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Spring 8-Week retreat on Shamatha, Vipashyana, and Mahamudra, based upon two texts: Panchen Lozang Chökyi Gyaltsen’s Highway of the Jinas: A Root Text on the Precious Geluk-Kagyü Mahamudra Tradition, and Karma Chagmé’s Naked Awareness: Practical Teachings on the Union. During this year's 8-week retreat Alan will grant the oral transmission and commentary to the teachings on the root text The Highway of the Jinas: A Root Text on the Precious Geluk-Kagyü Mahamudra Tradition and its auto-commen ...
 
This eight-week retreat will focus on stage of generation, shamatha, vipashyana and mahamudra. Participants in this retreat should have a sound understanding of the Sutrayana teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, and have experience in the practices of shamatha, the four applications of mindfulness, and the four immeasurables. Please read the text, A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga, by the great 17th-century master Karma Chagmé (from the chapt ...
 
This eight-week retreat will focus on three of the six transitional processes, namely: the Transitional Process of Living, with teachings on śamatha and vipaśyanā, the Transitional Process of Dreaming, with teachings on dream yoga, and the Transitional Process of Meditation with teachings on Dzogchen meditation. All these teachings will be based on the text The Profound Dharma of The Natural Emergence of the Peaceful and Wrathful from Enlightened Awareness Stage of Completion Instructions on ...
 
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show series
 
Alan started the session with a guided meditation summarising all the practices we have done during this retreat, culminating in Dzogchen non-meditation. It is never too soon to begin the Dzogchen practice and on occasion try to rest in non-doing, non-meditation - says Alan. It is good to sow the seeds for future practice. The rest of the session i…
 
Alan started the session by going directly into meditation, in a practice where we directed our awareness towards the space of our body, the space of our mind and, finally, awareness itself. Following the meditation, Alan did a quick reflection over the theme of strategy for our path, highlighting as before some of the underlying assumptions behind…
 
To introduce the essence of Buddha nature, Alan reads and explains the final parable of the chapter “An Introduction to Parables and Their Meanings” from page 94 to 96 of Naked Awareness. There is an analogy between Buddha mind and our mind: like the essence of gold is immutable, even if you can melt it and mould it into many different forms, simil…
 
Dear Friends, Today the whole group made an historical visit with Alan to the site of potentially the first Contemplative Observatory - a land blessed by Khadro-la where people can achieve shamatha, as she commented. The podcast includes two parts: (1) Alan's summary of the current situation (the sound quality is reasonable, and just the first 3 mi…
 
The next session of the text in this chapter is on guru yoga (Naked Awareness p. 273). In the introduction, Karma Chagmé says “The best way to counteract obstructive forces, avoid pitfalls, and enhance your practice is guru yoga.” The central point of this practice is to realize the indivisibility of your own mind with the mind of the guru, or rigp…
 
Alan begun this morning Dharma talk with one of his favorite parables (Naked Awareness p.93), and it is about a king who asked an illusionist to create an illusion as a means of causing his son to be drawn to Dharma. Alan pointed that just as the prince couldn’t recall the very first moment of falling into that trance – otherwise he would be lucid …
 
Note: this is the only lecture for today, 19th May, because Alan will give a public talk at the University of Pisa. Alan starts with reading “The analogy of seeing a rope as a snake” from “Naked Awareness”, on page 91. Here a man mistook a rope for a poisonous snake and got frightened until a friend showed him that it was just a rope. Alan comments…
 
Alan first reads and discusses two of the parables and commentary in Karma Chagme’s text “Naked Awareness” on page 88 of the orphan son, and page 89 of an old man losing his cord. He comments on realising the nature of one’s own mind right down to the ground – the in-dwelling mind of clear light, Dharmakaya, Buddha-nature. Then Alan comments on the…
 
Alan continues the teaching on the four greats by venturing into Maha Mudita, Great Empathetic Joy. In the Mahayana Buddhist context, reaching the path of accumulation entails the achievement of shamatha and bodhicitta, and then sealing it with insight into emptiness – there is no going back from there. Alan comments that Buddhism is not evangelica…
 
Alan begins by saying that Panchen Rinpoche has made a magnificent job in bringing together these two great traditions of Gelug and Kagyu. Alan then comments that if we are operating from the perspective of a sentient being, it is going to take at least 3 countless eons to achieve awakening. But, if we realise emptiness with the very subtle mind (r…
 
Alan begins the session by talking about the importance of settling the body, speech and mind in their natural states. After that he goes to “An Introduction to a Parable and its Meaning Taught by Siddha Orgyan” about a wish-fulfilling jewel on page 87 of Naked Awareness. The wish-fulfilling jewel is, of course, our own Buddha Nature. He then talks…
 
Tonight we return again to the theme of the path and to the four applications of mindfulness discussed yesterday. This time, Alan gives a presentation of the four application of mindfulness in the context of Mahamudra. First, however, he points out that contrary to some views which present Buddhism as “selfish” - centred only on “me” and “mine”, as…
 
The “four immeasurables” we meditated on last week are common to many Buddhist and non-Buddhist traditions. They can be cultivated while striving for individual liberation. Today, however, we cross the “continental divide” - as Alan calls it - to the “four greats”. Starting with the great compassion, Maha Karuna. It is sometimes referred to as “unb…
 
Alan began the session with the warning that this afternoon’s session would be dense, which prompted laugh from everyone in the room, given that all previous sessions have already been pretty dense! He then elaborated on the three higher trainings (ethics, samadhi and wisdom), saying that in the beginning of the path, the importance of ethics could…
 
Alan began by introducing the practice of Equanimity and by giving a snapshot of his experience the day before at a virtual reality laboratory founded in 1991 in Pisa. Alan then drew a deeply meaningful parallel between the reality we can experience in a lab with such refined instruments and the reality we experience while we are in a lucid dream. …
 
Dear Friends, This is a trimmed version of podcast 79, which includes only Alan's response to the article "Buddhist meditation and cognitive sciences", by Daniel Simpson. Link to the article. · From the article “Buddhist meditation and cognitive sciences”: o Regarding the kinds of dialogues that are promoted by the Mind & Life Institute, anthropolo…
 
Alan starts by explaining that there are two approaches to Mahamudra: the Vajrayana and the Sutrayana. The Vajrayana approach is embedded in the Kagyu tradition, where Mahamudra is placed in the culminating phase of the stage of completion. The assumption is that you’ve already laid a solid foundation in Sutrayana practice – bodhicitta, realization…
 
Alan starts by saying that this retreat has been embedded in the Buddhist teachings. It would be meaningless to teach Mahamudra in a secular way. It’s been wonderful to be totally immersed in a way of viewing reality and a way of practicing and leading our lives that have these three elements, profoundly integrated: the pursuit of happiness, the pu…
 
We started the session with a quick review of the four types of mindfulness, with Alan mentioning that usually, for the untrained mind, there’s not even the capacity to distinguish between stillness and motion, with cognitive fusion with movements of mind occurring as a most common experience. Alan then did a review of the four types of mindfulness…
 
Following the classical sequence of the four immeasurables, Alan today turns to empathetic joy or mudita. He explains that the near enemy of compassion is grief and despair or, expressed in a modern term, depression. During the cultivation of compassion, we attend to a great extent to the evil things in the world. Especially for us, living in the 2…
 
Alan says that in the context of shamatha meditation there is a pyramid with the foundation being the ease, relaxation and stillness whereas at the top of the pyramid there is the clarity, vividness and acuity. The practice of vipashyana is all at the top of the pyramid. In practicing vipashyana we are cultivating the psychological factor of prajna…
 
Alan continues the meditative contemplation of compassion that we may be free of suffering and its causes by describing the aspiration as simple, yet deep and subtle. This is because there are three types of suffering that become deeper and subtler the more we investigate. Firstly, blatant suffering of pain, misery, unhappiness and so on; secondly,…
 
NOTE: only the first 50 seconds come from the back-up recorder, and the quality is not optimal. Apologies for that. Alan begins the session by commenting on the difference between the way phenomena appear and the way they exist. It’s very common when we are pointing the finger at something, at an object or a person, to reify that object or that per…
 
Alan talks today about the second of the four immeasurables, compassion. Like loving kindness, compassion is an aspiration and requires conative intelligence. It is the wish for sentient beings to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering. As such, we can ask ourselves how we’ve been doing so far at eliminating our own suffering? How is it w…
 
In the next section of the text, Panchen Lama is taking us from the limited domain of examining the self and establishing the absence of inherently existent self to the domain of all phenomena. Alan reminds us of a previous reference to the six elements in the analysis of the self. At that time, we examined these six elements individually and colle…
 
“I’m in the mood for weaving” - with these words Alan begins the morning session. And he does weave together - loving kindness, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, Shakespeare, Shantideva and much more… Loving kindness stems from the primal drive of caring. Insofar as the mind rests in its natural state, this flow of caring is unimpeded - says Alan. If …
 
We started the session by going directly to the Panchen Lama’s text, as Alan revised an initial translation he had proposed for an earlier part of the text. After that update, we continued on that section of the text (stanza 29), which served as the basis for the meditation session, which was silent. The instructions were to rest initially in aware…
 
This morning’s session outlined that there are two routes to liberation – one of faith and one of contemplating enquiry. The route we are studying during this retreat is the latter. Alan explained that the near enemy (or false facsimile) of Loving Kindness is self-centred attachment. He guided us to look back and examine the multiple manifestations…
 
We continue to follow the strategy presented by Panchen Rinpoche, examining carefully the way we abide, in contrast to the mode of appearances. As we all know, we appear in very different ways, ever changing - even from day to day, we don't look the same. But in contrast, when we think of our childhood, we think ‘that was me when I was a child’. Or…
 
This morning, Alan integrated all theories and practices we've been doing during these last five weeks. He started by coming back to the pith instructions from Panchen Rinpoche yesterday: examine very closely the way of existing or the way of abiding, the way you appear and the way you apprehend yourself. And then he explained that the way of abidi…
 
Alan begins the session by frontloading the meditation, indicating what sort of inquiry we will find later when we return to the Panchen Lama’s text, by reflecting on three questions: (i) how do we exist?, (ii) how do we appear? and (iii) how do we apprehend ourselves? Before moving on to the actual meditation, Alan made some additional comments ab…
 
Alan reminds us that we are now more than five weeks in retreat and during that time he taught a variety of methods for shamatha, vipashyana and mahamudra. All the teaching he is transmitting are responses to the questions: What do you want? What is your heart’s desire? What will truly bring you happiness? These questions can initiate a dialog with…
 
Alan says we will return to vipashyana territory, based on the current theme of the Panchen Rinpoche’s text on emptiness. Alan describes two technical terms central to Prasangika Madhyamika – the basis of designation (or imputation) and the designated (or imputed) object. He illustrates how each and any of our senses or mental activity can provide …
 
Alan reminds us of Padmasambhava’s pith instruction that makes the path to enlightenment so easy - to observe one’s mind. However, for most people this is not sufficient to progress as we have obscurations, particularly conative obscurations that are difficult to be rid of as we are all so busy, despite that for many of us our survival isn’t depend…
 
As we begin to venture into the next section of Panchen Rinpoche’s text, in this session Alan starts the inquiry into the object of negation. The object of refutation is a self that exists prior to and independent of any conceptual designation. This is connate ignorance, but with prajna, the sharp sword of intelligence, we can apprehend the absence…
 
Alan begins by talking about the fact that he would love to see a revitalization of contemplative inquiry, and he reiterates the idea emphasized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that in Buddhism there is a science of the mind, not just a philosophical or religious tradition. Not everyone who reads science wants to become a scientist, and likewise, th…
 
Before the meditation, Alan comments on the uniqueness of the contemplative practice. He refers again to Kurt Danziger’s article (link available in Retreat Notes), explaining why introspection was largely abandoned by 20th century psychology. According to Alan, eliminating introspection is comparable to astronomers no longer wanting to look at the …
 
In this morning’s teaching Alan elaborates on the notion that rigpa is right where we are looking when observing the mind. But do we see it? We are looking right at it but not seeing it clearly due to the thick layers of obscurations. However, one crucial theme that pervades all levels of observing the mind, from the coarse to the most subtle, is t…
 
Alan begins by recalling Padmasambhava’s pointing out instructions presented earlier, stating that if one is extremely gifted, ripe, that could be sufficient to cut all the way through to rigpa, primordial consciousness. We are now going deep into vipashyana territory. Alan then comments on the practice we did earlier, which engages in the search o…
 
Alan reminds us the pointing instructions of Padmasambhava when he repeatedly said “observe your mind, observe your mind”. For some people that may be sufficient, for others perhaps just observing the mind is sufficient, but for most of us while we observe this ordinary consciousness of the present, that is what he is referring to, saying this is t…
 
Alan starts by giving us a suggestion: for our whole life, from now until our enlightenment, we should evaluate our practice in a eudaimonic way - based on what we brought to the practice, on how we responded, and not based on what happened to us during the practice. An important point is that shamatha and vipashyana practices can be very dry, not …
 
Alan starts remembering the pointing out instructions of Padmasambhava that he read yesterday. In the preface, Padmasambhava says he is pointing out to what he called by many different names: atman, middle way view, emptiness, tathagatagarbha, alaya, perfection of wisdom, and so forth. And then there are two phases: in the first he challenges us - …
 
Alan begins the session on a playful tone, saying he invited a guest speaker to lead this afternoon’s meditation session. After a brief commentary, we then move on to the session, that consisted of Alan reading pointing out instructions to rigpa, by the Lake-Born Vajra, a speech emanation of Padmasambhava. After the meditation, we return to the Pan…
 
Alan starts explaining that throughout times, lamas have given pointing-out instruction on the nature of the mind. With respect to this it is crucial not to conflate the different dimensions of consciousness. During the day we experience different states of mind, like sleeping, dreaming, waking, or being immersed in a conceptual or non-conceptual m…
 
The theme for this session comes from the pith instructions that we’ve recently covered from the Panchen Rinpoche’s text (stanzas 16 to 23), which are prevalent in the Mahamudra lineage. Alan’s prelude to the meditation returns to the question concerning whether the space of the mind is either a sheer absence of appearances or whether it does have …
 
Alan says he is starting with a bang this morning and explains that an Arhat is a foe destroyer of mental afflictions (klesha) in that they have completely annihilated all mental afflictions and all their progeny – the vasana, or mental imprints or seeds. A Jina is beyond that of an Arhat in the next step towards becoming a Buddha because a Jina, (…
 
Alan begins by recalling that Panchen Rinpoche presented two methods for dealing with thoughts. One of the methods that Alan didn’t cover yet in this retreat consists in cutting off thoughts as soon as they come up. Hovering in the immediacy of the present moment, as soon as a thought comes up, just deflect it. One moment and it is gone. And then y…
 
Alan begins the session with a sutta from the Pali Canon - the Suda Sutta or cook discourse, which begins with a foolish cook who didn’t take the king’s preferences into account and highlights the importance of acquiring the sign of the mind. The foolish cook never acquired the “sign” of the king. Alan mentions the movie Avatar in which there was a…
 
Alan introduces the afternoon meditation by making a few comments about space. Our most primal space is the substrate. In dreamless non-lucid sleep, in anaesthesia and at the point of dying the substrate consciousness dissolves into the substrate. Even at this point, however, a sentient being still has consciousness, as opposed to e.g. a glass of w…
 
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