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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 45 According to the Buddhist Maha yana tradition, practitioners need to eradicate certain defile ments and obscurations of the mind in order to realize ultimate truth, or ultimate reality, and the most effective way to achieve this is through the practice of meditation. Generally speaking, two types of meditation are engaged in: shamatha, the “meditation of tranquillity,” and vipashyana, the “meditation of insight.” Through the practice of shamatha, the meditator learns to quiet the mind so that it becomes more focused, resilient, and aware—and therefore less suscep tible to distractions. Vipashyana, on the other hand, is usually conducted as a form of analysis. While the practice of shamatha encourages the mind to be calmer and less disturbed by concep tual thoughts, vipashyana uses these thoughts to gain certain insights, such as the realization that there is no enduring or immutable self. The way that shamatha is usually presented suggests that as the mind becomes more focused, and as discursive thoughts subside, our mind goes through different levels of concentration and absorption. Then, when we engage in vipashyana after having perfected shamatha meditation, our thinking no longer gives rise to conceptual con fusion; instead, it gives rise to various insights. Buddhist meditation is said to be different from the meditation of other traditions because of this vipashyana practice, since other traditions also have techniques of quieting and focusing the mind. It is through vipashyana meditation that we come to realize there is no such thing as an enduring or permanent self and that physical entities have no enduring or permanent essence. Mahamudra: A Tantric Approach Mahamudra practice includes these two tech niques of shamatha and vipashyana, but according to the Mahamudra teachings, it is not important to go through the different levels of concentration and absorption in shamatha medi tation. Instead, it is sufficient that we stabilize the mind. Even if you have not achieved an ultimate state of concentration and have not managed to obtain any level of absorption, if your mind has become more stable and less susceptible to dis tractions, you can proceed with the practice of vipashyana. The Mahamudra practice of vipashyana is actually quite different from the conventional sutric Mahayana approach. In the Mahayana tradition, we normally use the analytical method to understand the lack of essence in all things and to realize that everything in the physical and mental realms is a product of causes and condi tions. Through this vipashyana practice we can gain some conceptual understanding of what emptiness is, and that understanding will lead to a direct experience of emptiness. However, the Mahamudra teachings say that if you focus your mind on the mind itself, you Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche was born in Eastern Tibet in 1955. At age two he was recognized as the ninth incarna- tion of the Traleg line and enthroned as abbot of Thrangu Monastery by the Sixteenth Karmapa. At age four he escaped the Chinese occupation of his homeland and was raised in exile in Sikkim and India, where he was educated by many great masters of all four major Tibetan lineages. In 1980, at age twenty-five, he traveled to Australia, where two years later he founded Kagyu E-Vam Buddhist Institute in Melbourne. While Australia would become his home base, he taught in many other parts of the world, including the United States, where he established the E-Vam Buddhist Institute in upstate New York. Traleg Rinpoche was the author of a number of books that skillfully present Buddhist teachings to Western readers, including Essence of Buddhism, The Practice of Lojong, and Mind at Ease. His life and teachings will continue to penetrate the minds and hearts of many. —Emily Bower