INTRODUCTION This book is a guide to the practice of centering the mind. There are two sec

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INTRODUCTION This book is a guide to the practice of centering the mind. There are two sections: The first deals almost exclusively with the mind. But because the well-being of the mind depends to some extent on the body, I have included a second section [Method 2] that shows how to use the body to benefit the mind. From what I've observed in my own practice, there is only one path that is short, easy, effective, and pleasant, and at the same time has hardly anything to lead you astray: the path of keeping the breath in mind, the same path the Lord Buddha himself used with such good results. I hope that you won't make things difficult for yourself by being hesitant or uncertain, by taking this or that teaching from here or there; and that, instead, you'll earnestly set your mind on getting in touch with your own breath and following it as far as it can take you. From there, you will enter the stage of liberating insight, leading to the mind itself. Ultimately, pure knowing -- buddha -- will stand out on its own. That's when you'll reach an attainment trustworthy and sure. In other words, if you let the breath follow its own nature, and the mind its own nature, the results of your practice will without a doubt be all that you hope for. Ordinarily, the nature of the heart, if it isn't trained and put into order, is to fall in with preoccupations that are stressful and bad. This is why we have to search for a principle -- a Dhamma -- with which to train ourselves if we hope for happiness that's stable and secure. If our hearts have no inner principle, no center in which to dwell, we're like a person without a home. Homeless people have nothing but hardship. The sun, wind, rain, and dirt are bound to leave them constantly soiled because they have nothing to act as shelter. To practice centering the mind is to build a home for yourself: Momentary concentration (khanika samadhi) is like a house roofed with thatch; threshold concentration (upacara samadhi), a house roofed with tile; and fixed penetration (appana samadhi), a house built out of brick. Once you have a home, you'll have a safe place to keep your valuables. You won't have to put up with the hardships of watching over them, the way a person who has no place to keep his valuables has to go sleeping in the open, exposed to the sun and rain, to guard those valuables -- and even then his valuables aren't really safe. So it is with the uncentered mind: It goes searching for good from other areas, letting its thoughts wander around in all kinds of concepts and preoccupations. Even if those thoughts are good, we still can't say that we're safe. We're like a woman with plenty of jewelry: If she dresses up in her jewels and goes wandering around, she's not safe at all. Her wealth might even lead to her own death. In the same way, if our hearts aren't trained through meditation to gain inner stillness, even the virtues we've been able to develop will deteriorate easily because they aren't yet securely stashed away in the heart. To train the mind to attain stillness and peace, though, is like keeping your valuables in a strongbox. This is why most of us don't get any good from the good we do. We let the mind fall under the sway of its various preoccupations. These preoccupations are our enemies, because there are times when they can cause the virtues we've already developed to wither away. The mind is like a blooming flower: If wind and insects disturb the flower, it may never have a chance to give fruit. The flower here stands for the stillness of the mind on the path; the fruit, for the happiness of the path's fruition. If our stillness of mind and happiness are constant, we have a chance to attain the ultimate good we all hope for. The ultimate good is like the heartwood of a tree. Other 'goods' are like the buds, branches, and leaves. If we haven't trained our hearts and minds, we'll meet with things that are good only on the external level. But if our hearts are pure and good within, everything external will follow in becoming good as a result. Just as our hand, if it's clean, won't soil what it touches, but if it's dirty, will spoil even the cleanest cloth; in the same way, if the heart is defiled, everything is defiled. Even the good we do will be defiled, for the highest power in the world -- the sole power giving rise to all good and evil, pleasure and pain -- is the heart. The heart is like a god. Good, evil, pleasure, and pain come entirely from the heart. We could even call the heart a creator of the world, because the peace and continued well-being of the world depend on the heart. If the world is to be destroyed, it will be because of the heart. So we should train this most important part of the world to be centered as a foundation for its wealth and well-being. Centering the mind is a way of gathering together all its worthwhile potentials. When these potentials are gathered in the right proportions, they'll give you the strength you need to destroy your enemies: all your defilements and unwise mental states. You have discernment that you've trained and made wise in the ways of good and evil, of the world and the Dhamma. Your discernment is like gunpowder. But if you keep your gunpowder for long without putting it into bullets -- a centered mind -- it'll go damp and moldy. Or if you're careless and let the fires of greed, anger, or delusion overcome you, your gunpowder may flame up in your hands. So don't delay. Put your gunpowder into bullets so that whenever your enemies -- your defilements -- make an attack, you'll be able to shoot them right down. Whoever trains the mind to be centered gains a refuge. A centered mind is like a fortress. Discernment is like a weapon. To practice centering the mind is to secure yourself in a fortress, and so is something very worthwhile and important. Virtue, the first part of the Path, and discernment, the last, aren't especially difficult. But keeping the mind centered, which is the middle part, takes some effort because it's a matter of forcing the mind into shape. Admittedly, centering the mind, like placing bridge pilings in the middle of a river, is something difficult to do. But once the mind is firmly in place, it can be very useful in developing virtue and discernment. Virtue is like placing pilings on the near shore of the river; discernment, like placing them on the far shore. But if the middle pilings -- a centered mind -- aren't firmly in place, how will you ever be able to bridge the flood of suffering? There is only one way we can properly reach the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and that's through the practice of mental development (bhavana). When we develop the mind to be centered and still, discernment can arise. Discernment here refers not to ordinary discernment, but to the insight that comes solely from dealing directly with the mind. For example, the ability to remember past lives, to know where living beings are reborn after death, and to cleanse the heart of the effluents (asava) of defilement: These three forms of intuition -- termed nana-cakkhu, the eye of the mind -- can arise for people who train themselves in the area of the heart and mind. But if we go around searching for knowledge from sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations mixed together with concepts, it's as if we were studying with the Six Masters, just as the Buddha, while he was studying with the Six Masters, wasn't able to gain Awakening. He then turned his attention to his own heart and mind, and went off to practice on his own, keeping track of his breath as his first step and going all the way to the ultimate goal. As long as you're still searching for knowledge from your six senses, you're studying with the Six Masters. But when you focus your attention on the breath -- which exists in each of us -- to the point where the mind settles down and is centered, you'll have the chance to meet with the real thing: buddha, pure knowing. Some people believe that they don't have to practice centering the mind, that they can attain release through discernment (panna-vimutti) by working at discernment alone. This simply isn't true. Both release through discernment and release through stillness of mind (ceto-vimutti) are based on centering the mind. They differ only in degree. Like walking: Ordinarily, a person doesn't walk on one leg alone. Whichever leg is heavier is simply a matter of personal habits and traits. Release through discernment begins by pondering various events and aspects of the world until the mind slowly comes to rest and, once it's still, gives rise intuitively to liberating insight (vipassana-nana): clear and true understanding in terms of the four Noble Truths (ariya sacca). In release through stillness of mind, though, there's not much pondering involved. The mind is simply forced to be quiet until it attains the stage of fixed penetration. That's where intuitive insight will arise, enabling it to see things for what they are. This is release through stillness of mind: Concentration comes first, discernment later. A person with a wide-ranging knowledge of the texts -- well-versed in their letter and meaning, capable of clearly and correctly explaining various points of doctrine -- but with no inner center for the mind, is like a pilot flying about in an airplane with a clear view of the clouds and stars but no sense of where the landing strip is. He's headed for trouble. If he flies higher, he'll run out of air. All he can do is keep flying around until he runs out of fuel and comes crashing down in the savage wilds. Some people, even though they are highly educated, are no better than savages in their behavior. This is because they've gotten carried away, up in the clouds. Some people -- taken with what they feel to be the high level of their own learning, ideas, and opinions -- won't practice centering the mind because they feel it beneath them. They think they deserve to go straight to release through discernment instead. Actually, they're heading straight to disaster, like the airplane pilot who has lost sight of the landing strip. To practice centering the mind is to build a landing strip for yourself. Then, when discernment comes, you'll be able to attain release safely. This is why we have to develop all three parts of the path -- virtue, concentration, and discernment -- if we want to be complete in our practice of the religion. Otherwise, how can we say that we know the four Noble Truths? -- because the path, to qualify as the Noble Path, has to be composed of virtue, concentration, and discernment. If we don't develop it within ourselves, how can we know it? If we don't know, how can we let go? Most of us, by and large, like getting results but don't like laying the groundwork. We may want nothing but goodness and purity, but if we haven't completed the groundwork, we'll have to keep on being poor. Like people who are fond of money but not of work: How can they be good, solid citizens? When they feel the pinch of poverty, they'll turn to corruption and crime. In the same way, if we aim at results in the field of the religion but don't like doing the work, we'll have to continue being poor. And as long as our hearts are poor, we're bound to go searching for goodness in other areas -- greed, gain, status, pleasure, and praise, the baits of the world -- even though we know better. This is because we don't truly know, which means simply that we aren't true in what we do. The truth of the path is always true: Virtue is something true, concentration is true, discernment is true, release is true. But if we aren't true, we won't meet with anything true. If we aren't true in practicing virtue, concentration, and discernment, we'll end up only with things that are fake and imitation. And when we make use of things fake and imitation, we're headed for trouble. So we have to be true in our hearts. When our hearts are true, we'll come to savor the taste of the Dhamma, a taste surpassing all the tastes of the world. This is why I have put together the following two guides for keeping the breath in mind. Peace. Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo Wat Boromnivas Bangkok, 1953 * * * * * * * * PRELIMINARIES Now I will explain how to go about the practice of centering the mind. Before starting out, kneel down, with your hands palm-to-palm in front of your heart, and sincerely pay respect to the Triple Gem, saying as follows: Araham samma-sambuddho bhagava: Buddham bhagavantam abhivademi. (bow down) Svakkhato bhagavata dhammo: Dhammam namassami. (bow down) Supatipanno bhagavato savaka-sangho: Sangham namami. (bow down) Then, showing respect with your thoughts, words, and deeds, pay homage to the Buddha: Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhasa. (three times) And take refuge in the Triple Gem: Buddham saranam gacchami. Dhammam saranam gacchami. Sangham saranam gacchami. Dutiyampi buddham saranam gacchami. Dutiyampi dhammam saranam gacchami. Dutiyampi sangham saranam gacchami. Tatiyampi buddham saranam gacchami. Tatiyampi dhammam saranam gacchami. Tatiyampi sangham saranam gacchami. Then make the following resolution: 'I take refuge in the Buddha -- the pure One, completely free from defilement; and in his Dhamma -- doctrine, practice, and attainment; and in the Sangha -- the four levels of his Noble Disciples -- from now to the end of my life.' Buddham jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami. Dhammam jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami. Sangham jivitam yava nibbanam saranam gacchami. Then formulate the intention to observe the five, eight, ten, or 227 precepts according to how many you are normally able to observe, expressing them in a single vow: Imani panca sikkhapadani samadiyami. (three times) (This is for the observing the five precepts, and means, 'I undertake the five training rules: to refrain from taking life, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying, and from taking intoxicants.') Imani attha sikkhapadani samadiyami. (three times) (This is for those observing the eight precepts, and means, 'I undertake the eight training rules: to refrain from taking life, from stealing, from sexual intercourse, from lying, from taking intoxicants, from eating food after noon and before dawn, from watching shows and from adorning the body for the purpose of beautifying it, and from using high and luxurious beds and seats.') Imani dasa sikkhapadani samadiyami. (three times) (This is for those observing the ten precepts, and means, 'I undertake the ten training rules: to refrain from taking life, from stealing, from sexual intercourse, from lying, from taking intoxicants, from eating food after noon and before dawn, from watching shows, from adorning the body for the purpose of beautifying it, from using high and luxurious beds and seats, and from receiving money.') Parisuddho aham bhante. Parisuddhoti mam buddho dhammo sangho dharetu. (This is for those observing the 227 precepts.) Now that you have professed the purity of your thoughts, words, and deeds toward the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, bow down three times. Sit down, place your hands palm-to-palm in front of your heart, steady your thoughts, and develop the four Sublime Attitudes: good will, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity. To spread these thoughts to all living beings without exception is called the immeasurable Sublime Attitude. A short Pali formula for those who have trouble memorizing is: "Metta" (benevolence and love, hoping for your own welfare and that of all other living beings.) "Karuna" (compassion for yourself and others.) "Mudita" (appreciation, taking delight in your own goodness and that of others.) "Upekkha" (equanimity in the face of those things that should be let be.) * * * METHOD 1 Sit in a half-lotus position, right leg on top of the left leg, your hands placed palm-up on your lap, right hand on top of the left. Keep your body straight and your mind on the task before you. Raise your hands in respect, palm-to-palm in front of the heart, and think of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha: Buddho me natho -- The Buddha is my mainstay. Dhammo me natho -- The Dhamma is my mainstay. Sangho me natho -- The Sangha is my mainstay. Then repeat in your mind, buddho, buddho; dhammo, dhammo; sangho, sangho. Return your hands to your lap and repeat one word, buddho, three times in your mind. Then think of the in-and-out breath, counting the breaths in pairs. First think bud- with the in-breath, dho with the out, ten times. Then begin again, thinking buddho with the in-breath, buddho with the out, seven times. Then begin again: As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho once, five times. Then begin again: As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho three times. Do this for three in-and-out breaths. Now you can stop counting the breaths, and simply think bud- with the in-breath and dho with the out. Let the breath be relaxed and natural. Keep your mind perfectly still, focused on the breath as it comes in and out of the nostrils. When the breath goes out, don't send the mind out after it. When the breath comes in, don't let the mind follow it in. Let your awareness be broad and open. Don't force the mind too much. Relax. Pretend that you're breathing out in the wide open air. Keep the mind still, like a post at the edge of the sea. When the water rises, the post doesn't rise with it; when the water ebbs, the post doesn't sink. When you've reached this level of stillness, you can stop thinking buddho. Simply be aware of the feeling of the breath. Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of the breath -- the important aspects that can give rise to intuitive powers of various kinds: clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to know the minds of others, the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where different people and animals are reborn after death, and knowledge of the various elements or potentials that are connected with, and can be of use to, the body. These elements come from the bases of the breath. The First Base: Center the mind on the tip of the nose and then slowly move it to the middle of the forehead, The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a moment at the forehead and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back and forth between the nose and the forehead -- like a person climbing up and down a mountain -- seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don't let it go back to the nose. From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head, and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest on the top of the head. Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a moment and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to the lower parts of the body. When you reach this point you may find that the breath starts giving rise to various signs (nimitta), such as seeing or feeling hot, cold, or tingling sensations in the head. You may see a pale, murky vapor or your own skull. Even so, don't let yourself be affected by whatever appears. If you don't want the nimitta to appear, breathe deep and long, down into the heart, and it will immediately go away. When you see that a nimitta has appeared, mindfully focus your awareness on it -- but be sure to focus on only one at a time, choosing whichever one is most comfortable. Once you've got hold of it, expand it so that it's as large as your head. The bright white nimitta is useful to the body and mind: It's a pure breath that can cleanse the blood in the body, reducing or eliminating feelings of pain. When you have this white light as large as the head, bring it down to The Fifth Base, the center of the chest. Once it's firmly settled, let it spread out to fill the chest. Make this breath as white and as bright as possible, and then let both the breath and the light spread throughout the body, out to every pore, until different parts of the body appear on their own as pictures. If you don't want the pictures, take two or three long breaths and they'll disappear. Keep your awareness still and expansive. Don't let it latch onto or be affected by any nimitta that may happen to pass into the brightness of the breath. Keep careful watch over the mind. Keep it one. Keep it intent on a single preoccupation, the refined breath, letting this refined breath suffuse the entire body. When you've reached this point, knowledge will gradually begin to unfold. The body will be light, like fluff. The mind will be rested and refreshed -- supple, solitary, and self-contained. There will be an extreme sense of physical pleasure and mental ease. If you want to acquire knowledge and skill, practice these steps until you're adept at entering, leaving, and staying in place. When you've mastered them, you'll be able to give rise to the nimitta of the breath -- the brilliantly white ball or lump of light -- whenever you want. When you want knowledge, simply make the mind still and let go of all preoccupations, leaving just the brightness. Think one or two times of whatever you want to know -- of things inside or outside, concerning yourself or others -- and the knowledge will arise or a mental picture will appear. To become thoroughly expert you should, if possible, study directly with someone who has practiced and is skilled in these matters, because knowledge of this sort can come only from the practice of centering the mind. The knowledge that comes from centering the mind falls into two classes: mundane (lokiya) and transcendent (lokuttara). With mundane knowledge, you're attached to your knowledge and views on the one hand, and to the things that appear and give rise to your knowledge on the other. Your knowledge and the things that give you knowledge through the power of your skill are composed of true and false mixed together -- but the 'true' here is true simply on the level of mental fashioning, and anything fashioned is by nature changeable, unstable, and inconstant. So when you want to go on to the transcendent level, gather all the things you know and see into a single preoccupation -- ekaggatarammana, the singleness of mental absorption -- and see that they are all of the same nature. Take all your knowledge and awareness and gather it into the same point, until you can clearly see the truth: that all of these things, by their nature, simply arise and pass away. Don't try to latch onto the things you know -- your preoccupations -- as yours. Don't try to latch onto the knowledge that has come from within you as your own. Let these things be, in line with their own inherent nature. If you latch onto your pre-occupations, you're latching onto stress and pain. If you hold onto your knowledge, it will turn into the cause of stress. So: A mind centered and still gives rise to knowledge. This knowledge is the path. All of the things that come passing by for you to know are stress. Don't let the mind fasten onto its knowledge. Don't let it fasten onto the preoccupations that appear for you to know. Let them be, in line with their nature. Put your mind at ease. Don't fasten onto the mind or suppose it to be this or that. As long as you suppose yourself, you're suffering from obscured awareness (avijja). When you can truly know this, the transcendent will arise within you -- the noblest good, the most exalted happiness a human being can know. To summarize, the basic steps to practice are as follows: 1. Eliminate all bad preoccupations from the mind. 2. Make the mind dwell on good preoccupations. 3. Gather all good preoccupations into one -- the singleness of meditative absorption (jhana). 4. Consider this one preoccupation until you see how it is aniccam, inconstant; dukkham, stressful; and anatta, not yourself or anyone else -- empty and void. 5. Let all good and bad preoccupations follow their own nature -- because good and bad dwell together and are equal by nature. Let the mind follow its own nature. Let knowing follow its own nature. Knowing doesn't arise, and it doesn't fall away. This is santi-dhamma -- the reality of peace. It knows goodness, but the knowing isn't goodness, and goodness isn't the knowing. It knows evil, but the knowing isn't evil, and evil isn't the knowing. In other words, knowing isn't attached to knowledge or to the things known. Its nature is truly elemental -- flawless and pure, like a drop of water on a lotus leaf. This is why it's called asankhata-dhatu: the uncompounded property, a true element. When you can follow these five steps, you'll find marvels appearing in your heart, the results of having practiced tranquility and insight meditation. These results fall into the two classes already mentioned: mundane, providing for your own physical well-being and that of others throughout the world; and transcendent, providing for the well-being of your heart, bringing happiness that is calm, cool, and blooming, leading all the way to Liberation (nibbana) -- free from birth, ageing, illness, and death. This has been a brief explanation of the main principles of breath meditation. If you have any questions or encounter any difficulties in putting these principles into practice, and you wish to study directly with someone who teaches along these lines, I will be happy to help you to the best of my ability so that we can all attain the peace and well-being taught by the religion. Most people will find that Method 2, which follows, is easier and more relaxing than Method 1, outlined above. * * * METHOD 2 There are seven basic steps: 1. Start out with three or seven long in-and-out breaths, thinking bud- with the in-breath, and dho with the out. Keep the meditation syllable as long as the breath. 2. Be clearly aware of each in-and-out breath. 3. Observe the breath as it goes in and out, noticing whether it's comfortable or uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or slow, short or long, warm or cool. If the breath doesn't feel comfortable, change it until it does. For instance, if breathing in long and out long is uncomfortable, try breathing in short and out short. As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body. To begin with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let it spread down your right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. Inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine, down your left leg to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. (If you are female, begin with the left side first, because the male and female nervous systems are different.) Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both shoulders, past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers, and out into the air. Let the breath at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve at the front of the body, past the lungs and liver, all the way down to the bladder and colon. Inhale the breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all the way down to your intestines. Let all these breath sensations spread so that they connect and flow together, and you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being. 4. Learn four ways of adjusting the breath: a. in long and out long, b. in long and out short, c. in short and out long, d. in short and out short. Breathe whichever way is most comfortable for you. Or, better yet, learn to breathe comfortably all four ways, because your physical condition and your breath are always changing. 5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind -- the resting spots of the breath -- and center your awareness on whichever one seems most comfortable. A few of these bases are: a. the tip of the nose, b. the middle of the head, c. the palate, d. the base of the throat, e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum), f. the navel (or a point just above it). If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with the breath -- but not to the point where it slips away. 6. Spread your awareness -- your sense of conscious feeling -- throughout the entire body. 7. Unite the breath sensations throughout the body, letting them flow together comfortably, keeping your awareness as broad as possible. Once you're fully aware of the aspects of the breath you already know in your body, you'll come to know all sorts of other aspects as well. The breath, by its nature, has many facets: breath sensations flowing in the nerves, those flowing around and about the nerves, those spreading from the nerves to every pore. Beneficial breath sensations and harmful ones are mixed together by their very nature. To summarize: (a) for the sake of improving the energy already existing in every part of your body, so that you can contend with such things as disease and pain; and (b) for the sake of clarifying the knowledge already within you, so that it can become a basis for the skills leading to release and purity of heart -- you should always bear these seven steps in mind, because they are absolutely basic to every aspect of breath meditation. When you've mastered them, you will have cut a main road. As for the side roads -- the incidentals of breath meditation -- there are plenty of them, but they aren't really important. You'll be perfectly safe if you stick to these seven steps and practice them as much as possible. Once you've learned to put your breath in order, it's as if you have everyone in your home in order. The incidentals of breath meditation are like people outside your home -- in other words, guests. Once the people in your home are well-behaved, your guests will have to fall in line. The 'guests' here are the signs (nimitta) and vagrant breaths that will tend to pass within the range of the breath you are dealing with: the various signs that arise from the breath and may appear as images -- bright lights, people, animals, yourself, others; or as sounds -- the voices of people, some you recognize and others you don't. In some cases the signs appear as smells -- either fragrant or else foul like a corpse. Sometimes the in-breath can make you feel so full throughout the body that you have no sense of hunger or thirst. Sometimes the breath can send warm, hot, cold, or tingling sensations through the body. Sometimes it can cause things that never occurred to you before to spring suddenly to mind. All of these things are classed as guests. Before you go receiving guests, you should put your breath and mind into good order, making them stable and secure. In receiving these guests, you first have to bring them under your control. If you can't control them, don't have anything to do with them. They might lead you astray. But if you can put them through their paces, they can be of use to you later on. To put them through their paces means to change them at will, through the power of thought (patibhaga nimitta) -- making them small, large, sending them far away, bringing them up close, making them appear and disappear, sending them outside, bringing them in. Only then will you be able to use them in training the mind. Once you've mastered these signs, they'll give rise to heightened sensory powers: the ability to see without opening your eyes; the ability to hear far-distant sounds or smell far-distant aromas; the ability to taste the various elements that exist in the air and can be of use to the body in overcoming feelings of hunger and desire; the ability to give rise to certain feelings at will -- to feel cool when you want to feel cool, hot when you want to feel hot, warm when you want to feel warm, strong when you need strength -- because the various elements in the world that can be physically useful to you will come and appear in your body. The mind, too, will be heightened, and will have the power to develop the eye of intuition (nana-cakkhu): the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where living beings are reborn after they die, and the ability to cleanse the heart of the effluents of defilement. If you have your wits about you, you can receive these guests and put them to work in your home. These are a few of the incidentals of breath meditation. If you come across them in your practice, examine them thoroughly. Don't be pleased by what appears. Don't get upset or try to deny what appears. Keep your mind on an even keel. Stay neutral. Be circumspect. Consider carefully whatever appears, to see whether it's trustworthy or not. Otherwise, it might lead you to mistaken assumptions. Good and evil, right and wrong, high and low: All depend on whether your heart is shrewd or dull, and on how resourceful you are. If you're dull-witted, even high things can become low, and good things evil. Once you know the various aspects of the breath and its incidentals, you can gain knowledge of the four Noble Truths. In addition, you can relieve physical pains as they arise in your body. Mindfulness is the active ingredient in the medicine; the in-and-out breath is the solvent. Mindfulness can cleanse and purify the breath. A pure breath can cleanse the blood throughout the body, and when the blood is cleansed, it can relieve many of the body's diseases and pains. If you suffer from nervous disorders, for instance, they'll completely disappear. What's more, you'll be able to strengthen the body so that you feel a greater sense of health and well-being. When the body feels well, the mind can settle down and rest. And once the mind is rested, you gain strength: the ability to relieve all feelings of pain while sitting in meditation, so that you can go on sitting for hours. When the body is free from pain, the mind is free from Hindrances (nivarana). Body and mind are both strong. This is called samadhi-balam -- the strength of concentration. When your concentration is strong like this, it can give rise to discernment: the ability to see stress, its cause, its disbanding, and the path to its disbanding, all clearly within the breath. This can be explained as follows: The in-and-out breath is stress -- the in-breath, the stress of arising; the out-breath, the stress of passing away. Not being aware of the breath as it goes in and out, not knowing the characteristics of the breath, is the cause of stress. Knowing when the breath is coming in, knowing when it's going out, knowing its characteristics clearly -- i.e., keeping your views in line with the truth of the breath -- is Right View, part of the Noble Path. Knowing which ways of breathing are uncomfortable, knowing how to vary the breath; knowing, 'That way of breathing is uncomfortable; I'll have to breathe like this in order to feel at ease:' This is Right Aspiration. The mental factors that think about and correctly evaluate all aspects of the breath are Right Speech. Knowing various ways of improving the breath; breathing, for example, in long and out long, in short and out short, in short and out long, in long and out short, until you come across the breath most comfortable for you: This is Right Action. Knowing how to use the breath to purify the blood, how to let this purified blood nourish the heart muscles, how to adjust the breath so that it eases the body and soothes the mind, how to breathe so that you feel full and refreshed in body and mind: This is Right Livelihood. Trying to adjust the breath until it soothes the body and mind, and to keep trying as long as you aren't fully at ease, is Right Effort. Being mindful of the in-and-out breath at all times, knowing the various aspects of the breath -- the up-flowing breath, the down-flowing breath, the breath in the stomach, the breath in the intestines, the breath flowing along the muscles and out to every pore -- keeping track of these things with every in-and-out breath: This is Right Mindfulness. A mind intent only on issues related to the breath, not pulling any other objects in to interfere, until the breath is refined, giving rise to fixed absorption and then liberating insight: This is Right Concentration. To think of the breath is termed vitakka, directed thought. To adjust the breath and let it spread is called vicara, evaluation. When all aspects of the breath flow freely throughout the body, you feel full and refreshed in body and mind: This is piti, rapture. When body and mind are both at rest, you feel serene and at ease: This is sukha, pleasure. And once you feel pleasure, the mind is bound to hold fast to a single preoccupation and not go straying after any others: This is ekaggatarammana, singleness of preoccupation. These five factors form the beginning stage of Right Concentration. When all these parts of the Noble Path -- virtue, concentration, and discernment -- are brought together fully mature in the heart, you gain insight into all aspects of the breath, knowing that 'Breathing this way gives rise to good mental states. Breathing that way gives rise to bad mental states.' You aren't caught up with the factors -- the breath in all its aspects -- that fashion the body, the factors that fashion speech, the factors that fashion the mind, whether for good or for ill. You let them be, in line with their inherent nature: This is the disbanding of stress. Another, even briefer way to express the four Noble Truths is this: The in-and-out breath is the truth of stress. Not being aware of the in-breath, not being aware of the out-breath: This is the cause of stress -- obscured, deluded awareness. Seeing into all aspects of the breath so clearly that you can let them go with no sense of attachment, is the disbanding of stress. Being constantly mindful and aware of all aspects of the breath, is the path to the disbanding of stress. When you can do this, you can say that you're correctly following the path of breath meditation. Your awareness is unobscured. You have the skill to know all four Truths clearly. You can attain release. Release is a mind that doesn't cling to low causes and low effects -- i.e., stress and its cause; or to high causes and high effects -- the disbanding of stress and the path to its disbanding. It's a mind unattached to the things that cause it to know, unattached to knowledge, unattached to knowing. When you can separate these things, you've mastered the skill of release -- in other words, when you know what forms the beginning, what forms the end and what lies in between, letting them be as they are on their own, in line with the phrase, sabbe dhamma anatta All phenomena are not-self. To be attached to the things that cause us to know -- the elements, khandhas, the senses and their objects -- is termed clinging to sensuality (kamupadana). To be attached to knowledge is termed clinging to views (ditthupadana). To be unacquainted with pure knowing in and of itself (buddha) is termed clinging to precepts and procedures (silabbatupadana). And when we cling in this way, we are bound to be deluded by the factors that fashion the body, speech, and the mind, all of which arise from obscured awareness. The Buddha was a complete master of both cause and effect, without being attached either to low causes and low effects, or to high causes and high effects. He was above cause and beyond effect. Stress and ease were both at his disposal, but he was attached to neither of them. He fully knew both good and evil, was fully equipped with both self and not-self, but wasn't attached to any of these things. He had at his disposal the objects that can act as the basis for the cause of stress, but wasn't attached to them. The Path -- discernment -- was also at his disposal: He knew how to appear either ignorant or shrewd, and how to use both ignorance and shrewdness in his work of spreading the religion. And as for the disbanding of stress, he had it at his disposal but didn't cling to it, wasn't attached to it, which is why we can truly say that his mastery was complete. Before the Buddha was able to let go of these things in this way, he first had to work at giving rise to them in full measure. Only then could he put them aside. He let go from abundance, unlike ordinary people who 'let go' out of poverty. Even though he let these things go, they were still at his disposal. He never dismissed the virtue, concentration, and discernment he had worked at perfecting up to the day of his Awakening. He continued using every aspect of virtue, concentration, and discernment to the day he entered total Liberation (parinibbana). Even the moment he was about to 'nibbana,' he was practicing his full command of concentration -- in other words, his total Liberation occurred when he was between the physical and non-physical levels of jhana. So we shouldn't dismiss virtue, concentration, and discernment. Some people won't observe the precepts because they're afraid of getting tied to them. Some people won't practice concentration because they're afraid of becoming ignorant or going insane. The truth of the matter is that normally we're already ignorant, already insane, and that to practice centering the mind is what will end our ignorance and cure our insanity. Once we've trained ourselves properly, we'll give rise to pure discernment, like a cut jewel that gives off light by its very nature. This is what qualifies as true discernment. It arises for us individually and is termed paccattam: We can give rise to it, and know it, only for ourselves. Most of us, though, tend to misunderstand the nature of discernment. We take imitation discernment, adulterated with concepts, and use it to smother the real thing, like a man who coats a piece of glass with mercury so that he can see his reflection and that of others, thinking he's found an ingenious way of looking at the truth. Actually, he's nothing more than a monkey looking in a mirror: One monkey becomes two and will keep playing with its reflection until the mercury wears off, at which point it becomes crestfallen, not knowing what the reflection came from in the first place. So it is when we gain imitation discernment, unwittingly, by thinking and conjecturing in line with the things we think we've perceived: We're headed for sorrow when death meets us face-to-face. The crucial factor in natural discernment comes solely from training the mind to be like a diamond that gives off its own light -- surrounded by radiance whether in dark places or bright. A mirror is useful only in places already well-lit. If you take it into the dark, you can't use it to see your reflection at all. But a cut jewel that gives off its own light is brilliant everywhere. This is what the Buddha meant when he taught that there are no closed or secret places in the world where discernment can't penetrate. This jewel of discernment is what will enable us to destroy craving, attachment, and obscured awareness, and to attain the highest excellence: Liberation -- free from pain, death, annihilation, and extinction -- existing naturally through the reality of deathlessness (amata-dhamma). By and large, we tend to be interested only in discernment and release. At the drop of a hat, we want to start right in with the teachings on stress, inconstancy, and not-self -- and when this is the case, we'll never get anywhere. Before the Buddha taught that things are inconstant, he had worked at knowing them until they revealed their constancy. Before teaching that things are stressful, he had turned that stress into pleasure and ease. And before teaching that things are not-self, he had turned what is not-self into a self, and so was able to see what is constant and true, lying hidden in what is inconstant, stressful, and not-self. He then gathered all of these qualities into one. He gathered all that is inconstant, stressful, and not-self into one and the same thing: fashionings (sankhara) viewed in terms of the world -- a single class, equal everywhere throughout the world. As for what's constant, pleasant, and self, this was another class: fashionings viewed in terms of the Dhamma. And then he let go of both classes, without getting caught up on 'constant' or 'inconstant,' 'stress' or 'ease,' 'self' or 'not-self.' This is why we can say he attained release, purity, and Liberation, for he had no need to latch onto fashionings -- whether of the world or of the Dhamma -- in any way at all. This was the nature of the Lord Buddha's practice. But as for our own practice, most of us act as if we have everything figured out beforehand and have succeeded even before we start. In other words, we want simply to let go and attain peace and release. But if we haven't laid the full groundwork, our letting-go is bound to be lacking: Our peace is bound to be piece-meal, our release is bound to be wrong. Those of us who sincerely mean well and want only the highest good should ask ourselves: Have we laid the proper foundation? If we don't lay the proper foundation for release and letting go, how will we ever be free? The Buddha taught that virtue can overcome common defilements, the gross faults in our words and deeds; that concentration can overcome such intermediate defilements as sensual desires, ill will, torpor, restlessness, and uncertainty; and that discernment can overcome such subtle defilements as craving, attachment, and obscured awareness. Yet some people whose discernment is sharp, who can clearly explain subtle points of doctrine, can't seem to shake off the more common defilements that even virtue can overcome. This shows that something must be lacking in their virtue, concentration, and discernment. Their virtues are probably all on the surface, their concentration splotchy and stained, their discernment a smeared-on gloss -- like the glass coated with mercury -- which is why they can't attain the goal. Their actions fall under the old saying: Keeping a sword outside the scabbard -- having a way with words and theories, but no center for the mind; laying an egg outside the nest -- looking for goodness only outside, without training the mind to be centered; resting a foundation on the sand -- trying to find security in things of no substance. All of this is bound to bring disappointment. Such people have yet to find a worthwhile refuge. So we should lay the groundwork and put the causes into good working order, because all the attainments we hope for come springing from causes. attana codayattanam patimanse tamattana Rouse yourself. Train your own heart. Start judging your own in-and-out breath. * * * JHANA Now we will summarize the methods of breath meditation under the headings of jhana. Jhana means to be absorbed or focused in a single object or preoccupation, as when we deal with the breath. 1. The first level of jhana has five factors. (a) Directed thought (vitakka): Think of the breath until you can recognize it clearly without getting distracted. (b) Singleness of preoccupation (ekaggatarammana): Keep the mind with the breath. Don't let it stray after other objects. Watch over your thoughts so that they deal only with the breath to the point where the breath becomes comfortable. (The mind becomes one, at rest with the breath.) (c) Evaluation (vicara): Gain a sense of how to let this comfortable breath sensation spread and coordinate with the other breath sensations in the body. Let these breath sensations spread until they all merge. Once the body has been soothed by the breath, feelings of pain will grow calm. The body will be filled with good breath energy. (The mind is focused exclusively on issues connected with the breath.) These three qualities must be brought together to bear on the same stream of breathing for the first level of jhana to arise. This stream of breathing can then take you all the way to the fourth level of jhana. Directed thought, singleness of preoccupation, and evaluation act as the causes. When the causes are fully ripe, results will appear -- (d) rapture (piti), a compelling sense of fullness and refreshment for body and mind, going straight to the heart, independent of all else; (e) pleasure (sukha), physical ease arising from the body's being still and unperturbed (kaya-passaddhi); mental contentment arising from the mind's being at ease on its own, unperturbed, serene, and exultant (citta-passaddhi). Rapture and pleasure are the results. The factors of the first level of jhana thus come down simply to two sorts: causes and results. As rapture and pleasure grow stronger, the breath becomes more subtle. The longer you stay focused and absorbed, the more powerful the results become. This enables you to set directed thought and evaluation (the preliminary ground-clearing) aside, and -- relying completely on a single factor, singleness of preoccupation -- you enter the second level of jhana (magga-citta, phala-citta). 2. The second level of jhana has three factors: rapture, pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation (magga-citta). This refers to the state of mind that has tasted the results coming from the first level of jhana. Once you have entered the second level, rapture and pleasure become stronger because they rely on a single cause, singleness of preoccupation, which looks after the work from here on in: focusing on the breath so that it becomes more and more refined, keeping steady and still with a sense of refreshment and ease for both body and mind. The mind is even more stable and intent than before. As you continue focusing, rapture and pleasure grow stronger and begin to expand and contract. Continue focusing on the breath, moving the mind deeper to a more subtle level to escape the motions of rapture and pleasure, and you enter the third level of jhana. 3. The third level of jhana has two factors: pleasure and singleness of preoccupation. The body is quiet, motionless, and solitary. No feelings of pain arise to disturb it. The mind is solitary and still. The breath is refined, free-flowing, and broad. A radiance -- white like cotton wool -- pervades the entire body, stilling all feelings of physical and mental discomfort. Keep focused on looking after nothing but the broad, refined breath. The mind is free: No thoughts of past or future disturb it. The mind stands out on its own. The four properties -- earth, water, fire, and wind -- are in harmony throughout the body. You could almost say that they're pure throughout the entire body, because the breath has the strength to control and take good care of the other properties, keeping them harmonious and coordinated. Mindfulness is coupled with singleness of preoccupation, which acts as the cause. The breath fills the body. Mindfulness fills the body. Focus on in: The mind is bright and powerful, the body is light. Feelings of pleasure are still. Your sense of the body feels steady and even, with no slips or gaps in your awareness, so you can let go of your sense of pleasure. The manifestations of pleasure grow still because the four properties are balanced and free from motion. Singleness of preoccupation, the cause, has the strength to focus more heavily down, taking you to the fourth level of jhana. 4. The fourth level of jhana has two factors: equanimity (upekkha) and singleness of preoccupation, or mindfulness. Equanimity and singleness of preoccupation on the fourth level of jhana are powerfully focused -- solid, stable, and sure. The breath property is absolutely quiet, free from ripples and gaps. The mind, neutral and still, lets go of all preoccupations with past and future. The breath, which forms the present, is still, like the ocean or air when they are free from currents or waves. You can know distant sights and sounds because the breath is even and unwavering, acting like a movie screen that gives a clear reflection of whatever is projected onto it. Knowledge arises in the mind: You know but stay neutral and still. The mind is neutral and still; the breath, neutral and still; past, present, and future are all neutral and still. This is true singleness of preoccupation, focused on the unperturbed stillness of the breath. All parts of the breath in the body connect so that you can breathe through every pore. You don't have to breathe through the nostrils, because the in-and-out breath and the other aspects of the breath in the body form a single, unified whole. All aspects of the breath energy are even and full. The four properties all have the same characteristics. The mind is completely still. The focus is strong; the light, aglow. This is to know the great frame of reference. The mind is beaming and bright -- like the light of the sun that, unobstructed by clouds or haze, illumines the earth with its rays. The mind sheds light in all directions. The breath is radiant, the mind fully radiant, due to the focusing of mindfulness. The focus is strong; the light, aglow.... The mind has power and authority. All four of the frames of reference are gathered into one. There is no sense that, 'That's the body....That's a feeling.... That's the mind....That's a mental quality.' There's no sense that they're four. This is thus called the great frame of reference, because none of the four are in any way separate. The mind is firmly intent, centered and true, due to the strength of its focus. Mindfulness and self-awareness converge into one: This is what is meant by the one path (ekayana-magga) -- the concord among the properties and frames of reference, four in one, giving rise to great energy and wakefulness, the purifying inner fire (tapas) that can thoroughly dispel all obscuring darkness. As you focus more strongly on the radiance of the mind, the power that comes from letting go of all preoccupations enables the mind to stand alone. You're like a person who has climbed to the top of a mountain and has the right to see in all directions. The mind's dwelling -- the breath, which supports the mind's freedom -- is in a heightened state, so the mind is able to see all things fashioned (sankhara) clearly in terms of the Dhamma: as elements, khandhas, and sense media (ayatana). Just as a person who has taken a camera up in an airplane can take pictures of practically everything below, so a person who has reached this stage (lokavidu) can see the world and the Dhamma as they truly are. In addition, awareness of another sort, in the area of the mind -- called liberating insight, or the skill of release -- also appears. The elements or properties of the body acquire potency (kaya-siddhi); the mind, resilient power. When you want knowledge of the world or the Dhamma, focus the mind heavily and forcefully on the breath. As the concentrated power of the mind strikes the pure element, intuitive knowledge will spring up in that element, just as the needle of a record player, as it strikes a record, will give rise to sounds. Once your mindfulness is focused on a pure object, then if you want images, images will appear; if sounds, sounds will arise, whether near or far, matters of the world or the Dhamma, concerning yourself or others, past, present, or future -- whatever you want to know. As you focus down, think of what you want to know, and it will appear. This is nana -- intuitive sensitivity capable of knowing past, present, and future -- an important level of awareness that you can know only for yourself. The elements are like radio waves going through the air. If your mind and mindfulness are strong, and your skills highly developed, you can use those elements to put yourself in touch with the entire world so that knowledge can arise within you. When you have mastered the fourth level of jhana, it can act as the basis for eight skills: 1. Vipassana-nana: clear intuitive insight into mental and physical phenomena as they arise, remain, and disband. This is a special sort of insight, coming solely from training the mind. It can occur in two ways: (a) knowing without ever having thought of the matter; and (b) knowing from having thought of the matter -- but not after a great deal of thought, as in the case of ordinary knowledge. Think for an instant and it immediately becomes clear -- just as a piece of cotton wool soaked in gasoline, when you hold a match to it, bursts immediately into flame. The intuition and insight here are that fast, and so differ from ordinary discernment. 2. Manomayiddhi: the ability to use the mind to influence events. 3. Iddhividhi: the ability to display supra-normal powers, e.g., creating images in certain instances that certain groups of people will be able to see. 4. Dibbasota: the ability to hear distant sounds. 5. Cetopariya-nana: the ability to know the level -- good or evil, high or low -- of other people's minds. 6. Pubbenivasanussati-nana: the ability to remember previous lifetimes. (If you attain this skill, you'll no longer have to wonder as to whether death is followed by annihilation or rebirth.) 7. Dibbacakkhu: the ability to see gross and subtle images, both near and far. 8. Asavakkhaya-nana: the ability to reduce and eliminate the effluents of defilement in the heart. These eight skills come exclusively from the centering the mind, which is why I have written this condensed guide to concentration and jhana, based on the technique of keeping the breath in mind. If you aspire to the good that can come from these things, you should turn your attention to training your own heart and mind. * * * * * * * *


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