The mother of all meditation states and of samadhi

In the recent meditation retreats (Autumn 2016), two points were investigated and experienced with fullness:

  1. Shamatha is the foundation of all meditation practices. It also is the mother-source that produces all subsequent meditative capacities, states, and samdhis. Additionally, it is the seed or germ-potential of enlightenment.
  2. Vipasyana (vipassana) is the result of an established acuity with shamatha, i.e. tranquility or serenity. Vipasyana can then be experienced as distinct from shamatha, yet, is inseparable from it. Equally so, vipasyana requires shamatha (and all that it is) in order to be produced, brought forward, or revealed. In other words,
  • the stability within serenity gives rise to focused attention,
  • the tranquil mind-emotion complex allows the light of awareness and simplicity to be experienced,
  • the sustained experience of equipoise reveals the natural state of equanimity and harmony of the mind-stream.

Each of these statements explains that shamatha is first. Being established, vipasyana (with is pure perception, penetrating insight, clear view, and focused awareness) results.

The importance of shamatha cannot be understated in regards to one’s meditation practice or one’s life. On the cushion or off, shamatha is the capacity of a human being to abide in a state of calm, serenity, or composure, tranquility, equipoise, or steadfastness such that distractions are non-effective to pull one away from stability and focus. On the meditation cushion, shamatha is the foundation for all that will grow from the state of shamatha, including true meditation and the range of samadhi.

Shamatha is the source of patience and peace. It is a state or condition of tranquility and harmony. Shamatha is also the first sustained experience that one can have of self-less-ness. If meditative equipoise and serenity are truly established, then the person-ness, the ego of self-identity, is dismissed or rendered background. Imagine, then, how effective shamatha can be off the meditation cushion and in one’s life?

Spiritual_Path_by_SpiritMountainVipasyana is a result of shamatha. It is the child born from this mother-womb. Like the child given birth, the child already existed within the womb. Similarly, pure perception or luminous perception, acute awareness, and penetrating clarity already are part of human awareness. Meditation makes that which is not consciously known or recognized to be so. Essentially, meditation is learning how to stabilize shamatha adequately such that the luminous nature of human nature and awareness stands revealed and can be harnessed and directed.

Shamatha also works with the subtle anatomy in a number of ways, many simultaneously. This little-known fact is one reason why shamatha can produce the variety of beautiful, blissful, or tranquil states that it can, including samadhi. This is also why shamatha is the perpetual force that underlies the spiritual path and brings enlightenment forward.

There is a direct correspondence in the quality and vibrancy of the subtle anatomy to how one lives the qualities of shamatha in meditation practice and in one’s daily life. This makes sense. A subtle system that is geared toward discontent, disquiet, complexity, stress, and self-importance is a subtle system that is turned in on itself and is held in a condition of dis-ease (the opposite of tranquility or harmony). However, a person who lives from patience, openness of heart and mind, and who lives from harmony with self and others is living from the vitality of the subtle system. While doing so, the subtle system is emanating its potential qualities and is content with its expression. In this condition, it is humming along in a state of simplicity. As a result, the subtle system and the meditator experience peace and ease rather than stress and dis-ease. Even if one has a physical condition that is being managed or that will produce death, one can bring forward peace of mind and ease of being to that. {The subtle anatomy or subtle system is comprised of the centers (chakras), petals or vortices within the centers, the channels or nadis, the subtle winds, and the essences (bindu) or drops. All the components interact and interconnect, thus as one component is functioning well, the others are nurtured to do the same.}

Path of ShamathaShamatha has a number of steps, each leading flawlessly to the next. Each step or technique brings forward one of the qualities that are part of an equilibrized state of meditation. This, then, makes these qualities available to the person through his or her day. The state of shamatha, which is still only the beginning or foundation for all meditative states and realizations, requires each and all of the steps. If one is skipped, dismissed as unimportant, moved on from prematurely, or is not known to the practitioner, then the ability to sustain tranquility or attention, composure, altitude, and embodied presence will not be possible. However, if each step is engaged and given appropriate time and effort by the practitioner, it will always bring forward the quality intended. At the same time, the steps are cultivating the subtle anatomy like a gardener cultivates a garden.

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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