Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Yana » Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:30 am

Hi everyone,

Firstly i am sorry for soo many questions i am just trying to figure things out as i practice Anapanasati..and really need some practical advice..i wouldn't be asking if i am not currently experiencing so not to annoy anybody..in case your wondering.. :anjali:

I am practicing the third step ..Calming the Kayas by experiencing all the Bodies.

So up to this point i am entirely focused on my breathing..my concentration is continuous..i have experienced everything from long calming breaths to short furious breaths..coarse and fine..etc..there are no gaps,no thoughts arise,maybe one or two but nothing distracting..because i just note it and gently return to my breathing..so it's all about the breathing...

Now my question is..how is it that you can develop one pointed concentration when your asked to divide your concentration on the physical body,then later on feelings,the mind,then the Dhamma...

Can you see how i see it from my point of view?..dividing your attention would be counter productive to developing concentration..

So unless i am wrong about the dividing attention part..i don't know what they are asking me to do..

Can somebody give me some practical advice on this one..Thank you :anjali: :candle:
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby santa100 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:57 am

Yana wrote:
Now my question is..how is it that you can develop one pointed concentration when your asked to divide your concentration on the physical body,then later on feelings,the mind,then the Dhamma


Actually Anapanasati doesn't suggest to divide one's concentration. The progress from the 1st tetrad to the next ones happens as a natural progression, not by actively "switching" from one to another. For example, you can't just all of a sudden jump from step4/tetrad1: "I shall breathe in/out tranquillising bodily formation" to step1/tetrad2: "I shall breathe in/out experiencing rapture" simply because if the bodily formation(the breaths) wasn't tranquil enough, there'd be no rapture there to be experienced right. This is further clarified by Ven. Bodhi's note on step1/tetrad2:
Note1118: One experiences rapture in two ways: by attaining one of the lower two jhānas in which rapture is present, one experiences rapture in the mode of serenity; by emerging from that jhāna and contemplating that rapture as subject to destruction, one experiences rapture in the mode of insight.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Reductor » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:16 am

Like I said in another thread, the point, as I see it, is to distil your mind rather than develop one-pointed-concentration (a term I dislike, btw).

Consider the problem of this term: one-pointed upon what? What can occur in the mind as a single point? A perception? Alas, a perception does not occur spontaneously but instead depends on an interaction of the body with itself or the world (or of the mind with itself and the world). If you attempt one-pointedness upon that perception then its supports are cut away from the attention of the mind, and so the perception ceases. Likewise if you attempt one-pointedness upon a feeling: you cut away its supporting factors by denying them attention, and the feelings falters and ceases. Likewise a thought will be cut from its supports if you attempt one-pointedness upon it, and it too will cease.

Instead you determine what aspect of your bodily process is most easily engaged by your attention, then you turn your attention to it (maybe the whole body breathing as it breaths, or maybe only the air on the nostril, top of lip, or maybe the flexing of the muscles in the sides of the chest - or anything else connected with the breath). From that attention there will arise a steady 'stream' of perceptions related to the chosen process. There will also occur feelings and thoughts and such. Not one of them can form a single pinpoint for one-pointedness to rest upon. Even your attention may waver, and the perceptions will alter in their character. If that has happened unintentionally, then return your attention to where it was.

In this way you establish the 'theme' of your mind in a way that is wholesome, and you do it intentionally. You consider the quality of that theme and maintain it. Within that theme, and within all themes whether wholesome or not, the first three satipatthana are contained automatically. If you are establishing your theme intentionally, maintaining your theme intentionally, and assessing the qualities of your theme, you are necessarily drawing in the fourth satipatthana.

And so the whole thing is complete, and simply needs to be developed often in order to reach refinement.

A last note about the scope of attention. By scope of attention I mean the number of perceptions that arise in a given time. If you choose the muscles of the chest, fewer perceptions will arise in a given time period. If choose the whole body as it breaths, then more perceptions will arise in a given time period. But in both cases the perceptions will include the perception of the breath and be unified as a theme around the perception of the breath (which is why this remains anapanasati and doesn't change into some other manner of meditation).

As always, I am not certain about my clarity or whether I've said anything helpful. But at least I can offer good will. Metta. :heart:
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:50 am

The best way I've heard it described is this:

The first two steps, you're honed in on the breath and intently following it. Your attention is like a flashlight aimed right at the spot where the breath enters and exits. But in step three and four, that flashlight turns into more of a candle; the flame, the focal point of your attention, is still with the breath, but the light spreads out to cover the entire body. The "work" to be done in step three is expanding your awareness to envelop the entire body while still keeping your center point on the breath. The best way I've found to do this is to, once the breath is calm, move your awareness down to the chest and feel the ribs expanding and contracting. Then go through the whole body and feel what it feels like to breath with the attention at the upper arm, then the elbow, then the hands, then the torso, then the toes, etc. etc. until your entire body is filled with awareness. When you breath in, try visualizing the breath coursing through every part of your body; up your spine and down your arms and legs and around your head and everywhere until you experience the whole body when breathing in and the whole body when breathing out.

Another good way to see it is imagining step one and two are like pressing your nose against a painting until you can understand every little detail of the square inch or so in your view; step three, you slowly pull back, always keeping your eyes still focused on that one spot but slowly letting more and more fill your peripheral vision as you back up and take the entire painting in as one thing. Does that make sense?

Remember also that anapanasati is not really mindfulness of breathing but mindfulness WITH breathing; don't worry about letting go of the breath as you move forward.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby polarbuddha101 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:39 am

"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:34 am

Hi Yana,
It is usually rendered as "calming the body fabrications" as the fourth step. where did you get your instructions from as you seam to of mixed the third and fourth steps up.

The third step is
You should train yourselves experiencing (becoming sensitive to) the whole body

imagine it is like a magnifying glass, you start by being able to see only one small part clearly, and as you expand your focus you are at risk of loosing focus, so you expand your focus to larger areas around your main point of focus. but if you feel this is loosing focus you then narrow the focus again.

you aren't dividing anything but expand. your awareness should encompass, instead of exclude here.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Yana » Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:46 am

Cittasanto wrote:
you aren't dividing anything but expand


..thank you..i understand :anjali:
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:56 am

Yana wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:
you aren't dividing anything but expand


..thank you..i understand :anjali:

I am interested where you got the instruction
Calming the Kayas by experiencing all the Bodies

what instruction are you using?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Yana » Fri Nov 09, 2012 12:15 pm

..don't worry i didn't get it off the black market or anything ..totally legal stuff..one sec..let me just check the title..these bhikkus have very long names.. :coffee:

ANAPANASATI
- MINDFULNESS WITH BREATHING
a Manual for Serious Beginners :tongue: am purrty serious!

BUDDHADASA BHIKKHU

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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby JhanaStream » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:57 pm

Yana wrote:I am practicing the third step ..Calming the Kayas by experiencing all the Bodies.

Its OK, because these steps are not necessarily distinct. By experiencing all the bodies, all the bodies are calmed. This is vipassana/samatha co-joined. The 4th step is a result of the 3rd. Similarly, the 5th step is a result of 4th. Just keep practising, as you are doing, cultivating mere watching. The 5th step will not manifest if you are desiring it or have an expectation for it because the 5th step can only arise from tranquillity. Keep in the present moment; watching each present reality (breath) as it comes, as it goes & as it comes (in) again. If & when the 5th step manifests, the mind will remained unified (rather than divided).

:meditate:
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby pegembara » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:57 am

I find Sumedho simile very useful.

When you focus down to a point, that point can either include or exclude. When you are focussing on the inside you exclude everything else but by focussing outside, you embrace everything. You switch from "samatha" to "vippassana".

You can reflect on intuition as the point that includes or embraces. We have both this intuitive ability, and
the thinking ability that excludes, the single pointedness you get through concentrating on an
object. With a single point for concentration you focus on it in order to exclude distractions, but when you’re
using intuitive awareness then it includes all that is there. The single point you get through concentration
is just a preception, isn't it? When you take it literally, it means one naturally excludes anything that’s not
in that point. That’s the rational, logical way of looking at it. One-pointedness can be seen in terms of the
one point that excludes everything, because that’s the logic of thought. Intuition is non-verbal and nonthinking;
so the point is everywhere, it includes. This is sati-sampajana, sati-pannà; these are the words that the Buddha
used to describe the path to the Deathless.

from "When You are an Emotional Wreck"

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/intui ... reness.pdf
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Yana » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:29 am

pegembara wrote:I find Sumedho simile very useful.

When you focus down to a point, that point can either include or exclude. When you are focussing on the inside you exclude everything else but by focussing outside, you embrace everything. You switch from "samatha" to "vippassana".


So..focusing inside = focus on just one point = concentration= Samatha
focusing outside = embracing everything = Investigation=Vippassana
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby pegembara » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:40 am

Focussing in cuts down or eliminates discursive thoughts.

Once that is done, the mind begins to see "things as they are" - sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts/feelings arising and passing away. All empty phenomena without any substance.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby reflection » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:39 pm

It is my conviction (but not just mine) that 'experiencing the whole body' means experiencing the whole breath-body. You naturally focus on the entire breath from the start till the end, so even those one or two remaining thoughts will not appear. To me this is both a logical and natural follow-up on the previous steps.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Refugee » Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:17 pm

Reflection wrote:

It is my conviction (but not just mine) that 'experiencing the whole body' means experiencing the whole breath-body. You naturally focus on the entire breath from the start till the end, so even those one or two remaining thoughts will not appear. To me this is both a logical and natural follow-up on the previous steps.


Does the "whole body" in the sutta refer to the whole breath (body) from start to end or experiencing the breath in the whole (physical) body? As I try to read more on this, I just keep on coming across bhikkhus saying the one or the other or both. So I am thinking of trying the different approaches and see what works for me.
My practice is simply this: Avoid evil, do good, and purify the mind.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby manas » Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:58 am

Does the "whole body" in the sutta refer to the whole breath (body) from start to end or experiencing the breath in the whole (physical) body? As I try to read more on this, I just keep on coming across bhikkhus saying the one or the other or both. So I am thinking of trying the different approaches and see what works for me.


Replying from phone, so excuse the brevity...

I tried out both. Nothing wrong with some experimentation. But in retrospect, I think we already cover knowing the breath from beginning to end, with step 2.

Ultimately, I settled on kind of expanding awareness into my entire physical body, and observing this body sitting here, breathing in, and breathing out. The jhana similes' imagery, afaics, all point to jhana as a whole-body experience. Not limited to one little spot, but rather, permeating every bit of one's body. So if this is where we are headed, maybe that third step, by having us train the mind to be sensitive to the entire body while breathing, conveniently prepares us for what is to come later on.
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby daverupa » Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:19 pm

manas wrote:maybe that third step, by having us train the mind to be sensitive to the entire body while breathing, conveniently prepares us for what is to come later on.


I think this is quite by design, actually.
    "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: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby Sambojjhanga » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:34 pm

I started out with attempting to follow my breathing at my nostrils, but then after listening to Ajahn Brahm, I see that "non-localized" attention to breathing is not only OK, it's PREFERRED.

That is what I now do and it has made a HUGE difference in how I perceive my meditation going.

I'm curious why meditation instructors even suggest the nostrils concentration? Why not just concnetrate on the breath, overall, to start with?

I'm asking this question to make sure I'm not doing something wrong, BTW!

Thanks in advance.

Metta

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Sabba rasam dhammaraso jinati
The flavor of the dhamma exceeds all other flavors
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Re: Dividing Attention vs One Pointed Concentration

Postby pegembara » Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:05 am

Anywhere the breath can be noted is fine whether it be at the nostrils, mouth, abdomen etc. It's just that the nostrils is a convenient spot to detect air movement. The purpose is to train the mind not to wander but tethering it to the breath. Anything that helps is good.

"Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile... a bird... a dog... a hyena... a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, he would tether them to a strong post or stake."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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