Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:48 am

I attended a weekend teaching recently from a Nyingma teacher on Ju Mipham's Profound Instruction on the View of the Middle Way. The shamatha that was taught was shamatha on a non-referential object, i.e., the mind. I have had shamatha teachings before from a number of Tibetan teachers in which nine stages are enumerated. This teacher mentioned an enumeration in five stages (a grouping of nine stages into five), but could not give me a specific scriptural reference for this. I thought, perhaps, this might be a good place to ask those here if anyone has ever encountered such a grouping, and in what text? Any feedback would be very much appreciated.
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:06 am

What are the five stages?
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:21 am

maybay wrote:What are the five stages?


I did not get what they were; only a passing reference to them. So far, I've had no luck finding any reference to five mental abidings.
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:28 am

I blame the translator.
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:09 pm

No, one can't blame the translator. I have had several email exchanges since and there is no mistranslation going on. What I have learned since is that in the Nyingma tradition, there are nine yanas or vehicles, the first of which is the shravakayana. The nine stages of shamatha are listed as part of this vehicle. http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Shravaka_yana
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:23 pm

There are 5 obstacles to mental abiding. Maybe that's what he meant.
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:25 pm

Or the five paths (accumulation, application, seeing, meditation, non-meditation).
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby pueraeternus » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:20 pm

It is most likely the method of abandoning the five faults by means of the eight antidotes.

In Tibetan shamatha practice, there are usually 2 methods employed:
1. Abandoning the five faults by means of the eight antidotes, as taught in Maitreya's Madhyantavibhanga
2. Nine mental abidings as taught in Asanga's Sravakabhumi and Abhidharmasamuccaya.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Thu Mar 08, 2012 7:38 pm

Sounds Nyingma-like enough: Avoid creating expectations about some sort of progress and instead focus on removing faults.
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby manjusri » Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:01 pm

No, there is no misconstruing; he was not talking about the five faults or the five paths.

Here is an email reply by him to me:

Asanga taught very clearly on the nine stages, this is true. However, they are also found in the source texts of the Buddha's Canon. The five stages are there, of course, as well. The main thing is whether any of the canon or commentary treatises are there? The 9 stages are specifically in the shamatha instructions for the shravaka. Also, I recall that Mipham Rinpoche's Gateway to Knowledge does mention some aspects of these stages in the meditative concentration section. That text has been translated.


So, maybe I'm running into a dead end here?
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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby pueraeternus » Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:00 am

manjusri wrote:No, there is no misconstruing; he was not talking about the five faults or the five paths.

Here is an email reply by him to me:

Asanga taught very clearly on the nine stages, this is true. However, they are also found in the source texts of the Buddha's Canon. The five stages are there, of course, as well. The main thing is whether any of the canon or commentary treatises are there? The 9 stages are specifically in the shamatha instructions for the shravaka. Also, I recall that Mipham Rinpoche's Gateway to Knowledge does mention some aspects of these stages in the meditative concentration section. That text has been translated.


So, maybe I'm running into a dead end here?


I am not sure what he meant by "source texts". The only reference I can think of the "five-gate dhyana" mentioned in the Vimalakirtinirdesa. A footnote in Bhikshu Dharmamitra's (Kalavinka) translation of Zhiyi's Six Gates says this (pg 142):

"The “five-gate dhyāna” refers to absorptions based in realization of
impermanence, suffering, emptiness [of inherent existence], absence
of self, and quiescent extinction. In the Mahāyāna, Vimalakīrti’s
instructions on these topics form the basis of what Tiantai doctrine
refers to as the “perfect teaching five-gate dhyāna.”
In the Sutra Spoken by Vimalakīrti, Vimalakīrti is reported by
Mahākatyāyāna to have taken issue with this śrāvaka’s understanding
of these five topics by saying, “Katyāyāna, don’t employ a practice
based in the mind subject to production and extinction to describe
the dharmas of ultimate reality. Katyāyāna, dharmas are ultimately
neither produced nor destroyed. This is the meaning of ‘impermanence.’
The five aggregates, when one completely penetrates through
to their emptiness, are [seen to be] devoid of any arising. This is the
meaning of ‘suffering.’ All dharmas are ultimately devoid of any
[inherent] existence. This is the meaning of ‘emptiness.’ As for ‘self’
and ‘non-self,’ they are non-dual. This is the meaning of ‘non-self.’
Since dharmas are originally not as one perceives them, then they do
not now undergo any cessation. This is the meaning of ‘quiescent cessation.’”
(See 維摩詰所說經 – T14.475.541a.)"
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Shamatha in Five (Not Nine) Stages?

Postby maybay » Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:50 pm

from p117 of Vivid Awareness: The Mind instructions of Khenpo Gangshar

Five Methods of Tranquility Meditation

Instructions on tranquility meditation often present two types of
tranquility meditation: tranquility meditation with and without
support. But if we leave that discussion aside, there are many other
methods as well, among which are the nine methods for resting the
mind. The first few are especially helpful for developing tranquility
meditation, so I will discuss them here.

RESTING AND CONTINUAL RESTING
The first of the nine methods for resting the mind is simply called
resting. Even when there are no thoughts occurring, the mind does
not become blank, like a rock. There is still clarity that knows, but
if you can rest for a short period without many thoughts, clear and
sharp, that is resting. Since we do this meditation for only a short
time, we have the thought of recognizing it-we think, "This is rest-
ing." This is the first method of resting the mind: just resting.
We should repeat this several times, just letting the mind rest. In the
first method, we meditate for a short time over and over again, but we
then need to develop our meditation. To do this, we just prolong it a
bit. When we lengthen the duration of our meditation by just a little
bit , this is what we call the second method, continual resting.

RETRIEVING AND RESTING
If your meditation immediately becomes great and sustained, that is
wonderful, but sometimes that does not happen. Sometimes thoughts
occur while we are meditating. When a thought does occur during
your meditation, you should not get upset about it. You should not
think that you are a terrible meditator or get discouraged in any way.
You should not think that you are not doing it right-that is not at
all necessary. On the other hand, if you follow thoughts that occur
while you are meditating as they go on their merry little way, that
does not work either. You cannot just keep on following the thoughts.
Instead, you need to recognize what is happening. You need to rec-
ognize that you were resting, but then you had a thought and got
distracted. Do not see that distraction as a fault or problem; just go
back to how you were resting before. This is the third step, called re-
trieving and resting: put aside any thought that might have occurred
and go back to your meditation.
Thus we have three different methods: resting, continually resting,
and retrieving and resting. These are good methods to work with
in your tranquility meditation; they will help you to develop stabil-
ity in your meditation. But in meditating like this, we are not really
looking at the essence of the mind. We are primarily working with
stability when we practice tranquility.

TAMING AND PACIFYING
When we do shamatha regularly, sometimes a lot of thoughts will
arise or we will not have much clarity of mind. When this happens,
there are two different remedies: taming and pacifying.
When we have a lot of thoughts that we cannot stop, we need to
think to ourselves, "From the time I was little until now, I have had
millions of thoughts, but they have not helped me in any way." Some-
times our thoughts seem like they are important, but really they are
not-there is no point to them. As the great master Shantideva said:

"For those whose minds are slack and wandering
Are caught between the fangs of the afflictions."

People who have many thoughts also have many afflictions-they are
caught in the maw of the afflictions just as if they were trapped be-
tween the fangs of a carnivorous beast. If this happens, you can look
at all the thoughts and think that they are no good, that they are a
problem. This is the method of taming: when we realize that we lack
control over Our mind, we should think about the faults of excessive
thinking, and that will help to tame our minds.
The next method is pacifying. Pacifying means to think about the
benefits of tranquility meditation. We realize that through the meth-
ods of tranquility meditation we can develop the real deep holding of
samadhi; we will develop clarity and stability. This will be beneficial
for US-we can gain control over our minds. When we reflect on the
benefits of meditation again and again, we get excited and joyous
about our meditation. This will help us to gain some discipline over
our mind. This is the method of pacifying. When we find ourselves
unable to control our minds, we should try practicing these methods
of taming and pacification as a remedy.
These are five of the nine methods of resting the mind. They will
be helpful for you in your meditation, as they will help you develop
stability. This is not a situation where you necessarily have a~y
recognition of the way things are-there may no.t .be mu~h ~lanty.
It is merely resting stably and easily. This is tranqUlli~ m.edltatlon.. It
is on the support of that stability that we can develop mSlg.h.t medlt~­
tion. Insight is meditation that has intelligence. TranqUllity medI-
tation by itself lacks intelligence, which is why it does not work as a
true remedy for the affiictions.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron
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