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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2010 46 Gaylon FerGuson is an acharya (senior teacher) in the shambhala Buddhist community. He has a doc- torate in cultural anthro- pology from stanford and is a faculty member in religious studies and interdisciplinary studies at Naropa University. He is the author of Natural wakefulness: Discovering the wisdom we were Born with. iN The TraDiTioN of the buddhadharma that traveled from ancient india to Tibet (and, more re- cently, to various points west), the two main kinds of meditation practiced are shamatha (peaceful or calm abiding) and vipashyana (insight). These are two dif- ferent but complementary types of training and a doctrinal description of what is completely natural to us: our innate wakefulness. shamatha–vipashyana is yet another name for our original nature, also known as awakened heart, buddhanature, or basic goodness. essentially, the path of meditation involves us- ing spiritual disciplines, or trainings, to help us uncover our innate nature. as sakyong mipham says in his guide to the practice of shamatha–vipa- shyana, Turning the mind Into an ally: “Peaceful abiding describes the mind as it naturally is... The human mind is by nature joyous, calm, and very clear. in shamatha meditation we aren’t creating a peaceful state—we’re letting our mind be as it is to begin with... from a Buddhist point of view, hu- man beings aren’t intrinsically aggressive; we are inherently peaceful. This is sometimes hard to be- lieve.” meditation practice allows us to develop a gradually increasing confidence in this fundamen- tal wisdom and innate compassion. a meditator progresses from a starting point, to the journey itself, and then finally to the result. Traditionally this arc is described as the ground, path, and fruition. The starting point or ground is our naturally awakened buddhanature, which is fundamentally stable (calmly abiding) and at- tuned to reality (insightful). The path begins with calm abiding meditation practice, continues with the cultivation of penetrating insight into reality, and ultimately unites the two, which are indivisibly present from the very beginning. calm abiding meditation develops the mind’s inherent stability, clarity, and strength. we place our attention on the body or the breath, notice when it moves away, and gently return to resting the mind one-pointedly. Gradually, we overcome what suzuki roshi called our “monkey mind,” our habitual patterns of wildly grasping after objects of pleasure. eventually, even subtle obscurations of mental dullness and lethargy dissolve in the pacify- ing coolness and stable clarity of shamatha. shamatha–Vipashyana: it’s our original Nature By Gaylon Ferguson from what arises, saying, “where is all of this self- ishness coming from?” or, “i don’t like this; this isn’t me!” Beginning meditators are often shocked to see their thoughts and impulses so clearly, and they may wonder, “was i always this awful, or is medi- tation making me worse?” No, meditation is not making us worse, but we are seeing more clearly than ever before how we add to our own suffering and the suffering of others. and once we see our many selfish impulses, regular meditation develops the discipline and steady view that support us in not acting out these impulses as they arise. honesty and courage are required to watch this just-as -it-is arising, but with continued practice the difference between the selfish thoughts and the one who views the selfishness becomes more ap- parent. The viewer develops a steadier gaze, and our thoughts, feelings, and sensations are seen to be just ripples on the pond, not the pond itself. we become more intimate with the true nature of this self-reflective water we are always swimming in. more than any other quality, honesty is essential for zazen practice. There is just no point in fooling ourselves about how troubled we are just below our surface politeness, our thin veneer of civilization. when we have developed the intimacy and stabil- ity to stay present with our own mind, we see for ourselves how much help we really need. The next quality necessary for zazen practice is the courage not to turn away, no matter how rough the waves seem, no matter what difficulties appear. finally, patient and devoted effort is required to sit period after period through busy events and com- peting interests. returning to the cushion to count each exhalation, one through ten, lacks the glamour of socializing with friends in interesting places. yet through our patient and devoted effort we will be- come completely intimate with our personhood in the field of awareness, and pass through the dharma gate of zazen into the field of bliss and repose. a dharma heir in the lineage of shunryu suzuki roshi, GraCe sCHIresoN is the founder and head teacher of the empty Nest zen Group in the Central Valley of California. she is author of Zen women: Beyond Tea ladies, iron maidens, and macho masters.