Instructions for Shamatha

First, the preliminaries:

Contemplate the Four Reflections that Change the Mind:

  1. precious human rebirth,
  2. impermanence and death,
  3. karmic cause and effect,
  4. suffering in the cycles of conditioned existence.

Teachings can be found in Chagdud Rinpoche’s Gates to Buddhist Practice and Chagdud Khadro’s Ngondro Commentary. The contemplation and rest are in themselves a training in Shamatha.

Take Refuge and Establish Bodhicitta

Take refuge with faith and devotion in the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Arouse Bodhicitta, enlightened intention, thinking: I will work continuously for the benefit of sentient beings, all of whom have been my own mother in previous lifetimes. To accomplish this intention I will attain enlightenment. For this reason I will tame and train my mind in the meditative concentration of shamatha, calm abiding.

Second, the main practice: Settle the Mind through the Three Postures.


Refrain from:

  1. all worldly activities,
  2. religious activities that require movement like prostrations and counting beads on your mala, and absolutely all movements of body.
  3. Sit in good meditation posture, such as the seven-point posture of Vairochana, or at least maintain a straight back and eyes in the proper position, open but gazing downward.


Refrain from:

  1. all ordinary conversation,
  2. religious discussions, and
  3. the recitation of mantras and liturgies.


Refrain from:

  1. negative thoughts,
  2. positive thoughts, and
  3. intellectual insights that arise within the context of Mahamudra or Dzogchen.

Calm Abiding with Concentration on an Outer Object

Gaze down the nose on the object of your concentration, such as a seed syllable, a stone, or a small statue, or, actually, any small object. Place undistracted attention on the object, withdrawing from visual perception of other objects. Allow your mind to rest in deep concentration on the object. If attention wavers, gently re-focus it and rest naturally.

Calm Abiding with a Visualized Object

White sphere

Allowing the eyes to remain open with a downward gaze, visualize a small, white sphere (Skt. bindu; Tib. tiglé) of light on your forehead, between your eyebrows. The sphere is empty but luminous, bright, shimmering like a rainbow. Place undistracted attention on it, but remain relaxed and as natural as possible.

Red sphere

Allowing the eyes to remain open with a downward gaze, visualize your body as transparent and hollow, a sheathe of light, clear and empty. Inside this pure form of your body, in the heart chakra, visualize a red sphere of light that is the size of a candle flame. Like a hot flame, the red sphere is tinged with blue light. Place undistracted attention on it, while remaining relaxed and natural.

Third, the conclusion:

Ending the session

Release the focus on the object, and simply rest the mind. It is open, alert, natural. When thoughts start to arise, direct them toward dedication.


Any of the general dedication prayers may be used, including the dedication from the Concise Tara Practice. The merit and wisdom of meditation is offered to all beings, that they may find release from the afflictive emotions and confusion of conditioned existence and know the expanse of purity and lucidity that is their own buddhanature.