David's Book : Meditation on the Dhamma

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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David's Book : Meditation on the Dhamma

Postby yawares » Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:31 pm

Dear Members,

David's Book : Meditation on the Dhamma
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]

Meditation on the Dhamma

The Dhamma is the (more common) Sanskrit word for Dhamma (Pali) which means Truth or
Law. The word Dhamma represents the Buddha‘s teachings and includes all of the Buddhist
concepts, doctrines, and ―theory.‖ The Dhamma is considered one of the most essential
aspects of practice, one of the Triple Gems, the other two being the sangha (community) and the
Buddha. Anyone who is a Buddhist / friend of Buddha‘s teachings takes refuge in the Triple
Gem. Since the Dhamma is a term for the all-inclusiveness of the Buddha‘s teachings, the
Buddha emphasized the importance of Dhamma:
―Remain with the Dhamma as an island, the Dhamma as your refuge, without anything else as a
refuge. Samyutta Nikaya 47.13 and also at Digha Nikaya 26

Bhikkhu Bodhi is the American born monk who has translated much of the Pali Canon. He is a
Pali scholar who has done much service to the Dhamma with all of his translations. He confirms
that the translation of the fourth foundation of mindfulness does refer to the Dhamma in this
introduction to one of the books of the Samyutta Nikaya: ―The word is often rendered mindobjects
or mental objects, as if it denoted the sixth external sense base, but this seems to narrow
and specific. More likely Dhamma here signifies all phenomena, which for purposes of insight
are grouped into fixed modes of classification determined by the Dhamma itself – the doctrine or
teaching – and culminating in the realization of the ultimate Dhamma comprised within the Four
Noble Truths. There are five such schemes: the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six
pairs of internal and external sense bases, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the Four
Noble Truths.‖ (Bhikkhu Bodhi‘s year 2000 translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, pp. 1504-1505)
The Buddha taught in many different forms and on many different subjects, depending upon his
audience or the specific individual person he was teaching. There are 40 different meditation
subjects. For example, a devotional person might be given the subject of ―Meditation on
the Buddha or some other devotional figure. A person who has a tendency to hold grudges
might meditate on loving-kindness or might meditate on equanimity. The most common
meditation subjects are awareness of breath, contemplation of physical sensations, contemplation
of thoughts or emotions, and contemplation on the Dhamma. All of these four are discussed at
length by the Buddha in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness discourse. The first three have
been discussed above.

One of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is the Meditation on the Dhamma. It is also one of
the 40 meditation subjects. A meditation subject is chosen by the meditator or with the
assistance of a teacher. Typically intellectual persons or those who are analytical or like to read
are given the meditation subject of Dhamma. It is a rarely talked about meditation subject. The
reason that some Dhamma teachers do not talk about it is because they do not want beginners to
go into this form of meditation without a firm base in the awareness of breath subject first. If
beginners started directly with the Dhamma as the subject, they might believe Buddhist
meditation to be nothing but study and then make no progress. Thus, this form of meditation
should be done only by advanced meditators. At a minimum a person should have practiced at
least a year in meditation subjects such as physical sensations or awareness of breath and also
the meditator should be well versed in at least ten Dhamma books.

Meditation on the Dhamma includes such things as reading a Dhamma book. There are a rare
few Dhamma teachers who lacking Insight, knowledge, and wisdom state that reading is ―bad‖
and most certainly not meditation. Do not let anyone, even a teacher tell you that reading is
wrong. Beware of people who say that reading is bad. What are they afraid of that you might
discover? What I am stating here is that reading is meditation and recommended by the
Buddha. In the Four Foundations of Mindfulness the Buddha describes specific analytical
contemplations in the part of the discourse on the meditation on the Dhamma, sometimes
referred to as ―mind-objects‖ in the Buddhist scriptures. This includes the analysis of the five
aggregates, the seven factors of enlightenment, the hindrances to meditation, and the Four Noble

In the deep thought or contemplation of various elements of the Dhamma, the meditator may
come to some Insights. The famous monk, Dr. Walpola Rahula, who wrote the classic
book, What the Buddha Taught, states that meditation can be on intellectual subjects and that
reading a Dhamma book is a form of meditation (meditation on the Dhamma). This book by Dr.
Rahula written in 1959 is still considered one of the best introductory books on Buddhism and is
still the recommended book for beginners and others interested in the Buddhist Path.

When the Buddha taught he used many different forms of instruction depending upon whom he
was talking to. If the person was analytically inclined then he would use words to encourage that
strength in the person‘s practice. Many times an analytical discussion led to Insight
and even enlightenment. In the scriptures of Buddhism there is a story of a whole group of
monks who attained enlightenment after discussing Dhamma in an analytical, intellectual way
(Khemaka Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka).

This is not to say that simply reading a Dhamma book will give you the wisdom of
enlightenment. No, not by itself, anyway. Intellectual knowledge and wisdom through inference
and analysis is good, but not the insight of enlightenment or an enlightenment experience.
However, during the process of contemplation or even the reading of a Dhamma book, an
Insight may occur. This insight is an actual experience by the meditator and not just mere blind
acceptance of what is written in the book or mere intellectual knowledge.

How many times have you read something in some magazine or a newspaper or a book and a
―light-bulb appears over your head? You get some kind of idea about something. Maybe it is
an idea of yours on how to ―build-a-better-mouse-trap‖ for example. Sometimes ideas pop
into our head, inventions, better ways of doing something, etc. This usually happens to us after
or during some kind of analysis such as reading a book. In the book we were reading there
may even be only a remote similarity to the idea we created. The Insight just appears.
If you have considered yourself a member of a meditation tradition such as Buddhist and
sometimes feel guilty because you like to read more than doing the sitting practice; don‘t feel
guilty. Sitting meditation practice is very helpful and helps to center our practice around the
inner calm of the mind when only awareness and equanimity are present. But, meditation on the
Dhamma is good too. IT IS one of the meditation subjects of vipassana.

-------to be continued------- :anjali:

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