Shamatha: Meditation for Balanced Living

Discover a range of methods for developing meditative quiescence, or shamatha, particularly as a foundation for dzogchen practice.

What You’ll Learn

  • how to practice mindfulness of breathing
  • how to settle the mind in its natural state
  • the practice of “shamatha without signs”
  • how shamatha practice is a foundation for dzogchen and vipashyana practices
  • the theory of shamatha practice
  • how these practices can help you develop a more balanced life

About this Course

During this course you will explore in theory and practice a range of methods for developing meditative quiescence, or shamatha.

The course begins with the practice of mindfulness of breathing as taught by the Buddha, which is an especially effective approach to soothing the body and calming the discursive mind.

You will then explore an approach to shamatha that is particularly pertinent for Dzogchen practice, called “settling the mind in its natural state,” as taught by the nineteenth-century Dzogchen master Lerab Lingpa in his commentary to the Heart Essence of Vimalamitra.

Finally you will engage in the practice of “shamatha without signs” as taught by Padmasambhava in his classic terma Natural Liberation, where he explains how it relates to the realization of rigpa, or pristine awareness.

The achievement of shamatha is widely regarded in the Buddhist tradition as an indispensable foundation for the cultivation of contemplative insight (vipashyana), and this course is designed to provide students with a sufficient theoretical understanding and a basis in experience to enable them to proceed effectively toward this extraordinary state of mental and physical balance.

Lessons

1

Lesson 1: Shamatha and the Search for Happiness

In this first lesson, Alan Wallace gives an introduction to shamatha meditation and relates this to the two types of happiness—that which comes from within, and from the external world.

2

Lesson 2: Balancing the Mind

In this lesson, Alan Wallace discusses how we can balance and quiet the mind, bringing up how to find equilibrium, the importance of our motivation, and the role of the Four Noble Truths.

3

Lesson 3: A Western Perspective on Attention

Alan Wallace introduces us to nineteenth-century psychologist William James, sharing his insights on the significance of attention in our lives and explaining where his theory falls short in regard to Buddhist approaches to training attention.

4

Lesson 4: The Benefits of Mindfulness of Breathing

Alan Wallace discusses the practice and benefits of mindfulness of breathing, showing us its ability to help us cultivate greater freedom and drawing on the Buddha’s teachings on the practice.

5

Lesson 5: Sati and Bhavanga in the Practice of Shamatha

In this lesson we learn more about the meaning of sati, the Pali term for mindfulness, and the role of introspection and bhavanga, the mind’s radiance, in Buddhist teachings on meditation.

6

Lesson 6: Five Hindrances and the Stages of Shamatha

In this lesson we learn more about the five hindrances, or obscurations, to meditation practice and their antidotes, and explore the first four of nine stages to achieving shamatha.

7

Lesson 7: A Dzogchen Master's Shamatha Advice

In this lesson, Alan Wallace guides us through shamatha advice from the great nineteenth-century Dzogchen master Lerab Lingpa.

8

Lesson 8: Shamatha Focused on the Mind

Alan Wallace discusses advanced shamatha practices and the value of attentional vividness, and he further comments on advice for meditation practice from the great Dzogchen masters of the past.

9

Lesson 9: Padmasambhava's Shamatha Advice

In this lesson we learn about shamatha from the teachings of the great eighth-century Dzogchen master Padmasambhava, and are guided through the fifth through ninth stages of shamatha practice.

10

Lesson 10: Achieving Shamatha

In the final lesson for the course, Alan Wallace shares what we can expect in the final stage of our attentional development: the achievement of shamatha.

About the Teacher

B. Alan Wallace
Dynamic lecturer, progressive scholar, and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, B. Alan Wallace, PhD, continually seeks innovative ways to integrate Buddhist contemplative practices with Western science to advance the study of the mind. Dr. Wallace, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970, has taught Buddhist theory and meditation worldwide since 1976. Having devoted 14 years to training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordained by H. H. the Dalai Lama, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of science at Amherst College and a doctorate in religious studies at Stanford. He later studied Dzogchen with Gyatrul Rinpoche, a senior teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. With his unique background, Dr. Wallace brings deep experience and applied skills to the challenge of integrating traditional Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with the modern world. He is the author and translator of several books, including Düdjom Lingpa’s Visions of the Great Perfection (which provided the root text for this course), Stilling the Mind: Shamatha Teachings From Dudjom Linpa’s Vajra EssenceTibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos, and The Attention Revolution.

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