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The Stages of JMeditation

by

Vimalamitra

Introduction and Translation


by Lozang Jamspal, PhD

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


INCLUDING THE RIGHT OF REPRODUCTION
IN WHOLE OR IN PART IN ANY FORM
COPYRIGHT. 2000, BY LOZANG JAMSPAL
PUBLISHE.D BY LADAKHRATNASHRIDIPIKA
LEH, LADAKH 194101, INDIA
FIRST PRINTING

ISBN- 81-901230-0-9
The picture on the front cover is of the Mother of Perfection of Wisdom, Prajiiapiramiti from a
mural i!l Alc~i Sumtsek (gSum-brtsegs) temple, more than nine hundred years old, photographed
by the author in 1994. Copy right by Likir Monastery, 2000
The photograph on the back cover is a scene of Likir Monastery photographed by the author in
2000.
The drawing of Yimalamitra by Mr. dBang 'dus '01 thang pa

Printed at ARCHANA, Ph.: 4311992

A.carya Vimalamitra

Dedicated
to
Alex and Hideko Wayman

Acknowledgments
In 1983-84 when I was at Nechung Drayang Ling, in
Hawaii, Daniel Laine, Arm Jones, and Judy Graham

worked on this text with me, Daniel editing the draft


and Arm and Judy typing it up. Several years later Jan
Pressman typed it into the computer. Then:, recently, .I
went over the English translation comparing it with the
original Tibetan text, reworking the translation of some
lines, and making many corrections. I also typed the
Tibetan onto the computer, editing it into book form.
Natalie Hauptman, PhD and Norman Guberman helped to re-edit this text. I am very grateful to all
the foresaid individuals. Witho.1t their kind help I could
not accomplish even a short text. I ask that Vrmalamitra
may bless all the people who helped me to accomplish
all our goals for themsel,ves and others.
I have also been forhmate to work with many
patient and diligent people on many different translations and reading of Tibetan Buddhist texts. The followmg list is not exhaustive: Doctors Philip and Natalie
Hauptman, Norman Gubern1ai1, Scott Hoyt, Irene.
Geary, PhD, David Kittay, Ron Bogdan, David Cordell,
Elia Smaiko,PhD, Serenity Young, PhD, Nancy Haynes
and Mich~el Metz who taugh: me how to use Quark""
Express, David Dell, PhD, J\1arie Friquegnon, PhD,
Arthur Mandelbaum, Noe Dir:nerstein, David Mellins,
Susan Altabel, Michele Becker, and all other members
of the Tibetan Classics Translators Guild of New York
too numerous to mention, as well as so many others,
which in my haste I have not been able to mention here
by name.

Introduction

Introduction
Acarya Vimalamitra came to Tibet in the turmultuous
and chaotic period of Buddhist: teaching following the
departure of the great master Padmasambhava to
Copper-Colored Mountain in the southwest and tragic deaths of the Venerable abbot Santarak~ita and then
of his learned disciple Kamala:5ila.
In accordance with an ordinary historical sense
dt is stated in the most ancient book of records, the sBa
bzhed zhabs btags ma, that Santara~ita arrived in Tibet
and tried to teach Buddhism there, but people were
superstitious and believed in the spirits and ghosts.
King Khrisrong IDe btsan (according to Tun-huang documents he was born in C. E. 742 and passed away at age 69.) then
offered gold to Santarak~ita and asked him to "please
return to Nepal until I have s~cceeded in making people believe in the Buddha Dharma. When people have
calmed down, then, would you please come back here
to teach the Dharma."
The King sent some people to Mang yul
(Western Tibet bordering Nepal) to bring back Santarak~ita. Santarak~ita advised them to invite Padmasambhava. Pad1pasambhava came to Tibet and
tamed the spirits and ghosts. He gave teachings to
King Khrisrong .Jpe btsan bestowing upon him the
Guhyasamaja initiation. Padmasambhava did not
complete his teachings to the King, leaving that for
Vimalamitra to do. Padmasambhava, Santarak~ita
and King Khrisrong IDe btsan are known as Khan slob
chos gsum, the Triad of Abbot, Teacher and Dharma
King, respectively."

ii

Vimalamitra's Stages of Meditation

A.carya Santar~k!?ita was responsible for


building the wonderful temples of bSam yas (Sam
ye), encouraging young Tibetans to become monks,
and promoting the study of Sanskrit and translation
of Buddhist literature into Tibetan. However, older
people had difficulty learning Sanskrit. Therefore,
the A.carya himself studied Tibetan and taught
Dharma in Tibetan. As a result, these people did not
need to study Sanskrit. But not only that, he praised
the Tibetan language, saying, "Tibetan is the emanation bodhisattva's langua~e. It, therefore, has the
ability to hold Dharma." The A.carya invited twelve
monks from India and encouraged them to study
Tibetan.
A.carya Santarak!?ita passed away in his nineties in an accident, having been kicked by a horse.
According to his final request his disciple, the learned
monk Kamalasila, was invited by King Khrisrong IDe
btsan to defeat the Chinese meditation-master Hvashang in debate and eliminate his influence in Tibet.
Hvashang emphasis was only on meditation, discouraging many people from studying Dharma. After
Kamalasila defeated. the monk Hvashang in debate,
the Chinese monk went back to China.
King Khrisrong IDe btsan was delighted by this
outcome. and told all his subjects to study and practice
Dharma. The King treasured his first Tibetan monk
saying, "You are my precious jewel." He appointed
many Dharma teachers and arranged provisions for
the Dharma studies.

Introduction

iii

Important Questions
The King- asked Kamalasila to put into writing the
method by which the Dharma of selflessness is ascertained by studying, pondering;, and meditation. As a
response to this request, Kamalasila composed the first
Bhilvanakramas _and presented a copy to him. The King
studied this text and was delig;hted with its meaning.
If one wants to practice Dharr.:t.a in one single sitting
session, how should one do it? ln response to this question, Kamalasila composed the second Bhilvanakramas.
What is the z;esult of this kind of meditation? In
response to this he composed the third Bhilvanakramas
showing the result of meditation, while alSo refuting
the philosophy of Hvashang. In order to respond to
doubts and refutations concerning these three books,
he composed Madhyamalok (Light of Central Philosophy) demdnstrating the bodhisattva view through
reasoning and scriptures.
Unfortunately, Kamala:5ila was assassinated
by some disciples of the Hva8hang, and the important work of the study and translation ofthe Dharma
fell into chaos. The King, mor~~over, was unsatisfied
with the incomplete Dharma teachings he had
received from Acarya Padma;:;ainbhava [sBa. p. 114],
and desperately required an able Indian teacher to
continue the important work started by the three
Indian predecessors. He s~nt i:hree trusted, Tibetans
Lotsabas (translators) with letters and lots of gold to
the Indian king Dharma Candra, requesting him to
send Acarya Vimalamitra to tibet to complete this
work. [Khetsun Sangpo p. 539].

iv

Vimalamitra's Stages of Meditation

After Vimalamira arrived in Tibet the teachings


and translations were resumed under his guidance.
King Khri srong lDe btsan received from him the rest of
Dharma teachings that were lacking from Acarya
Padrhasambhava. He translated the rest of the thirteen
texts of the Eighteen Esoteric Instructions of the Mental
Class, with the help some Tibetan scholars. The first five
texts had been previously translated by Vairocana.
According to Dudjom Rinpoche's History (p. 555),
Vimalamitra spent thirteen years in Tibet. He then went
to the Five-Peaked Mountain in China. He is thought of
as being an emanation of Maftjusrt.
Vimalamitra wrote eight treatises, which are
preserved in the Tangyur (bsTan 'gyur) collection. This
present text is one of them and is found in the bsTan
'gyur, dbu rna section volume "A" folio 397a to 419a.
It has only the Tibetan title, Rim gyis 'jug pa'i sgpm don.
The Sanskrit title Kramapravesikabhavanartha seems to
have been reconstructed by the cataloguer according
the meaning of the Tibetan title. It can be rendered in
English as the Stages of Meditation, written as a short
form of the three Stages of Meditations of Kamalasila.
Instead of three different texts, Vimalamitra condensed
the meanings into one single text.
In order to demonstrate their humbleness both
authors said, "I am like a blind person who doesn't
know a lot about the meditations of quiescence and
insight, but relying upon perfect words of the Buddha
I explain it." This and many other similar sentences
are found in the texts of Kamalasila' s three Bhavanakramas and Vimalamitra's Stages of Meditation. Both

Introduction

authors demonstrate their statements through the


citation ofscriptures. In Kamalasila's three Bhavanakramas forty-seven different texts are quoted or mentioned, and in Vimalamitra's Stages ofMeditation fortyone. Most of the texts cited have only one quotation,
but some texts have several quotations. Some. quotations by both authors are identical, but many others
are from different sources. Both authors cite quotations from Nagarjuna~s workE. only as an exegetical
source. Kamalasila uses several quotations from
Nagarjuna's Sutrasamuccaya. Vjmalamitra cites several
quotations from Nagarjuna's Sixty Verses.

The-Stases of Meditation

Reverence to Manjusri the Youth


One who wishes to dispel obscuration and quickly
achieve omniscience should concentrate on achieving
quiescence and insight, thereby generating the altruistic mind. I, like, a blind person,' cannot demonstrate
this, but relying on the words of Buddha and other
scriptures, I will explainit. By right cultivation of quiescence and insight, nonconceptual intuition arises.
Through the arising of this [nonconceptuality], one
can abandon allobscurations and attain omniscience
that is the result of the longtime practice of quiescence
and insight. Therefore, one should strive for quiescence and insight.
If there is no cause, there will be no result. For
instance, if there is no seed, there will be no sprout.
From an incorrect cause, a correct result cannot occur;
for example, one cannot obtain milk from a cow's
horn. Similarly, as a result of not practicing the CO!Ilplete practice of it, one will be unable to achieve the
state of omniscience as its result. For example, with a
seed, if there is anything lacking, the correct result cannot arise. It is stated in the Council of Doctrine (1):
One who wants to train according to my
teaching should strive to achieve quiescence and insight.
Therefore, a practitioner should develop quiescence, insight, and a wish to aitain enlighterunent. For
example, if one dwells in a house of precious crystal
glass, one can clearly see all that is outside as well as

Vimalamitra

inside the house. Similarly, if one dwells in the state of


nonconceptualization, one can see the reality of all
things. It is certain that the purification of all obscuration and the achievement of omniscience is dependent
upon causes; therefore, one should contemplate nonconceptualization. As one who reaches the top of a
lofty mountain can see almost all the surrounding
places, similarly, one who dwells in the state of nonconceptualization can see,all things without obstacle
or impediment. Therefore, one should contemplate
on quiescence and insight. It is st~ted by the Noble
Nagarjuna [in Sixty Verses](2):
Those whose minds are beyond
[clinging to] existence and nonexistence,
thoroughly contemplate the profound
meaning of the nonapprehending
condition. [v. 2]
It is also stated in King of Meditation (3):

Those who realize the selflessness of


things, contemplate this realization.
It is the only cause whose result is liberation. Any cause other than this cannot
bring peace.
In Unraveling the Intention (4)] the Lord said:
If one contemplates on quiescence and

insight, one will be liberated from the


bondage qf affliction and the bondage
of identity.

The Stages of Meditation

Therefore, one who wishes to abandon all


obscuration should meditate on quiescence and
insight. Through the power of quiescence, one's mind
will not stray from its object like a candle in a windless
place. Through insight, as a rising sun dispels darkness, one can correctly realize the reality of things,
achieving the correct realization of ultimate reality and
eliminating all obscuration.
Meditators who contemplate only quiescence
can suppress defilement but cannot dispel obscuration. Without the rising light of wisdom [of selflessness], there is no possibility of thoroughly destroying
these propensities.
It is said in Unraveling the Intention:

Meditation suppresses defilement and


wisdom completely destroys propensity.
Also in King of Meditation:
Although one may meditate in that way
[without insight], one cannot destroy
the perception of self which again, like
the meditation ofUdraka, brings forth
defilement and confusion. (ch. 9, v. 36)
Only one who realizes and concentrates on the selflessness of things will
achieve the cause of liberation. Any
cause other than thi:; cannot bring
peace. [ch. 9,v. 37]

Vimalamitra

It is also stated in Bodhisattva Precepts (5):

There are those who have not heard


about the discourses of the Bodhisattva
precepts or the holy Dharma precepts
and are satisfied with meditation alone.
Because of their conceit, they will
descend in the cycle of lives and will not
be liberated from birth, old age, disease,
death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering,
agony and agitation. Nor will they be
liberated from the life cycle of the six
migrations, nor the aggregate of suffering. In regard to this the Tathagata has
declared, those who study in conformity
with other [teachers] will be liberated
from old age and death.
[Cited also in 3rd BJuivaakrama]

Thus one who wishes to completely abandon


all obscurations and achieve a pure knowledge of reality should first become absorbed in quiescence and
then contemplate on wisdom. Also it is stated in Heap

of Jewels (6):
Practicing morality, one can achieve
meditation. Achieving meditation, one
should concentrate on wisdom. Through
wisdom one achieves the pure knowledge of reality. In this pure knowledge
morality will be perfect.
In Cultivating Faith in the Great Vehicle (7) it is declared:

The Stages of Meditation

Youth of a good family, if one does not


possess wisdom, I cannot say he or she
has faith in or has in any way entered
into the great vehicle. You of good family, one should realize that whatever
familiarity and faith one has in the great
vehicle is the effect of contemplation on
reality with an undisiracted mind.
Through mere insight without quiescence, the
mind of the meditator is not steady, but is eailiy distracted by objects, like a burning candle flickering in
the wind. The meditator will not have the clear light of
real knowledge. Therefore, one shpuld practice equally both quiescence and insight.
'For this reason it is said in Great Nirvii1Ja (8):
Although they have great [levels of ]
meditation, the disciples do not see the
clan of the Tathagata because they lack
wisdom. The Bodhisattvas see it, but not
clearly, because although they have
great quantities of wisdom, they have
small amounts of meditation. The
Tathagata sees all, be.:ause he possesses
equally both quiescence and insight.
As a lit candle burns steadily where there is no
wind, through the power of quiescence, the mind cannot be disturbed by the w:lnds of thought. Through
insight, the meditator abandons the net of wrong view;
therefore, his mind cannot be disturbed by others.

Vimalamitra

As it is declared in the Moon.,;Lamp Scripture


[different name ot the King of Meditation] (9):
By the.strength of quiescence [the mind]
will not be disturbed; by the strength of
insight it will be like a mountain.
A meditator wishing to know all sorts of defilements and to su.ppress them should strive for quiescence and insight. As it is declared in Teaching of the
Two Truths (10):
"Manjusrt, how does one realize and
overcome defilements?" Manjusrt: "Devaputra, when one realizes through unobscured intuition of reality, [from the
ultimate viewpoint] that the defilements
are absolutely void, signless, nonexistent
and intrinsically natureless, then, Devaputra, one actually realizes defilements.
For instance, Devaputra, when one eliminates the cause--the vicious snake-the snake's poison no longer exists.
Similarly, Devaputra, if one realizes the
cause of defilements, one will thoroughly
stop them." Devaputra: "Manjusrt, what
is the cause of defilement?" Manjusri:
"Although all things are actually unborn,
unoriginated, nonexistent and noncharacterized, [an ordinary person] has conceptualization concerning them. This is
the cause of defilements and so forth."

The Stages of Meditation

Therefore, one who :is not deluded about things


and has realized the state of reality can thereby conquer and dispel all obscuration. It is certain that this
process can be successful through reliance ori. quiescence and insight. It is not possible by any other
means. Therefore, a meditator should strive for both
quiescence and insight.
One should give rise to the spirit of enlightenment. There are two kind~: Q,f the spirit of enlightenment, the spirit of conventional reality and the spirit of
ul~iJ::nate reality
TheSpirit of Conventional Reality
Since the conventional spirit of enlightenment is
that of engendering compassion for all beings, one
undertakes the Bodhisattva vow to deliver all
sentient beings from ~mffering, and achieves
Buddhahood for their benefit. This is the first stage
of the spirit of enlightenment. The Bodhisattva vow,
according to the ritual demonstrated in the Teaching
on Bodhisattva Ethic Chapter, should be taken from a
person who already posse:5ses and is experienced in
it. If one cannot find such a suitable person, one
should visualize the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and
conceive the spirit of enlightenment, as did the noble
Manjusri when he was a king named Ambara. One
should then strive for the realization of the spirit of
ultimate reality.
The Spirit of Ultimate Reallity
The spirit of ultimate reality is supermundane, free
from fabrication, lucid in 1he state of the absolutely

Vimalamitra

real, as immaculate and immovable as a candle that


burns continuously when set in a windless place.
It is st_ated in the Vairocana Enlightening Tantra (11):

Having abandoned all conceptions,


enlightenment has the characteristic
of sky.
Again, in the same text:
Guhyapati, not even a subtle entity
exists, nor is .it apprehended. Therefore, it
is called the unsurpassed enlightenment.
It is also described .in the Moon-Lamp:

The Lord has shown that within the


essence of enlightenment, not even a
subtle entity, nor even the name of a
subtlety exists.
Ultimate enlightenment is the Truth Body. The
realization of this should be dependent upon careful
practice of contemplation on quiescence and insight
over a long period of time. It is taught in Unraveling the
Intention:
Maitreya, one should realize that virtuous things and all the mundane and
supermundane blisses of the disciples,
Bodhisattvas and Tathagatas are the
result of quiescence and insight.
All meditations are included in quiescence and
insight; therefore, yogins must always cultivate them.

The Stages of Meditation

It is said in the same text:

One should know thc:tt all of the many


kinds of meditations done by the disciples, Bodhisattvas, and Tathagatas are
included in quiescen<:e and insight.
The conception to attain enlightenment results
in very great merit, as is :;tated in Questions of the
Heroic Youth (12):
If the conception of enlightenment had a
form, it would fill the whole realm of

sky and qecome even greater than that.


It is also said in the Array of Trees (13):

0 youth of a good family, the conception of enlightenment is the seed of all


the Buddha's virtues.
Even if this conception of enlightenment is not
applied in practice, it will still have a bright, meritorious result in the world. As .it is stated in Liberation of
Maitreya (14):
Youth of a good family, even a broken
diamond outshines all kinds of excellent
gold ornaments, and without losing the
name diamond, continues to dispel all
poverty. Similarly, youth of a good family, although the diamond ofconceiving
of enlightenment may not be perfectly
practiced, it still outshines the gold
ornaments of the disc:~ples and the self-

Vimalamitra

10

enlightened sages, and does not lose the


name of Bodhisattva as it dispels the
poverty of s~sara.
[Quoted also in Si~asamuccaya]

It is also said in InstruCtion to the King (15):

0 Maharaja, you have many duties and


activities. Therefore, if you cannot practice completely and constantly the perfection of giving as well as up to the
perfection of wisdom, you should continuously hold conviction, aspiration, faith
and interest in the fully perfect enlightenment, even as you go, stand, sit, lie,
wake,_ eat and drink. Always remember,
contemplate and concentrate on it. You
should also rejoice in the root of virtue
performed by the Buddha, Bodhisattvas,
disciples, ordinary people and yourself in
the past, present, and future.
[Quoted also in Si~iisamuccaya]

Therefore, one who wishes to achieve omniscience should conceive enlightenment. The yogi who
wishes to achieve quiescence and insight should rely,
from the outset, upon the causes, the prerequisite
which produces them.
The Prerequisite for Quiescence
What are the prerequisites which produce quiescence? Dwelling in a suitable place, less desire for
worldly objects and contentment, abandoning nega-

The Stages of Meditation

tive activity, right morality, and eliminating discursive thoughts such as attachment and so::forth, are all
prerequisites to developing quiescence.
The five characteristics of a suitable place for
meditation on quiescence arE: 1) a place where one can
easily find clothes and food; 2) where there is .no
wicked person or enemy; 3) where no contagion exists;
4) where a companion lives who is endowed with
morality; and 5) a place where few people gather in the
daytime .and there is little noise at night.
What is less desire fo:~ worldly objects? This is
rec.ognized as being a diminishing attachment to the
feeling of superiority, less de~:ire to possess great quantities of clothing, and so forth.
What is contentment? Contentment is being satisfied with what one receive~. such as inferior clothing
and so forth.
What is abandonment of excessive activities?
This is the restraint of negative activities such as pursuing inappropriate business activities, being excessively gregarious with either monks or laymen,
practicing medicine or astrology [for one's own profit],
and so forth.
What is pure morality? This concerns the keeping of the two precepts [the :me of individual liberation (Skt. priitimoka) and the other of the Bodhisattva].
Offenses may be against the precept of a natural law. or
against the precept of institutional law. One should not
violate these precepts, but if a precept is car.elessly
broken, one should feel regret and quickly renew it
according to law.

12

Vimalamitra

In the precepts of the disciples, some offenses are

stated as being incorrigible. However, if one has repentance and determines hot to break the precept again, or,
if one contemplates on the realization of mind's lack of
intrinsic nature through which the action was committed, or contemplates upon nature of things lacking of
intrinsic nature, one's morality can be made pure again.
This is the only pure morality and can be understood
according to Dispelling the Repentance of Ajatasatru (16).
In this way, one should eliminate repentance [for nonvirtuous actions], and strive for meditation.
Also, contemplating that from desires arise many
faults in this and future lives, one should abando:r:t conceptualization concerning these desires.
All worldly things, beloved or not, have the characteristic of perishability and impermanence; therefore, since separation is certain, what would be the use
of being attached to them? Thus contemplating, one
should abandon all conceptualization.
The Prerequisite for Insight
What is the prerequisite for insight? In order to
achieve insight, it is necessary to rely on a holy person,
seek to study much, and use correct contemplation.
What c!oes "relymg upon a holy person" mean?
This means that one should carefully follow the
instructions of a person whose qualities include having much knowledge and lucidity, compassion, and
patience for hardship. O~e should seek to study as
much as one can with such a [qJ.Ialified teacher].
What does "seek to study much" mean? This
means respectful and intensive study of the definitive

The Stages of Meditation

13

and provisional meanings o:f the twelve sections of the


Lord Buddha's teachings. A~; is stated in Unraveling the
Intention:
Not learning the teachings of a holy person in accordance with one's wishes is
an obstacle to insight.
The same text also says:
Insight arises from the cause of right
views, which are the result of study and
contemplation.
The Question ofNarayal}a (17) explains:
One who ha~ the abil1ty to study will
develop wisdom, and one who possesses wisdom can pacify defilements.
[Quoted also in Sik?iisamuccaya.]

What is correct contemplation? This is the contemplation of the Bodhisattva who, with a very good
understanding of the definitive and provisional meanings of the scriptures, will have no doubts about.them,
and thus ther.eby the meditation will be certain.
Otherwise, riding on the swinging rope of doubt, there
will be no certainty, and, like~ a traveler at the junction
of two roads, one cannot decide which way to go.
A meditator should eat the proper amount of
food, but give up meat, fish, and so forth and be harmonious, not disharmonious. One should complete
one's work and cleanse oneself before sitting down to
meditate in a peaceful and comfortable place where

14

Vimalamitra

there is no enemy or violence. One's thoughts should


be: "I will place all sentient beings in the seat of
enlightenment.".Thus, one will develop great compassion: the thought of liberating all sentient beings from
suffering.
Paying homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions with the five limbs of the
body [touching the ground], one should place in front
of oneself, or wherever is suitable, images and paintings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, praising them
and making offerings of whatever one can. One should
then confess one's nonvirtuous actions and rejoice in
the virtuous actions of other sentient beings. Sitting on
a comfortable seat in the cross-legged full lotus position as that of the Lord Vairocana or in half lotus position, whichever is suitable for one, the meditator
should then contemplate the mind. One's body should
be straight from nose to navel, arms in equipoise position, head neither too low, nor too high, nor leaning to
one side. With eyes neither entirely open nor closed, his
sight should. be on the tip of his nose. One's teeth and
lips should be held in a natural way, with tongue set
behind the upper teeth. One's breathing should be
relaxed in 'a spontaneous way, not noisy or rough.
Definitiort of Quiescence
One should first practice quiescence meditation,
which is recognized as being a mental state endowed
with clarity that has eliminated the distraction of outer
objects, and has an enthusiastic tendency for the continual sp~ntaneous contemplation of a spiritual image.

The Stages of Meditation

15

Definition of Insight
When quiescence comprehends reality, the resultant
analysis or examination of reality is insight. As is stated in Cloud Jewel (18):
One-pointedness of mind is quiescence,
and thorough analysis is insight.
Therefore, the Lord has declared four kinds. of
objects for meditators: 1) the nondiscerned image; 2)
the discerned image; 3) t~e reality of things, and 4) the
perfect accomplishment of the goal.
Through quiescence, the meditator will develop
conviction about the image of all natures, the body of
the Buddha and so forth, and this is called the nondiscerned image. In this meditation, there is no discernment about the meaning of reality; therefore, it is
recognized as a nondiscerned. image.
In order to realize the meaning of reality, the
meditator then analyzes with insight whatever he has
heard or grasped, therefore this is called the discerned
image. Having conviction in whatever is heard and
grasped, the meditator wil.l then, through insight,
compre~nd, examine, or .discern this image in order
to realize the meaning of reality. In this case, the only
characteristic of insight is the discernment of the reality of the image; therefore, it is recognized as being the
discerned image.
In this way, the meditator may precisely realize
the nature of the image, as it is. For example, when one
examines the reflection of or\e' s face in a mirror, one
can detect the quality of the 'face, see a spot and so

16

Vimalamitra

forth. In the same way, when one realizes suchness


through the characteristic of phenomena, one understands the reality of things. Therefore, the first stage of
the Bodhisattva is called the comprehension of the
reality of things.
Similarly, like the use of medicinal elixir,
through the path of meditation a practitioner may
momentarily transform [their defiled state of mind]
into the thoroughly pure state on the remaining stages
of the path of meditation. When the attainment of the
goal, which has the characteristic of abandoning all
obscuration, is accomplished, then the intuition on the
stage of the Buddha is manifested.
What does this proc.ess demonstrate? It demonstrates through .the practice of quiescence and ins-ight
meditations that one may thoroughly accomplish the
goal of abandoning all obscurations. This alone is the
state of enlightenment. Therefore, one who wishes to
achieve enlightenment must practice quiescence and
insight meditations. If one does not practice these, one
cannot realize the reality of things and will be unable
to attain the perfect goal.
The meditator should then practice quiescence
meditation by first placing his or her mind on an
image of the Tathagata which has been seen or heard
about. The body of the Tathagata emanates a refined
golden htie, is adorned with the auspicious characteristics and marks, dwells in the assembly ofdisciples,
and practices through various means for the benefit
of sentient beings. Constantly contemplating this, the
meditator should generate an interest in obtaining its

The Stages of Meditation

17

virtues and should meditat~~ on his image until dullness and restlessness cease, andthe meditator can see
the body glowing clearly as if sitting in front of fire. It
is stated in King of Meditation:
The body of the Lord is very splendid
with a golden-like complexion; one who
places his or her mind on this object is
stated to be a Bodhisattva in equipoise ..
The meditator should then cultivate insight by
contemplating that the body of the Tathagata does not
come from anywhere, nor does it leave for anywhere. It
is void of intrinsic nature. It does not [grasp at] I and
mine. Similarly, all things are void by their intrinsic
nature. They are devoid of coming and going, like a
reflection. They lack the intrinsic nature of existence
and so forth. Having contemplated in this way, without
discerning or verbalizing, the meditator should meditate on reality with single-pointed mind, and sit as long
as he or she wishes. This meditation is explained in
Meditation of the Present Buddha Manifesting (19). From
the same text, one should learn the meritorious results
of this meditation.
The meditator should also analyze in this way:
"Do I properly hold the apprehending object? Do I fall
into dullness? Is the mind diHtracted by outer objects?"
If the meditator is overcome by drowsiness or sleep,
he should contemplate a very pleasant thing such as
the Buddha's image, the twe~lve deeds of the Buddha,
or dependent origination. Thus, dullness and drowsiness will be dispelled.

Vimalamitra

1'8

If one's mind is addicted [to defilements and


deeds], or there is a possibility of it becoming distracted by previous addictions, and it cannot contemplate
the meaning of reality, the meditator should consider
that all conditioned things are impermanent, suffering,
and so forth; that the inside of the body is impure in
many ways; and that outer objects do not last. None of
these are reliable because they are not permanent.
Therefore, one should think of the nature of things and
stop being distracted by them.
When the meditator is not dull or restless, his or
her mind will spontaneously perceive its object. At that
time, one should lessen effort and cultivate equanimity.
In brief, with the rope of mindfulness and
watchfulness, the meditator should tie the elephant of
the mind to the pillar of the perceived object.
Having done this, he should remain in the state
of quiescence and discern reality with wisdom. One
should also know that quiescence alone is not sufficient to see the truth.

The Ultimate Reality


What is the ultimate reality? Ultimately, things are
without intrinsic nature. The person, the five aggregates and all attributed things are devoid of their
intrinsic nature. How may we realize this? We may
realize it by wisdom, and not by any other means. As it
is stated in Unraveling the Intention:
Avalokitesvara: "Lord, by what can
a Bodhisattva realize things' lack of
intrinsic nature?" The Tathagata:

The Stages of Meditation

19

"Avalokitesvara, a Bodhisattva can


realize things' lack of intrinsic nature
by perfect wisdom."
Therefore, one should remain in quiescence and cultivate wisdo:rn.
The meditator should analyze thus: The self
[atman] is not perceived to exist apart from the aggregates, elements and sense media. A self does not have
the characteristic of aggregates and so forth because
the aggregates and so forth have the characteristics of
impermanence and plurality whereas, in accordance
with the doctrine of the nonBuddhist schools, a person has the characteristic~ of eternity and oneness.
This is a false statement lacking realizatipn of the real
nature of the self. But a self must have the characteristics of oneness or manyness; there is no other way of
existence apart from these. So, one should contemplate the [concept of the] worldly "I and mine" as
merely being erroneous.
The selflessness of things should also be cultivated in this way. In brief, 1:hings mean. the five aggregates, the twelve sense media and the eighteen
elements. From the ultimate viewpoint, the aggregates, the sense media and the elements.Jthaat are matter do not exist apart from the characteristics of mind.
If we split them into atoms and analyze the atoms, no
other essence can be adhe:red to. Thus, it is stated in
Visiting Larrzka (20):
Having analyzed substances down to
atoms [and beyond], one no longer

Vimalamitra

20

apprehends their form. The presenta;.


tion of mind-only cannot be realized
by an inferior view.
[Ch. 2. v. 126]

However, from beginningless time, we have


been mistakenly attached to form and so forth. So for
ordinary people, the mind, like a form in a dream,
appears in the aspect of the form of an external
object, but from the ultimate viewpoint, apart from
mind, form and other objects do not exist. This is the
way one should examine it..It is also explained in the
same text:
External forms do not exist; it is
[only] one's own mind that appears
as external forms.
[Ch. 10; v. 489]

And again in the same text:


Relying upon the mind alone, one
should not apprehend external objects.
Perceiving suchness, one must go
beyond the mind.
[Ch. 10. v. 256]

Havmg gone beyond the mind alone,


one must go beyond nonappearance.
Thus will the meditator, abiding in nonappearance, perceive the greater vehicle.
[Ch. 10. v. 257]

In ultimate reality, external objects do not exist.


Similarly, the mind also cannot appear as an external

The Stages of Meditation

21

object. Why? Because if external objects have the


nature of mind, the objects would also have the nature
of cognition, or if the cognition has the nature of form,
then the mind cannot be cognition. Likewise, if the
objects have many varieties,. the mind also would have
many varieties, or like the mind, the objects would not
have varieties, furthermore, like the mind, the form
also wo.uld not be visible.
If there are not external objects and mind alone
appears as an external object, then the object could
occur anywhere, according to its aspects of form and
colour, just as one thinks of or wishes it. Or, if .one
reduces a form down to atoms and also destroys the
.atoms, then nothing would exist. In this way, the
mind also would not exist. Therefore, it is not possible
for the mind to appear as an. object. Consequently,
subject and object, as well as all apprehensions, are
similar to dreams.
The Doctrine of Mind..:Only
The mind-only doctrine states: "Frombeginningless
time, one apprehends mind as form, so, through the
ripening of a propeiJ.sity, the mind appears as form,
and so forth." But this is net right. An object does not
exist from beginningless time. Therefore, the existence
of a propensity is not logical.
The Buddha states] in the Ten Stages (21):

The three realms are mind-only.


And also in the Visiting Lanka:
External objects do not exist, but one's

22

Vimalamitra

own mind appears as external objects.


[Except for the word "object" it is identical to ch. 10, v.
489)

The Doctrine of Voidness


These explanations of mind-only [these two quotations above] are for the refutation of the existence of
things in ultimate reality, and for the benefit of disciples [at different levels of realization]. Therefore, as
object~, form and so forth, are false, similarly mind is
also fah;;e, because apart from form and so forth mind
would not exist.
As there are varieties of external objects and so
forth, they cannot have an intrinsic nature of oneness
or manyness. In this way, the mind also cannot have
the nature of oneness or manyness because it does not
exist [apart from the external objec.ts and so forth].
Therefore, mind has only the characteristics of dependent origination, illusion and so forth. Similarly, like
the mind, one. should consider that all things also
have only the characteristics of dependent origination, illusion and so forth. Thus, if one with perfect
wisdom analyzes the intripsic nature of all things, one
does no perceive all things. One does not apprehend
the past, present and future. It is also mentioned in
Cloud Jewel (22):
Thus, onewho is skillful in [discerning]
flaws should cultivate meditation on
voidness which is free from mental fabrication. Through intense meditation on
voidness, one who seeks the essence of

The Stages of Meditation

23

those things in which his mind indulges


and delights, will realize the voidness of
those things. Similarly, if one searches
jthe mind,one can also realize the voidness of mind also itself. From the ultimate viewpoint, one who seeks the
realization of mind can realize its voidness, and through thfs realization, can
enter into the meditation of signlessness.
[Quoted also in3rd Bhavanalcrama.]

Therefore, all things subject and object, and so


forth, are void in their intrinsic nature, like a mirage
and so forth. However, the discernment of the dependent origination of this and that is conventional. Therefore, it is stated in the Visiting LarJ1-ka:
The origination of thlngs is conventional, but ultimately, the-re is no intrinsic
nature.
And in the Charming Expamion (23):
The Sakya prince who had seen the lack
ofintrinsic nature of dependent origination of things, and hc:td possessed the
sky-like mind, was unmoved by the
sight of the deceitful devil and his army.
(ch. 21, v. 24)
It is stated in the Jewel Torch (24):

That which arises from conditions does


not arise in its intrins.ic nature. The

Vimalamitra

24

Truth Body is the body of the


Conquerors; it is superb and e~sts
always, like space. Relying upon
this, one can accomplish the process
of Dharma practice.
It is also mentioned in Light Ornament of Entering All
Buddha Fields (25):

One who realizes the essence of all


things does not fabricate anything,
because all things are produced by
causes and conditions. That which is
produced by causes and conditions is,
in ultimate truth, not produced.
Noble Nagarjuna also said (in the Sixty Verses):
That which has dependently originated
cannot arise in its intrinsic nature. That
which has not arisen in its intrinsic
nature, how can one say it has arisen?
(v. 20)

One who conceptualizes the intrinsic


originating of even a very subtle thing,
that unwise person cannot realize the
meaning of conditional arising.
(v. 13)

Thus, there is no intrinsic nature from the viewpoint of ultimate truth, and the dependent origination
of the conventional truth is merely a magician's illusion. It is stated in the Visiting LaJ!lka:

The Stages of Meditation

25

The origination of things is conven


tional, but ultimately there is no intrinsic nature. That which is mistaken
about things' lack pf intrinsic nature
is accepted as the conventional.
(ch. 10, v. 429)

Thus, the lack of intr:insic nature is the intenqed


point of the Buddha's teaching. Therefore, ultimately,
it is not correct to say that things are born from self,
other, both of self and othe~. or without cause.
Things do not arise from themselves or others.
Things cannot arise from the~mselves. If things originate
from themselves, do the aheady originated things, or
the nonoriginated originate? If one says that the already
originated things originate, this is incorrect because the
things already have been e~.tablished. If already originated things could originate, then, A nonoriginating
never be happened,it endles::;ly become originating.
If unoriginate things could originate, then such
things as a rabbit's hom, a parren woman's child and a
sky flower would be possible. to arise. Therefore,
things do not originate from themselves, and cannot
arise from others. If thing~ could arise from others,
then there would be the pr.oblem that anything could
arise from anything.
Things cannot originate from both self and others because of the problems mentioned above.
Also, things cannot arise without cause, not
depending on anything, because things would be arising all the time. In this case without depending on cause,
things would be unconditioned, then, there would be

Vimalamitra

26

the problem of being eternal which would result in


chaos, because ali efforts to accomplish one's goal would
be useless.
In this way there is no validity to the arising of
things. Therefore, there is no possibility of things arising. The expression of the arising of things is only
conventional. Ultimately there is neither Buddha nor
nirvfu:ta. In that case it is needless to talk about any
other things.Thus one should discern. As it is said in
the Transcendence of Wisdom (26):
Subhuti, even the Buddha is, like a dream
and an illusion; even nirvfu:la js like a
dream and illusion, and if there were a
thing far better than nirval)a, that too,
would be like a dream and an illusion.
[A similar statement in the Eight Thousand Lines,
Sanskrit version, Darbanga, p. 20. Tib. Tog Palace
Kanjur, folio 31b.]

1. Placing the Mind in Meditation


Therefore, ultimately, everything, composed or
uncomposed, is nonexistent [in its intrinsic nature].
One should meditate thus .
.2. Continuing the Meditation
In this way, anything that is conceptualized is based on a

rionexistent.Besides this, there is nothing else to be discerned. So, one should remain luminously meditating
on reality without exertion, spontaneously active in the
nondiscerning state of mind, without investigation,
analysis or criticality. Remaining thus, one should strive
for nondistracted continuity of [meditative] mind.

The Stages of Meditation

27

3. Re-placing the Mind in l'llieditation


If one's mind becomes distracted toward extemai
objects, one should examine the nature of mind, and
when the distraction ceases, one should again contemplate on the very exact focu:;ed object.
4. Thoroughly Placing the l\1ind in Meditation
One should place the mind into nonconceptualization
of fabrication. It not remain on form, and so forth. If
one examines with wisdom the intrinsic nature of
things, one will not apprehend anything, and will then
become the meditator of perfect wisdom.
5. Cultivating Interest
When one's mind has no interest in meditation, one
should seek the virtues of meditation, and should cultivate delightful interest in it.
6. Stopping Distractions
By seeing flaws in a distraction, one should stop
unwillingness [for meditation],
7. Ceasing Distraction
When drowsiness or sleep inhibit the mind and cause
lack of clarity, one should contemplate a very pleasant
thing such as an image of the Buddha, dependent origination or the Twelve Deeds of the Buddha.
Distraction will then cease, giving one a firm contem...:
plation of reality. In the same way, due to desire for
previously addicted objects when one's mind has been
distracted or about to be distracted, one should contemplate impermanence and so forth and discard
whatever is qmsing it, one should stop distraction.

28

Vimalamitra

8. Forming One Pointedness


Then one should strive for the mind to .spontaneously
return to the very focused object.
9. Forming Equanimity
Dullness or restlessness occur when the mind does not
remain on reality, and hence there is no quiescence.
When the mind concentrates onreality clearly, evenly
and spontaneously, there is neither dullness or restlessness, and the meditator, by relaxing, should establish equanimity. At that time, he has accomplished the
path of the unity of quiescence and insight.
Sometimes, when meditating on insight, one's
wisdom may become excessive, and one's quiescence
may become sparse. This causes the mind to vibrate
like [the flame of] an oil lamp in a blowing wind, making the meditator unable to perceive reality. At this
time, one should cultivate quiescence.
When there is too much quiescence, one is
unable to see reality clearly, and one islike a person
who. feels sleepy. In this case, one should cultivate
insight.
Like two yoked bulls working together, whe~
both quiescence and insight have united and turned
evenly upon reality, one should remain iri. meditation
without movement for as long as the body and mind
are comfortable.
The Obstructions to Meditation
In brief, all meditations have six obstructions: laziness,
forgetfulness of the object, dullness, restlessness, noneffort and needless effort.

The Stages of Meditation

29

As antidotes to thel:.e, one should cultivate the


eightfold course: faith,asp:~ration, effort, clarity, mindfulness, observance, awareness and equanimity.
The first four of these are antidotes to laziness.
Through faith in meditation, one has confidence.
Through confidence the meditator can develop aspiration. Through aspiration exertion can be developed.
Exertion makes body and mind flexible and energetic.
In this way, faith and so forth become the antidote to
laziness. Therefore, one should cultivate these things.
Mindfulness is the antidote to the forgetting of
the object. Alertness is the antidote to both dullness
and restlessness. Having recognized these two through
alertness, one can then eradicate them.
When dulliless and restlessness occur, if one
does not make an effort to stop them, this is a fault.
Therefore, as an antidote t:> this, one should cultivate
awareness. But when dullness and restlessness have
ceased a:ud the mind is in equipoise, and still further
effort is made, then mind will become distracted.
When dullness appears and no effort is made,
then, because of the lack of insight, mind will be totally blinded. Therefore, one l:hould stop mental dulliless
and restlessness and cultivate equipoised equanimity.
Then, without any movement>. the meditator should sit
concentrating on reality for as long as one wishes.
If an occasional obstacle to the body and mind
occurs, one should examine: all worldly things and realize that all of them are like an illusion, a d.ream, and a
mirage, a reflection of the moon in water, and hallucination. As is explained in Entering Nonconceptuality (27):

Vimalamitra

30

[In an equipoise state] through exalted


knowledge uf reality, one sees all things
are as the sphere of sky, and through
the subsequent knowledge froin this
equipoise, one sees all things are as an
illusion, a mirage, or a reflection of the
moon in water.
[Quoted also iii the 3rd Bhlzvanakrama.]

Upon realizing that cyclic existence is like an


illusion, one must develop great compassion for all
sentient beings. One should think thus: "As sentient
beings have childlike minds, they do not realize the
profound na~re of things. They have assumed things
to be really existent that have been peaceful from the
outset. Having been deluded in this way, they have
accumulated a great variety of deeds and defilements
which result in their wandering in cyclic existence [and
experiencing all of its sufferings]. Therefore, I must
help these sentient beings to realize the profound
nature of things."
After this contemplation, one must rest. Then,
in a similar way, one should enter into the meditation
of the nonappearance of all things. If the mind becomes
qiscouraged, one should relax and again resume the
same meditation.
[When one is in meditation retreat] such a process should be done for three hours, or one and half, or
one hour, or as long as one can sit in meditation.
Then one rna y rise from meditation, or, if
one wishes, without disturbing the crossed legs
of the lotus position, one may contemplate thus:

The Stages of Meditation

31

"From the ultimate point of view, all things are


unoriginated, but becam;e of a conglomeration of
various causes, when they are not analyzed, they
appear as pleasant objects.
As a result [one's philosophy] will be neither
repudiating nor reifying. 1VV'hen one analyzes things
with wisdom, one cannot apprehend [things as intrinsically real] and thus [one':; practice] will not fall into
the extreme of etemalism or reification.
If it were not this wa.y, how could the relationship of caus~ and effect, and so forth, function? Also, if
it were not this way, the Lord would not have said [in
Visiting La7J1ka]:
The arising of things occur conventionally; ultimately there is no intrinsic
nature.
[ch. 10, v. 429]

The Person of Small Capacity


Those who lack the insight of wisdom have false
knowledge. Attached to self, they commit many
kinds of actions, and consequently wander in cyclic
existence.
The Person of Middle Capacity
Those who are not attached to cyclic existence, but
lack great compassion, do not practice the perfection
of giving and so forth for the benefit o~ sentient
beings. Lacking skillful m~eans, they strive only for
their own peace and fall into the path of the disciples
and hermit sages.

32

Vimalamitra

The Person of Great Capacity


Bodhisattvas, with the strength of great compassion,
have taken a vow to deliver sentient beings from suffering, even though they have realized the nature of
the voidness pf sentient beings. They do not have erro..,
neous knowledge, as a magician does not have erroneous knowledge about his performance, and they
accomplish great accumulations of merit and wisdom.
Consequently, having achieved the state of the
Tathagata, they live to bring all kinds of benefit and
happiness to all sentient beings.
N onlocated Nirval).a
They [TathagatS!.s] have abandoned all defilements
through tl).e strength of their accumulation of wisdom.
Therefore, they do not fall into cyclic existence. Being
concerned about all sentient beings, they have accomplished a great quantity of merit. By the strength of
this r[accumulation], they do not fall into nirval).a, and
have become benefactors of all sentient beings.
In this way, those who wish to benefit and make
sentient beings happy, and to achieve nonlocated
nirval).a, must strive to accumulate a great quantity of
merit and wisdom. Thus, one should contemplate.
Also in Secret of the Tathagata (28), it is said:
Through the accumulation ofwisdom,
[Buddhas] abandon all kinds of de!filement; through the accumulation of
merit, they have become the benefactors
of all sentient beings. Therefore, 0,
Lord, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva must

The Stages of Meditation

33

strive for the accumulation of merit and


wisdom.
[Quoted also-in the 3rd Bhiiuanakrama]

It is also said in Origin of th~. Birth ofTathagatas (28):

Tathagatas do not arise from only one


cause. Why? 0 Youth of the Victor, Tathagatas are made of innumerable tens of,
htu:)-clreds of, thousan<:ls of perfect causes.
What are they? Through infinitely immeasurable merit and wisdom, perfectly made.
of endless causes ...
It is also stated in Teaching of Viinalakirti (29):

Friends, the body ofthe Tathagata has


arisen from hundreds of merits, and it
certainly arises from all virtuous things.
[See Thurn\an, p. 23.]

Conclusion of the Equipoise Session


Having done this meditation, one should halt one's
formal sitting posture and pay homage to the Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions, praise and
make offerings to them, recite the aspirational prayer
of Noble Supreme Practice (30), and so forth.
Then, in order to dedicate the wisdom of voidness and great compassion to unexcelled Enlight
enment, one should strive for an accumulation of merit
through giving and other perfections, and so forth.
Some Arguments about l\1:editation
Some people have said that only through hearing the

Vimalamitra

34

profound teachings can one achieve enlightenment,


and therefore, it is not necessary to do meditation. As
it is stated in Jewel Mine (31):
Through merely hearing, seeking and
holding this scripture, one can achieve
the unexcelled enlightenment.
Therefore, it is not 1:)-ecessary to meditate, some
have said. I respond to this statement as follows. This
teaching has an intention of leading [disciples toward
the path] and has a provisional meaning, but not a
definitive meaning. Without practice and meditation,
one cannot abandon all obscurations, and cannot
achieve omniscience.
It is said in Expansion [of Enlightenment] (32):
The Bodhisattva Dharmasri said to the
'
Bodhisattva Manjusri:
0 Youth of the Victor, listen to me.
By only hearing this teaching of the
Buddha, one cannot accomplish the
ultimate goal.
Some weak persons were constantly carried by a stream of a river, and yet died
of thirst-Dharma hearing without
meditation is similar to this.
One who had given much food and
drink to many people and yet died of
hunger-Dharma hearing without meditation is similar to this.

The Stages of Meditation

35

In the same way, a sl<illful physician who


had all kinds of medicine and yet died of
a stomach 'disease-Dharma hearing
without meditation i:; similar to this.

Just as one who can count many kinds


of jewels in a treasur:r, but cannot find
even half a grain of barley-Dharma
hearing without meditation is similar
to this.
A person who lives in a royal palace,
and possesses all kinds of enjoyments,
but has no food and drink-Dharma
hearing without meditation is similar
to this.
A deaf person, very skillful in music
who can delight othe;~s, but cannot hear
it himself-Dharma hearing without
meditation is similar to this.
A blind artist who can create his art in
the midst of a marke~place but cannot
see it-Dharma hearing without meditation is similar to this.
A boatman who ferries many people
across a great river, but himself drowns
in it-Dharma hearing without meditation is similar to this.
Therefore, the former scripture [the Jewel Mine]
has a provisional meaning. Without meditation, one

Vimalamitra

36

will be delayed in reaching the ultimate goal of


enlightenment.
Some people have said that one does not need
to seek solitude, or practice meditation, that through
giving and worshipping the Three Jewels, one can
achieve enlighteiunent. My answer to this is: Without
seeking solitl.Jde and practicing meditation, one cann.ot achieve omniscience. Just as it is stated in Great

Lion's Roar of Noble Maitreya (33):


The Buddha said: "Kasyapa, having
filled up this great thousand of the three
thousand world systems from the ocean
to the Brahmaloka with mustard oil, and
set there a wick as big as Mount
Sumeru, one offers this lamp to the
Tathagata. Furthermore, one offers this
great world system of the three thousand, full of flowers, incense, perfumes,
fragrances, flags, canopies, banners and
umbrellas to the Tathagatas three times
a day and three times a night for a hundred thousand years. However, one who
strives for enlightenment, abides in
moral discipline, receives teachings
from preceptors.or teachers, recites
sutras, contemplates the meaning of
even a verse of four lines, is alarmed by
bustling speeches, alarmed by the three
realms, wishes accomplishment for the
benefit of sentient beings, or begms even
seven steps towards solittide generates

The Stages of Meditation

37

more'merit than the j:ormer one.


Also~

King Nimindhara made full offerings of food, clothing, bedding, flowers,


fragrance, iitcense, flags, canopies, banners, umbrellas, as well as his kingdom,
arid the. seven precim1s objects, and
many other things. to the Tathagata
Pu~pavi.Sva for eighty-four thousand
years. At the same time, there was also
one dwelling in solitude, who meditated
on the nonarising of all things for only
one moment as long as a finger snap.
The former cannot be! compared to the
latter by even tile smallest part of a
thousandth, a one hundred thousandth."

Thus, many sutras state that the practice of giving has only a little benefit, while the practice of meditating in solitude has much mor~. It is also explained
in the Four Dharmas (34):
Monks, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva
should not, even at the risk of his life,
abandon a solitary dwelling for his
whole life.
It is also stated in the Heap of Jewels [of Dharma] (35):

All sentient beings wm achieve enlightenment in solitude, where the previous


Buddhas, the Lords o.f the World,
achieved nirvana.

38

Vimalamitra

If one dwells in solitude, one will quickly abandon craving for desire objects.
Having understood the exact cause of
defilement, one will remove the mind
from these.

Having quickly abandoned. worldly


affairs and dwelling in solitude, the wise
ones who see reality learn according to
the Buddhas.
Those who strive for enlightenment,
who seek and delight in solitude, do not
relish worldly affairs.
One who enters and practices the path
of the perfect Buddha will not have any
difficulty in reaching enlightenment.
Therefore, one should seek solitude, and strive
for quiescence and insight. It is explained in the Array
of Mafijusri's Field (36):
Again, Sartputra, a lay Bodhisattva who
serves the Tathagatas as many as the
sand of the Ganges, together with their
disciples, all kinds of pleasant things for
as many eons as the number of sands of
the river Ganges, will not develop more
merit than that of a Bodhisattva who
renounces worldly affairs, and takes
seven steps towards solitude. As a result,
the renounced Bodhisattva who seeks
solitude will soon achieve enlightenment.

The Stages of Meditation

39

Therefore, one should make effort to dwell in solitude.


Some people claim that through the reading
and writing [of scripture], one can dispel defilement
and deeds, and therefore, it i:s not necessary to contemplate reality. I respond to this with the following
excerpts from Heap of jewels [ofDhanna]:
For instance, Kasyapa, until someone
illuminated it, a how;e remained ':Vithout light for one hundred thousand
years. What do you think, Kasyapa?
Does the darkness of the house think
that, having been there for one hundred thousand years, it should not go
from there?' Kasyapa said, 'Lord,
because of the light, theJgreat darkness
has no power not to go. Definitely, it
has to go.' the Lord, said, 'Similarly,
Kasyapa, deeds and defilements gathered over a hundred 1housand years
would be dispelled by a single analytical insight ol right contemplation.
Kasyapa, light means the faculty of
holy wisdom, and great darkness
means deeds and defilements.
Furthermore, in the same text, it is said:
Kasyapa, through only a single analytical insight of right contemplation, one
can purify deeds and defilements gathered over a hundred thousand eons.

40

Vimalamitra

Therefore, the reading and writing [of


scripture] has less merit [than meditation].
Some claim that remaining as a householder and
practicing virtuous actions, one can achieve enlightenment, and therefore, it is not necessary to rely on solitude, an~ the practice of quiescence and insight. To
answer this, the following excerpts from the Moonlight
Lamp [of Dharma] are quoted:
Through pursuing desire, craving for
offspring and wife, and by relying on
the inferior status of a householder,
one can never achieve unexcelled perfect enlightenment. [ch.S. v.S]
Abandoning desire, as a fire made of
cow dung, giving up the craving for
wife and offspring, discouraging and
renouncing worldly affairs, one will
not have difficulty achieving unexcelled
perfect enlightenment. [ch.S. v. 6]
Previously, no one who remained as a
householder achieved the superb and
perfect enlightenment, and no one will
achieve it in the future also~ [ch.S. v. 7)]
Abandoning even a kingdom just as
one would spit, dwelling in solitude,
forsaking defilements, subduing an
army of devils, one can achieve immaculate enlightenment and unconditioned Buddhahood.[ch.s. v. 8]

The Stages of Meditation

Enthusiastkally wishing for enlightenment~ havingrepulsion towards inferior


compotl!ided things, and directing oneself towards benefiting sentient beings,
one who makes even. seven steps
towards solitude ha~; the most superior
merit. [ch.S. v. 11]
Those who have no attachment to nor
detachment from anything will be very
happy in this human world. Those who
delight in the forest <md the mountainside will experience the comforts of
monkhood.[ch.19, v. 13)]
Meditators who have no personal possessions nor grasping of anything, dwell
in the world like the rhinoceros, and
moye in space like the wind. [ch. 19, v. 14)]
Those whose minds are not attached to
this world are happy, and as they are
not attached to the pleasant and
unpleasant, their minds are always free
like the wind. [ch. 19,T. 16]
They do not delight in the extinction
of suffering, nor the existence of suffering, but rather they dispel these two
extremes. Thus, tho~e who delight in
such Dharma will be happy. [ch. 19, v.l7]
'Furthermore, it is said in the same text:

41

Vimalamitra

42

Having dispelled all faults, meditators


always have less worldly involvement;
those who strive for meditation never
have disputes. This is an advantage of
dwelling in solitude. [ch. 28,-v. 73]
Those who have renounced worldly
composite entities and have no desire
for worldly things will not increase their
defilements. This is a meritorious result
of dwelling in a forest. [ch: 28, v. 74]
They never dispute with anyone, and
diligently restrain body, speech, and
mind. Thus, there are many kinds of
merit in dwelling in solitude. [ch. 28, v. 75]
These meditators are able to quickly
realize peaceful liberation. Having lived
in the forest, and having approached liberation, the solitary dweller will achieve
all these merits. [ch. 28, v. 76]
It is said in the same scripture:

Abandoning attachment to towns and


cities, one should always approach the
forest and solitude. One should always
make oneself nondual, like a rhinoceros.
Then, one can quickly achieve this excellent meditation. [ch. 29, v. 53]
It is also stated in Questions of Kingdom Protector (37):

The Stages of Meditation

43

Abandoning worldly affairs, which possess an immeasurable depth of flaws,


and not be:ing anxiou~; for wealth, virtuous Bodhisattvas, who have tamed the
senses and achieved tC'anquillity, delight
:in solitude. They are never excessively
gregarious with men <md women. They
live purely and stainlessly, like the rhinoceros. [v. 60)
They are not delighted by profit, nor
disgusted by loss; they have little
desire and are content with anything.
They g~ve up cunning and hypocrisy.
They make an effort t,) benefit sentient
beings by perfecting ~~v:ing, and other
disciplines; they strive for m.editation
and to achieve the perfect m:ind:
the wisdom of Buddha. [v. 61)
Be:ing detached from even their own
bodies, lives and beloved relatives,
the Bodhisattvas always practice the
path of enlightenment with adamant
meditative minds. Their rn:inds would
not be agitated even if someone were to
cut their bodies :into pieces. Without
desir:ing omniscience, they make a firm
effort for enlightenment. [v. 62]
Having achieved thi~; exquisite human life, if
one's mind is not purified because of attachment to

44

Vimalamitra

gain, respect and desire, one will have deceived only


one's self in this world of gods and men. Therefore,
one should leave worldly involvement and seek solitude in order to practice quiescence and insight.
Also, it is stated in Heap of Jewels [of Dharma]:
Kasyapa, a person is carried away by
great ocean waves, and dies of thirst.
Similarly, Kasyapa, some ascetics and
brahrnins have realized many teachings
but have not dispelled the cravings of
desire, cravings of hatred, and cravings
of ignorance. They have been carried by
the wave of a Dharma ocean, but die
from the thirst of defilements, and will
go to an: inferior state of cyclic existence.
Therefore, the meditator should not turn th~
mind towards any kind of craving defilement. It is also
explained in the Questions of Householder Ugra (38):
Householder, a hermit Bodhisattva should
contemplate thus: For what purpose do I
remain in solitude? Merely dwelling in
solitude is not to be a hermit. That is not
purified, not hidden, not pacified, not
tamed, not diligence, and not exertion.
Just as deer, monkeys, birds, robbers and
many other inferior beings also live in
solitude but are not endowed with the
hermit's merits. So I should accomplish
the purpose of hermitage, which is why
I live in this solitude.

The Stages of Meditation

One should analyze :ike this. Householder, a hermit Bodhisattva should contemplate thus: For what purpose dol
approach solitude? Because of fear and.
terror I come to live in solitude. What fear
and terror? The fear ctnd terror of bustling
crowds, association, desire, hatred, ignorance, pride, arrogan:e, concealment of
rwnvirtuous actions, attachment, jealousy,
and miserliness; fomt, sound, odor, taste,
and tangible objects; the devil of the
aggregates, devil of defilements, devil of
death and the devil of the youth of god;
wrong views holding impermanent
things as permanent, holding suffering as
happiness, holdjng selflessness.as self,
and holding the impure as pure; thought,
mind, and consciousness; cyclic existence,
the state of wanderin:s; the view of [holding] the perishable collection [as the permanent self]; the grasping of self and
self-possessions; excitement, contrition,
and doubt; evil friends; gain and respect;
evil teachers; false asceticism; malevolence; the realms of desire, form, and
formlessness; birth and death within
cyclic existence, such as, of being born in
hell as an animal, as a hungry ghost, or
lacking in leisure. In short I have a terror
of all things. Thus, I h:tve fear and terror.
Therefore, I have come to solitude.

45

46

Vimalamitra

Therefore, according to this siltra, the meditator


should remain in solitude. One should not remain in
solitude with impure thoughts. Again it is said:
Householder, whateverfear a hermit
Bodhisattva dwelling in solitude has, all
of it arises from self-grasping, selfattachment, self-holding, self-craving,
self-perception, self-boasting, self-cherishing view, self-centric state, self-inclination and self-defense. If I dwell in
solitude but do not abandon these
things, my dwelling in solitude will be
in vain. Also, one should thu;_k in this
way: Dwelling in solitude is useless for
one who has self-perception about oneself and others.
Furthermore, householder, dwelling in
solitude means dwelling without
depending on worldly things; witho~t
grasping all things; without attachment
to all things; without depending upon
all form, sound, odor, taste, tangible
objects; without contradicting the sameness of all natures, and dwelling in the
pliancy of pure mind. It means dwelling
in the fearlessness of abandoning all
kinds of fear, with crossing the river of
defilements;'dwelling with firmness;
with rejoicing in the noble persons who
are content with simple things and have

The Stages of Meditation

47

few desires. They am easy to feed and


satisfy with the practice of morality in
order to gain wisdom; with the liberating doors of voidness, signlessness, and
wishlessness; with individual liberation;
with the liberation that cuts all kinds of
bondage; with subduing those who are
not beihg subdued in accordance with
dependent arising; with performing
what is to be performed; with very pure
duty. Thus, it is said.
Therefore, the meditator should consider this
way, and must dwell in ~.olitude. Fu'rthermore, the
Lord said:
Householder, for instance, grass, bushes
and trees dwell in a forest, but they do
not have any kind of fear or terror.
Similarly, household~r, an ascetic Bodhisattva should generate a perception that
his life is like grass, bushes, plants,
a wall, trees, reflections and illusions.
Thus he should contemplate, for who
would have fear and terror about such a
life?
Therefore, a hermit s:h.ould generate this kind of
perception. Again, [the Lord] explains in the same text:
Householder, knowing that the Lord
recommended that hermit Bodhisattvas
live in solitude, one ~hould live in soli-

48

Vimalamitra

tude. Thus one should perform all virtuous actions. Afterwards, relying upon a
virtuous Friend, one must go to theNillage, town, city suburbs, countryside
and capital in order to teach the
Dharma. Householder, if an ascetic
Bodhisattva wishes to go among an
assembly to receive oral transmissions
and_ to recite the scriptures, he or she
~hould be respectful regarding the mentor, abbot, elderly, middle-aged, and
new monks, be possessed of skillful
means, and, without being lazy, should
do his or her own duty without making
trouble for others, nor expect respect.
Even the Tathagata, the Foe Destroyer,
the perfectly and fully Enlightened One,
who was respected and worshipped by
gods, men and demigods in the world of
mara, brahma!).a, sramanas and brahmans, did not accept respect for his own
glory; then what need is there to say of
those not learned, but who want to
learn? I should respect all sentient
beings, but not expect respect from anyone. Thus, one should contemplate. 0
householder, a monk who assembles
just for the respect and gain he receives,
and not for the Dharma, makes the vir'tuous giving of a patron useless. Those
assembled should consider thus.

The Stages of Meditation

49

Again it is stated:
Householder, if an ascetic Bodhisattva
who is studying Dharma wants to visit
his abbot, teacher, or consult a physician,
he should go to the place or village with
this thought in mind: "I must return this
evening." Though an. ascetic monk may
depend on others and dwell in a
monastery, he should place his mind in
solitude. He should perceive all natures
as he perceives them in solitude, and realize that unceasingly ~;earching for
Dharma is the true meaning of dwelling
in solitude.
Thus, a hermit monk who wishes to dwell in solitude
should generate this kind of mind.
Selecting the Solitary Plac1~
A solitary dwelling is described in Noble Jewel Cloud
[of Dharma] (39):

One should dwell in a place neither too


far, nor too close to where one begs
food. The place should be where water
and land are not poUuted, where things
are clean and pure, where there is no
tr_ouble, but many exquisite trees, flow.ers, leaves and fruit. There should be a
cave with no harmful wild animals
about, with ravines and mediCinal
plants, where there are no obstructions,

Vimalamitra

50

and where it is easy to move about. It


should be a comfortable, peaceful place,
where one can be alone.
It is stated furthermore in the same text:

If a king of a minister, or any other the


priests, warriors, or village people visit,
one should say, "Welcome."
One should say to the King, 1/Please sit
down." If he sits, one should also sit, but
if he prefers to stand, one should also
stand. If the King is steadfast, disciplined and worthy of Dharma teachings,
the solitary dweller monk should
demonstrate various Dharma teachings.
If the King is not interested in various
dharma teachings, the monk should
demonstrate Dharma according to his
level and tell him of the greatness of the
Tathagata.

If the priests, warriors, villagers and


country people visit the solitary dweller
monk, he should explain Dharma teachings at whatever level is suitable to them.
In this way, the scholarly monk may have
Dharma listeners, and they will also
delight, have faith and rejoice in him.
It is explained in 'Heap of Jewels [of Dharma] (40):

The Stages of Meditation

If an ordinary hermit monk who has not


achieved a spiritual :result, were pursued by a poisonous snake, he should
not have fear and teiTor of it, but
instead, he should generate within his
mind the following thought: "From the
outset, having abandoned body and life,
I came to this isolated. place. Therefore, I
must have no fear and terror, but
instead, abandoning hatred and fear,,!
should have loving kindness here."
Even if the snake or a wild animal were
eating the hermit practitioner, he should
think about it in this way: "I could not
satiate these animals through world~y
possessions, but I can give my flesh to
them. Having eaten my flesh, may they
achieve happiness. As I will also have an
essence from this essenceless body, I will
achieve great gain." li people come to
where an asceti~ practitioner is dwelling
in an isolated place, he should have no
attaclunent or hatred toward them.
If some gods who had previously seen a
Preceptor Buddha, were to visit an isolated monk and ask him some questions, the solitary-dweller-monk should
explain whatever Dharma he has studied. If they were to a~:k him a profound
question that the solitary monk could
not respond to, then he should not be

51

Vimalamitra

52

discouraged. He should reply, "One


should not despise those who have not
learned. I study and make an effort to
understand the Buddha's teachings.
When I realize the Dharma that I do not
understand now, I will answer all your
questions. Now I am the listener and
you must be eloquent [to speak the
Dharma]." 0 Kasyapa that solitary
monk should speak in this way.
Furthermore, the Buddha said:
When a hermit monk dwells in a solitary place, he should direct his mind in
this way: 'I have come here from a long
distance. I am alone and have no companion. I do not have any friend who
would influence me to be good or bad,
but these gods, underground spirits,
goblins, smell eater spirits and the
Lord Buddhas who know my mind,
will be my witne~ses if I ain controlled by the nori.virtuous minds in this
solitaliy place.
Thus, an isolated practitioner should also generate his
mind in this way.
Therefore, one who wishes to quickly abandon
all obscuration and to achieve omniscience must cultivate quiescence and insight, and generate the spirit of
enlightenment.

The Stages of Meditation

53

The right meaning of the stages of nonconceptual meditation is presented with


benevolence by Vimalamitra, for the
purpose of those who are interested in
attaining enlightenment.
By whatever merit I have accumulated,
may the infinite seniient beings of the
three realms quickly achieve the insight
of wisdom, realize the middle path and
achieve omniscience.

The Meaning of the Stages of Meditation composed by


Vimalamitra is completed.
Translated into Tibetan by the Indian Abbot Prajfi.a
Varman, and the great Tibetan translator, Vande Yeshe
Sde.

54

Vimalamitra

Numerical Elements:
Two:

two accumulations (sa1J1bhara), merit (pu!fya) and


knowledge (jflana).
two kinds of the Buddha's teaching, definitive meaning (nitartha) and provisional (neyartha).
two obscurations (avqrm:za), defilement (kle5a) and of
knowing objects (jiieya).
two selflessnesses (dvinairatmya), person (pudgala) and
thing (dharma).
two truths (dvisatya), conventional (sa1J1vrti) and
absolute (paramartha).
two vows (dvisamvara), individual liberation (pratimoJc?a) and bodhisattva.
Three:

three jewels (triratna),Buddha, Dharma, and SaJttgha.


three realms (tridhatuka), desire realm (kilmadhatu), form
realm (n1padhatu), and formless realm (an1pyadhatu).
Four:

four noble truths (caturaryasatyam), (1) suffering (dubkha),


(2) the cause of suffering (samudaya), (3) the cessation of
suffering (nirodha), and (4) the path to the cessation of
suffering (patha).
Five:

five aggregates (skandha) of form (n1pa), feeling (vedana)


perception (sa1J1jng) volition (sa1J1skilrtz), and conscious-

The Stagesof Meditation

55

ness (vijnana),
five limbs, the two knees, two palms, and the forehead.
five paths (marga), the accumulation (sa1Jtbhara), preparation (prayoga), seeing (darsana), meditation (bhiivanii\
and no more learning (asaik$a).
Six:
six destinations of the life cycle (gati), god (sura),
demigod (asura), human (manu?ya), hungry ghost
(preta), animal (tiryak), and hell being (naraka).

Ten:
ten directions (dasadik); east, west, south, north; the
four intermediate directions; and the zenith and nadir.
ten stages (bhumi) of the joyous (pramudiata), immaculate
(vimalii), making light (prabh'ikiiri), radiant (archi?mati),
invincible (sudurjaya), advancing toward [supreme
virtues of the Buddha] (abhimukhi), far-reaching (dura1Jlgama), immovable (acala), positively intelligent (siidhumatl), and cloud of dharma (dharmamegha).
Twelve:
twelve branches of the Buddha's teachings,l) teaching
with aphorisms (sutra), 2) i:eaching with melodious
words (geya), 3) teaching by way of prophecy and elucidation (vyakaraJJ.a), 4) teaching with verses (gathii),
5) teaching with joyous utterances (udana), 6) teaching
by way of background eveni:s (nidana), 7) teaching by
way of illustration of life events (avadanaka), 8) teaching by way of previous event:; (itivrttaka),(9) teaching by
way of the Buddha's former lives (jataka), 10) teaching

56

Vimalamitra

by way of magnificent deeds (vaipulya)~ 11) teaching by


way of transformational activities (adbhuta), 12) teaching by way of instruction (upadesa). [according to UttaratantraiiStra, ch. 2, vv. 54-56.]

twelve deeds of the Buddha, (1) descending from


Tu!?ita (cyuti), (2) entering the womb (garbhavakramm:za),
(3) birth (janma), (4) skill in the science of arts (silpasttma
kausala), (5) enjoyment of the married life (antaJ:zpurartikri~a), (6) renunciation (nai$kramya), (7) austerity
(duJ:zkhacarika); (8) approaching the essence of enlightenment (bodhimm:z~opasa1J1kraanti), (9) subjugating the
army of Mara (marasainyapramdrdana), (10) full enlightenment (sa1J1bodhi), (11) turning the wheel of Dharma
(dharmacakrapravartana), and (12) attaining nirvax;ta
(nirvarzadhigama).

twelve media (ayatana) of the eye, ear, nose, tongue,


body, and mind (as subject); form, sound, odor, taste,
tangible, and things (as object).
Eighteen:
eighteen elements (a$fadasadhtitu), six sense elements,
eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind; six sense-object
elements, form, sound, odor, taste, tangible, and things;
and six consciousness elements, eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body, and mind.

The Stages of Meditation

Scriptures Cited in T4~Xt

1. AryadharmasaJ?1.gitisutra
2. Yuktisa?tiklzklziiriklz

3. Aryasamiidhirajasutra; it is identical to the

Candrapradipas'Lltra
4. AryasaJ?1.dhinirmocanasiitra
5. Bodhisattvapitakasutra
6. Aryaratnakutasutra
7. Aryamahiiyiinaprasiidaptabhiivanasura
8. AryamahaparinirviiJJasutra

9. Candrapradipasutr; it is identical to the

Aryasamiidhiriijasutra
10. Satyadvayanirdesasutra
1L Vairocaniibhibodhanatan tra

12. Aryaviryadattap~riprcchii:
13.

Gar;.~avyuhasutra

14. Maitreyavimok?asutra

15. Aryarajavavadas'Lltra
16. Aryajatasatrukaukrtyavi rzodana

17. Aryar;.iirayar;.apariprcchhii
18. Aryaratnamegha

19. Pratyutpannabuddhasam:mukhavasthita

57

Vimalamitra

58

20. Aryalarrzkavatara
21. Aryadasabhumika
22. Aryaratnamegha
23. Aryalalitavistara
24. Ratnolka
25.

Sarvabuddhavi~ayavatararajajfianalokalarrzkiira

26. Aryaprajfiaparamita
27. Avikalpapravesa

28. Tathiigataguhyasutra
29. Aryatathagatotpattisambhavanasutra

30. Aryavimalakirtinirdesasutra
31. Aryabhadracarya
32. Aryaratnakarasutra
33. Aryavatarrzsaka
34. Aryacaturdharmanirde5amahayanasutra
35. Aryamaitreyasirrzhanadasutra
36. Aryadharmacatubkasutra
37. Aryamanjusrii~etravyuha
38. Aryara~trapalapariprchasutra

39. Aryagrhapatyugrapariprcchii-sutra

40. Aryaratnarasisutra