Saturday, April 04, 2009

Elephant Journal - How to Meditate: The Dathun Letter, via Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Elephant Journal (a phenomenal Buddhist blog, if your aren't already reading it) posted this cool bit of Buddhist history in which Shambhala founder Chögyam Trungpa introduced the dathün, a month-long meditation period.

Here are a few excerpts (to me, the last three paragraphs here are crucial, and often misunderstood by many people who meditate to "escape" their suffering, rather than move through and transcend it).

How to Meditate: The Dathun Letter, via Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

In 1973, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa introduced a month- long period of meditation called dathün, which he recommended to all of his students. This intensive meditation practice retreat, where even meals are taken simply, in silence, is to this day a fundamental part of the Shambhala Buddhist path.~ Carolyn Gimian.

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The approach to that is actually no approach. Reduce everything to thought level rather than to concepts. Usually, if you have mental chatter, you call it your thoughts. But if you have deeply involved emotional chatter, you give it special prestige. You think those thoughts deserve the special privilege of being called emotion. Somehow, in the realm of actual mind, things don’t work that way. It’s just thinking: thinking you’re horny, thinking you’re angry. As far as shamatha practice is concerned, your thoughts are no longer regarded as V.I.P.s while you meditate. You think, you sit; you think, you sit; you think, you sit. You have thoughts, you have thoughts about thoughts. Let it happen that way. Call them thoughts.

Then, a further touch is necessary. Emotional states should not just be acknowledged and pushed off, but actually looked at. During meditation, you may experience being utterly aggressive, angry or lustful, whatever. You don’t just politely say to your emotion, “Hi. Nice seeing you again. You are okay. Goodbye, I want to get back to my breath.” That’s like meeting an old friend who reminds you of the past and rather than stopping to talk, you say, “Excuse me, I have to catch the train to my next appointment.” In the shamatha approach to practice you don’t just sign off. You acknowledge what’s happening, and then you look more closely as well. You don’t give yourself an easy time to escape the embarrassing and unpleasant moments, the self-conscious moments of your life. Such thoughts might arise as memories of the past, the painful experience of the present or painful future prospects. All those things happen: experience them and look at them, and only then do you come back to your breath. This is important.

If you feel that sitting and meditating is a way of avoiding problems, then that is the problem. In fact, most of the problems in life don’t come from being an aggressive or lustful person. The greatest problem is that you want to bottle those things up and put them aside, and you become an expert in deception. That is one of the biggest problems. Meditation practice should uncover any attempts to develop a subtle, sophisticated, deceptive approach.

Read the whole post at Elephant Journal.

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