• The antidotes for the obstacles

Kunzig Shamar RinpocheWe can encounter five types of obstacles : idleness, forgetfulness, the inability to remember advice and instructions, drowsiness or mental obscurity, and agitation. (The first three are common experiences that we can all relate to. Explanations for them are therefore not provided here.) What follows are some antidotes which are given to counter the obstacles. However it is important to understand that the antidotes have to be applied appropriately. Just as it is wrong not to apply the remedies when they are necessary, it is equally wrong to continue to use the remedies and antidotes when they are no longer applicable. The latter case then becomes another obstacle to meditation. We list this as the sixth type of obstacle, the misuse of the antidotes.

Remembering the futility of samsara :
The antidote for regret, the second obstacle to samatha is to understand that samsara is futile. Samsara has no meaning. Understanding this our attachments will dissipate naturally by themselves. Regrets about past actions will no longer hold any meaning and they too will dissipate. It is necessary to start by meditating on samsara's impermanence. Once we have successfully integrated this view, we will realise that there is no reason to be attached to samsara, that it is futile and devoid of meaning. This perspective will loosen the attachment that we have for our past actions, and we will not take them so seriously. If we have not understood the impermanence and the futility of samsara, our past actions will still seem important to us. We will grasp on to them, engage in reflection about them and then regret will set in and short-circuit our meditation. On the other hand, if we have less attachment to samsara, there will be less grasping about what we are doing and what we have done and therefore less regrets will arise. This remedy is thus based on the reflection about the impermanence and futility of samsara.

Stimulating inspiration :
An antidote for both drowsiness and agitation is to call to mind the things that inspire us and make us happy in our practice. What is there that can inspire us in our practice ? Knowing about the qualities and benefits of the various meditative absorptions which we will achieve if we dedicate ourselves to practice will encourage us to really commit ourselves. For example, in the sutra called "the King-like Sutra" all of the samadhis are explained. Calling to mind the description of these qualities gives us the will and energy to practise and in this way these obstacles are dissipated.

Developing an awareness of impermanence :
The remedy for doubt and for attachment to the pleasures of the senses is identical to that for agitation. We have to develop more of an awareness of impermanence, to be increasingly conscious that phenomena are impermanent. We can also reflect on the negative effects of desire-attachment. That is, the more we desire, the more we need things, and the less we are able to satisfy these desires. We will always be dissatisfied as long as our minds continue to function in terms of desire and attachment. It is like having a skin allergy, the more we scratch ourselves, the greater the irritation becomes.

Developing love and compassion :
In order to counteract ill will and hatred it is necessary to think about the negative effects of this type of attitude and we should reflect on the benefits of not having this malevolent mind. We then develop love and compassion in its place. This meditation on love and compassion has two advantages. It allows us to find our own happiness and to make others happy. So here we have one remedy and two benefits.

The remedy for laziness :
To counter laziness, we need to develop confidence in the Three jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha). In particular, we should develop confidence in the second aspect, which is the Dharma or the path and especially in the fruits that the path brings. As explained earlier, the fruit of Dharma practice is known as "cessation", a state in which all the emotions are completely overcome. This state of cessation is not only something coming to an end, but also something which arises. On the one hand one experiences a state of wellbeing, joy, and happiness and on the other peace and a calm clarity.

If we keep in mind that the fruit of the path, the fruit of the practice, is this cessation that brings about peace and happiness, this knowledge will give us the courage to continue with practice and to overcome our laziness. We will have the conviction to commit ourselves to practice.

Investing one's mind in practice :
It is equally important to dedicate our minds progressively to practice. Once we understand the result we can reap, we will want to attain it. We will have the desire to put effort into our meditation, and to progress along the path. Once the will is there, we can commit ourselves to the practice. If we commit ourselves and put the practice into work we start to gain mastery in our meditation. In the end the meditation will become natural and there will be no room left for laziness.

Remembering the instructions :
Another obstacle is forgetting the instructions. The antidote for this is to remember the instructions. The moment we realise that we have forgotten the instructions, we have to bring them back to mind and apply them.

Mindfulness :
Mindfulness, or conscious attention, is the antidote for the two obstacles of drowsiness and agitation. We need to train the mind to be aware of the state that it's in. Whether we experience drowsiness or agitation we should gradually train the mind to be aware of itself. We have to be vigilant about what arises in the mind. Developing this mindfulness will enable us to dissipate drowsiness and agitation.

Whenever we forget to apply these antidotes, as soon as we become aware that we have forgotten, all we have to do is simply apply them. Likewise, when we misuse the remedies, we do not just overlook the mistake but right away we should correct it. When we realise that an antidote has worked, we should then let go of it and establish the mind in equanimity.

Right now we are like new-born babies. Little by little, we will receive the instructions to grow up until we become fully mature. At the moment we are children. Soon we will pass on to adolescence, closer to the state of a young adult, until finally we will become wise old sages...

The 14th Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche

Samadhi and shi’nay