Fujisan's Kyareng

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Nine Stages of Meditation

སེམས་གནས་དགུ チベット仏教瞑想・心の九次第定

Sems gnas dgu, the Nine Stages of Meditation

 The Nine Stages of Meditation

Sems gnas dgu, the Nine Stages of Meditation: It is the practice or process of meditation associated with achieving Shamatha [Tib:zhi gnas] and Vipasyna insight [Tib:lhag mthong]. Arya Maitriya has explained these stages of meditation in the Mahayanasutraalankara[1], Ornaments of Mahayanasutra [Tib:theg pa chen po mdo sde rgyan]. The nine stages can be seen beautifully illustrated on Tibetan thangkas, a religious art, where the mind, distractions, efforts and the meditator's progress are displayed through the metaphor of an elephant, a monkey, a monk and others. Let us see what these nine stages of meditation and the metaphors are all about.

Description of the illustrations:

 The illustrations on the thangka represent the nine stages or processes through which a meditator passes on his way to achieve the calm abiding mind, Shamatha.

 1.      The first stage, Setting the mind [Tib:sems 'jog pa], is represented by a monk at the bottom right of the thangka; he is initiated to meditation through the power of Hearing [Tib:thos pa'i stops]. The meditator attempts to place his or her mind on the object of meditation. He has a hook in his right hand, signifying Awareness [Tib:shes bzhin][2], and lasso in the left hand, signifying Mindfulness [Tib:dren pa]. The elephant represents the mind, and its black color signifies laxity, dullness, and sinking [Tib:'bying ba]. The monkey represents distractions and temptations, [Tib:'phro ba], and its black color signifies mental scattering, rgod pa. The silk cloth between the monk and the elephant represents sensual touch, a distraction. A fire before the monkey is the strength or effort of Awareness and Mindfulness with which a meditator needs to work on the objection of meditation.

2.      The second stage, Continual setting, [Tib:rgyun du 'jog pa]: The waterfalls represent a stream of thoughts flowing in the mind which distracts one's concentration. An effort is made to have the mind continually stay on the object of meditation. The figures of fruits and a conch shell with incense represent taste and smell, sensual distractions. At this stage, the mind gets a little mindful, as reflected by the appearance of white color on the head of the elephant. But it is still led by the monkey, the distractions.

3.      The third stage, Further setting, [Tib:glen te 'jog pa]: The elephant with its head all white turns to the meditator. Noticing distractions, an effort is made to bring the mind back to the object of concentration. The meditator has his lasso tied on the elephant. This means that the mind has become attentive to what the meditator is doing. Here, a black rabbit appears on the elephant, it represents the emergence of subtle distractions, [Tib:bying ba 'phra mo], in mind. A pair of cymbals is depicted representing sensual distraction of sound, sgra.

4.      The fourth stage, Closely setting [Tib:nge bar 'jog pa]: Here we see that the elephant, the monkey, and the rabbit are all paying attention to the meditator signifying progress in the meditation. The mind with its gross and subtle distractions has noticed the meditator's effort to lead them. A close concentration is maintained on the object of meditation.

5.      The fifth stage, Disciplined setting [Tib:dul bar byed pa]: Now the meditator is leading the three animals representing mind, gross and subtle distractions. This indicates a degree of control over the animals, i.e. the mind and the distractions. We see a wish-fulfilling jewel, nor bu, representing the bodily aspect of the five sensual desires. The fire of effort has also become small, meaning less effort is needed to concentrate. Here the distractions are rejected and the virtue of a calm-abiding mind embraced.  

6.      The sixth stage, Peaceful setting [Tib:zhi bar byed pa]: The meditator is peacefully leading the elephant and the monkey, the mind and the distractions. The rabbit has disappeared, meaning no more subtle distractions. The distractions are overcome and the mind is pacified of all aversion toward meditation due to mental afflictions. The mind has become calm and peaceful.

7.      The seventh stage, Complete pacification [Tib:rnam par zhi bar byed pa]: The elephant has become almost white, and the meditator bid farewell to the monkey, signifying peaceful mind and no distractions ahead. The lasso has been eliminated, meaning no need to control the mind with effort. Equanimity of the mind is maintained by overcoming the slightest disturbance and aversion.

8.      The eighth stage, One-pointed setting [Tib:rtse gcig tu byed pa]: Now there is only the meditator and the elephant (mind). The elephant has become totally white, pure, and free from distraction, following the meditator obediently. Here freedom from all kinds of distractions is achieved and the mind is in full concentration.

9.       The ninth stage, Equanimity and equipoise setting [Tib:mnyam par 'jog pa]: The elephant, the mind, is completely in peace and in equanimity with the meditator. The highest state of meditation is achieved where no effort is needed to have the mind stable on the object of concentration.

This is how a calm-abiding mind [Tib:zhi gnas, Sans:shamatha] is achieved through the Nine Stages of Meditation. There are some illustrations above the ninth stage, let us see what they represent. After having achieved a calm-abiding mind, one can experience bodily and mental bliss and pliancy.

In figure 29, the monk flying in the sky, signifies the attainment of the mystical power of the suppleness of the body [Tib:lus shin sbyangs]. The figures 30 and 31, the monk on the white elephant, show the attainment of a calm-abiding mind [Tib:zhi gnas] and mental pliancy [Tib:sems shin sbyangs]. The figure 32, the monk on the elephant with a wisdom sword, indicates cutting the root of samsara through the joint application of the calm-abiding mind and the wisdom of emptiness. The figure 33, a fire behind, represents the power of Mindfulness [Tib:dren pa] and Awareness [Tib:shes bzhin] to achieve the complete realization of the wisdom of emptiness of self and of all phenomena.

To pass through these Nine Stages of Meditation smoothly, Arya Maitriya has warned of five obstacles or mistakes and taught eight antidotes to overcome these obstacles. They are explained as follows[3]:

[nyes pa lnga spong 'du byed brgyad, bsten pa'i rgyu las byung 'ao.

le lo dang ni gdams ngag rnams, brjed dang bying dang rgod pa dang,

'du mi byed dang 'du byed de, 'di dag nyes pa lngar 'dod do]

Relinquish / avoid the five obstacles, apply the eight antidotes, Shamatha is achieved thus.

The five obstacles [Tib:Nyes pa lnga] are:

1.      Laxity or mental slackness [Tib:le lo, Sans:kausidya]

2.      Forgetfulness [Tib:rjed pa, Sans:musitasmritita]

3.      Sinking and scattering attention [Tib:bying rgod, Sans:nirmagnataauddhatya]

4.      Effortlessness or inability [Tib:'du mi byed, Sans:samskarasevana]

5.      Imaginary or false effort [Tib:'du byed, Sans:samskarasevana]

Eight antidotes [Tib:'du byed brgyad]: The eight antidotes mentioned in the text to overcome these five obstacles are:

(A) Antidotes for the mental laxity and slackness [Tib:le lo, Sans:kausidya] are four; 1) Trust [Tib:dad pa, Sans:sraddha], 2) Determination [Tib:'dun pa, Sans:chanda], 3) Perseverance [Tib:brtson grus, Sans:virya], and 4) Tranquility [Tib:shin sbyang, Sans:prasrabdhi]. One needs to have a strong belief or trust in the positive aspects of meditation and have a strong determination to pursue meditational practices. One must make an effort, persevere in the practice and have a positive frame of mind and tranquility.

(B)   Antidote for the Forgetfulness [Tib:rjed pa, Sans:musitasmritita] is 5) Mindfulness [Tib:dren pa, Sans:smriti], one must an make effort to put conscientious effort to concentrate on the object of meditation.

(C)   Antidote for the Sinking and scattering mind [Tib:bying rgod, Sans:nirmagnataauddhatya] is  6) Awareness / comprehension [Tib:shes bzhin, Sans:samprajanya], a close watch and detection of sinking or scattering mind should be made and have the mind focus properly on the object of meditation.

(D)  Antidote for the Effortlessness or inability [Tib:'du mi byed, Sans:samskarasevana] is 7) Investigation [Tib:'du byed, Sans:samskaracintana], make an effort to identify the sinking and scattering, and apply prompt attention to ward off the distractions.

(E)  Antidote for the Imaginary or false effort [Tib:'du byed, Sans:samskarasevana] 8) is Equanimity [Tib:btang snyom, Sans:adhivasana]: relax and remain in equanimity after the counter measures have taken the effect, not overdoing or applying the antidote in excess.

Through the application of these eight antidotes to the five obstacles to meditation, one can gradually achieve Shamatha, a calm and serene mind. Therefore, the growth and cultivation of these eight qualities are very important. Having understood the shortcoming and remedy, one is now well equipped to get into the real practice of Shamatha meditation through the nine stages of meditation [Tib:sems gngas dgu].

The course of the Nine Stages of Meditation is conducted with the help of Six powers [Tib:stob drug] and the realization of Four attentions [Tib:yid byed bzhi].

The six powers, [Tib:stob drug]: The Nine Stages of meditation is initiated or sustained by the six powers or faculties. They are:

  1. Hearing [Tib:thos pa, Sans:srutibala]: It is the beginning of your meditation, how you read or how you came to know or learn about meditation. Because of this power you are introduced to meditation and this is how you come to the first stage of meditation, making an effort to place your mind on an object of concentration.
  2. Reflection [Tib:bsam pa, Sans:asayabala]: The sinking and scattering of mind occur strongly at the initial stages. But through a repeated effort to think and reflect, one is able to place one's mind on the object of meditation. The second stage of meditation is achieved through this Power of reflection.
  3. Mindfulness [Tib:dren pa, Sans:smritibala]: Being mindful and noticing the distractions, an effort is made to bring the mind back to the object of meditation. This applies to the third and the fourth stages of meditation.
  4. Awareness and comprehension [Tib:shes bzhin, Sans:samprajnyabala]: This power makes you conscious or aware of the negative aspects of mental stains and positive aspects of Shamatha. The fifth and sixth stages of meditation are backed by this power.
  5. Diligence or mental energy [Tib:brtson 'drus, Sans:viryabala]: Through diligence the mind becomes clear and is not influenced by the negative stains or distractions. The seventh stage of meditation is achieved through this power. The eighth stage of meditation is supported by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th powers, i.e. dren pa, shes bzhin, and brtson 'drus. 
  6. Perfection [Tib:yongs su 'dris pa, Sans:paricayabala]: The mind is acquainted and in repose with the meditation. Through this power of perfection, the ninth stage of meditation is achieved.

 The four Attentions or mental activities [Tib:yid byed bzhi, Sans:manaskara]: While proceeding along the Nine Stages of Meditation, a meditator must comprehend and pay close attention to the mental activities to achieve steady progress in this journey of meditation. These four attentions or comprehensions are:

    1. Effortful Attention, [Tib:bsgrims te 'jug pa'i yid byed, Sans:Manonivesapravartak-manaskara]: During the first and the second stages of meditation, a meditator needs to make a good effort and attention to place the mind on the object of meditation. "The first step in the realization of the first and second stages of meditation demands the most strenuous absorption on the mind on the object of concentration."[4]
    2. Scattered Attention, [Tib;chad cing 'jug pa'i yid byed, Sans:vicchinnapravartak-manaskara]: Throughout the 3rd to 7th stages of meditation, every now and then, distractions arise in various forms through laxity, excitement, scattering, etc. These intermittent distractions are managed diligently. "Here concentration on the object of mediation is not extended over long periods but is desultory, i.e., the process of concentration goes on intermittently."[5]
    3. Unscattered Attention, [Tib:chad med du 'jug pa'i yid byed, Sans:avicchinnapravartak manaskara]: At the eighth stage of meditation, the mind has overcome the scattering distraction and its capacity to concentrate on the object of meditation for a long period is enhanced.   
    4. Spontaneous Attention, [Tib:rtsol med du 'jug pa'i yid byed, ayatanpravartak-manaskara]: Here at the ninth stage of meditation, distractions in all forms are overcome, and concentration on the object of meditation is achieved spontaneously without much effort.

This is a brief introduction to sems gnas dgu, the Nine Stages of Meditation; The Five Obstacles, nyes pa lnga; Eight Antidotes, gnyen po brgyad; Six Powers, stops drug; and Four Mental Attentions, yid byed bzhi. Although it is said as Buddhist meditation, a close examination will reveal that there is nothing religious and dogmatic about this practice. It's purely a science of mind, no wonder Buddhism is also known as a science of mind. Therefore, these meditational techniques could be used by anyone, irrespective of any religious affiliation, for self realization, self development and to discover peace within and without. It is with this secular approach to our living, meditation has become popular and universal these days.

Sems ngas dgu, the Nine Stages of Meditation illustration / Photo courtesy: Jado Rinpoche, Tibet House Japan 

Lastest edit and update: 22/07/2021

Note: This is the author's study note based on the readings and teachings received personally and online. Just as Shantideva has said, "rang gi yid la sgom chir ngas 'di brtsams",( I composed it to remember and to reflect on what I have studied.) But serious students of meditation are advised to consult Tibetan masters and study the references mentioned below.


 1.       H.H. the Dalai Lama, legs bshad blo gsar mig 'byed, Gaden Phodrang Trust, India, 2013

2.       H.H. the Dalai Lama, The Opening of the Wisdom Eye, The Theosohical Publishing House, 1971

3.       H.H. the Dalai Lama, How to see yourself as you really are, translated by Prof Jefferey Hopkins, Atria Books, 2006

4.       H.H. the Dalai Lama, An Introduction to Buddhism & Tantric Meditation, Paljor Publications, N. Delhi, 1996

5.       Ven. Geshe Dorjee Damdul's teachings "Setting proper meditation visualization" [13/09/2015 and 8/05/2016]

6.       Ven. Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Guided meditation on 17/04/2019, Tibet House, New Delhi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmRW7jheUpE

7.       Ven. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Samatha (30/05/20221), Vikramshila Foundation India https://www.vikramashila.in/?fbclid=IwAR3rLhHoTH42gbQ9-E9pJd8AbMZ0o6eSOMzsfaHSN4gAUV5dRxHCX6VjyXg

8.       lHa ram dge rnam blo bzang drags pa, zhi gnas kyi thob thabs sems gnas dgu, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYRhVx5jqyM

9.       https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Nine_ways_of_resting_the_mind

10.    http://sunnyvale.ctzen.org/wiki/nine-abiding-mind-%E4%B9%9D%E4%BD%8F%E5%BF%83-stages-to-samadhi-by-ven-jianhu/

11.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samatha

12.    http://tb.kangbatv.com/KBTV2014_ZQWH/KBTV2014_ZCFJ/KBTV2014_FJWH/201609/t20160909_3024367.html

13.    http://www.dharmafellowship.org/library/essays/nine-stages-of-abiding.htm#first

14.    https://terebess.hu/english/oxherd27.html





[1] H.H. the Dalai Lama, legs bshad blo gsar mig 'byed, p-196

[2] shes bzhin is translated as awareness, consciousness, comprehension etc. Actual meaning of shes bzhin in Tibetan is conscience, moral sense of right and wrong. rang nyid kyi bya spyod legs nyes ji yin dpyod pa'i sems 'byung zhig

[3] ibid, p-194

[4] HHDL, Introduction to Buddhism & Tantric meditation, p-29

[5] ibid

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


中国の白書を拒否: 17か条協定 - 中国が何を公約し、何が果たされたのか、そして将来は?


(写真) チベット亡命政権情報・国際関係省 チベット博物館






歴史的な視点から、1949年以前におけるどの時代においても、チベットが中国の一部であったことは一度もなかったという事実を明らかにしていくことは非常に重要です[1]。確かにモンゴル、ネパール、中国そして英国の各国軍隊がチベットに入り、チベットの歴史上のある一定の期間、宗主権を行使しました。しかしながら、こうした国々の軍は、 使節として、侵略者として、あるいは、チベット政府の要請によってチベットに入り、その任務を全うすれば去っていきました。中国が、過去におけるこうした出来事を論拠として、歴史的にチベットが中国の一部であること主張することは根拠のないことなのです。仮に中国が、チベットを中国の一部であると主張するのであれば、他国も同様な主張を繰り広げることが可能であり、そうであるとするならばチベットは、中国をチベットの一部であると主張することができるはずなのです2。このような言い争いは起こるべくして起こるものであり、世界中のほぼすべての国々の政治史において見受けられるものです。

共産中国は、様々な実質のない根拠の下、チベットを中国の一部であると主張しようとしてきました。しかしながら、大半の作為的なプロパガンダと同様に、共産中国による主張の本質は変化し続けました。当初は、7世紀、チベットのソンツェン・ガンポ王(Tib:srong btsan sgam po)の時代に、唐の文成公主(皇帝の娘)がチベットの王女の一人となって以来、チベットは中国の一部であると主張していました。その後、中国の白書において、14世紀にモンゴルの元王朝からチベットを継承し、後に、明と清朝からチベットを継承したと主張したのです。しかしながら、史実をゆがめることを目的とした、こうした欺瞞的で虚構とも言える主張は、中国の学者らによってさえ強く反駁されたのです。
















国際的情勢において、この協定こそ中国が約定をどのように見ているかを示す生きた証拠と言えます。 1954年、中国は、インドとの間に「パンシール協定(平和5原則)」にサインし、平和的共存と相互不侵略について合意しましたが、1962年に中国は、インドを攻撃しました。わずか数年前となる2017年に中国は、ドクラム事件を通じて、インドとブータンの領土に侵入しました。また、昨年中国は、インド領であるラダクに対する違法な侵略を行っています。





[1] T.G.Arya, https://tibet.net/2019/03/tibet-has-never-been-a-part-of-china-anywhere-in-its-pre-1949-history/

In 763 AD, the Tibetan army of King KhrisrongDeutsan captured the Chinese capital Ch’ang-an, the Chinese Emperor fled with his family and a large following. TseponShakabpa, Tibet – A political history, p-39

White paper 1992: Tibet – its ownership and human rights situationhttp://www.china-un.org/eng/gyzg/xizang/t418894.htm

(1) Prof Hon Shing Lau, The Political Status of Tibet during Ming Dynasty: An analysis of some historical evidence, City University of Hong Kong, (2)Chinese Voices for Tibet, DIIR,( a) Cao Changqing, Independence – the right of Tibetan people, p-80; (b) Chen Pokong, Has Tibet belong to China since ancient times?, p-164; (c) Zhu Rui, Tibet has not been a part of China since ancient times, p-193

Tang Huiyun, “Why are people in Hong Kong are concerned about the Tibetan problem?”, p-61, Chinese Voices for Tibet, DIIR

The point 3rd, 4th, 7th and 11th of the Agreement

“Everything is negotiable except the independence of Tibet” – Deng Xiaoping

Article-4, “Regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of minority nationalities live in compact communities…….” and Article-2,4 and 11 of Law of the PRC on Regional National Autonomy

Facts about the 17-point agreement between Tibet and China, p-137, DIIR, 2001

10The Legal Status of Tibet – Three Studies by Leading Jurists, p-93, DIIR, 1989