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Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State

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In the first set of exercises in Clarifying the Natural State it says:

"Then, during the daytime , place a support, such as a pebble or a stick that isn't too bright, directly in line with your gaze.In a relaxed way, direct your attention at it without fixating on it or examining it. Allow your attention to remain on the object of support simply to avoid wandering off or being distracted. 
Next, keep the attention, as above, on a small object that has been placed on the borderline between shade and sunlight. At night, focus the attention on a pea-sized white sphere between your eyebrows. At times, direct the mind, as before, on a pea-sized black sphere below you."


So, a couple of things. I am having a really hard time to focus my attention on a pea-sized white sphere between my eyesbrows. It is much easier to do it external to the body. Is it equally good, or is the exercise meant to do stuff beyond just training my concentration?
Next, I do not completely understand "Next, keep the attention, as above, on a small object that has been placed on the borderline between shade and sunlight." What is its relativity to the daytime exercise?

RE: Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State
Answer
11/4/18 8:36 PM as a reply to Bob No No.
The goal of this exercise is to gain concentration on any object in a solid, continuous way.  This is akin to the 1st vipassana jhana.  You should feel free to use any object that feels right (but not switch between objects a lot).  The general tenets are to feel enthusiasm about the whole thing & to really dig into noticing the details of the object you choose.  Noticing the various elements of the focus point is important because it keeps you involved & interested.  Become an investigator of all of the nuances of the thing you are looking at.  

The manual then has you put your attention on a more subtle object that is between shade & sunlight.  No longer very solid & continuous.  The objective here is to get you from "samatha with support" to "samatha without support" (as the chapter headers list).  Once again, the specific object suggested by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal is not important.  Rather, the importance lies in a specific effect you are trying to enact.  Once you are already seeing all of the small details of the object in a continuous & stable way (per the first exercise), you are ready to move to "samatha without support", which is akin to the 2nd vipassana jhana AKA the knowledge of the arising & passing away.  What you are trying to do at this point is to allow the object to naturally reveal itself as merely a flow of pixels of energy.

One warning here - this manual is not very good for navigating what comes after.  Books like Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha or Manual of Insight are much better at moving through the 3rd & 4th vipassana jhanas to the first tastes of the awakening experience.  Later, the Mahamudra system picks up when the meditator can taste awakening as cessation on a consistent basis but can not fully integrate that with all perceptions yet.  Please use this warning wisely when choosing what instructions to take as your main emphasis in practice.

RE: Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State
Answer
11/5/18 11:05 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
The goal of this exercise is to gain concentration on any object in a solid, continuous way.  This is akin to the 1st vipassana jhana.  You should feel free to use any object that feels right (but not switch between objects a lot).  The general tenets are to feel enthusiasm about the whole thing & to really dig into noticing the details of the object you choose.  Noticing the various elements of the focus point is important because it keeps you involved & interested.  Become an investigator of all of the nuances of the thing you are looking at.  

The manual then has you put your attention on a more subtle object that is between shade & sunlight.  No longer very solid & continuous.  The objective here is to get you from "samatha with support" to "samatha without support" (as the chapter headers list).  Once again, the specific object suggested by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal is not important.  Rather, the importance lies in a specific effect you are trying to enact.  Once you are already seeing all of the small details of the object in a continuous & stable way (per the first exercise), you are ready to move to "samatha without support", which is akin to the 2nd vipassana jhana AKA the knowledge of the arising & passing away.  What you are trying to do at this point is to allow the object to naturally reveal itself as merely a flow of pixels of energy.

One warning here - this manual is not very good for navigating what comes after.  Books like Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha or Manual of Insight are much better at moving through the 3rd & 4th vipassana jhanas to the first tastes of the awakening experience.  Later, the Mahamudra system picks up when the meditator can taste awakening as cessation on a consistent basis but can not fully integrate that with all perceptions yet.  Please use this warning wisely when choosing what instructions to take as your main emphasis in practice.
I appreciate the elaborate answer. However, I remain confused about a couple of things. 

1) You write "The general tenets are to feel enthusiam about the whole thing & to really dig into noticing the details of the object you choose. Noticing the various elements of the focus point is important because it keeps you involved & interested..."

In the manual though, it states "In a relaxed way, direct your attention at it(object) without fixating on it or examining it." 

This seems contradictory to me.

2) As far as I understand, at daytime I should focus on an object in front of me, while at night I should focus on a subtle sphere of white light between my eyebrows. Did I misinterpret the text? Should I only start focusing on an object in front of me, then when I feel ready to move on I practice focusing on a sphere between my eyebrows?

Other than that, I found your explanations clarifying. Thank you!

RE: Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State
Answer
11/5/18 5:17 PM as a reply to Bob No No.
1) You write "The general tenets are to feel enthusiam about the whole thing & to really dig into noticing the details of the object you choose. Noticing the various elements of the focus point is important because it keeps you involved & interested..." 

In the manual though, it states "In a relaxed way, direct your attention at it(object) without fixating on it or examining it." 

This seems contradictory to me.

The two are the same but perhaps at different phases.  The instruction from the book is to initially chill out & not develop hindrances.  So you need to avoid getting restless.  But certainly in order to progress to samatha without support you will need to examine with a sense of relaxed-enthused-curiosity.  

2) As far as I understand, at daytime I should focus on an object in front of me, while at night I should focus on a subtle sphere of white light between my eyebrows. Did I misinterpret the text? Should I only start focusing on an object in front of me, then when I feel ready to move on I practice focusing on a sphere between my eyebrows?

I don't know.  I think the book is either purposely vague or translation gaps maybe.  Keep it simple & do what works.  The point for this portion is to develop continuity & stability of attention.  So whatever gets you there - don't obsess over what object is right, just pick one & go with it (just my 2 cents).  

RE: Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State
Answer
11/6/18 10:31 AM as a reply to Bob No No.
For those interested in this text, Thrangu Rinpoche, a great Mahamudra teacher, will be teaching this text.

See http://www.rinpoche.com/boudha19.htm

RE: Exdrcise from Clarifying the Natural State
Answer
11/7/18 8:19 PM as a reply to Bob No No.
Ok, so I just looked up Clarifying the Natural State and skimmed through it to get some context.

Bob No No:
In the first set of exercises in Clarifying the Natural State it says:

"Then, during the daytime , place a support, such as a pebble or a stick that isn't too bright, directly in line with your gaze.In a relaxed way, direct your attention at it without fixating on it or examining it. Allow your attention to remain on the object of support simply to avoid wandering off or being distracted. 
Next, keep the attention, as above, on a small object that has been placed on the borderline between shade and sunlight. At night, focus the attention on a pea-sized white sphere between your eyebrows. At times, direct the mind, as before, on a pea-sized black sphere below you."


So, a couple of things. I am having a really hard time to focus my attention on a pea-sized white sphere between my eyesbrows. It is much easier to do it external to the body. Is it equally good, or is the exercise meant to do stuff beyond just training my concentration?
Next, I do not completely understand "Next, keep the attention, as above, on a small object that has been placed on the borderline between shade and sunlight." What is its relativity to the daytime exercise?

First, let me point out that you are using somewhat of an esoteric text.  It may work well for you, it certainly looks intriguing, but it was also written in 1500 AD, and appears verbatim as translated with no additional instructions.  Take from this text what you will, but interpret it literally with great caution!

A prime example is the instructions you quoted above.  This quote comes from the section on developing shamatha, which is followed by a section on developing vipassana.  Regardless of the specific instructions for practice, this is standard fare for Tibetan Buddhism.  Initially we cultivate shamatha - mental calm - and then use this base to develop vipassana - insight.  Almost any teacher with a background in Tibetan Buddhism - from Chogyam Trungpa to Culadasa - will offer similar instructions.

My point re: your questions is that it may be counterproductive to worry about the minutiae of the specific shamatha techniques this book mentions.  The point with shamatha is not to focus on a specific stick, or a stone in shadow, or a specific mental pearl, the point is simply to develop mental calm.  To this end, a focus on a standard object such as the breath works just as well, if not better as it is much more convenient.  Again, keep in mind the author lived 500 years ago and probably meditated in caves in Tibet where sticks and rocks made for very convenient visual objects - aside from novelty there's no particular reason to do it this way.