Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

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

Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby buddhajunkie » Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:34 am

I browsed through "Mindfulness in Plain English" for the first time in many years and was surprised by something: Of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, he emphasizes almost exclusively Mind States and the 5 Hindrances. I was also reminded of something else: He strongly downplays the practice of "mental noting," advocating it only in difficult circumstances, and stressing it should be disposed of soon after.

I was wondering if this is also your impression of his book, and, if so, do you think this is the best way to teach beginner or "casual" meditators.

I'm beginning to think so, based on my experience. I followed Gunaratana almost exclusively when I first started to meditate, and I had very good results in terms of concentration and mindfulness.

I took a break from regular meditation for a few years. When I decided to come back to it, a teacher recommended Kornfield's "Path With Heart". I also got into reading some of the Sutta's and commentaries, especially regarding the Satipatthana and Anapanasati suttas. What I gathered from both of these was: 1. mental noting, and 2. intentionally attending to all the four foundations, with an initial bias towards body and feelings. (It is important to note that I've never attended a residential retreat)

Since then, I've found concentration and mindfulness relatively harder to obtain than under Gunaratana's guidance. Specifically, I feel like it's much more easy for me to get hijacked by thoughts, even though I'm very aware of the effect it has on my body as well as the co-arising feelings.

Having now read through "Mindfulness", I'm wondering if I got the 4 Foundations mis-prioritized. Taking the advice of Gunaratana, I should be foremost vigilant about the 5 Hindrances, then mindstates. In a sense, this is "reversing" the order of the Four Foundations. The rationale is thus: Mindstates/hindrances are more likely to derail you than are body or feelings.

I know the Anapanasati Sutta instructs a sequential 1,2,3,4, order of the foundations, but I suspect this is only useful for long retreats or for someone who has already cultivated strong mindfulness.

On top of this, for what ever reason, my "mental noting" practice has always seemed to result in a superficial mindfulness, as well as a distraction. I regret getting into doing it, especially since it has created a habit that is hard to break.

I know I'm misunderstanding a lot here, especially, how the 4F are supposed to be used. Especially in regards to whether I should intentionally focus on a foundation, or simply attend to whatever foundation is more prominent.

Anyway, just interested in your thoughts or advice.

My disposition now is to go back entirely to Gunaratana's method.
buddhajunkie
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:15 pm

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby Ben » Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:11 am

Greetings,
buddhajunkie wrote:My disposition now is to go back entirely to Gunaratana's method.

Different teachers have different approaches. Whether you follow Bhante Gunaratana's method, the Mahasi Sayadaw approach, the U Ba Khin/Goenka method or something else - the important thing is to give it a decent trial. I have not read Bhante Gunaratana's book but he is very highly regarded.
If you can, I recommend that you try and make time to attend a retreat with Bhante or one of his assistant teachers. I think this would be an extremely valuable experience for you.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16345
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby Nicro » Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:28 pm

I also like Bhante G's method. I think what is really important though is that you pick your set off instructions and stick to them. Don't constantly jump between methods.
Nicro
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:48 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:03 am

Hi Nicro,

What you are missing here is the fact that all these practices ultimately originate from the Noble Eightfold path. In that, Right effort comes before Right Mindfulness- and in this case, specifically effort at reducing the hindrances to a manageable level.

You need to practice these three elements together (in the same day, seperatly, that is). Right effort means reducing hindrances and other defilements and giving rise to their more wholesome counterparts. You already know Right mindfulness: the importance of that is to pick an object which will give you the strongest impression of impermanence. Then you have Right concentration- where you go with the Gunarathane method and strive for jhanas. You do this on a good background of keeping the precepts, having the intention to achieve nibbana, and having the Right View that 1) everything IS suffering 2) the cause of suffering is ignorance, craving 3) it's complete cessation is nibbana and 4) you need to practice the Noble eightfold path to get there. Hope that is clear..

With metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby alan » Sat Jul 23, 2011 4:28 am

Hi buddhajunkie
I've read "Mindfulness in plain english" 5 times, and decided it wasn't what I was looking for. Lots of good stuff there, but his approach does not work for me.
For a beginning meditator, I would not place emphasis on the "hinderances". That is just going to create more thoughts and questions.
alan
 
Posts: 2624
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:26 am

Hi Alan

There are two views on the hindrances vis a vis satipatthana- both espoused by the Buddha:
§ 33. Mindfulness & Concentration. Having abandoned the five hindrances — imperfections of awareness that weaken discernment — the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings... mind... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. Just as if an elephant trainer were to plant a large post in the ground and were to bind a forest elephant to it by the neck in order to break it of its forest habits, its forest memories & resolves, its distraction, fatigue, & fever over leaving the forest, to make it delight in the town and to inculcate in it habits congenial to human beings; in the same way, these four frames of reference are bindings for the awareness of the disciple of the noble ones, to break him of his household habits, his household memories & resolves, his distraction, fatigue, & fever over leaving the household life, for the attainment of the right method and the realization of Unbinding.
Then the Tathagata trains him further: 'Come, monk, remain focused on the body in & of itself, but do not think any thoughts connected with the body. Remain focused on feelings in & of themselves, but do not think any thoughts connected with feelings. Remain focused on the mind in & of itself, but do not think any thoughts connected with mind. Remain focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, but do not think any thoughts connected with mental qualities.' With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, he enters the second jhana...
— MN 125


The second one:

"Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

"To abandon these five hindrances, one should develop the four frames of reference. Which four? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves... mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. To abandon the five hindrances, one should develop these four frames of reference."

In both cases it is worthwhile knowing about the hindrances in my opinion.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby Nicro » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:43 am

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Nicro,

What you are missing here is the fact that all these practices ultimately originate from the Noble Eightfold path. In that, Right effort comes before Right Mindfulness- and in this case, specifically effort at reducing the hindrances to a manageable level.

You need to practice these three elements together (in the same day, seperatly, that is). Right effort means reducing hindrances and other defilements and giving rise to their more wholesome counterparts. You already know Right mindfulness: the importance of that is to pick an object which will give you the strongest impression of impermanence. Then you have Right concentration- where you go with the Gunarathane method and strive for jhanas. You do this on a good background of keeping the precepts, having the intention to achieve nibbana, and having the Right View that 1) everything IS suffering 2) the cause of suffering is ignorance, craving 3) it's complete cessation is nibbana and 4) you need to practice the Noble eightfold path to get there. Hope that is clear..

With metta

Matheesha



I was just saying stick to a method. Don't do Mahasi one day and then the next Goenka then Bhante G's. One needs to stick to a consistent method and work it to gain any progress.
Nicro
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:48 pm
Location: Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby bodom » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:37 pm

As Bhante G says in this book, which of the four foundations you choose to be mindful of and work with is entirely up to you. If you are mindful then that is all that matters:

You should try to maintain mindfulness of every activity and perception through the day, starting with the first perception when you awake, and ending with the last thought before you fall asleep. This is an incredibly tall goal to shoot for. Don't expect to be able to achieve this work soon. Just take it slowly and let you abilities grow over time. The most feasible way to go about the task is to divide your day up into chunks. Dedicate a certain interval to mindfulness of posture, then extend this mindfulness to other simple activities: eating, washing, dressing, and so forth. Some time during the day, you can set aside 15 minutes or so to practice the observation of specific types of mental states: pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings, for instance; or the hindrances, or thoughts. The specific routine is up to you. The idea is to get practice at spotting the various items, and to preserve your state of mindfulness as fully as you can throughout the day.


http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe15.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
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4661
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby bodom » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:14 am

*MODERATOR NOTE*

Off topic posts have been removed and moved to a new thread found here:

Is everything Suffering?

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9361

: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
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4661
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:31 am

buddhajunkie wrote:I know the Anapanasati Sutta instructs a sequential 1,2,3,4, order of the foundations, but I suspect this is only useful for long retreats or for someone who has already cultivated strong mindfulness.


I've read that it isn't supposed to be strictly sequential the way the 8 Fold Path isn't a linear path, but a spiral staircase. You go linear for bits.

My disposition now is to go back entirely to Gunaratana's method.


Experimenting is a good thing. You can now go back Gunaratana's method with more confidence.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby ground » Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:41 am

rowyourboat wrote:Hi Alan

There are two views on the hindrances vis a vis satipatthana- both espoused by the Buddha:
§ 33. Mindfulness & Concentration. Having abandoned the five hindrances — imperfections of awareness that weaken discernment — the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. ...
— MN 125


The second one:

"Monks, there are these five hindrances. Which five? Sensual desire as a hindrance, ill will as a hindrance, sloth & drowsiness as a hindrance, restlessness & anxiety as a hindrance, and uncertainty as a hindrance. These are the five hindrances.

"To abandon these five hindrances, one should develop the four frames of reference. ...

In both cases it is worthwhile knowing about the hindrances in my opinion.


But if you broaded the focus as to MN125 you see that these two cases actually occur within the course of the practice of mindfulness. So the practice of mindfulness entails abandonment of the 5 hindrances and continues after this abandonment.
And if one understands sati/mindfulness in the context of concentration (mindfulness with reference to the object) then the practice of concentration may be regarded as an initial step to remove the hindrances before one continues with mindfulness in its broader satipatthana meaning.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 2592
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:01 am

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby DarwidHalim » Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:06 pm

Yes, actually mental noting is a hindrance if we are not skillful.

We need to find the balance between too relax and too concentrate.

May be you can apply yourself by keep doing mental noting and see whether it becomes a hindrance or not.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
User avatar
DarwidHalim
 
Posts: 537
Joined: Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:49 am
Location: Neither Samsara nor Nirvana

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby withing » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:03 pm

Nicro wrote:I also like Bhante G's method. I think what is really important though is that you pick your set off instructions and stick to them. Don't constantly jump between methods.


I couldn't agree more. As a rookie (novice) to all of this, it has been the easiest to close my mind to outside influences and keep focused on my goals. I've noticed that I've been healthier at least! I used to be one of those hydocondriacts.
User avatar
withing
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:56 pm
Location: Indiana

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby rinias » Fri May 18, 2012 5:21 pm

If you are interested in Bhante G's methods from Mindfulness in Plain English, I do whole-heartedly suggest that you also read his two other books, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness and Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English. I found that they really constitute a 'trilogy' of his method. While there is some repetition, each treatise adds to one's understanding of the path.

Furthermore, he has a new book on the way, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English, which I am greatly looking forward to. Perhaps then his treatment of the foundations will be complete.

Good luck!
rinias
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri May 18, 2012 5:12 pm

Re: Gunaratana's Teaching Method in "Mindfulness"

Postby bodom » Fri May 18, 2012 6:51 pm

rinias wrote:...Furthermore, he has a new book on the way, The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English..


This is excellent news thank you for sharing!

Here is some more information on this forthcoming book:

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English
http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display ... n=&image=1

: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
User avatar
bodom
 
Posts: 4661
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:18 pm
Location: San Antonio, Texas


Return to Theravada Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Digity, Google [Bot] and 5 guests