While Phakyab Rinpoche was in New York suffering with gangrene and diabetes, he cured himself through an intensive practice of healing meditation, specifically Tsa-lung

Rinpoche has established a program of Shamatha Meditation, a practice of mental calmness. Shamatha is a Sanskrit word divided into two parts: “Shama” means calm and “Ta” means to abide.  The objective is to develop a calm, clear, focused mind. 

9 Step Shamatha Program

Shamatha Meditation is a remarkable method for restoring our inner peace, stabilizing our mind, understanding and managing our emotions and the stress of daily life. It is a powerful method to develop a more joyful and serene mind.

This practice of Shamatha of Healing, is a complete practice because it integrates at the same time three phases of purification;

  • Phase of purification of the 5 chakras.

  • Phase of concentration, which will bring the mind of the practitioner to focus (Shamatha).

  • Phase of practice of compassion, associated with the practice of emptiness (Vipashyana).

This is a great opportunity for all of us to practice this special method of healing.

Rinpoche has developed a “9 Step Shamatha Program” at his Center Menla Thodol Ling near Paris, France.  Traditionally, the 9- step path of Shamatha is covered in a minimum of 3,600 hours of meditation. Programs are also available in the US at Lake Tahoe, Nevada and Miami, Florida. 

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Phakyab Rinpoche will pass along the Tsa-Lung only to those who have reached the end of Shamatha's 9-step Healing Program.
shamatha meditation

Down in this graphic, we see the elephant representing  the mind, the fact that it’s black is symbolizing this 'dullness of mind’, and the monkey is symbolizing 'discursive thought' in general, and the fact that its black is symbolizing this excitement,  the main cause of our distraction, so we see at 'stage one' here of the practice, the monkey and the elephant are running wildly ahead of us, meaning: at the first stage of practice, what we notice is that our mind is completely out of control.
So you don't need to despair, it is actually a sign of progress, you've made it to 'step one' of the practice.

If we keep practicing, of course, we'll get to 'stage two', where the elephant and monkey are not running so wildly anymore. By stage two of the practice, sometimes we can hold the object maybe a minute or two before we get distracted. But we're still distracted for many long periods of time.

By the time we get around the corner to 'stage three', we see the rope of mindfulness is there now. By stage three, we're getting not bad. Meaning: we can hold the object maybe five or 10 minutes, before we're distracted. And when we become distracted, we quickly come back to the object.

By the time we get to 'stage four' our mindfulness is getting very good now, means: we can hold the object the entire session without ever completely losing it. But still, we have a lot of work to do, because the clarity of our attention is not very good. We still have some dullness and a bit of agitation, but we never completely lose the object anymore.

And then over the next few stages: five, six, and seven, we are fine-tuning our focus. If we're becoming a little bit dull, we're sharpening the focus, if we're becoming a bit agitated, we're relaxing the focus. So we're fine-tuning the focus. And finding that middle way, in terms of being very stable and very clear. 

And if we keep going, then eventually we'll get up to the top here to the goal of Shamatha. And then the last diagram up here is describing the Vipashyana practice, meaning: on the basis of a very stable, clear mind, we can then go on to investigating the nature of reality in our Vipashyana practice.  

Key to the nine stages of tranquil abiding (shamatha): 

Blueprint: Vertical Timeline
  • The first stage is attained through the power of study or hearing.

  • The monk fixes his mind on the object of concentration.

  • The lasso represents mindfulness or recollection.

  • The hooked elephant goad represents clear understanding.

  • The flame which progressively diminishes along the path, represents the degree of effort needed to develop both recollection and understanding.

  • The elephant represents mind; its complete black color represents the gross form of mental dullness or sinking.

  • The monkey represents mental agitation; it’s black color represents distraction or scattering. The monkey at first runs wildly, leading the elephant.

  • The second stage is attained through the power of concentration.

  • This is achieved by lengthening the periods of concentration on the object.

  • The five senses of touch (cloth), taste (fruit), smell (perfumed conch), sound (cymbals), and sight (mirror), are the objects of distraction.

  • Beginning at their heads, the elephant and monkey begin to turn white. This shows the continuous progress in fixing and holding the object of concentration.

  • The third and fourth stages are attained through the power of memory or recollection.

  • The monk lassoes the elephant, fixing the wandering mind on the object.

  • The hare, which now appears on the elephants back, represents the subtle aspect of sinking, or mental torpor. Here one is able to differentiate between the gross and subtle aspects of sinking.

  • The elephant, monkey and hare look back; showing that having recognized these mental distractions, the mind turns back to the object of contemplation.

  • The meditator holds a clear and detailed conception of the object.

  • Attainment of the fifth and sixth stages of meditative absorption through the power of clear comprehension.

  • The monkey now follows the elephant; the arising of distraction diminishes.

  • Even the arising of virtuous thoughts must be perceived as a distraction from the object of concentration.

  • The monk hooks the elephant with his goad; the mind is stopped from wandering by clear understanding.

  • The mind is controlled.

  • The hare disappears and the mind is pacified.

  • The seventh and eight stages are attained through the power of energetic perseverance.

  • The monkey leaves the elephant and now squats behind the monk in complete submission. However there are still slight traces of black; this shows that even the subtlest sinking and scattering may continue to arise. Should they begin to arise they can be eliminated with the slightest effort.

  • The monkey disappears and the elephant becomes completely white. The mind can now remain continually in absorption on the object of concentration.

  • Single pointedness of mind.

  • The ninth stage of mental absorption is attained through the power of perfection.

  • Perfect equanimity. The path has ended and the elephant is at rest. From the heart of the meditating monk emanates a rainbow.

  • The monk flies alone; bodily bliss.

  • The monk rides the elephant; attainment of shamatha.

  • Riding the elephant across the rainbow; mental bliss.

  • The monk wields the flaming sword of perfect insight, and rides triumphantly back along the rainbow; samsara’s root is destroyed by the union of shamatha and vipashyana (sword), with emptiness (shunyata) as the object of contemplation.

  • Control of the flame of supreme mindfulness and understanding represents the ability to examine the sublime meaning of shunyata: the knowledge of the ultimate reality of all phenomena.

The upper part of the illustration, where the rainbow emanates from the monk’s heart, represents the tenth and eleventh stages of transcendental mental absorption.

  • 1- The tenth stage of bodily and mental bliss is symbolized by the flying monk, and the monk riding the elephant.

  • 2- The eleventh stage is represented by the monk riding the elephant back across the rainbow.

  • 3- From the monk’s heart emanate two dark rainbows, which the monk is just about to cut asunder with his flaming sword of wisdom. These two rainbows represent karmic hindrances and mental illusion ( kleshavarana ), and the obscurations of the instincts of mental distortion (jneyavarana).

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