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Shamatha and Vipashyana in the Dzogchen Tradition

A Wisdom Academy Online Course with Lama Alan Wallace

Shamatha and Vipashyana in the Dzogchen Tradition

Join renowned Buddhist teacher Lama Alan Wallace to discover the Dzogchen tradition’s unique approach to shamatha and vipashyana through guided meditations and extensive oral commentary on the visionary writings of Dzogchen master Düdjom Lingpa.

What You’ll Learn

  • The importance of shamatha and vipashyana as preparation for Dzogchen
  • Practices to rest body, speech and mind in their natural state
  • How to practice shamatha focused on the nature of the mind
  • How to practice vipashyana in order to examine the nature and origin of the mind
  • The way in which the Dzogchen tradition understands the nature of mind as pristine awareness
  • A broad overview of the Great Perfection tradition as taught by Dzogchen master Düdjom Lingpa

About this Course

In this course we enter the visionary world of nineteenth-century Dzogchen master Düdjom Lingpa to explore the nature and origins of the mind, the ground of consciousness itself.  

The practices of shamatha and vipashyana rest at the heart of meditation throughout the Buddhist world. Here we follow the approach of the Great Perfection, the Dzogchen tradition, which emphasizes the practice of shamatha on the nature of mind itself as the core preparation to examine the mind’s mode of existence in vipashyana. Settling the mind into an underlying continuum of subtle awareness, we learn to see its role in nature, and the phenomenal world.

Lama Alan Wallace guides us closely through the first three sections of The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra, a text by Düdjom Lingpa, which he declares his most quintessential. Through rich exposition of this pithy and timely text, along with practical contemplations and reflection, you will understand how shamatha and vipashyana play an essential role in the fundamental practices of the Great Perfection, cutting through to pristine awareness (trekchö) and the direct crossing over to spontaneous actualization (tögal).



Lesson 1: The Visionary World of Düdjom Lingpa and the Primacy of Mind

In this first lesson, Alan Wallace introduces the tradition of Düdjom Lingpa and offers commentary on the root text for the course, The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. He also provides instruction for the practice of resting body, speech, and mind in their natural state and shamatha meditation on the mindfulness of breathing.


Lesson 2: Taking the Mind and Essence onto the Path

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace offers practical commentary on the root text for the course, The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra, to reveal how practitioners of specific faculties enter the path, and how we can take the mind, both the impure mind, and the essence of mind, onto the path. Lama Alan also guides us through the practice of resting the mind in space, and learning to observe the movements of mind within stillness.


Lesson 3: The Four Types of Mindfulness: Taking the Impure Mind as the Path

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace guides us through the four stages of mindfulness covered in the root text. Describing each stage from a practical point of view, Lama Alan makes practicing through the stages of mindfulness directly relevant to the practice of shamatha.


Lesson 4: The Path to Liberation: Shamatha, Vipashyana, and Giving Rise to the Awakened Mind

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace guides us through the completion of the first phase of the root text, The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. In this rich commentary, Lama Alan enlivens and makes clear Düdjom Lingpa’s presentation of path, emphasizing the importance of the preliminaries, especially the motivation of bodhicitta, and guides us in meditations that allow us to integrate our understandings of the root text in practice.


Lesson 5: Ascertaining the Sharp Vajra: Shamatha, Vipashyana, and Nonmeditation

In this lesson, Lama Alan’s commentary invites us into the true meaning of the sharp vajra, within the second phase of the root text. We learn how the path laid out by Düdjom Lingpa is a unique approach to the understanding, and experience of pristine awareness, pristine awareness as none other than our  very own face. The utter simplicity of this approach is in part why it is so difficult, and why the path of shamatha is essential. To facilitate our progress along the path, guided meditations complement Lama Alan’s commentary on the six distinctions of pristine awareness, and the four phases of practice, as found in the root text.


Lesson 6: Discerning the Root of Samsara: Vipashyana, Emptiness, and the Primordial Ground

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace concludes his commentary on phase two of the root text, and guides us into phase three. Here we are introduced to the practice of vipashyana as an essential inquiry into discerning the very nature of how samsara arises. Lama Alan’s commentary on Düdjom Lingpa’s pith instructions helps us to gain some insight into the the utter profundity of how Dzogchen understands samsara, and how liberation is possible.


Lesson 7: Madhyamaka and the Quantum Universe: Discerning the Emptiness of All Phenomena

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace continues his commentary on stage three of the root text, guiding us through Düdjom Lingpa’s commentary on the emptiness of all objective phenomena. Lama Alan holds these profound pith instructions alongside the theoretical and experimental implications of quantum mechanics, sharing insights and anecdotes.


Lesson 8: Finding the Middle Way: The Perfection of Wisdom, the Pali Canon, and Modern Science

In this lesson Lama Alan Wallace continues his commentary on phase three of the root text, with an illuminating discussion on the relationship between the Madhyamaka and Cittamatra schools and Dzogchen. This rich presentation of Buddhist philosophy further reveals the visionary depth of Düdjom Lingpa’s writing and serves the deepening of our journey in the practice of vipashyana. Lama Alan’s guidance throughout the lesson is replete with insights from modern science, and reveals a profound link between the view of Madhyamaka and aspects of the Pali Canon.


Lesson 9: The Pinnacle View: Ethics, Gods, Demons, and Phases of Practice

In this lesson, Lama Alan Wallace reveals how the practices, and view, explored throughout the course are understood within the phases of Dzogchen practice. Lama Alan continues his commentary on phase three of the root text, framing the importance of ethics and practicing virtue alongside the vastness of Düdjom Lingpa’s view. Lama Alan also shares pith instructions on the meaning of secrecy in the context of Dzogchen and encourages us to be both practical and realistic as we continue to study and integrate the teachings found in the root text.


Lesson 10: Striking the Heart of Nonduality: The Union of Dharmakaya and Dharmadhatu

In this final lesson of the course, Lama Alan Wallace brings us to the completion of phase three of the Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra. Lama Alan’s commentary provides a clear and insightful understanding of fundamental Dzogchen concepts that rest at the heart of the path. In discussing the paramount importance of nonmeditation in Dzogchen, Lama Alan skillfully guides us through core terminology, explaining the nondual relationship of the feminine and masculine principles—Samantabhadra and Samantabhadri, respectively. Offering a complimentary guided practice on nonmeditation, Lama Alan clarifies the wisdom aspect of the path, presenting the quintessential view of Dzogchen, and leads us in dedicating the merit of our practice throughout the course.

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.