Mastering the mind

This is an extract of teachings given by Shamar Rimpoche. This section of the teaching was preceded by Rinpoche’s explanation of the reasons for practice (why we meditate) and the required conditions that we need to get together in order to practice various types of meditation.

The following teachings define the two stages of meditation practice : samatha and vipassana. Rinpoche then goes on to elucidate some of the obstacles that we may encounter on the path of meditation.
The fruit of Dharma practice is known as “cessation”, a state in which all the emotions are completely overcome. This state of cessation is not only something coming to an end, but also something which takes place. On the one hand one experiences a state of wellbeing, joy, and happiness and on the other peace and a calm clarity.

Stabilising and Pacifying the Mind

In order to realise the nature of mind and to stabilise meditative absorption there are two stages that we must go through. The first is the ability to stabilise the mind in a state of calm which is known as the samadhi of shi’nay, in Tibetan, or samatha in Sanskrit. This is sometimes translated as mental pacification. The second stage is to increase this meditative concentration, to expand and develop it. This second aspect, lhakthong or vipassana is often translated as penetrating insight or profound insight.

Samadhi, a Sanskrit word, is translated in Tibetan as tignédzin. In English, we can translate it as meditative absorption or contemplation. When we are accustomed to and have mastered this type of meditation, we will be able to achieve all kinds of miracles and we will have the faculty of clairvoyance. In the Buddha’s time, his disciples practised these meditations a great deal and the resulting accomplishments were widespread amongst them.

Since all phenomena is the projection and play of mind, this means that if we control our minds, we gain mastery over phenomena. By mastering the mind we are able to work with outer phenomena. This is why there are types of meditative absorption relating to water, fire, air and earth – the basic elements which constitute phenomena. The accomplishment and mastery of these samadhis render us capable of controlling the elements. For example, we can transform water into fire. In the Vajrayana, the practice of the Tantras, we meditate on syllables or on mandalas while reciting mantras. We meditate on ourselves as deities and on the world as being the deity’s mandala. Using these meditations we can derive the same capacity to transform and control phenomena. This has nothing to do with magic, because magic is artificial and fabricated. These special abilities are the natural results of meditation when samadhi is stabilised. Since everything is the mind, if we can gain mastery over it, we can then have control over external phenomena.

We can take an example of this from the life stories of Milarepa. Once Milarepa entered into a yak’s horn to illustrate a point to his disciple Rechungpa. Milarepa was able to do this without shrinking his body and without the horn growing any bigger. This was possible because Milarepa had dissolved all dualistic grasping. Smallness and largeness, or any size for that matter, are all produced by duality, i.e. the result of grasping to phenomena as if they were really existing. Once this dualistic grasping is dissolved, “large” and “small” no longer have the same meaning and are no longer so fixed. As long as there is duality, large remains large and small remains small : everything is solidified, and we cannot change anything. But once we have dissolved this grasping or fixation, there are no longer any limits. The relative reality is no longer solidified and anything becomes possible. That is how Rechungpa was able to see Milarepa entering into the horn of the yak. Milarepa did this in order to help Rechungpa understand the mastery of phenomena. This example is used by numerous masters to illustrate this aspect of teaching and notably by Gendun Chöpel. It demonstrates that when the grasping of reality as truly existing ceases, phenomena can then easily be manipulated.

Samadhi and shi’nay >>>