Why Meditate?

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

Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 16, 2012 7:35 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:Why would you, a self, want to wake up? What is the benefit of enlightenment? A lot of the sales-pitches of meditation out there make it sound like a great thing for the self: being more relaxed and a better “me”, who wouldn’t want that? But now that you know that the sales-pitch is essentially BS, you have to ask yourself, why meditate? The path is not easy. Like any other serious goal in life – getting a college degree, running a marathon, raising a family – it is a lot of work and not always a lot of fun. The truth is that, to a “self,” there really is no tangible benefit at all. From the perspective of the self it just makes no sense at all to wake up, in the same way that it makes no sense to the dreamer to get out of bed. The dream is awfully interesting, so why wake up?

If you are not interested in waking up – then don’t. If you simply cannot understand why anyone would ever want to see the self as a fiction, do not start meditating. This might seem like radical advice, but it really isn’t. If you have not started down the path of awakening in earnest, and you really aren’t interested in enlightenment, I’d recommend not getting started at all.

http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/why-meditate/


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Bagoba » Wed May 16, 2012 7:48 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:Why would you, a self, want to wake up? What is the benefit of enlightenment? A lot of the sales-pitches of meditation out there make it sound like a great thing for the self: being more relaxed and a better “me”, who wouldn’t want that? But now that you know that the sales-pitch is essentially BS, you have to ask yourself, why meditate? The path is not easy. Like any other serious goal in life – getting a college degree, running a marathon, raising a family – it is a lot of work and not always a lot of fun. The truth is that, to a “self,” there really is no tangible benefit at all. From the perspective of the self it just makes no sense at all to wake up, in the same way that it makes no sense to the dreamer to get out of bed. The dream is awfully interesting, so why wake up?

If you are not interested in waking up – then don’t. If you simply cannot understand why anyone would ever want to see the self as a fiction, do not start meditating. This might seem like radical advice, but it really isn’t. If you have not started down the path of awakening in earnest, and you really aren’t interested in enlightenment, I’d recommend not getting started at all.

http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/why-meditate/


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"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless." http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/deathless.pdf
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Travis » Wed May 16, 2012 8:05 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Mike.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 16, 2012 10:54 pm

Greetings,

(Reading the full entry... :reading: )

"Dark night" in the context of Theravada is interesting.

I wonder whether some paths/meditations/actions/whatever-you-want-to-call-them lead into the rabbits burrow of dukkha better than they lead out of it. It's quite plausible that the path that leads you to be aware of the problem, is quite a different path to that which can cure the problem, once diagnosed. To give an analogy, the x-ray that shows tumours is different to the medicine that may be used to heal them. Is the meditation the x-ray and/or the remedy? When the author of the posting says things like, " Advanced practitioners want to awaken because they are tired of being on the path, tired of being stuck in the twilight between awake and asleep", I wonder whether they're just sitting there taking endless x-rays, rather than taking the medicine of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Beware the po-faced meditator.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 16, 2012 11:57 pm

Hi Retro,

Are you saying that path to nibbana is not difficult? Does anyone teach that?

See the discussion here: viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11701#p177147
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Dispassion, monks, also has a supporting condition, I say, it does not lack a supporting condition. And what is the supporting condition for dispassion? 'Disenchantment'[*] should be the reply.

[*] Nibbida: Sometimes translated as dispassion, sometimes as disgust.
Ireland: "The state of ceasing to be infatuated with conditioned existence."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#fn-42

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 12:06 am

Here's how Ajahn Chah puts it:
Ajahn Chah wrote:If we don’t want to look at dukkha, we will never understand dukkha, no matter how many births we go through. Dukkha is noble truth. If we allow ourselves to face it, then we will start to seek a way out of it. If we are trying to go somewhere and the road is blocked, we will think about how to make a pathway. Working at it day after day, we can get through. When we encounter problems, we develop wisdom like this. Without seeing dukkha, we don’t really look into and resolve our problems; we just pass them by indifferently.

My way of training people involves some suffering, because suffering is the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. He wanted us to see suffering, and to see origination, cessation, and the path. This is the way out for all the aryas, the awakened ones. If you don’t go this way, there is no way out. The only way is knowing suffering, knowing the cause of suffering, knowing the cessation of suffering, and knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the way that the aryas, beginning with stream entry, were able to escape. It’s necessary to know suffering.

http://www.theravada-dhamma.org/blog/?p=9317


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 12:17 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Are you saying that path to nibbana is not difficult? Does anyone teach that?

Not at all, and I'm left scratching my head as to how you could have possibly interpreted what I said that way.

I'm saying the path to nibbana is the Noble Eightfold Path and that the fruit of that path is commensurate with the progress along that path.

If there is some form of meditation that leaves its pursuants stuck and festering in a morbid "dark night", desperate to become enlightened merely to escape that meditation-induced morbidity, then it sounds more like a path that leads to the hell realms of niraya or the peta realm of hungry ghosts, than a path that embodies the upward spiral of the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, middle and end.

Don't grab the snake by the tail.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu May 17, 2012 12:18 am

retrofuturist wrote:"Dark night" in the context of Theravada is interesting.

I wonder whether some paths/meditations/actions/whatever-you-want-to-call-them lead into the rabbits burrow of dukkha better than they lead out of it. It's quite plausible that the path that leads you to be aware of the problem, is quite a different path to that which can cure the problem, once diagnosed. To give an analogy, the x-ray that shows tumours is different to the medicine that may be used to heal them. Is the meditation the x-ray and/or the remedy? When the author of the posting says things like, " Advanced practitioners want to awaken because they are tired of being on the path, tired of being stuck in the twilight between awake and asleep", I wonder whether they're just sitting there taking endless x-rays, rather than taking the medicine of the Noble Eightfold Path.


I think it's common for people to start on the path with misconceptiions about what the path is about, unrealistic expectations about the results they will get, wrong view etc. This is often informed by romantic views of Buddhism or self-ish motivations.

To me "the dark night" refers to a process of slowly realising these things are part of the problem not part of the solution and letting go of the attachments to them, which is often painful or leaves one in a period of disillusionment.

Slowly we realise we are creating a new kind of Dukkha with our attitude to practise and let go of it, it's not that there was anything wrong with the practise to start with it's just our attitude to it that changes.

"If you haven't cried deeply a number of times, your meditation hasn't really begun." - Ajahn Chah
"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: Why Meditate?

Postby befriend » Thu May 17, 2012 12:34 am

there is nothing more difficult than being a dhamma practitioner there is no happiness like that of a dhamma practitioner -ajahn chah
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 2:18 am

Greetings Goof,

Goofaholix wrote:To me "the dark night" refers to a process of slowly realising these things are part of the problem not part of the solution and letting go of the attachments to them, which is often painful or leaves one in a period of disillusionment.

Slowly we realise we are creating a new kind of Dukkha with our attitude to practise and let go of it, it's not that there was anything wrong with the practise to start with it's just our attitude to it that changes.

Yes, the "attitude to it", as you call it, changes. Maybe someone should tell Ron Grouch...

Ron Crouch wrote:The reason that I give this advice is because there is what I would call a “point of no return” on the path, where the meditator has to finish. Unfortunately, this point comes right at the Dark Night, and if you don’t finish the path you remain stuck in the Dark Night. That sucks. You cannot go back to sleep, so to speak, and yet you aren’t fully awake. You know something is wrong, and feel terribly out of sync with reality. If you stop meditating at this point you stop making progress and stay in misery.

The reason to meditate that most experienced meditators give is “to end suffering.” And though it is correct to understand this to mean the suffering of life itself, there is also a deeper meaning: that the reason to meditate is to end the suffering inherent in the path itself. Advanced practitioners want to awaken because they are tired of being on the path, tired of being stuck in the twilight between awake and asleep. If you aren’t prepared to work your way through that twilight, don’t begin the path, and do not take up a meditation practice.

The Buddha's teaching on Right Effort can help to ensure that the attitude is appropriate to the circumstance and that mindstates are wholesome, and that one's realisations are encouraged to support Right Effort and the other factors of the path, rather than oppose them. "Dark nighters" aren't meditation heroes to me... they're people who have lost the forest for the trees, mistaking meditation techniques for Dhamma. More fool them.

Of relevance here:

Five Piles of Bricks: The Khandhas as Burden & Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... andha.html

In particular, this sentence...

"If used unskillfully, though, these perceptions and fabrications can simply replace passion with its mirror image, aversion."

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu May 17, 2012 2:41 am

retrofuturist wrote:Maybe someone should tell Ron Grouch...


Grouch or Crouch? Freudian slip or rare display of humour?
"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: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 2:43 am

8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby kirk5a » Thu May 17, 2012 3:38 am

Interesting perspective. I think it's better to be aware that difficulties may arise, rather than have rose-colored glasses about the whole thing, so I appreciate Ron's post.

If you have not started down the path of awakening in earnest, and you really aren’t interested in enlightenment, I’d recommend not getting started at all.


I think that's overstating it though. Not getting started at all is probably actually the worst.

Besides - practicing hard core Mahasi-style insight meditation is not the only way forward. It's not the only way people can partake of the teachings, it's not the only way to meditate, it's not the only way to realize benefits from meditation, it's not the only way to be a good follower of the Buddha, and it's not even the only vehicle to enlightenment. (All in my opinion, of course.) It's probably worth remembering that what the Buddha called "right concentration" involves bliss.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Thu May 17, 2012 4:37 am

kirk5a wrote: It's probably worth remembering that what the Buddha called "right concentration" involves bliss.


Indeed. Ajahn Chah once called meditation 'a holiday for the mind'. We should seek out and find ways to make it a soothing and pleasant experience, especially at first.

When a baby is born, it has no teeth, so only mother's milk is given. Then, when teeth begin to form, it is started on simple foods, such as fruit. Only later on do we introduce hard, ordinary foods. Maybe we should do the same with our mind. First, give it some love and peace to ease away all the years of negative thinking, stress, etc. Then, when it is a bit healed, we can start on the more challenging work. I would be saddened if someone's only experience of meditation was that it was always difficult and painful. That's certainly not how the suttas describe it.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 17, 2012 6:18 am

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Are you saying that path to nibbana is not difficult? Does anyone teach that?

Not at all, and I'm left scratching my head as to how you could have possibly interpreted what I said that way.

Because you seem to be denying that the path involves difficult obstacles, and implying that anyone who has difficulties is practising the wrong way.

As far as I can tell from the teachings of people who have walked the path, from the Buddha, through the ancient commentators, to modern teachers such as Ajahn Chah, such difficulties arise for many, if not most, practitioners. In fact, as the suttas, the ancient commentaries, and the quote I provided from Ajahn Chah say, seeing just how wearisome all that dukkha is is an essential part of the path.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 8:00 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Because you seem to be denying that the path involves difficult obstacles, and implying that anyone who has difficulties is practising the wrong way.

Once again I'm baffled at the conclusions you draw, so completely disconnected from what is actually said.

Of course there are difficulties - if there were not difficulties, it would be the ultimate ease (sukha) - nibbana.

mikenz66 wrote:seeing just how wearisome all that dukkha is is an essential part of the path.

It's one thing to see the weariness of dukkha.

It is another thing entirely to wallow in dukkha and cling tenaciously to an aversion towards everything conditioned. Even worse again, is to do so under the delusion that one's aversion is righteous because it is insight... for if one's supposed insights are leading one to, and leaving one stuck in, a "dark night" of unhappiness situation, replete with dukkha and dissatisfaction, what good is that? If so called insight is leading to these destinations, where is one's refuge? So much for such "insight".

AN 4.235 wrote:"And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication, fabricates an injurious verbal fabrication, fabricates an injurious mental fabrication. Having fabricated an injurious bodily fabrication, having fabricated an injurious verbal fabrication, having fabricated an injurious mental fabrication, he rearises in an injurious world. On rearising in an injurious world, he is there touched by injurious contacts. Touched by injurious contacts, he experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.

...

"And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma."

The Buddha taught this out of compassion for others, but I suppose there are those who won't listen. All experience is fabricated... if people insist on fabricating an injurous world (e.g. a "dark night") for themselves against the Buddha's advice, then I guess it's going to be hard for me, or anyone else for that matter, to convince them otherwise. I wish them all the best.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Thu May 17, 2012 8:31 am

1. :goodpost:
__________________________________________________________________________________
2. I cannot find it now, but there was a sutta where the Buddha described four types of practice: long and painful, quick and painful, long and pleasant, short and pleasant. I hope someone else can recall the sutta name, but it shows that there are differences between individuals in how they experience the path of practice.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't feel the need to make the practice dukkha-laden when most of my life has already been that way. The Dhamma is bringing me some peace of mind, at long last, and I'm not feeling in the least guilty about it! Peace...it's fine by me :D

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby dhamma_newb » Thu May 17, 2012 9:34 am

Hi Retro,

Isn't "dark night" just a term used to refer to certain unpleasant stages described in Mahasi Sayadaw's Progress of Insight where one can get stuck? Or if you practice is it just a straight shot through the stages right to Nibbana?

manas wrote:As far as I'm concerned, I don't feel the need to make the practice dukkha-laden when most of my life has already been that way. The Dhamma is bringing me some peace of mind, at long last, and I'm not feeling in the least guilty about it! Peace...it's fine by me :D


Nice words manas - I agree wholeheartedly!!!
The watched mind brings happiness.
Dhp 36

I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Walt Whitman
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 17, 2012 9:36 am

Greetings Dhamma_newb,

dhamma_newb wrote:Isn't "dark night" just a term used to refer to certain unpleasant stages described in Mahasi Sayadaw's Progress of Insight where one can get stuck? Or if you practice is it just a straight shot through the stages right to Nibbana?

I'm not really the one to ask. Perhaps someone with involvement in that approach might be able to explain.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Bagoba » Thu May 17, 2012 10:05 am

I remember once reading and even watching a video about a meditator talking about a breakthrough that happens during meditation (I can't quite remember the name it is given though and why it happens), which can be extremely blissful for some, extremely scary and traumatic for others (visions of death and so on), and neither blissful nor traumatic for many.

Maybe the "Dark Night" that this person mentions, has something to do with that breakthrough coming upon the meditator as scary and traumatic?

On another note, to a certain extent all of us here, are currently walking in this "twilight", that's located between complete ignorance and the final knowledge and release of Nibbana. Many people around me, are far from the spiritual life, they indulge in the senses because they don't know (or don't want to know) any better. For them, "ignorance is bliss", and although they suffer terribly according to the Buddha's definition of suffering, for them they just live their lives to the fullest and make the most out of it without worrying about what tomorrow will be made of.

For us here who are sensitive to the Buddha's 4 Noble Truths, this state of being described above is hardly conceivable, as we understand the preciousness of human birth according to the Buddha's guidance, so we want to get on with the practices that will lead us to Nibbana, and these demand a discipline of body, speech and mind that wordlings do not care about one bit.

As far as my experience goes, as soon as one steps on the path, one is no longer fully ignorant, yet one is not yet fully awake, and this "twilight" situation can indeed make one seem "grouchy" when he/she gets to be around regular wordlings, if you see what I mean. :)
Last edited by Bagoba on Thu May 17, 2012 10:23 am, edited 3 times in total.
"This path is a thorough investigation and understanding of the limitations of the mortal condition of the body and mind. Now you're developing the ability to turn away from the conditioned and to release your identity from mortality." Ajan Sumedho, "Mindfulness, the path to the Deathless." http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/deathless.pdf
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