Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Meditate: instructions (sutra)

I want to be more spiritual.
Did you ever wonder what Siddhartha was practicing under the bodhi tree when he reached enlightenment, awakened to the Truth that sets one free, and became "the Buddha"?

The basic technique is breath meditation (mindfulness of in-and-out breathing) to establish absorption then emerge and take up systematic mindfulness of four things. He had always been asking, Why do we suffer? He found the answer.

Why the breath? First of all, it is the first of the "four things" to establish mindfulness (bare attention, nonjudgmental awareness, allowing, vigilance, just watching) on, namely, the body. This body is a great helper to enlightenment.

It is not in the way of our spirituality (spirit = breath); it can show us the way. The ultimate goal? Wisdom. The proximate goal? Just to watch, to allow, to see what purification happens to a mind that absorbs into a single object.

In breath meditation, the most important thing to understand is that the subject or object of meditation is the breath. Not breathing, not sensation, not ideas, thoughts, or anything else. We are developing singlepointed concentration on the breath. The breath, interestingly, is not air. It is more like prana (pāna), the life force energy (the "vital airs" or vayus) that accompanies the air. It's not an idea. It's an invisible thing that is keeping the body alive.
The secret is gentle persistence.
In the "Discourse on the Four Foundations (or Fourfold Setting Up) of Mindfulness," known as the Satipatthāna Sutra (MN 10, DN 22) and in other sutras, four methods of practice are given as the bases for insight meditation.

The "Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing" (Ānāpānasati Sutra, MN 118) has 16 methods of practice, divided into four groups of four. The first three apply to both serenity and insight meditation. The fourth refers only to insight practice. The second and the third groups require the attainment of the absorptions. The first group leads to the absorptions.
"With attentive mind [fixated at the nostril] one [allows the body as it] breathes in, with attentive mind one [allows the body as it] breathes out.
I. (1) "When [the body is] making a long inhalation, one knows: 'long inhalation.' When making a long exhalation, one knows: 'long exhalation.' [One remains aware allowing the body to breathe, just watching, accepting, remaining vigilant, not judging, not thinking, just directly knowing what is going on. Be here now rather than lost in thought about now.]
(2) "When making a short inhalation, one knows: 'short inhalation.' When making a short exhalation, one knows: 'short exhalation.'
(3) " 'Clearly perceiving the entire body [length of the breath] one breathes in,' thus one trains; 'clearly perceiving the entire (breath-) body one breathes out,' thus one trains.
(4) " 'Calming [by allowing] this bodily function [of breathing], one breathes in,' thus one trains ; 'calming this bodily function one breathes out,' thus one trains. ...
What will happen if one stays long enough with the breath to the exclusion of everything else? The mind will be absorbed by it. They will become one. Subject and object will merge. The mind will be just breath, which is very powerful and purifying.

It is the first step to success, for how else will insight-practice (vipassana) be possible without the coherence/"concentration" -- the intensification of mind with all of its inherent powers without a strong foundation in serenity, calm, and unification? 

Do not be quick to rush into insight-practice, even if others say that is the only thing that is important. A foundation is more important than a roof. Build "meditation" from the bottom up, and everything will be fine all the way to enlightenment.
Five Hindrances

When you practice just keeping mind/attention/awareness on a single thing, even something as interesting and moving as the breath (which reflects the mind in real time such that any modification in one is reflected in the other), five latent obstacles (hindrances) are bound to get in the way. They were always there, at least in a dormant state, and we never notice them until we try to be singleminded.
  1. craving/clinging (desire, lust)
  2. anger/fear (version)
  3. drowsiness/lethargy (physical/mental tiredness)
  4. restlessness/worry
  5. skeptical doubt (uncertainty)
Five Factors of Absorption
I get it. It unfolds. I apply energy and allow it.
Fortunately, there are antidotes to these, and those antidotes are already being applied by the practice. As the mind coheres (becomes more and more coherent), five latent breakthroughs are bound to develop.
  1. initial-application of attention
  2. sustained-application
  3. joy, rapture, bliss, keen interest, enthusiasm
  4. calm happiness, ease
  5. single-pointedness of mind (ekaggata)
Greed, hatred, and delusion (aka craving, aversion, and ignorance) spring up in a thousand ways. But so do their counterparts, nongreed (genersosity/unselfishness), nonhatred (kindness/compassion), and nondelusion (right view/wisdom).

Coherence/concentration displaces craving. The other defilements of the mind eventually fall away -- but not before putting up a mighty struggle of distraction. What are we doing? Paying attention to only one thing until the mind is fully absorbed by it. (To get absorbed the mind may naturally produce a "sign" of the breath). What is the opposite of this? Distraction.
  • If the mind begins to produce a sign (nimitta), ignore it. Stay with the breath at the nostril. Why? If you turn and give attention to the sign, it will go away. "The butterfly alights on the hand that does not grasp." That sign is a delicate thing, like a shy lady or fairy. If you so much as look, it runs away. Ignore it, pay it no mind, and its own curiosity will bring it forward. The secret is that the sign is the breath, so stay with the breath. Stay with the breath.
It's so easy, so easy that it's hard. Practice.
Sit comfortably, gently erect rather than leaning. If we're too comfortable, sleep will befall us. (Sleepy? Go sleep. Then meditate. Too energetic? Go exercise. Then meditate. We want balance).

Close the eyes (unless that causes sleepiness or mental wandering, in which case leave them open and softly focused a few feet ahead without bending the head but just casting down the gaze).

Make a wish: "May I be well and happy; may all beings everywhere be well and happy." Both will be much closer to happiness and well being when "meditation" is reached, so the sooner we start the better. 

Happiness is the way

Wait, where is true happiness? It must be within. It sure hasn't been found without. It's NOT in the past or future, so if there is to be any, it must be in the NOW. Any happiness in the past is, by definition, now gone. Any happiness in the future is, again by definition, not yet here. Where, oh where, can happiness be? It can be, it can only ever be, right now. Now is the time.

Even if we recall a past happiness or a future one, still we would only experience its happiness right here and now, wherever here and now is. There is only the now, in a very real sense. Theoretically, there are many times, but in reality there's only this now. So let's be happy now. Some say, "There is no way to happiness." Why? Because "Happiness is the way." The road to (lasting) happiness is paved with happiness (right now). Let's be present. Let's be here now.

Even here, even now, we have to know where to look to find the happiness that's already present. Close the eyes and feel it or look for it not in the changeable senses -- sights, sounds, other sensations, people, or external things -- but in the stable. True happiness is when? Now. Where? Within.

Meditation will be our treasure hunt. And it's funny that the very searching will be happiness not just the finding that is to come.

Wait, do we really have to forgive everyone? Yes, but just temporarily. The grudges and resentments would get in our way. Don't worry. After meditation, you can p yourself off all over again by dwelling on past hurts. But for now, it's time to be kind to everyone, and "everyone" includes me (you yourself). May all beings everywhere be well and happy.

Let's clear the mind (the heart). The more we clear it, the more clarity we'll get. Let's set outside matters outside and focus inside, on the breath entering the nostril(s). Bring attention to the spot where breath is entering and stay there going nowhere else, not judging, thinking, evaluating, or pondering. Instead, just watch, allow, accept, remain vigilant until the mind breaks through.

In a quiet place, I will sit like he sat.
Stay with this spot, noticing the breath for the full duration of the inhale, the full duration of the exhale, so that there's no time the mind is not watching. If the breath stops, or even if it seems to stop, watch and wait for it where you know it'll return. Where's that? The nostril. There's no need to go out and search for it or breathe more deeply. Let it be. It'll be back. Be waiting for it, and notice it for the full length as it cycles in and cycles out, cycles in and cycles out.

The breath changes. It has a natural flow. Be aware of it in real time, right as it's happening. When is that? Now. Be here now. If the mind wanders off, don't scold it. Simply bring it back. Don't judge it. Simply bring it back. Don't despair. Simply bring attention back to the breath. After about a 100,000 times, it'll eventually settle down. No matter how many times (x) it wanders, and it's likely to wander, bring it back one more than that (x+1). Eventually the mind will be well trained and tame and quite useful.

Meditate FREE: PasaDharma - Mass Meditation Initiative in Los Angeles - Dharma Punx

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