A Gradual Training

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

A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:38 am

Instead of using, say, the anapanasati suttas (MN 118 et al) or the satipatthana suttas (MN 10, DN 22 et al), I would like to see if others here also practice primarily from a gradual training sutta (MN 107, MN 125 et al).

In MN 51 we find householders who, from time to time, practice satipatthana, but I am interested in the practical experiences of others here with respect to the other highlighted aspects of the gradual training, which is perhaps neglected in our discourse on those aspects of the path to which we give concerted effort over time.

For example: Later this morning I'll have some time to add a bit on my understanding of guarding the six sense gates via not grasping at signs and features; is this part of anyone else's daily practice?
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby Kamran » Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:53 pm

I am interested in any information posted on this and guarding the 6th sense doors. Thanks.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:03 pm

So, my current understanding is that yoniso manasikara is the antidote to grasping any signs and features of the sense spheres. It is inappropriate attention that finds something to grab or to reject in the environment; this day is just today, but "today is Monday" begins to get freighted with all sorts of additional features I might grasp: first day of a work week, and so on. Indeed, "first day of the work week" is, again, a certain feature which I can overlay on top of the given fact of any particular daylight period (but it is no good to try to destroy the function of perception; the problem is not signs and features, but the grasping).

As the Suttas say, some brahmins strove to perceive night as day & day as night, but the Dhamma encourages us to see night as night, day as day. See things as they are, including any proliferations. The goal is not to cease sense function or to blunt a sense sphere such that it ignores input, but rather to see all sense spheres in operation in order to learn and see anicca, etc. The senses are not distracting, it is grasping which makes for distraction (a loud noise which interrupts a conversation can be left behind quite easily, yet it often suddenly becomes, for a moment or two at least, the new topic of conversation with much "halloo" and "oh dear" noises). So, it is not a strained, concerted focus nor a lazy, free-form flow which guards the sense gate, but a voidness where once there was agitation and a perception of personal stake.

One thing to watch out for is passivity; right effort demands that we shepherd the mind away from unwholesomeness the way a herdsman would shepherd their cows away from crops, not simply note "ah, the cows are in the arugala" while doing nothing about it. If the cows are in pasture appropriate to them, then awareness need only be maintained to the extent that "there is a cow herd" (or "there is a body") lest they start to wander (papanca-sanna-sankha).

This sort of practice can be maintained throughout the day, and forms as necessary a backbone for seated meditation as does Sila.
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby Dmytro » Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:22 pm

Hi Daverupa,

daverupa wrote:For example: Later this morning I'll have some time to add a bit on my understanding of guarding the six sense gates via not grasping at signs and features; is this part of anyone else's daily practice?


Yes. There are excellent instructions at:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #restraint

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:35 pm

Hi Dave,

I've always seen the Gradual Training Suttas and the Satipatthana Sutta as very much related, just differing in the amount of detail of some aspects. Many modern teachers (Mahasi and so on...) teach retreats that emphasise the restraint, mindfulness, and so on, described in those suttas, and of course it is those aspects of the Gradual Training Suttas that one tries to also maintain in "everyday" situations.

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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Wed Jul 25, 2012 11:41 pm

daverupa wrote:This sort of practice can be maintained throughout the day, and forms as necessary a backbone for seated meditation as does Sila.

Hi Dave,
Great topic, thanks.

When I first started practicing it was all Satipatthana and Anapanasati but found it ineffective, per se, in helping improve my relationships. I still practice Satipatthana and Anapanasati but contextualize it more broadly within the gradual training, teachings in general, etc....

I try to notice:

1) Pleasant sights have made contact at the eye.
2) Pleasant sounds have made contact at the ear.
3) Pleasant aromas have made contact at the nose.
4) Pleasant tastes have made contact at the tongue.
5) Pleasant sensations have made contact at the skin.
6) Pleasant mental objects have made contact at the mind..., etc... as with painful sense objects and neither/nor....

And to keep from coming of like a heartless asshole, I also try to keep metta in mind with stuff like splitting the syllables in metta with the "me-" on the in breath and the "-tta" on the out breath or something similar in concert with walking patterns etc.... I have to innovate/improvise the patterns frequently, though, or else it just comes becomes another mindless habit. The hardest part, of course, is remembering/using sati. However, persistence definitely pays off, and for me it certainly strengthens jhana factors, especially piti and sukha.

1) (above) has helped me a lot with lust, and when that hasn't worked, imaging her taking a crap usually does it (just don't tell her!). Sometimes, though, if my mental state is metta, that will prevent the lust from arising in the first place as it takes the potency out of my bad habit of treating most women like mere sex objects.

But in general, it still feels like samadhi and sila mutually inform each other.
Best,
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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:47 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I've always seen the Gradual Training Suttas and the Satipatthana Sutta as very much related, just differing in the amount of detail of some aspects.


I once would have agreed, but that has changed.

Looking, for example, at MN 125, satipatthana occurs where first jhana normally occurs, coming as it does after the injunction to assume a seated posture in seclusion in order to get rid of the hindrances, and this follows the prerequisites of satisampajanna, vigilance, food restraint, sense control, and morality. Satipatthana belongs, roughly, between the hindrances and jhana according to this gradual training template.

In agreement with this, MN 39 does not even include a satipatthana section, going directly from the section on the hindrances to the section on the jhanas.

So, using the gradual training Suttas here, ones bhavana practice looks a little different than if the Anapanasati Sutta, say, was the primary structural framework. Sustained six sense restraint, sustained awareness and mindfulness, sustained morality - such sustenance is required for getting rid of the hindrances, which seems to me to be the primary contemplative task of ones seated meditational efforts until jhana can be attained. What does one then "do" in jhana? Satipatthana.

I know this is at variance with the traditional view, but it seems to exist in the Suttas as such, so I'm not too worried about it.
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:47 pm

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:I once would have agreed, but that has changed.

Looking, for example, at MN 125, satipatthana occurs where first jhana normally occurs, coming as it does after the injunction to assume a seated posture in seclusion in order to get rid of the hindrances, and this follows the prerequisites of satisampajanna, vigilance, food restraint, sense control, and morality. Satipatthana belongs, roughly, between the hindrances and jhana according to this gradual training template..

There are several issues here. One is how the bits and pieces of suttas (the Satipatthana Sutta in particular http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2266) were assembled (whether by design or by aggregation).

Beyond that another key question is whether the instructions in suttas in general, and these suttas in particular, should be interpreted in a strictly linear fashion, with each item fully mastered before the next one is worked on. That seems unlikely to me, based on my experience of attempting to work with these suttas, and reading the various suttas (such as the Anapanasati Sutta) where the Bhikkhus are engaging in months practice during the rains retreat.

Both the Satipatthana Sutta and the GT suttas are talking about building up mindfulness and concentration and share much of the same text regarding mindfulness and alertness. The Satipatthana sutta kicks off with breath meditation, and hindrances are examined in the fourth section, so it does fit in fine with MN 125
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .horn.html where the translator has added headings:
Mindfulness and clear consciousness
Overcoming of the five hindrances
The four applications of mindfulness
The material under "Mindfulness and clear consciousness" is, of course also in the Satipatthana Sutta.

Beyond such details, my overall point is that I find it a little surprising that more teachers do not refer to the Gradual Training Suttas, given that most modern meditation retreats that I have experienced with follow that general model.

daverupa wrote:I know this is at variance with the traditional view, but it seems to exist in the Suttas as such, so I'm not too worried about it.

I see no contradiction. The Satipatthana Commentary talks about the possibility of Jhana as a precursor to satipatthana.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... wayof.html
"Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending (it) and mindful (of it), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating the feelings in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending (them) and mindful (of them), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending (it) and mindful (of it), having overcome in this world covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects, ardent, clearly comprehending (them) and mindful (of them), having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief."
    Commentary:
    "Having overcome" refers to the discipline of knocking out an evil quality by its opposite good (that is by dealing with each category of evil separately) or through the overcoming of evil part by part [tadangavinaya] and through the disciplining or the overcoming of the passions by suppression in absorption [vikkhambhana vinaya].


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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby Nyana » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:54 am

daverupa wrote:Looking, for example, at MN 125, satipatthana occurs where first jhana normally occurs, coming as it does after the injunction to assume a seated posture in seclusion in order to get rid of the hindrances, and this follows the prerequisites of satisampajanna, vigilance, food restraint, sense control, and morality. Satipatthana belongs, roughly, between the hindrances and jhana according to this gradual training template.

In agreement with this, MN 39 does not even include a satipatthana section, going directly from the section on the hindrances to the section on the jhanas.

The various meditation subjects listed under the section on body contemplation (kāyānupassanā) in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta are all subjects for developing jhāna. All other aspects of the satipaṭṭhānas (i.e. contemplation of feelings, mind, and dhammas) can be related directly to the development of the practices listed under contemplation of the body. That is, one picks one of the body contemplation meditation subjects as object support (i.e. kāyānupassanā), then abandons carnal joy and pleasure and develops non-carnal joy and pleasure (i.e. vedanānupassanā), and recognizes the difference between limited and afflicted states of mind vs. expansive states of mind (i.e. cittānupassanā), and engages in the appropriate categories of phenomena to (a) abandon any later occurrences of hindrances, (b) further develop the jhānas, and (c) develop insight (i.e. dhammānupassanā).

Support for this method of satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā can be found in the Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga, which takes the subject of the 32 parts of the body as an example of the object support.

And this relationship between the development of the four applications of mindfulness (catunna satipaṭṭhānā bhāvanā) and sammāsamādhi is also presented in SN 47.4 Sāla Sutta (as well as in other suttas, such as those you have mentioned):

    Come, friends, remain contemplating the body in the body, ardent, fully aware, unified, with a limpid mind, composed, with singleness of mind, in order to know the body as it really is. Remain contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, fully aware, unified, with a limpid mind, composed, with singleness of mind, in order to know feelings as they really are. Remain contemplating mind in mind, ardent, fully aware, unified, with a limpid mind, composed, with singleness of mind, in order to know the mind as it really is. Remain contemplating phenomena in phenomena, ardent, fully aware, unified, with a limpid mind, composed, with singleness of mind, in order to know phenomena as they really are.

The mental qualities of remaining ardent (ātāpī) and fully aware (sampajāna), which are standard in the descriptions of integral mindfulness, are here directly related to remaining unified (ekodibhūtā), with a limpid mind (vippasannacittā), composed (samāhitā), with singleness of mind (ekaggacittā). All of these latter terms indicate the onset of sammāsamādhi.

daverupa wrote:So, using the gradual training Suttas here, ones bhavana practice looks a little different than if the Anapanasati Sutta, say, was the primary structural framework. Sustained six sense restraint, sustained awareness and mindfulness, sustained morality - such sustenance is required for getting rid of the hindrances, which seems to me to be the primary contemplative task of ones seated meditational efforts until jhana can be attained. What does one then "do" in jhana? Satipatthana.

And this also accords with the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, especially the seven factors of awakening and the four noble truths listed under the contemplation of dhammas (dhammānupassanā).
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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:20 am

Thanks Geoff,

It seems the Abhidhamma and Dave are largely in agreement when it comes to practice. Which is what one would hope, of course, for interpretations of the Buddha-Vacana...

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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:59 am

In my experience, one way to frame the practice of not grasping at signs and features is that, having become aware of liking or disliking, remember that it is a sign or feature of a sense sphere that is liked or disliked, and note that action which takes up that perception from the surround; this helps to clarify in experience what is meant by the later satipatthana injunction to calm feeling & perception.

In any event, this also means that pleasant/liking and unpleasant/disliking are known for oneself to be separable, which begins to build a foundation for equanimity.
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby danieLion » Fri Jul 27, 2012 11:18 pm

Hi all,
1) Are we distinguishing between "formal sitting" practice versus "daily life" practice in this topic?

2) These seem like Chicken/Egg "problems", and they if are, can we validly make distinctions without rendering the apparently disparate approaches impractical?

E.g., EITHER satipatthana's what you do to support jhana OR satipatthana's what you do in jhana. When we frame it like this it feels like it deflates the potency of both.

There also seems to be a more general dichotomy here: There's the notion you can't practice jhana without being secluded, silent, still, with eyes closed, etc...; yet, there's also the notion you that what you do outside of jhana itself influences and is influenced by jhana?

Finally, it might be helpful to distinguish between cultivating jhana factors--something you can do with any activity--versus practicing jhana in more formal, sitting, secluded, silent, eyes closed, etc... ways?

Kind regards,
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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:52 am

I think the problem is partly in thinking about jhana much at all; for the most part, I anticipate that generally people are engaged in a sitting practice without having engaged with six sense restraint, etc. - though perhaps in Zen you get a heavy emphasis on the satisampajanna component of the gradual training - and that while Sila receives some emphasis, the other aspects (which are not sequential, but form a constellation of practice) seem to be neglected and are due for a long-term engagement. Here, "walking up and down and sitting" is the postural reference, so there is no seated practice apart from daily practice.

These practices are to be maintained at all times - the difficulty of jhana is precisely the difficulty of making these practices consistent, which solitude supports and which a crowded & dusty householder lifestyle does not (though it can be made to be supportive, to greater or lesser degrees).

The specific sitting practice, which does seem to be something one gets to after these preliminaries have been developed,* seems to be specifically addressed to the hindrances in order that, with their cessation, jhana is a result - not something to 'go for', but rather what 'shows up' when the hindrances are gone.



---
* "And when, Aggivessana, the ariyan disciple is possessed of mindfulness and clear consciousness {BB: full awareness}, then the Tathagata disciplines him further, saying: 'Come you, monk, choose a remote lodging in a forest..."
Last edited by daverupa on Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 12:56 am

daverupa wrote:... for the most part, I anticipate that generally people are engaged in a sitting practice without having engaged with six sense restraint, etc. ...
"

Well, yes, that wouldn't be very effective. Is anyone here suggesting that?

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Re: A Gradual Training

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:02 am

mikenz66 wrote:Is anyone here suggesting that?


You are able to answer this for yourself, by noting the lack of such a thing. I cannot fathom why you've asked it...
    "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: A Gradual Training

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:16 am

Hi Dave,
daverupa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Is anyone here suggesting that?


You are able to answer this for yourself, by noting the lack of such a thing. I cannot fathom why you've asked it...

Hmm, now I'm completely confused. Sorry.

What I meant was that the teachers I'm familiar with teach all that stuff you mention, and no-one here seems to be arguing that these aspects are not important. I don't see any point in worrying about some anonymous people who might be teaching or practising something less effective in a forum dedicated to practising well.

Of course, I'm not claiming to actually practise this stuff effectively at all times... That's where your discussion is useful --- a means of improving what we do.

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