The Way of Shamatha

Soothing the Body, Calming the Mind, Illuminating Awareness

with B. Alan Wallace

This year The Contemplary is delighted to be collaborating with the Vajrayana Institute in Sydney who will be hosting Alan Wallace, leading a week long non-residential retreat teaching “The Way of Shamatha”.   In contemporary, secular terms shamatha can be described as the practice and achievement of calm abiding attention, or meditative quiescence.  This involves cultivating a deeply relaxed, stable and vigilant state of mind in which the meditator is able to maintain continuity of mindfulness on the object of attention – ultimately leading to extraordinary mental balance and a profound transformation of our attentional capabilities.

During this retreat, participants will explore in theory and practice a range of methods for developing meditative quiescence, or shamatha. We will begin 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 will then explore 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 will engage 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.

*Dzogchen or “Great Perfection” is a tradition of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the natural primordial state of being.

**Padmasambhava, sometimes referred to as Guru Rinpoche was an 8th Century Buddhist master from the Indian subcontinent who was instrumental in facilitating the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet.

***Terma refers to various forms of hidden teachings that have subsequently be discovered or revealed.

If you have any enquiries about this retreat please contact Reyne at: