David's Book : Practice Meditation
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]
To practice meditation on the Dhamma choose one of the subjects listed below.
Contemplate on one of the following elements of the Dhamma:
The Five Hindrances
(The five hindrances are obstacles to meditation, as mentioned in the Four Foundations of
Mindfulness. The five hindrances are sense desire, anger, sloth and torpor, agitation and worry,
and extreme skepticism.)
How does one of the hindrances arise and how does it cease? Consider this for all of the
The Four Noble Truths
(Life is suffering, the origin of suffering is unreasonable expectation, suffering ceases when
unreasonable expectations cease, the way is the Eightfold Middle Path.)
Do the Four Noble Truths agree with analysis and logic? If so notice if they can be experienced
in the analysis of the mind-body.
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
(mindfulness, investigation, energy, rapture, calm, concentration, equanimity)
Notice when any of the enlightenment factors are present in you. What is the nature of each of
the enlightenment factors? What type of sensations arise? How does an enlightenment factor
The Five Aggregates
(matter, consciousness, feeling, perception and memory, and mental formations)
What are the aggregates? How does each one relate to the universal characteristics of
impermanence, no permanent self, and suffering? Is there anything permanent in each of the five
aggregates? Are the five aggregates in combination a permanent thing? What is a being?
Read a Dhamma book. Read a couple more. If you like to read, go for it. Read several. Read
the original words of the Buddha in the scriptures of Buddhism. Read the encyclopedic Path of
Purification and / or the Path of Freedom, written in the fifth century and the first century
A detailed explanation of Theravada
To further show the importance of investigation and analysis, it is important to understand the
definition of Theravada:
Theravada - (Pali) The way of the elders. The oldest, most orthodox form of Buddhism. The
teachings and practices are virtually unchanged from the time of the Buddha, including the
monastic orders and the rules for the monastic communities and the emphasis on meditation and
the teachings of the Eightfold Middle Path. There are two basic forms of Theravada that have
developed in modern, developed countries. One is the ethnic-Asian form which has come to
modern countries virtually unchanged from its form in its home country (typically or usually a
Southeast Asian country). In the ethnic-Asian form there are more rituals, chanting, and
ceremonies. In many cases the Buddhist temple is also a cultural center. The other form of
Theravada that has developed in modern countries is a non-sectarian vipassana. In this form
there are few, if any, rituals chanting, or ceremonies and the Dhamma teacher is more likely to
be a lay person rather than a monk or nun. The emphasis is on vipassana meditation and many of
the members of such a group are likely to report that they are not Buddhist. Both are excellent
forms of practice to follow. They are not in conflict with each other just as no Buddhist school is
in conflict with another or any other religion.
Tipitaka - (Pali) Three baskets. It refers to the three large parts of the Buddhist scriptures, the
Suttas, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma. The tipitaka is approximately 20,000 pages long. The suttas
are the discourses, the vinaya is the code of conduct for monks and nuns, and the abhidhamma is
the higher pyshological, scientific teachings.
Vipassana - (Pali) Insight. Insight meditation, the procedure for seeing Reality, attaining
wisdom, calming and purifying the mind, and attaining enlightenment.
The Buddha‘s teachings are focused on the Eightfold Middle Path which is characterized by
Morality, Concentration, and Wisdom. All three are cultivated in the 8 fold path. There are many
schools of Buddhism and many varieties all of which emphasize different aspects in practice,
such as chanting, meditation, bodhisattva ideal, and prostrations.
The Theravada places a balance between the different types of practice with about an equal
importance given to all the types including chanting / prayer (such as loving kindness prayers),
meditation, generosity and helping others, and reading / studying and analyzing. Contrary to
some belief, the Theravada does include an emphasis on compassion, generosity, and helping
others, including aiding them in their attainments. There is just more of an equal footing given
to individual attainments along with helping others and the other practices mentioned here.
This is demonstrated in the following discourse from the Pali Canon, which shows that the
Theravada does have this emphasis on compassion, generosity, and helping others:
―Monks, these four types of individuals are to be found existing in the world. Which four? The
one who practices neither for his/her own benefit nor for that of others. The one who practices
for the benefit of others but not for his/her own. The one who practices for his/her own benefit
but not for that of others. The one who practices for his/her own benefit and for that of others.
Just as from a cow comes milk; from milk, curds; from curds, butter; from butter, ghee; from
ghee, the skimmings of ghee; and of these, the skimmings of ghee are reckoned the foremost — in
the same way, of these four, the individual who practices for his/her own benefit and for that
of others is the foremost, the chief, the most outstanding, the highest, and supreme.
Anguttara Nikaya 4.95
The Buddha did not call his followers Buddhists and in fact in at least one instance
recommended that Buddhism be called vibhajjavada, which means ―doctrine of analysis. The
followers would be called vibhajjavadins, which would basically mean ―analysts or ―those who
The Theravada also acknowledges that progress on the Path is gradual, which is supportive of the
gradual training involved with meditation and study. In the Pali Canon, Majjhima Nikaya,
Kiagiri Sutta 70.22 the Buddha says:
―Bhikkhus, I do not say that the final knowledge is achieved all at once. On the contrary, final
knowledge is achieved by gradual training, by gradual practice, gradual progress.
The Buddha further talks about studying the Dhamma, following the Dhamma, having faith or
confidence in the teachings by hearing it and memorizing some of it, and practicing it. In
Majjhima Nikaya Subha Sutta 99.4 the Buddha says, ―I am one who speaks after making an
In Majjhima Nikaya Ganakamoggalaha Sutta 107.3 the Buddha states, ―It is possible, Brahmin,
to describe gradual training, gradual practice, and gradual progress in this Dhamma and
In Aguttara Nikaya 8.19 the Buddha states, ―just as the mighty ocean slopes away gradually,
falls away gradually, shelves away gradually, with no abruptness like a precipice; even so in
this discipline of Dhamma there is a graduated training, a graduated practice, a graduated mode
of progress, with no abruptness.
In several places the Buddha talks about making an investigation. Even the parts that refer to
faith or confidence in the Buddha (as an enlightened one) or in the teachings, are only after an
investigation of the teachings to see if they are good and make sense.
―Here, bhikkhus, when he makes a thorough investigation, a bhikkhu thoroughly investigates
thus: ‗The many diverse kinds of suffering that arise in the world headed by aging-and-death:
what is the source of this suffering, what is its origin, from what is it born and produced? When
what exists does aging-and-death come to be? When what does not exist does aging-and-death
come to be?‘
Samyutta Nikaya 12.51
Upali lived during the time of Buddha and was the follower of another religion and went to the
Buddha in order to argue with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he
was so impressed that he decided to become a follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha said:
―Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like
Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me: 'Make a proper
investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a discipline they would
have paraded a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord
says to me: Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known
person like yourself."
Majjhima Nikaya 56.16
The fifth part or book of the Samyutta Nikaya goes into detail about the 37 aids to enlightenment
(which is like an outline of the way to enlightenment and discussed in the last chapter of this
book) and the most common mental factors found according to the lists and Buddhaghosa in the
Visudhimagga (Path of Purification) are investigation, mindfulness, and wisdom. This further
shows the supremacy of completing an analysis and attaining wisdom in the Buddha‘s religion
and a rejection of blind faith.
The encyclopedia entry for Vibhajjavada is as follows:
The Vibhajjavada school says that the first step to insight has to be achieved by the aspirant's
experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith. This school was
introduced to Sri Lanka by the Venerable Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka, who brought with
him the Pali Canon. Vibhajjavada is an ancestor of the school known today as Theravada.
In one discourse, the Buddha emphasizes the importance of meditation and study:
―There are Dhamma-experts who praise only monks who are also Dhamma-experts but not
those who are meditators. And there are meditators who praise only those monks who are also
meditators but not those who are Dhamma-experts. Thereby neither of them will be pleased, and
they will not be practicing for the welfare and happiness of the multitude, for the good of the
multitude, for the welfare and happiness of devas and humans.‖ Anguttara Nikaya 4.46 The
Buddha goes on to praise both Dhamma-study and meditation. To this day, there are some
groups who disparage the other, while in fact both study and meditation are important and
praised by the Buddha.
The Theravada can be seen as the foundation of Buddhism with its origin to the time of Buddha
and the equal importance given to all forms of practice. The other schools of Buddhism are not
wrong and in fact are on the Path to enlightenment in the same way, they just emphasize
different characteristics of the foundation more and specialize in one or more forms of practice,
but do not reject the foundation.
-----to be continued--------