Meditation Continued

A Teaching by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal

In meditation, what is most difficult is not getting there, but staying there. Once your consciousness becomes deep, still holding the image of a rose flower, you will see yourself in the rose and the rose in yourself. It is not correct to say you become the rose or the rose becomes you, but that you experience a visual consciousness that you don't interfere with. Your contact is not actually with the rose, but with your mental consciousness.

The rose, being pure and fresh, affects your consciousness at a physical or emotional level. Not only your consciousness but subtle elements of your consciousness come into contact for a deep experience.

Practice brings positive change to our minds

The full force of spiritual practice in day-to-day life will bring changes in your way of thinking and your ways of relating to the physical, material world. In order to gain those positive changes, it's very important to gain a healthy intellectual understanding of the impermanent nature of reality, how reality changes and why it changes, how we contribute to the changes and how we fail to recognize our contributions and accelerate the speed and movement of changes. It is also necessary to understand the empty nature of reality, that things and objects and ourselves are ultimately empty.

Instead, we cling to things and objects being substantial. We insist there is an ultimate reality with one fixed, ultimate resting place. When we see a glass and "glassness" in the glass, we make the glass substantial. Seeing the "glassness" in the glass is our way of seeing the glass as having a substantial reality. We are seeing it from our side, not the side of the object itself.

Most teachers say, "No rush. No hurry. Study and learn. Study and learn." Here we are studying and learning and practicing meditation a little bit, ten to fifteen minutes. But a mere intellectual understanding will not alone bring positive changes. We need to know how to combine our understanding with personal experience. The only way is through the practice of meditation.

Through meditation your intellectual understanding becomes empathetic. Without empathy, you become only a scholar and make your ego a little bigger. An empathetic understanding is necessary; then teaching will bring a positive effect to others and motivation will be pure with no expectations of reward, money, power, or favors.

The teacher's empathetic understanding also results in a special impact on the student. If we are meditating on emptiness, we can study and learn the depth of emptiness by meditating on and sharing an empathetic understanding with one another.

Why do we need this? Emptiness can be explained only somewhat in normal words. Some intellectual understanding can be reached. Beyond that, it is almost impossible to put the final meaning of emptiness into human language and human words.

First, human language is very dualistic. It becomes insufficient and inadequate. Emptiness becomes inexpressible. Only through sharing an empathetic understanding with a teacher or student or friend can we reach a deeper understanding. In order to share and learn this deeper, empathetic understanding, you must have good experience with shamata meditation.

Shamata meditation

Shamata is a single-pointed focus. There is an absence of thoughts and emotions. Nothing happens but single-pointedness. Once subtle analysis takes place in the single-pointed mind, you are shifting from shamata to vipassana meditation.

In vipassana, there is some degree of thought process. If you are focusing on your breath, for example, you are analyzing the rhythm and sensations of breathing in and out and the movement of energy up and down.

However, first you must have a good, personal experience of shamata meditation, why it's important and essential. You cannot perfect vipassana, or insight, meditation without shamata meditation. Without shamata, your spiritual practice is incomplete, and you cannot progress on your spiritual path. Shamata meditation is the root of all the rest, all other meditations and also higher types of Yoga Tantric, which can be very complex and intricate.

Shamata meditation is not difficult to understand. It is a highly trained and alert state of mind. The mind remains alert and unbiased. You have a distinct quality of knowing something without thinking, which means a distinct quality of detecting without thoughts.

Once you combine this with vipassana, you can know an object as it really exists in our reality. Shamata meditation is highly trained, alert, skillful, with a distinct quality or awareness of knowing something without thinking. In order to perfect or reach that state of mind, you must control your mind, stop it from thinking. Without preventing thinking, it is very difficult to get there.

We choose one particular object on which we can focus. What we choose is called the object of meditation. We stop the thinking by completely occupying the mind with the object.

We rest in our awareness. When we are actively thinking about a rose, it seems we are focusing, but that is not complete shamata meditation. It's another form of creating thoughts. If we are holding the image of the rose only through active thinking, the shamata meditation is not complete. If we are actively thinking about the rose, we are creating more thoughts.

Once you reach the stage where the rose is in you and you are in the rose, the rose is no longer outside you, and you are no longer thinking. In shamata meditation you are creating a mind like a mirror, and the object of meditation is a reflection in the mirror. Our sense of duality, one as the perceived, the other as the perceiver, is obliterated, destroyed, gone, disappeared, no longer there. That clearly shows we are no longer thinking. We have reached a resting place and should remain there as possible.

Notes from a teaching by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal in Columbia, South Carolina, August 4, 2001.