Monday, August 16, 2010

Book: Chapter Four

Chapter Four: Fundamentals

In this chapter, I will explain some of the important qualities of meditation that we need to keep in mind when we do the walking or the sitting meditation.1 It’s not enough for us to simply perform the walking and sitting meditation on a regular basis, and expect that we should receive benefit from the practice no matter what is going on in our minds or how we are carrying out the practice. Our practice has to have certain important qualities to it in order for us to really gain benefit from it.

The first important quality of meditation practice is that we have to make the acknowledgement in the present moment. Our mind should always be in the here and now. We cannot let our mind fall into the past or skip ahead into the future. We should not think about how many more minutes are left in our practice or how many minutes we have been practicing, and so on. Our mind should always be in the present moment.

Second, we need to meditate continuously. It is not enough that we spend a certain amount of time meditating and then stop entirely until our next practice. We must practice continuously from one moment to the next. During our meditation, we should try to keep our mind in the present moment through the whole of the practice, using the mantra to create a clear thought from one moment to the next. When we walk, we must try our best to transfer our attention from one foot to the next without break. When we do the sitting we must try to keep our minds on the rising and the falling, noting each movement again and again continuously.

Once we finish the walking meditation, we should maintain our awareness and our acknowledgement of the present moment until we are in a sitting position, as in “bending”, “touching”, “sitting”, etc., according to the movements required to change position. Then, once we are sitting down, we should immediately begin to contemplate the rising and the falling of the stomach for the sitting meditation. Once we finish the sitting meditation, when we are ready to go on with our life, we should try our best to continue meditating on the present moment into our daily life, carrying on with the acknowledgement continuously.

It is said that meditation practice is like the falling rain. Every moment of where we are clearly aware of reality is like one drop of rain. Though it may not seem like much, if we are mindful again and again, clearly aware again and again, just like drops of falling rain that can cause a flood or fill a lake, in the same way our awareness again and again, one moment after another, can create very strong states of concentration based on the present moment, allowing us to be clearly aware and obtain a clear understanding of reality.

The third important quality of our practice is in regards to the act of creating a clear thought itself. To create a truly clear thought or awareness of the present reality, there are three qualities that we have to incorporate into the act itself.2

First, it requires a certain amount of effort. For us to make the acknowledgement again and again takes effort, and we have to acknowledge this. We cannot just say “rising” and “falling” and let the mind drift as it will. We have to actively send the mind to the object and keep the mind with the object as it arises, whatever object that is. If it is the rising and the falling, then we stay with it again and again, sending the mind out again and again. Instead of keeping the mind in the head or at the mouth, we send the mind out to the object again and again, keeping our mind focused on the present moment.

Once we send the mind out to the object, only then will we become aware of the object, and this is the second important quality of the acknowledgement itself, that we are actually aware of the object as it is occurring. Rather than simply saying “rising” and “falling”, or forcing our minds to focus blindly on the object, we actually recognize the motion for what it is, from the beginning to the end. If the object is pain, then we are actually aware of the pain and recognize it for what it is; if the object is a thought, then we recognize it as a thought.

Once we recognize the object for what it is, only then can we make the acknowledgement. This of course is the most important aspect of our practice, that we actually grasp the object as it is, fixing the mind on that essential reality, not letting our mind continue on to like or dislike or create all sorts of speculation or judgment about the object. This we accomplish by using the mantra to remind us of the object simply for what it is, as explained in the first chapter.

The final important fundamental quality of practice is the balancing of the mental faculties. It is recognized in the meditation tradition that all people have certain faculties in their minds to a lesser or greater degree, which are beneficial to one's spiritual health. All together there are five:

1.Confidence

2.Effort

3.Mindfulness

4.Concentration

5.Wisdom

These five faculties are of benefit to those who have them, but they must be balanced with each other in order to bring true benefit to the individual. If they are not balanced properly, they can actually lead to one's detriment. For example, some people might have strong confidence but may have little wisdom. This becomes a problem, because they tend to give rise to blind faith. They believe things simply because of what they have been told or because of some desire to believe and not because of any rational understanding, so they don't bother trying to understand reality for what it is, and live their lives according to their beliefs, which may or may not be true. Such people need to examine their beliefs carefully in regards to reality to adjust their faith according to the wisdom that they gain from meditation.

Some people have strong wisdom but little faith, and so they doubt things without investigating themselves. They refuse to even suspend their disbelief when something is explained by a respected authority, and so they have difficulty making progress in the practice due to lack of conviction. Such a person must make effort to see their doubt as a hindrance to honest investigation and try to give the meditation a fair chance before passing judgment.

Some people have strong effort but weak concentration, leading their minds becomes distracted to the point that they cannot focus on anything. Many people, for instance, enjoy thinking or philosophizing about their lives and their problems, not realizing the terrible state they are leading their minds into. Such people are unable to sit still in meditation for any length of time because their minds are out of control, caught up in their own mental fomentation. Such people should recognize this unpleasant state as resulting from over-analyzing things in general, not from the meditation itself, and should patiently try to train the mind to just see things for what they are, rather than following after everything that arises.

Some people have strong concentration but weak effort and this makes them lazy or drowsy all the time. This keeps them from sending the mind to the object and inhibits them from keeping up with the present moment, since they find themselves getting drowsy and falling asleep most of the time. Such people should try practicing walking meditation when they are tired so as to stimulate their body and mind into a more alert state.

The fifth faculty, mindfulness, is another word for the recognition or simple remembrance of an object for what it is. It is the manifestation of a balanced mind, and so it is both the means of balancing the other faculties and the outcome of balancing them at the same time. The more mindfulness we have, the better our practice will become, so we must strive both to balance the other four faculties and increase our clear awareness of reality for what it is at all times.

Once we have balanced the four other faculties using the faculty of mindfulness, they will work together to create a very strong state of mind. At that time, we will have strong confidence, strong effort, strong mindfulness, strong concentration and strong wisdom, and the mind will be able to overcome all states of suffering, just as a strong man is able to easily bend an iron bar, when our minds are strong, we will be able to bend and mold and ultimately straighten our minds. We will be able to bring our minds back to a natural state of peace and happiness, overcoming all kinds of unpleasant states of being.

This is a basic explanation of some of the fundamental qualities of meditation which we need to keep in mind. To summarize:

1.We must practice in the present moment.

2.We must practice continuously.

3.We need to make the clear thought, using effort, awareness, and remembrance.

4.We must balance our mental faculties.

This lesson is an important addition to the actual technique of meditation, meant to bring greater quality and thus greater benefit to the meditation practice. So I hope that you are able to put these teachings to use in your practice, and that through this you are able to find greater peace, happiness and freedom from suffering. Thank you again for your interest in how to meditate.