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.

Re: Why Meditate?

Postby robertk » Fri May 25, 2012 5:54 am

To add to the last post. The idea in that diagram that as WISDOM grows - even to the extent that vipassana nanas are attained, that one would want to stop developing further doesn't make sense. The opposite should be true I think.

It looks like a misapprehension of what wisdom is and what the path is.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .soma.html
the Dhamma, good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end, possessed of meaning and the letter, and complete in everything;
Last edited by robertk on Fri May 25, 2012 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Fri May 25, 2012 7:12 am

robertk wrote:Dear retro
mike has already found the relevant passage from the Visuddhimagga earlier in the thread:
This is worth exploring, I think. Let's look at the relevant passage:
Visuddhimagga XXI
PDF Here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... index.html
[3. KNOWLEDGE OF APPEARANCE AS TERROR]

29. As he repeats, develops and cultivates in this way the contemplation of
dissolution, the object of which is cessation consisting in the destruction, fall
and breakup of all formations, then formations classed according to all kinds of
becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode of beings, appear to him in the
form of a great terror, as lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, spirits, ogres, fierce
bulls, savage dogs, rut-maddened wild elephants, hideous venomous serpents,
thunderbolts, charnel grounds, battlefields, flaming coal pits, etc., appear to a
timid man who wants to live in peace. When he sees how past formations have
ceased, present ones are ceasing, and those to be generated in the future will
cease in just the same way, then what is called knowledge of appearance as
terror arises in him at that stage.

30. Here is a simile: a woman’s three sons had offended against the king, it
seems. The king ordered their heads to be cut off. She went with her sons to the
place of their execution. When they had cut off the eldest one’s head, they set
about cutting off the middle one’s head. Seeing the eldest one’s head already
cut off and the middle one’s head being cut off, she gave up hope for the youngest,
thinking, “He too will fare like them.” Now, the meditator’s seeing the cessation
of past formations is like the woman’s seeing the eldest son’s head cut off. His
seeing the cessation of those present is like her seeing the middle one’s head
being cut off. His seeing the cessation of those in the future, thinking, “Formations
to be generated in the future will cease too,” is like her giving up hope for the
youngest son, thinking, “He too will fare like them.” When he sees in this way,
knowledge of appearance as terror arises in him at that stage.
...
32. But does the knowledge of appearance as terror [itself] fear or does it not
fear? It does not fear. For it is simply the mere judgment that past formations have
ceased, present ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease. Just as a man with
eyes looking at three charcoal pits at a city gate is not himself afraid, since he
only forms the mere judgment that all who fall into them will suffer no little
pain
;—or just as when a man with eyes looks at three spikes set in a row, an
acacia spike, an iron spike, and a gold spike, he is not himself afraid, since he
only forms the mere judgment that all who fall on these spikes will suffer no
little pain;—so too the knowledge of appearance as terror does not itself fear; it
only forms the mere judgment that in the three kinds of becoming, which resemble
the three charcoal pits and the three spikes, past formations have ceased, present
ones are ceasing, and future ones will cease.

33. But it is called “appearance as terror” only because formations in all kinds
of becoming, generation, destiny, station, or abode are fearful in being bound for
destruction and so they appear only as a terror.
...

---------------------
Mike also found mahasi sayadaws unfortunate take on the passage

Mahasi Sayadaw's Summary says:
6. Awareness of Fearfulness (bhayatupatthāna-ñāna)

When that knowledge of dissolution is mature, there will gradually arise, just by seeing the dissolution of all object-and-subject-formations, awareness of fearfulness {37} and other (higher) knowledges, together with their respective aspects of fear, and so on. {38}

Having seen how the dissolution of two things — that is, any object noticed and the insight-thought engaged in noticing it — takes place moment by moment, the meditator also understands by inference that in the past, too, every conditioned thing (formation) has broken up in the same way, that just so it will break up also in the future, and that at the present it breaks up, too. And just at the time of noticing any formations that are evident, these formations will appear to him in their aspect of fearfulness. Therefore, during the very act of noticing, the meditator will also come to understand: "These formations are indeed fearful."

Such understanding of their fearfulness is called "knowledge of the awareness of fearfulness"; it has also the name "knowledge of fear." At that time, his mind itself is gripped by fear and seems helpless.{37} Bhay'upatthāna. The word bhaya has the subjective aspect of fear and the objective aspect of fearfulness, danger. Both are included in the significance of the term in this context.
{38} This refers to the knowledges described in the following (Nos. 7-11).



Now we're getting somewhere!

Thanks for bringing this up, as Mike did earlier in the conversation. My take on it then and now is that it is an apparent contradiction based on the process one goes through in each insight knowledge.

When a person enters the insight knowledge of terror - they experience terror. This should be obvious just by the name. After it is experienced the meditator investigates it (watches it come and go on its own), then they stop identifying with it and feel equanimity toward it and a lot of relief. The highlighted text in the VM describes the process of stopping one's identification, while the highlighted text in Mahasi describes the process of experiencing it initially. They both describe what happens, just different parts of the same event that we label "insight."

Insight isn't one event, it is a process with steps to it. So each insight knowledge has a characteristic (anicca, dukkha or anatta) that is directly experienced, investigated and understood (phenomena are abandoned).

If you go back to the Vittumagga you'll see that it described both fear and tranquility both occurring in this very insight knowledge
http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf1/Path_of ... imagga.pdf
How is that possible? Because they both do - first the fear, then the tranquility when it is abandoned.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby dhamma_newb » Fri May 25, 2012 10:56 am

Here's an excerpt from an article where vipassana teacher Steve Armstrong talks about one of his students who experienced what sounds like a "dark night" but continued with her practice and reached stream entry:

...practice sometimes uncovers extremely unpleasant, destabilizing or counterintuitive mental terrain that advancing meditators can easily misunderstand. Armstrong, who was a monk for five years under the guidance of Sayadaw U Pandita at the Mahasi Meditation Center in Rangoon, cites an example of what can happen when Western dharma teachers fail to properly understand the emerging insight knowledge of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) and anatta (not-self or impersonality), two of the three universal characteristics of all phenomena.

"A good student of mine several years ago was undertaking a three-month retreat—she had already been practicing a few years—and was at a stage in her practice where her sense of self was very porous and destabilized,” he recalls. “However, she was gaining insight knowledge into the way things are. At the end of her retreat, when she went back home, she felt extremely ill-at-ease. She went to her local dharma teacher for advice, who told her, ‘You need therapy.’ ”

Nonetheless, the yogi’s inner voice told her she had come this far by relating to all meditative objects—mental, physical, good, bad or indifferent—on a sensate, rather than psychological level. She had enough resolve to choose the cushion over the couch, Armstrong says. “She went to Burma, ordained as a nun, and through intensive practice over the course of the next year attained the first of the Four Paths of Enlightenment,” he says. “That was fortunate for her, but it also illustrates the limitations of teachers who have not yet experienced the first path, and then offer teachings from a perspective which might be more about psychology than vipassana.” - Steve Armstong - Buddhist Geeks interview
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 daverupa » Fri May 25, 2012 11:31 am

If this is such a common problem, where are the dark-nights-of-the soul amongst monastics in the Suttas (and not the ones associated with asubha)? Nearly everyone is described as having a relatively radiant expression, being peaceful of comportment, and so on. There are descriptions of there being benefit to the Path even for those with tears streaming down their face, so there is challenge, but this is not easily associated with bhavana.

Samadhi is soft, and not harsh as here, due to sila, brahmavihara, samatha, jhana. There are obstacles to the Path, but for those experiencing dark nights as part of the path, I wonder about the place and degree of these things for them.

This also serves as a response to 'why meditate' - it can be imagined ("meditation is like...") as hard-wiring kusala ("!") improvements (sila, et al) and trimming akusala counterparts. This prevents dark nights as every insight is pleasant confirmation of the Dhamma ("...revolves around right view", preventing confusion and fear in the face of knowledge, insight), not stressful contradiction with expectation & habit.

/ :soap:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri May 25, 2012 3:41 pm

daverupa wrote:If this is such a common problem, where are the dark-nights-of-the soul amongst monastics in the Suttas (and not the ones associated with asubha)? Nearly everyone is described as having a relatively radiant expression, being peaceful of comportment, and so on. There are descriptions of there being benefit to the Path even for those with tears streaming down their face, so there is challenge, but this is not easily associated with bhavana.



Hi Daverupa,

After having had to pretty much insist that the Buddha let him go and meditate Meghiya has an awful time under a particular mango tree.

Metta
Prasadachitta


Now while the Venerable Meghiya was staying in that mango grove, there kept occurring to him three bad, unwholesome kinds of thoughts: sensual thought, malevolent thought, and cruel thought. The Venerable Meghiya then reflected: "It is indeed strange! It is indeed remarkable! Although I have gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless state, yet I am overwhelmed by these three bad, unwholesome kinds of thoughts: sensual thought, malevolent thought, and cruel thought."

Then the Venerable Meghiya, on emerging from seclusion in the late afternoon, approached the Lord, prostrated himself, sat down to one side, and said: "Revered sir, while I was staying in that mango grove there kept occurring to me three bad, unwholesome kinds of thoughts... and I thought: 'It is indeed strange!... I am overwhelmed by these three bad, unwholesome kinds of thoughts: sensual thought, malevolent thought, and cruel thought.'"
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.4.01.irel.html
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Nyana » Fri May 25, 2012 4:16 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:After having had to pretty much insist that the Buddha let him go and meditate Meghiya has an awful time under a particular mango tree.

It seems that many of the cases where monks and nuns are reporting these kinds of path difficulties in the Nikāyas, the problem is connected to a lack of samādhi.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby hanzze_ » Fri May 25, 2012 4:47 pm

"And what is right mindfulness? 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... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness...

"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."

— DN 22


Of cause it has it's roots in the virtue section of the path, that one is not able to "putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" as it is the raw training for it and to lighten the defilements.

Establishing virtue prevents "dark nights", even form all kind of dreams. If "just" preventing form "dark nights", metta meditation is very effective.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Fri May 25, 2012 6:08 pm

hanzze_ wrote:
"And what is right mindfulness? 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... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness...

"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."

— DN 22


Of cause it has it's roots in the virtue section of the path, that one is not able to "putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" as it is the raw training for it and to lighten the defilements.

Establishing virtue prevents "dark nights", even form all kind of dreams. If "just" preventing form "dark nights", metta meditation is very effective.


I've mentioned this several times in this discussion already - but let me say it again- experiencing the dukkha nanas is not a sign that your sila is off. You really can't get as far as the dukkha nanas if your behavior is poor. The Steve Armstrong quote above is a good standard description of what a student experiences. They get their act together, do the practice correctly and then get direct insight into impermanence, suffering and non-self. The dukkha nanas are part of the whole process and a sign that the practice is on track.

The problem is when a person stops investigating at this point, because it is upsetting to experience dukkha directly. This leads to not letting go of dukkha and not moving on to equanimity - hence getting "stuck" in the dark night. Luckily the student in the Armstrong example chose to keep going with her practice and it had a good result. Not everyone has such a good outcome.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby jason c » Fri May 25, 2012 8:12 pm

why meditate?
because we never know who will come out of meditation, and sometimes we get a promotion. :woohoo:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 25, 2012 8:46 pm

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:If this is such a common problem, where are the dark-nights-of-the soul amongst monastics in the Suttas...

How do you interpret the many passages like the following?
I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress [dukkha]... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.'

To me, it seems to be talking about experiencing dukkha.

Ñāṇa wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:After having had to pretty much insist that the Buddha let him go and meditate Meghiya has an awful time under a particular mango tree.

It seems that many of the cases where monks and nuns are reporting these kinds of path difficulties in the Nikāyas, the problem is connected to a lack of samādhi.

Sure, but I the point is that there are difficulties described. The more successful accounts do seem to come with good samadhi:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge & vision. He discerns: 'This body of mine is endowed with form, composed of the four primary elements, born from mother & father, nourished with rice & porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing, pressing, dissolution, & dispersion. And this consciousness of mine is supported here and bound up here.' Just as if there were a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water — eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects, and going through the middle of it was a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread — and a man with good eyesight, taking it in his hand, were to reflect on it thus: 'This is a beautiful beryl gem of the purest water, eight faceted, well polished, clear, limpid, consummate in all its aspects. And this, going through the middle of it, is a blue, yellow, red, white, or brown thread.' ...


And don't overlook the descriptions of encounters with mara...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #bhikkhuni
For example:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html
Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Sela, desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:
    By whom has this puppet been created?
    Where is the maker of the puppet?
    Where has the puppet arisen?
    Where does the puppet cease?
Then it occurred to the bhikkhuni Sela: "Now who is this...? This is Mara the Evil One... desiring to make me fall away from concentration."

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri May 25, 2012 8:47 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:I've mentioned this several times in this discussion already - but let me say it again- experiencing the dukkha nanas is not a sign that your sila is off. You really can't get as far as the dukkha nanas if your behavior is poor.


Hi Ron,

Behavior is not always apparent. Much of our behavior is mental and not therefore easily recognizable. What kind of signs would you expect if "your sila is off"? What kinds of mental activity is it that characterizes the "Dark Night" as you understand it?

Thanks

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby nibs » Sat May 26, 2012 1:40 am

hanzze_ wrote:
"And what is right mindfulness? 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... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness...

"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."

— DN 22


Of cause it has it's roots in the virtue section of the path, that one is not able to "putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" as it is the raw training for it and to lighten the defilements.

Establishing virtue prevents "dark nights", even form all kind of dreams. If "just" preventing form "dark nights", metta meditation is very effective.


I was living at a goenka centre for over a year, then onto live for 9 or so months at Dhamma Giri cleaning Goenka's place of residence there as a pali student. I had been pretty good at observing the 5 sila and establishing them as the guiding principles within my mind for well over over 2 years. I would say i was quite 'virtuous' in my efforts to observe and maintain it all. However, even Goenka warns of the 'sleeping defilements' that may arise post -what he calls- 'bhanga'. Observing sila meticulously as well as 'I' could, 'I' still went through some personal hell while living quite a virtuous lifestyle for a while. I even tested the waters of monkhood in Burma as well. Yet, some pretty painful negativities were being awakened within while sitting/practicing so much as well as while being hardcore about sila, maybe too hardcore...establishing an identity around it.

But I think Ñana points to the the cause of it. I was not able to see why 'I' was suffering like so. Sure, I could see the compounding of sensations with a mental overlay of negativity, but it sometimes got too much to fabricate equanimity towards those sensations as Goenka instructs. I lacked a more pliant, malleable and luminous mind, which samadhi can definitely help in cultivating. My anapana skills were lacking. The habitual patterns where too strong to simply watch arise and pass dispassionately. Without that pliant, malleable and luminous mind, I was not able to really pull the 'dark night' elements apart and see their cause and cessation. Thus they kept compounding. If the cause for such 'darkness' within is seen clearly without hindrance, surely then their cessation will also present without hindrance.

Nibs.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 26, 2012 5:48 am

Prasadachitta wrote:
Ron Crouch wrote:I've mentioned this several times in this discussion already - but let me say it again- experiencing the dukkha nanas is not a sign that your sila is off. You really can't get as far as the dukkha nanas if your behavior is poor.


Hi Ron,

Behavior is not always apparent. Much of our behavior is mental and not therefore easily recognizable. What kind of signs would you expect if "your sila is off"? What kinds of mental activity is it that characterizes the "Dark Night" as you understand it?

Thanks

Prasadachitta


Hi Prasadachitta,

This is an excellent set of questions. The kind that I always hope students will ask because they are so fundamental and important. You're statement is brief, but you really have three questions here: what mental activity compromises sila, what does it look like when your sila is off, and what happens in the mind during the Dark Night.

What mental activity compromises sila?: When it comes to sila, the primary thing going on between the ears is intention. That's what counts the most. Almost every behavior has intention as its direct parent. Therefore, the very first step, the baby step, is the intention to line one's behavior up with the pre-requisites for insight (or at least the five precepts).

What does it look like when your sila is off?: First, you aren't meditating much. When you do, you're intention to follow a particular technique or object doesn't work - you just can't do it. Sila does a lot of wonderful things for us, but one of the most important ones in terms of the overall path is to get us to a place where we can actually take time to sit and when we do we can actually do the techniques that get us the insights needed to liberate ourselves. As your sila gets better you can sit and do a technique but it doesn't get much "traction" (i.e. you don't experience the insight knowledges). As your sila gets even better you can sit, stay on track with a technique, and you experience the insight knowledges too - at this point it really is about maintaining your sila and perfecting it further as you see fit. Your instincts can guide you at this point because you've had a good taste of how this whole process works. You may need the advice of a teacher if something complicated comes up (like a serious illness that you have a lot of ill-will with or a death in the family that tempts you to drink, etc.) but overall, you have a good sense of how it works.
I can say through personal experience that one of the things I see most in students whose sila is off, at least in Western students, is a complete lack of a sense of humor about their own behavior and about meditation overall. Just a total lack of vivaciousness in that area of their life. I stress that this is more a personal observation than anything, but it has been pretty consistent. When a person really gets their act together enough to meditate well, they no longer take themselves very seriously.

Finally, what happens in the mind during the Dark Night?: During a DN the mind goes through six stages, each with it's own particular "flavor" of dukkha. First is experiences dissolution, or the breaking up of the self (which can actually be quite pleasant), next it experiences "fear" (terror of the loss of self), then "misery" (grieving over the loss of self), then "disgust" (realization that what we think brings us happiness simply can't), then "desire for deliverance" (a wish for liberation from all phenomena) and finally "reobservation" (all the previous stages combined and re-observed many times).

When we have successfully investigated each of these insight knowledges we finally end up in "Equanimity" which is a huge relief following a DN. From there we can prep the mind to make the leap into stream-entry.

I hope this answers your questions - please don't hesitate to ask more!
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 26, 2012 5:53 am

nibs wrote:
But I think Ñana points to the the cause of it. I was not able to see why 'I' was suffering like so. Sure, I could see the compounding of sensations with a mental overlay of negativity, but it sometimes got too much to fabricate equanimity towards those sensations as Goenka instructs. I lacked a more pliant, malleable and luminous mind, which samadhi can definitely help in cultivating. My anapana skills were lacking. The habitual patterns where too strong to simply watch arise and pass dispassionately. Without that pliant, malleable and luminous mind, I was not able to really pull the 'dark night' elements apart and see their cause and cessation. Thus they kept compounding. If the cause for such 'darkness' within is seen clearly without hindrance, surely then their cessation will also present without hindrance.

Nibs.



Hooray for direct experience! It comes to the rescue once again when doubts arise.

Thank you so much Nibs, for being brave and sharing.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 26, 2012 6:49 am

Hi Ron,
Ron Crouch wrote: I stress that this is more a personal observation than anything, but it has been pretty consistent. When a person really gets their act together enough to meditate well, they no longer take themselves very seriously.

Thanks for that observation. I think that's also the case for teachers and monks I've met. [At least in small group interactions - sometimes it's necessary for them to play the Serious Role. ]

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby hanzze_ » Sat May 26, 2012 7:08 am

nibs wrote:
hanzze_ wrote:
"And what is right mindfulness? 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... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness...

"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."

— DN 22


Of cause it has it's roots in the virtue section of the path, that one is not able to "putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" as it is the raw training for it and to lighten the defilements.

Establishing virtue prevents "dark nights", even form all kind of dreams. If "just" preventing form "dark nights", metta meditation is very effective.


I was living at a goenka centre for over a year, then onto live for 9 or so months at Dhamma Giri cleaning Goenka's place of residence there as a pali student. I had been pretty good at observing the 5 sila and establishing them as the guiding principles within my mind for well over over 2 years. I would say i was quite 'virtuous' in my efforts to observe and maintain it all. However, even Goenka warns of the 'sleeping defilements' that may arise post -what he calls- 'bhanga'. Observing sila meticulously as well as 'I' could, 'I' still went through some personal hell while living quite a virtuous lifestyle for a while. I even tested the waters of monkhood in Burma as well. Yet, some pretty painful negativities were being awakened within while sitting/practicing so much as well as while being hardcore about sila, maybe too hardcore...establishing an identity around it.

But I think Ñana points to the the cause of it. I was not able to see why 'I' was suffering like so. Sure, I could see the compounding of sensations with a mental overlay of negativity, but it sometimes got too much to fabricate equanimity towards those sensations as Goenka instructs. I lacked a more pliant, malleable and luminous mind, which samadhi can definitely help in cultivating. My anapana skills were lacking. The habitual patterns where too strong to simply watch arise and pass dispassionately. Without that pliant, malleable and luminous mind, I was not able to really pull the 'dark night' elements apart and see their cause and cessation. Thus they kept compounding. If the cause for such 'darkness' within is seen clearly without hindrance, surely then their cessation will also present without hindrance.

Nibs.


Let me bring a maybe more worldly sample: When I was 20 I had already reached the to be the most busy project manager of communal instruction projects in our civil engineer office. Not like today just managing, but also doing the most work by one self. From design to contracts, surveying, supervision... The project volume I had was about 50 million $ I was responsible. As a civil engineer you are in the middle of a battle on all frontiers while virtue and responsibility (security of live and material) has a very high level. I used to use all my energy in tricky everything in the way people like to have it, and it was running well, but at night I was having much night mares. After a month I was sick of it and decided to look for the reason for it.
When I looked I saw that there was a fear, a fear that I would be one time not aware enough to keep all this kind of trickiness alive. I realized that my desire for success has grown higher than the value I gave to virtue. And seeing that I putted it in the right order again. "What ever you do, there is nothing more important that your own heart, your own goodness and honesty. If it should not be honored, it would not be that problem as if you do something that is against your nature. You can trust your self in regards of your profession as well as your natural sensitivity for virtue."

Since that time I never had any nightmare and restless night or fear again. I did the things in the same way, of cause many had to turn their ways of "business and success first" into more firm and responsible work. But worldly ways how ever have also their limits.

The point was, that I mixed virtue with other ideas of success and gave success preference. Ideas of how it should be rather that to listen honestly to my own heart. That this ways are also ways for a worldly life was also observable. Some years later I had my own office and this success even goes further as there are limits of success on a worldly lane, because there are limits of virtue.

It all comes down to the maybe most important word, a word Buddha mentioned to be more important that as any worship of Nibbana as it is the key to it: Appamada!

Old kamma may ripen, but there will be no base for new as well as the appamada is the key to look through it and to protect against unskillful reacting.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 26, 2012 7:15 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Ron,
Ron Crouch wrote: I stress that this is more a personal observation than anything, but it has been pretty consistent. When a person really gets their act together enough to meditate well, they no longer take themselves very seriously.

Thanks for that observation. I think that's also the case for teachers and monks I've met. [At least in small group interactions - sometimes it's necessary for them to play the Serious Role. ]

:anjali:
Mike



Totally. The monks that I've worked with and learned the most from were actually hilarious fun when they weren't in their "serious role". I have a few stories of pranks being pulled on me by a few big-hearted monks. Not only does good intention lead to virtuous behavior, liberation leads to fun!
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Prasadachitta » Sat May 26, 2012 12:28 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:Finally, what happens in the mind during the Dark Night?: During a DN the mind goes through six stages, each with it's own particular "flavor" of dukkha. First is experiences dissolution, or the breaking up of the self (which can actually be quite pleasant), next it experiences "fear" (terror of the loss of self), then "misery" (grieving over the loss of self), then "disgust" (realization that what we think brings us happiness simply can't), then "desire for deliverance" (a wish for liberation from all phenomena) and finally "reobservation" (all the previous stages combined and re-observed many times).

When we have successfully investigated each of these insight knowledges we finally end up in "Equanimity" which is a huge relief following a DN. From there we can prep the mind to make the leap into stream-entry.

I hope this answers your questions - please don't hesitate to ask more!


Hi Ron,

Thanks for the long reply. What is it that the dark night mind thinks it is grieving the loss of? I wonder if there is some particular variety of common self view which results in this kind of experience. One that is not as prevalent in everyone. Im just speculating in order to make theoretical room for a description of the insight process which I do not personally recognize. I am familiar with a sense of remorse (what is called "hri" in Buddhism) over being aware of how foolish my mind has been but that is tempered by a sense of relief that I have the opportunity to recognize and be aware as well as relief that there is no substantial self who owns that ignorance.

Prasadachitta
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Sat May 26, 2012 3:48 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:
Hi Ron,

Thanks for the long reply. What is it that the dark night mind thinks it is grieving the loss of? I wonder if there is some particular variety of common self view which results in this kind of experience. One that is not as prevalent in everyone. Im just speculating in order to make theoretical room for a description of the insight process which I do not personally recognize. I am familiar with a sense of remorse (what is called "hri" in Buddhism) over being aware of how foolish my mind has been but that is tempered by a sense of relief that I have the opportunity to recognize and be aware as well as relief that there is no substantial self who owns that ignorance.

Prasadachitta


If this isn't familiar to you don't worry - that is why I wrote about it in the first place and am engaging on forums like this.

Most teachers simply do not tell students that these insight stages exist and are part of the insight path. To me this is a big ethical lapse in our dhamma communities. Many students are led to believe that if they experience suffering when meditating then they are doing it wrong - when the texts themselves say something very different. Direct experience of dukkha is critcal to insight. When students are going along in the stages prior to the dukkha nanas everything is fine, they are relaxing, developing right view and increasing concentration. Their overall lives are improving. But when you get to these stages, and you have not been told that they are coming, it can be pretty awful - and that is an all too common experience these days.

If you want to verify for yourself that they are part of the path please read them in the Visuddhimagga. They start on page 666, in the chapter entitled: Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Way
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf

But to answer question more directly, what the meditator is grieving is the self as identification with "formations". Essentially, that is everything experienced by the body and mind. One's sense of having a body, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, memories, stories of who we are, plans - everything formed by the five senses and the mind. We see directly, for the first time, that literally everything taken as "me" is literally coming and going moment-to-moment and really isn't a self. Here is a direct quote describing the insight stage of dissolution:

15. Herein, dissolution is the culminating point of impermanence, and so the meditator contemplating dissolution contemplates the whole field of formations as impermanent, not as permanent. Then, because of the painfulness of what is impermanent and because of the non-existence of self in what is painful, he contemplates that same whole field of formations as painful, not as pleasant, he contemplates it as not-self, not as self. (pg 670)

And to be clear, this is not a cognitive understanding of non-self. That comes way earlier in the initial insight stages when one is first developing right view. This is an actual experience of non-identification with ALL phenomena in a moment-to-moment manner:

“‘He contemplates as impermanent’ here not by inferential knowledge thus, “Impermanent in the sense of dissolution”, like one who is comprehending formations by groups (XX.13–14), nor by seeing fall preceded by apprehension of rise, like a beginner of insight (XX.93ff.); but rather it is after rise and fall have become apparent as actual experience..."


Or check out Mahasi Sayadaw's explanation of it in the progress of insight: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#ch6.7

"...the knowledge will come to him that whatever part of the whole body is noticed, that object ceases first, and after it the consciousness engaged in noticing that object follows in its wake. From that the meditator will understand very clearly in the case of each successive pair the dissolution of any object whatsoever and the dissolution of the consciousness noticing that very object. (It should be borne in mind that this refers only to understanding arrived at through direct experience by one engaged in noticing only; it is not an opinion derived from mere reasoning.)

I hope that addresses your question. I urge you and everyone who might read this to go to the VM and actually read it directly to better understand what the insight path is.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 26, 2012 8:47 pm

Hi Ron, All,

Perhaps we could discuss another aspect of this issue. All this discussion of "Dark Nights" could give the impression that people at that stage are miserable all the time. Hence, perhaps, some of the negative comments on this thread.

My experience of this is small, but I have known personally a few of people going through this sort of process. While they talked about unsettling experiences at meditation/discussion meetings, they were, for the most part, happy, balanced people.

Any comments?

:anjali:
Mike
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