I'm confused about the different meditation methods

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

I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby puthujjana » Sat Jul 25, 2009 12:16 pm

I've read/heard so many different opposing views on meditation practice that I got confused. :rolleye:

For example:

    mental noting <-> silently observing

    jhana is necessary for awakening <-> dry vipassana

    the Buddha declared the four rupa-jhanas as samma samadhi and he didn't teach a sevenfold path <-> momentary and/or access concentration are sufficient

    not everyone can attain jhana / jhana is impossible nowadays <-> everyone can attain jhana, some even in a very short time

    Sayadaw U Pandita's distinction between vipassana jhanas and samatha jhanas <-> every other description of the jhanas

    the description of the jhanas in the suttas is different from the jhanas in the commentaries <-> the commentarial description of the jhanas is the same as in the suttas

    you have to practice samatha before doing vipassana <-> dry vipassana <-> samatha and vipassana aren't two separated systems

    don't practice samatha it just leads to a blissful feeling and to rebirth as a deva <-> samatha and vipassana aren't two separated systems

    if you want to practice vipassana you should watch the movement of the abdomen or chest as your primary object because the breath is a concept and therefore a samatha object <-> you can also observe the elements commonly labeled as 'breath' while they are touching your nostrils

    body sweeping is just a warm-up exercise <-> Goenka's approach

    The phrase "... putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" in the opening of the satipatthana sutta indicates that one has to attain a jhana and emerge from it first before doing satipatthana vipassana <-> the satipatthana sutta is the defintion of dry vipassana

    The satipatthana sutta is the crown of the Buddha's teachings <-> the Buddha never taught the satipatthana sutta. It's rather a compilation of meditation instructions made by meditation teachers after the Buddha's parinibbana

    etc.
It's quite funny to see that many meditators think that their own technique is the best and everyone else got it wrong :smile:

Anyway, in the last months I tried various meditation techniques. Everytime I read something inspiring (e.g. some books by Ayya Khema, Ajahn Chah, Bhante G., Mahasi Sayadaw, Pa-Auk Sayadaw, etc) I put forth effort in the particular method. But whenever I came across a critique of the technique I tried another one.

That confused me and I stopped practicing meditation...
I began to think that the best thing I could do is to try to develop the paramis and hope that in a future life I will get the chance to get meditation instructions directly from a Buddha or his enlightened disciples.

However, does anyone have any advices how to disentangle this tangle so that I could make some progress in meditation in this life?

PS: I would like to apologize for my poor english skills.
"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."
- Ajahn Chah
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Macavity » Sat Jul 25, 2009 1:37 pm

puthujjana wrote:However, does anyone have any advices how to disentangle this tangle so that I could make some progress in meditation in this life?


Your post is a great summary of what online Theravadins seem to spend about 95% of their time bickering about. :jumping:

I would suggest that you don't easily settle on one side or the other of these disputed points, but be content to keep a "don't know mind" about them, and make the doubt itself the focus of investigation. But if this is too uncomfortable for you —if you haven't yet the stability for it— then here's Buddhaghosa on how to get rid of doubt:

    There are these six things which help to throw out doubt: The state of being learned in the Buddha's teaching; of inquiring about the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; of understanding thoroughly the nature of the Discipline; of being decided about the truth of the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; sympathetic and helpful companionship; and stimulating talk that helps to dispel doubt.

    Read on:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html#doubt
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Ben » Sat Jul 25, 2009 1:43 pm

Greetings Putthujana
I am not surprised that you are confused. I recommend that you find yourself a teacher that you have some confidence in and try one particular method to the exclusion of all others for a year (at least). I also recommend attending residential meditation retreats that will help you develop some depth of experience and to establish yourself with the practice.
This I think will be more beneficial than a smorgasbord approach.
Kind regards

Ben
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jul 25, 2009 2:48 pm

puthujjana wrote:Anyway, in the last months I tried various meditation techniques. Everytime I read something inspiring (e.g. some books by Ayya Khema, Ajahn Chah, Bhante G., Mahasi Sayadaw, Pa-Auk Sayadaw, etc) I put forth effort in the particular method. But whenever I came across a critique of the technique I tried another one.


Hi puth.,

You sound well-read and well-practiced. If you find a meditation technique that works, I'd suggest sticking with it. Don't worry about the critiques. The opposing views you quoted are mostly just that, a thicket of views from various teachers. There are also different techniques for different temperaments, so I would ignore the critiques if you find one that works.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:12 pm

Hello puthajjana,

Your English is great!

puthujjana wrote:It's quite funny to see that many meditators think that their own technique is the best and everyone else got it wrong :smile:
Well, you know what they say: Sabbe puthujjana ummattaka. ;)

I think that you'll find a lot of these apparent disagreements are matters of symantics and language usage. If you look behind the words being said, and if you look to the actualy practice and results, you may see a lot of the seeming differences fall away. Not all of them, but many. It's like a person who says, "Wow, what a beautiful sunset," and another one says, "No, that's actually light reflected off particles in the atmosphere, not the sun." And then they discuss what a sunset actually is, and how to experience it correctly, and meanwhile the sun has long set and it's nighttime again. (So they can talk about the stars!)

Ben's right. Get a teacher, stick with a practice that works for you. Either you're doing it, or your not. And in either one of those two cases, you have the opportunity to understand in equipoise in body and mind.

Metta
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby .e. » Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:23 pm

As you can see, your thoughts have thrown you off your meditation object like a bull throwing off a cowboy. So noting or mantras can help to get your thoughts inline with your intention. That is, if you have little control over discursive thought, then enlist it to help. Once that happens a deepening in concentration will occur and samatha will ensue. Instead of being afraid of it, enjoy it! Buddha felt that this was a pleasantness that was wholesome. If you can enjoy it, then maybe this will help foster your practice i.e. you will want to do it more. So, in the same way you enlisted thought, you can enlist pleasant wholesome sensations. If via samatha you get super duper concentration and stange things start happening then seek out a jhana teacher and use the concentration in the same way you used thought and pleasant sensation, if not, no big deal. If you get this far and are working on other areas of the path, then vipassana will take care of itself. Modern day vipassana meditation is after all a misnomer as one cannot practice vipassana (insight), it arises if the 8-path factors are developed and come to fruition.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jul 25, 2009 3:28 pm

.e. wrote:vipassana meditation is after all a misnomer
semantics
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby clw_uk » Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:05 pm

Is was in same position as you were when i began meditation, i think most go through this



For myself i worked through different methods until i found one that seemed to fit with my understanding of said meditation and which started to work effectively



I see your already doing this so my advice would be to keep at it, also having a sense of fun while doing it




metta
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Kare » Sat Jul 25, 2009 6:30 pm

You have already got very good advice from several persons here. I just would like to add a quote from Jack Kornfield, 'Living Buddhist Masters':

A Western monk once asked permission of his forest teacher to journey to Burma to try the intensive meditation systems of several other well-known teachers. Permission was readily granted. After several years he returned to his first teacher.

"What did you learn?" the teacher inquired.

"Nothing," answered the monk.

"Nothing?"

"Nothing that is not already around, that was not right here before I left."

"And what have you experienced?"

"Many teachers and many meditation systems," the monk answered. "Yet, the more deeply I penetrated the Dharma, the more I realized there was no need to go anywyere else to practice."

"Ah, yes," replied his teacher. "I could have told you that before you left, but you could not have understood."
Mettāya,
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby acinteyyo » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:26 pm

:goodpost:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby Kare » Sat Jul 25, 2009 8:50 pm

This is what I call real serendipity! I was searching for this quote from the Tipitaka, and could not remember where to find it. After spending half an hour leafing through files and books, I felt I had to relax a bit and have a look at The Dhamma Wheel. And there I found just the quote I was looking for, in your signature:

Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

Wonderful! Thanks a lot! :anjali:
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:02 am

puthujjana,

Just pick one. Whichever one you like. Stick with it for a while until you've either realized Nibbana or you know you've reached the limits of that practice. Only then look for something different.

Looking to resolve these debates before you get into it will just keep you from ever getting into it.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby vitellius » Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:10 am

This opinion might be "heretical" even to "Modern Theravada", but
- I am not sure if any arahants are present on Earth now,
- according to my understanding methods of different Theravadin teachers bring to different results
- probably "stages of enlightenment" and "jhanas" of at least some modern Theravada traditions are different from ones of Buddha

What can we do given these assumptions?

Buddha proposed two criteria for evaluation of doctrines and practices, - first, own experience of what is beneficial and what is not, and, second, compliance with dhamma-vinaya (i.e. suttas and vinaya).

For the first criterion we need some indicators to tell beneficial from beneficial. One may take 37 factors of enlightenment as a base and ask oneself - which factors are well-developed and wich are pure in me? Development of which factors is most urgent for my situation? With which practices I may develop it? What positive and what negative results did this particular practice brought to me?.. and so on.

For the second criterion academic research done by practicing buddhists (e.g. Rupert Gethin, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Analayo) I consider most reliable.
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby .e. » Sun Jul 26, 2009 3:11 pm

Jechbi wrote:
.e. wrote:vipassana meditation is after all a misnomer
semantics


Yeah it wasn't my idea but my first vipassana teacher's. I think the point the Ajahn was making is don't get too carried away with yourself because you are practicing a technique called insight no matter how long you have been practicing it.

But when you get down to it, what isn't semiotics?
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby cooran » Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:09 pm

Peter wrote:puthujjana,

Just pick one. Whichever one you like. Stick with it for a while until you've either realized Nibbana or you know you've reached the limits of that practice. Only then look for something different.

Looking to resolve these debates before you get into it will just keep you from ever getting into it.



I agree Peter. Test and taste a few methods. Most people have a couple they find suit them and get results. The Buddha didn't give exact micro-instructions.

metta
Chris
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---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby zavk » Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:30 am

Hi Puthujjana,

This appears to be be a common problem that many people encounter when they are attempting to establish a meditation practice. In reading about all the different approaches/traditions, I'm sure you've read about the Five Hindrances, two of which are restlessness and doubt? In my opinion, while it is good to test out different approaches to the dhamma, it can sometimes slide into a kind of:

- restlessness: whereby one is never satisfied with the practice at hand and is always looking for something 'better'

- doubt whereby one is always questioning the teacher's and one's own abilities

Either way, one is hampered from progressing on the path. I have certainly experienced this myself and I'm sure others have experienced this too. I would follow the advice offered by Ben, Peter, and Chris. Try to stick with one approach for now. There might come a time when that approach no longer works for you. If that happens, then switch to something else. The time spent on that approach wouldn't have been 'wasted' as such, for you'd have cultivated some discipline and patience--always a good thing. You might even come to learn a thing or two about doubt, restlessness and all that.

All the best.
With metta,
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:40 pm

as for your specific questions even 'dry' vipassana meditators attain jhana- after many years of practice (if they practice strongly) even though they might not emphasize it. different people may start out differently but (should) end up in the same place, like stream merging when closer to the sea - but their descriptions will be different. So better to start somewhere- with a real teacher- if you are practicing well, do one meditation method upto 2 years or so and until you have no further gain from it.

I think it helps to remember that the end result is samadhi-one pointedness and insight-panna. No teacher would dispute this. You might add the divine abidings and sila/morality into this as well.

It mgiht also help to keep in mind that the final authority is the dhamma-vinaya as in the pali suttas. If the buddha has mentioned it- nothing wrong in doing it- we are doing all this to the one and same mind- so it all helps in an interrelated manner.

or another way of looking at it - if you are doing away with craving, aversion and delusion you are on the right path whatever method you are practicing.

with metta
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby puthujjana » Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:25 pm

Hej,

thank you so much, everyone! You've helped me a lot.

:bow:

At the moment I'm inclined towards samatha bhavana.

A few days ago I read a Dhammatalk by Bhante Dhammajiva (the current meditation teacher at Nissarana Vanaya/Mìtrigala).
He said that you can see if you are a samathayanika or suddhavipassanayanika by the way you are observing the sense objects and the sense doors during meditation. According to his Dhammatalk I'm definetely a samathayanika.

Dhammajiva wrote:All six sense doors operate in the same manner. Three conditions must be met to experience sense impressions that enter through the six sense doors:

i. the striker element = Arammana
ii. the base element = Dvara
iii. the ignition element = Tadupapanna

During anapanasati meditation, the striker element is the air draught. The base element is the point of touch - the tip of the nose or the top of the lip. The touch sensation or the experience of the coolness , the heat, shortness, the rubbing, the expansion or the contraction, is the ignition element. The in-breath comes and strikes on the skin and a touch sensation takes place. By way of analogy, if you take a matchstick and strike on the side of the matchbox, a spark ignites. But for ignition to take place, a particular amount of energy needs to be applied at an appropriate angle. Otherwise, it is not possible for the spark to ignite.

A yogi that focuses his or her mind on the striker element is someone who is inclined towards concentration meditation. Insight meditators have heightened and discriminating observations during anapanasati meditation. They observe the whole phenomena, all the three elements: the experience of the touch the coolness, the calmness, the rubbing sensation, the tension, the movement or the stiffness ot the breath and its point of touch during anapanasati meditation.

[...]

Practising Walking Meditation

[...]

The focus of the sensation will vary among yogis. Yogis inclined towards the ignition element will observe the sensation as the foot touches the ground. Yogis with attention on the striker element will observe the movement of the feet, the lifting and lowering of the feet.

http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/dha ... /index.php


So, I will try to find a compassionate and competent teacher who I can ask questions face-to-face and follow her/his teachings.
Furthermore, I'm planning to visit Na Uyana (Pa Auk branch monastery) and Nissarana Vanaya in Sri Lanka next summer.

:anjali:
"Once you understand anatta, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy."
- Ajahn Chah
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby kannada » Sun Aug 09, 2009 11:54 am

puthujjana wrote:I've read/heard so many different opposing views on meditation practice that I got confused. :rolleye:

For example:

    mental noting <-> silently observing

    jhana is necessary for awakening <-> dry vipassana

    the Buddha declared the four rupa-jhanas as samma samadhi and he didn't teach a sevenfold path <-> momentary and/or access concentration are sufficient

    not everyone can attain jhana / jhana is impossible nowadays <-> everyone can attain jhana, some even in a very short time

    Sayadaw U Pandita's distinction between vipassana jhanas and samatha jhanas <-> every other description of the jhanas

    the description of the jhanas in the suttas is different from the jhanas in the commentaries <-> the commentarial description of the jhanas is the same as in the suttas

    you have to practice samatha before doing vipassana <-> dry vipassana <-> samatha and vipassana aren't two separated systems

    don't practice samatha it just leads to a blissful feeling and to rebirth as a deva <-> samatha and vipassana aren't two separated systems

    if you want to practice vipassana you should watch the movement of the abdomen or chest as your primary object because the breath is a concept and therefore a samatha object <-> you can also observe the elements commonly labeled as 'breath' while they are touching your nostrils

    body sweeping is just a warm-up exercise <-> Goenka's approach

    The phrase "... putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world" in the opening of the satipatthana sutta indicates that one has to attain a jhana and emerge from it first before doing satipatthana vipassana <-> the satipatthana sutta is the defintion of dry vipassana

    The satipatthana sutta is the crown of the Buddha's teachings <-> the Buddha never taught the satipatthana sutta. It's rather a compilation of meditation instructions made by meditation teachers after the Buddha's parinibbana

    etc.
It's quite funny to see that many meditators think that their own technique is the best and everyone else got it wrong :smile:

Anyway, in the last months I tried various meditation techniques. Everytime I read something inspiring (e.g. some books by Ayya Khema, Ajahn Chah, Bhante G., Mahasi Sayadaw, Pa-Auk Sayadaw, etc) I put forth effort in the particular method. But whenever I came across a critique of the technique I tried another one.

That confused me and I stopped practicing meditation...
I began to think that the best thing I could do is to try to develop the paramis and hope that in a future life I will get the chance to get meditation instructions directly from a Buddha or his enlightened disciples.

However, does anyone have any advices how to disentangle this tangle so that I could make some progress in meditation in this life?

PS: I would like to apologize for my poor english skills.

All the above are concepts, views, positions, standpoints. Their validity is not in question, simply their existence as a barrier to meditation. Meditation is about dropping views, controversy and opinions. Opinions are fine the rest of the time but should not encroach into practice time where they are seen to arise, and subside and are not self.

Regardless of what practice one undertakes the motive force behind it is a detachment or a 'cessation of identification' to whatever arises. From the most inane comment to the most profound view, for in meditation they are both the heart and soul of delusion.

k
Just a view - nothing more...
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Re: I'm confused about the different meditation methods

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:16 am

Ben wrote:Greetings Putthujana
I am not surprised that you are confused. I recommend that you find yourself a teacher that you have some confidence in and try one particular method to the exclusion of all others for a year (at least). I also recommend attending residential meditation retreats that will help you develop some depth of experience and to establish yourself with the practice.
This I think will be more beneficial than a smorgasbord approach.
Kind regards

Ben

I agree. A teacher neednt be a Guru figure, but a good experienced teacher can often see your needs after discussion, just as a good medical diagnostician can. They can then point you in the right direction. You have to do the walking though. Also as Ben says formal retreats are hugely beneficial, so much so that I would say that they are pretty much essential whereever possible.. Check out on this forum the pedigree of teachers and retreats if unsure. Someone will be able to make suggestions.
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