It is not enough to merely have an understanding of laxity and excitement. Rather, you need to be able to generate vigilance that knows precisely whether laxity or excitement have arisen during your meditation. In fact, in your cultivation of powerful vigilance, you not only need the vigilance that identifies laxity and excitement as soon as they arise, you also need the vigilance that knows them when they are just about to arise but have not actually arisen. As it says on the second and third Stages of Meditation, “If you notice laxity in the mind or suspect it might arise…,“ and “Noticing excitement in the mind or suspecting it might arise…” Until you generate this kind of vigilance, you cannot identify laxity or excitement if they arise. You might assert that from this point to that point there was flawless meditation without laxity or excitement, but that would be unsubstantiated, because without that powerful vigilance, you could not be certain. In accordance with that, Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes, when it says, “Once laxity and excitement are realized…,” teaches that you need vigilance to notice laxity and excitement. [202] Therefore, if the vigilance that cannot fail to know laxity and excitement has not arisen, you could meditate for a long time and even spend years with subtle laxity and excitement without noticing that they are occurring.

Well then, how do you generate vigilance? One very essential cause is the method for maintaining mindfulness presented above. If you can generate continuous mindfulness in that manner, you will be able to stop forgetting the object and mentally wandering off. You will thereby reverse long-term insensitivity to the arising of laxity and excitement and come to recognize laxity and excitement easily. This is very clear when, from the perspective of your own experience, you compare the amount of time it takes you to know laxity and excitement when mindfulness has deteriorated with the amount of time it takes you when it has not. With this understanding Entering the Bodhisattva Way (5.33) says:

When mindfulness is there to stay
at the gate of the mind to guard it,
at that point vigilance will come.

Explanation of Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes also explains mindfulness as the cause of vigilance.

One such cause is to focus the mind on the apprehended object, such as an image of the deity’s body and the like, or on the apprehending subject, such as the experience of mere awareness or mere clarity. Then apply mindfulness as explained above, focus the mind, and continuously observe whether it is scattering. This should be understood as the essential point for maintaining vigilance. In accordance with that, Entering the Bodhisattva Way (5.108) also says:

Investigating again and again
the state of body and mind, in brief,
just that alone is the definition
of the guarding of vigilance.

By doing this, you therefore generate vigilance that is aware of any laxity and excitement when they are about to arise. By means of applying mindfulness on the other hand, the forgetfulness of your mind being distracted and wandering off is stopped so that you observe well. You need to distinguish between them.


Through properly applying the method for maintaining mindfulness and vigilance as explained above, strong mindfulness will arise. Then even subtle laxity and excitement can be recognized by means of that vigilance, [203] and the fault of not noticing laxity and excitement will not be there. However, when you fail to cultivate the effort to stop the two as soon as they arise, that complacent lack of effort or nonapplication is a big problem for concentration. That is why you should cultivate the intention referred to as application of effort as its antidote.

This has two points: identifying intention and the way it stops laxity and excitement, and identifying the causes that give rise to laxity and excitement.


The Compendium of Abidharma asks, “What is intention? It is the mind creating karmic formations, the activity of the mind that causes the mind to get involved with virtue, non-virtue, or something neutral”. That means intention is the mental factor that moves the mind and impels it to something virtuous, nonvirtuous, or neutral, like iron moving without control under the power of a magnet. Here you should understand it as the intention that motivates the mind to eliminate either laxity or excitement when they occur.

Now how do you stop laxity and excitement? A mind that is lax has withdrawn inward too much and lost its apprehension of the object. For that reason the first Stages of Meditation says that you should attend to a cause for the mind to move outward again, an uplifting phenomenon. Specifically, it should be something like the Buddha’s body rather than something arousing that gives rise to mental afflictions. Alternatively, if you clear away the laxity by focusing on a sign of light, such as sunshine, that should immediately tighten the way you apprehend the object and maintain it. In this situation, do not meditate on a disenchanting object, because disenchantment is a cause for the mind to withdraw inward. However, if you analyze any object you wish to analyze with fine investigative wisdom and feel enthusiasm, this will reverse laxity. The Compendium of the Perfections (5.13) says:

When there is sinking, uplift the mind through the
power of effort in special insight.

Now, this laxity or sinking is lax because the apprehension of the object has diminished, and it is sinking because it has withdrawn inward too much. Therefore it is counteracted by the enthusiasm upon uplifting the mind of apprehension and expanding the object. [204] Essence of the Middle Way says:

When it sinks, expand the mind through
meditation on spacious objects.


When it sinks, uplift it be seeing
the benefits of joyous effort.

The most important antidote for stopping laxity is as follows. When you contemplate the benefits of the Three Jewels and bodhicitta as well as the excellent qualities of the precious freedoms you have gained and the like, it should be as effective for refreshing your awareness as cold water splashed in the face of someone asleep. This depends on the experience you have gained through your analytical meditation of fine investigation on beneficial topics.

When you apply the antidote meditation on light to the causes that reinforce the development of laxity – lethargy, sleepiness, and mental states with an aspect of darkness that induce those two – the laxity that depends on them does not arise, and that which has already arisen is reversed.

Sravaka Levels also talks about going for a walk; taking to mind the characteristics of light and familiarizing oneself with them again and again; uplifting the mind with any of the six recollections – of the Three Jewels, ethics, generosity, and deities – or other objects for greater clarity, as well as reciting Dharma teachings on the faults of lethargy and sleepiness; looking in various directions or at the moon and the stars; splashing one’s face with water; and so forth.

Furthermore, if the mental laxity is only slight and does not occur more than once in a while, tighten the mind’s apprehension as you meditate. However, when dense laxity recurs repeatedly, suspend the meditation, apply the antidotes as appropriate, and continue to meditate once the laxity has been cleared away. If the focal object becomes unclear and the mind takes on an aspect, slight or dense, of something like darkness, take up the characteristics of lights such as a butter lamp, fire, and sunshine as an antidote to that. If you familiarize yourself with them again and again, a great limpidity of mind will arise.

When it comes to excitement, the mind runs after forms, sounds, and other objects owing to attachment. [205] For that you should attend to something disenchanting, a cause for the mind to withdraw inward. However, as soon as the excitement has subsided because of that, rest in equipoise. Essence of the Middle Way says:  

Pacify excitement by
attending, for instance, to impermanence.


You should collect the distracted mind
by seeing the faults of the signs of distraction.

When intense or prolonged excitement occurs, collecting the mind inward and placing it every time it scatters is not effective. It is more effective to let go of the meditation for a while and meditate on something disenchanting. However, when the excitement is not that strong, you should collect the distracted mind inward and tie it to the object. Compendium of the Perfections (5.13) says:

Whenever your mind becomes excited,
avert this by means of samatha.

With an exalted mind, you should not attend to inspiring or delightful objects, for they cause the mind to be distracted outward.


The common causes of both laxity and excitement are not guarding one’s sense doors, not eating the right amount, not putting effort into practice without sleeping during the first and last parts of the night, and lacking vigilance.

The causes of laxity are great sleepiness, the mind being excessively loose in its hold on the object, not balancing samatha and special insight but relying on samatha too much, the mind remaining as though in darkness, and not taking joy in directing the mind toward the object.

The causes of excitement are said to be insufficient disenchantment, excessive tightness with respect to the focal object, unfamiliarity with effort, and being distracted by thoughts of family and the like.

Therefore you need, through vigilance, to know even subtle aspects of laxity and excitement and completely stop them all. If you give up and think, “I cut through subtle excitement, distraction, and the like in the beginning, but they were never terminated, so I will not cut through them any longer,” or if you think, “Unless they are intense or come for excessively long stretches, there is not need to cut through them; no karma will be accumulated if they are brief and weak,” you do not know how to accomplish pure concentration. [206] That is because you depart from the methods to accomplish concentration established by the venerable Maitreya and others.

Therefore summon your mind from its wandering and excitement so that it is tied to the object within, and seek stability. Whenever there is stability, beware of laxity and bring forth intense clarity. Accomplish faultless concentration by alternating between those two. Do not trust a mere limpidity that lacks clarity together with intense apprehension.


It is a problem for your concentration if you apply yourself or make effort after subtle laxity and excitement have been terminated as explained above and the mind has entered into equanimity without the imbalances of becoming either lax or excited through the meditation. So as the antidote to that, you should cultivate equanimity. Application and effort become problems at the point when you grow confident that laxity and excitement will not arise in every session because you draw the mind inward and uplift it whenever it is lax. At that stage, it is a mistake to be as cautious of laxity and excitement as you were in the beginning. If you were, your mind would become distracted, so you need to know to loosen up at that time. That means to loosen the effort rather than letting go of the vibrancy of your apprehension. Therefore this cultivation of equanimity is not performed at all times that laxity and excitement are absent but rather after laxity and excitement have been largely destroyed. This is because there is not equanimity until you have largely destroyed laxity and excitement.

Well then, what is this equanimity? Among the three types of equanimity – neutral feeling, immeasurable equanimity, and equanimity of application – it is the last one. Its nature is the mind resting evenly and at ease upon its object associated with either samatha or special insight, operating naturally, and achieving suppleness, just as explained in Sravaka Levels. When you have achieved equanimity like this as you cultivate concentration free from laxity and excitement, you should let that equanimity be fully manifest as you place the mind without strong effort.

This is in accordance with what is set forth in Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes:

Staying with that, there is suppleness
and achievement of all aims.
It springs from the causes to rely on:
the eight factors removing five faults.

Laziness, [207] forgetting the instructions,
laxity and excitement,
nonapplication, and application
are asserted to be the five faults.

[The eight factors are:]
The basis, that which is based on it,
the cause, the effect,
not forgetting the observed object,
noticing excitement and laxity,
application to remove them, and
resting naturally when they are calmed.

Here ”staying with that” means staying with joyous effort in order to eliminate unfavorable conditions. Concentration characterized by mental suppleness arises from that. Furthermore, since it is the foundation or basis of miraculous powers such as clairvoyance that bring about all goals, it achieves those goals. Such concentration arises from eliminating the five faults and relying on the eight factors.

The five faults are as follows. At the time of application, laziness is a fault because you will not apply yourself to concentration. When you put effort into concentration, forgetting the instructions is a fault, for if you forget the object, there will be no meditative equipoise of the mind on the object. Laxity and excitement are faults because they prevent mental suppleness in meditative equipoise. When laxity and excitement occur, it is a fault not to make effort, for the two are thereby not pacified. When there is no more laxity and excitement, the intention to apply yourself becomes a fault. Stages of Meditation says that there are five faults if you count laxity and excitement together and six if your count them separately.

Among their antidotes, the eight factors for eliminating them, laziness has four. They are faith, aspiration, effort, and pliancy. The antidotes for forgetfulness, laxity and excitement, nonapplication, and application are, respectively, mindfulness, vigilance, the intention to apply yourself, and the equanimity of placing the mind naturally. They have already been explained above.

This freeing of the single-pointed concentration of the mind from laxity and excitement by means of mindfulness and vigilance is common to all the instructions on how to practice. Therefore you should not consider it a specific detail of the Laksanayana that is unnecessary in mantra. It is also taught in many highest yoga tantras. [208]



This has three points: the actual stages of samatha that arise, the method for accomplishing them by means of the six powers, and how they involve the four types of attention.


The first has nine points. Placing the mind on something is to draw the mind away from all external objects and direct it toward the object within. Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras says:

Having directed the mind toward the object,

In continuous placement, the directed mind is continuously placed on the object over a period of time without it being distracted to anything else.

Continuously prevent it from getting distracted.

In patchy placement, if you get distracted because of forgetfulness so that you are pulled away to external things, you realize it and tie your mind to the object once again.

Realising distraction quickly,
you should patch it up again.

Close placement is explained in Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom as enhancing placement by repeatedly drawing in and refining the mind, which is expansive by nature. This accords with the statement:

Intelligent people should more and more
draw their minds inside.

Taming is to reflect on and rejoice in the excellent qualities of concentration.

Then, as you see the excellent qualities,
the mind is tamed in concentration.

Pacification is to view distraction as a fault and pacify dislike for concentration.

By seeing distraction as a fault you
pacify dislike for the meditation.

Complete pacification is to completely pacify whatever mental states of attachment, unhappiness, lethargy, sleepiness, and so forth occur.

Attachment, unhappiness, and the like
should be pacified as they arise.

Single-pointedness is to make an effort for the sake of effortless engagement. [209]

Then, by means of restraint and effort,
with full attention of the mind,
you get it to come about naturally.

Even placement is said in Stages of Meditation to be the equanimity when the mind has become balanced. In Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom it is said to be spontaneous, natural engagement and the attainment of control owing to the habit of unifying the mindstream. In accordance with that, Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras also says:

Since it’s habitual, there’s no application.

The names of these nine mental states are as quote in sources such as the first Stages of Meditation, which says:

This path of samatha is explained in the
Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and so on.

You should act in accordance with quotations like these.


The six powers are those of hearing, thinking, mindfulness, vigilance, joyous effort and through acquaintance.

The mental state of placement is accomplished through the power of hearing, for it is merely first tying the mind to the object and following just the instructions you have heard from someone on how to place the mind on an object. It is not something that you have become familiar with through repeated reflections.

The mental state of continuous placement is accomplished through the power of thinking, for you keep thinking about the continuation of that first bond with the object and maintain it. From that you will initially achieve the capacity for a somewhat connected continuity.

The two mental states of patchy placement and close placement are accomplished through the power of mindfulness, for when the mind is distracted from the object, you are mindful of the earlier object and collect the mind back within. You generate the power of mindfulness from the start and do not let your mind get distracted from the object.

The two metal states of taming and pacification are accomplished through the power of vigilance, for through recognizing with vigilance the faults of scattering towards conceptualization and toward the signs of the secondary afflictions, and through viewing them as faults, you do not allow your mind to scatter toward those two.

You accomplish the two mental states of complete pacification and single-pointedness through the power of joyous effort, for you eliminate even subtle occurrences of conceptualization and secondary afflictions [210] with effort and do not respond to them. By doing this, laxity excitement, and concentration that arises continuously is accomplished.

You accomplish the mental state of even placement through the power of thorough acquaintance, for concentration that operates naturally without effort arises from the power of intense familiarization with the previous power.

These points accord with the intended meaning of Sravaka Levels, do do not rely on other explanations.

The attainment of the ninth mental state is illustrated by an analogy: When you are very used to reciting a text or something like that, then whenever the motivation to recite it first arises and you begin reciting it, the recitation itself continues uninterruptedly without effort, even if your mind is distracted by something else in the meantime. Likewise, when you have placed your mind in equipoise once through the mindfulness of having initially directed it toward the object, then you become capable of entertaining concentration continuously over a long period without being interrupted by scattering, even though mindfulness and vigilance are not applied continuously. There is no need for the effort of application, when mindfulness and vigilance are continuous, and that is called without application or effort.

For that to arise, first, whenever mindfulness and vigilance are each applied with effort, a long-lasting concentration that cannot be obstructed by unfavorable conditions such as laxity and excitement has to arise. That is the eighth mental state. That and the ninth one are the same in that conditions unfavorable to concentration such as laxity and excitement cannot disrupt them. Yet since it is necessary here to apply mindfulness and vigilance uninterruptedly, it is said to be connected with application or effort. For that to arise, it is necessary to stop even subtle laxity, excitement, and so forth as soon as they arise, without responding to them. Therefore the seventh mental state is necessary. For that to arise, powerful vigilance is needed to notice that there is no scattering toward conceptual thought and secondary afflictions, because distraction by them is understood to be a fault. Therefore you need the fifth and sixth mental states because those two are accomplished with powerful vigilance. For something like that to arise, however, requires both the mindfulness that quickly recalls the object even if the mind has been distracted from it and the mindfulness that does not allow any distraction from the object in the first place. Therefore the third and fourth mental states [211] are necessary because they are accomplished by those two types of mindfulness. For these to arise, however, the mind must first of all be bound to the object, and the continuity of that bond must be undistracted. Therefore the first and second mental states arise first.

Thus, to summarize, you should first follow the instructions you have heard and correctly perform the method for placing the mind in equipoise. Then repeatedly think about that manner of placement and maintain its continuity by piecing short periods together. Then, if mindfulness deteriorates and you get distracted, quickly collect your mind and quickly be mindful of the object you have forgotten. Then generate even stronger mindfulness and generate a power of mindfulness such that you do not get distracted from the object in the first place. You should generate intense vigilance to watch over the mind by accomplishing powerful mindfulness and by seeing the faults of laxity, excitement, and so forth, where your mind gets distracted from the object to something else. Then generate strong effort so that, when there is distraction through even subtle forgetfulness, it is recognized immediately and eliminated, and once it has been eliminated, the periods without obstruction by unfavorable conditions are lengthened. Once that has arisen, you put in effort, you perfect your familiarization through meditation, and you accomplish the ninth mental state that enters concentration without effort. In fact before the ninth mental state has been achieved, the yogi needs effort to place the mind in concentration. But when the ninth mental state has been attained, even though you do not exert effort to place the mind in meditative equipoise deliberately, your mind completely goes into concentration.

If, despite having achieved the ninth mental state, you have not achieved pliancy, you still cannot say you have achieved samatha, let alone the achievement of special insight. This is explained below.


Sravaka Levels explains that the nine stages of samatha involve four types of attention. In accordance with that, it is explained that there is tight engagement at the time of the first and second mental states because the mind must be tightened with effort. Then, during the next five mental states, laxity and excitement interrupt you and you cannot maintain long meditation sessions, so at that time there is interrupted engagement. Then, during the eighth mental state, laxity and excitement cannot cause interruptions, and you can thereby maintain meditation sessions for long stretches, and so there is uninterrupted engagement at that time. Then, for the ninth mental state, there is no interruption, and it is not necessarily to rely on constant effort, so you settle into the attention of engagement without effort. [212]

Someone might ask, “Well, there is interrupted engagement at the time of the first and second mental states, and there is also a need to tighten the mind at the time of the five intermediate mental states. Why is it that the first and second are not said to have the attention of interrupted engagement and that the five in between are not said to have the attention of tight engagement?”

With the first and second mental states, the mind is in and out of concentration, but the latter is more prolonged. With the five intermediate ones, the mind abides far longer in concentration. Therefore the latter and not the former has been labeled as having interrupted concentration. So although the two sets are indeed the same in having tight engagement, the presence and absence of interruptions and engagement over time is what makes them distinct.

Therefore those five intermediate mental states are not posited as attentions that have tied engagement.
The Compendium of the Perfections (5.10-11) says:

Through uninterrupted yoga strive
for meditative stabilization.

Just as you will not get fire through friction
if you take breaks again and again,
the method of yoga is similar.
Go on till you gain the distinctive state!

You should accomplish it in accordance it in accordance with that statement.


This has three points: indicating the dividing line between accomplishing and not accomplishing samatha, indicating how to traverse the path in reliance on samatha generally, and indicating how to traverse the mundane path in particular.


This has two points: first the main topic, and second the signs of possessing attention and an elimination of doubts.


This has two points: indicating whether samatha has been achieved based on whether pliancy has been completely achieved, and the way samatha is accomplished once pliancy has been achieved.


Has samatha been achieved when you can maintain the ninth mental state free from subtle laxity and excitement throughout prolonged meditation sessions as explained above, and when you attain concentration that operates spontaneously, independent of the effort of continuously applying mindfulness and vigilance? When this concentration has been achieved, there is a two-fold division based on whether pliancy has been achieved. If pliancy has not been achieved, it is a similitude of samatha rather than actual samatha. The Unraveling the Intent Sutra says:

“Blessed One, what is that attention called when
the bodhisattva [213] directs his attention inward,
his mind observing the mind, before physical pliancy
and mental pliancy have been achieve?”

“Maitreya, it is not samatha. It should be described
as a type of attention that is similar to

Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras (14.15) also says:

Since it’s habitual, there’s not application.
Then his body and mind attain
extreme overwhelming pliancy;
afterward he is said to have attention.

“Attention” here means samatha. The second Stages of Meditation also clearly says:

When the body and the mind of the one who has
thus familiarized himself with samathaa become
extremely pliable, and when his mind becomes
fully tractable with regard to objects observed at
will, at that time he should know that samatha
has been accomplished.

And Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom says:

Here the bodhisattvsa dwelling alone in seclusion
should attend to his intended object. He should
eliminate his mental conversation and attend
many times to the mind itself as it appears. Until
physical and mental pliancy arise, it is a mental
attention that approximates samatha. After they
have arisen, it is samatha.

Now, which realms does concentration all arise before pliancy is attained? It falls within the desire realm. Although it has such single-pointedness of mind, it is a state of nonequipoise, and is not posted as a state of equipoise. The reason explained in Levels of Yogic Path Practice is that its accomplishment is not achieved with nonregret, supreme joyful bliss, and pliancy. Thus before pliancy is attained, there is a concentration that does not rely on constant mindfulness, in which the mind goes into nonconceptuality of its own, and that appears as though it could be combined with any physical activity – traveling, walking, lying, and [214] sitting. This concentration is called single-pointed mind of the desire realm, and it is not actual samatha.

Now, which realm does concentration fall within before pliancy is attained? It falls within the desire realm. Although it has such single-pointedness of mind, it is a state of nonequipoise and is not posited as a state of equipoise. The reason explained in Levels of Yogic Practice is that its accomplishment is not achieved with nonregret, supreme joyful bliss, and pliancy. Thus before pliancy is attained, there is a concentration that does not rely on constant mindfulness, in which the mind goes into nonconceptuality of its own accord, and that appears as though it could be combined with any physical activity – traveling, walking, lying, and [214] sitting. The concentration is called single-pointed mind of the desire realm, and it is not actual samatha.


How then is pliancy achieved? And once it is achieved, how does one proceed to samatha? This is what the Compendium of Abidharma says with respect to pliancy.

What is pliancy? It is the suppleness of the body
and the mind from having cut the continuity of
negative physical and mental tendencies. Its function
is to eliminate all obstructions.

“Negative physical and mental tendencies” mean that the body and the mind are unfit to be employed for any virtuous activity at will. The antidote, physical and mental pliancy, is a consummate suppleness of body and mind for virtuous activities owing to a freedom from negative physical and mental tendencies. Physical pliancy is the lightness that comes from being free from physical intractability, such as a sense of heaviness and so on, while trying to eliminate afflictions, which are negative physical tendencies included in the affliction category and which prevent the joy of eliminating afflictions. Likewise, mental pliancy is for the mind to unobstructedly engage in the object, free from the inability to delight in directing the mind toward a virtuous object, while trying to eliminate afflictions, which are mental negative states in the affliction category and which prevent the joy of eliminating afflictions. In accordance with that Master Sthiramati says [in his Commentary on Thirty Verses (Trimsikabhasya)]:

In this regard, suppleness of the body is the source
of buoyancy and lightness in physical activities.
Suppleness of the mind, which arises when engaging
in pure attention, is a different quality, a
mental factor that is the cause of the mind becoming
fresh and happy. When you are endowed with
it, you engage in the object with no resistance,
which is why it is called suppleness of the mind.

In brief, if pliancy is attained, the body and mind become easy to use after having reversed the intractability of the body and mind in which a sense of resistance makes it difficult to engage, like having to do unpleasant work. [215] Sravaka Levels says that such perfectly complete suppleness of the body and mind arises in small portions from right when you first obtain concentration, and it increases from there, eventually becoming pliancy and single-pointed samatha. It is subtle and therefore hard to recognize at first, but later on it becomes easy to recognize.

An early sign of the arising of such fully qualified and easily discernible pliancy is when the person striving to cultivate concentration experiences a feeling of heaviness at the top of the head, but not an uncomfortable heaviness. As soon as it arises, you are freed from negative mental tendencies that obstruct the enjoyment of eliminating afflictions. The antidote to those negative tendencies, mental pliancy, arises just prior to them. Sravaka Levels says:

An early sign that coarse single-pointedness of
mind, which is easy to discern, as well we mental
and physical pliancy will soon arise is a heavy feeling
at the top of the head. This symptom is not
harmful. As soon as it arises, one eliminates any
negative mental tendencies within the affliction
category that obstruct the enjoyment of eliminating
them, and their antidotes, mental suppleness
and mental pliancy arise.

Then, in reliance upon the force of the pliancy of mental suppleness that has arisen, the winds that produce physical pliancy circulate within the body. When those winds circulate in your body parts and pervade them, you are freed from negative physical tendencies, and physical pliancy, which is the antidote to negative tendencies, arises. Moreover, after they have spread throughout the body, it is as though one is filled with the power of supple winds. Sravaka Levels says:   

Because it arises, the winds of the great elements
that are conductive to the arising of physical pliancy
circulate within the body. As they circulate,
one is freed from negative physical tendencies
within the affliction category that obstructs the joy
of eliminating them. Their antidote, physical pliancy,
spreads throughout the body [216] and
appears to fill it.

In this regard, physical pliancy is an extremely pleasant sensation within the body; it is not a mental factor. Master Sthiramati says [in his Commentary of Thirty Verses]:

If a distinctive physical sensation is conjoined
with joy, you should know it as physical pliancy
because the sutras say that when the mind is joyful,
the body becomes pliant.

Thus, when physical pliancy first arises, through the power of the winds, a great experience of bliss arises within the body. In reliance upon that, a very exquisite experience of joyful bliss is also produced in the mind.

After that, the power of that initial pliancy gradually diminishes. In fact, it is not that pliancy has been exhausted and goes away. Rather, that coarse pliancy agitates the mind excessively, so when it neutralizes, an unshakeable pliancy that is delicate like a shadow and compatible with concentration arises. When the joy has disappeared, the mind remains firmly on its object and achieves samatha free from the restlessness of agitation caused by great joy. Sravaka Levels says:

When that first arises, the mind is joyful, greatly
at ease, focused on supreme happiness, and appears
manifestly endowed with joy. Then, gradually,
all the power of the initial pliancy turns
extremely subtle, and the body gains a shadow-
like pliancy. Any mental joy is eliminated, and
through samatha, the mind engages the object in
a way that is completely firm and utterly peaceful.

Sravaka Levels explains that if that happens, then through attaining the attention and samatha included in the preliminary stage of the first meditative stabilization (dhyana), one attains the lowest type of attention of the stage of meditative equipoise.


This has two points: the actual signs of possessions attention and the elimination of doubts. [217]


Sravaka Levels teaches the signs that indicate you or someone else has achieve attention. Through attaining that, a set of four is achieved in small measure: a mind included in the form realm, physical pliancy, mental pliancy, and single-pointedness. Also, you are able to purify mental afflictions by means of peaceful and course paths or paths associated with aspects of the four noble truths; physical and mental pliancy arise very quickly when the mind is in inward equipoise; the five hindrances – aspiration or sensual pleasures, sleepiness, and so forth – have largely disappeared; and when you rise from equipoise, you are still imbued with some physical and mental pliancy.

Once attention with these signs is achieved, it is easy for the path of samsara to become pure. After meditative equipoise of the mind in single-pointed samatha, physical and mental pliancy can quickly be induced so that pliancy increases. Sravaka Levels explains that the more pliancy increases, the more samatha also increases, whereby they mutually enhance each other. In brief, when the mind is supple, the winds become supple. At that time extraordinary physical pliancy occurs, and upon its occurrence, extraordinary suppleness of winds is accomplished, whereby physical and mental pliancy is induced.

Furthermore, Sravaka Levels says:

To turn away from all the signs and to prevent
distraction, focusing at the start, engage with no
thought and without any mentation.

This explains that when at the outset the mind is placed in single-pointedness, it is done so with no other thought or any other meditation whatsoever. When you have cultivated that, according to Sravaka Levels:

Progressively focus on single-pointedness itself
and on the mind’s internal samatha. Through
that, place your mind in just this way on the
mindstream and on the entire continuity of the
mind becoming free from signs, free from
conceptualization, and absolutely calm.

When you have achieved the mind of samatha
in that manner, if signs and conceptualization
arise because of forgetfulness and unfamiliarity,
if appearances arise because of secondary mental
afflictions, or if holes start showing [218] and
they become your object, then because you have
already seen their faults, do not pursue thoughts
about such occurrences nor attend to them.

In this way, with no thoughts about them and
not attending to them, those objects completely
disintegrate, and when they have been completely
eliminated, the mind is placed on the very absence
of appearances.
Sir, this object is subtle and hard to comprehend;
therefore aspire and make a strong effort in
order to comprehend it.

That is how concentration is said to arise.

The section up to “absolutely calm” shows how freedom from signs, freedom from conceptualization, and absolute calm arise gradually from maintaining the meditation as before.

Then, the section up to “do not pursue thoughts about such occurrences” explains that whenever signs and so forth appear in the mind when samatha has been accomplished but there is not great familiarity with it and so forth, you should remember the faults of the mind coming under their power, not pursue them, and place the mind without thinking of anything.

Then, the section up to “absences of appearances” explains that through familiarizing yourself in this manner, whichever of the three signs and so forth arises, through the force of familiarity with relinquishing all thoughts about them, it will subside by itself independently of deliberately focusing the mind. The section explains that there-after you abide in the nonappearance of the three, and you are not carried away by them.

The remainder of the passage points out that this samatha is subtle and that explanations of it are difficult to comprehend.

In this regard, the signs are explained as ten: signs of the five objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects), of the three poisons, and of male and female. As for the manner in which they vanish, first a multiplicity of signs of forms and so forth appear, and as soon as they appear, they subside by themselves and are purified. Finally, when you settle in meditative equipoise, the signs of forms, sounds, and so forth do not appear; the only things that appear are the mind, which is aware and clear, and vibrant happiness.

Then the following is how conceptual thoughts disappear. As you place your mind as before, without recollecting them and without attending to them, conceptual thoughts that arise do not proliferate greatly or compound; [219] they subside naturally, like bubbles emerging from water one after another. Then, through maintaining the meditation as explained above, your experiential awareness and the sense of bliss, without being stopped deliberately but just unable to withstand the focus, again subside by themselves and are purified as soon as they arise, like the shedding of an old skin. Bliss and experiential awareness become more subtle. At that time, when you are in meditative equipoise, you will have no awareness of your own body, and you will feel as if your mind has become indistinguishable from space. When you rise from this meditation, you will feel as if your body has suddenly appeared. Afterward, even afflicted conceptual thoughts of hatred and the like that arise are different from before originally; they are weak and unable to compound over long periods of time.

These periods are period of what is called complete pacification. The experience of clarity is great, and you feel you can count the minute particles of pillars and walls of a house. Because of the intense stability, when it is time to sleep, your sleep is unlike it was before you achieved concentration; it seems mixed with concentration, and you have many pure dream appearances and the like.  


Someone might ask, “When the kind of concentration explained above is achieved, where does it fall in the context of the five paths?” If it is the concentration explained above that is cultivated after the view of selflessness has been unmistakenly ascertained and the mind has been placed within that view, it can fall within a path of liberation of ordinary beings. However, if it is not a meditation like that, Sravaka Levels says that this concentration can also cause the accomplishment of even mundane paths that view peaceful and coarse aspects to accomplish the actual first dhyana. Therefore non-Buddhist sages who free themselves from attachment by means of mundane paths up to nothingness also need it to progress to higher paths. So it is a concentration common to both non-Buddhists and Buddhists.

Furthermore, it becomes a path of liberation if it is conjoined with detachment from cyclic existence owing to the view that realizes selflessness without error and to a realization of the faults of existence, and if it is conjoined with an attitude of revulsion that strives for liberation. [220] If it is conjoined with bodhicitta, it even becomes a Mahayana path. Likewise, for example, if the generosity of giving a morsel of food to an animal and the guarding of even one kind of ethics is conjoined with that attitude, they become accumulations, respectively, of the paths of liberation and omniscience.

However, here what is being analyzed is not whether it becomes a path of liberation or omniscience when conjoined with another factor of the path. Rather, what is being analysed is which path it becomes by that concentration’s nature. The states of meditation free of thought and mentation, referred to as unfabricated by the mind and subjectless and endowed with bliss, clarity, and nondiscursiveness, are of two types: one that is a genuine emptiness meditation with the mind in equipoise on the meaning of suchness and one that is not. Therefore it is extremely important to differentiate them well, for otherwise you put yourself at great risk of mistakenly believing that you have had a realization of suchness when you have not. If you do not differentiate them as explained above, you might even take concentration, which is common to Buddhist and non-Buddhist Dharma, to be the main point of completion state highest yoga tantra. So you should investigate this in detail.


Someone might ask, “Should someone who has thus achieved attention, the nonconceptual concentration explained above, maintain only that nonconceptuality endowed with bliss, clarity, and nondiscursiveness?” One generates such concentration in the mindstream in order to generate special insight that destroys that mental afflictions. If special insight does not arise in reliance upon it, however much you familiarize yourself with concentration, you will not be able to eliminate even the mental afflictions of the desire realm, let alone mental afflictions as a whole. That is why you must cultivate special insight.

In fact these are two: the special insight that progresses along mundane paths and eliminate manifest afflictions, and the special insight that progresses along supramundane paths and eliminates the seeds of afflictions from the root. The former is a meditation with the coarse and peaceful aspects, viewing lower levels as coarser and higher ones more peaceful; the latter is a meditation of the view with the sixteen aspects – impermanence and so forth – of the four noble truths. Both are set forth in Sravaka Levels, the principal one being the view that realizes the selflessness of persons. [221]

That being so, the samatha explained above is required as the basis for eliminating afflictions for both non-Buddhists and Buddhists yogis. It is for anyone: non-Buddhists who eliminate manifest afflictions by cultivating the path with coarse and peaceful aspects and Buddhists who eliminate afflictions from the root by meditating on the meaning of selflessness. Not only that, but any Mahayana or Hinayana yogi must accomplish that concentration. As for Mahayanists, all yogis of the vehicles of both the perfections and mantra must accomplish that samatha. Therefore this samatha is crucial as the basis of progress on the path of all yogis. For Buddhists it is not unacceptable to lack the former of those two special insights, but it is unacceptable to lack the latter special insight that realizes selflessness.

In fact, if you attain the samatha explained above that is included in the preliminary access stage of the first dhyana, then you can attain in reliance upon it the liberation that is freedom from all bonds of cyclic existence by cultivating special insight even without having achieved the samatha of higher [form-realm] concentrations or formlessness. In the other hand, if you do not realize the nature of selflessness and fail to meditate on it, you will not free yourself from cyclic existence even if you eliminate all manifest afflictions up to nothingness and thus attain the mind of the peak of existence by means of the samatha explained above and the mundane special insight dependent on it. As Praise of the One Worthy of Praise says:

Beings who fail to turn to your Dharma,
who are blinded by their ignorance,
having gone to the peak of existence,
maintain existence and suffer again.

Followers of your teachings who don’t gain
the basis of meditative stabilization
still turn away from existences
while under the gaze of Mara’s eye.

It follows that with respect to highest yoga tantra too, even through such a yogi does not develop samatha and special insight by focusing on the variety of samsaric states, he still needs to cultivate samatha, and the point where samatha arises is on the generation stage.

Here Sravaka Levels explains that from the ninth mental state on, you are a beginner in attention until you achieve attention, [222] and you are a beginner in purifying afflictions if you have achieved attention and, out of a desire to purify mental afflictions, cultivate the attention that knows the characteristics. If you do not correctly ascertain this point explained in Sravaka Levels, you will mistakenly think that the lowest of the paths of dhyana and formlessness is the preliminary stage of the first dhyana, and that the first mental state that arises in the preliminary stage is knowledge of characteristics because knowledge of characteristics is the first of six attentions that are discussed in that regard.

It is illogical to claim this because there is no way for the preliminary state of the first dhyana to arise like that without samatha having been achieved, and if that preliminary stage has not been achieved, samatha is not achieved. Also, since knowledge of characteristics is an analytical meditation, samatha that has not been achieved before cannot be newly accomplished by means of that meditation. Therefore the first of six attentions of the preliminary stage is the beginning of cultivating the special insight included in the preliminary stage. However, it is not immediately at the beginning of the first preliminary stage, for the samatha included in the preliminary stage must precede it. All the concentrations prior to the achievement of the concentration included in the first preliminary stage much precede it. All the concentrations prior to the achievement of the concentration included in the first preliminary stage are single-pointed mental states of the desire realm. That is why there seem to be very few who achieve even samatha according to the great texts.

Fearing excessive wordiness, I will not write here about how to free oneself from attachment to the desire realm by means of the six attentions of the preliminary stage.

(to be continued…)