Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bad Meditation Goes Good ("Jersey Shore")

Seven Dharmachari & Pat Macpherson (Wisdom Quarterly)

From Hard Resistance to Grateful Acceptance
Meditation (jhaneti, practicing for jhana) means settling back into an original serene, steady, and naturally blissful state of mind.

The "world" outside impinging on our senses -- that is to say, the "powers that be" -- are not interested in our advancing toward serenity. They are interested in us staying with a feeling of trapped. TV networks, news corporations, mainstream media outlets of all kinds work to make us lustful, afraid, and deluded.

They also encourage us to be ashamed about our lust, hateful towards what we fear, and proud (shameless) about our delusions. The "trap" is our conflicting emotional states: lust-shame, fear-hate, delusion-pride.

The Great Protectors
The Buddha said that Hiri (conscience) and Ottappa (abashedness) are the great protectors of the world. They restrain us for the good. But they are easily mistranslated and misunderstood to be the exact problems we wrestle with most in the West, hiri as "fear" and ottappa as "shame." Fear and shame are not protecting anyone.

Hiri (apprehension that prevents unprofitable behavior) and ottappa (compunction that prevents unprofitable behavior) mean consideration for ourselves and others. They are motivated by our own future good and/or the future good of others. We care what others will think of us; we care what we will think of ourselves. This caring, or consideration, restrains us.

Of course, it does not restrain everyone -- explaining the success of eMpTV's Jersey Shore.

Just look at what American TV spoon feeds us -- another season of Snooki, the Situation, Pauley, and JWoww. The premiere of the third season was the best ever for the cable channel.

We watch, we gasp, we laugh. Then we are encouraged to feel "ashamed." If you watch, watch and enjoy it, catfights and all. Remember, judgment and disgust are purposely engendered by the program's editors as part of the ride. Conscience and "common" sense could keep us from watching. But we love spectacle. We have at least since Roman times when a massive Coliseum was built to capitalize on our impulse to seek base diversions wherever we can find them.

Eventually, there comes a time when one wants to get back to serenity-and-clarity. Meditative absorption (jhana) and insight (vipassana) provide that like nothing else can.

Resistance is the way to woe and out-of-balance striving. The etymology of dukkha ("suffering") is an off-kilter wheel making for a rough ride. Acceptance brings ease and sukha ("happiness").

The Path is not resistance. The Dharma goes "against the stream" of the world, it's true. The world is inundated, after all, by the Four Floods of greed, hatred, delusion, and fear. The current gets fierce when TV and other things pump it against the twin pillars of hiri and ottappa. Cheap thrills now and unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), too.

Zen-Rabbi St. Issa said it famously: "Resist not evil." [Elsewhere translated as "offer no resistance to the wicked" (NJB) and "resist not injury," (parallel translations at] That's not the way.

Imagine crossing a raging river. Trying to go straight across is foolish, full of effort, and risky, for one is likely to be swept away. But crossing at an angle, going with flow to cross over, that is the way. Sitting on one shore staring at the other, that is completely not the way. The Buddha frequently stated, "This Dharma is for crossing over."

Cross to the Further Shore at a dowstream angle.

We can go with the flow -- which is nonresistance. We can allow. We can observe (witness without judging). We can be present with what is. What is? Now is.

We can be somewhere. Where? Here. When? Now. Hmm, "be-here-now."

So we take a relaxing seat, not so relaxing that we pass out. (Unless sleep is needed, in which case, sleep). If we need to eat, eat -- but eat something the body needs not craves. That satisfies and does not lead to obsession with eating. It's just good sense.

Well rested, well fed, sitting up, relax while maintaining attention. Apply attention to the breath, which is always happening right now.

South Park: Fearful corporate conservatives at MTV promote spectacle over substance.

But something happens. The world comes in. JUST watch. We need not get involved. We need not resist.

A cloud passes overhead. Let it pass.

A thought passes in the head. Let it pass.

Happiness starts to well up. Let it rise like a pond fed by an underground source, no inlets, no outlets, but cool, clean, and refreshing.Sink into it. But keep witnessing without judging. This is "mindfulness," simple naked awareness that we do not clothe with interpretation, imputation, or discerning. Discerning is for later.

First, we are calm, cool, and collected, gathering the mind into samadhi.

  • samādhi: the final limb or factor of Eightfold Yoga (Ashtanga) derived from sam (together) + ā (completely) + dhā (to hold).

So samādhi means "to hold together completely," Baba Hari Dass explains (Ashtanga Yoga Primer).

Yoga distinguishes dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (superconsciousness), as if samadhi were the point of the Quest, of spiritual striving. It may be the goal for yoga, Brahmanism, or Hinduism.

But the goal of Buddhism is to go beyond that to the perfection of wisdom:

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, so it is!

Samādhi is the launchpad. Liberating-insight is the goal. The Buddha defined "right concentration" (samma-samādhi) in the Noble Eightfold Path as the first four jhanas (dhyanas or absorptions).

The way to get to the first absorption is to deeply and completely (at least temporarily) love, forgive (allow), and accept what is. What is? Whatever is.

Successful meditation results from "balanced striving" -- persistence not resistance.

When should we love, allow, and accept it? Right now, just for now, just for this moment. We probably can't change it at this moment, and we don't need to change it at this moment. So just for this moment, let's allow it. Ah. Breathe. Let go.

Even if we worry, let go. Even if we want something, let go. Even if we "should" or "must" or are about to "die," let go. Just for this moment. We can do it for this moment.

And relaxing like that, a natural thing happens. Expectations stand in the way. It's to be experienced, not to be conceptualized and judged. We're conceptualizing and judging all the time anyway. Give it a rest, and get a rest. And all the rest, just let it go.

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