In RETREAT by Erik Pema Kunsang3 Comments

“Having settled evenly you see reality.”

Many masters quote this deep and insightful sentence to show the shortcut to restore mental sanity. To settle our attention evenly is shamatha, which in its perfect form is the unchanging quality of the awakened state of mind. To see the natural state is vipashyana, which in its perfect form is the timeless wakefulness of all buddhas. These two are an indivisible unity as the state of enlightenment, and it is the task of all meditators to know this unity in actuality, beyond all kinds of preconceived ideas, and then to train in it until reaching complete stability. Here is a poem I wrote about this unity, the most precious of all.

Rather than being caught up in the turmoil
of a life overpowered by emotions,
losing our seat and sane judgement,
we can always stop up and settle our heart and attention
in an even state of mind.

As dust settles
and as water clears,
we and every other being in the universe
are able to see reality as it is.

That is the real meaning and purpose of retreat.
That is why for thousands of years
people have gone to remote places
to discover inner freedom and enlightenment.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

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Photo by Alexander Vincens Husum.


  1. Pingback: Спокійно вмоститися в тихому місці | Ґомде Україна

  2. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

    Hi Wayne. In my experience it is necessary to make a halt, a break, a breather – amidst an emotional involvement, while pondering and musing, while perceiving and labeling and judging.

    What happens next, be it a step back, a turn inward or a settling down, all is fine. And can get better, more sublime, transcendental.

    Warmest wishes, Erik

  3. Wayne Amtzis

    Eric, I’m not sure of the idiomatic intent of “stop up” line 4.
    I’d say “step back” or “turn inward”. Or “settle down”,
    but that would entail a change in the following phrase “settle our heart…”.

    We can always settle down and loosely fix our heart and attention
    We can always step back and settle our heart and attention

    My apologies for the too close attention
    Words tend to trip me up

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