I have been noticing thoughts arising recently that are telling me that it is impossible for me to reach shamata. The thoughts were also pointing out without mental stability I would not be able to progress to enlightenment. I knew it was time to talk back to my mind and I needed ammunition. I went directly to my teacher (aka Google) and put in the search terms: “unable to reach shamata”.
One of my favorite sites, The Benzin Archives, popped up on the first page with a catchy page title of “Achieving Shamatha“. Now, much of the information was review for me, but I enjoyed the comparisons between the objects used in the different Tibetan schools of Buddhism. This was useful since my primary background is Gelug, but I have been recently studying Dzogchen.
My favorite part of the presentation was advice from Master Shantideva:
Steadfastness (brtan) or self-confidence (nga-rgyal) comes from examining if we are capable of achieving the goal and, being convinced that we are, applying ourselves steadily, even though progress goes up and down.
The part I like about Shantideva’s advice is that he thinks that self-examination could only lead to the conclusion that one is capable of the goal, while I’ve concluded that I am incapable of achieving the goal. The very absence of advice to people that are hopeless suggests that I am capable, regardless of past experience.
So if I am capable, where do I need to work? I am currently at stage four and shamata is stage 10. Perfect advice for me is:
Mental flightiness (rgod-pa, agitation), a subcategory of mental wandering (rnam-g.yeng) or distraction (‘phro-ba), is a fault of the mental placement on the object due to desire or attachment.
Yes, that is just the issue I talked about yesterday. I have an increase in desire arising from the expansive energy of spring. This is leading to a “fault in mental placement” since my mind is dancing with the energy. Yet, the antidote for this is just what I am doing – reaffirming how sexy and attractive shamata and enlightenment are.