A large crowd of people assembled on August 8, 2006 in order to welcome Shamar Rimpoche to Dhagpo Kagyu Ling. Numerous followers from many different countries came to listen to his three day teaching on “The Four Pillars Of Mindfulness”.
The audience was headed by a large group of monastics. The organizers expressed their thanks to the translators for the English, French, Spanish, German and Czechoslovakian language – all of whom made it possible for the international spiritual community to receive this transmission. Shamar Rimpoche taught in the original language, Tibetan.
The teachings, very dense and demanding, were further elucidated by workshops held in the afternoon, during which the meditation instructions were put directly into practice and practitioners could address their questions to a lama.
The text which Shamar Rimpoche transmitted during the three days is to be found in the Tengyur, the compilation of commentaries on Buddha’s word. It explains how to practice meditation by being mindful of the body, the sensations, the mind and phenomena.
As an introduction, Shamar Rimpoche reminded the audience to be aware of the favorable conditions of modern life, including our extended life spans, thanks to medical research, thereby giving us more time to learn and to study. The Buddha’s teaching is becoming very popular, and it is spread throughout the world, greatly alleviating difficult conditions for people in all kinds of situations.
However, practitioners nowadays run the risk of wasting their opportunities, because of the manifold distractions everyday life situations provide. Pride is an additional obstacle: the belief to have already understood the Dharma and therefore the unwillingness to put it into practice.
In former times ethics and discipline were important values common to all, whereas nowadays personal freedom is the highest value on the scale, and it is left up to the individual to determine what is wholesome behavior and what isn’t. Each individual has to invest a lot of personal effort on the spiritual path.
Shamar Rimpoche then went on to give precise instructions according to the sutra tradition on how to place your mindfulness on the body. He enumerated the thirty-five ways of grasping the idea of a body, not in a physical, biological sense, but in a philosophical sense of identifying the body with a self. The body exists only as the idea which we attach to it – be it one’s own body or the body of others. The body doesn’t exist of its own accord.
Take, for example, the idea of the dimension of a body: A buffalo is huge compared to a mouse, but small compared to an elephant. In other words, whether a buffalo is big or small depends solely on which point of view is taken.
The sutras present the traditional approach to spiritual attainment through the progression of study, reflexion and meditation. The procedure may be compared to a river: The studies form the riverbed which gives the river its direction. Water represents the reflexion, the thorough analysis that is based on the knowledge acquired through studying. Meditation is the ocean into which the river will eventually lead.
This same progression will be applied to all four “pillars”, the body, sensations, mind and phenomena.
To put into practice the instructions of this text, “The Four Pillars Of Mindfulness”, will result in the practitioner’s capacity to eliminate his grasping at a self. This is called the attainment of the fruit. It includes the elimination of the wrong concept of the body being ever-lasting, being pure, being a source of well-being and having an inherent existence. It includes the elimination of attachment towards pleasing sensations and the idea that the body is its provider. And it includes the elimination of any erroneous ideas concerning mind or phenomena.
The attainment of the fruit means that the practitioner develops a profound understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
By placing mindfulness on the body, the truth of suffering is realized: The body is the basis for experiencing pain.
By placing mindfulness on sensations, the truth of the origin of suffering is understood: Sensations are the basis for categorizing experience into pleasant or unpleasant.
By placing mindfulness on the mind, the truth of the cessation of suffering is grasped: The mind is realized as being empty.
Being mindful of phenomena connects the meditator with the truth of the path: What leads to an obscured mind is seen properly, and the workings of antidotes as well.
This is the attainment of freedom from obscurations, and from the conditioned state of existence.
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