Monday, December 14, 2009

Chogyma Trungpa - Meditation: The Path of the Buddha

The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa site has put up this two-part recording of Rinpoche teaching at Naropa in 1974. Very cool.

Here are the audio links and the material they posted in support of the lectures.
Meditation: The Path of the Buddha

Boulder, Colorado; Naropa 1974

Talk 1:
Meditation Instruction

Talk 2:

Talk three, entitled State of Mind, will be posted on Saturday, December 19th.

About Meditation: The Path of the Buddha
From a study guide prepared by Carolyn Gimian

In 1974 during the inaugural session of The Naropa Institute, Chögyam Trungpa presented this course on meditation. In addition to attending the class, students participated in meditation sessions throughout the week and attended discussion groups with his assistants. His course became the basis for the introductory meditation class that was given for many years at Naropa to incoming students. The course was held weekly during the same period of time that Rinpoche was teaching The Tibetan Buddhist Path, which will be presented on the Chronicles starting in January 2010.

Summary of Talk One: Meditation Instruction
Original date of the talk: June 12, 1974
Body of talk: 32 min. No Discussion.

In this first talk, Chögyam Trungpa gives a general orientation to meditation in the Buddhist tradition and gives meditation instruction. This is essentially the same basic instruction that he gave throughout the time he was in the United States. It is also virtually identical with the meditation instruction that was the basis of Shambhala Training and is still used extensively, along with other approaches.

Ground: In this course, we are going to learn the technique of meditation as it was presented and recommended by the Buddha himself.

This approach is meditation as a way of life rather than purely as a practice.

In order to get something out of the course, commitment is needed on the part of the students.

We can’t reject ourselves before we know what we are. Meditation allows us to realize and understand ourselves, without either chickening out—rejecting ourselves—or congratulating ourselves. This requires a sort of heroism.

This approach to meditation is based on bhavana, a Sanskrit term that means exertion or discipline. Unless you are willing to discipline yourself through practice, you are in a hopeless situation.

Through practice, you see the colours of your own existence in a very down to earth way.

Chögyam Trungpa speaks about how he has personally gained wisdom and clarity from practicing meditation in this way.

Path: The meaning of shamatha meditation as peace or relaxation.

Meditation is three-fold: shamatha, vipashyana, and shamatha-vipashyana. We begin with shamatha.

Shamatha means the development of mindfulness. We practice mindfulness together or individually when we meditate.

Discovering the meaning of mindfulness is up to you personally.

Meditation is paying attention, or being mindful, of what’s happening. The main thing happening in meditation is your breath, so it’s paying attention to your breath, your breathing.

Breath here is natural breath, natural breathing, which is connected with relaxation and peace.

Shamatha literally means the development of peace. Peace in this case is not related to the politics of war and peace or some trippy, psychedelic experience of peace. In this case, peace is related to non-action.

Peace arises from the application of exertion, or virya in Sanskrit, and patience, or kshanti.

Fruition: Meditation Instruction itself

Posture: Preferable to sit on a cushion on the floor, but you may use a chair if you have leg problems. Sit crosslegged in a comfortable posture. Trying to sit in lotus posture is unnecessary.

Relax, straighten your spine and your neck, not in an extreme fashion but with deliberateness. Think that you are about to propose marriage to someone. Semi-relaxed but deliberate, friendly, seductive posture.

Hands: folded in meditation mudra or placed on your knees in the mind-relaxing posture.

Breath: First listen to your breathing. After a few minutes, settle down and begin to discipline your state of awareness.

When you begin to wander, focus on your breathing but don’t force yourself. Don’t be too uptight. Go along with your breathing: natural breath, not a big deal, very simply. Remember that you’re about to address your lover.

Open your mouth a little bit, as if you’re saying the word “eh.”

Go out with your breath. As your breath goes out and dissolves into space, don’t try to follow it out too far.

Let it be.

Then there’s a gap and your breath comes in automatically. Don’t try to come back. Just let it be.

Thoughts: All kinds of thoughts arise: future plans, conversations with friends, etc. Let them just come through. Don’t label them as bad or good.

You begin to find a sense of openness. Your thoughts are neither threatening nor particularly helpful. It’s like hearing city traffic outside your window. The traffic of your thoughts is just basic chatter that goes on in the universe.

Summary of Talk Two: Shamatha or Abiding in Peace
Original date of the talk: June 17, 1974
Body of talk: 32 min. Overall Length: 72 min.

An in-depth look at shamatha meditation practice. Topics include the individual nature of the Buddhist journey, the meaning of peace, and the understanding of meditation as a natural act that involves simplicity, precision and directness. The questions and answers relate both to this talk and to the meditation instruction given previously.

Ground: Celebrating the lonely journey

In meditation practice, you are working with yourself, by yourself, without entertainment, without feedback or encouragement. This is true whether you practice in a group or by yourself.

You may think that you will get some benefit from the good vibrations that someone else experiences, but you can’t hitchhike onto someone else’s experience.

You are in your own vehicle, called your body, and there’s no room for anyone else. Someone else can tell you that others have done the same thing. That is the only help they can give.

We could view that as severe and difficult or as the basis for heroism and conviction. We can celebrate this lonely journey: that is the heart of meditation.

We might want to ask, “Why meditate?” but first we need to work with the practice in a simple, direct way. Openness and inquisitiveness are very important, but we have to start simply, with the practice itself.

This is like understanding very simply that gold is yellow, metallic, heavy and valuable and that it’s used to make jewelry, rather than considering the social, historical and political implications of gold.

Path: Understanding shamatha or shine (Tibetan) as abiding in peace.

Abiding in peace is the literal meaning of shamatha. This is not peace as opposed to war and it has nothing to do with getting high on peace.

The Buddha was a very eccentric person who actually attained enlightenment, which is almost unbelievable to us. But he actually did it, so we have no choice but to follow that example.

In one of the sutras, the Buddha said that anyone who was practicing shamatha was building a staircase to enlightenment. That requires exact measuring and careful carpentry. We might ask “Staircase to what?” But the “what” doesn’t really matter. Just a staircase. Let us simplify the situation: no promise, no blame.

When you sit and breathe and work with the out breath, you are building the steps. There is enormous precision, enormous subtlety.

Fruition: The deliberateness and directness of meditation practice overcomes subconscious gossip and allows us to actually experience our lives.

Ordinarily, when we try to develop mindfulness, we tell ourselves “I’m going to do it. I’m going to breathe and be aware of breathing. I’m trying to get my mind together. Then, finally, I’m going to focus my attention towards my breath. Then I’m going to watch what’s happening.” Then you question whether you’re doing it right.

Meditation is a one shot deal that does not require all this gossip and preparation. You just do it.

In the samsaric world, we think we have done a lot, but often we haven’t actually done anything at all.

By practicing shamatha in a simple way, simply going along with the practice and working with it, we overcome these exaggerated trips. We begin to appreciate sight, sound, smell, and every experience in the same simple, direct way.

Most of the questions we have about how we’re doing are an attempt to secure the basic ground of ego. Instead, the approach of shamatha is making a statement. It is extremely direct and deliberate.

Audience Question and Answer

Is physical pain an expression of ego?

Is it all right to meditate lying down if you can stay awake?

Can you talk further about following the outbreath? (This includes a wonderful discussion of sensorial literacy)

What is the relationship of skepticism and openness?

You said to approach meditation with deliberateness. Doesn’t that interfere with process?

Is it ok to move and change position in meditation? Is it better to sit and endure the pain?

Suggested Readings

Recommended: “Continuing Your Confusion,” pages 14 to 34, from The Path Is the Goal: A Handbook of Buddhist Meditation.

Alternate: “Recollecting the Present,” pages 66 to 87, from The Path Is the Goal: A Handbook of Buddhist Meditation.

Optional: “The Only Way,” pages 3 to 13, from The Path Is the Goal: A Handbook of Buddhist Meditation.

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