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