The Nine Ways of Resting the Mind (sems gnas pa?i thabs dgu)


These are taken from the Ornament of Mahayana Sutras (Mahayanasutralamkara):


1) Resting the Mind (?jog pa) ? focusing the mind upon an object

2) Resting the Mind Longer (rgyun du ?jog pa) ? maintaining that continuity

3) Continuously Resettling the Mind (blan te ?jog pa) ? whenever one forgets the object and becomes distracted one resettles the mind

4) Fully Settling the Mind (nye bar ?jog pa) ? by settling in that way, the mind becomes increasingly focused on the object

5) Taming the Mind (dul bar byed pa) ? by thinking of the qualities of samadhi, one feels greater joy for meditation

6) Pacification of the Mind (zhi bar byed pa) ? then seeing the faults of distraction, one?s dislike for meditation is pacified

7) Complete Pacification of the Mind (rnam par zhi bar byed pa) ? then whenever the cause of distraction, such as the subsidiary disturbing emotions or sleepiness or mental unease occur, they are completely pacified

8) One-pointedness (rtse gcig tu byed pa) ? then one attains some stability through applying the antidotes for distraction

9) Resting in Equanimity (mnyam par ?jog pa byed pa) ? finally one is able to rest the mind on its object quite naturally, without resorting to any antidotes


These stages are accomplished through the six powers (stobs drug):


1) Listening/study (thos pa) ? ?resting the mind? is accomplished through listening to meditation instructions

2) Reflection (bsam pa) ? ?resting the mind longer? is accomplished through reflection and contemplation

3) Mindfulness (dran pa) ? through mindfulness one accomplishes ?continuously resettling? and ?fully settling the mind?; whenever one is distracted one gathers the mind and slowly, through habituation, non-distraction occurs

4) Awareness (shes bzhin) ? through awareness one accomplishes ?taming the mind?, ?pacifying the mind? and ?completely pacifying the mind?; with joy for awareness and seeing the faults of succumbing to thoughts and negative emotions, one no longer falls prey to them

5) Diligence (brtson ?grus) ? through diligence one accomplishes ?complete pacification? and ?one-pointedness?; even subtle thoughts and negative emotions are abandoned

6) Complete familiarity (yongs su ?dris pa) ? the final stage of ?resting in equanimity? where the mind is unaffected by the obstacles of dullness or agitation is accomplished through complete familiarity.


All of these stages can be condensed into the Four Mental Engagements (yid la byed pa bzhi):


1) Tightly Focused Engagement (bsgrims te ?jug pa?i yid byed) ? relates to the first two stages of resting the mind

2) Interrupted Engagement (chad cing ?jug pa?i yid byed) ? this occurs from stage three to stage seven, when one is still susceptible to the obstacles of dullness and agitation and is therefore unable to abide for a long time

3) Uninterrupted Engagement (chad par med par ?jug pa?i yid byed) ? at stage eight one is able to remain unaffected by the obstacles of dullness and agitation without too much exertion

4) Effortless Engagement (rtsol ba med par ?jug pa?i yid byed) ? at the ninth stage one is able to maintain the practice effortlessly


The ninth stage of resting the mind is also known as the ?one-pointed mind of the Desire Realm? (?dod sems rtse gcig pa).


Five Faults (nyes pa lnga)

Maitreya?s Distinguishing the Middle from Extremes (Madhyantavibhanga) mentions five faults:


1) Laziness (le lo) ? there are three kinds: (i) lethargy, (ii) attachment to negative behaviour, and (iii) despondency

2) Forgetting the Instructions (brjed pa)

These two are obstacles in the beginning.


3) Dullness and Agitation (bying rgod) ? there are subtle and gross forms to both dullness and agitation

These are obstacles during to the actual practice of meditation.


4) Under-application (?du mi byed pa) ? this occurs when one recognizes the presence of dullness or agitation but fails to apply the antidote

5) Over-application (ha cang ?du byed pa) ? this occurs when one recognizes the presence of dullness or agitation, applies the antidote, and then continues to apply it even when dullness or agitation are no longer present.

These are obstacles to the further development of one?s meditation.


Kamalashila in his Stages of Meditation (and Vimalamitra in his text of the same name) list dullness and agitation separately, making a total of six faults.


Eight Antidotes (?du byed brgyad)

There are four antidotes to laziness:


1) Aspiration/interest (smos pa) [sometimes ?dun pa]

2) Exertion (rtsol ba)

3) Faith (dad pa)

4) Pliancy/flexibility (shin sbyang)


According to Mipham Rinpoche, aspiration is felt towards the object of exertion as a result of faith. Then the result of one?s exertion is pliancy or flexibility.


The antidote to forgetting the instructions is:

5) Mindfulness (dran pa)


The antidote to dullness and agitation is:

6) Awareness (shes bzhin)


The antidote to under-application is:

7) Attention (sems pa)


The antidote to over-application is:

8) Equanimity (btang snyoms)


rgod pa agitation, excitation

sgom pa meditation

?jog sgom placement meditation, settling meditation, resting meditation

brjed pa forgetfulness

mnyam bzhag meditative equipoise, meditative composure

snyoms ?jug meditative absorption

ting nge ?dzin (Skt. samadhi) meditative stabilization (JH)

rtog pa conceptualization (AW)

dran pa mindfulness, recollection

?dod sems rtse gcig pa 'one-pointed mind of the Desire Realm'

rnam rtog conceptual thoughts, ideation (AW)

dpyad sgom analytic meditation, investigative meditation

bying ba laxity, dullness

rmugs pa lethargy

zhi gnas (Skt. shamatha) quiescence (AW), calm abiding

g.yeng ba distraction

shes bzhin awareness, alertness, vigilance

shin sbyangs pliancy, flexibility

sems pa attention

bsam gtan (Skt. dhyanameditative stabilization (AW), meditative concentration

lhag mthong (Skt. vipashyana) clear seeing, insight, penetrative insight (GTJ)



Key to Abbreviations


AW   B. Alan Wallace

GTJ  Geshe Thubten Jinpa

JH  Jeffrey Hopkins


Further Reading

Dalai Lama, Stages of Meditation, translated by Venerable Geshe Lobsang Jordhen, Losang Choephel Ganchenpa and Jeremy Russell, Snow Lion Publications, 2001


Mipham Rinpoche, Gateway to Knowledge, vol. III, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2002


Thrangu Rinpoche, The Practice of Tranquility and Insight, Snow Lion Publications, 1998


Vimalamitra, The Stages of Meditation, translated by Lozang Jamspal, Leh: Ladakhratnashridipika, 2000


Wallace, B. Alan, Balancing the Mind, Snow Lion Publications, 2005

Khenpo Pema Vajra, The Practice of Shamatha