PART II: THE CRAFT OF THE HEART When I first became aware of the conflicting views held by

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

PART II: THE CRAFT OF THE HEART When I first became aware of the conflicting views held by people who practice -- and of how ill-informed they are -- I felt inspired by their desire to learn the truth, but at the same time dismayed over their views: right mixed with wrong, some people saying that //nibbana// and the paths leading to it still exist, others maintaining that //nibbana// has passed away and can no longer be attained. This latter belief is a particular cause for dismay, because a desire for //nibbana// is what has led us all to submit ourselves to the practice of the Buddha's teachings in the first place. If we don't have such a desire, we aren't likely to be especially sincere in our practice; and if we aren't sincere, our practice will be in vain as far as the benefits the Buddha intended for us are concerned, because the Buddha's sole purpose in teaching was to liberate living beings from suffering and stress. If we were to worm our way in as parasites on his religion, it would run counter to his compassionate intentions toward us. Each and every one of us aims for what is good, so we should pay heed to whatever factors may lead to release from suffering and stress. Don't let the Buddha's teaching you pass by in vain. By and large, from what I've seen of people who practice, a great many of them train themselves in ways that mix right with wrong, and then set themselves as teachers, instructing their pupils in line with their various theories about //jhana//, concentration, //nibbana//, and the stream leading to it. The lowest level are those who get so caught up with their own views and opinions that their teachings can become detrimental -- saying, for example, that we don't have enough merit to practice, that we've been born too late for //nibbana// and the paths leading to it, and so have to give up our practice. (Opinions of this sort run the gamut from crude to middling to subtle.) But no matter what level a person may know, if he doesn't know the hearts and minds of others, he'll have great difficulty in making his teachings effective and beneficial. Even though he may have good intentions, if he lacks knowledge of those he is teaching, progress will be difficult. The Buddha, whenever he taught, knew the capabilities and dispositions of his listeners, and the level of teaching for which they were ripe. He then tailored his teachings to suit their condition, which was why he was able to get good results. Even though he had a lot of seed to sow, he planted it only where he knew it would sprout. If he saw that the soil was barren or the climate harsh, he wouldn't plant any seed at all. But as for us, we have only a fistful of rice, and yet we cast it along a mountain spine or in the belly of the sea, and so get either meager results or none at all. Thus in this book, I have included teachings on every level -- elementary, intermediate, and advanced -- leaving it up to the reader to pick out the teachings intended for his or her own level of attainment. In practicing meditation, if you direct your mind along the right path, you'll see results in the immediate present. At the same time, if you lead yourself astray, you'll reap harm in the immediate present as well. For the most part, if meditators lack the training that comes from associating with those who are truly expert and experienced, they can become deluded or schizoid in a variety of ways. How so? By letting themselves get carried away with the signs or visions that appear to them, to the point where they lose sense of their own bodies and minds. Playing around with an external //kasina// is a special culprit in this regard. Those who lack sufficient training will tend to hallucinate, convinced of the truth of whatever they focus on, letting themselves get carried away by what they know and see until they lose touch with reality, making it difficult for any sort of discernment to arise. For this reason, in this guide I have taught to focus exclusively on the body and mind, the important point being not to fasten on or become obsessed with whatever may appear in the course of your practice. There are a wide variety of meditation teachers who deviate from the basic principles taught by the Buddha. Some of them, hoping for gain, status, or praise, set up their own creeds with magical formulae and strict observances, teaching their students to invoke the aid of the Buddha. (Our Lord Buddha isn't a god of any sort who is going to come to our aid. Rather, we have to develop ourselves so as to reach his level.) Some teachers invoke the five forms of rapture, or else visions of this or that color or shape. If you see such and such vision, you attain the first level of the path, and so on until you attain the second, third, and fourth levels, and then once a year you present your teacher with offerings of rice, fruit, and a pig's head. (The Buddha's purpose in spreading his teachings was not that we would propitiate him with offerings. He was beyond the sway of material objects of any sort whatsoever.) Once the pupils of such teachers come to the end of their observances, they run out of levels to attain, and so can assume themselves to be Buddhas, Private Buddhas or Noble Disciples, and thus they become instant Arahants. Their ears prick up, their hair stands on end, and they get excited all out of proportion to any basis in reality. When you study with some teachers, you have to start out with an offering of five candles and incense sticks, or maybe ten, plus so-and-so many flowers and so-and-so much puffed rice, on this or that day of the week, at this or that time of day, depending on the teacher's preferences. (If you can afford it, there's nothing really wrong with this, but it means that poor people or people with little free time will have trouble getting to learn how to meditate.) Once you finish the ceremony, the teacher tells you to meditate //araham, araham//, or //buddho, buddho//, until you get the vision he teaches you to look for -- such as white, blue, red, yellow, a corpse, water, fire, a person, the Buddha, a Noble Disciple, heaven, hell -- and then you start making assumptions that follow the drift of the objects you see. You jump to the conclusion that you've seen something special or have attained //nibbana//. Sometimes the mind gathers to the point where you sit still, in a daze, with no sense of self-awareness at all. Or else pleasure arises and you become attached to the pleasure, or stillness arises and you become attached to the stillness, or a vision or a color arises and you become attached to that. (All of these things are nothing more than //uggaha nimitta//). Perhaps a thought arises and you think that it's insight, and then you really get carried away. You may decide that you're a Stream-enterer, a Once-returner, or an Arahant, and no one in the world can match you. You latch onto your views as correct in every way, giving rise to pride and conceit. (All of the things mentioned here, if you get attached to them, are wrong.) When this happens, liberating insight won't have a chance to arise. So you have to keep digging away for decades -- and then get fixated on the fact that you've been practicing a full twenty years, and so won't stand for it if anyone comes along and thinks he's better than you. So, out of fear that others will look down on you, you become even more stubborn and proud, and that's as far as your knowledge and ingenuity will get you. When it comes to actual attainment, some people of this sort haven't even brought the Triple Gem into their hearts. Of course, there are probably many people who know better than this. I don't mean to cast aspersions on those who know. For this reason, I have drawn up this book in line with what I have studied and practiced, If you see that this might be the path you are looking for, give it a good look. My teacher didn't teach like the examples mentioned above. He taught in line with what was readily available, without requiring that you had to offer five incense sticks or ten candles or a pig's head or puffed rice or flowers or whatever. All he asked was that you have conviction in the Buddha and a willingness to practice his teachings. If you wanted to make an offering, some candles and incense as an offering to the Triple Gem would do -- one candle if you had one, two if you had two; if you didn't have any, you could dedicate your life instead. Then he would have you repeat the formula for taking refuge in the Triple Gem as in the method given in this book. His approach to teaching in this way has always struck me as conducive to the practice. I have been practicing for a number of years now, and what I have observed all along has led me to have a sense of pity, both for myself and for my fellow human beings. If we practice along the right lines, we may very likely attain the benefits we hope for quickly. We'll gain knowledge that will make us marvel at the good that comes from the practice of meditation, or we may even see the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana// in this present life -- because //nibbana// is always present. It lacks only the people who will uncover it within themselves. Some people don't know how; others know, but aren't interested -- and have mistaken assumptions about it to boot: thinking, for example, that //nibbana// is extinct, doesn't exist, can't be attained, is beyond the powers of people in the present day; saying that since we aren't Noble Disciples, how could we possibly attain it. This last is especially deluded. If we were already good, already Noble Disciples, what purpose would we have in going around trying to attain //nibbana//? If we don't despise the Buddha's teachings, then we can all practice them. But the truth of the matter is that though we worship the Dhamma, we don't practice the Dhamma, which is the same as despising it. If we feel well-enough situated in the present, we may tell ourselves that we can wait to practice the Dhamma in our next lifetime, or at least anytime by right now. Or we may take our defilements as an excuse, saying that we'll have to abandon greed, anger, and delusion before we can practice the Buddha's teachings. Or else we take our work as an excuse, saying that we'll have to stop working first. Actually, there's no reason that meditation should get in the way of our work, because it's strictly an activity of the heart. There's no need to dismantle our homes or abandon our belongings before practicing it; and if we did throw away our belongings in this way, it would probably end up causing harm. Even though it's true that we love ourselves, yet if we don't work for our own benefit, if we vacillate and hesitate, loading ourselves down with ballast and bricks, we make our days and nights go to waste. So we should develop and perfect the factors that bring about the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana//. If you're interested, then examine the procedures explained in the following sections. Pick out whichever section seems to correspond to your own level and abilities, and take that as your guide. As for myself, I was first attracted to the Buddha's teachings by his statement that to lay claim to physical and mental phenomena as our own is suffering. After considering his teaching that the body is //anatta// -- not-self -- I began to be struck by a sense of dismay over the nature of the body. I examined it to see in what way it was not-self, and -- as far as my understanding allowed -- the Buddha's teaching began to make very clear sense to me. I considered how the body arises, is sustained and passes away, and I came to the conclusion that: (1) it arises from //upadana// -- clinging through mistaken assumptions -- which forms the essence of //kamma//. (2) It is sustained by nourishment provided by our parents; and since our parents have nothing of their own with which to nourish us, they have to search for food -- two-footed animals, four-footed animals, animals in the water, and animals on land -- either buying this food or else killing it on their own and then feeding it to us. The animals abused in this way are bound to curse and seek revenge against those who kill and eat them, just as we are possessive of our belongings and seek revenge against those who rob us. Those who don't know the truth of the body take it to be the self, but after considering the diseases we suffer in our eyes, nose, mouth, and throughout the various parts of the body, I concluded that we've probably been cursed by the animals we've eaten, because all of these parts come from the food we've made of their bodies. And so our body, cursed in this way, suffers pain with no recourse for begging mercy. Thus, victim to the spirits of these animals, we suffer pains in the eyes, pains in the ears, pains in the nose and mouth and throughout the body, until in the end we have to relinquish the whole thing so they can eat it all up. Even while we're still living, some of them -- like mosquitoes and sandflies -- come and try to take it by force. If we don't let go of our attachments to the body, we're bound to suffer for many lives to come. This is one reason why I felt attracted to the Buddha's teachings on not-self. (3) The body passes away from being denied nourishment. The fact that this happens to us is without a doubt a result of our past actions. We've probably been harsh with other living beings, denying them food to the point where they've had to part with the bodies they feel such affection for. When the results of such actions bear fruit, our bodies will have to break up and disband in the same way. Considering things in this manner caused me to feel even more attracted to the practical methods recommended by the Buddha for seeing not-self and letting go of our clinging assumptions so that we no longer have to be possessive of the treasures claimed by ignorant and fixated animals. If we persist in holding onto the body as our own, it's the same as cheating others of their belongings, turning them into our own flesh and blood and then, forgetting where these things came from, latching onto them as our very own. When this happens, we're like a child who, born in one family and then taken and raised in another family with a different language, is sure to forget his original language and family name. If someone comes along and calls him by his original name, he most likely won't stand for it, because of his ignorance of his own origins. So it is with the body: Once it has grown, we latch onto it, assuming it to be the self. We forget its origins and so become drugged, addicted to physical and mental phenomena, enduring pain for countless lifetimes. These thoughts are what led me to start practicing the teachings of the Buddha so as to liberate myself from this mass of suffering and stress. Thus those of us who are still undeveloped and at a tender age should practice the Dhamma in line with the strength of their understanding. If there is anything defective or incomplete in what I have written, or if there are any passages that don't rest well on your ears, please make corrections in line with the aims of the Blessed One, the Lord Buddha. * * * HOW TO PRACTICE CONCENTRATION The first step is to 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 deed, pay homage to the Buddha: NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA-SAMBUDDHASSA (three times) And then 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 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 until the end of my life." Then make the following vow: ETENA SACCA-VAJJENA HOTU ME JAYAMANGALAM which means, "By making this vow of truth, may the good fortune of victory be mine." Bow down once. This ends the step of taking refuge. The next step is to take the precepts -- five, eight, or ten -- and abstain from the five, eight, or ten forms of harm. If you already understand the precepts, you can formulate the intention to observe them using a single vow. For those observing the five precepts: IMANI PANCA SIKKHAPADANI SAMADIYAMI (three times) For those observing the eight precepts: IMANI ATTHA SIKKHAPADANI SAMADIYAMI (three times For those observing the ten precepts: IMANI DASA SIKKHAPADANI SAMADIYAMI (three times) For those observing the 227 precepts: PARISUDDHO AHAM BHANTE PARISUDDHOTI MAM BUDDHO DHAMMO SANGHO DHARETU If you know what is forbidden by the precepts, you can take them on your own and then go ahead and abandon any form of behavior that runs counter to the five, eight, ten or 227 precepts you've taken. Once you've examined your precepts to see that they're pure, examine your heart. Once you see that it has entered the sphere of virtue and the Triple Gem, you should recollect the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha -- both mentally and out loud -- so as to nurture a sense of conviction in the heart. //The Recollection of the Virtues of the Buddha//: Repeat the following passage from the Canon, at the same time nurturing a sense of conviction: ITIPI SO BHAGAVA ARAHAM SAMMA-SAMBUDDHO, VIJJA-CARANA-SAMPANNO SUGATO LOKAVIDU, ANUTTARO PURISA-DAMMA-SARATHI SATTHA DEVA-MANUSSANAM BUDDHO BHAGAVATI (He is indeed the Blessed One, worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge and conduct, one who has gone the good way, knower of cosmos, the unexcelled trainer of those who can be taught, teacher of human and divine beings, awakened, blessed.) Then showing respect with body, speech and mind, pay homage to the virtues of the Buddha, saying, "I now ask to pay homage through practice to the three virtues of the Buddha: discernment, purity, and compassion. I ask to pay homage through practice in thought, word, and deed, without being negligent, as far as my presence of mind and abilities will allow, now and in the time to come. May the virtues of the Buddha appear in my life and heart: BUDDHAM JIVITAM YAVA NIBBANAM SARANAM GACCHAMI -- I go to the Buddha as life and refuge until reaching //nibbana//." (bow down). //The Recollection of the Virtues of the Dhamma//: Repeat the following passage from the Canon, at the same time nurturing a sense of conviction: SVAKKHATO BHAGAVATA DHAMMO, SANDITTHIKO AKALIKO EHIPASSIKO, OPANAYIKO PACCATTAM VEDITABBO VINNUHITI (The Dhamma well-expounded by the Blessed One is visible here and now, timeless, inviting all to come and see, leading inward, to be seen by the wise for themselves.) Then showing respect with body, speech, and mind, pay homage to the virtues of the Dhamma, saying, "I now ask to pay homage through practice to the virtues of the three forms of the Dhamma: doctrine, practice, and the attainment that appeared in the Buddha. I ask to pay homage through practice in thought, word and deed, without being negligent, as far as my presence of mind and abilities will allow, now and in the time to come. May the virtues of the Dhamma appear in my life and heart: DHAMMAM JIVITAM YAVA NIBBANAM SARANAM GACCHAMI -- I go to the Dhamma as life and refuge until reaching //nibbana//." (bow down). //The Recollection of the Virtues of the Sangha//: Repeat the following passage from the Canon, at the same time nurturing a sense of conviction: SUPATIPANNO BHAGAVATO SAVAKA-SANGHO, UJU-PATIPANNO BHAGAVATO SAVAKA-SANGHO, NAYA-PATIPANNO BHAGAVATO SAVAKA-SANGHO, SAMICI-PATIPANNO BHAGAVATO SAVAKA-SANGHO, YADIDAM CATTARI PURISA-YUGANI ATTHA PURISA-PUGGALA, ESA BHAGAVATO SAVAKA-SANGHO, AHUNEYYO PAHUNEYYO DAKKHINEYYO ANJALI-KARANIYO, ANUTTARAM PUNNAKKHETTAM LOKASSATI (The community of the Blessed One's disciples who have practiced well... who have practiced uprightly...who have practiced methodically...who have practiced masterfully -- the four pairs, the eight types of Noble Ones: That is the community of the Blessed One's disciples, worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of heartfelt respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.) "I now ask to pay homage through practice to the virtues of the Sangha -- eight when counted individually, four when counted in pairs -- in whomever they have arisen. I ask to pay homage through practice in thought, word and deed, without being negligent, as far as my presence of mind and abilities will allow, now and in the time to come. May the virtues of the Sangha appear in my life and heart: SANGHAM JIVITAM YAVA NIBBANAM SARANAM GACCHAMI -- I go to the Sangha as life and refuge until reaching //nibbana//." (bow down). Now 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 distinction is called the immeasurable Sublime Attitude. A short Pali formula, for those who have trouble memorizing, is: "METTA -- thoughts of good will" "KARUNA -- thoughts of compassion" "MUDITA -- thought of appreciation" "UPEKKHA -- thoughts of equanimity" This finished, sit in a half-lotus position, right leg on top of the left, with 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, DHAMMO ME NATHO, SANGHO ME NATHO (The Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are my mainstay). Then repeat, BUDDHO BUDDHO, DHAMMO DHAMMO, SANGHO SANGHO. Return your hands to your lap and repeat one word -- BUDDHO -- over and over in your mind, at the same time making yourself conscious of your in-and-out breath. This is the beginning step in practicing concentration. If you're steady and persistent, the desired results will appear in your heart. For people who are really intent, even just this is enough to start seeing results. But by and large, most meditators want to know the results before they've assembled the causes. Yet even if you know about the results in this way, they're nothing more than concepts or names, and so there's nothing extraordinary about them. So at this point I've given just the preliminary steps. Discussions have been saved for the following sections. If they were included in this section, beginners would be overwhelmed and wouldn't be able to pick out what they needed. Thus people who are intent on practicing should make a note of just this much to begin with. Then if anything arises in the course of your practice, you can refer to the discussions given below. * * * ON TAKING REFUGE IN THE TRIPLE GEM The Triple Gem is a potent refuge for those who have firm faith in it and make it arise in their thoughts, words and deeds -- i.e., for those who make the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha actually appear in their hearts. Most people at present take refuge only in the shadow of the Buddha, by worshipping a Buddha image. The Dhamma they take refuge in is simply the thought of the scriptures, with hardly any notion of practicing to the point of attainment. The Sangha they take refuge in is simply the sight of shaven heads and yellow robes. If this is the extent of our refuge, it won't be able to protect us from falling into the realms of deprivation. Thus those who really believe in the Triple Gem should make its qualities reach their hearts if their faith is to be firm and not blind. Most people at present tend to overlook the virtues of the Triple Gem because their ears are pricked for the latest news of amulets and protective charms. At the drop of a hat, they forget the Triple Gem, their eyes light up, their hair stands on end, and they get all excited like the rabbit who went running around because he thought the sky was falling. Those who have firm and proper faith in the Triple Gem, though, will truly be able to ward off the dangers that cause them worry and dread. In terms of the future, those who have brought the qualities of the Triple Gem firmly into their hearts will have a superior refuge that will absolutely insure them against rebirth in any of the four realms of deprivation, as stated in the verse from the Mahasamaya Sutta that reads: "Those who have reached the refuge of the Buddha (in the virtues of their hearts) will not go to the realms of deprivation (i.e., rebirth as a denizen of hell, as a hungry shade, a demon, or a common animal). When they have abandoned the human body, they will fill the ranks of the gods." If we are truly convinced of the Triple Gem, we shouldn't give credence to external objects that we assume to be sacred without any basis in reason. If we close our eyes and simply follow the crowd, we could very well make our inner refuge corrode away. Our hearts will have no principles to serve as a firm foundation and so will be prey to doubts and distraction, easily deceived and led astray. Those who depend on the Triple Gem as their refuge will be gentle in word and deed. Their thoughts will refer to their refuge as a constant theme, at the same time pondering the truth of their condition: "We are born because of our acts, live because of our acts, die because of our acts. If we do good we will meet with good; if we do evil, we will meet with evil. No one else can come and provide for our fate." When we develop this theme constantly, convinced of its truth, it is as if we were repeating an invincible protective spell. This qualifies as one kind of foundation which Buddhism provides for the heart. * * * ON THE FOUR IMMEASURABLE SUBLIME ATTITUDES //Metta//: Develop thoughts of love and good will, hoping for your own happiness and that of others. This is like a fortress wall or a cardinal point. //Karuna//: Develop thoughts of compassion toward yourself and others, aiming at helping yourself and others gain release from all forms of suffering and pain. This is another wall or cardinal point. //Mudita//: Develop thoughts of appreciation, taking delight in the happiness you experience and in that experienced by others. This is another fortress wall or cardinal point. //Upekkha//: Develop equanimity, keeping your mind unruffled when your activities or those of others go astray or lead to trouble in ways that are beyond your power to help. Keep watch over your mind to prevent it from being upset or affected in any way. This doesn't mean being cold or hard-hearted. If you can be of help, you should offer what help you can. Develop indifference only in those cases that are beyond help. For these Sublime Attitudes to be fully developed, they must pervade your thoughts, words, and deeds. Only then will they be effective. Good will expressed in your deeds is like a wall one league thick; good will expressed in your words is still another league; good will expressed in your thoughts is still another league: altogether, three leagues thick. With compassion another three leagues, appreciation another three, and equanimity still another, you have a wall twelve leagues thick. When your thoughts, words, and deeds are protected on all sides in this manner, what do you have to fear? This, of course, is simply an analogy. If you actually develop these qualities within yourself, you will see for yourself exactly how valuable they are. When your heart is free from fear, it will be able to reach concentration quickly and easily. * * * ON RADIATING THE SUBLIME ATTITUDES If you want to, you can radiate thoughts of good will, etc., in extended form, either in Pali or in translation. Your thoughts should be directed in two directions: inwardly and outwardly. //Inwardly//: Radiating good will, compassion, and appreciation to yourself means to do no evil, to take pity on yourself by abandoning evil, and to be appreciative of the aims of virtue and morality. To develop equanimity towards yourself means to be unruffled when the occasion calls for it. For instance, when you are ill and have done all you can to treat the illness, you should then limit your attention to the goodness in the heart. //Outwardly//: To radiate thoughts of good will, etc., to others can be done in two ways: (a) radiating such thoughts specifically to those you know and love -- your parents, teachers, relatives, and close friends; and (b) radiating such thoughts in general to all living beings of all kinds, without specifying anyone in particular: seeing that we are all alike in having bodies and minds and in feeling pain, and so radiating thoughts of good will throughout the three realms -- the sensual realm, the realm of form, and the realm of formlessness -- without making distinctions or drawing lines. To radiate good will in this way is very powerful and gives the mind enormous strength. The extended formula, in Pali and in translation, is as follows: AHAM SUKHITO HOMI (May I be happy.) NIDDUKKHO HOMI (May I be free from stress and pain.) AVERO HOMI (May I be free from animosity.) ABYAPAJJHO HOMI (May I free from oppression.) ANIGHO HOMI (May I be free from trouble.) SUKHI ATTANAM PARIHARAMI (May I look after myself with ease.) Once you feel complete good will toward yourself, you should share these feelings, spreading them to all others in general: (METTA) SABBE SATTA SUKHITA HONTU (May all living beings be happy). SABBE SATTA AVERA HONTU (May all living beings be free from animosity.) SABBE SATTA ABYAPAJJHA HONTU (May all living beings be free from oppression.) SABBE SATTA ANIGHA HONTU (May all living beings be free from trouble.) SABBE SATTA SUKHI ATTANAM PARIHARANTU (May all living beings look after themselves with ease.) (KARUNA) SABBE SATTA SABBA-DUKKHA PAMUNCANTU (May all living beings be freed from all suffering.) (MUDITA) SABBE SATTA LADDHA-SAMPATTITO MA VIGACCHANTU (May all living beings not be deprived of the good fortune they have attained.) (UPEKKHA) SABBE SATTA KAMMASSAKA KAMMA-DAYADA KAMMA-YONI KAMMA-BANDHU KAMMA-PATISARANA (All living beings are owners of their actions, are heirs to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and live dependent on their actions. ) YAM KAMMAM KARISSANTI KALYANAM VA PAPAKAM VA TASSA DAYADA BHAVISSANTI (Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they fall heir.) This ends the formula for radiating the four Sublime Attitudes. To spread these thoughts without specifying this or that particular person is called developing the quality of immeasurability (//appamanna dhamma//). If you have trouble memorizing the extended formula, you can reduce it to: METTA -- thoughts of good will KARUNA -- thoughts of compassion MUDITA -- thoughts of appreciation UPEKKHA -- thoughts of equanimity. Or if you want, you can simply express these thoughts in your own words. * * * ON THE REWARDS OF THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES The four immeasurable Sublime Attitudes are genuinely worth developing because they are qualities that soothe the hearts of living beings in general throughout the world -- our parents, relatives, friends, companions, and all living beings of every sort. In addition, when the Sublime Attitudes are truly present in the heart, they can bring absolute respite from enmity, fear, and animosity. Thus the Buddha taught his followers: "Monks, when the release of the mind (from enmity, fear, and animosity) through good will is cultivated, developed, practiced often, used as a vehicle (leading to the desired goal), used as a foundation, nurtured unceasingly, made habitual, and constantly brought to mind, eleven rewards can be expected: One sleeps with ease, wakes with ease, and dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings, guarded by deities, and untouched by fire, poison, and weapons. One's mind is easily concentrated and one's complexion bright. One dies unconfused and -- if penetrating no higher -- is reborn in the Brahma worlds." When a person acts, speaks, and thinks with good will, it soothes his or her own heart and is conducive to release from suffering. Those who develop these qualities as a constant practice will have the power to soothe the hearts of other living beings through the power of their good will. Thus to develop these qualities in thought, word, and deed is a genuine necessity for those who practice concentration. In some places this practice is recommended only for those who are prone to anger. But as far as we are concerned here, you should practice this step first no matter what your disposition. If you //are// prone to anger, this practice will make it that much easier for you to concentrate your mind. The four Sublime Attitudes have been compared to the four faces of Brahma surveying the four directions, or to fortress walls on all four sides of the heart. Whoever develops them will free the heart from fear and danger. The development of the four Sublime Attitudes is especially beneficial in connection with the performance of meritorious acts. You should give alms with an attitude of good will, observe the precepts with an attitude of good will, and practice meditation with an attitude of good will. When done in this way, your activities will bring powerful rewards. Thoughts of good will are like clean drops of rain that fall from the sky, refreshing and nourishing the grasses and trees. Such thoughts are desired by all human races. Thus if you hope to develop merit, you should examine your heart at all times to see whether or not it is benevolent, so that whatever merit you may perform in thought, word, or deed will be truly conducive to future happiness. The crucial element lies with the heart: If the heart lacks benevolence, you'll have a hard time protecting your words and deeds; but if the heart is truly benevolent, your words and deeds are bound not to be defiled. If words and deeds are defiled, though, they won't suffer the consequences of their defilement. The heart will. The heart is what reaps the results of all good and evil. This being the case, your next step should be to practice concentration so as to develop the heart. * * * ON PRACTICING CONCENTRATION Concentration should be practiced in a systematic and orderly way. The Buddha thus set down a civilized and flexible pattern of four postures, in line with what he himself had practiced: sitting meditation, standing meditation, walking meditation, and meditation lying down. When you practice concentration in any of these four postures, you are said to acquire merit through meditation. The Pali word for meditation -- //bhavana// -- literally means to develop what is good and worthwhile within the heart. Meditation is a duty for all Buddhists, lay as well as ordained. The wisdom and well-being arising from meditation are the exclusive possession of those who do it. Those of us who believe in the doctrine, its practice, and the resulting attainments, should thus practice accordingly. //Sitting//: Here we will review the basic method once more: Begin by formulating the intention to observe perfectly the five, eight, ten, or 227 precepts, in line with your position and abilities. Once you see that your virtues are pure, sit in a half-lotus position with your right leg on top of your left. Hold your hands palm-to-palm in front of your heart and call to mind the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha as your refuge. Repeat the formula for the four Sublime Attitudes, then BUDDHO ME NATHO, DHAMMO ME NATHO, SANGHO ME NATHO, then BUDDHO BUDDHO, DHAMMO DHAMMO, SANGHO SANGHO. Lower your hands to your lap and silently repeat a single word -- BUDDHO -- in conjunction with your in-and-out breath as your mind's preoccupation. Limit your attention to the body. Don't pay attention to anything outside. Focus on the physical properties present in the body -- the properties of earth, water, wind and fire -- and then let go of these aspects, bringing your attention to the breath, co-ordinating BUDDHO with its in-and-out movements. Be constantly and fully aware. Only if you don't let your attention wander will you be true to the word "//buddho//," because "//buddho//" means one who is awake, mindful and alert. //Standing//: Meditate in the same way as above, simply changing the posture. Stand in a way that is composed and self-possessed, keeping your body erect and your mind on what you're doing. Place your hands down before you, your right hand covering your left. You may keep your eyes closed or leave them open, as you like. Focus your mind on BUDDHO, keeping your attention restricted to the body and to your sense of immediate awareness until your mind is firmly established. //Walking//: Walking meditation, termed //cankama//, is done as follows: Decide on a path as long, short, broad, or narrow as you like, making it level and even, with no ups or downs, so as not to interfere with your walking. You can walk fast or slowly, taking short steps or long, whatever is most comfortable. Hold your head on an even keel, neither lowered nor tilted back, and keep your gaze on the path before you. Place your hands down in front of you, as in the standing posture, and meditate in the same way as in the postures already mentioned. //Lying down//: Lie on your right side, your right hand pillowing your head, your left arm placed straight down the side of your body. Don't curl up, lie on your stomach, or lie on your back: Lie on your right side. This is the posture of a noble person, brave, victorious, and virtuous; not the posture of a miserable person at his wits' end. Once you're in position, keep your mind on the repetition of your meditation word as in the other postures. * * * ON THE FOUR POSTURES The purpose of meditating in four postures is to provide rest and relief for the body. The actual meditation exercise is always kept the same. No matter what the posture, don't let go of your original theme. Keep watch over your mind at all times. Beginners, though, should devote most of their time to two postures: sitting and walking. Meditate in these two postures as much and as often as possible, and concentration will come easily. As for the other two postures, they aren't very conducive to collecting the mind. When you lie down, concentration can easily turn into sleep. When you stand, the mind has trouble setting snugly down. But once you're skilled and find that the posture is no obstacle in reaching concentration, there's nothing against your dividing your time in a balanced way among all four postures. And if you can meditate with every breath, so much the better. Lying on the right side is called //siha-sayasa//, the position of a reclining lion. Lying on the left side is called //kama-bhogi//, the position of a person intent on sensual pleasure. To lie on one's stomach is called //tiracchana-sayasa//, the posture of dogs and other common animals. It's also called //moha-kiriya//, an attitude expressing dullness and delusion. To lie on one's back is called //peta-sayasa//, the posture of hungry shades, the posture of the dead, the attitude of a loser, of one who has let all his defenses down. A person who falls asleep in this position tends to let his mouth fall open, to breathe heavily, and to snore. Strictly speaking, though, none of these postures is ruled out. You can shift around as you like, to relieve feelings of weariness. But when you decide to meditate in earnest, you should return to the correct posture, make yourself alert and then watch over the mind to keep it firm and uncompromising until it reaches concentration. * * * The techniques mentioned so far can lead the mind to any of the three levels of concentration: momentary, threshold, or fixed penetration. Concentration is a tool for overcoming the defilements termed the five hindrances (//nivarana//). The hindrances are the true enemies of concentration. They keep blocking the mind, preventing it from setting down and getting firmly established. When any one of them arises, the mind is unable to see the truth. The fact that they act as obstacles, obstructing the mind from attaining the good, is why they are called the enemies of concentration. * * * THE FIVE HINDRANCES 1. //Kama-chanda//: sensual desires; an attraction to sensual objects. For the mind to be attracted to sensual objects, a sensual state such as passion must first arise within the mind, followed by longing, and then the sense of attraction for an object. In other words, the mind longs for and falls for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and mental notions, any of which can be either wholesome or detrimental. 2. //Byapada//: ill will. The mind formulates a desire for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, or mental notions, but is then thwarted and so feels ill will toward whomever it finds disagreeable. Thoughts of ill will are classed as a form of Wrong View and thus are a hindrance. 3. //Thina-middha//: torpor, drowsiness, depression, lethargy. Once this overcomes the mind, it prevents the mind from doing good and thus is a hindrance. 4. //Uddhacca-kukkucca//: mental restlessness and anxiety. The mind lets its attention stream out to take hold of external objects because it doesn't know the true nature of the senses and their objects or the techniques for keeping its attention established on a single meditation theme. This mental state arises from sensual desire in that the mind forms a desire that is then unfulfilled, and so it becomes anxious and restless. 5. //Vicikiccha//: uncertainty, indecision, a lack of conviction. The mind has doubts about its objects, unable to decide whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. Assuming right to be wrong, and wrong to be right, it is unable to come to a firm decision. * * * Techniques for dealing with the hindrances are as follows: 1. Sensual desires can be dealt with in three ways (taking sexual lust as an example): a. Examine the object of your desires until you see that it's inconstant (//aniccam//), continually prey to disease (//dukkham//) -- examine it until you see all the way to the fact that there's no self, nothing of your's or anyone else's, to it at all (//anatta//). Even if you were to gain the object of your desires, you wouldn't hold any rights over it. Someday it would be sure to throw you away and leave you. b. If the desire remains active, then focus on the repulsive aspects of the object, the aspects that are unappealing, filthy, and disgusting. See that it is full of disgusting things and is a dwelling place for worms and other parasites. No matter how you try to dress up the body, you can't escape from its repulsiveness for long. c. If the desire persists, then consider the true nature of the body until the mind realizes that it is just a compound of physical properties into which a deluded mind has strayed and taken up temporary residence, like a hermit crab moving from shell to shell: nothing with any truth or fidelity. Then forcibly focus the mind on a single meditation object until concentration of one level or another arises, and the desire will fade or disappear. 2. Ill will arises or becomes active when mindfulness is weak and you react unwisely or unthinkingly to whatever shows resistance to the will, giving rise to anger, thoughts of revenge, and ill will. When this happens, the following methods should be used to allay such thoughts: a. //Metta-nimitta-uggaha//: Give rise to thoughts of benevolence, either toward specific people or to all living beings in general. b. //Metta-bhavananuyoga//: Be intent on developing and radiating thoughts of benevolence, hoping for your own happiness and that of others. c. //Kammassakata paccavekkhanata//: Consider the principle of //kamma//, that all living beings are possessors of their actions and will meet with good or evil according to their actions. Make yourself see that ill will is a bad action and, since it's bad, who wants it? d. //Patisankhana-bahulata//: Be increasingly circumspect and astute in applying and using these various techniques. e. //Kalyana-mittata//: Associate with virtuous people who are kind and considerate. f. //Sappaya-katha//: Be careful to speak and think only of those topics --such as the development of benevolence -- that are congenial and useful to yourself and to those around you. g. //Sacca-dama//: Make the resolution that you will keep your attention focused on your own faults -- in thought, word, and deed -- and not on the faults of others. Keep your attention right at the heart, with the realization that ill will arises at the heart and so will have to be cured at the heart. Each of these seven techniques can work very well in shaking off thoughts of ill will. 3. Torpor and lethargy can be overcome in the following ways: a. //Atibhojana-nimittakata//: Don't eat heavily. b. //Iriyapatha-samparivatta-gahata//: Maintain a proper balance among your postures of sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. c. //Alokasanna-manasikara//: Create in your mind an image of bright light appearing right before you. d. //Abbhokasa-vasa//: Look for a place to stay out in the open air or in the forest, away from human habitation. e. //Kalyana-mittata//: Associate with well-behaved friends in the holy life who aren't given over to lethargy or drowsiness. If you can associate with someone who has attained //jhana//, so much the better. f. //Sappaya-katha//: Think and speak only of congenial topics -- making the resolution, for instance, to observe the ascetic practices and perform other similar acts of good. Torpor and lethargy can be overcome absolutely, once and for all, only by a person who has attained the path to Arahantship, but we have to start overcoming them step by step right from the beginning of our practice, using the above methods. 4. Restlessness and anxiety can be dealt with using the following methods: a. //Bahussuta//: Make a habit of reading books and listening to others talk about the practice. b. //Paripucchata//: Make a habit of asking questions about what you have learned and experienced, and then put the answers into practice. c. //Vinaya-pakatannuta//: Be knowledgeable and scrupulous concerning the precepts and practices you have undertaken. d. //Vuddha-sevita//: Associate with those who are mature in their virtue and circumspect in their knowledge and behavior. e. //Kalyana-mittata//: Associate with friends you admire. f. //Sappaya-katha//: Speak of matters that put your mind to rest, e.g., of what is right and wrong. Restlessness and anxiety are abandoned once and for all only with the attainment of the path to Arahantship, but we have to start overcoming them step by step right from the start. 5. Uncertainty can be dealt with using the following methods: a. //Bahussuta//: Make yourself well-read and well-informed concerning the practice. b. //Paripucchata//: Make a habit of asking questions of those who are experienced. c. //Vinaya-pakatannuta//: be expert with regard to the precepts and practices you have undertaken. d. //Adhimokkha-bahulata: Work on increasing your enthusiasm for what is good. e. //Kalyana-mittata//: Associate with good people f. //Sappaya-katha//: Speak only of topics that will allay your uncertainty. For instance, discuss the virtues of the Triple Gem. (Uncertainty concerning the Triple Gem is abandoned once and for all with the first attainment of the stream to //nibbana//.) * * * What all this comes down to is that the five hindrances all disappear when you focus on the body to the point where it becomes clear, and focus on the mind to the point where it becomes firm and resolute -- because the hindrances arise right at the body and mind, and where they arise is where they should be dispersed. The hindrances are an intermediate level of defilement. Only when the mind attains concentration to counter them are they overcome. They are also called the direct enemies of concentration. The indirect enemies are the five forms of rapture (//piti//), the meditation syllable, and visions -- both those that arise on their own (//uggaha nimitta//) and those that are brought under the control of the mind (//patibhaga nimitta//). These phenomena, if you are wise to them, can foster the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana//. But if you aren't wise to them, you're bound to get wrapped up in them, and they will then turn into enemies of right concentration and discernment. These are the intermediate enemies of concentration. The subtle enemies are the ten corruptions of insight (//vipassanupakkilesa//). If, when any of these arise, your powers of reference and discernment are weak, you are bound to misconstrue them. You then let yourself get taken in and carried away by them, to the point where they seem unassailable in one way or another, finally leading you to believe that you have become an Arahant. If you aren't wise to these things, you're bound to fall for them and won't be able to attain the highest form of good. For this reason, you should let go of all such knowledge in line with its true nature. Keep your powers of circumspection in firm place. Don't let these enemies come in and overcome your mind. These various enemies will be discussed below, following the discussion of concentration, because they arise as phenomena following on the practice of concentration. Actually though, they're already present in the mind, but we're not aware of them until the mind is made firm. Once the mind attains concentration, they are bound to appear in one form or another, either as visions or as intuitions. And once they appear, we tend to get all excited and pleased, because we think that something new has happened. But if we understand that they've been there in the mind all along, we won't get carried away by them -- or feel excited, pleased, or upset -- and so they won't cause our concentration to deteriorate. Before we make the mind firm in concentration, we first have to learn about the meditation exercises, because they are the objects of concentration. And before we learn about the exercises, we have to acquaint ourselves with our own propensities, because these propensities are like the factors causing a disease. The exercises are like the medicine for curing the disease. * * * THE SIX PROPENSITIES 1. //Raga-carita//: a propensity to desire and longing. 2. //Dosa-carita//: a propensity to irritation and anger. 3. //Moha-carita//: a propensity to delusion and superstition. 4. //Vitakka-carita//: a propensity to excessive thought and worry. 5. //Saddha-carita//: a propensity to gullibility and snap judgments. 6. //Buddhi-carita//: a propensity to curiosity and reasoning things through. * * * These six propensities are associated with different thoughts and preoccupations -- and the truth of the matter is that all of these propensities exist full-blown in the heart of every person. The nature of the mind, as long as it's still deluded, is to range around in these areas. We differ only in that our minds tend to dwell on particular preoccupations for differing amounts of time. In other words, we focus more strongly on some moods and objects than on others. The mind that tends to dwell on a particular preoccupation often or for long periods of time is said to have a propensity in that direction. Observe yourself when you meditate, and you'll immediately see for yourself. Sometimes the mind gives rise to desire, sometimes it's quick-tempered, sometimes it can't think things through, sometimes its worries get out of hand, sometimes it's gullible and easily taken in, sometimes its curiosity gets all out of bounds. This being the case, all six propensities come down to one single mind -- which, however, takes after differing preoccupations. This is why different meditators gain Awakening at differing speeds. Their basic propensities differ, so that some awaken quickly, some slowly, and others in between. In this connection, the six propensities come down to three. 1. People who tend towards anger or curiosity are said to excel through discernment (//pannadhika//). Their minds tend to develop insight meditation more than tranquillity meditation, and they gain Awakening quickly. If they reach the stream to //nibbana//, they attain the level of //ekabijin//, destined to be reborn only once more. 2. People who tend towards desire or gullibility are said to excel through conviction (//saddhadhika//). Their minds tend to develop insight meditation and tranquillity meditation in equal measure, and they gain Awakening at moderate speed. If they reach the stream to //nibbana//, they attain the level of //kolankola//, destined to be reborn three or four times more. 3. People who tend toward worry and delusion are said to excel through persistence (//viriyadhika//). Their minds have to develop a great deal of tranquillity before they can develop insight meditation. They gain Awakening slowly, but tend to have a lot of special psychic powers and skills. If they reach the stream, they will be reborn seven more times. People of different propensities gain Awakening at different rates because they differ in the speed with which they can extract their minds from sensuality. Those who awaken quickly have already developed the quality of renunciation (//nekkhamma//) to a high degree; those who awaken at a moderate rate have developed it to a moderate degree; and those who awaken slowly, to a lower degree. (Here we are referring to those on the level of stream entry.) They have practiced in different ways, or at differing levels of persistence. But no matter how many propensities there are, the mind is one and has only two basic sorts of preoccupation: good and bad. This being the case, we should classify the meditation exercises into two basic sorts as well, so as to help the mind attain concentration. No matter what propensities differing minds may have, they are all suited to two basic themes. * * * THE TWO THEMES OF MEDITATION 1. //Samatha-kammatthana//: tranquillity meditation -- techniques for stilling the mind; 2. //Vipassana-kammatthana//: insight meditation -- techniques for developing discernment. The objects of tranquillity meditation, according to the authors of the various commentaries, number up to forty. But although they are many, they all fall into one of two classes -- a. //Rupa-kammatthana//: exercises dealing with physical phenomena; b. //Arupa-kammatthana//: exercises dealing with non-physical phenomena. "Physical phenomena" refers primarily to those phenomena that appear in one's own body and in the bodies of others, i.e., the four basic properties of earth, water, fire, and wind, which taken together make up the physical body. Anything, though, that appears to the eye is made up of these four properties, and so belongs in this class as well. "Non-physical phenomena" refers to those things that are sensed via the heart and do not appear to the eye, i.e., the four types of mental events (//nama-dhamma//): //vedana// -- the experiencing of feelings and moods, pleasant, painful or indifferent; //sanna// -- the act of labeling or identifying forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, good and evil; //sankhara// -- mental fashioning, the forming of thoughts that are good, bad or indifferent; //vinnana// -- cognizance of what appears to the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation. So, simply speaking, we have (a) the body and (b) the mind, or -- as they are called in Pali -- form and name (//rupa-dhamma//, //nama-dhamma//). * * * METHODS FOR ATTAINING TRANQUILLITY Use the body as a theme for attaining tranquillity as follows: Focus on the properties of earth, water, fire, and wind that appear in the body. Don't let your thoughts wander outside. Focus exclusively on your own body and mind, fixing your attention first on five examples of the earth property: //kesa// -- hair of the head; //loma// -- hair of the body; //nakha// -- nails; //danta// -- teeth; //taco// -- skin, which wraps up the body and bones. Scrutinize these five parts until you see that they are unattractive, filthy, and repulsive, with regard either to where they come from, where they are, their color, their shape, or their smell. If after focusing your thoughts in this way your mind doesn't become still, go on to scrutinize five examples of the water property: //pittam// -- gall, bitter and green; //semham// -- phlegm, which prevents the smell of digesting food from rising to the mouth; //pubbo// -- pus, decayed and decomposing, which comes from wounds; //lohitam// -- blood and lymph, which permeate throughout the body; //sedo// -- sweat, which is exuded whenever the body is heated. Scrutinize these things until you see that -- with regard to origin, location, color, smell and the above-mentioned aspects -- they are enough to make your skin crawl. Focus on them until you're convinced that that's how they really are, and the mind should settle down and be still. If it doesn't, go on to examine four aspects of the fire property: the heat that keeps the body warm; the heat that inflames the body, making it feverish and restless; the heat that digests food, distilling the nutritive essence so as to send it throughout the body (of the food we eat, one part is burned away by the fires of digestion, one part becomes refuse, one part feeds our parasites, and the remaining part nourishes the body); the heat that ages the body and wastes it away. Consider these four aspects of the fire property until you see their three inherent characteristics, i.e., that they are inconstant (//aniccam//), stressful (//dukkham//) and not-self (//anatta//). If the mind doesn't settle down, go on to consider the wind property: the up-going breath sensations, the down-going breath sensations, the breath sensations in the stomach, the breath sensations in the intestines, the breath sensations flowing throughout the entire body, and the in-and-out breath. Examine the wind property from the viewpoint of any one of its three inherent characteristics, as inconstant, stressful or not-self. If the mind still doesn't develop a sense of dispassion and detachment, gather all four properties -- earth, water, fire, and wind -- into a single point and make that the object of your mental exercise. All of the physical phenomena mentioned here should be examined in a way that makes the heart dispassionate and detached. Make yourself see these phenomena as disgusting and repulsive, or as inconstant, stressful, and not-self, not "me" or "them". When you see things in this way to the point where the mind settles down and becomes firmly concentrated, this is called the development of tranquillity (//samatha bhavana//). All of the techniques mentioned here are for making the mind firm and still, and for strengthening your powers of reference. When you examine the aspects of the body in this way, you should refrain from repeating your meditation word. Only when the mind becomes malleable and calm should you focus on the most important aspect of the body -- the in-and-out breath -- together with the word "buddho," so as to make the mind concentrated in a single place. Or, if you are more skilled at another meditation theme, focus on whatever is most convenient for you -- but don't focus on any object outside the body, and keep watch over the mind so that it doesn't drag any outside matters in. Even if thoughts do arise, don't go latching onto their contents. If they're thoughts that won't aid in calming the mind, suppress them -- and even once they're suppressed, you have to keep up your guard. As for the four physical properties, when you've perceived any one of them clearly, you've perceived them all, because they all share the same inherent characteristics. Once you see that the mind has firmly settled down, you can stop your mental repetition and then fix your attention on the real culprit: The mind itself. When you fix your attention on the mind, keep everything focused down on your present awareness. Whatever arises, consider its three inherent characteristics -- inconstancy, stress, and "not-selfness" -- until the mind becomes detached and reverts to its conditioning factor (//bhavanga//), i.e., the underlying preoccupation with which the mind identifies and that determines its basic level, which in this case is either the level of sensuality or the level of form. (See `On the Levels of the Mind', below.) This is experienced in a variety of ways, either suddenly or gradually. The mind may enter this state for only a moment and then retreat, or else may stay there for a while. It may or may not be aware of what's happening. If your powers of reference are weak, your mind will lose its bearings. If a vision arises, you may latch onto it. You may lose all sense of where you are and what you're meditating on. If this happens, your concentration becomes //moha samadhi//, //miccha samadhi//, or //miccha vimutti// -- i.e., deluded concentration, wrong concentration, or wrong release. So when your tranquillity of mind reaches this level, you should be especially careful to keep your presence of mind always strong. Don't lose track of your body and mind. By and large, when the mind reaches this level, it's apt to lose its bearings and perceive visions. Perhaps we may decide beforehand that we want to see a vision, and so when the desired vision arises we feel pleased, latch onto it, and drift along after it. If this happens, we miss out on the level of concentration that's truly resolute, strong, and discerning -- simply because a vision got in the way, preventing insight from arising. So for this reason, you should let go of your visions and make the mind firmly set, not letting it be swayed by anything at all. * * * MENTAL PHENOMENA AS A THEME OF MEDITATION Anything not visible to the eye but experienced as a sensation of the mind is termed non-physical (//arupa//). To use these sensations as a basis for tranquillity meditation, we must first divide them into types, i.e., //vedana// -- the experiencing of feelings or moods, like and dislikes; //sanna// -- labels, names, mental allusions;, //sankhara// -- mental fashionings; and //vinnana// -- cognizance. Once you understand what these terms refer to, focus on the feelings that appear in your own heart and mind. In other words, observe the mental states that experience moods and feelings, to see at which moments there are feelings of pleasure, pain, or indifference. Be aware that, "Right now I'm experiencing pleasure," "Right now I'm experiencing pain," "Right now I'm experiencing a feeling that's neither pleasure nor pain." Be constantly aware of these three alternatives (the feeling that's neither pleasure nor pain doesn't last for very long). If you're really composed and observant, you'll come to see that all three of these feelings are, without exception, fleeting, stressful, and not-self; neither long nor lasting, always shifting and changing out of necessity: sometimes pleasure, sometimes a little, never satisfying your wants or desires. Once you see this, let go of them. Don't fasten onto them. Fix your mind on a single preoccupation. If your mind still isn't firm, though, consider mental labels next. What, at the moment, are your thoughts alluding to: things past, present, or future? Good or bad? Keep your awareness right with the body and mind. If you happen to be labeling or alluding to a feeling of pleasure, be aware of the pleasure. If pain, be aware of the pain. Focus on whatever you are labeling in the present, to see which will disappear first: your awareness or the act of labeling. Before long, you'll see that the act of labeling is fleeting, stressful, and not-self. When you see this, let go of labels and allusions. Don't latch onto them. Fix your mind on a single preoccupation. If your mind still isn't firm, go on to consider mental fashionings: What issues are your thoughts forming at the moment: past or future? Are your thoughts running in a good direction or bad? About issues outside the body and mind, or inside? Leading to peace of mind or to restlessness? Make yourself constantly self-aware, and once you're aware of the act of mental fashioning, you'll see that all thinking is fleeting, stressful, and not-self. Focus your thoughts down on the body and mind, and then let go of all aspects of thinking, fixing your attention on a single preoccupation. If the mind still doesn't settle down, though, consider cognizance next: What, at the moment, are you cognizant of -- things within or without? Past, present, or future? Good or bad? Worthwhile or worthless? Make yourself constantly self-aware. Once your powers of reference and presence of mind are constant, you'll see immediately that all acts of cognizance are fleeting, stressful, and not-self. Fix your attention simply on awareness itself, without getting involved in any other preoccupations. Make that awareness firm and unwavering, and the mind will experience stillness and peace: That's what's meant by tranquillity. Then focus on examining the absolute present, being aware of the body and mind. Whatever appears in the body, focus on it. Whatever appears in the mind, focus on just what appears. Keep your attention fixed until the mind becomes firm, steady, and still in a single preoccupation -- either as momentary concentration, threshold concentration, or fixed penetration. These three levels of concentration are the results of the exercises you have done. Sometimes concentration arises from considering the body, sometimes from considering feelings, mental labels, mental fashionings, or cognizance. It all depends on which theme causes you to develop a sense of dispassion and detachment. All the techniques listed here are simply for you to choose from. Whichever method seems most suited to you is the one you should take. There's no need to practice them all. The two basic themes for tranquillity meditation mentioned above -- physical phenomena and mental phenomena -- are also called the five aggregates (//khandha//). Even though the five aggregates cover a wide variety of phenomena, they all come down to the body and mind. You have to keep your attention firmly established on the body so as to know its nature, and firmly established at the mind until you know your own mind thoroughly. If you don't bring things together in this way, you won't know the taste of concentration and discernment. Just like food: If you don't bring it together to your mouth and stomach, you won't know its taste or gain any nourishment from it at all. Once you've gained concentration -- no matter what the level -- the important point is to be continually observant of your own mind. Be constantly mindful and continually self-aware. When you can maintain self-awareness on the level of momentary or threshold concentration and can keep track of these two levels so as to keep them going, they will gain strength and turn into fixed penetration, the level of concentration that's resolute, strong, and endowed with clear discernment. When your discernment is developed, you will see how this one mind can take on birth in various levels of being, knowing that, `Now the mind is on the sensual level -- now on the level of form -- now on the formless level.' * * * ON THE LEVELS OF THE MIND 1. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with sadness or pain is bound for rebirth in the four realms of deprivation. 2. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with a low level of pleasure and happiness is bound for rebirth on the human level. 3. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with a stronger level of pleasure and happiness is bound for rebirth in the heavenly realms. 4. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with the level of pleasure and happiness that arises from concentration -- i.e., the strong sense of rapture that arises from //jhana// -- is bound for rebirth in the Brahma worlds on the level of form. 5. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with a subtle level of equanimity, with no form appearing as the sign or focal point of concentration, is bound for rebirth in the Brahma worlds on the formless level. Thus the differing levels of tranquillity can lead to different results. All of this refers to the aspects of the mind that arise, decay, and disappear. These aspects are brought about through the power of two levels of concentration. * * * TWO LEVELS OF CONCENTRATION 1. Momentary concentration: the act of the mind's growing still for a moment, like a person walking along: One foot takes a step while the other foot stops still for a moment before taking the next step. 2. Threshold concentration: the act of the mind's settling down deeper than that, like a person who is walking along, meets with something, and stops to look for a moment -- with neither foot taking a step -- before he resumes walking. These two types of concentration are not without their dangers or enemies. If you're not proficient enough at them, they may deteriorate -- or you may get hooked on them. The dangers that arise in the wake of these types of concentration are (a) growing attached to the meditation syllable, having no sense of when to stop repeating it; (b) being taken in by the five forms of rapture; (c) playing around with visions and signs that appear, regarding them as especially true or potent. All of these phenomena, if you're wise to them, can help lead to the paths and fruitions leading to //nibbana//. If you aren't wise to them and become attached to them as something special, the mind is sure to fall for the various forms of rapture and to start drifting astray. You might start behaving under the influence of what you see in your meditation or intimate to others that you have invincible powers or clairvoyant abilities. All of this can destroy your concentration. Your mindfulness and self-restraint will become weak and you'll drift along under the influence of whatever occurs to the mind -- self-indulgent, dreaming, and drifting. These phenomena thus become your enemies, killing off the level of concentration that's resolute and endowed with the discernment capable of seeing through all three levels of being. This is why the above phenomena are termed enemies. When we begin meditating, though, we have to start out by clinging to these very same enemies. But in clinging to them, don't be complacent, because they're only a path. Ordinarily, when we walk along a path, we don't have to pull it up and carry it along behind us. We just leave it where it is. In the same way, the meditation syllable, rapture, and visions are things we have to pass through, but not that we have to latch onto -- thinking, for instance, that we've already reached the goal. * * * ON THE MEDITATION SYLLABLE The meditation syllable used as a preliminary basis for concentration -- //buddho//, //araham// or whatever -- is something that eventually should be let go of. Once you see that the mind is firm, mindful and ready to investigate, stop the repetition and fix your attention solely on the awareness of the knowing mind. * * * THE FIVE FORMS OF RAPTURE 1. Minor rapture (//khuddaka piti//): Your hair stands on end, and tears come to your eyes, either with or without your being aware of the fact. This happens, not through a sense of sadness, but through a feeling of pleasure, fullness, and satisfaction in a wholesome object. 2. Momentary rapture (//khanika piti//): A shiver runs through the body, and a feeling of satisfaction appears for a flash in the heart, like a flash of lightning or the flicker of lightning bugs. 3. Recurrent rapture (//okkantika piti//): A stronger sense of thrill comes over the body, like waves washing over a shore. 4. Transporting rapture (//ubbega piti//): A sense of transporting joy comes welling up through the body to the point where you lose control and start acting or speaking in various ways. For instance, sitting in concentration, you may suddenly raise your hands in adoration or bow down. If the feeling grows really strong, you may not be conscious of what you're doing. You may start speaking, the words coming out on their own without any forethought on your part. 5. Pervading rapture (//pharana piti//): A flush or tingling sensation spreads through and permeates the body. Sometimes the body itself appears to grow and swell, or else to become very small. When any one of these forms of rapture arises, you should keep your powers of reference firm. Don't give in to the feeling and don't let it take over. Keep your mind unaffected. Don't lose your sense of your body and mind. Keep your words and actions firmly under control. Don't act under the influence of the feeling. If the sense of rapture comes in a gentle form, well and good; but if it comes in a strong form, and you give in to its power, you can easily get hooked and start jumping to false conclusions. Don't go assuming that you've gained this or reached that, because all of these feelings are inconstant, stressful, and not-self. If you get fixated on them, the mind won't be able to attain proper concentration of any worth or value. If you fall for them, they'll become enemies of your concentration and discernment. * * * TWO KINDS OF VISION 1. Acquired images (//uggaha nimitta//): Sometimes when the mind settles down, a vision of one sort or another may appear -- a lump or a cloud of black, red, or white, etc.; a vision of one's own body or of a person acting in one way or another; a vision of the Buddha or of one of the Noble Disciples, or of heaven or hell -- there's no end to what may appear. In short, when we sit with our eyes closed meditating, whatever images arise in the mind are classed as acquired images. If we see a good one, we tend to assume that it's a sign that we've attained a good level, and so we fasten onto it. If we see an unpleasant one, we tend to become fearful or upset. So we should make ourselves wise to the fact that there is no truth to these visions. They're simply illusions, deceiving the heart. They come under the laws of all that is inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Their nature is to arise and then pass away. To latch onto them and take them seriously is a form of defilement and attachment, called //nimittupadana//, clinging to signs. So if a vision arises, you should leave it alone. Keep conscious of your own body and mind. Actually, these visions don't come from anywhere other than your own heart. To fall for them is like being duped by your own reflection. Just as when a bird is eating food and we show it its reflection in a mirror, it'll open its beak -- out of greed or envy -- and try to steal the food in its reflection's beak, dropping the food in its own beak, so it is with acquired images: If we latch onto them and take them seriously, right concentration and discernment will drop from our grasp. This being the case, we should leave these visions alone. If we start making assumptions based on them, they will turn into a form of attachment and so become our enemies. If an ugly or frightening image arises, we may get unnerved. So no matter what sort of image arises, don't get involved in it. Remind yourself that there's nothing constant or dependable about it, that it's simply a camp-follower of defilement, attachment, and unawareness. Visions of this sort have also been termed //kilesa-mara//, the demons of defilement, tempting the mind to become fixated on their contents. The important point is not to bring them into the mind, because our purpose in meditating is to train the mind to be pure. We're not trying to "get" anything at all. Focus on the body and mind, know your own body and mind, until you know that you're free from defilement, suffering and stress: Once you truly know this, you've reached what you're here to know. Everything else, you should let pass. Don't fasten or dwell on it. 2. Divided images (//patibhaga nimitta//): This means that you separate the image from the mind and the mind from the image so as to see the true nature of the image as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. If you can't separate things in this way and instead get caught up in playing along with the vision, your mind will go astray from right concentration. If you really want to know the mind, you have to get the mind out of the vision and the vision out of the mind. And before you can do this, you have to consider the vision from the standpoint of its three inherent characteristics, as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. For instance, the various visions that appear can be small, large, broad, narrow, bright, murky, near or far. This shows that they're inconstant. So separate the mind from them. The mind will then be freed from them, and you should then return your attention exclusively to the body and mind as before. As your powers of mindfulness become firmer and stronger, mindfulness will turn into fixed penetration. And when fixed penetration acquires enough power, you will be ready for the exercises of insight meditation. Not everyone experiences visions of this sort. Some people have a lot of them; others never have any at all, or at most only rarely, because they're things that are inconstant and undependable. If the power of your tranquillity is strong, there tend to be a lot of them. If the power of your insight is strong, they most likely won't appear. At any rate, the important point is that if you're constantly aware of your body and mind, you're on the right track. If you can be aware to the point where you know that your mind is released from its mass of defilements, so much the better. Even if you don't experience visions, concentration still has its rewards. Even the lower levels of concentration -- momentary concentration and threshold concentration -- are enough to provide a basis for the arising insight. * * * * * * * * *

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank