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    Modern version of the Eternal Knot by Charles Huttner
A View on Buddhism
Teksty w jezyku polskim     Deutsche Seiten

Quotations on:
Shamatha - Calm Abiding and
Vipassana - Special Insight

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It is said in the Teachings that without taking up the Paramita of Meditative Concentration, it would be impossible to realize the nature of mind. We should think of meditative concentration as the practice that brings stability to our minds, and creates the good conditions to practice unfocused meditation--in other words, resting in the uncontrived natural state.
If we make a quick examination of our own mind, we can see the reason this kind of stability is so crucial. Although physics has observed light to be the fastest traveling phenomenon known to man, actually the speed at which our minds travel is even faster. We can circle the globe in a matter of seconds, and our minds generate doubts, emotions, and conceptual thoughts at a speed that defies that of all other phenomena. Because we lack basic mental stability, conceptual thoughts arise endlessly. So, if our goal is to realize the nature of mind, we first have to learn to still our minds, and free ourselves from distraction. The method for quieting the mind is called "meditative concentration." Once we have gained some initial mind stability, it is even more important that we continue our training so that this stability will increase. Without such stability, it is impossible for us to successfully learn to abide in the uncontrived view.
Anyen Rinpoche, The Union of Dzogchen and Bodhichitta

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

There are many types of meditative stabilisation, but let us explain calm abiding (samatha) here. The nature of calm abiding is the one-pointed abiding on any object without distraction of a mind conjoined with a bliss of physical and mental pliancy. If it is supplemented with taking refuge, it is a Buddhist practice; and if it is supplemented with an aspiration to highest enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, it is a Mahayana practice. Its merits are that, if one has achieved calm abiding, one's mind and body are pervaded by joy and bliss; one can--through the power of its mental and physical pliancy--set the mind on any virtuous object one chooses; and many special qualities such as clairvoyance and emanations are attained.
The Buddhism of Tibet

Calm abiding is a powerful tool to be used in the service of enhancing the force of the wisdom realizing the emptiness of inherent existence so that it can overcome intellectually acquired and innate conceptions of inherent existence. The aim is to undo the ideational process behind afflictive emotions and then to remove even the appearance of inherent existence that prevents Buddhahood.
The details of the process of achieving calm abiding yield a picture of how the human condition is viewed in these traditions. Humans are trapped in a situation of repeated suffering not just by false assent to the seeming solidity of objects but also by a mind that is so mired in the extremes of either being too loose or too tight that attempts at correction push the mind between these two extremes. Also, the very structure of the ordinary mind prevents manifestation of certain chronic psychic problems, such that when this structure is disturbed by attempting to focus it and develop powers of concentration, deeply seated problems appear with greater force and others newly manifest.
Also, the mere fact that mindfulness and introspection need to be developed means that even though at present we have small versions of these, we have little idea of their potential--we are in a state of deprivation, sometimes arrogantly convinced of our wholeness and sometimes disparagingly reluctant to take cognizance of our potential. The system points to attainable states of mind that dramatically enhance the quality of life and that, of themselves, eliminate a host of problems, but whose attainment requires exposure to psychological pressures fraught with danger.
In one way, the systematic layout of stages gives the impression that mere application of the prescribed techniques would yield definite incremental results, but, in another way, examination of the complex techniques prescribed in the process of training yields a far different view of a mind that balks at improvement and enhancement, erects barriers, and places pitfalls in one's path. In such a context, we can appreciate the plethora of techniques employed in the tantric systems to attempt to counteract and undermine these forces. Whether they could be successful is no easy matter to determine; a claim that they definitely are would be superficial and do disservice to the complex vision of the human situation that a system such as that found in Action Tantra evinces.
Jeffrey Hopkins, from Tantric Techniques

Both mindfulness and discriminative alertness are needed in responding to sensory input of the three types--attractive, unattractive and neutral. Once again, in this tradition mindfulness does not mean simply to witness. It is a more discriminative kind of thing. You are asking yourself, "What is my response?" and then actively responding by applying the antidotes to attachment and hostility. The word mindfulness is a little bit different in different contexts. Here, Mindfulness refers to the mental faculty of being able to maintain continuity of awareness of an object. Vigilance is concerned with the quality of mind, watching to see, for example, if the mind is veering off to other objects.
Gen Lamrimpa (Ven. Jampal Tenzin), Calming the Mind: Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on Cultivating Meditative Quiescence

What is undistracted calm abiding? It is meditative absorption free of the six types of distraction. What are these six?
(1) Inherent distraction refers to the eye consciousness and the other four collections of consciousness. Because they are naturally directed outward, they [cause one to] emerge from meditative absorption.
(2) External distraction refers to a mental consciousness that reaches out towards or engages objects.
(3) Internal distraction concerns dullness and agitation, as well as savoring one's meditative absorption.
(4) The distraction of marks occurs when, trusting in meditative absorption, one apprehends marks of it and becomes attached.
(5) Distraction brought about by negative tendencies is when directing the mind involves the apprehending of an ego. This is said to refer to the mental act of pridefully believing oneself to be superior to others, or [simply any mental act] that involves apprehending an "I."
(6) The distraction of directing the mind occurs when one is caught up in the mindset of, and directs the mind in the style of, the Lesser Vehicle.
The undistracted calm abiding that is determined by the elimination of those six is the unique calm abiding of the Great Vehicle. This is a state of one-pointed inner rest, a flawless calm abiding. In it, there is no apprehension of marks, as is the case when inner absorption alone is believed to bring liberation. Neither does it involve the ego apprehension that occurs in the concentrations of non-Buddhists. Further, one does not direct the mind as one would when cultivating the supports for the inferior paths [to liberation]. This is how the wise should understand the calm abiding of the Great Vehicle.
Khenpo Shenga and Ju Mipham, Middle Beyond Extremes: Maitreya's 'Madhyantavibhaga'

In brief, the chief benefit of cultivating calm abiding is stability, and the chief benefit of cultivating special insight is wisdom. According to Lati Rinpoche, the stability attained with calm abiding allows the meditator to achieve other good qualities, such as clairvoyance, and ensures that his or her good qualities do not degenerate. Because the mind is set on an internal object of observation and thereby tamed, calm abiding also renders external sources of harm ineffective. The wisdom attained through special insight is the wisdom necessary for uprooting afflictive emotions, the chief of which is ignorance.
Leah Zahler: Study and Practice of Meditation: Tibetan Interpretations of the Concentrations and Formless Absorptions

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Last updated: May 30, 2009