The Way of Shamatha: Soothing the Body, Settling the Mind and Illuminating Awareness

During the retreat we explored in theory and practice a range of methods for developing meditative quiescence, or shamatha. We began with the practice of mindfulness of the breathing as taught by the Buddha, which is an especially effective approach to soothing the body and calming the discursive mind. We then explored an approach to shamatha that is particularly pertinent for Dzogchen practice, called ‘settling the mind in its natural state’, as taught by the nineteenth-century Dzogchen master Lerab Lingpa in his commentary to the ‘Heart Essence of Vimalamitra’. Finally we engaged in the practice of “shamatha without signs” as taught by Padmasambhava in his classic terma Natural Liberation. Although this subtle practice is taught explicitly as a means of achieving shamatha, Padmasambhava comments that it may even result in a realization of rigpa, or pristine awareness. The achievement of shamatha is widely regarded in the Buddhist tradition as an indispensable foundation for the cultivation of contemplative insight (vipashyana), and this retreat is designed to provide students with a sufficient theoretical understanding and a basis in experience to enable them to proceed effectively toward this extraordinary state of mental and physical balance.

The retreat took place on the 23rd – 30th June 2016 in Samye Ling, Scotland

The retreat was filmed by Wisdom Publications and is available as an online course