The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

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

The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:44 am

Hi all

Recently I have been making a determined effort to recollect the Buddha before I begin my meditation in earnest. I generally spend 3 or 4 minutes in the meditation posture visualising the Buddha and myself bowing to him, I recollect his qualities, his limitless compassion, his perfection of insight, his teaching abilities, his psychic power. I recollect his early life, and his enlightenment, I recollect his later life. When I am doing so, my faith is strengthened, and I experience great joy.

The result is that I settle into the meditation subject a lot easier, my mind being joyful is able to concentrate much faster, and I do not have nearly as much distraction. It has been a very beneficial practice to get into and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone.

I remember reading several articles/essays on this subject a few years back, but I haven't come across any recently. I am also aware that a few Suttas touch on this subject. Perhaps this thread could serve as a place to post such references if anyone has any to share, and also to discuss the value of this practice in general, as well as your own personal experience with doing it.

Looking forward to your responses :)

metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Coyote » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:42 am

I recollect the triple gem before meditation. I have also recently begun to incorporate bowing into my practice. I find that it has a grounding quality, makes the meditation less about getting something, and more about imitating the qualities of the triple gem in my own practice. It somehow doesn't feel right if I sit without at least bringing the mind in recollection of our great teacher.

There is at least one sutta that associates training with the practice of recollection as leading to stream entry, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:34 am

Coyote wrote:There is at least one sutta that associates training with the practice of recollection as leading to stream entry, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

Is this what you're thinking of?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... all-Buddha
or
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... all-Buddha

:anjali:
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby perkele » Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:30 am

This is a very important practice. And it has also helped me a lot in the past in hard times.
It can provide firm grounding when one sees no other refuge. Recollecting the Buddha is important not only as a meditation practice but also in one's study, considering where it comes from, for tracing it back in the mind with some intuition and gratitude.
:anjali: :buddha1:
I have been getting out of touch with it and very much distracted from the practice lately.
Now after some wholesome discussions going on here I feel very much relief and think I will get in touch with it more again.

It is a very important topic to raise and for mutual encouragement in confidence.
Recollecting the triple gem: the Buddha, Dhamma, and the noble Sangha.
The noble Sangha, one has to keep in mind, is the Sangha of the noble ones, who are established in the path to Nibbana.
They are there, even though maybe we do not see too much of them very often. So one should always rejoice and recollect when one has come in touch with a noble one.

Also, dedicating one's good actions toward the Buddha, Dhamma, and noble Sangha, is of great help. Even though one does not see the connection to one's actions at the moment, encouraging that direction can be of great help.
Also, dedicating one's good actions towards ones parents is of great help, when one cannot find confidence in Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha at the moment. But also when one does. It is an important practice too, that want to mention here as quite related, keeping in mind the relations of Kamma, who one is indebted to, where gratitude is due. Gratitude is important. It is getting lost fast in this fast-turning world. So wherever we can develop gratitude we should. And where we can't we should find ways and remember.

:anjali:
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Zenainder » Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:44 am

Subscribing, this topic has been of interests to me for some time now.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Viscid » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:03 pm

It's probably worthwhile to ponder about why recollecting the qualities of a historical figure is effective preparation for meditation, and perhaps to see the practice in a broader context, so here I ramble:

It seems intuitively true to me that generally, recollecting any particular figure would have no more influence upon the practitioner over the recollection of any other particular figure with similar qualities.. that is, if you have the same admiration for The Buddha as you do for any figure with similar qualities as The Buddha (though with a different name, place of birth, etc) then recollecting either would provide equal benefit. I imagine someone who prays to St. Francis of Assisi is obtaining a similar benefit to someone who recollects the qualities of The Buddha.

In recollecting The Buddha, one becomes cognizant of the difference between themselves and the enlightened individual. In the act of comparing one's current condition to that of the ideal figure, a dissonance becomes apparent. To resolve that dissonance one can temper qualities which are contrary to the imagined ideal and promote qualities in harmony with it. The temperament contrary to that of The Buddha is likely also contrary to meditation, and so resolving the dissonance between one's own character and the character of The Buddha is of benefit to one's meditation.

This practice is an instance of intentional internalization. That is, we are convinced that the character, views and beliefs of The Buddha are superior to our own, so we wish to adopt those qualities in order to make ourselves likewise superior. When we repeatedly recollect The Buddha (and thus recollect what is like to be The Buddha) we are deliberately integrating those ideals into our own identity. We do, or at least have done, this process in our past: we've internalized aspects of our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, literary figures, etc into our identity, however in a less intentional fashion.

Imagining an authority (and even better: bowing to it) makes us submissive. In submitting to a figure of great authority, we are much less likely to behave in such a way that we imagine would arouse ire in that figure. The practice exploits our adolescent reverence (or fear) of authority to develop self-discipline.

"May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the god:
So may he stimulate our prayers."

—The Hymns of the Rigveda (1896)
Last edited by Viscid on Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Coyote » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Coyote wrote:There is at least one sutta that associates training with the practice of recollection as leading to stream entry, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

Is this what you're thinking of?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... all-Buddha
or
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... all-Buddha

Mike


Thanks. It's either one of those or something very similar. I especially remember the instruction to "train" the three recollections as a way to increase confidence. Which is interesting, given that in many suttas confidence in the triple gem is the fruit of stream-entry, rather than a training. It could be a translation issue.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:13 pm

An interesting conception Viscid, not sure if I entirely agree with you, but an interesting take nevertheless.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Zenainder » Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:00 am

Viscid wrote:It's probably worthwhile to ponder about why recollecting the qualities of a historical figure is effective preparation for meditation, and perhaps to see the practice in a broader context, so here I ramble:

It seems intuitively true to me that generally, recollecting any particular figure would have no more influence upon the practitioner over the recollection of any other particular figure with similar qualities.. that is, if you have the same admiration for The Buddha as you do for any figure with similar qualities as The Buddha (though with a different name, place of birth, etc) then recollecting either would provide equal benefit. I imagine someone who prays to St. Francis of Assisi is obtaining a similar benefit to someone who recollects the qualities of The Buddha.

In recollecting The Buddha, one becomes cognizant of the difference between themselves and the enlightened individual. In the act of comparing one's current condition to that of the ideal figure, a dissonance becomes apparent. To resolve that dissonance one can temper qualities which are contrary to the imagined ideal and promote qualities in harmony with it. The temperament contrary to that of The Buddha is likely also contrary to meditation, and so resolving the dissonance between one's own character and the character of The Buddha is of benefit to one's meditation.

This practice is an instance of intentional internalization. That is, we are convinced that the character, views and beliefs of The Buddha are superior to our own, so we wish to adopt those qualities in order to make ourselves likewise superior. When we repeatedly recollect The Buddha (and thus recollect what is like to be The Buddha) we are deliberately integrating those ideals into our own identity. We do, or at least have done, this process in our past: we've internalized aspects of our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, literary figures, etc into our identity, however in a less intentional fashion.

Imagining an authority (and even better: bowing to it) makes us submissive. In submitting to a figure of great authority, we are much less likely to behave in such a way that we imagine would arouse ire in that figure. The practice exploits our adolescent reverence (or fear) of authority to develop self-discipline.

"May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the god:
So may he stimulate our prayers."

—The Hymns of the Rigveda (1896)


Question, and it is one that I have had before, but can it be harmful to conceptualize and grasp so desperately? Will not what would be personified that of the ego's defined perfection? What you have said in regards to recollection, in this sense, would essentially be a continued adaptation of the false concept of self. Not to say what you are saying is wrong, this is a topic I find interesting and hope to understand clearly.

Personally this idea is something I've pondered before I departed from theistic belief sets. Chasing "god" is nothing but a divorce and conflict of identity (at the time was my conclusion).
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jul 23, 2013 6:15 pm

Blackbird wrote:Recently I have been making a determined effort to recollect the Buddha before I begin my meditation in earnest. I generally spend 3 or 4 minutes in the meditation posture visualising the Buddha and myself bowing to him, I recollect his qualities, his limitless compassion, his perfection of insight, his teaching abilities, his psychic power. I recollect his early life, and his enlightenment, I recollect his later life. When I am doing so, my faith is strengthened, and I experience great joy.

The result is that I settle into the meditation subject a lot easier, my mind being joyful is able to concentrate much faster, and I do not have nearly as much distraction. It has been a very beneficial practice to get into...

Perhaps this thread could serve as a place to post such references if anyone has any to share, and also to discuss the value of this practice in general, as well as your own personal experience with doing it.

While I have not used the process that you describe here, I am able to relate to it in terms of the internal mechanisms that allow it to occur and to become interpreted in many different ways according to the views and conditioning of the one perceiving it. For one working with internal devotion, it is very easy to perceive it in the way that has been described here. Internal devotion based on nama rupa and dependent co-arising lays the groundwork for general mindfulness to arise. It is that mindfulness which allows one to "settle into the meditation subject a lot easier," to be able to "to concentrate much faster," and to "not have nearly as much distraction." All of which points to the fledgling development of samadhi, of which the generally perceived practice of dhyana meditation is the harbinger.

In this context, I can see how Viscid arrived at his explanation of the process, which I would not discount. And which I would say is very close to what is perhaps a more accurate yet simpler view of what is taking place if one breaks this process down into its basic elements. The only problem with this is: not everyone will be able to perceive the basic elements in this way and thus corroborate this description.

Viscid wrote:It's probably worthwhile to ponder about why recollecting the qualities of a historical figure is effective preparation for meditation, and perhaps to see the practice in a broader context, so here I ramble: . . .

This practice is an instance of intentional internalization. That is, we are convinced that the character, views and beliefs of The Buddha are superior to our own, so we wish to adopt those qualities in order to make ourselves likewise superior. When we repeatedly recollect The Buddha (and thus recollect what is like to be The Buddha) we are deliberately integrating those ideals into our own identity. We do, or at least have done, this process in our past: we've internalized aspects of our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, literary figures, etc into our identity, however in a less intentional fashion.

Imagining an authority (and even better: bowing to it) makes us submissive. In submitting to a figure of great authority, we are much less likely to behave in such a way that we imagine would arouse ire in that figure. The practice exploits our adolescent reverence (or fear) of authority to develop self-discipline.

If you break this down into its simplest elements, the nama rupa would be:

    "I recollect his qualities, his limitless compassion, his perfection of insight, his teaching abilities, his psychic power. I recollect his early life, and his enlightenment, I recollect his later life."
The affective response (paticca-samuppada) to "name and form" created in the mind can become a powerful catalyst for generating a strengthening of faith and experiencing "great joy," as well as increasing the general mindfulness of the practitioner. Establish mindfulness first and all else within the meditation session will flow virtually effortlessly and according to the "intentional internalization." This is the same formula used for the establishment of dhyana. And if you think about this deeply enough and with clear comprehension (sampajanna), you may find a valuable hint here.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Zenainder » Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:13 pm

IanAnd wrote:
Blackbird wrote:Recently I have been making a determined effort to recollect the Buddha before I begin my meditation in earnest. I generally spend 3 or 4 minutes in the meditation posture visualising the Buddha and myself bowing to him, I recollect his qualities, his limitless compassion, his perfection of insight, his teaching abilities, his psychic power. I recollect his early life, and his enlightenment, I recollect his later life. When I am doing so, my faith is strengthened, and I experience great joy.

The result is that I settle into the meditation subject a lot easier, my mind being joyful is able to concentrate much faster, and I do not have nearly as much distraction. It has been a very beneficial practice to get into...

Perhaps this thread could serve as a place to post such references if anyone has any to share, and also to discuss the value of this practice in general, as well as your own personal experience with doing it.

While I have not used the process that you describe here, I am able to relate to it in terms of the internal mechanisms that allow it to occur and to become interpreted in many different ways according to the views and conditioning of the one perceiving it. For one working with internal devotion, it is very easy to perceive it in the way that has been described here. Internal devotion based on nama rupa and dependent co-arising lays the groundwork for general mindfulness to arise. It is that mindfulness which allows one to "settle into the meditation subject a lot easier," to be able to "to concentrate much faster," and to "not have nearly as much distraction." All of which points to the fledgling development of samadhi, of which the generally perceived practice of dhyana meditation is the harbinger.

In this context, I can see how Viscid arrived at his explanation of the process, which I would not discount. And which I would say is very close to what is perhaps a more accurate yet simpler view of what is taking place if one breaks this process down into its basic elements. The only problem with this is: not everyone will be able to perceive the basic elements in this way and thus corroborate this description.

Viscid wrote:It's probably worthwhile to ponder about why recollecting the qualities of a historical figure is effective preparation for meditation, and perhaps to see the practice in a broader context, so here I ramble: . . .

This practice is an instance of intentional internalization. That is, we are convinced that the character, views and beliefs of The Buddha are superior to our own, so we wish to adopt those qualities in order to make ourselves likewise superior. When we repeatedly recollect The Buddha (and thus recollect what is like to be The Buddha) we are deliberately integrating those ideals into our own identity. We do, or at least have done, this process in our past: we've internalized aspects of our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, literary figures, etc into our identity, however in a less intentional fashion.

Imagining an authority (and even better: bowing to it) makes us submissive. In submitting to a figure of great authority, we are much less likely to behave in such a way that we imagine would arouse ire in that figure. The practice exploits our adolescent reverence (or fear) of authority to develop self-discipline.

If you break this down into its simplest elements, the nama rupa would be:

    "I recollect his qualities, his limitless compassion, his perfection of insight, his teaching abilities, his psychic power. I recollect his early life, and his enlightenment, I recollect his later life."
The affective response (paticca-samuppada) to "name and form" created in the mind can become a powerful catalyst for generating a strengthening of faith and experiencing "great joy," as well as increasing the general mindfulness of the practitioner. Establish mindfulness first and all else within the meditation session will flow virtually effortlessly and according to the "intentional internalization." This is the same formula used for the establishment of dhyana. And if you think about this deeply enough and with clear comprehension (sampajanna), you may find a valuable hint here.


Insightful post!! Would you reference said person with such a view as a "faith follower"?
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby IanAnd » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:38 pm

Zenainder wrote:Insightful post!! Would you reference said person with such a view as a "faith follower"?

One could look upon it in that way, yes. I certainly wouldn't discount such a view.

Faith follower until he proficiently is able, through his own determined effort and diligent practice, to see these mechanisms of mind taking place in real time (i.e. the present moment of observation). At this point, it wouldn't be a matter of faith, but rather a matter of personal first-hand knowledge. So, yes, knowing that this is possible to achieve is the first step toward achieving it!

But why be content with titles when one could, with a little more effort and work, advance to the point of being able to see these processes in the present moment? And thus be that much closer to achieving the end goal of this holy life.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Zenainder » Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:58 pm

IanAnd wrote:
Zenainder wrote:Insightful post!! Would you reference said person with such a view as a "faith follower"?

One could look upon it in that way, yes. I certainly wouldn't discount such a view.

Faith follower until he proficiently is able, through his own determined effort and diligent practice, to see these mechanisms of mind taking place in real time (i.e. the present moment of observation). At this point, it wouldn't be a matter of faith, but rather a matter of personal first-hand knowledge. So, yes, knowing that this is possible to achieve is the first step toward achieving it!

But why be content with titles when one could, with a little more effort and work, advance to the point of being able to see these processes in the present moment? And thus be that much closer to achieving the end goal of this holy life.


Agreed.

It seems you have come to the worthy conclusion. As to the last question it's an ongoing work in progress within.

With respect,

Zen
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:23 am

Dear Ian, an interesting and valuable contribution, thank you for posting.
I must admit though we have a difference of opinion when it comes to what nama rupa is, but I doubt that is off too much consequence as far as this thread goes. (here is an essay that describes my view)

Furthermore as far as the suttas are concerned, a faith follower - A Saddhanusari is one who has attained to the path but not the fruit of stream entry. Merely having strong faith in the Buddha does not necessitate the attainment of the path.

metta
Jack
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby IanAnd » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:21 am

Zenainder wrote:
IanAnd wrote:But why be content with titles when one could, with a little more effort and work, advance to the point of being able to see these processes in the present moment? And thus be that much closer to achieving the end goal of this holy life.

As to the last question it's an ongoing work in progress within.

Just to clarify: The question was meant as a rhetorical question, for one to ponder or reflect upon, not as a personal question seeking a personal response. All the same, the response given is understood.

BlackBird wrote:I must admit though we have a difference of opinion when it comes to what nama rupa is, but I doubt that is of too much consequence as far as this thread goes.

You said: "I have been making a determined effort to recollect the Buddha. . .

Buddha= both nama and rupa (name and form; the name of a form in the mind which produces an affective response — vedana, in this case a pleasant feeling associated with this name and form — of mind). Recollection of Buddha represents an affective (and effective) object of meditation poignant with meaning (dependently co-arisen) for the meditating mind, becoming a catalyst for the (dependently co-arising) of mindfulness (sati), a harbinger of samadhi, which itself is a prerequisite for sampajanna or clear comprehension leading to insight!

BlackBird wrote:Furthermore as far as the suttas are concerned, a faith follower - A Saddhanusari is one who has attained to the path but not the fruit of stream entry. Merely having strong faith in the Buddha does not necessitate the attainment of the path.

I do not disagree with this. But, can you not make the leap of association. . . ? Or is the mind still too hardened in its views and not yet pliant? (Once more, rhetorical questions, meant for reflection.)
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 5:35 am

Ah, well perhaps we do not disagree as much as I imagined when it comes to dependent co arising and indeed nama rupa. As to the latter point, such discussions could go further in private.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Viscid » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:10 pm

Ianand wrote:Or is the mind still too hardened in its views and not yet pliant? (Once more, rhetorical questions, meant for reflection.)


lol, these types of comments are so horribly patronizing.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Zenainder » Wed Jul 24, 2013 9:26 pm

Viscid wrote:
Ianand wrote:Or is the mind still too hardened in its views and not yet pliant? (Once more, rhetorical questions, meant for reflection.)


lol, these types of comments are so horribly patronizing.


Depending on how one reads it, it could be offensive. It's a relevant question worded in a respectful way IMHO.
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:41 pm

It is more than a little patronizing, but really there's no need to take offence where it is not intended, sometimes that's just people's habit, and there is value to be taken from their words regardless of whether they picture themselves more spiritually advanced than you. In order to be offended by someone's supposition of being more advanced than you, one needs to hold dearly the idea that one's self is quite advanced also... That's just ego, it has no use. I don't think I'm a big shot Dhamma practitioner, so why would it bother me if someone assumes the role of the teacher instructing me in this Dhamma. That's their choice and we are able to take it or leave it.

But lets keep this topic on track if possible - The topic is about the value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: The value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:14 am

BlackBird wrote:But lets keep this topic on track if possible - The topic is about the value of recollecting the Buddha before meditation.


Yes, that would be a good idea.
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