You mentioned that one can enter the substrate consciousness through the shamatha practice of cultivating awareness or during sleep, death and such. Can you realize the substrate consciousness and the luminescence and the radiance of mind through visualization practices such as the one you lead to explore the hearts desire (in motivation to power the retreat talk), through reverence, feelings of gratitude, love, exaltation of breath.

I have been listening to your talk remotely now for years and I am so grateful to have this resource to go back to often enough.

Thank you.

  • Hi Bindu and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together a Guide and a Resource section for new users that you might find useful.
    – user2424
    Jul 31, 2015 at 23:37
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    are you directing this question to someone in particular? is there a context to this?
    – Ryan
    Aug 1, 2015 at 1:47
  • Apparently this phrase "Substrate Consciousness" is used by B. Alan Wallace. Here is a quote from his paper: "The false vacuum state of consciousness is known in Buddhist literature as the bhavanga, from Pali and Sanskrit, which is a kind of substrate consciousness. The bhavanga is a relative ground state of consciousness, more vacuous than deep sleep and free of mental dullness, in which all mental activation is dormant.".
    – user2424
    Aug 1, 2015 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Here is what Alan Wallace says in 'Stilling the Mind' (p 62) - I think this speaks to your question:

"Visualizations are fine. The stage of generation is important. Yet you must still confront your mind; you have to go right through it. That is taking the mind as your path. You need to go to the very ground of the ordinary mind. This requires shamatha. You don't need vipashyana for that nor Dzogchen, nor bodhichitta. But you do need to go right to the ground of your ordinary mind and let the mind settle, unforced. When the mind is quiescent — no turbulent thoughts or emotions arising — it is relaxed, still, luminous, and free from effort. That is shamatha."

The "ground of the ordinary mind" is the substrate consciousness; and shamatha is the essential practice for realizing this ground. Of course we don't want to stop there. I understand the visualizations of the stage of generation practice as a way to keep our eyes on the real prize: 'piercing through' the substrate to realize rigpa (pristine awareness) for the sake of all mother sentient beings. This is important to cultivate from the outset, considering how attractive and seemingly ultimate the experience of shamatha will be. But we must keep going to realize our deepest aspirations. Dudjom Lingpa teaches that stopping in the substrate "does not bring you even a hair's breadth closer to the paths of liberation and omniscience."

[Sharing this without any special authority, but as a grateful fellow student of these teachings. I welcome any corrections to this answer.]

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