013 at 4:36am · Like · 2
    Dannon Flynn Hmmm... good point. I don't know what it is traditionally called All I know is that there is no need to "practice" or "do" samatha when Rigpa is realized, because it is already the case! And it is perfect! No distraction whatsoever.
    September 18, 2013 at 4:39am · Like · 2
    Siddha Babananda What I've read from books which is not that many, shamatha is used in this "getting calm and concentrated" sense. Just a technical remark
    September 18, 2013 at 4:41am · Like · 1
    Dannon Flynn In that sense it is a preparation for vipassana, like you said. The calmer the mind, the more insights one has; the more insights one has, the more calm one's mind will be. In Rigpa, the unconditioned primordial natural mind, one is "calm and concentrated!" It is quite surprising, "Wow, I am totally perfectly calm and concentrated, and I didn't even try!" lol.
    September 18, 2013 at 4:49am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon I'd say śamatha is a practice which is usually relegated to the mind, meaning it's an activity that requires effort (or implies effort i.e. a subtle dualistic grasping) no matter how effortless it may appear. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche has said that when śamatha becomes what he calls 'released śamatha', then that is equivalent to the vipaśyanā of the natural state, which is the non-meditation of Dzogchen associated with rigpa [vidyā].
    September 18, 2013 at 5:02am · Like · 3
    Kyle Dixon This discussion is relevant:

    Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
    [Calm abiding without support and Tregchö] I am taught not to confuse the two. What exactly is the difference in terms of practice?

    Malcolm wrote:
    The former is still mind and the latter is beyond mind.

    Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
    Thanks all. Malcolm-la (or anyone else): Is there really a difference between: Resting the mind one-pointedly using the essential nature itself as a referent and instant freshness, unspoiled by the thoughts of the three times,
    You directly see in actuality by letting be in naturalness? And please don't just say "yes"!

    Another way of asking this question: If calm abiding in the essence as a referent means "beyond concepts" - what is different about the view of trekcho?

    Malcolm wrote:
    If there is a reference it is not beyond concepts.

    Tregchö/mahāmudra/khor 'das dbyer med means a moment of unfabricated awareness [ma bcos pa shes pa skad cig ma] free from references.

    Basically, śamatha will always have an reference, no matter how subtle. In this case, a so called formless śamatha that takes the nature of the mind as an object is still conceptual, focused on its own clarity. As long as it is one sided, i.e. clarity must be sealed with emptiness, or emptiness must be sealed with clarity, it is unbalanced and is not yet true vipaśyāna. It is only when one is integrated with clarity and emptiness without duality, without any need to balance clarity and emptiness that one can say that one has progressed from śamatha to true vipaśyāna. This is the moment of unfabricated awareness referred to in Dzogchen, Mahāmudra and Lamdre. In Lamdre this is called gsal stong zung 'jug, unification of clarity and emptiness. It does not mean one is really unifying clarity and emptiness, it means that one has arrived at the mind's own state without need for modification or conceptualization.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:02am · Like · 5
    Siddha Babananda If calm is in contrast to uneasy and if concentrated is in contrast to being not concentrated (not meaning freedom of both being concentrated or not being concentrated), then no, still insights needed for non-meditation. "I didn't even try", a key description.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:03am · Like
    David Boulter Could I ask a question? How do you know when it is time to move from samatha to vipassana practice? I realise you need to have developed a certain level of concentration, but to what degree?
    September 18, 2013 at 5:07am · Like
    Kyle Dixon There's (i) non-fixation which is resting in the clarity of mind (as a reference point), and then there's (ii) non-fixation resting in the nature of mind (free of a reference point). (i) would be śamatha.

    Dudjom Rinpoche points out the difference between the two:

    "When the mind starts to rest, a slight diminishment of movement and thoughts constitutes a false semblance of stillness. When deep certainty arises that stillness is unborn and movement unceasing, and that stillness and movement are an equal taste, you have begun to meditate correctly."
    September 18, 2013 at 5:09am · Like · 4
    Siddha Babananda "Released shamatha", that is a good description too.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:10am · Like · 1
    Siddha Babananda I was just going to say about the freedom of all kinds of reference points. No place to settle, no need for settling, never distracted.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:13am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon David, Just to clarify real quick; vipaśyanā has been referenced in two different ways so far on this thread, (i) the usual vipaśyanā which is implemented along with śamatha to recognize the mind's nature, and (ii) dharmatā vipaśyanā (i.e. the path in Dzogchen associated with rigpa) which means the mind's nature has been recognized, and one is simply training in that. The second vipaśyanā is really only relevant to Dzogchen, I'm not sure if any other traditions use vipaśyanā in two ways like that.

    But anyways, I'm certain you're inquiring about the traditional form of vipaśyanā as a keen analysis which is paired with śamatha meditation. The point one would want to introduce vipaśyanā probably depends on the instructions of their teacher, but for the most part, śamatha is usually split up into two or three variations. The first is śamatha with an object [śamatha with support], where the meditation is to maintain a relaxed focus of attention on an object. After some time the frequency of distraction will decrease and one can then move to a second variation of the same practice {śamatha without support], which is maintaining a loose and relaxed focus of attention on space.

    I've seen teachers say that it's okay to introduce vipaśyanā once one has cultivated an effortless level of calm abiding in the first variation... and I've seen others say that one should wait until they are proficient at the second variation. In my opinion, whatever works best for you is what is right. The only reason the calm abiding is promoted as a precursor to vipaśyanā, is because the level of distraction decreases the more proficient one's śamatha becomes, and that familiarity means it's easier to execute an effective analytical meditation [vipaśyanā] without losing focus.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:30am · Like · 2
    Kyle Dixon Mipham Rinpoche discussing the difference between śamatha and rigpa... essentially warning not to mistake calm abiding śamatha for the natural state [From his text: A Lamp That Dispels Darkness]:

    "When you rest your attention in naturalness without thinking anything whatsoever and maintain constant mindfulness in that state, you may experience a vacant and blank state of mind which is neutral and indifferent. If no vipaśyanā of decisive knowing is present, this is exactly what the masters call 'ignorance'. It is also called 'undecided' from the point of being unable to express any means of identification, such as 'It is like this!' or 'This is it!' Being unable to say what you are remaining in or thinking of, this state is labelled 'ordinary indifference'. But actually, it is just an ordinary and nonspecific abiding in the state of the all-basis [skt. ālaya, tib. kun gzhi].

    Although nonconceptual wakefulness has to be developed through this method of resting meditation, to lack the wisdom that sees your own nature is not the main part of meditation practice. This is what the 'Aspiration of Samantabhadra' says:

    'The vacant state of not thinking anything
    Is itself the cause of ignorance and confusion.' ...."
    September 18, 2013 at 5:38am · Like · 3
    David Boulter Thanks, Kyle.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:40am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Here's Adeu Rinpoche discussing śamatha and vipaśyanā in the context of Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā:

    "When embarking on meditation practice in the Mahamudra tradition, the meditator is taught three aspects: stillness, occurrence and noticing.

    The cultivation of stillness means to train in cutting off involvement in memories; you disengage from entertaining any thought about what has happened in the past. The same with regard to the future: you are not supposed to construct any plans about the next moment. And in the present, right now, simply and completely let go. Drop everything and settle into nowness. In the Mahamudra tradition, stillness refers to not following thoughts about the past, present or future--not churning out any new thoughts.

    A beginner will notice that totally letting be without any thought involvement does not last that long. Due to the karmic force of the energy currents, new thoughts are continuously formed--thoughts grasping at subject and object, at the pleasant and unpleasant. The activation of such patterns is known as occurrence.

    When the attention is quiet and still, there is a knowing that this is so. When one is involved in thinking about this and that, there is a knowing that this is so. In this context of stillness and thought occurrence, this knowing is called noticing. [...] As you grow more capable, there comes a point when the thought occurrences no longer have such a strong hold on the attention. It becomes easier to arrive back in quietness. Eventually, every time a thought begins to stir, rather than getting caught up in it, you will simply be able to remain, until the force of the thought occurrence weakens and the aware quality grows and strengthens. The dividing line between stillness and occurrence fades away. That is the point at which we can recognize the actual identity of noticing what mind nature really is. In other words, vipashyana can begin. [...]

    In the beginning, a thought vanishes; that is called stillness. Next, a new thought arises; that is called thought occurrence. One notices that these are happening. These three--stillness, thought occurrence and noticing--have to do with becoming increasingly aware of the gap between thoughts. This aware quality grows stronger and stronger, which only happens with training. You cannot artificially increase it. The difference between shamatha and vipashyana, in this context, is when you recognize that which notices and what the awake quality is.

    According to the Dzogchen system, if your shamatha practice is simply training in being absentminded remaining in a neutral, indifferent state without any thought activity whatsoever, this is known as the all-ground. It is simply a way of being free of thought involvement. Moreover, when attention becomes active within the expanse of the all-ground that activity is known as dualistic mind. But when the dividing line between stillness and thought occurrence fades away, and instead the strength of the aware quality is intensified, the awake quality is known as rigpa. Depending on whether one is using the Mahamudra system or the Dzogchen approach, there are different terminologies, but the actual training is essentially the same in both cases."
    September 18, 2013 at 5:50am · Edited · Like · 3
    Kyle Dixon Adeu Rinpoche continued...

    "According to Dzogchen one must identify the ground of liberation, the natural state of rigpa, which is not the same as the ordinary state of mind known as the all-ground. No matter how many thousands of years one trains in the state of the all-ground, there will be absolutely no progress--one will simply arise again in the state of samsara--whereas training in the natural state of mind of rigpa is nothing other than the ground of liberation. There it is important to distinguish the normal, ordinary mind of the all-ground from the natural, ordinary mind that is the ground of liberation, and train accordingly. To put it simply, according to Dzogchen the self-knowing original wakefulness is pointed out in our ordinary state of mind.

    According to Mahamudra, the essence of the meditation practice is found within the ordinary, natural state of mind; it is pointed out as the original, true wakefulness. Having recognized this, one can then proceed to train in it, and as the training deepens, there are certain stages of progress described as the four yogas, each of which is further divided into the three categories of lesser, medium and higher capacity. These are collectively known as the twelve aspects of the four yogas of the path of Mahamudra. Another approach is to apply the structure of the four yogas to each of the yogas, resulting in sixteen aspects. These are equally valid and merely describe the ever-deepening levels of experience and stability in the natural, ordinary mind."


    "The Dzogchen path begins with the actuality of rigpa being pointed out. This is like being shown the beginning of the road. One should not just stand there and wait, but must move forward. Sometimes people misunderstand and think that having received the pointing-out instruction and recognized rigpa in one's experience is enough and that they have achieved all there is to achieve. It is not sufficient however. Recognizing rigpa is only the beginning of the Dzogchen path. We need to follow through, and it requires a lot of perseverence. Giving the pointing-out instruction is like pointing to the ground and saying, 'This is the road to Lhasa.' If you just stand there, you will never get to Lhasa. You need to proceed step by step along the road, putting one foot in front of the other. Similarly having recognized rigpa, you need to train and progress along the path. Of course you could say that the perseverance is effortless, however this definitely does not mean that we should ignore the need for practice.

    What is pointed out according to the mahamudra approach is the true state of original wakefulness as your ordinary mind. Once this has been pointed out to you, it is called mind-essence, and the instruction is, 'Look into mind-essence. Sustain mind-essence. That is the way.' According to the Dzogchen instructions, what is pointed out is called rigpa, which is the intrinsic original wakefulness that is present wihin you. You are then supposed to recognize rigpa and sustain it. There is no real difference between these two teachings. Of course, there are some extra instructions in the two systems. It is like approaching Bodhgaya from the south or the north: both roads lead to the same destination."
    September 18, 2013 at 5:52am · Edited · Like · 4
    Siddha Babananda "When you rest your attention in naturalness without thinking anything whatsoever and maintain constant mindfulness in that state, you may experience a vacant and blank state of mind which is neutral and indifferent. If no vipaśyanā of decisive knowing is present, this is exactly what the masters call 'ignorance'." --- This is being subconscious. Seen many times right after waking up from sleep or when people are chewing food and have an absent stare.
    September 18, 2013 at 5:50am · Like · 1
    Siddha Babananda Kyle, Can you recommend a book on dharmata vipashyana? Buddhism is wonderful, everything is mapped out
    September 18, 2013 at 5:53am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Most books on Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā will discuss the vipaśyanā of the natural state, because that is the path of both systems. Vipaśyanā in the context of those systems (in referencing knowledge of the mind's nature), means that the absence of a truly existent/non-existent mind has been recognized (implying recognition of the absence of selfhood).

    In Tibetan vipaśyanā is lhatong [wyl. lhag mthong]. From wikipedia: "The term [lhag] means 'higher', 'superior', 'greater'; the term [thong] is 'view' or 'to see'. So together, lhagthong may be rendered into English as 'superior seeing', 'great vision' or 'supreme wisdom.' This may be interpreted as a 'superior manner of seeing', and also as 'seeing that which is the essential nature.' Its nature is a lucidity—a clarity of mind." In this case, since it is a wisdom insight [skt. prajñā, tib. shes rab] that is being referenced, vipaśyanā can be used to describe the non-meditation of resting in vidyā [rig pa], but it isn't absolutely necessary... we can just say one is resting in the natural state.

    Dharmatā is referencing the essential nature of something, 'dharma' means phenomena or object etc., and the tā suffix, in this context, means that the essential nature of that phenomena or object is being pointed to. For instance, the dharmatā of water is wetness, but in the case of the teachings, dharmatā is referencing emptiness. Here, emptiness is being discussed in relation to the mind: the nature of mind [skt. cittatā/citta dharmatā, tib. sems nyid] is inseparable clarity and emptiness.

    Malcolm shared a definition of the nature of mind:



    When the perceptions of matter and so on do not appear external to the mind, at that time the mind that definitely abides in the nature [dharmatā] of one's mind is called 'non-dual wisdom'."

    Recognition vs. non-recognition of the nature of mind is what Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā are both predicated on.

    Our 'knowing' capacity is divided three ways in Tibetan depending on whether the nature of mind is recognized or not: the neutral state of knowing is 'shes pa'. However in the case of non-recognition, that 'shes pa' becomes a dualistic and deluded consciousness 'rnam shes' [skt. vijñāna]. In contrast, when recognition of the mind's nature occurs, one's shes pa is no longer 'rnam shes', but becomes 'ye shes' [skt. jñāna, eng. primordial wisdom], due to the fact that it is endowed with the discriminating wisdom insight [skt. prajñā, tib. shes rab] of emptiness. Rig pa [skt. vidyā] is knowledge of ye shes, and is therefore nearly synonymous with shes rab. Rigpa is the basis, path and result in Dzogchen because it becomes more and more refined the more one rests in the vipaśyanā of the natural state.
    September 18, 2013 at 6:59am · Edited · Like · 3
    Kyle Dixon There's a great book called "Stilling The Mind" which is a text by Dudjom Lingpa on śamatha or shiné [tib. zhi gnas] in the contexts of Sutra, Tantra, Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. It's definitely worth checking out. Dudjom Lingpa was a beast of a practitioner.
    September 18, 2013 at 7:23am · Like · 5
    Stian Gudmundsen Høiland Very timely post and comments!
    September 18, 2013 at 7:56am · Like · 1
    Dannon Flynn Thanks everybody! I feel like I had plateaued for a while and now I am progressing again. This thread represents what is tickling me right now.
    September 20, 2013 at 3:14am · Like · 2
    Robert Dominik Kyle Dixon
    September 20, 2013 at 10:01am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Alwayson shared this recently, apparently it's from Malcolm in a discussion they had some time ago regarding śamatha:

    "Whether you are following Dzogchen or Mahamudra, and regardless of your intellectual understanding, your meditation should have, at base, the following characteristics:

    Prthvi -- physical ease
    Sukha -- mental joy
    Ekagraha -- one-pointedness
    Vitarka -- initial engagement
    Vicara -- sustained engagement

    If any of these is missing, you have not even achieved perfect śamatha regardless of whether or not you are using an external object, the breath or even the nature of the mind.
    Even in Dzogchen, the five mental factors I mentioned are key without which you are really not going to make any progress."
    October 1, 2013 at 3:02pm · Like · 6

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