|Meditation rebuilds neurons and recovers the "mind" that knows in the heart.|
|The breath leads to absorption.|
|FREE VERSION: What the Buddha Taught|
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Shakyamuni Buddha, Sukhothai, Thailand (Korawee Ratchapakdee/flickr.com)|
True nature of existence
|Self is a deep, deep illusion.|
|The best book on the "basics" of Buddhism is What the Buddha Taught|
The purpose of Buddhist meditation, therefore, is to gain more than an intellectual understanding of this truth.
It is to liberate ourselves from the delusion and thereby put an end to both ignorance and craving and, as a direct result, make an end of all suffering.
It is not enough to see lights, have visions, or experience ecstasy. These phenomena are too common to be impressive to the Buddhist who really understands the purpose of Buddhist meditation. There are actual dangers in them, which are apparent to one who is also a student of psychopathology.
|Metta and wisdom = liberation.|
Instead of identifying these physical and mental phenomena with the false concept of "self," we see them as they really are: movements of a physical body, an aggregate of the Four Elements subject to physical laws of causality on the one hand, and on the other, a flux of successive phases of consciousness arising and passing away in response to external stimuli.
Viewed objectively, they are processes. They are not concrete things associated with ourselves but belong to yet another order of phenomena.
From what can selfishness and egotism proceed if not from the concept of "self"? If the practice of any form of meditation leaves selfishness or egotism unabated, it has not been successful. A tree is judged by its fruits and a person by actions; there is no other criterion. This is particularly true in Buddhist psychology, because a person in a sense is her or his actions (karma).
In the truest sense actions, or the continuity of karma and vipaka (action and its resultants and fruits) which they represent, are the only claim one can make to any persisting identity, not only through the different phases of this life but also from one life to another and another.
Attentiveness with regard to body and mind serves to break down the illusion of self. And not only that, it also cuts off craving and attachment to external objects, so that ultimately there is neither the "self" that craves nor any object of craving. It can be a long and arduous discipline, one that be undertaken quickly by temporarily retiring from the world and its cares.
|The Buddha, Longmen Grottoes Luoyang, China (Henan Tourism/flickr.com)|
For even by a temporary retirement, a temporary course of this liberating discipline, can bear good results in that it establishes an attitude of mind which can be applied to some degree in the ordinary situations of life.
Detachment gives rise to objectivity, an invaluable aid to clear thinking. It enables a person to sum up a given situation without bias, personal or otherwise, and to act in that situation with courage and discretion.
Another gift it bestows is that of concentration -- the ability to focus the mind and keep it steadily fixed on a single point (ekaggata), and this is the great secret to success in any undertaking.
The mind is hard to tame: it roams here and there as restlessly as the wind. It is like an untamed horse, but when it is fully under control, it is the most powerful instrument in the universe. One who has mastered one's own mind/heart is indeed master of the Three Worlds (sensual, fine material, and immaterial).
In the first place, one is without fear. Fear arises because we associate mind and body (nama-rupa) with "self"; consequently any harm to either is considered to be harm to oneself. But one who has broken down this illusion by realizing that the Five Group (khandha) process is merely the manifestation of cause and effect, does not fear death or misfortune.
One remains equable alike in success and failure, is unaffected by praise or blame. The only thing one fears is demeritorious action (bad karma that brings harm and suffering), because one knows that no thing or person in the world can harm us except ourselves.
And as detachment increases, one becomes less and less liable to demeritorious deeds. Unwholesome action comes of an unwholesome mind/heart, so as the mind becomes purified, healed of its disorders, bad karma ceases to accumulate. One comes to harbor a kind of horror of doing wrong, of engaging in harmful actions.
One instead takes greater and greater delight in those deeds that are rooted in nongreed, nonhatred, and nondelusion -- generosity, benevolence, and wisdom. TO BE CONTINUED
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