Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

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Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

Postby starter » Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:42 pm

Hello friend,

I'm reading Ven. Thanissaro's Dhamma talk "Cleanliness is Next to Mindfulness" (from Meditation4: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ions4.html) and would like to share with you the following paragraphs about how to do bhavana:

“… the word for meditation is bhavana: It means "to develop." You're developing qualities of mind. ...

All the things you do throughout the day are opportunities to develop mindfulness, alertness, learning how to be meticulous in what you do. There's the saying, "How you do anything is how you do everything." It may not be absolutely true, but it's close. ...

If you're sloppy with things outside, you're going to be sloppy with your meditation. It's a basic principle. You want to learn how to be meticulous, clean, neat, alert in all the things you do. In that way, the activities become not a chore to be disposed of as quickly as possible, or something just getting in the way of your meditation. They become part of the meditation. … Those are the areas where you show the qualities of your mind. ...

But if you make up your mind that whatever chore falls to you, you're going to try to do it skillfully [and approach the chore with the proper respect], then you develop what are called the four bases for success: the desire to do it skillfully; the persistence that sticks with it till you've mastered it; intentness, paying a lot of attention to what you're doing; and analysis, using your powers of discernment to see what's not yet right, trying to figure out how to get around problems, how to solve them. ...

The complete training has to go all around. It has to deal with the way you treat other people, how you handle difficult situations. Your whole life is part of the training, and in the course of the whole-life aspect of the training, you need to learn how to see how you've been sloppy, how you've been stupid, how you've been ignorant, how you've been thoughtless and careless. If you don't see those things, you're not going to learn anything. The experience is chastening instead of pride-inducing. When the training is complete, every aspect of the mind has been trained, so that you're skilled at all kinds of activities, with an attitude nicely balanced between humility and pride. ...

… That's what it means for the mind to be well-trained: trained all-around. You can watch the mind in its activities, so you want to make sure that it's well trained in everything it does. ...

The word bhavana, as I said, is "to develop." You can develop your mind in any situation. … So see every aspect of your life as an opportunity to train the mind."

By the way, I did some editing to the talks to make them easily readable by our busy dhamma friends (I hope Ven. Thanissaro wouldn't mind :thinking: ). If you are interested in learning more about the topics I posted, please read the original talks. I hope other friends will also share their most important daily readings ...

Metta

Starter

"Practicing the Dhamma is not just being good at sitting with your eyes closed. It involves learning how to be skillful in everything you do." {Ajaan Fang}
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Re: Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

Postby dhammapal » Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:38 am

Hi Starter, here is one of my favorites:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You’re going off to (a meditation retreat) where you want to have something to show for it, something you can talk about when you return. It’s hard to tell your friends, “You know, I maintained my mind in a state of normalcy for the entire week.” It doesn’t impress anybody. But you’re not here to impress people; you’re not here to impress yourself. You’re here to see things clearly. The best way to see things clearly is to get the mind into a state of stillness.
We tend to think of the stages of jhana as very strong trance states, but actually they’re the mind in a state of genuine normalcy where it’s very perceptive, very clearly perceiving things as they are, as they come as they go, able to see distinctions. That’s what we’re working on, trying to keep the mind in a state of normalcy, as with all the elements of the
path. The qualities of the path are things we’ve already experienced, things we’ve already tasted. It’s simply that we haven’t seen the strength they can develop if they’re made
continuous, if they’re made all-around. This state of centered, clear normalcy in the mind, if you could really maintain it, would build up a lot of strength.
<big snip>
So what we are doing is something very normal. What’s unusual about it is that we’re trying to maintain this state of normalcy as consistently as we can throughout the day.
That’s really extraordinary. It’s the consistency that makes it special.
From: Normalcy by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.
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Re: Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

Postby starter » Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:46 pm

Hi Dhammapal,

Thanks for sharing your favorite talk. I've been wondering about the following:
"We tend to think of the stages of jhana as very strong trance states, but actually they’re the mind in a state of genuine normalcy where it’s very perceptive, very clearly perceiving things as they are, as they come as they go, able to see distinctions."

I wonder if such state of normalcy will generate strong bodily energy (which is one of the enlightenment factors) and piti/sukha or not. To my immature understanding, the stages of real jhana can not only refresh/recharge the mind and give it strong concentration, but also generate strong bodily energy (which can unblock our bodily energy channel) and lasting sukha. If not, then such state of normalcy might not really lead to the enlightenment factors of bodily energy and lasting bodily/mental tranquility?

Metta,

Starter

PS: ... The Buddha's image "was of a fortress at the edge of a frontier, and different qualities in the path correspond to different aspects of the fortress. There's discernment, which is like a slippery wall that the enemy can't climb up. Learning is like a range of weapons to fight off the enemy. Mindfulness is like the gatekeeper who remembers who to let in and who not to let in. And jhana, he said, is like stores of food."
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Re: Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

Postby Reductor » Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:25 pm

starter wrote:I've been wondering about the following:
"We tend to think of the stages of jhana as very strong trance states, but actually they’re the mind in a state of genuine normalcy where it’s very perceptive, very clearly perceiving things as they are, as they come as they go, able to see distinctions."

I wonder if such state of normalcy will generate strong bodily energy (which is one of the enlightenment factors) and piti/sukha or not. To my immature understanding, the stages of real jhana can not only refresh/recharge the mind and give it strong concentration, but also generate strong bodily energy (which can unblock our bodily energy channel) and lasting sukha. If not, then such state of normalcy might not really lead to the enlightenment factors of bodily energy and lasting bodily/mental tranquility?


Consider that the factor of energy refers to both physical and mental energy. You're reading it to narrowly. Also, which is the more important: bodily energy, or mental? You're also talking a lot about energy channels, relating them to 'real jhana'; but to my recollection such channels aren't something the Buddha was concerned with. The term seems very much like a yogic one. In SN 46.52 trans. Bodhi each factor is expounded as being two in fact, making a total of 14 factors.

normalcy - being within certain limits that define the range of normal functioning[/b] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/normalcy

Perhaps Than is comparing jhana to 'normalcy' because jhana possesses a proper balance of enlightenment factors while being devoid of the hindrances. The emphasis is that we are seldom functioning normally in our day to day life for the simple fact that the mind is not balanced and it is tainted with the hindrances.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Meaning of bhavana – How to develop the mind?

Postby dhammapal » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:01 am

Hi Starter, I found this sutta quote defining the 1st jhana:
Majjhima 119 wrote:"Furthermore, quite withdrawn from sensuality,
withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities,
he enters & remains in the first jhana:
rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal,
accompanied by directed thought & evaluation.
He permeates & pervades, suffuses & fills this very body
with the rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal.
Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice
would pour bath powder into a brass basin
and knead it together, sprinkling it again & again with water,
so that his ball of bath powder —
saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within & without —
would nevertheless not drip;
even so, the monk permeates...
this very body with the rapture & pleasure born of withdrawal.
There is nothing of his entire body
unpervaded by rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal.
And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute,
any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned,
and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly,
grows unified & centered.
This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body."
From: Kayagata-sati Sutta: Mindfulness Immersed in the Body
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

With metta / dhammapal.
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