Welcome to

The Four Applications of Mindfulness

A Wisdom Academy Online Course with Lama Alan Wallace

The Four Applications of Mindfulness

Explore the very nature of reality and human experience through the Buddha’s quintessential teachings on the four applications of mindfulness.

What You’ll Learn

  • A clear understanding of how Buddhist traditions understand the nature of liberation
  • How to integrate practice on the four applications of mindfulness to face the unique challenges of modern life
  • Facility in the theory and practice of shamatha (calm-abiding) and vipashyana (insight)
  • How to use the full array of human experience as the ground of awakening to the nature of reality itself

About this Course

In this course we investigate the nature of human identity and the possibility of freedom through the Buddha’s foundational instructions on the cultivation of vipashyana, or insight. Lama Alan Wallace presents the four close applications of mindfulness — mindfulness on the body, feelings, the mind, and phenomena — through rich pith instruction on selections from the Pali canon, Mahayana sutras, and commentary from the Vajrayana and Dzogchen traditions. Lama Alan’s unique presentation offers an integrative vision of the Buddhist path, and clarifies fundamental Buddhist truths such the nature of nirvana, the unique vision of the path of the arhat, as well as that of the bodhisattva. We learn that these paths share a common ultimate vision: the primordial and unborn nature of liberation. Lama Alan offers step-by-step guidance through the four applications with clear instruction on the relationship between shamatha (calm-abiding) practice and vipashyana, making these timeless teachings applicable to daily life in the modern world.



Lesson 1: An Introduction to the Four Applications of Mindfulness

In this first lesson, Lama Alan Wallace introduces the significance of the four applications of mindfulness, across Buddhist traditions. We learn the depth behind core terminology, such as what is meant by samadhi, introspection, insight, and even the term ‘mindfulness’ itself. Lama Alan provides direct and practical background that orients the journey of the course, introducing the texts, traditions, and foundational practices to develop a calm and stable mind, ready for the cultivation of vipashyana, or insight.


Lesson 2: Resting in Ease and the Dawn of Insight

In this lesson, we learn how Buddhism understands the nature of suffering, as well as the nature of liberation. Lama Alan Wallace insightfully shows us the relationship between both what veils the nature of mind and what sets it free. Through clear teachings on the first noble truth, the three marks of existence, the five obscurations, and the five jhana factors, we develop a firm foundation in the practical philosophy of Buddhism to enliven our practice of shamatha on mindfulness of breathing as well as vipashyana.


Lesson 3: Approaching Genuine Contentment: The Application of Mindfulness to the Body and Feelings

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace introduces us to core teachings relating to the theory and practice of the application of mindfulness to the body and the application of mindfulness to feelings. With commentary on the Pali Canon and several important Mahayana sutras from “Chapter Thirteen: The Four Close Applications of Mindfulness” of Shantideva’s Siksasmuccaya, or A Compendium of Practices, we discover how essential these teachings are across Buddhist traditions. Lama Alan guides us in deepening our practice of shamatha, with commentary and insights from the Dzogchen tradition, and presents initial teachings on the practice of vipashyana, or insight.


Lesson 4: The Arhat and The Bodhisattva: The Four Applications of Mindfulness and a Continuum of Paths

In this lesson, we explore the path of the arhat, the bodhisattva,  and how teachings on the four applications of mindfulness highlight a continuum of traditions. Lama Alan presents in depth instruction on how the Theravada and Mahayana traditions understand liberation, and the nature of suffering; both theoretical and experientially. Lama Alan also continues his insightful commentary on Chapter Thirteen of Shantideva’s Siksasmuccaya, or A Compendium of Practices, focusing on the close application of mindfulness to feelings.


Lesson 5: Touching the Ground of Becoming: Vipashyana, Freedom, and the Quantum World

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace  offers commentary that takes us to the summit of shamatha practice, defining terms essential to the Theravada tradition, and the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. We learn that the achievement of  of shamatha is an important stepping stone for the practice and fulfillment of vipashyana. Through study and practice on the application of mindfulness to the mind we enter into the world of vipashyana, learn precisely what Buddhism means by mental afflictions, and precisely how these afflictions obstruct us from liberation. This lesson also includes an insightful discussion between Buddhist philosophy and contemporary science with respect to the Buddhist notions of karma and interdependent origination.


Lesson 6: Luminosity and the Space of the Mind

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace guides us through the close application of mindfulness to the mind, offering commentary and practice instruction on discerning the essential nature of mind, the sign of the mind, it’s luminosity and cognizance. Through shamatha practice on the space of the mind, we learn to see and discern the factors of origination behind mental phenomena. Lama Alan also presents insights from modern physics to illuminate the plasticity of the mind, as well as space, energy, and time.


Lesson 7: Realizing Emptiness: Nirvana, Dzogchen, and Transcending the Three Times

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace takes us through the accomplishment of shamatha and into the territory of the unconditioned mind, the realization of emptiness. Offering commentary from the Theravada, Mahayana, and Dzogchen perspectives, we learn how the nature of mind is understood and described across Buddhist traditions. In particular, Lama Alan offers insightful commentary on both the Theravada understanding of nirvana and the Dzogchen tradition’s  discussion of pristine awareness. We also learn two essential perspectives on the path of realizing emptiness: the view presented by Padmasambhava and the view presented by Tsongkhapa.


Lesson 8: The Path to Enlightenment: The Five Powers, Non-Self, and the Emptiness of Phenomena

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace outlines the essential aspects of the Buddhist Path, and the how the four applications of mindfulness seamlessly weave into the unfolding of an authentic path. Lama Alan also shares with us insightful commentary on a potential bridge between the first and second turnings of the wheel of Dharma. Practice in this lesson takes us from the the heart of shamatha practice, the awareness of awareness, into vipashyana on the nature of objective appearances.


Lesson 9: The Dance of Ignorance and Awareness: Dependent Origination, Quantum Perception, and The Emergence of Primal Mind

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace clearly outlines the stages of dependent arising, according to Buddhist thought, in order to reveal how the subtle and conscious mind comes into being. Lama Alan then relates discussion on the arising of the mind and phenomena to discoveries from contemporary science, and the insights of quantum mechanics.


Lesson 10: The Alchemy of the Primordial Ground: Transmuting the Five Poisons, Nonmeditation, and Pristine Awareness

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace takes us to the summit of the path, according to the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. From this view, we learn about the fusion of shamatha and vipashyana, how mental afflictions arise, and are ultimately empty of any inherent nature. Lama Alan also introduces the practice of nonmeditation, based on the visionary writing of Düdjom Lingpa in Buddhahood Without Meditation.

About the Teacher

Dynamic lecturer, progressive scholar, and one of the most prolific writers and translators of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, Lama Alan Wallace, PhD, continually seeks innovative ways to integrate Buddhist contemplative practices with Western science to advance the study of the mind. Lama Alan, a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970, has taught Buddhist theory and meditation worldwide since 1976. Having devoted 14 years to training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, ordained by H.H. the Dalai Lama, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of science at Amherst College and a doctorate in religious studies at Stanford. Lama Alan later studied Dzogchen with Gyatrul Rinpoche, a senior teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. With his unique background, Lama Alan brings deep experience and applied skills to the challenge of integrating traditional Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with the modern world. Lama Alan is the author and translator of several books, including Düdjom Lingpa’s Visions of the Great Perfection, Stilling the Mind: Shamatha Teachings From Dudjom Linpa’s Vajra EssenceTibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos, and The Attention Revolution.