progress without cognition?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

progress without cognition?

Postby alan... » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:05 pm

Can solely practicing mindfulness and jhana without contemplation bring progress? In my experience it is extremely difficult. I spent years practicing without contemplation and all it did was quiet and anaesthetise my mind. By contemplation i mean thinking about things in terms of the four truths, or three marks of existence or insight as in contemplating in the body its nature of arising/vanishing/externally/etc. As opposed to low thought mindfulness and sitting meditation.
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby IanAnd » Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:46 pm

alan... wrote:Can solely practicing mindfulness and jhana without contemplation bring progress?

I would say it might depend upon the practitioner and how soon they began contemplation after becoming bored with their previous practice. As long as by "progress" it is meant the development of calmness and concentration, then in terms of this, I would consider that progress. Anything that helps one develop the tools needed to progress in the Dhamma and recognition of the truths expressed therein can be nothing less than progress. It provides one with the tools to make further progress in the Dhamma.

Yet, in order to develop progress in one's recognition and realization of the truths of the Dhamma, one needs to do contemplation. Especially the kind of contemplation espoused in the Satipatthana suttas, as those discourses detail how to go about examining and monitoring the mind and its movement. When you are able to catch the mind in an unwholesome movement and are able to preempt it and eventually eliminate it, you stand ready to diminish your own experience of dukkha! And since Gotama declared many times that it was the cessation of dukkha that was his main concern ("Formerly and also now, I make known only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha." — SN 22.86), you cannot go wrong.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby alan... » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:16 pm

IanAnd wrote:
alan... wrote:Can solely practicing mindfulness and jhana without contemplation bring progress?

I would say it might depend upon the practitioner and how soon they began contemplation after becoming bored with their previous practice. As long as by "progress" it is meant the development of calmness and concentration, then in terms of this, I would consider that progress. Anything that helps one develop the tools needed to progress in the Dhamma and recognition of the truths expressed therein can be nothing less than progress. It provides one with the tools to make further progress in the Dhamma.

Yet, in order to develop progress in one's recognition and realization of the truths of the Dhamma, one needs to do contemplation. Especially the kind of contemplation espoused in the Satipatthana suttas, as those discourses detail how to go about examining and monitoring the mind and its movement. When you are able to catch the mind in an unwholesome movement and are able to preempt it and eventually eliminate it, you stand ready to diminish your own experience of dukkha! And since Gotama declared many times that it was the cessation of dukkha that was his main concern ("Formerly and also now, I make known only dukkha and the cessation of dukkha." — SN 22.86), you cannot go wrong.


well what i'm saying is i spent years doing only mindfulness and concentration without knowing how to attempt to develop wisdom through cognition. my mind becam VERY calm and collected, but this alone brings nothing. imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby IanAnd » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:16 am

alan... wrote:well what i'm saying is i spent years doing only mindfulness and concentration without knowing how to attempt to develop wisdom through cognition. my mind became VERY calm and collected, but this alone brings nothing.

I can sympathize with you. I spent nearly 20 years practicing meditation based on views other than those espoused in the Dhamma and seemed to make little progress toward "enlightenment" or "awakening."

It was only when I availed myself of the opportunity to study the Dhamma from the standpoint of translations of the original discourses that my practice took off, and I began to be able to confirm what Gotama taught from my own first-hand experience. By that time, the previous 20 years of meditation work held me in good stead, helping me to sort out the wheat from the chaff. This new study and practice picked up where my old study had left off having grown stale, and it was just the thing I had been searching for. It made sense to me, that I could confirm on a daily basis in practice.

alan... wrote:imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.

I think your deduction might be correct. At least from my experience. Which is why it is best to combine a practice of calming the mind with a practice of insight!
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby ground » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:54 am

alan... wrote:imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.


"Now, if anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven years, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance — non-return.

"Let alone seven years. If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for six years... five... four... three... two years... one year... seven months... six months... five... four... three... two months... one month... half a month, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance — non-return.

"Let alone half a month. If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance — non-return.

"'This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow & lamentation, for the disappearance of pain & distress, for the attainment of the right method, & for the realization of Unbinding — in other words, the four frames of reference.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby alan... » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:41 pm

IanAnd wrote:
alan... wrote:well what i'm saying is i spent years doing only mindfulness and concentration without knowing how to attempt to develop wisdom through cognition. my mind became VERY calm and collected, but this alone brings nothing.

I can sympathize with you. I spent nearly 20 years practicing meditation based on views other than those espoused in the Dhamma and seemed to make little progress toward "enlightenment" or "awakening."

It was only when I availed myself of the opportunity to study the Dhamma from the standpoint of translations of the original discourses that my practice took off, and I began to be able to confirm what Gotama taught from my own first-hand experience. By that time, the previous 20 years of meditation work held me in good stead, helping me to sort out the wheat from the chaff. This new study and practice picked up where my old study had left off having grown stale, and it was just the thing I had been searching for. It made sense to me, that I could confirm on a daily basis in practice.

alan... wrote:imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.

I think your deduction might be correct. At least from my experience. Which is why it is best to combine a practice of calming the mind with a practice of insight!



indeed, i imagine that's pretty common. sounds like me! the discourses are where i suddenly started having progress.
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:18 am

alan... wrote:well what i'm saying is i spent years doing only mindfulness and concentration without knowing how to attempt to develop wisdom through cognition. my mind becam VERY calm and collected, but this alone brings nothing.


Hi Alan, are you sure that's what happened?

imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.


It seems to me like you've been training yourself well enough, so that you're able to notice the Dhamma and then started to investigate it...

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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby alan... » Fri Dec 21, 2012 3:39 am

beeblebrox wrote:
alan... wrote:well what i'm saying is i spent years doing only mindfulness and concentration without knowing how to attempt to develop wisdom through cognition. my mind becam VERY calm and collected, but this alone brings nothing.


Hi Alan, are you sure that's what happened?

imagine someone being taught only these two things (how to be mindful and how to calm the mind during meditation) and literally nothing else on the dhamma, i don't think it would get them very far.


It seems to me like you've been training yourself well enough, so that you're able to notice the Dhamma and then started to investigate it...

:anjali:


indeed zaphod, that's basically what happened. the suttas are the thing that really opened it up for me.
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby Bakmoon » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:53 am

alan... wrote:Can solely practicing mindfulness and jhana without contemplation bring progress? In my experience it is extremely difficult. I spent years practicing without contemplation and all it did was quiet and anaesthetise my mind. By contemplation i mean thinking about things in terms of the four truths, or three marks of existence or insight as in contemplating in the body its nature of arising/vanishing/externally/etc. As opposed to low thought mindfulness and sitting meditation.


Well, if by contemplating you mean thinking, then yes, it is possible to make progress. But it is not possible to progress towards enlightenment if we do not analyze. When we are mindful during meditation, different phenomena arise in the mind and body. One should be mindful of them as they come and go, and by doing this, we begin to see the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self, which is the way towards enlightenment. We should use our mindfulness not merely to find peace, but to see clearly and see close up everything in our bodies and minds, and watch how they change.

Even the great states of peace that arise in meditation should be analyzed in this way. Feelings of joy may arise, but instead of sitting back and basking in the wonderful glow of the joy, be mindful of it and watch how it subtly changes moment to moment. Do the same with the feelings of happiness and peace. See how even these settled stated of meditation are always in flux and changing from moment to moment, and you will be able to progress.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.
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Re: progress without cognition?

Postby alan... » Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:38 am

Bakmoon wrote:
alan... wrote:Can solely practicing mindfulness and jhana without contemplation bring progress? In my experience it is extremely difficult. I spent years practicing without contemplation and all it did was quiet and anaesthetise my mind. By contemplation i mean thinking about things in terms of the four truths, or three marks of existence or insight as in contemplating in the body its nature of arising/vanishing/externally/etc. As opposed to low thought mindfulness and sitting meditation.


Well, if by contemplating you mean thinking, then yes, it is possible to make progress. But it is not possible to progress towards enlightenment if we do not analyze. When we are mindful during meditation, different phenomena arise in the mind and body. One should be mindful of them as they come and go, and by doing this, we begin to see the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self, which is the way towards enlightenment. We should use our mindfulness not merely to find peace, but to see clearly and see close up everything in our bodies and minds, and watch how they change.

Even the great states of peace that arise in meditation should be analyzed in this way. Feelings of joy may arise, but instead of sitting back and basking in the wonderful glow of the joy, be mindful of it and watch how it subtly changes moment to moment. Do the same with the feelings of happiness and peace. See how even these settled stated of meditation are always in flux and changing from moment to moment, and you will be able to progress.


that's what i thought. "analysis" is the right word for it.
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