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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
50 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2017 practice Formless Meditation by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche In Dzogchen, we refer to form and formless meditation as meditation with attri- butes and meditation without attributes. It’s very traditional to do meditation with attributes before going into meditation without attributes. The usual style of meditation with attributes is shiné, calm abiding. We use external objects, such as seed syllables. One might, for example, begin by meditating on a white, luminous AH surrounded by a rainbow. Internally, we might focus on a par- ticular part of the body, such as the third eye area. We also use the breath, of course. Sounds are good for people who need less discipline. People who need more discipline need to focus on an external object. One begins with effortful calm abiding, which develops into natural calm abiding and finally into ultimate calm abiding, which is essentially the begin- ning stage of formless meditation. At the effortful stage, one is dealing with all the external problems that dominate us—sounds, discomfort, movement of the thoughts, and so forth. One might also have internal obstacles, such as falling asleep or becoming extremely creative, having many ideas and projects. We regard these two as different kinds of movement of the prana [wind, life force]. When it moves downward, we have dullness. When it moves upward, we have agitation. Working with all of these requires effort. We usually need to practice calm abiding for a long time and follow strict rules, but it all comes down to being alert in the moment and focusing on an object. Gradually you begin to develop stability. You find the calmness more inside you than in the object. Eventually you feel the same kind of calm, even if the object of meditation is removed. The form is less necessary; form is fine, but without it you can still experience stability. That is natural calm-abiding. The mind is clear, sharp and stable, and those characteristics are still there when the objects are removed. It’s like learning to drive. When you first learn to drive, you cannot turn on music or do anything else at all. Gradually, people reach the point where they can drink coffee, put on makeup, brush their hair and so on. That’s natural driving or ultimate driving—so long as you’re not getting into accidents. Once you achieve the ultimate calm abiding, you are abiding in the nature of mind; there’s no sense of observer or observed. You abide in ultimate stillness. When you are finally able to rest there, that’s formless practice. Spring 2004