Meditation Fundamentals

A Teaching by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal

There are two types of meditation: shamata, or single focus, meditation, and vipassana, or analytic, meditation. Shamata meditation does not use thought processes. Vipassana meditation does use some degree of thought in the search for ultimate reality. The ultimate goal is to go beyond ordinary perception. Meditation is not a way to escape the harshness of the world, but a way to see the harshness of the world is a creation of our own mind and then to prevent our mind from creating this nastiness or harshness.

To achieve this, it is necessary to combine the two types of meditation. To make meditation part of your life, you need courage, interest and inspiration. This will come when you understand the benefits.


Shamata meditation helps us realize when we are getting angry. We learn to see the prime cause of anger arising, and we learn how to stop that. We become fully aware of the consequences of our actions before we engage in them. This helps us to abstain, to refrain from negative actions.

We find it easier to let go of our emotions, to free ourselves from the control emotions have over us. These things happen only when we acquire a good understanding of shamata meditation and gain personal experience after training in shamata meditation.

Finally, we will see that we collect misinformation from the appearance of objects. Our deluded mind affects how objects appear, and when those objects don’t match our expectations, we experience disappointment, frustration and anger.

In our minds, objects are attractive or unattractive. Consequently, we feel attachment, desire, clinging, longing. Or we feel repulsion, aversion, dislike, rejection. Or we feel even more complicated emotions, such as jealousy. Jealousy has anger within it, the quality of wanting and not wanting. It is more complicated than attachment. Outrage, malice and resentment are also complicated emotions.

Attachment is a strong feeling of intimacy. But it also includes self-interest, so attachment is not compassion. As long as self-interest is present, compassion is not.

Shamata meditation

In shamata meditation we withdraw our focus from the external world and its objects. We turn inward. We stop focusing on the five senses. We try to improve the quality of awareness by attaining mental stability and mental clarity. Without stability and clarity we are not meditating. We are simply experiencing a deep calmness.

Nor are we meditating when we experience a sinking sensation. The sinking sensation is a warning we are on our way to sleep. We may experience that as a sort of peace, but afterward, we will return to our normal behavior. Once we learn to meditate, to emphasize stability and clarity, we can attain joy or bliss. We carry that into our post-meditation period when we are dealing with daily life. The more we gain stability and clarity, the more we gain a fresh and alert mind. The longer we remain fresh and alert, the more likely we are to see objects as they really are.

When you meditate:

  1. Bring your mind here.

  2. Stop thinking (as much as you can).

  3. When thoughts arise, don’t suppress them, just let them come and go. Don’t pay attention to them. Don’t listen to the tune of your thoughts. After some practice, you will notice longer periods of time between thoughts. Then you will not only be able to remain in a thoughtless state of mind, you will also be able to keep something in your awareness as an object of meditation.

Finally, there will be no separation between your focus and yourself, no duality. What remains active is your awareness of the object of meditation.

Notes from a teaching by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal in Columbia, South Carolina, January 20, 2001.