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Lions Roar : March 2006
Taking a Shower and Getting Dressed Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche on shamatha and vipashyana meditation OUR STATE OF MIND is like a wild horse. It contains memories of the past, dreams of the future, and the fickle- ness of the present. We find that to be a problematic situa- tion, and so we practice what is known as meditation. The word meditation has various meanings, as it is re- ferred to in different traditions. According to the Oxford Dictionary, meditation means that you meditate on some- thing. For example, when you are in love, you meditate on your lover. Your lover is so beautiful. He or she is extraor- dinary in lovemaking-moves beautifully, kisses beautifully, and quite possibly smells fantastic! Meditating on those kinds of perceptions just means that you are dwelling on something, occupying yourself with something. In the fundamental sense, Buddhist meditation does not involve meditating on anything. You simply arouse your sense of wakefulness and hold an excellent posture. You hold up your head and shoulders and sit cross-legged. Then very simply, you relate to the basic notion of body, speech, and mind, and you focus your awareness in some way, usually using the breath. You are breathing out and in, and you just experience that breathing very naturally. Your breath is not considered either holy or evil; it is just breath. When thoughts arise, you just look at them and you no- tice "thought." It's not "good thought" or "bad thought." Whether you have a thought of wisdom or a thought of evil, you just look at it and say, "thought." And then you come back to the breath. By doing that you begin to develop the notion of putting the saddle on the horse. Your mind begins to be trained. It becomes less crazy, less drowsy, and more workable at that point. This particular practice of meditation is known as sha- matha, which literally means "dwelling in peace." In this case, peace is not a euphoric or blissful state but simply a basic and down-to-earth situation that results from cutting out hassle and turmoil. We aren't trying to achieve any goal or attain any particular state of being, in either the religious or the secular sense. When we practice in this way, we find that the thoughts that perpetuate neurosis melt or evaporate. Ordinarily we don't pay any attention to our thoughts. We unknowingly cultivate them by acting according to whatever they command. But when we sit down quietly and look at them, without judgment or goal-just look at them-they dissolve by themselves. In shamatha meditation, one's attention span is naturally extended and one's open-mindedness is developed. You be- come more steady and also more cheerful-free from turmoil. That is why it is called "shamatha;' dwelling in peace. So that is the first stage in learning: learning how to learn. That is the first step. First you cut through the basic notion of ego, of holding on to neurosis. Beyond that, there is what is known as vipashyana, which literally means "insight." In this case, insight is seeing things as they are-not adding passion or aggression to them. Now we are beginning to step outside the meditation compound and examine how we re- late to our world. The world that we live in is fabulous. It is utterly workable. We see motorcars going by in the street, buildings standing as they are, trees growing, flowers blooming, rain and snow falling, water flowing, and wind clearing the air. The world we live in is all right, to say the least. We can't complain at all. We should begin to learn how to appreciate this world, this planet on which we live. We should realize that there is no passion, aggression, or ignorance existing in what we see. We begin by developing mindfulness of our steps, as we walk. Then we begin to experience the sacredness of brush - ing our hair and putting on our clothes. Activities such as shopping, answering the telephone, typing, working in a factory, studying in school, dealing with our par- ents or our children, going to a funeral, checking ourselves in at the maternity department of the hospital-whatever we do is sacred. The way we develop that attitude is by seeing things as they are, by paying attention to the energy of the situation, and by not expecting further entertainment from our world. It is a matter of simply being, being natural, and always being mind- ful of everything that takes place in our day-to-day life. This develops naturally from shamatha meditation. Sit- ting meditation is like taking a shower. Vipashyana, or awareness practice, is like drying your body with a towel and then putting on your clothes. So there are two aspects to our journey, to our learning process: there is learning by sitting meditation and learning by life experiences. And there is no problem in joining these two together. It is like having a pair of eyes and then putting on glasses. It is the same thing. . From "Taming the Mind, Riding the Horse" by Chögyam Trungpa, in The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume 2, published by Shambhala Publications. @ 2003 Diana J. Mukpo.