Training the Mind
Rocky Mountain Dharma Center; Red Feather Lakes, Colorado; August 1974
These recordings are from the Shambhala Archives audio and video recovery projects. © 2009 by Diana J. Mukpo. Used here by arrangement with Lady Diana and the Shambhala archives. All rights reserved.
Talk 6: Vipashyana Awareness and Postmeditation
Posted March 16, 2010As with all of these talks, the following notes should not be used as a substitute for listening to the talk, but could be helpful for further study of these teachings.
The relation between shamatha mindfulness and vipashyana awareness:
This sixth and final talk of the Training the Mind seminar is about vipashyana and postmeditation experience, particularlyonthe way to experiencing vipashyana from shamatha practice. The stillness and solidity of shamatha mindfulness practice (which is developed by the four foundations of mindfulness) is necessary. Such tightness gives the practitioner a basis from which to open out. The kindergarten level of mindfulness practice is a workable basis, simply using what we have available on this planet, body, breath, and mind.
The Vidyadhara describes the expansion towards vipashyana practice in postmeditation as continually emerging out of the tightness of sitting practice. Eventually, the practitioner develops a fuzzy boundary between sitting and not sitting.
Vipashyana postmeditation: definition and purpose:
Vipashyana awareness, defined as clear seeing, insight, is practiced in postmeditation in order to prepare the practitioner for the bodhisattva path, to practice the paramitas, and in general for working with others. Such vipashyana awareness practice, he states at the conclusion of the talk, comes from having first worked with ourselves, which is based on sabotaging the background of ego.
Vipashyana postmeditation practice instructions:
In this approach, the instruction for working with awareness in postmeditation begins with a memory of awareness, recollecting the perhaps vague intention to be aware. This brings a sudden glimpse of unconditional awareness, a microsecond short jerk. In the questions and answers, he states [to paraphrase] that just remembering awareness, the inadequacy of that memory, becomes a bridge to unconditionality.
From that short microsecond jerk or glimpse of awareness, the instruction is to not try to possess that short glimpse, or to be inquisitive about it. Trying to capture awareness would lead to artificial awareness based on a self-conscious watcher. That particular experience cant be captured or sustained.
The practice instruction is to disown that short glimpse. So, recollect and disown, and then (to paraphrase) continue with cooking or with whatever you happen to be doing.
The result/frution of such practice
Ground: As described in this seminar and in earlier seminars (such as the Naropa meditation seminar on the Chronicles), we live in a samsaric whirlpool, which is described as the activity of the skandhas (which includes the 8 consciousnesses).
Path: Not only do we live in that whirlpool of samsara, but we manufacture further samsara in the midst of it, such that samsaric chain reactions grow, giving ego something to hang onto. We manufacture our own future in the present of hanging onto neurosis, which is karma, karmic debt.
Fruition: The awareness practice presented here is the way to cut the present moment of planting further seeds of karmic chain reactions. This practice shortens the life of ego.
Further comment: It is impossible to escape the present, karmically created situation. Awareness practice sabotages the continual attempt and process of ego-self-administration.
How to regard various experiences that arise in postmeditation (which is life)
Trungpa Rinpoche notes that various experiences, ups and downs, arise in postmeditation, in particular, to paraphrase 1) experiences of excitement with progress, 2) disappointment at regression, and 3) the sense that nothing at all is going on. The suggested attitude is not to use these as the basis for evaluating ones practice, or to make a big deal out of such experiences, but to just regard them as temporary.
He then briefly introduces what are called the three nyams (temporary experiences) or boons as described in traditional practice texts: 1) pleasure/joy [bliss], 2) Emptiness [nonthought], and 3) clarity/luminosity [luminosity]. The instruction, as with the previous three, is not to regard these as signs of progress, but just as temporary experiences. When one or more of these arise, the instruction is to simply maintain ones practice.
Suggestions for practice
At the very end of the talk, the Vidyadhara encourages students to make a present to themselves of practice, including both daily practice and intensive practice, and to simplify their lives. He recommended longer sitting sessions once per month or once per fortnight in the form of day-long nyinthuns or longer.
In general, these teachings were given to relatively beginning students, with some experience in the practice of mindfulness, who were brave enough to venture up to the land after the 1974 Naropa summer session. Some had recently completed a dathun. It is important to note that such postmeditation instructions were public domain, not reserved exclusively for advanced students.
Study and practice
In the questions and answers, Trungpa Rinpoche speaks of how practice and study complement each other, a theme which is echoed in many other teachings. This talk in particular illustrates the importance of studying Trungpa Rinpoches teachings on the skandhas and eight conscoiusnesses to appreciate his mindfulness and awareness teachings.
The instruction of relating to sudden jerk can also be found in the talk on mindfulness of effort in the 1973 seminary transcripts, which was also folded into the Four Foundations of Mindfulness seminar in Heart of the Buddha and Garuda IV magazine. A discussion of nyams or temporary experiences can be found in the talk on mindfulness of mind in the 1973 seminary transcripts. Similar postmeditation instructions for working with awareness can be found in the book Myth of Freedom (anyone have the page number?) and in the Vipashyana Seminar which can be found in the book Path is the Goal. All of these teachings took place between 1972 and 1974.
Talks four and five
Talks 4 and 5 of this Training the Mind seminar by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche are about Mindfulness of Effort and Mindfulness of Mind, respectively. Comments on the sixth and final talk of the seminar, whose subject is Vipashayana and Postmeditation, will come along in a few days. Although the talks, of course, are richer than these notes, perhaps the notes will be of help and serve as a starting point for further discussion.
Talk four has to do with exertion and discipline in meditation, the ground of which he discusses as (to paraphrase) bringing oneself back to square one, first thought. This recalls the discussion of first thought, simplicity, and the definition of mind (sem/Tibetan chitta/Sanskrit), in the first two talks. To review: mind is defined as that which experiences objects of mind. There is the separation between this and that, mind and objects of mind. The confused tendency is to exaggerate this separation out of hot boredom and insecurity to the point of panic. In that context, the beginning point of meditation is presented as trusting first thought and being willing to relate to first thought, the simplicity of this and that, rather than exaggerating. As we discussed, the simplicity of first thought could include pleasure and pain, awkwardness and openness
Ground: What does it mean to bring oneself back to first thought? How does one do that? One could say that meditation is not about effort but simply relating to things as they are, but Trungpa Rinpoche states that such subtlety, such effortlessness, could only develop through discipline. There is no true spontaneity without discipline, in life or in practice. He makes the point that this honest, primitive approach at the beginning is spontaneity.
Path: Based on that, Trungpa Rinpoche discusses exertion in meditation as becoming acquainted with working hard, and in that process becoming acquainted with blockages to meditation. Becoming acquainted with blockages is not about trying to remove the blockages or attaining enlightenment, which would be a nuisance at this point. The analogy: If you want to go from Fort Collins to Boulder, you cant start out in Boulder.
Fruition: Having become acquainted with blockages, the primitive approach is to remove them; the more sophisticated approach is to take the obstacles as path. Both approaches are necessary. With practice, effort could become effortless. One doesn't put forth that much effort, but one just be open and the reference point comes to you. You acknowledge the effort and go with it. Such development brings freedom from needing to rely too much on the teacher or on receiving too much feedback. It is a lonely journey.
In the questions and answers, he states that such exertion comes from leap. You cant be unless you let go, and you cant let go unless you push yourself, which is exertion. When there is doubt, you have to push yourself. This is not competitiveness or goal orientation just working hard.
Further discussion of this leap and mindfulness of effort as overcoming goal orientation can be found in the talk printed in Heart of the Buddha and the 1973 Seminary transcripts (which are the same talk) and in the Effort talk in the other mindfulness seminar, Techniques of Mindfulness, which is unpublished. Oral instructions related to this are further elaborated in the awareness seminars and other seminars, and are a necessary basis for Trungpa Rinpoches vajrayana oral instructions on the nature of mind.
Many have also commented on how these mindfulness of effort teachings complement Sakyong Mipham Rinpoches discussion of the two kinds of sheshin in Turning the Mind into an Ally, which have to do with the developing subtlety of the practitioners relationship to awareness within mindfulness practice. The terms trenpa and sheshin can also be found in the 1974 Naropa meditation seminar by Trungpa Rinpoche on Chronicles, and are explicated in the notes on that seminar by Carolyn Gimian.
Talk 5, on Mindfulness of Mind, is about how to relate to the totality of mental experiences -- objects of mind -- in meditation and postmeditation. Mindfulness of Mind, in these instructions, is about how to appreciate and enjoy, how to touch, the totality of experiences that arise to mind, including sense perceptions, emotional upsurges, and gaps of clarity.
Ground: simply being present both to emotional upsurges, emotional cloudiness, and experiences of clarity and to the totality of all the different perceptions, thoughts, and experiences that arise. For example, there is a tendency to want to hold onto experiences of clarity and to push away experiences of emotional upsurges. Or one may want to explore the cloudiness of emotional scenarios. How does one practice with that?
Its not about pushing oneself aggressively into some kind of full concentration on a limited object a single emotion or physical sensation -- the intensity of which, he states, tends to create an endless series of watchers. Concentrating with a narrow focus on limited experiences may be found in other, valid approaches to mindfulness taught by other teachers, but not here. It is also not a panoramic approach to experiencing totality (which he discusses in his vipashyana teachings). And getting lost in emotional storylines is also not the point.
Path: Here, there is a sense of touching the totality of experience. As in mindfulness of feeling, there is touch / touch and go, but the object -- the totality of experience is broader, and the mindfulness itself is not a narrow beam but a broad beam broad but still precise. Its experiecing a sense of gentle touch all over the place, all your states of mind. like stroking a kitty-cat, or seeing your toothbrush. You dont get caught in every hair or every bristle, although they are distinct, but one touches the highlights, Mindfulness of mind here, is mind in contrast to the too-focused or concentrated mind.
To paraphrases: Mindfulness of mind is the precision of cognitive mind which touches the highlights of emotions, bodily experience, and breath, simultaneously. Mind, here, is the binding factor which allows such precise experience of all of those as totality. One experiences touch on level of emotions, on sense of gap, on sense of other side of shore as well. The object is total, rather than selective.
Fruition: One could discover nonaggression and precision, actual grounded touch and presence to what is.
Three talks of this "Training the Mind" seminar have now been posted. Discussion related to all three talks is welcome. If you are new to this seminar, you may wish to start with the first talk. Theres plenty of time. Comments and discussion related to contemplating and practicing the teachings given in these talks should be sent to . Although this third talk speaks for itself, as they all do, following is a synopsis.
Synopsis of talk 3:
"Further required attitudes related to meditation and postmeditation practice are presented, going further with the simplicity of purely sitting on the earth, as discussed in talk two. The obstacles to meditation and postmeditation being addressed here include the tendency to reject the experience of ordinary states of body and mind, rejecting ordinary life situations. We struggle with discomfort and seek higher, so-called spiritual experiences. In particular, the attitude that anything good is connected with heaven, anything bad is connected with the sewage system is addressed. The aggression of rejecting ordinary experiences of mind and body, rejecting discomfort and trying to create pleasure, creates (quote from the talk) an enormous chain reaction of echo system, painfully nowhere, completely trapped in the bottom pit of hell.
In this third talk, the Vidyadhara speaks of a sense of survival, a sense of life force . a sense of being. In addition to the simplicity of being on the earth, of being grounded, we also experience liveliness: our heart-beats, body, sense perceptions, temperature. As well, we have our lives and relationships: our environments, families, traffic lights, jobs. Being with the discomfort of these, the ordinariness of these, brings a sense of life, of survival. Rejecting these in favor of higer, calmer, more so-called spiritual states of mind and body drives us crazy, and brings chaos.
It is good to note here that these second foundation of mindfulness teachings are not about the experience of purely physical pleasure and pain alone. They are also about how we work with all our ordinary life situations, the struggles with our families and jobs and friends and schedules, our attitudes of being with these as a sense of being alive, or rejecting them in favor of fantastic so-called spiritual alternatives.
Practice entails not so much preventing chaos, but with discovering that we are already in the midst of such a struggle, already driving ourselves crazy. This is the necessary ground: discovering the pain, wretchedness, foolishness, struggle, that we are already doing. Having done so, the basic attitude is to take such feeling experiences as livelihood.
We are encouraged to stay with the earth, stay with bodily and real-life reference points. Taking struggle, discomfort, and uncertainty as the experience of life/survival, sanity could be discovered in the midst of wisdom-chaos. From the talk: When you begin to sit and meditate, you find there is a lot of chaos, conflict, uncertainty, and also a sense of being a fool. But at the same time, you begin to hear more sound, you begin to see more sight, you begin to feel more body, sense of being ?alive. We are slowly approaching towards the notion of sanity. Slowly and slowly we are approaching toward the notion of sanity. And sanity in this case is having contact with reality.
I'm initiating the discussion by sharing some main points of my understanding of these first two talks, as best as I can put into words, using Trungpa Rinpoche's words liberally. I don't mind being corrected or criticized, but please, in your responses or in your fresh comments on the talks, stick with the teachings (and related teachings, if you like), your experiences related to the talk, and comments or questions about practicing with these teachings. The purpose of my comments is to provide a bridge to discussion. If that doesn't work for you, please just dive right in to discussing the talks.
In the first talk of the Training the Mind seminar, mind (sems, chitta) is defined (as Rinpoche does elsewhere) as "that which experiences a sense of separateness," "That which feels a need for something." Trungpa Rinpoche goes on to describe how exaggerating this potentially simple mode of experiencing is used to "reinforce one's existence, reinforce one's strength," and how constantly looking for reference points out of insecurity and uncertainty manifests as the stupid, confused, aggressive aspect of ego-process.
The problem is not with having simple reference points. The problem is how we exaggerate those reference points out of panic, in the face of separateness and even loneliness.
The practice emphasis here is on simplicity, simply being with the experience of forms, and seeing all experience as experience. Unlike other mindfulness of body teachings, this is not an introspective project which includes body scans, or analyzing pleasurable and painful sensations in the body. The emphasis, rather, is on the simplicity of dualistic experience, the experience of the psychosomatic body, and simply being. Psycho (mind) Somatic (body).
This is not about overcoming psychosomatic experience, as one might find in philosophical approaches to Buddhism. It's about relating to the simplicity of mind-body, mind-form, "experience." It's not about trying to overcome having reference points, as if one could eliminate the basic structure of mind-body. That's a fantasy for philosophers. And it's not about future orientation, trying to create a pleasurable state free of grasping.
Simply sitting and being exposes the suffering of ego-process. One experiences hot boredom, anxiety, wiggliness, panic, grasping at forms, and just places oneself on the earth, simply, in the midst of that. One places one's attention on simply breathing, simply being. Experience could be simple, now, with "no big deals." Placing oneself this way, fantasies could come down to earth. This is not about making war on thoughts.
In general, mindfulness of forms connects with the experience (one could call it the obstacle) of hot boredom, panic, and speed.
Placing one's mind and body simply sees "first thought as best thought," and brings joy, expressed as appreciation. As Trungpa Rinpoche says at the beginning of the second talk, such appreciation and joy is not based on any contrast with unpleasurable feelings, and has nothing to do with building oneself up. It's just clicking in to "first thought best thought," nowness, wholesomeness -- unlike spiritual materialism, which feels hollow.
What is the appreciation? It's the appreciation that "one is a person committed to sitting practice and awareness in everyday life."... "Appreciation of a sense of being..." "Appreciation of a sense of commitment." These themes run all through Trungpa Rinpoche's mindfulness teachings and the 1973 Seminary transcripts as well.
This six-talk seminar entitled Training the Mind took place in August of 1974 on the land, what is now called Shambhala Mountain Center. Many of the students at this seminar had attended one or both of the seminars given at The Naropa Institute that summer, the five-talk meditation seminar (the streaming video of which along with excellent notes by Carolyn Gimian are available on the Chronicles) and the 14-talk Tibetan Buddhist path course. Some of those students, even relatively new ones, had attended a month-long sitting intensive on the land (called a dathun) just prior to this seminar. The relatively more seasoned students were steeped in teachings by Trungpa Rinpoche on the nature and development of ego, spiritual materialism, commitment and path as discussed in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, The Myth of Freedom and at the 1973 Seminary. Trungpa Rinpoche emphasized joining practice with study.
Meditation instructors of that era were strongly encouraged to study the teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness as presented at the 1973 seminary, which were considered to be a key for learning how to practice and instruct mindfulness-awareness meditation. When I was a new student in 1979, these teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness and related teachings on meditation practice (as found in The Path is the Goal, for instance, based on seminars given in March 1974 and September 1974) were the main reference points to understand why and how to practice for Trungpa Rinpoches students.
For the most part, after 1975, Trungpa Rinpoche did not repeat these exact teachings, but asked his students to rely on printed materials, audiotapes, and older students to share and help others access these oral instructions. From the very beginning, gathering with others and listening to recordings of teachings has been an important study approach for students of Trungpa Rinpoche. No one could attend every teaching Trungpa Rinpoche gave, and he made a point of having teachings recorded so that the sangha could study, especially in groups. In that sense, this Chronicles website is not so much an innovation as a continuation of this basic approach to contemplating the teachings and sharing them with others.
Some may be surprised to learn that the preponderance of Trungpa Rinpoches teachings on meditation are concerned with view and motivation rather than technique alone. He did expect us to know what we were doing, and why.
Spoiler alert: You may wish to listen to and contemplate this first talk and make your own outlines or logics before looking at the three-fold logic below. Three-fold logic is one of the main contemplative approaches used by Trungpa Rinpoche to train his students. Students were often encouraged to identify the ground, path, and fruition inherent in his lectures. When preparing to teach, student teachers were instructed to organize their talks according to these principles. Mrs. Gimians notes on the meditation seminar, streamed on the Chronicles site, are an excellent example of this approach.
An article in the practice and education section of the Shambhala website describes the three-fold ground-path-fruition logic in this way: Ground is the basic perspective; Path is how that is practiced; fruition is the realization that comes from that practice, the result of such practice. In this talk, I feel that the fruition is presented in the question and answer section of the talk.
Following is a possible three-fold logic for this first talk. Id like to suggest that you work with your own versions, your own logics. That makes the learning process more personal. We could discuss these if you like, or any other comments or thoughts you may have.
Possible three-fold logic for Talk One
Ground: Nature of mind (sem, chitta) as sense of separateness, that which has an other, the activity of minding. Exaggeration of this experience of separation brings desperation, a sense of hopelessness, feeling entrapped within samsara.. Awareness of this as the working ground is the motive.
Path: The willingness to expose this, the simplicity of abiding with this situation, and with basic dualism.
Fruition: Relating to first thought. Trusting first thought.
The second talk, going further with this understanding, will be about mindfulness of forms; mindfulness of body, which is the first foundation of mindfulness.
Please your send comments and questions to .