Can I Meditate Like This

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Can I Meditate Like This

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:59 am

I am confused by Buddhist meditation. Except for the very first part where you observe your breath flowing in and out, abdomen rising and falling all sources differ ( on what happens next ).

It is difficult to understand Samatha, Vippassana, concentration, not concentration, not concentration becoming a concentration ( !! ), jhana, stage of jhana, higher realms and so on ad infinitum. Many different pdfs have totally confused me. And I cannot understand anything about it from related Suttas either.

Can I for the first year do this ( since I have no teacher )

1. Sit
2. Close my eyes
3. Breathe in and out slowly observing abdomen rise and fall
4. Relax
5. Relax each part of the body from top of skull down to toes by turn
6. Imagine Buddha ( his image comes very naturally to me )
7. Think of him
8. Concentrate on the image ( concentrate on Buddha qualities that is )
9. If the mind wanders observe what it is doing ( I have to create a new spreadsheet by tomorrow 6 AM )
10. Let the thought ( happiness, sadness, anger, worry, doubt ) flow away
11. Bring back attention to breathing in and out
12. Go back to Step 6

I honestly do not care about tags - I have reached first jhana and so forth. I just want to be a good Buddhist.

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 19, 2013 12:29 pm

Comments below. Let's see what might help.

arijitmitter wrote:I am confused by Buddhist meditation.


One thing which is helpful, when studying all this, is to have a structure that underlies the whole thing so these differences make sense; it's like having a toolbox with labelled sections.

That structure is satipatthana. This is a word which refers to keeping mindfulness (sati) close by, and the four categories of satipatthana one can read about are examples of how to bring mindfulness to bear in different ways. Basically, Buddhist meditation fits into satipatthana one way or another.

Except for the very first part where you observe your breath flowing in and out, abdomen rising and falling all sources differ ( on what happens next ).


These anapanasati instructions you're talking about are ways that satipatthana can be developed during sitting meditation in particular. The instructions for each tetrad of anapanasati are standalone pieces, but sometimes the first tetrad - the body - is the easiest to talk about. The skills which are developed there apply to the other categories anyway.

The differences you've read about are likely all related to getting satipatthana done, which takes a certain learned finesse because each individual case is different (i.e. each individual's phenomenological world differs from any other in ways which make precise communication difficult; to apply the Dhamma takes patient & careful attention in one's own case).

In short, the different procedures, in their different ways, are all aimed at establishing satipatthana and then at developing that further through a successive calming & letting go & examination procedure. That's the basic shape of meditation.

It is difficult to understand Samatha, Vippassana, concentration, not concentration, not concentration becoming a concentration ( !! ), jhana, stage of jhana, higher realms and so on ad infinitum. Many different pdfs have totally confused me. And I cannot understand anything about it from related Suttas either.


We can set some things aside, but a quick overview of these terms is always helpful:

The terms samatha-vipassana are best understood as a pair of qualities which are developed via satipatthana. The calming is samatha, the examination is vipassana, and the letting go is helped by both.

Some people will describe certain methods as beings a vipassana method or a samatha method because they experience one or another feature more strongly as a result, but satipatthana ultimately develops both, and their balanced development is something to watch for.

Concentration is one way to translate the term "samadhi". The term can refer to the whole spectrum of Buddhist methods to develop mental composure, but perhaps more often refers to the results of those practices.

Finally, the term samma-samadhi, which is part of the eightfold path, refers specifically to the four jhanas.

There are four other states of meditation called by various terms: formless states, arupas, higher jhanas, formless jhanas, and so forth. But I think it's probably not helpful to explore them at this point.

Can I for the first year do this ( since I have no teacher )

1. Sit
2. Close my eyes
3. Breathe in and out slowly observing abdomen rise and fall
4. Relax
5. Relax each part of the body from top of skull down to toes by turn


This is good as far as it goes; I wouldn't do a visualization, however, but I would stick the mind to the back-and-forth of the breathing practice, which you can see underlies every step of anapanasati.

While you explore anapanasati, begin & continue to engage satipatthana throughout the day; this simply means, bring mindfulness to bear as often as you remember to do so, and keep going. Seated practice supports day-to-day practice, and vice versa.

It can take time; if you remember to do things with good-will and calm curiosity, things will go well.
    "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: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby arijitmitter » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:06 pm

daverupa wrote:
That structure is satipatthana. This is a word which refers to keeping mindfulness (sati) close by, and the four categories of satipatthana one can read about are examples of how to bring mindfulness to bear in different ways. Basically, Buddhist meditation fits into satipatthana one way or another.


Thank you for your kind advise.

I have developed reasonable adeptness at breathe in and out and become calm ( Step 1 - 5 ). It is quite a few days now that I have been doing it. I will like to do little more with my mind. As I have stated in another post - I have developed a calm center ( and it has been reasonably tested ). I do not cuss if I am stuck in traffic but observe my breath flowing in and out. I smile when I am poked; I smile when I am unhappy; I smile when I am sad. My voice has become calmer and lacks shrillness that it sometimes had.

Everyone around me has noted this change in me. And I am told that quality of my work has become better also. So I will like to take this little bit forward.

Can you help me with a website or pdf which gives meanings and stages of Buddhist meditation ( by stages I do not mean which realm etc etc but rather what is the next practice ). How is Samatha related to Vipassana; how are they both related to progressing in meditation. I am caught in a chicken and egg situation. I know the individual meanings and what they do. But I do not know how they interlock with each other and which one leads where. ( bit like I am in LA and I know where Dallas is on the big map of USA but I cannot find which roads to take to go to Dallas and not end up in Seattle by taking wrong turns; I want a road map. I have learned how to drive and have a driver's license and a car fueled up and ready to go. Now I want to drive the first 150 miles to Dallas )

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby daverupa » Fri Jul 19, 2013 9:02 pm

arijitmitter wrote:Can you help me with a website or pdf which gives meanings and stages of Buddhist meditation ( by stages I do not mean which realm etc etc but rather what is the next practice ). How is Samatha related to Vipassana; how are they both related to progressing in meditation.


Samatha-vipassana just means calm and insight, and these things develop over time through practice. Have a look at AN 2.31 (scroll down) for a short passage.

Have you read about the path in terms of the gradual training? Perhaps sit down with the Majjhima Nikaya. After that, I'd use the Samyutta & Anguttara Nikayas as a reference set.

That, plus the precepts and satipatthana, and I'm sure you won't be worried about 'what next' for a while!
    "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: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby arijitmitter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 12:15 am

daverupa wrote:Samatha-vipassana just means calm and insight, and these things develop over time through practice. Have a look at AN 2.31 (scroll down) for a short passage.

Have you read about the path in terms of the gradual training? Perhaps sit down with the Majjhima Nikaya. After that, I'd use the Samyutta & Anguttara Nikayas as a reference set.

That, plus the precepts and satipatthana, and I'm sure you won't be worried about 'what next' for a while!


Okay. I will be concentrating on Steps 1 - 5, not visualize, observe thoughts as they arise ( if a thought arises I will try and observe neutrally; not participate in the thought but observe it ) and read the Suttas. Thank you,

:namaste: Arijit
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Re: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:34 am

arijitmitter wrote:
daverupa wrote:Samatha-vipassana just means calm and insight, and these things develop over time through practice. Have a look at AN 2.31 (scroll down) for a short passage.

Have you read about the path in terms of the gradual training? Perhaps sit down with the Majjhima Nikaya. After that, I'd use the Samyutta & Anguttara Nikayas as a reference set.

That, plus the precepts and satipatthana, and I'm sure you won't be worried about 'what next' for a while!


Okay. I will be concentrating on Steps 1 - 5, not visualize, observe thoughts as they arise ( if a thought arises I will try and observe neutrally; not participate in the thought but observe it ) and read the Suttas. Thank you,

:namaste: Arijit

One little addition is worthwhile, just for clarity: "observe thoughts as they arise ( if a thought arises I will try and observe neutrally; not participate in the thought but observe it and let it go." :smile:

:meditate:
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Re: Can I Meditate Like This

Postby daverupa » Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:36 pm

In the beginning, I would emphasize daily mindfulness. This isn't a strenuous focus on the RIGHT NOW, but it's a general awareness of what's going on with your body, with your mouth, and with your mind.

Is your body walking forward? Great, you know that mindfully. But if you're lost in thought and find you've walked a distance without really being aware of your surroundings, you can instead know that lapse of mindfulness. And of course, the same thing with acts of speech and mind.

The followup, which you will read about in the suttas, is to watch for the intention which precedes all of those acts in your day. When mindfulness is well developed, this is easily discerned, while at first it can be murky and unclear.

:candle:
    "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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