THE TASTE OF DHAMMA
MEDITATION CONCENTRATION TRAINING
Basic Exercise in brief
SettingThis is a meditation exercise which is
(a) The basis of the working of the mind
(b) The involvement of a subject on which to meditate
(c) A tool for mind training
There are 40 techniques of concentration training and this introduction will deal with one of these namely, the mindfulness of breathing. We develop concentration by applying mindfulness on breathing (to breathe in and out).
This technique is a very convenient practice because by nature everybody has to breathe in and out. It can be used all the time and anywhere it is needed as long as one is constantly aware of the process.
Try to find a quiet place which is conducive to peace. It is helpful to have the right atmosphere but if this is not possible, it can still be performed.
Find any posture which enables the body to relax and which is the most comfortable for a long period of sitting. One should be able to breath naturally. The best posture is cross legged or sitting upright with the right leg on top of the left one and hands on the lap, the right hand on top of the left one with the thumbs touching, or the right fore finger touching the left thumb. If this is not possible one can sit upright on a chair or take any other comfortable posture. However if the sitting brings any tension, it will not be the right practice and it should be corrected before continuation. Eyes can be closed or opened as long as one is not distracted. One should look downcast with the opened eyes or fix the gaze on the tip of the nose.
3. Breathing Exercise
After sitting comfortably one should take deep long breaths to fill the lungs then breath out slowly several times. At the same time try to develop the feeling that the body is not solid and the head is light until the mind is reasonably peaceful, then breathe normally but with awareness of the in and out breath. When breathing in and out deeply, be aware that one breathes in and out deeply, when breathing in and out shallowly know that one breathes in and out shallowly. Do not control the breaths, but be mindful of them.
For a beginner counting the breath will help to control the mind and stop wandering thoughts.
If the mind is very restless, start to count the breaths in pairs. In-out-l, in-out-2, up to 10, then reverse the process. In-out-9, in-out-8, down to 1.
An alternative is to try to fix attention at the tip of the nose or the upper lip where the breath touches without following the movement of the breath through the body but being aware of in and out breathing.
THE MIND BEING ONE
It is rare that our mind can be peaceful and let go of everything but if we are able to achieve that state of mind just once, it is very precious, more precious than the ever busy thinking mind.
It is very easy to find pebbles or stones but they have little value. They will be found on the whole mountain but they are not as valuable as just one diamond. If one manages to dig deep and find one, it will be more valuable than the whole mountain.
The nature of the mind is the same. If we penetrate deep into peace and tranquillity, free from thought for just one moment, the result is the same as finding the diamond.
The mind which sees the Dhamma is free from thoughts and turmoil, and is able to obtain Nirodha (the cessation of Suffering).
FINDING TIME TO TRAIN ONE'S MIND
There is indeed very little time for training one's mind. If one does not determine to take this time, all of one's everyday business such as family, property and so on will take over. It will be impossible to gain peace and tranquillity. Time will be shared with different people, chatting and, at the same time, clinging and making attachments. By the time we want to let go, our time is already up.
Most people are the same, they do not have the energy to meditate, only to think or chat. If it is the other way round, concentration will occur very quickly. Very few people have the energy to practice meditation even for 5 minutes, they give up, too exhausted. When they are chatting, however, they forget all about their pain and discomfort.
Thinking and talking are similar things. If we think, the stream of thought flows, thinking about families, homes and so forth. It will go on for a long period uninterrupted before ending because of our lack of mindfulness. If we have this quality of mindfulness and know ourselves, we will stop thinking about unwholesome things.
MEDICINE FOR APPLYING - MEDICINE FOR TAKING
Chanting words are for preserving the content of the Scriptures. It helps us to gain confidence. Chanting cannot help us to get rid of defilement as much as meditation. Concentration is the direct method of getting rid of defilement's by stilling the mind.
During chanting if the mind wanders, it will not be as peaceful as it should be. Chanting alone will not lead to enlightenment. If chanting and practising take place at the same time, enlightenment will be achieved. There is a saying "Chanting is medicine for application, concentration is medicine for taking ." When we have a fever, if we use the medicine for application, we will not recover, only taking it will lead to our recovery.
Most people get attached to chanting, addicted to the medicine for application, but they will not take any medicine by their mouths. Consequently they do not get well. Their minds are defiled. So they have to concentrate. It is necessary to meditate in order to get well and to get rid of the defilement's. Concentration is necessary to penetrate through the mind, so we can see our own defilement's and get rid of it.
WISDOM TO STOP SUFFERING
Do not continuously jump from one subject to another. Concentrate only on the working of your own mind. If we do not do this, we will only encounter suffering. It will be all Ignorance. Thinking of this person or that person only leads to the same thing. But if the thinking happens or arises in our mind and we stop it there, that is wisdom.
We should not think about anything beside ourselves. If we let our mind wander, Suffering will be with us. At the same time Ignorance will follow. Thinking takes place in our mind, it is born in our mind, we must stop it there. This is the wisdom which will stop Suffering and bring happiness without the need to seek worldly wealth.
When we cannot stop our thinking mind, there is burning, the burning of body, the burning of mind. The mind is full of suffering everyday because thoughts torture us. The thought of drowning or taking drugs in order to commit suicide is caused by continuous thoughts. All this is suffering.
More thinking causes more suffering. When we cannot escape from our own thought processes, we wish to rise above them. How can we rise above them when we cannot concentrate or meditate. We would rather die in order to stop thinking but we do not realize that it is impossible to stop thoughts just like that.
Therefore, only Dhamma will eliminate the unwholesome state of mind which is full of bad and excessive thinking. We must destroy the root cause of it. By doing so we will encounter happiness in our lives.
DISAGREE WITH OUR OWN MIND
When another person disagrees with us, we are not happy. When we disagree with him, he will feel the same. There will not be peace of mind for both him and us. But the Buddha's Dhamma is to disagree with our own mind when meditating.
Anything that causes us to scold, criticise or answer back, we will control. This is to disagree with our mind by being peaceful. When wanting to speak we do not speak, when wanting to scold, we do not scold. When wanting to argue, we do not argue. If we want to think too much we stop it and at the same time we always repeat "Buddho ". Disagree with oneself and all will be well. If we do not disagree with ourselves nothing will be smooth and all will be in turmoil.
To feel the breath is to see "Form". Being aware of breathing in and breathing out whilst thinking of homes or different people is a development of awareness as we understand our own mind which always wanders.
More thinking, more distraction. This distraction cannot escape from our own thoughts. When we are unable to escape from our own thoughts we want to be rid of them. How can we do that when we do not know how to concentrate. When we cannot go beyound it, we would rather die in order to stop the thought process. We do not understand, however that thoughts cannot be stopped.
So only Dhamma will destroy unwholesome mental states, the stream of thoughts, and thinking excessively. Thought is the cause of misery and this cause will have to be stopped.
THE RULE OF THE DHAMMA
There must be more self control if we are to follow the method of practice. That is to say we should not lose mindfulness in any of our activities, remaining mindful when eating, sitting, lying down, thinking and so on. If we lose mindfulness, this is because we have no personal guide-lines. We must have rules for ourselves. We must control ourselves and control our actions in order to gain more awareness and become more conscious of our movements. We must learn how to use a restraining morality in order to be more aware.
We should fix our attention on all actions. If we are stricter and are conscious of our movement at all times, our mind will be at peace and concentration and wisdom will easily follow.
TO WARDS PEACE
A person who gains mindfulness and clear comprehension through meditation by repeating "Buddho"or by looking at his or her own mind, knows what he or she is thinking about, perhaps something that happened in the past, some event in the present or unwholesome thoughts which are full of craving, aversion or delusion. Having seen this one stops the mental activity and allows one's mind to become still for a long period. Resting in this stillness one's awareness becomes deeper.
When the mind reaches a certain depth, we must be conscious of that state. Whether it is light, heavy, illuminated or calm, we must always be fully aware of these conditions. Once there is awareness, peace will arise. We must penetrate deeper into the heart and mind and not be distracted by other people. We must never be distracted by our own natures. Know only one thing, the mind, which possesses awareness within itself. We will then experience space, illumination and peace within the mind.
MEDITATION DEVICES ( KASINA )
Even flowers can be used for the Dhamma as objects of concentration, not in this case for their beauty but for seeing transiency, for one pointedness of mind, form realizing Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta.( Impermanence, Suffering, and Egolessness)
Water Kasina , Fire Kasina, Wind Kasina, Earth Kasina are all natural. When we offer flowers to the Buddha, it is a time for contemplation. Placing the flowers in the vase, we close our eyes and then open them. We look at the Buddha's image and again then close the eyes. Soon we will be able to recall the image and it becomes meditation device which makes our mind peaceful for the moment. In the same way we will be able to visualise flowers, and after more practice, many flowers will become just one with the same colour. In the end there will be tranquillity and illumination.
When that happens we try to look at ourselves. If we do not form any attachment to outside objects, those objects of concentration will bring wisdom. Consequently concentration will occur and the Dhamma will be revealed. We will have attained a certain stage of Dhamma. We may use anything as a meditation device, including the parts of our own body, for instance, our heart, our face or our whole body. The mental object of these meditation devices should be integrated into the practice. Everything will lead to illumination.
To meditate one needs endurance, for we have to put up with weariness, sloth and torpor. One should develop patience, for, otherwise there will not be enough effort. It is impossible to succeed when our own mind is not yet disciplined.
To meditate is to streamline the mind. Before acquiring one pointedness of mind, effort and time are required. No matter how much we try, the mind is sure to wander off very quickly, but we have to persevere, to meditate more. There will be a point when this process will stop and peace will follow.
GETTING RID OF HINDRANCES
We may experience weariness, physical pain, sloth or torpor during our meditation periods.
We should not abandon our practice because of sloth or torpor. It does not matter how sleepy we become, we keep on sitting until it disappears. As soon as this happens, concentration will arise.
Although laziness may make us want to give up, we must put up with it. We will overcome the hindrance right there.
Restlessness and wandering thoughts can put an end to meditation practice if we do not have enough wisdom. When this happens, just observe it and continue to do so until the restlessness stops. The mind will then be free and Samadhi will occur.
Hindrances are only walls. If we can get through the door, we will be face to face with wisdom.
STOP AT A SINGLE LOCATION
Samadhi can be compared with an island in the sea on which a swallow has built his nest. If we are to catch that bird, we need not follow him anywhere. We simply need to wait on the island. Although he may fly away until out of our sight, he will not be able to find another island. He can see nothing but the sky and the water and so, in order to survive, all he can do is return to the island. We can catch him right there.
Our mind has a similar nature. It does not matter how far our thoughts wander. In the end they will start again in the same place. There may be all sorts of thoughts: about the past, the future, making a living, getting rich, and they go on continuously, but finally they will all begin again at the same point which is our mind. We must wait there as if on that island. After a while, the thoughts, like the swallow, become too exhausted and are forced to return to their nest, the mind.
If we always concentrate and are aware of what happens or where our thoughts are, in no time at all, the flight of the thoughts will stop and then begin again within the mind. By keeping a close watch on that spot, we will be able to catch it.
THE BASIS OF MIND
The training of mindfulness of the body can be called the establishment and maintenance of that capability of peace without impulses and emotions. Do not allow the mind to waver and so begin to think about different matters. Tie the mind with the body, for the basis of mind is body, samadhi and wisdom.
The body is the basis of sense impressions. So we must try and contemplate the nature of happiness and suffering within both our body and mind, whether walking, sitting, lying down, going to the lavatory, in hunger, or in thirst, whatever happens to us.
EMPTINESS, ILLUMINATION, CALMNESS
Usually when a person is deep in thought, he will not be able to know the Dhamma. Only when he breaks the thought pattern will it arise.
Dhamma is born with emptiness
Dhamma is born with illumination
Dhamma is born with calmness
Thinking is not the cause of the appearance of the Dhamma. Only by giving up thinking, will the Dhamma arise.
THE WAY TO ENTER SAMADHI
We can make use of whatever method leads us to calmness. Each one of us must understand what is most appropriate to our own character. From our experience we know whether we gain peace by observation, fixing our attention or by reciting sacred words. We should stick with this one method. This is called "Knowing how to enter Samadhi" and result will be immediate.
CEASE ALL THOUGHTS...PEACE
Thinking of a sense object is called "Vipassanuk" but when we contemplate it becomes Vipassana (insight). Wisdom will arise and will be able to see by itself seeing more, we will reach a peaceful spot, a staying point, a stopping point, a point of illumination. This is followed by cessation of suffering immediately if we understand the movement of mind.
If we keep on observing our mind when we are thinking, it will finally stop. Then voidness appears. lf we persevere, we see nothing but emptiness. When we follow the mind constantly, the process will collapse.
ARISING AND PASSING AWAY
Dhamma is in our own body and mind, it is not in anybody elses. Therefore, we should meditate on our body, our own sensations, and especially and most importantly on our own mind, for it is the mental state which senses, which sees and thinks, which delights in some sensations and is averse to others. It is the mental state which can feel strongly about something and is indifferent to others. As soon as we begin to become distracted by arising thoughts, we should establish mindfulness and recite the words "Buddho... Buddho" This will stop the mental processes. If we forget these words, however, the chain of thoughts will continue.
If we ask ourselves how the mental process arises, we can find that the mind thinks, all kind of thoughts, some of which are unwholesome. If we can be aware of such thoughts in time, they will vanish. The mind will be still. We will see that our mind can remain still when sitting, walking, standing, or moving about. When we look at our mind, there is spaciousness, equanimity and awareness.
PRACTICE BEYOND SUFFERING
Everything in this physical world has its cause and these causes will lead to conditions. Mental phenomena are the products of thoughts. There must be the presence of sense objects, contacts, touches, impulses and emotions to stimulate them.
According to the Buddha's teaching, Dhamma will arise only when the cause has stopped. When there is no more stimulus of any kind in our heart, these causes are eliminated. At that moment the mind is empty, calm and tranquil. Dhamma will appear.
A PRESENT SENSE OBJECT
At the moment when we are peaceful and tranquil, we should try to acquire a wholesome state of mind. We should take notice of the present in order to help ourselves, to still and gain one- pointedness of mind.
The present sense object can control mindfulness. It can also eliminate Suffering which belongs to the past and future. When our mind does not have impulses and emotions from the past and future, we have put a stop to it by concentrating on the present. But whenever we are absent minded, there will be past and future, impulse and emotion. Remorse and distraction will also appear. Therefore we must train our mind to dwell in the present and know what we are doing.
HOPELESS MENTAL EXERCISE
A meditator who always constantly sees others but not himself or herself is following a hopeless mental exercise. One must concentrate on one's own heart and mind and penetrate deeper into them. If one only looks superficially, one will not understand one's own mind.
So the purpose of mental exercise is to see oneself to see corporeality (Rupa), feeling ( Vedana), perception (Sanna), intentional activities ( Sankhara ) and consciousness ( Vinnana). Seeing mind and matter ( Nama Rupa ) that is mind ( Citta) mental factors ( Cetasika), form or matter (Rupa). Then one can see feeling, mind and Dhamma. Concentrate on the body while walking, lying down, sitting, defecating, urinating. Even breath is included in "body" (Kaya).
There is not much to do when practising Samadhi. Just keep on working until the mind is peaceful. Do not expect to have different visions. Do not ask yourself, why do I see nothing after such a long period of meditation practice when other people say that they "see" different things. Do not think in that way because each person has his or her own result, virtue and happiness.
So after realizing that there are different individual accumulations, we are contented with our own way and we will not be full of restlessness.
LOOKING AT ONESELF
The teaching of the Buddha is the teaching of correcting oneself, to free oneself from suffering. To look at oneself all day, we notice different types of faults, unskilful actions which should be avoided. All day, the self is critically viewed. The more we can spot our negativities, the more we will improve, because we can see that we still lack wisdom.
Observing oneself becomes the way of self correction at all times. This will get rid of our erroneous opinions and pride and the idea of self. It is similar to the Buddha's teaching about awareness of suffering as a form of mental exercises. So why do we concentrate on suffering? Why do we not concentrate on happiness instead? We do not realize that the person who can see happiness within himself is in fact constantly full of suffering because his mind is not calm.
The Buddha's teaching concerns the observation of suffering for the whole day of sitting, lying down, eating and walking. It is the contemplation of Suffering in the five aggregates. Alas ! There is only Suffering. In the same way that a doctor diagnoses the disease in order to cure his patient, to look at the Buddha's Dhamma is to diagnose at oneself and one's own negativities.
OLD MERIT NEW ACCUMULATION
To attain Samadhi is similar to a child learning how to walk. The child keeps on falling down and getting up again. We must not stand still and become attached to previous states of calm and happiness. We must go further. Some people get stuck at such a level. Once they have enjoyed the calmness and serenity of one pointed mind, they wish to repeat the same experience again whenever they practice. In fact, that peace has gone. We must know our present state of mind whether it is peaceful or not.
When we are meditating in the present moment, we must not reflect on the past because it will make us hesitant and indecisive, and the mind will be in the state of turmoil. If we understand this principle, we will overcome this hindrance. Do not think of the past. Pay no attention to it and persevere without raising the hope of having peace and tranquillity or of reaching the goal. Do not reflect, "How peaceful that day was! " and wish for an action replay. If we adopt such an attitude, we will never gain Samadhi because of our clinging to the past, We must make progress. Those days have gone forever and they will never be the same again. Nevertheless, they may be better if we do not cling to our past experiences.
Therefore the way to develop samadhi is to abandon past experiences. If we follow any method which helps us to attain calm, we should not become attached to that calm, but notice how it was achieved, for example, we fixed our attention at the tip of our nostrils and our breathing became softer, then thoughts stopped alltogether, the mind became clear, cool, still and our concentration deepened. It will thus be obvious that this was the right form of Samadhi for us. Or perhaps when we recited some sacred words, emptied our minds of concepts, thoughts, past experiences, when our mind had space, we then let go of everything and gained Samadhi. So if this method is effective, we should stick to it.
SAMADHI DEVELOPS FROM ONE POINT
There can be only one spot for the development of Samadhi. If there are many, there will be no development . We can put the point of concentration in various places such as the tip of our nose, the breath, the forehead, within our body or mind. It can be anything which is considered to be the starting point.
The starting point is called "raising thought conception" (Vittaka Citta) that is, to lift the mind up to the point of concentration and to fix the attention there. After that, discriminate and contemplate that object of concentration until all is clear and comprehensive, until there is understanding of matter and mind (consciousness plus the various mentalfactors which condition consciousness). Joy will follow automatically.
If the mind is not fixed on the object, Samadhi will not be there. If the mind moves from one point to others, Samadhi will also not be there, it is simply ordinary thinking. So it is said that our body is the principle or base of mindfulness and the base of Samadhi.
KNOWING THE PRESENT STATE OF MIND
The Dhamma which we are trying to acquire during our practice is in fact within us, but we usually do not realize that we have already attained that state and have actually gone past it. Because we do not understand this, we believe that the goal is not reached and so we aim to attain that state sometime in the future. We do not see that if we can know our present state of mind, and are in control of it, then we have already attained it. Nevertheless, if we keep practising, we will still reap the benefit.
We should not hope to engage in difficult practices in the future, because Nibbana is not ahead of us. Nibbana is where our mind is calm and happy. Nibbana is when the mind is aware of its present state.
THE PATH OF MIND
From the Sota Pati state, a meditator can understand his or her own mind, whether there is greed, hatred or delusion, whether the mind is pleased or not pleased. Such following of the mind is called the path and fruition of mind. Keep watching your mind. If you watch outside of the mind you do not see anything. Any sense object which comes into the mind can be seen to be rising and vanishing.
When a person sees a delightful object, he or she is pleased. When he or she hears some melodious sound he or she is pleased and vice versa. It is all in the mind a similar taste can lead to pleasure or displeasure. When this happens, just watch your mind. Impulses and emotions occur in a very short space of time and happen very quickly. All of this takes place in your mind and you have to watch it. If we can watch the mind it will be really peaceful. Just try.
What we are doing is training our minds. We have to keep on practising because our mind always moves from one point to others. So it does not remain at peace. Although we may have achieved some mental stillness, our mind soon wavers. Therefore, in order to gain peace, we must practise often, and then we will experience happiness and a wholesome state of mind.
When we are practising the Dhamma, the greater our intention and perseverance, the greater the result. If we lack effort and become lazy, peacefulness will not arise.
Why do we have to practice everyday? It is because we think all day, about old matters and new concerns. If the thought is good we will be happy, if bad we will become depressed. Considering a pleasant event in the future will cheer us up but we become anxious when we worry that the future holds bads things in store.
Some people become disheartened and begin to doubt that they will make it at all. Thinking that they do not have the strength, they even consider suicide, they are beaten by life. After consideration, however, some people wish to make the most of life and persevere with courage.
SPREADING LOVING KINDNESS
In Buddhism, spreading loving kindness is the power of the mind, because it makes the mind bright and without murkiness.
If a Buddhist monk spreads his loving kindness with his bright heart, with his pure heart, his loving kindness is full of power and virtue which can make all sentient beings live happily without exploiting each other. Even elephants, tigers, snakes and various animals can happily live together. If the heart of a Buddhist monk consists of loving kindness, brightness and purity, this heart has enough power to make all sentient beings happy and peaceful.
Thus, loving kindness is the pole which supports this world and makes the world happy. A world that is without anger, hatred, envy, revenge or vindication. When a person has good conduct and moral practice he also has loving kindness for himself. This loving kindness will make him love and have mercy to all others as well.
So this loving kindness is the great power which spreads limitlessly to himself, friends, kinsmen, enemies, people throughout all the countries, all sentient beings in the three worlds, and even to all beings who are suffering. It is the thought of good will that all may be happy, escape from all dangers and find more and more happiness.
The pure and bright loving kindness which spreads from one's heart as mentioned above can be the great power and is regarded as the most important virtue which must be applied and developed all the time.
Before one wishes to spread one's loving kindness to others, one must indeed make up one's mind to be brightly illuminated and pure. Only this kind of loving-kindness can support the world.
Every time we accumulate merit we prolong our lives. One has to accumulate merit so that it will not run out. Eventually, the fruits of past virtue will be used up and our behaviour will deteriorate. If we have money and we spend some everyday, our accumulation of wealth will soon be finished. If we do not find some more we will become poor.