Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

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

Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 30, 2010 5:55 am

I follow the steps laid out in the Anapana Sati Sutta. Sometimes I follow all 16 steps and make at least some attempt to do what each step seams to me to be indicating. At other times I use my breath as a kind of anchor while I explore the spheres of; Body, Feelings, Mental activity, How things are. Its hard for me to qualify or quantify how this practice is influencing my life. I might speak of really wonderful periods of meditative enjoyment or of an increasing tendency towards allowing my actions to be influenced by a broader perspective. Also I, think of the substance recovery saying "Re-laps is part or recovery." Each time I come around to the ways in which I fall away from wise conduct I tend to see with a bit more clarity and remember how to practice. The practice seems effective on a number of levels and those permutations of efficacy seem to augment one another.

Recently Ive been reading some descriptions of what one might experience in meditation. All the levels and stuff. I can see how I find myself lost in a bliss at times where nothing particularly distracting is forming within my experience. Sometimes my sense of dimensionality sort of slips out of gear and nothing about me is delineated or located. I wonder if maybe these kind of experiences are what are being indicated by levels of djanna. But then I found that all this categorizing and wondering is having an influence on my practice of meditation. An influence which is really not all that helpful.

Now....

I have decided to label my practice of Anapana Sati "A practice in Non Attainment." It is really just a way to play with words but it helps me.



Metta

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 30, 2010 2:02 pm

This thread is for discussing whether or not people find it helpful to assess the relative depth of meditation attainment as apposed to just following instruction as you understand them regardless of what arises. I have come to the tentative conclusion that some of the hearers the Buddha was teaching were already so familiar with systems of meditative categorization that he found he had to teach how these categories relate to Dhamma but that it is not necessary for me to use or think about them.



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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Reductor » Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:01 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:This thread is for discussing whether or not people find it helpful to assess the relative depth of meditation attainment as apposed to just following instruction as you understand them regardless of what arises. I have come to the tentative conclusion that some of the hearers the Buddha was teaching were already so familiar with systems of meditative categorization that he found he had to teach how these categories relate to Dhamma but that it is not necessary for me to use or think about them.



Metta


Gabe


Well, I don't know if its helpful over the long course. But I do believe it is helpful for just starting out, as the meditator tries to discern what is working and what is not. Beyond that initial orientation I don't think it is that important... just practice, practice, practice, and recognize that you might have a bad session, or six, from time to time.
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: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:37 pm

thereductor wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:This thread is for discussing whether or not people find it helpful to assess the relative depth of meditation attainment as apposed to just following instruction as you understand them regardless of what arises. I have come to the tentative conclusion that some of the hearers the Buddha was teaching were already so familiar with systems of meditative categorization that he found he had to teach how these categories relate to Dhamma but that it is not necessary for me to use or think about them.



Metta


Gabe


Well, I don't know if its helpful over the long course. But I do believe it is helpful for just starting out, as the meditator tries to discern what is working and what is not. Beyond that initial orientation I don't think it is that important... just practice, practice, practice, and recognize that you might have a bad session, or six, from time to time.


Hi Thereductor,

Do you think that measuring your progress against djanna descriptions is the best way for a beginner to assess progress? Im not so sure.

Metta

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Kenshou » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:25 pm

Maybe if that's what you're looking for.

IMO, the anapanasati sutta is about cultivating pitisukha and mindfulness as a basis for insight (in the 4th tetrad), but not necessarily "jhanic". However those same steps could indeed be used to reach jhanic concentration, I believe, when done thoroughly and with lots of practice.

Remember that there's nothing particularly significant about jhana other than being a wholesome skill. If your goal is deeper concentration then you may want to look into that. If your goal is simply to collect the mind and explore it, as you put it, then maybe not.

I'm no teacher but it sounds to me like you're kind of in a place where you're experimenting and getting to know how the technique works with your mind, which is probably something good to keep on doing until you get a pretty good handle on everything, but of course you know you best.
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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu Sep 30, 2010 10:55 pm

Kenshou wrote:Maybe if that's what you're looking for.

IMO, the anapanasati sutta is about cultivating pitisukha and mindfulness as a basis for insight (in the 4th tetrad), but not necessarily "jhanic". However those same steps could indeed be used to reach jhanic concentration, I believe, when done thoroughly and with lots of practice.

Remember that there's nothing particularly significant about jhana other than being a wholesome skill. If your goal is deeper concentration then you may want to look into that. If your goal is simply to collect the mind and explore it, as you put it, then maybe not.

I'm no teacher but it sounds to me like you're kind of in a place where you're experimenting and getting to know how the technique works with your mind, which is probably something good to keep on doing until you get a pretty good handle on everything, but of course you know you best.


Thanks Kensou,

This makes sense. Of course we are all following the threads which we have confidence in. My goal in day to day practice fluctuates with the ebb and flow of my mental states. Sometimes I practice more out of personal angst and at others more out of a feeling faith in our teacher (Buddha). Optimally I would like to connect whatever mental state I find myself in with some permutation of going for refuge to the Buddha. Sometimes it might be allowing benevolence to flow and sometimes it might be acting to minimize acute personal suffering. The thing about Jhannic states is that I have found that the instructions bring rise to them regardless of whether I want to fabricate those states or not.


Does anyone think that having jhanna as a goal helps bring it about any more than just doing the practice without precise expectations?

Metta

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Vepacitta » Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:30 am

Well, on the one hand, one is supposed to be 'diligent, ardent, resolute ' so that does imply a goal as to practise. I don't think a person can just sit there and 'blah out' - that won't go too far - except into sloth and torpor.

On the other - going into meditation trying to 'get' jhana, could be analagous to watching for the water to boil , if one is grasping at that state, or at what one thinks that state should be, one probably isn't going to get there any time soon.

It's a bit of a catch-22 - on the one hand - yes - there have to be some goals for a meditation practise (of whatever stripe). However, if a person is grasping on to that goal - or to an idea of a state to 'attain' or to what a person thinks 'should be' - it eludes one.

Annoying, ain't it?

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:13 am

Vepacitta wrote:Well, on the one hand, one is supposed to be 'diligent, ardent, resolute ' so that does imply a goal as to practise. I don't think a person can just sit there and 'blah out' - that won't go too far - except into sloth and torpor.

On the other - going into meditation trying to 'get' jhana, could be analagous to watching for the water to boil , if one is grasping at that state, or at what one thinks that state should be, one probably isn't going to get there any time soon.

It's a bit of a catch-22 - on the one hand - yes - there have to be some goals for a meditation practise (of whatever stripe). However, if a person is grasping on to that goal - or to an idea of a state to 'attain' or to what a person thinks 'should be' - it eludes one.

Annoying, ain't it?

V.


Hi Vepacitta,

Yes indeed. I agree that having a sense of striving for a goal is critical. However the goal does not need to be Jhana. I find that my "goal" is knowledge and vision of things as they really are which I am confident will show the way beyond all shortcomings. I think jhanna is just a wholesome byproduct of striving for that goal. One which seems to cause a bit of distraction for those who attain it and those who have not. Its certainly the case for me.

Metta

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Kenshou » Fri Oct 01, 2010 2:30 am

Vepacitta is quite right, it's something of a dilemma.

But I don't think having a goal in mind hurts, what matters is weather or not that desire interferes with the quality of your practice. Having in mind that you want to eventually get to this or that is no problem if you aren't pestered by thoughts of "Is this it? Is that it?" and your meditation is all thrown out of whack.

But on the other hand you learn by messing up, too. After screwing things up for awhile you can really appreciate how much it helps to put down the expectations, and then conveniently you are more able to get to what you wanted in the first place. Messy messy.
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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Reductor » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:47 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:Hi Thereductor,

Do you think that measuring your progress against djanna descriptions is the best way for a beginner to assess progress? Im not so sure.

Metta

Gabe


Neither am I, but that's the way that my own practice started. So that's what I know about.

Now-a-days I try not to do that. Then again, I have a much better idea what's going on during my meditations, so it is no longer necessary.

I think that a somewhat less strident approach is good for a beginner, so that they're less 'clingy'. Instead I would suggest that they make the anapanasati their main practice, and consider the jhana descriptions secondary to that. Then practice and experiment, and come to the jhana descriptions when something interesting seems to be taking place.

...but that's only one of several approaches, I guess. And I suppose that everyone has to figure out an approach; so long as they do not become rigid in their approach.
:namaste:
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: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Ben » Fri Oct 01, 2010 6:57 am

Hi Kenshou
Kenshou wrote:Vepacitta is quite right, it's something of a dilemma.


I tend to characterise it as a balancing act. When I am on retreat and get to practice anapana-sati uninterrupted for extended periods, my goal is to remain aware of the breath for as long as possible. And if my awareness gets diverted, then going back to the breath as quickly as possible. I distinctly remember my teacher making the warning that desiring a meditation attainment becomes an almost insurpassable barrier.

Kenshou wrote:But on the other hand you learn by messing up, too. After screwing things up for awhile you can really appreciate how much it helps to put down the expectations, and then conveniently you are more able to get to what you wanted in the first place. Messy messy.

I agree.
kind regards

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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby legolas » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:07 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Kenshou
Kenshou wrote:Vepacitta is quite right, it's something of a dilemma.


I tend to characterise it as a balancing act. When I am on retreat and get to practice anapana-sati uninterrupted for extended periods, my goal is to remain aware of the breath for as long as possible. And if my awareness gets diverted, then going back to the breath as quickly as possible. I distinctly remember my teacher making the warning that desiring a meditation attainment becomes an almost insurpassable barrier.



No desire - no attainment.
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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby bodom » Tue Oct 05, 2010 11:21 am

To illustrate the even quality of energy required for attaining to the meditative absorptions, The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga)describes a test which students of surgery in ancient days had to undergo as a proof of their skill. A lotus leaf was placed in a bowl of water, and the pupil had to make an incision through the length of the leaf, without cutting it entirely or submerging it. He who applied an excess of force either cut the leaf into two or pressed it into the water, while the timid one did not even dare to scratch it. In fact, something like the gentle but firm hand of the surgeon is required in mental training, and this skillful, well-balanced touch will be the natural outcome of the non-violent procedure in the practice of bare attention.


The Power of Mindfulness by Nyanaponika Thera
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el121.html :anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Anapana Sati and Non Attainment.

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:10 pm

Hi all,

Thanks for your comments. I recognize in what has been said here the necessity for constant reassessment of the quality of my effort. I am at a point where I am benefiting from leaning away from striving for specific attainments but I can see that I have also benefited from periods of leaning towards them. Either way the maintenance of consistent discipline rolls on.


Metta

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