Shamatha Meditation to Calm Your Mind
The word shamatha (in Sanskrit samatha) means “calmly abiding”, as this meditation helps our mind to become peaceful, stable, clear, aware and harmonious. Shamatha meditation is an effective and gentle way of training the mind to develop inner strength, leading on to clarity and understanding. By regular daily practice the mind gradually becomes calmer. Meditation is a practical matter and can be easily learned. Meditation has been proven to have scientific health benefits which can assist us in our well-being. Increased awareness brings an ability to live mindfully and peacefully, while attaining better focus and concentration.This path from calm to insight was taught by the Buddha himself.
Resolutely train yourself to attain peace. – The Buddha.
Siddhartha, who later became known as the Buddha – or The Enlightened / Awakened One – was a prince who forsook the comforts of a palace to seek enlightenment. His father was ruler of an Indian tribe, the Shakyas, from the warrior caste. After his enlightenment, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life teaching others throughout India and Nepal over 2,500 years ago. He often taught in parables to keep his teachings simple and practical, outlining steps to achieve an awakened state by spiritual seekers. Enlightenment is a state of perfect wisdom, insight into the true nature of reality combined with infinite compassion. Enlightenment is our true nature and our home, but the complexities of human life cause us to forget. Buddha’s teachings are called the “Dharma”. The community of his students is called the “Sangha.”
Steps of the path:
1-Find a proper teacher with virtuous qualities of serenity and compassion,
2-Take the Shamatha meditation class from a qualified teacher,
3-Practice the Shamatha meditation for at least one year until your mind is calm and stabilized,
4-Take a Vipassana (vipashyana) meditation class from a qualified teacher,
5-Practice Vipassana; Integrate Shamatha and Vipassana to reach enlightenment.
It’s highly improper and useless to practice the Vipassana meditaton (special insight, higher perception, clear seeing, awareness, wisdom) without mastering the Shamatha meditation (calm abiding, tranquility, single pointed concentration). An unstable mind cannot perceive wisdom. We can’t build the roof of the house, without building its base first. Those steps were described by countless wise sages and teachers. DivineYu teachings are based the original teachings of the Buddha, revived by Asanga, Nagarjuna, Shantideva, Kamalashila, Serlinga, Atisha and Lama Tsongkapa.
“Knowing that the mind’s afflictions are overcome through penetrating insight suffused with stable calm, you should first seek the peace of calm abiding, which is found in joy and non-attachment for the world.” – Śāntideva
“Without the attainment of calm abiding, special insight will not occur. Therefore make repeated effort to accomplish calm abiding.” – Atisha
In A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, the great Indian teacher, Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana (982–1054) extracted the essence of all 84,000 teachings of the Buddha and organized them into clear steps, known as the lam-rim, or stages of the path to enlightenment.
“By pacifying distractions to wrong objects and correctly analyzing the meaning of reality, please bless me to generate quickly within my mind-stream the unified path of calm abiding and special insight. – Lama Tsongkhapa
Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was a Buddhist scholar who lived in Tibet. He composed Lamrim Chenmo, translated as The Graded Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, one of his greatest works widely studied today by people all over the world. Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings became the basis for the establishment of the Ganden monastery, the Yellow Hat School near Lhasa in Tibet, relocated to India.
Ganden Monastery, means “Joyful, Pure, Virtuous”
Step 1- Find a proper teacher
“One should follow a spiritual teacher who is disciplined, peaceful, serene,
Endowed with special qualities, diligent, rich in scriptural learning,
Highly realized concerning the nature of reality, skilled in speaking,
The embodiment of love, and indefatigable.”
Maitreya, Ornament of Mahāyāna Sūtras, XVII, 10
Step 2- Take the Shamatha meditation class from a qualified teacher
The student at this stage learns about:
a- the conditions necessary for attaining calm-abiding,
b- five obstacles to calm abiding,
c- eight antidotes to five obstacles,
d- the single pointed concentration method of meditation,
e- realizing the nine stages of calm abiding,
f- achieving six powers.
Conditions necessary for calm-abiding:
1- Reside in a safe, clean and quiet space, surrounded with positive friends, receive instructions from a qualified teacher,
2- Abandon afflictive desires,
3- Cultivate contentment,
4- Abandon social distractions.
5 Obstacles to Calm Abiding:
1. Laziness – there are three kinds: (i) procrastination, (ii) pursuing the negative activities, and (iii) discouragement.
2. Forgetting the Instructions. These first two are obstacles in the beginning.
3. Mental Laxity and Agitation. These are obstacles during the actual practice of meditation.
4. Non-application. This occurs when one recognizes the presence of mental laxity or agitation but fails to apply the antidote.
5. Over-application. This occurs when one recognizes the presence of mental laxity or agitation, applies the antidote, and then continues to apply it even when mental laxity or agitation are no longer present. These last two are obstacles to the further development of one’s meditation.
8 Antidotes to 5 Obstacles:
1. Confident faith (antidote for laziness),
2. Aspiration (antidote for laziness),
3. Joyful perseverance (antidote for laziness),
4. Meditative suppleness (antidote for laziness),
5. Attention (antidote for forgetting the instructions),
6. Vigilance (antidote for mental laxity and agitation),
7. Applying the antidote (antidote for non-application),
8. Equanimity in not applying the antidote (antidote for over-application).
Step 3- Practice Shamatha Meditation
The nine stages of calm abiding are accomplished through the six powers:
1. Listening- stage 1: stabilizing the mind within,
2. Contemplation- stage 2: continued stabilization,
3. Attention- stage 3 and 4: re-stabilization and maintaining stabilization,
4. Vigilance- stage 5 and 6: becoming disciplined and pacification,
5. Enthusiasm- stage 7 and 8: complete pacification and one pointed concentration,
6. Familiarity- stage 9: mental equanimity.
The Seven-Point Posture
1- Sit cross-legged, in half-lotus or lotus position,
2- Hands are resting in lap in the mudra of concentration, meditative equanimity,
3- Have a straight back as an arrow,
4- Close the teeth and lips with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth,
5- Lower the chin, the head is tilted slightly forward,
6- Open your eyes a little bit, gazing past the tip of the nose,
7- Widen the shoulders to open the heart center, neither too tense nor too lose.
Your meditation teacher will explain the proper object of your concentration and how to apply anti-dotes to obstacles.
“There are many types of meditative stabilisation, but let us explain calm abiding (shamatha) 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.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Buddhism of Tibet
While anyone can benefit from practicing meditation, according to Atisha, it’s fruitless teaching enlightenment to persons with small, lesser or inferior capacity, who merely want to experience pleasure for themselves and are not ready to lead a virtuous life.
“2. Understand that there are three kinds of persons
Because of their small, middling and supreme capacities.
I shall write clearly distinguishing
Their individual characteristics.
3. Know that those who by whatever means
Seek for themselves no more
Than the pleasures of cyclic existence
Are persons of the least capacity.
4. Those who seek peace for themselves alone,
Turning away from worldly pleasures
And avoiding destructive actions
Are said to be of middling capacity.
5. Those who, through their personal suffering,
Truly want to end completely
All the suffering of others
Are persons of supreme capacity.
6. For those excellent living beings,
Who desire supreme enlightenment,
I shall explain the perfect methods
Taught by the spiritual teachers.”
“The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.”
Revered as an emanation of the three great Bodhisattvas: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajraprani, Lama Tsongkhapa embodied the respective profound qualities of enlightened compassion, wisdom and spiritual strength of all three Beings.
Quotes of the Buddha
“As a mother would protect her only child with her life … cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.”
“Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.”
“Whatever precious jewel there is in the heavenly worlds, there is nothing comparable to one who is Awakened.”
“A disciplined mind brings happiness.”
The author is a certified teacher of the Shamatha Meditation, based on the Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy and has received teachings from a Geshe Tibetan Lama, an uninterrupted authentic lineage of the original Buddha teachings. The Brahmin called the author by spiritual name Drupa (means mountain dwelling nomad in Tibet, one of the names of the first Dalai Lama). The author does not consider herself enlightened, nor that she reached the state of emptiness. Her motivation is simply to share teachings in their original form to help students find peace within. To enrol in the Shamatha Meditation class at DivineYu, please call (514) 999-4018 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
OM MANI PADME OM. May all beings be happy!