Dharma Fellowship Books & Meditation Manuals
NEW! The Hermitage Meditation Manual
The Hermitage Meditation Manual is a comprehensive 500-page workbook—a complete course for practitioners of yoga and meditation. Published by the Dharma Fellowship of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, The Hermitage Meditation Manual is the key guide used by Buddhist monastics and lay practitioners attending the Fellowship’s centers in North America.
Synopsis - Outline of the Chapters
SECTION 1 – The Theoretical Basis of Enlightenment
Chapter One – The Discovery of Yoga and Meditation
A Very Different World than Fifty Years Ago
Brief review of cultural and attitudinal changes raising significant interest and appreciation for yoga and meditation in the West. People looking to gain mental improvement, health benefits and wellbeing. Yoga and meditation proving to be transformative in the lives of so many.
Neuroscience, Changing Perspectives on Meditation
Discoveries in neuroscience are now proving the gains to be had from the practice of yoga and meditation. Brief mention of research being done by leading neuroscientists: Luders, Newberg, Waldman, Siegal, Aquilli, Beaurgard and others. Confidence may be had that meditation is not a flaky fringe movement, but a real science with solid advantages to be acquired by the practitioner.
Meditation & Brain Development
Evidence from some research papers showing what can be gained from yoga and meditation. The greater confidence people have in these practices, the more they will get out of them.
Western Science of Meditation in its Infancy
Pointing out how little the West still knows. Time to look to the East for knowledge and wisdom. So far, neuroscience and brain studies are only scratching the surface. Western scientific materialism and ‘objectivity’ remains a massive problem.
The Science of Buddhist Yoga
Affirming that yoga and meditation is an ancient and venerable, a real science, largely kept from public attention. Subjects taught only to select students in the sacred precincts of the temple, now coming to light in the West. Respect for the scientific aspect of yoga is important.
Vast Inner Realm of Exploration
The subconscious mind – a great unknown. People are ignorant about who they are. Much of oneself is hidden from consciousness. Here is where yoga and meditation is of utmost importance. Human life is capable of being much richer through meditation, by shedding light directly on our psychology and the subconscious mind.
Need for Proper Instruction
There is a great need for proper instruction on these subjects. The reason for this manual. Importance of finding authentic teachers and avoiding self-ordained instructors.
Conclusion: Where do we go from here?
A quick summing up of the message behind this chapter. Intro to the coming chapters of the manual, with some pointers where further reading is intended to guide the reader.
Chapter Two – The Founder of the Tradition
Siddhartha’s Quest for Understanding
Here we go back to the beginning of the Tradition to see the scale of meditation in its original setting. The earliest historical references to meditation are found in the life-story of Siddhartha Guatama and the earliest Upanishads. How did Siddhartha practice meditation? Siddhartha spent years following the wrong path; we should reflect on this: what to avoid, what to imitate. Siddhartha mapped the route for all of us to follow.
Discovery of the Optimal Path
Prior to becoming famous as the Buddha, Siddhartha had to work the path out by trial and error. His discovery of the ideal path of meditation. What we may learn from this. Those who do not learn from history have to start from the beginning. The biography of Siddhartha gives us a framework for understanding. It is important to apply the history of Siddhartha’s discovery to our modern lives if we wish to know what is required for personal awakening.
A brief review of who taught Siddhartha and what he gained from such instruction. Siddhartha’s advance over those who had gone before. He revives an ancient lineage of teaching.
The Enlightenment of the Buddha
Siddhartha attains complete awakening while seated in meditation under the shade of the Bodhi tree. Implications of this experience. The Buddha, proof positive of what is possible for anyone to accomplish. All that the Seeker need do, is imitate the same program that he followed, to achieve Awakening in one’s own lifetime.
A Great Body of Technical Knowledge
Here we give an over view of the knowledge to be found in Buddhism today. Why this knowledge is the best source for information on meditation and yoga. An amount of knowledge is extensive and has been thoroughly tested by trial and error over the generations. An invaluable source of information.
Chapter Three – Promulgating the Dharma
The correct term defining what Buddhism is and what it isn’t. Is this a religion? Many say that Buddhism is not a religion. Some say it is a religion. The reader must decide. Anyone, of any religion, can study and enrich them selves from a study of this information. Real Buddhism is Dharma: the discovery of Truth, a discovery made by the individual. Note: Truth should not be based on faith. No blind belief in Buddhadharma.
First Step: Establishing an Optimal View
The seeker must start by establishing an optimal view. This view needs be based on proper scientific method. Importance of ridding oneself of old views, superstitions and assumed values. Freedom from the shackles of totem and taboo, dogmas and ritual is essential. Be a seeker of Truth.
Not even the Buddha for an Authority
The Buddha made it clear that he did not want blind followers. He disparaged belief systems founded on cultural prejudice or popular authorities. Advice not to believe something just because it was taught by a famous sage. Test the truth in the same way that a chemist uses an acid test on gold.
A Seeker of Truth is Rare in the World
The real path of yoga and meditation is not popular. Truth does not appeal to the masses. Seekers of Truth are rare and often solitary. The path is a vocation to which many are called but few chosen. Quoting Buddha, Gurdjieff, Gomchen Rinpoche. The message is broad, but few are those who do the actual practice.
Application of the Scientific Method
The supreme importance of adopting a scientific attitude. How to apply the Scientific Method along with meditation. This becomes the way of gaining intuitive insight.
Consider the need for a good doctrinal foundation prior to success in meditation. A body of intellectual knowledge is required by those wishing to awakening. Some guidelines toward approaching the next chapters.
Chapter Four – The Fundamental Teachings
Four Noble Truths
Here we focus on the basic teachings of the Dharma. The first teaching concerns the four Noble Truths. First Truth: the fact of suffering. Some find this pessimistic. Not intended that way. Second Truth: the fact of the cause of suffering. Third Truth: the fact of the cessation of suffering. Fourth Truth: the path of cessation.
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Eight traditional steps on the Noble Eightfold Path: Optimal View, Optimal Thought, Optimal Speech, Optimal Actions, Optimal Livelihood, Optimal Effort, Optimal Mindfulness, Optimal Contemplation.
The Twelve Links of Causation from beginning to end: Ignorance, Formative Impulses, Consciousness, Name & Form, Sense-Fields, Contact, Feelings, Desire, Identification, Being, Birth, Decay & Death. Understanding Interdependent Co-creation as a vision of Self-Organization.
The Unfolding of Time from Timelessness
Further elaboration of Self-Organization and Creation as a temporal explication. The three times (past, present, future) juxtapoised with timeless Eternity.
Knowing the Nature of Mind
The entire corpus of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha has but one single aim. This ultimate aim and single focus of Dharma consists solely in knowing the true nature of the mind. That is the ‘One Way’ (ekayana) of the whole doctrine – the essential purpose of Buddhdharma.
Chapter Five – The Human Constitution
Man, a Five Part Being
The doctrine views the human being a collection of functional parts, wherein each part is itself a collection. There is no central governing agency – no ego – in charge. The brain itself is built this way. Essential to study and see the aggregate nature of the individual. Concept of a conscious choice-maker, a ‘self’ in the midst of these separate working parts, is a mistaken belief. This now proven by neuroscience and brain research.
Harmony and Organization
What is the manner in which the human constitution is organized. A full description of the harmony or lack thereof as found in this organization.
The Form Complex
A brief review of the physical, anatomical aspect of the human being. Covers main entities of the physical body. An overview of the energetic Light Body and its main energy currents, plexuses and so forth. Here we try and make it clear that there is a direct correspondence between the physical and immaterial aspects of the living being.
Explains that our instinctual impulses and basic drives are what prompts the individual to act. What are these primary impulses? Discusses the sex-instinct, life-instinct and security-instinct. Draws some conclusions showing difference between the doctrine as explained here and some of Freud’s early concepts concerning an hypothetical death-instinct. Clearly defines the impulse complex from the Buddhist perspective.
Defines ‘feeling’ as both sensation and emotion. Very briefly deals with the feelings as a triad. Shows that feelings are entirely re-active responses to contact with impressions coming from outside or from within.
Explains the thinking complex and its mode of function.
In greater detail, the sixfold consciousness complex is outlined. Purpose here is to show that consciousness is not a ‘self.’ It makes no choices. Consciousness is entirely receptive, the registering of impressions and sensations. Mental-consciousness is explained as that aspect of perception which registered internal mental phenomena: thoughts, feelings, desires and memories of the same.
Chapter Six – Syndromes of Human Personality
Evolution of Reaction Patterns
Study of our negative syndromes nothing to do with social morality. Purpose of study is for reasons of psychology and catharsis. Essential to understand principle of identification. Observe what constitutes ‘personality.’ The syndromes pertain to the personality, not to your essence. Personality operates like a machine. Passive automatism. Syndromes generated by re-action patterns of attachment and aversion. The third pattern: delusion. Delusion occurs when the being is confused about whether to respond with attachment or aversion.
The Fine Art of Dissimulation
People lie all the time. They lie automatically. They lie to themselves as much as to others. This lying or ‘dissimulation’ comes in two forms: repression and suppression. These are features well known to Analytical Psychology. Dissimulation is a defense mechanism. Anna Freud’s complete list of seven defense mechanisms. The individual lives behind the guise of the persona (mask), which becomes fixed as personality. Buddhist psychology makes a study of the character types of the personality.
The Question of the Shadow
Each personality also has a shadow side. The compounded syndromes of the shadow are buried in the deeper essence of the being, in the subconscious.
Elder Buddhist philosopher gives complete list of primary and secondary defilements. A being with repressed defilements cannot make progress on the path of awakening. Hence the great importance to have these defilements brought to consciousness and worked with. There must be a final catharsis and elimination of defilements.
A hindrance or ‘buffer’ is an endopsychic condition that lessons the shock of internal contradictions. A hindrance is an event that blocks the upward or natural flow of energy, or in other words, which hinders the progress of higher psychic evolution. Reason for knowing what the five main hindrances are is because they will appear in meditation. They then can become pitfalls, capable to de-railing your practice. In many cases it is one or another of these hindrances that cause an individual to fail the path of awakening completely.
Limitations of the Human Machine
Man is a machine, but there is always the possibility, for those who know, of ceasing to be a machine. Until a person clearly sees this ‘machine-like’ aspect of how they behave and who they are, there is no opportunity to transcend the machine. Methods of working at seeing the truth consist of self-analysis, self-observation and ultimately, the practice of mindfulness.
The chief method for raising awareness of the human condition with the intention to overcome self-delusion or ignorance is self-analysis. This is like psychoanalysis, except applied by oneself to oneself, very deliberately. What Karma Namgyal Rinpoche said. Self-analysis means observing all our weaknesses and negative tendencies, our repression syndromes and our acting out of the different defilements with which human personality is afflicted. Modern psychotherapy cannot liberate the individual from every neurosis, but consistent meditation eventually can.
Chapter Seven – The Mystery of Double Consciousness
Nature of the Human Psyche
Here the previously mentioned split between conscious and subconscious mind is examined in detail. In Buddhism the conscious mind is called the visaya-vijnana or sense-consciousness; the subconscious is called the Manas (psyche, the soul). Carl Jung’s list of the archetypes of the subconscious mind consists of the shadow complex, the anima-animus pair, the father-complex, the mother-complex and the child-complex. The sixth complex and essential core of these five he called the Self-archetype, by which he did not mean the ego or outer self. By the ‘Self’ he meant the self-determining nucleus, the Will, lying in potential deep within the psyche. Gnostics and Neoplatonists long ago named this inner Self the Augoeides. Yoga particularly involves the union or ‘integration’ (yug) of outer personality with the whole psyche, a shift that entails evolution and emergence of an individuated higher Self – the awakening-being (bodhisattva).
Underworld as Gateway to the Psyche
Mythic descriptions of death and the Underworld as found in ancient cultures are clear maps of the subconscious. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, tales of Tartaros and Styx in old mythology, stories of Pluto and the boatman Charon, the bridge of Chinvat, or Dante’s Hell and the Mayan Xibalba are all well known accounts worth studying. These mythic tales describe in dreamlike symbolic imagery the lower reaches of the psyche. Here we learn how this psyche is twofold: a region of dark suppressed content followed by the light of higher superconsciousness.
Growing Evidence of Neuroscience
Neuroscience confirms the mythological and psychological accounts of what the psychic is like. Most importantly, neuroscience destroys the concept of a central governing agency or ‘ego.’ Buddhism explains that our sense of ego is born and created in the psyche itself – not in the personality. Ego created through process of identification. The Manas is the ahamkara.
Problem of Free Will
Identification begins at the time of conception in the womb. This can now be explained using the language of quantum physics. Process of ‘conception’ (the coming into being in the womb) is described. Libet’s experiment proves the fact that all choices are made prior to the individual becoming conscious of them. This confirms Buddhist theory of non-ego. Here we come back again and repeat that Man is a machine. All his actions are re-action patterns automatically performed. Human beings are not awake because they are not reflexively self-aware.
Emerging into Whole Consciousness
When consciousness is divided, the experience is one of ignorance. There is a sense of being driven by impulses or events that we cannot control or fully comprehend. It is as if we are not fully in charge, either of ourselves or of life itself. Meditation is the way of withdrawal from external sense-experience, abstraction of entanglement with the personality, so as to sink deeply into the bright realm of intelligence that lies within. If you get the idea, if this is a concept you can appreciate and understand, then the path is not so very difficult at all.
SECTION II – Walking the Path of Enlightenment
Chapter Eight – The Sublime Path of Virtue
Going for Refuge
Why virtue is important? Description of the process of Going for Refuge. Initiation to the Path of Awakening.
Keeping the Five Precepts
Explanation of the Five Precepts. Nothing to do with commandments or sin. Steps of training. This is a self-training – something one commits to for the sake of making oneself a better person. Key principle: Do no harm.
The Profound Pratimoksha Precepts
Monastic discipline considered the highest way of commitment to the path of awakening. Especially for those who wish to attain realization in present lifetime. Outline of the nature of the vows involved in keeping the Patrimoksha precepts.
Study of the Dharma
Why it is important to commit to actual study. As much knowledge and reading of Dharma texts the better.
Prayers for Meditation
Explains how adding prayers or chanting to one’s meditation practice is a great enhancement, especially if the seeker is engaged in a worldly life. Prayer-chanting sets the scene, creates a mood conducive to quickly entering the meditative state.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here we have answers to a series of frequently asked questions by Westerners concerning Going for Refuge.
Chapter Nine – The Marriage of Sun and Moon
A little background history to Sun-Moon Yoga. Early Buddhist Hatha-yoga comes from Nepal. A great master called Humkara. Transmission to Hindu India a few centuries later. A Nepalese sage named Gorakshnath, the Cow-herder.
Pranayama Breath Control
Concerning the nature of breath. Understood as electrical charge. Oxygenation of the blood. Ancient methods of breath control. Kumbhaka.
An outline of the twelve postures. Importance to learn from a teacher. Safety measures. Should not be tried on one’s own without proper instruction and observation. The twelve postures explained, their sequence and effect on the seven Cakras.
Good posture essential for success in meditation. Description of various postures that can be used for meditation purposes.
Allusions to some more advanced practices.
Chapter Ten – Development of Calm-abiding Meditation
The need for an authentic instructor. Don’t try and learn meditation from books. You require personalized guidance.
Necessary Conditions for Success
There are four conditions that are necessary to ensure any success in meditation. If people ignore these conditions, it is unlikely they will benefit, even from years and years of practice.
Further Supportive Features
An additional list of some further supportive features that afford success in meditation.
Forty Objects of Meditation
Here we give a list of the primary objects which since ancient times have been used as objects on which to focus concentration.
Mindfulness of Breathing
This outlines what since the Buddha’s time has been considered the very best object on which to focus attention. Mindfulness of Breathing has from the beginning been the main method of meditation in Buddfhism. It is said that the Buddha himself attained enlightenment while performing this meditation.
Cultivation of Mastery
A brief outline how one should cultivate mastery in meditation.
Three Stages of Self-Training
The counting stage. The naming stage. The stage of bare witness. These are fully outlined so that they can be easily practiced. Begin at the first stage. Then move on to the second stage. The third stage of practice is for the most advanced practitioner only.
Nine Degrees of Induction
By practicing according to the above instruction the individual will gradually induce a meditative state. There are nine stages or degrees of induction. A person should have a sense concerning how these degrees unfold. Understanding the process will enhance one’s practice tremendously.
Dealing with Distraction
Right from the beginning various distractions will start to arise, How should one deal with these distractions? Knowing what to do, then meditation will proceed smoothly.
Chapter Eleven – Calm-abiding Meditation with Love as the Object
The Four Cosmic Abidings
The four cosmic abiding or brahmaviharas: affectionate love, compassionate love, joyous appreciative love, and unconditional impartial love.
Cultivation of Love
How love is to be cultivated. Use love as the object on which to concentrate.
Transformation of Passive Love into Pro-active Force
The nature of love as a re-active condition. Its transformation into a pro-active force.
Opening of the Heart Cakra
Meditation on love is the way to open the heart cakra. The human heart cakra is the central ‘sun’ of the internal solar system. The solar heart cakra is the master control of the whole cakra-system.
Extending the Meditation to the Four Brahma-states
Beginning with affectionate love, the meditation must be extended to the four Brahma-states. This is explained in stages.
Chapter Twelve – The Higher States of Samadhi
The Four Dhyana-states
Here the four Dhyana-states of Samadhi are clearly explained. We see that Samadhi is an integrative state, which brings the five skanadhas into harmony.
Latent Psychic Faculties
What are the latent psychic faculties possessed by man? Samadhi activates these psychic faculties. Yogis have known about these psychic faculties and deliberately developed them since the dawn of time.
Ascension: Rising on the Planes
A description of the higher dimensions. There is a direct correspondence between higher states of mental development and the higher dimensions. Ascension.
Interior Signs of Concentration
Certain signs usually appear. These signs occur in a precise order. By knowing the signs and recognizing them, one can enhance progress in meditation. It is therefore beneficial to know what the signs are.
SECTION III – Attainment of Intuitive Insight
Chapter Thirteen – The Activation of Intuitive Insight
The Practice of Mindfulness
How to practice genuine mindfulness. Mindfulness is not the same as ‘observation.’ Many people mistake self-observation and other-observations for forms of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very popular subject at the present time but is often incorrectly taught. Here we explain what genuine, authentic mindfulness really is and how it should be practiced.
Mindfulness Starts with Self-Observation
To practice mindfulness, first you must start with self-observation. Discriminate between self-observation and self-analysis. Use self-observation as a tool on the path.
Other-Observation and Real Mindfulness
After applying self-observation and other-observation, then begin to teach yourself how to practice real mindfulness. Understand that this is a specific exercise. Set time apart to practice mindfulness as a specific exercise.
Main Practice: Four Foundations of Mindfulness
The order in which a person should develop mindfulness starts with the body first. From mindfulness of the body, progress to mindfulness of the feelings, then develop mindfulness of the mind. Finally, learn to be mindful of phenomena (dharmas), while not forgetting either the body, the feelings or the mental arisings. Practice all four foundations of mindfulness together. This alone is the genuine practice of mindfulness.
Chapter Fourteen – Intuitive Insight through Raising the Question
Meditation as Therapy
Two branches of metaphysical therapy (M-therapy) in classical Buddhism: physical and mental. Physical therapy uses techniques of ‘laying on of hands,’ the gaze and breathing on the subject, to effect biomagnetic healing. Mental therapy (psychotherapy) uses meditation as a therapeutic tool. Meditation proves to be far more effective as a psychotherapeutic technique. Freudian free floating association a slow method. Early impressions, childhood trauma and condition surfaces quickly in meditation. Abreactions and catharsis happens naturally. The key of the technique: concentrating directly on the problem experience.
Pondering the Thirty-seven Wings of Enlightenment
Here we give a list of the 37 wings. When the Buddha made a list of all of his teachings, it was under the heading of the 37 wings of enlightenment that he summarized everything.
Pondering the Problem of Ego-grasping
What is ego-grasping? Essential to understand that there is no ego, no ‘I’ amongst the five skandha. When a person dies, the five skandha fall apart and decay – the sentient being reverts back to the basic mind, the psyche (manas). When a person takes birth, it is a coming together of a new set of five skandhas that occurs. Meditation upon this will lead to a deep understand of the mystery of life and death.
How the Psychic Catena Functions
An explanation of the psychic catena. Understanding this catena makes it possible to break through to a clear realization of the way the mind functions. It is such realization that will lead eventually to reflexive self-awareness.
Enlightenment is when the mind reverts back to its own face. This is known as reflexive self-awareness or svasamvedana. The technique to gain reflexive self-awareness is explained.
Conclusion – Creating a Better World