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Lions Roar : March 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 72 provide flashes of excitement or mystical experiences. In keeping with how the Buddha taught, I would like to present the situa- tion of meditation extremely simply, without metaphysical or philosophical overlay. To benefit from meditation, you need more than just a glimpse. You need to make a commitment to training yourself in medita- tion. Otherwise, there will be a lot of gaps and missing the point, and you will experience unnecessary confusion. So it’s import- ant to stick with the practice and follow the instructions that you receive. It might be best to look at meditation as a way of life. If you stick with the practice and go along with exertion and patience, you will have a chance to realize yourself, to under- stand yourself. Such understanding may be extremely boring. Such understanding may be seeing something you don’t want to see. Nevertheless, we can’t reject ourselves before we know what we are. So I encourage you to be brave, from that point of view. Please don’t chicken out and either reject yourself or congratu- late yourself. Rather, try to work with the techniques and the tradition that is presented to you. The practice of meditation in Buddhism is a very simple tech- nique that was recommended by Lord Buddha himself. I myself have been trained in this technique. Meditation in the Buddhist tradition is connected with the idea of bhavana, a Sanskrit word that refers to spiritual exertion or discipline all together. That is the basic point of meditation: unless you are inspired to disci- pline yourself, it is hopeless. If you only discipline yourself half- way and then give up, that will create congestion and indigestion for yourself. From that point of view, meditation can be very demanding. If you stick with it, however, if you sit regularly and follow this discipline, you will develop understanding and become skilled in the clarity of the practice. Your experiences won’t be dramatic, by any means. The practice will purely lead to discovering your- self, I’m afraid. You won’t see cherubs and gods, heavenly realms, colorful mantras, or yantras—none of those. Meditation is very simple and extremely down to earth, to the extent that it’s irritatingly down to earth. Through the down-to- earth practice of meditation, you can see the colors of your own existence. The earth begins to come back to you rather than that you are getting messages from heaven, so to speak. All together, meditation in Buddhism is extremely severe. I don’t want to convert you to this particular style or approach necessarily. But I think it is worthwhile to apply your exertion to the practice of meditation; that is necessary if you want to learn something from the practice. I have personally learned from this practice. I don’t mean this as a testimonial, particularly, but I feel I should share with you that I have gained wisdom and clarity myself from this practice. I’m giving it to you as I have learned it, as I received this myself. The only difference is that you don’t speak Tibetan. According to the Buddha, meditation is a three-fold pro- cess. The first stage is what is called shamatha. The second pro- cess is vipashyana, and the third is the combination of the two: shamatha–vipashyana. Shamatha, which I am presenting here, means the development of mindfulness. It can be practiced in group situations or individually. The meaning of mindfulness is up to you to discover. This particular approach to meditation practice is paying attention to what is happening. It focuses mainly on your breath, your ordinary breathing. If you’ve been running and then you stop and sit down, the first thing you do is to try to regain your breath. At that point, you pay attention to your breathing. Or if you are doing things and then you want to relax, then you sit down and say “phew.” So breathing plays an important part in ordinary experiences. Breathing is quite natural. It’s a natural situation, part of what we naturally associate with relaxation. Shamatha literally means the “development of peace.” Peace in this case doesn’t mean a state without war. It has nothing to do with politics. We also are not talking about a psychedelic sense of getting off on peace. Here, we are simply talking about peace as non-action. If you are having an intense time with your friends, your parents, or with your business, you might sit down and say “phew!” Peace is that kind of flopping down. But please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. You can’t get this kind of peace instantly. You have to apply exertion and patience. In the practice of meditation, we speak of peace in a very particular, extraordinary, and eccentric sense, as it was taught according to the Buddha. The Buddha was a very eccentric per- son, in that he attained enlightenment, which is extraordinary. Initially, we can’t actually understand what it means that he attained enlightenment—but he did. We are also on that path. We have no choice. In one of the sutras, the Buddha says that those who practice dwelling in peace, or shamatha, are building a staircase toward enlightenment. That is what we are doing in the practice of meditation: con- structing a staircase toward enlightenment. It requires very pre- cise measurement of the boards to build the steps properly. All the angles have to be properly considered, and you have to use the right nails and hammer them in carefully, because this stair- case has to bear the weight of people walking up it. Shamatha practice is building a staircase very deliberately, according to the This teaching is based on the first two talks of a meditation course that Chögyam Trungpa taught to more than five hundred students during the first session of the Naropa Institute in 1974. It was edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian from material for an upcoming book of Trungpa Rinpoche’s teach- ings on mindfulness. © 2012 Diana J. Mukpo. Meditation is very simple and extremely down to earth, to the extent that it’s irritatingly down to earth.