Dealing With Three Types of Laziness
|The following article is from the Autumn, 2011 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
by GEN LAMRIMPA, translated and edited by B. ALAN WALLACE
We're endlessly creative in finding various avenues for our laziness. Gen Lamrimpa—here translated by B. Alan Wallace—gives practical, expert advice on applying specific antidotes to counteract our laziness, whatever its guises. This adaptation is from How To Practice Shamatha Meditation: The Cultivation of Meditative Quiescence.
Laziness is a mental factor identified as a lack of delight in the wholesome, the virtuous. This is its aspect. Its function is to distract one from wholesome activity.
There are three types of laziness:
a) The laziness that is attracted to bad actions, in this particular case the things that turn one away from the practice of shamatha. It manifests itself as indulgence in other kinds of activity.
b) The laziness of sloth is frequently identified with procrastination. Under its influence one thinks, It really would be good to meditate, but not quite yet. I think I'll take a nap. Those who suffer from this form of laziness are attached to lying around.
c) The last type of laziness is self-denigrating laziness. You will know you are suffering from it when you put yourself down by thinking, I couldn't do it even if I tried. Why bother? In this context, the nature of laziness is not being attracted to or interested in the cultivation of concentration, but being interested in and attracted to other activities. It acts as a serious obstacle to entering into the practice of concentration. For practice in progress, it acts as an obstacle to the continuation of that practice by interrupting its continuity.
Four Antidotes to Laziness Pliancy
This is the first and most direct antidote to laziness; however, it comes into full play only when the practice reaches advanced stages. The joy that is born in pliancy brings an immediate end to laziness. For those who have attained shamatha, it is a tremendous boon for cultivating the succeeding stages on the path to awakening.
This does not mean that you should forget about it now because it comes to its full bloom only after you attain shamatha. There are many stages to the practice. Pliancy comes in brief flashes in the beginning. As the practice matures, the flashes become moments; the moments become seconds; the seconds become minutes; and on it goes. Practicing shamatha is like sharpening the blade of an axe. It is not accomplished with a single stroke.
Laziness is a mental factor identified as a lack of delight in the whole some, the virtuous.
You sharpen the axe so you can cut down a tree. If you don't cut it down, you've wasted your time. In similar fashion, you practice shamatha in order to cultivate the subsequent stages of the path.
If you attain shamatha and fail to take that next step, you have expended your time and energy for nothing.
How does one cultivate pliancy?
This is a mental factor which delights in virtue. That is its aspect. It is the means by which we cultivate pliancy.
The function of enthusiasm is that it brings about various insights along the path to awakening. Enthusiasm is also defined as a state of happiness, something that delights in virtue. The persevering cultivation of enthusiasm yields as its result the attainment of pliancy, which is, in its turn, the direct antidote to laziness.
How does one cultivate enthusiasm?
In this context aspiration refers to a wholesome wish for attainment and realization, not just any kind of base desire. It is through this wholesome aspiration that enthusiasm is cultivated.
How does one cultivate aspiration?
The cause of faith in shamatha is a mind that clearly recalls the virtues and benefits of mental quiescence. That mind is marked by the aspect of faith. There are three types of faith:
a) Faith of belief
b) Lucid faith
c) Faith of an active aspiration The faith referred to here includes all three. The faith of belief is fundamental to the other two. It entails the conviction that there
is such a thing as shamatha, that it is attainable, that it does have the kinds of results that are described—heightened awareness, psychic powers, and, far more important, the attainment of liberation and full awakening. All of these can be attained in dependence upon shamatha. Thus, that kind of conviction is the most fundamental type of faith. Lucid faith and the faith of aspiration evolve from this basic capital.
The truth of these statements—that there is such a thing as shamatha, that full awakening is possible in dependence upon shamatha—is the kind of truth that is concealed, not evident, not easily accessible, not something that we can ascertain immediately for ourselves. Although it is concealed, this is only temporary. Many have had their own experience of certain physical and mental bliss, many have experienced those states of being through their own practice, and many have the faith that those states suggest much deeper attainments.
States of being beyond our present experience—such as the attainment of heightened awareness, psychic powers, liberation, full awakening—are described to us by authentic teachers who are much further developed along the spiritual path than we are. We can take them at their word, or not. The choice is ours. If we don't believe, then we don't do the practice. If we do have faith and begin, the more we persist and continue in the practice of shamatha, more and more aspects of reality become apparent to the mind, and we experience deeper realities than we have ever known before.
The deeper we go, the more credence we will give to statements made by those who are yet further along the path and the firmer our faith will become. As we go more profoundly into the practice we will find from our own experience that the mind becomes more serene, more relaxed, more at ease. Joy, states of bliss, and pliancy actually do arise. As they arise, faith arises and we are honestly able to tell ourselves, This kind of thing exists and it's bound to improve.
We can even set aside the things that are quite beyond our current experience, things such as heightened awareness, psychic powers, etc. Just the deepening relaxation of the mind is enough of a base upon which we can begin to build a strong foundation of faith in the teachings of those many meditators who have experienced various types of increased awareness and serenity.