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
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
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
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
(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
Thus those of us who are still undeveloped and at a tender age
should practice the Dhamma in line with the strength of their
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
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
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,
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
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
//The Recollection of the Virtues of the Sangha//: Repeat the
following passage from the Canon, at the same time nurturing a sense
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
* * *
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
* * *
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
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
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:
SABBE SATTA SUKHITA HONTU (May all living beings be happy).
SABBE SATTA AVERA HONTU (May all living beings be free from
SABBE SATTA ABYAPAJJHA HONTU (May all living beings be free
SABBE SATTA ANIGHA HONTU (May all living beings be free
SABBE SATTA SUKHI ATTANAM PARIHARANTU (May all living
beings look after themselves with ease.)
SABBE SATTA SABBA-DUKKHA PAMUNCANTU
(May all living beings be freed from all suffering.)
SABBE SATTA LADDHA-SAMPATTITO MA VIGACCHANTU
(May all living beings not be deprived of the good fortune
they have attained.)
SABBE SATTA KAMMASSAKA KAMMA-DAYADA KAMMA-YONI
(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
(Whatever they do, for good or for evil, to that will they
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
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
* * *
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
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
* * *
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
//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
//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
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
b. //Metta-bhavananuyoga//: Be intent on developing and radiating
thoughts of benevolence, hoping for your own happiness and that of
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
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
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
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
5. //Saddha-carita//: a propensity to gullibility and snap
6. //Buddhi-carita//: a propensity to curiosity and reasoning
* * *
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
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
b. //Arupa-kammatthana//: exercises dealing with non-physical
"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//,
* * *
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
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
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
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',
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
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
3. A mind whose underlying preoccupation is coupled with a
stronger level of pleasure and happiness is bound for rebirth in the
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
Thus the differing levels of tranquillity can lead to different
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
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
* * *
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
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.
* * * * * * * * *