Vows, commitments and modern life: Neglecting to train in mental stabilization (part 1)

Downfalls that obstruct the perfection of mental stabilization

Neglecting to train in mental stabilization. 

The attainment of Tranquil Abiding is necessary to achieve profound realizations.  Therefore, if we fail to make an effort in the following areas we incur a secondary downfall:  (1) To listen to and think about the instructions on tranquil abiding, and (2) To improve our concentration by training in tranquil abiding.

At the end of the day, we have been given perfect methods for attaining enlightenment.  We have been given everything.  All we now need to do is actually do them.  Our main problem is when we do our practices, our mind is filled with distraction.  So while outwardly it appears that we are meditating, inside our mind is wandering everywhere except where it is supposed to be, namely on our practice.  If we can learn to overcome this one problem, progress along the path will come very quickly.

Why is concentration important?  Ultimately, the strength of our concentration determines the extent of our spiritual power.  The more powerful our practice, the more quickly and profoundly we make progress.  It is no exaggeration to say we are fighting a war against our delusions.  It is an all or nothing battle.  Either our delusions defeat us or we defeat our delusions.  There is no middle ground, there is no peace treaty or compromise possible.  Either we exterminate them or they will not stop until we are pinned down into the deepest hell forever.  This may sound like exaggerated rhetoric, but it is not.  Delusions are relentless in their deceptions and they will never stop.  At no point will they ever be satisfied thinking this person is deluded enough, they will keep deceiving us until they drive us literally insane.  The more freedom we give our delusion to reign within our mind, the more they will seize control of us and make us do things which only serve to harm ourself or others.  They are an enemy without remorse.  They have no redeeming qualities.  The only reason why we do not see this or realize it is because they have us so firmly in their grasp that they have convinced us they are our friends.  Against an enemy such as this, we need power to defeat them.  Concentration is our power.

Concentration has two components:  (1) remembering our chosen object of meditation, and (2) realizing its object clearly.  In the beginning, our primary focus should be remembering the object.  To remember the object means to keep it in mind, to maintain the continuum of keeping the focus of our mind on the object of our choice.  The ability to do this is called mindfulness.  Mindfulness simply means remembering our object, or more practically, not forgetting it. 

If we check, there is really only one reason why we forget our objects of meditation.  It is because we think our object of distraction is more important or more interesting than our object of meditation.  To us, the value of our objects of distraction seem evident and seem immediate, whereas the value of our objects of meditation seem abstract and seem to be far off in some uncertain future.  If we want to remember our objects of meditation, we need to reverse this.  Remembering our objects of meditation has to become, for us, the most important thing in our life.  If we can remember our objects of meditation, we will find permanent freedom.  If we allow ourselves to forget them, we will quickly be swept away and become lost forever.  Again, this sounds like hyperbole, but it is not.  The stakes are this high, the choices are this stark. 

So if we want to remember our objects we have to want to remember them because we understand them to be the most important things in our life.  We accomplish this by meditating again and again on the benefits of each meditation we do.  If we check, a very large proportion of all of Geshe-la’s books is simply an explanation of the benefits of the different objects of meditation.  We should not gloss over these and try jump straight to the object of meditation itself.  If we do this, we will quickly become distracted, receive almost no benefit, and then gradually abandon our practice.  If instead, we take the time in the beginning to focus most of our time and attention on contemplating and meditating on the benefits, then we will become very motivated to remember our objects when we are in meditation.  When we meditate on the benefits of a given object of meditation, the most important thing to focus on is not the “what” but rather the “why.”  In other words, just knowing what the benefits are will have little power if we don’t understand why the given object of meditation produces the actual benefit.  If we don’t directly see and understand the connection between the two, our desire to mix our mind with these objects of meditation will be superficial at best and lack the power necessary to remain with them.  When distractions come, we will eagerly go with them.  In particular, we should focus on realizing the benefits of meditating on death, the benefits of bodhichitta, the benefits of the self-generation object and the benefits of the Mahamudra object.  These are our main and most powerful objects of meditation.


3 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Neglecting to train in mental stabilization (part 1)

  1. Wonderful encouragement.Any improvement in our concentration will be a real blessing for us.May we all take this advice to heart.Thank you.xxx

  2. Over time, as our realisations grow and we begin to use our subtle minds more and more, we will come to stabilise our ‘waking state’ into more of a dream-like reality/Dharmakaya dreaming.. Technically, mental stabilization is spoken of from the perspective of formal meditation but it does not limit itself to formal meditation alone.

    From another perspective, for example, Kadam Ryan has previously pointed out that it is beneficial to view this entire life as if it were a dream-like emanation: We can imagine we are actually on retreat right now, absorbed within the indestructible drop at our heart, located within the central channel. We view our entire life as if it were a dream-like projection that we are experiencing on retreat right before we attain enlightenment. It’s like we are currently ‘remembering samsara,’ mindful of it. Whilst on retreat, we are also realising its emptiness and complete unfindability.

    Take this moment. You are aware of your ordinary world. You are absorbed in self-grasping awareness. But your concentration needn’t be.

    When we experience our ordinary ‘samsara,’ we are experiencing the gross wave of appearances arising from the infinitely blissful, very subtle mind.

    We can choose to stabilize our life in a virtuous, happy, peaceful, blissful mode of existence, or an imagined mode of existence like an inherently existent samsara. Imagine a boat which rides the waves quite effortlessly. All of life is this ocean of bliss and emptiness but we imagine it to exist separately, outside our mind.

    Seen from this perspective, all of life is one giant meditation and practice of mental stabilisation. A giant practice of Tranquil abiding. What will be necessary moving forward is to use the subtle minds so that we can stabilize our experience of happier, more peaceful states more and more.

    During a 3 year retreat how many hours will a person actually remain in placement meditation during the sadhana? If a person does 4 sessions per day, every day, and spends and hour in placement that’s 4380 hours in 3 years in placement. Is that realistic? Probably not. The point is that the meditation break is extremely important. If our life is viewed as a meditation all objects in our formal meditation will be understood in a very different way.

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