Author Topic: Why and How to Meditate  (Read 22151 times)

Offline TashiNyima

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Why and How to Meditate
« on: February 08, 2011, 08:02:31 am »
Why Meditate?
 
“Thus have I heard (evam maya shrutam)…”
 
The explanations that follow are neither personal opinions nor ‘original’ presentations. On the contrary, although committed to conveying these teachings in the context of place, time, and a particular audience, it is the aspiration of all Dharma lineage holders to be faithful to the authentic tradition, and to present it without deviation or unwarranted innovation.
 
Here you will find information to supplement oral instruction on meditation. It is not meant as a replacement or substitute for personal instruction. It is my sincere hope that it will be useful in developing your regular meditation practice.
 
The essence of the path, the teaching of all Dharma lineages, is the commitment to practice. The desire to be enlightened will not, by itself, generate enlightenment. Knowledge of the path, no matter how extensive, will not bring about enlightenment. For enlightenment to manifest, we must practice.
 
The reason we practice Meditation is to attain happiness, both in the short and long terms. With regard to short-term happiness, we usually mean either or both of two things: physical pleasure and mental pleasure. However, if you examine either of these two pleasant experiences, their root can only be a mind that is at peace, a mind free of suffering. As long as the mind is unhappy and agitated, however much physical pleasure we might experience, it will not take the form of happiness. On the other hand, even if we lack the utmost ideal physical circumstances, if the mind is at peace, we will be happy.
 
We practice meditation, therefore, in part to obtain the short-term benefit of a state of mental happiness and peace. The reason why meditation helps with this is that, normally, we experience many different kinds of thoughts, some pleasant, and some unpleasant, agitating, and worrisome. If we examine the thoughts that are present in our minds from time to time, we will see that the pleasant thoughts are comparatively few, and the unpleasant thoughts are many. Thus, as long as the mind is under the sway of habitual thought patterns, we will be unhappy. In order to gain control over the thinking process, we practice meditation, which produces a basic state of contentment and peace.
 
The short-term benefits of meditation are more than merely peace of mind, because our physical health as well depends, to a great extent, upon our state of mind. If we cultivate a state of mental contentment and peace, we will tend not to become ill, and we will also tend to heal easily if and when we do become ill.
 
One of the primary conditions that bring about states of illness is mental agitation, which produces a corresponding agitation or disturbance of the pathways (nadis) and life force (prana). These generate illness and prevent healing. The agitation of the pathways and the energies within the body also obstructs the benefit which could be derived from other healing modalities, including medical treatment. If we practice meditation, then as our mind settles down, the pathways and energies recover their correct functions, as a result of which we preserve health and are able to heal any illnesses.
 
However, the ultimate or long-term benefit of the practice of meditation is to become free of all suffering, which means no longer having to experience birth, disease, decay, and death. The attainment of freedom is called, in the common language of all Dharma traditions, nirvana, and in the terminology of the Great Middle Way, the manifestation of Natural Perfection.
 
The root or basic cause of the attainment of peace and clarity is the practice of meditation. While some thoughts passing through our minds are beneficial –thoughts of love, compassion, rejoicing in the happiness of others, and so on, many are negative –thoughts of indifference, attachment, and aversion. There are comparatively few of the former type of thought and comparatively many of the latter type, because we have such strong habits that have been accumulating within us over a period of time without beginning. It is only by removing these habits of negativity that we can free ourselves from suffering.
 
We cannot simply remove these mental afflictions (kleshas) by an act of will, or through wishful thinking. We do not have the necessary freedom of mind or control over the kleshas to do so. In order to relinquish these, we need to actually attain this freedom, which begins with the gradual and progressive cultivation of peace and clarity.
 
As we begin to practice Meditation, we may find that our minds don't remain still for a single moment. In fact, one can identify various stages of practice, starting with that in which thoughts appear like a raging waterfall, and finally as the calm depths of the ocean.
 
       Level   Description   Conceptualization
1.   Placement   Short-Duration   Cascading Water
2.   Rest   Repeated Short-Duration   River Rapids
3.   Settlement   Continuous Placement (CP), Interrupted   Fast River
4.   Resolute Settlement   CP + Brief Intrusions   Slow River
5.   Cultivation   CP + Joy, Enthusiasm, Relaxation   Tranquil River
6.   Pacification   CP + Infrequent Wandering   Sea with Waves
7.   Complete Pacification   Distractions Immediately Reversed   Sea with Small Waves
8.   One-Pointedness   Complete Placement, with Exertion   Placid Ocean Surface
9.   Equanimity   Natural Placement, without Exertion   Still Ocean Depths
Mental agitation is neither natural nor permanent, and certainly is not the result of our attempt to meditate. It is merely the recognition of our current mental condition, which was previously unexamined. As we practice, successive stages will manifest, we will be able to place our minds at rest, and we will have successfully alleviated the manifest disturbance of these mental afflictions. On the basis of this attainment, we can apply more advanced practices for realizing and directly experiencing Natural Perfection.
 
When we realize Natural Perfection and abide in it, then all the kleshas, all of the mental afflictions, dissolve into this perfection. Therefore, the freedom which is called nirvana depends upon the eradication of these mental afflictions, and that depends upon the practice of meditation.
 
mangalam
Tashi Nyima
 
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« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:12:19 am by TashiNyima »

Offline Tsomo

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2011, 09:53:51 am »
Dear Tashi Nyima, with all respect, the one hing I can't believe in is that when we meditate diligently and in the correct way(s), we can cure all illnesses. If this would be the case then our highly respected and much loved senior Tibetan Rimpoche would not suffer the pains from his various illnesses. Rimpoche is a resident teacher in our Tibetan Buddhist Center situated in the mid-north of the Rep. of Ireland. Rimpoche was educated in Tibet from the age of six onward, escaped from a Chinese labour-camp at the age of eighteen/nineteen, and then completed his studies in India. Rimpoche is without doubt an accomplished meditator, a monk, Tulku, Geshe, and is everything a student/practitioner of Buddhism would like to be, i.e. kind, wise, always stays calm and very patient with students and everyone he meets, animals and insects included. He has all the marks of being a highly realized being.
Also, a good while ago Dharmakara, an ex-member of Freesangha posted a post here about what happened during the last years/months of the historical Buddha's life, and the physical sufferings of Shakyamuni Buddha at the end of His life.
Therefore I am greatly puzzled when I repeatedly read in books about Buddhism, that meditation can cure all illnesses.   

I do believe and know from personal experience that thanks to studying and practicing the Buddhist teachings the disturbing effects on our mental states caused by painful physical, and by mental illnesses can be significantly lessened, even nullified.

Kind regards.  :namaste:         

Offline TashiNyima

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2011, 10:17:21 am »
Dear Friend

om svasti

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

There are many causes and conditions for illness, and --especially in advanced practitioners-- it is not possible for ordinary beings to determine what those may be.

(For an extensive discussion of the causes of disease, please see http://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/the-causes-of-disease/)

Meditation can cure all illness, but this does not mean that it will in every case and circumstance, or even that it is desirable. The Buddhas and advanced practitioners give us many lessons, and these often include teachings on how to undergo disease, and how to die.

Succinctly, wrong view and afflicted emotions are the root of all illness. In fact, the Buddha often said that these ARE the real illness from which we suffer. And meditation is indeed the cure.

The physical body is temporary. It is subject to birth, disease, decay, and death. But the illness of ignorance can be permanently cured through meditation.

mangalam
Tashi Nyima

Offline Tsomo

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2011, 07:56:24 pm »
Thank you Tashi Nyima for Buddha Dharma food for thought offered here and on The Great Middle Way.
Because of my seriously limited amount of knowledge, understanding and lack of personal experience of the deep and vast Buddha Dharma combined with lack of mindfulness I write things like, 'I   c a n't   believe ....'.
It would have been more gracious if I had written, 'I find it very hard to believe in the possibility of curing all one's physical dis-eases through the correct practice of meditation'. I sincerely apologize for expressing myself in such a blunt manner.
In fact I prefer to believe that it is possible, to keep an open mind about it, and for now to forget about the mysterious puzzle of why a fully enlightened Buddha suffers from physical ailments while dwelling in a human body, because if I keep going on the path to enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, then all major questions will one day, in one of my future lives, be solved.
Again I realize that it is still best for me to keep it Buddha Dharma-wise as simple as is possible.
Thank you for helping me in more than one way!

Kind regards.  :namaste:





Offline TashiNyima

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2011, 08:23:14 pm »
Dear Tsomo la

om svasti

Thank you again for your thoughtful post. Your sincerity and humble attitude will surely lead to many wonderful realizations.

And thank you for the opportunity to briefly address this important question. Yes, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, out of extreme compassion, choose to undergo (the appearance of) physical suffering. Otherwise, we ordinary beings would harbor doubts about our own Buddha Nature, since we are evidently subject to suffering.

Thus, they accept limitation. However, there is a fundamental difference. While the root cause of our suffering is karma (manifesting as wrong views and afflicted emotions), the cause of the apparent suffering of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is mercy --there is no wind of karma impelling them to undergo suffering.

Please know that, because you have taken the Name of Buddha Amitabha, through the inconceivable power of His Primal Vow, your birth in the Pure Land is assured. I do not have --or need-- the gift of prophesy to make this statement. I merely rely on the grace of the Noble Ones and the teachings of the Lineage.

om amideva hrih

mangalam
Tashi Nyima

Offline santamonicacj

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2011, 09:01:18 pm »
I've got nothing to say but I want new posts to this thread to pop up in my "show replies to your posts" screen, so I gotta post something!




:popcorn:
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

Offline Caz

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2011, 09:07:35 pm »
Than you for posting Tashi-la !  :dharma:
http://emodernbuddhism.com/

This eBook Modern Buddhism – The Path of Compassion and Wisdom, in three volumes, is being distributed freely at the request of the author Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The author says: "Through reading and practicing the instructions given in this book, people can solve their daily problems and maintain a happy mind all the time." So that these benefits can pervade the whole world, Geshe Kelsang wishes to give this eBook freely to everyone.

We would like to request you to please respect this precious Dharma book, which functions to free living beings from suffering permanently. If you continually read and practice the advice in this book, eventually your problems caused by anger, attachment and ignorance will cease.

Please enjoy this special gift from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who dedicates: "May everyone who reads this book experience deep peace of mind, and accomplish the real meaning of human life."

Offline TashiNyima

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2011, 12:38:12 am »
Without getting overly technical, it is important to recognize that there is no direct perception in ordinary consciousness. Let us take the sound of a bell as an example. From a western scientific standpoint (which is not too different from the Buddhist understanding, putting aside for now the ultimate reality of the bell and the sound), when the clapper strikes the body of the bell, a vibration is generated. This vibration sets particles of air in motion, which in turn strike the cilia in the ear.

The subtle vibrations of the cilia are transmitted to the tympanic membrane, and then to the minuscule bones inside the ear. These vibrations then reach the auditory nerve. Now, the nerve does not have any other capacity than to 'fire' impulses of specific amplitude and frequency in particular sequences. This set of impulses reaches the brain, and the brain presents them to the mind. It is the mind that interprets the raw data of the nerve impulses, producing an internal mental event that we recognize as sound.

All sense perceptions are similar. Ultimately, all perceptions are mere internal mental events, whatever the sense organ that mediates them. From this brief and necessarily over-simplified account, we can easily deduce that the mental state of the perceiver has a significant and determinant influence on perceptions.

Agitation distorts perception. We've all had the experience, or have witnessed a similar occurrence in others, when we're frantically looking for something and cannot see it, even 'though it is in plain view. Perhaps it was a set of keys, or an important piece of paper, or our sunglasses.

We cannot see this object that is right in front of us, not because our sense organs (in this case, the eyes) are malfunctioning, but because our mind is agitated, distracted. The cause of the distraction can be an intense emotion, or the false belief (wrong view) that the object is elsewhere.

If we can regain our composure, the object becomes plainly visible.

Every one of our perceptions --how we "see" other sentient beings, objects, and ourselves-- is subject to this phenomenon: when the mind is agitated, we cannot perceive clearly.

What does this have to do with meditation? Everything!

Our minds are habitually agitated by attachment, aversion, and indifference. They are also grossly deluded by wrong views about ourselves and others. The combination of afflicted emotions and wrong views guarantees that our perceptions are --at best-- imprecise, and --at worst-- completely unreliable. Without peace and clarity, we cannot perceive correctly.

Shamatha (calm abiding) is the meditative approach to cultivate peace. Vipassanna (insight) is the meditative approach to cultivate clarity. Both are necessary.

Now, meditation is not undertaken for itself. It is not a goal. It is not even an 'experience' with intrinsic spiritual value. It is a means to remove the distortion caused by afflicted emotions and wrong views.

We will explore next why it is necessary to practice...

Offline zerwe

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2011, 12:13:13 pm »
Tashi-la, it is wonderful to see your posts again. They are a blessing.

Meditative concentration is a most valuable tool in stabilizing our minds. And,  if I remember correctly out of the three higher trainings (morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom) it belongs to the wisdom aspect of the path.

I find that all three higher trainings support and enrich each others effectiveness.  In other words, between the two collections the method aspect has an impact upon the wisdom aspect.

I certainly don't have the skill to contribute much to your insightful posts, but there is a teaching I attended that I thought I might share.

This teaching was part of a series focused on the 6 perfections and on the specific day the topic was moral discipline.

The impact of moral discipline in calming our mental state was especially highlighted and the following analogy was used to demonstrate how it has the potential to change our perceptions and subsequently our experiences.

A brief summary;

Our perceptions/experiences  are essentially projections of mind upon objects and phenomena that lack inherent existence. The objects and phenomena are likened to a (blank) screen. Our projections of mind are literally like that from a

projector at a theater. And, the film itself is our own karma. I found this simple, but it had a profound impact on my mind. 

So, the conclusion was that through the practice of cultivating moral discipline we can change our karma, change our experience, and change the negative aspects of

our mind's projections. This alone would have a stunning impact on one's life, but just as important this can provide a more settled mind in which we can achieve meditative stabilization.

Shaun :namaste:


Offline Tsomo

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2011, 10:23:46 am »
Thank you Tashi Nyima for starting this thread about How to Meditate and Why.
To read it will be of great benefit for me and all beginners and advanced students/practitions alike
(so say advanced students/practitioners about reading valid Buddha Dharma wisdom for beginners.)

And thank you for reassuring me that because I have taken the Name of Amitabha Buddha I too will reach Sukhavati. This has strengthened my resolve to not again and again waste precious time and that I must make more effort reciting Amitabha Buddha's Name, the Pure Land Sutras, and doing the Practice of Prostrations to the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas.
 
I repeatedly despair thinking that I will not be reborn in Sukhavati because my practice wanes and waxes.
And feelings of deep despair plaque me when I realize that my faith in Amitabha Buddha's Primal Vow is subject to I sometimes doubting the inconceivable power of Amitabha's Primal Vow.
That makes me feel like being the worst practitioner, being unworthy of being reborn in Sukhavati.
That it is possible at all that I sometimes can doubt the powers of any Buddha is most disheartening.
What can I do to remedy this occasionally occurring disturbing state of mind?
Is to keep doing the Practice of Prostrations to the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas the remedy?

Kind regards,  :namaste: 

 



 

   

Offline TashiNyima

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2011, 11:08:18 am »
Dear Friends

om svasti

Thank you for your kind comments.

It's good to reconnect, Zerwe! You have much to contribute, so please continue to help us with your insights. The purpose of abiding by the Precepts of Moral Discipline is precisely to calm the mind. When we engage in unskillful acts, the mind is agitated while contemplating, performing, and later regreting them. Avoidance of unskillful acts is thus the foundation of peace.

Never despair, Tsomo. The power of the Buddhas does not rely on the regularity of our efforts, the quality of our practice, or the strength of our faith. It is 'Other Power', not 'self power'.

Among the New Jonangpas, we define the 'Three Minds' as the Sincere Mind, the Deep Mind, and the Aspiring Mind. The Sincere Mind simultaneously is aware of our own Buddha Nature and the obscurations that presently veil its full manifestation. The Deep Mind is aware of the extreme grace of the Buddhas, and the inevitable reality of our birth in the Pure Land through Their mercy alone. The Aspiring Mind is full of gratitude and love for the Buddhas, and therefore wishes to accumulate merit in order to share Their grace with all sentient beings.

In our View, there is no contradiction between absolute reliance on the Primal Vow and the personal practice of the paramitas. Why? Because our birth in Dewachen (Sukhavati) is guaranteed by the grace of the Buddhas, and thus requires no self-effort. It is only to benefit others that we practice. Thus, for ourselves, we rely exclusively on Other Power.

I humbly recommend that you practice reciting the Vajrasattva Mantra (either short or long, in Sanskrit, Tibetan, or your own language). Here is a version of the long Vajrasattva Mantra, in the English language.

om Vajrasattva! I rely on Your Vow
To stand by me and sustain me,
To console and to nourish me, to love me unreservedly,
To grant me all attainments, to purify my actions,
And make my mind auspicious.

Sovereign Ruler of the Five Wisdoms, The Blessed Lord,
Truly The One Come Thus, Indivisible, Imperishable Perfection,
Abide in me and grant me Your protection.
Your Vow is ever firm!
om vajrasattva hum

This is also meditation. For those whose faith leads them to rely on the Buddhas, it is sufficient.

mangalam
Tashi Nyima

http://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/

Offline Tsomo

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2011, 08:21:42 pm »
Thank you very much Tashi Nyima for your precious time and effort to help me. Reminding me of the teaching about Other Power and explaining that struggling but sincere practitioners that hope to be reborn in Dewachen can rely exclusively on Other Power, and can be reborn in Dewachen by the grace of the Buddhas is just now while I am going through a period of confusion about my chances of reaching Dewachen at all at the moment of my death, of great help for me.

I am very happy with your advise to recite the Vajrasattva Mantra, and happy with the wonderful translation of this mantra into English.

Also, reading today's Optimus Prime's inspiring Pure Land story has been thoroughly reassuring.

I wish I would have the lucky karma to be a nun in a Pure Land nunnery, but within the European Union I have not been able to discover such a nunnery (alas, I don't have the means to establish a Pure Land nunnery, or to live in the US or outside of the European Union where a few of such nunneries are established.)
I simply long for the monastic way of life, its discipline, celibacy, set times for work, study, meditation, chanting, celebrations, relaxation, offering the opportunity to speed up becoming a better human being and approaching Buddhahood due to having to seriously practice patience, compassion, generosity, tolerance, etc., for the benefit of all living beings, all this thanks to being daily in the presence of like minded people and each one of them with some character flaws, thus having to seriously iron out one's own character flaws in the first place.
I belief that living the monastic way of life is for some people best.

Kind regards,  :namaste:

 
       




     

Offline TashiNyima

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2011, 08:54:37 am »
Dear Friend

om svasti

Monasticism is a state of mind. It does not depend on externals. Rather, the opposite is true: externals are a direct consequence of the internal state. I have lived in monasteries that were not at all monastic, and i've visited households that were so.

I was the abbot of a small monastery, and actually had to leave the premises each day so that i could do my meditation practice without interruptions!

The essence of monasticism is to simplify our lives, so that we can study and practice. You can do that anywhere, to a certain extent. And, as we move in that direction, our practice will lead us to that place which is most conducive for Dharma cultivation.

[I just posted some basic recommendations on simplifying our lives on the Great Middle Way blog.]

There might also be other options available to you. Most Tibetan traditions are at the very least sympathetic to Pure Land practice, and might welcome a novice nun committed to such practice.

In any case, please know that your situation is exactly what you need right now to deepen your practice. If you take full advantage of your present opportunities, others will manifest.

mangalam
Tashi Nyima


« Last Edit: February 12, 2011, 09:19:05 am by TashiNyima »

Offline Shentian

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2011, 12:12:08 pm »
"We cannot see this object that is right in front of us, not because our sense organs (in this case, the eyes) are malfunctioning, but because our mind is agitated, distracted. The cause of the distraction can be an intense emotion, or the false belief (wrong view) that the object is elsewhere.

If we can regain our composure, the object becomes plainly visible."


excellent analogy!  Just last night I was looking for my keys to my wife's car.  I always keep them in a box near the door, because I am prone to putting things down and losing them.  Last week, I lost the keys in the garden :-).  Anyway, I'm looking right in the box and I don't see the keys and immediately think, "oh, boy, now I've gone and lost the keys AGAIN!" and started wandering around the house looking in all the spots I might put them.  After making the circuit and not finding the keys, I come back to the box and there they are, right in plain sight!  Why didn't I see them before?  I'm sure it's because I was convinced I put them somewhere else.

Thank you for that Tashi Nyima  :jinsyx:  I think I need to go find my cushion now :-)

Offline Hanzze

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Re: Why and How to Meditate
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2011, 06:04:19 pm »
Wohhh, just thought what I would say if the kids would ask me, why Buddhists dress like this... *smile* Luckily the did not watch.

 


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