The Tibetan word for Shamatha meditation means calm. The practice of Shamatha meditation develops the ability to focus the mind in single-pointed perfect concentration and is a prerequisite for the development of vipashyana or analytical insight meditation. Shamatha meditation should ideally practice in an isolated place and one should seat in meditation posture of Vairochana Buddha. The object of concentration is usually the image of the Buddha or a deity. The illustration of the development of mental tranquility is brilliantly depicted in this thangka in nine progressive stages of mental development which are obtained through the six powers of study, contemplation, memory, comprehension, diligence and perfection. The first stage is attained through the power of study and or hearing. The monk fixes his mind on the object of concentration. Here a monk chasing, binding, leading and subduing elephant whose colour progresses from black to white. The elephant represents the mind and its black colour the gross aspects of mental dullness. The monkey represents distraction or mental agitations, and its black colour, scattering. The hare represents the more subtle aspect of sinking. The hooked goad and lasso which the monk wields represent clear understanding and mindful recollection. The progressive diminishing along the path represents the decreasing degree of effort needed to cultivate understanding and recollection. The five sense objects represent the five sensual source of distraction.
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