Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby starter » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:22 pm

Hello friends,

I feel that recalling the blissful peaceful state of mind (which was experienced previously) and maintaining such a state with silent mental citing of "Peace" is very helpful to tranquilize the mind to enter samadhi especially when breath is not detectable. I suppose this method is close to Upasamanussati, and have searched several websites (including our forum) for relevant info but have only found the deficition of Upasamanussati [Recollection of peacefulness (the virtues of nibbana — ultimate pleasure; unexcelled ease, free from birth, aging, illness and death); Reflecting repeatedly with serious attentiveness on the supreme spiritual blissful state of Nirvana] and a chanting on it:

UPASAMîNUSSATI
(Recollection of Peace)
[Handa mayaμ upasamOEnussatinayaμ bhaöOEma se]
[Now let us chant a Remembrance of Peacefulness.]
Etaμ santaμ This is peace,
Etaμ paöãtaμ This is sublime,
Yadida§ Namely, the nature which is
Sabbasaºkhàrasamatho The calming of all concocting,
SabbèpadhipaÊinissaggo The tossing away of all fuel,
Taõhakhayo The destruction of craving,
VirOEgo The fading away of clinging,
Nirodho The quenching of dukkha,
NibbOEnaμ Coolness.

I remember "Path of Purification" mentioned Anguttara sutta when introducing Upasamanussati, but I couldn't locate the sutta online. Can some friend provide this sutta and/or other suttas related to Upasamanussati? It seems to me that the method I'm using is not really Upasamanussati, since I'm not recollecting the various virtues of nibbana but rather the blissful peaceful state of mind I experienced before by citing "Peace". I'd greatly appreciate the relevant info on "my" method as well.

By the way, I wonder if the Buddha taught making peace an abiding (in addition to the 4 divine abidings), the mind's constant dwelling place where we feel at home.

With Metta,

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:56 pm

Sounds like an exercise in encouraging clinging to me.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby texastheravadin » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:27 pm

§10. One thing — when developed & pursued — leads solely to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. Which one thing? Recollection of stilling. This is one thing that — when developed & pursued — leads solely to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.

— AN 1.287-296

Thanissaro Bhikkhu mentions this as one of the "Ten Recollections" in his study guide on the topic http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/recollections.html#summary There's lots of passages to aid in this practice, maybe even the one you were looking for...

Thanissaro explains it this way:

"Once the mind has been brought to a developed state of tranquility and insight — able to see even the pleasures of jhana as inconstant, stressful, and not-self — recollection of stilling is brought to bear so that the mind does not simply stay focused on the drawbacks of fabricated experiences. It does this by inclining the mind to the exquisite peace of the deathless, experienced through dispassion, cessation, and Unbinding


I'm no meditation master, but I'd say what you are describing is not actually Recollection of stilling. Recollection of stilling means thinking about all the qualities of Nibbana as a way to avoid becoming attached to jhanic states. Since none of us have experienced NIbbana unless we're at least stream-enterers, we have to go on hearsay, but I think the point is still the same. However, I wouldn't think that there's anything wrong with recollecting the peaceful states of mind you've experienced as a way of boosting your confidence. I do it all the time, especially when meditation isn't going well. I try to remind myself that it's not always bad, that I've overcome obstacles before and that I really have improved on my concentration skills. I can remember specific instances - even very brief periods - where I felt great bliss and calm, and these memories serve to bolster my self-confidence that I'm not a hopeless case. I would caution, however, not to become complacent or attached to these memories. Don't settle for anything less than your goal - remember your past successes, wish yourself luck, and keep moving!

With metta

Josh
"Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed." — AN 11.12

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby starter » Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:24 am

Hello Texastheravadin,

Many thanks for the very helpful post. I only found the following two passages in "Ten Recollections":

"Recollection of Stilling

This is peace, this is exquisite — the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, Unbinding.' — MN 64 [I recollect this paragraph often during meditation]

Among whatever qualities (dhammas) there may be, fabricated or unfabricated, the quality of dispassion — the subduing of intoxication, the elimination of thirst, the uprooting of attachment, the breaking of the round, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, the realization of Unbinding — is considered supreme. Those who have confidence in the quality of dispassion have confidence in what is supreme; and for those with confidence in the supreme, supreme is the result. — Iti 90" [This paragraph is too long to recollect during meditation]

The reason I'm not recollecting the various virtues of nibbana but rather the peaceful state of mind I experienced before: after breath disappears, I need to focus on a single simple meditation object to enter samadhi, instead of scattering my awareness in the multiple qualities of nibbana. I tried to focus on the whole body [mindful of "there is a body"] or imagine the whole body breathes in/out, but distractive thoughts could occur. Recollection of the peaceful state of mind could better maintain the stillness of the mind in this situation. Since my focus now is samadhi, not vipassana, I suppose as long as a method can better induce samadhi, it might be fine (?). After my concentration is deepened, I can turn around to use vipassana to analyze its drawbacks.

Hello Goofaholix: thanks for your comment as well.

Metta,

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Individual » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:13 am

Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like an exercise in encouraging clinging to me.

If he says it works for him, why discourage him?

texastheravadin wrote:I'm no meditation master, but I'd say what you are describing is not actually Recollection of stilling. Recollection of stilling means thinking about all the qualities of Nibbana as a way to avoid becoming attached to jhanic states.

I think you possibly make it more complicated than it needs to be in a way that will probably be more confusing than helpful.

starter wrote:This is peace, this is exquisite — the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, Unbinding.' — MN 64 [I recollect this paragraph often during meditation]

Word-for-word? Why not make it simpler and reflect on the idea? Or not the idea, but just the feeling... Or not the feeling as one might call it, but something even deeper and closer to the heart.

Or you could take it one step further and start visualizing the punctuation!! :D
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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby rowyourboat » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:03 pm

When the breath vanishes, it is important to intentionally start it up again - or otherwise many people tend to 'get lost in the bliss'. Contemplating the qualities of nibbana at this point is not a suitable or productive exercise at this point. The breath stopping suggests that you are about 30% of the way to the first jhana. It is good progress, so it is not the time to abandon the breath! You and the breath have many more adventures to face together in the future :smile:

The breath stopping suggests that you have completed the first 4 steps of the anapanasati development as mentioned in the anapanasati sutta. The next bit you need to look for is piti and sukha in your mind, alongside feeling the breath.

Good luck!

With metta

Matheesha
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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:17 pm

Individual wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like an exercise in encouraging clinging to me.

If he says it works for him, why discourage him?


No insight teacher would encourage trying to recreate past meditation experiences, come to think of it it can be a stumbling block to concentration practices too.

It is helpful to recollect what worked and what didn't in your meditation so you can learn from it, but to make a past memory the object of attention is to lose touch with the present, the present is where you need to be no matter what your meditation practise is.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby starter » Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:19 am

Hello Matheesha,

Thanks for always being so helpful. I happened to read another post of yours about breath:

rowyourboat wrote:If a person is deeply absorbed (not superficially) into the fourth jhana the relaxation is so deep that the breath does stop. The body needs less and less oxygen and the breath can stop for a few seconds even before the first jhana (anapanasati sutta 1st tetrad- fourth line- the ceasing of the breath body), but it stopping in the fouth jhana is longer. There is an element of non-perceiving as well, but even if intentionally the attention is directed to the breath and searched, it is not there.


In my case, if I can settle the mind the breath can stop for long periods (e.g. 0.5-1h) since early this month. But I could still feel my body (sometimes not the hands), a little distractive thoughts and hear sounds. In contrary to your advice to start the breath again, the teacher of the "retreat" advised me to imagine the whole body breathes in/out. I could bring the breath back by deep breath or adjusting posture, but as soon as my mind settles down the breath will disappear again. It's a peaceful state but I don't think I tend to get lost in it.

By the way, I was not contemplating the various qualities of nibbana but recalling and maintaining the peaceful state of mind I experienced before.

As to the comment "It is helpful to recollect what worked and what didn't in your meditation so you can learn from it, but to make a past memory the object of attention is to lose touch with the present, the present is where you need to be no matter what your meditation practise is."

-- But how about making a past memory into the present meditation object (peaceful state of mind), which is no longer past anymore?

Anumodana!

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:43 am

starter wrote:Hello Matheesha,
-- But how about making a past memory into the present meditation object (peaceful state of mind), which is no longer past anymore?


A peaceful state of mind is not the objective of meditation, even if you are doing concentration rather than insight practice as appears to be the case grasping at current or past peaceful states of mind will create an attachment and prevent you entering deeper states in future.

Also the breath doesn't stop, or you'd be dead. What has probably happened is the breath has become more subtle as you've relaxed but the mind doesn't yet have the level of awareness and subtlety to keep up with it. My understanding is the best thing to do at this point is to place your awareness at the point where you last felt the breath and wait until the mind starts being aware of it again.

Take this advice with a grain of salt as I don't do concentration practices myself.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:19 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Individual wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like an exercise in encouraging clinging to me.

If he says it works for him, why discourage him?


No insight teacher would encourage trying to recreate past meditation experiences, come to think of it it can be a stumbling block to concentration practices too.

If it was a good meditation experience, which led to calm, mindfulness, and morality -- why not try to re-create it?

If you could re-create it successfully each time, why wouldn't you? Because you want to sit down and be ritualistically neurotic, for the sake of insight teachers?

Goofaholix wrote:A peaceful state of mind is not the objective of meditation

It is of samatha meditation, which is the support for vipassana. In the absence of a calm mind, insight meditation is not possible or recommended.

To be honest, if you aren't emotionally stable, I don't think you should even be practicing insight meditation because it has the potential to greatly multiply these emotional problems.

Perhaps there are teachers out there who could help, but I'm a bit worried they might just be cult-leaders that brainwash people into being braindead doctrine-carrying, institution-serving zombies. That's a burden!
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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:30 am

Also..

Goofaholix wrote:It is helpful to recollect what worked and what didn't in your meditation so you can learn from it, but to make a past memory the object of attention is to lose touch with the present, the present is where you need to be no matter what your meditation practise is.

You can be too obsessive over the present, to the point of losing your capacity for memory. If you only think day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, second to second... you can lose touch with reality. This works well if you're trying to be an athlete, philosopher, a Buddhist monk, or other potentially homeless & impoverished person, but if you're trying to be a "normal" person who has to remember what day of the week it is and your various social obligations, focusing obsessively on the present moment can put you in a stereotypical Zen stupor in which you're deeply aware of completely irrelevant details, like the color of a lady's shirt you just saw 5 minutes ago... but you forget the important stuff, like to do the laundry, take the garbage out, and brush your teeth before bed. The past memories of the mind, retrievable right now (or not), and their relative significance, are not in any way independent of the present moment; they are a part of it right now. Saying you should ignore that and be like, "Oooh... Look, a bird!! Whooo!! The trees!! My breath!! It's all happening right now!! Whoo!!" That is more like ADHD and much less like mindfulness.

Hmm. A long time ago, I remember on e-Sangha the user Namdrol made fun of Zen Buddhism for this kind of meditation to become a zombie with no capacity for memory. He was right! :)
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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:21 am

Goofaholix wrote:
starter wrote:Hello Matheesha,
-- But how about making a past memory into the present meditation object (peaceful state of mind), which is no longer past anymore?


A peaceful state of mind is not the objective of meditation, even if you are doing concentration rather than insight practice as appears to be the case grasping at current or past peaceful states of mind will create an attachment and prevent you entering deeper states in future.

Also ...What has probably happened is the breath has become more subtle as you've relaxed but the mind doesn't yet have the level of awareness and subtlety to keep up with it. My understanding is the best thing to do at this point is to place your awareness at the point where you last felt the breath and wait until the mind starts being aware of it again.
.


I agree with Goof on the above- on just focusing on the point (skin in the nostril) where you last felt the breath. It is important to remember that concentrating on an object, gives rise to samadhi. If this concentration wavers, if the object wavers (as in memories or internal nimitta lights) the development of samadhi is weakened and may deteriorate. Also looking at your time-line of progress it is best not to jump to any conclusions about the state of your mind the breath stops. In my experience the breath is prone to stopping in four instances: 1) At the end of the first tetrad as outlined in the Anapana sati sutta (cessation of the bodily fabrication, which is the breath) 2) Fourth jhana (again mentioned in the suttas) 3) At the magga-phala citta moment (attainment into stream entry and other higher attainments) 4) 'Fruition absorption' ('phalasamawatha'), where the 'object' is nibbana. It is unlikely to jump to instances of the breath stopping at later stages of development before experiencing the earlier instances.

With metta

Matheesha
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Re: Recollect peaceful state of mind as meditation object?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:45 pm

Individual wrote:If it was a good meditation experience, which led to calm, mindfulness, and morality -- why not try to re-create it?

If you could re-create it successfully each time, why wouldn't you? Because you want to sit down and be ritualistically neurotic, for the sake of insight teachers?


I thought I made the answer to that clear, it's because attachment to past pleasant experience can be a stumbling block, Buddhism is about freedom from craving not perpetuating it.

If anyone sits down expecting their medtiation today to be like it was yesterday then they are bound to be disappointed. Rather each experience should be treated as new and with interest, who knows your experience today could be better than it was yesterday if only you weren't living in the past.

One should learn from the past not try to recreate it.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah


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