Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly without?

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

Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly without?

Postby 2pennyworth » Tue May 06, 2014 12:48 pm

Hi all, this is my first post here. I'd like to hear other's views and opinions on this topic, hence, the reason for me joining the forum today.

From what I can see, most interpretations of insight meditation practice instructions mainly consist of these basic ingredients:

Choose a primary object
Rest attention on primary object
Recognise when attention has been caught by something other than primary object
Acknowledge secondary object arisen
Release attention from secondary object/'distraction'
Return attention to primary object
Repeat as necessary

Along with the instructions to investigate anicca, anatta, dukkha nature of all arising 'objects'.

Recently I've applied the instructions of Ven Bhante Vimalaramsi, or rather, his commentary of the Buddha's instructions for tranquil insight, to my own practice and found them to be extremely effective. It seems that the simple but seemingly vital additions/modifications Ven Bhante makes to the above basic practice instructions makes all the difference.

Ven Bhante Vimalaramsi's 'vital' additions/modifications:

Choose a primary object
Rest attention on primary object
Recognise when attention has been caught by something other than primary object
Release attention from secondary object/'distraction'
Relax physical manifestation of craving - ie tightness and tension in head and body
Re-smile (promotes a joyful, uplifted mind)
Return attention to primary object along with the tranquil, uplifted mind.
Repeat as necessary

Along with the instructions to become familiar with / investigate the chain of dependent origination, leading to insight into the nature of the three characteristics of all arising 'objects'.

Without the step of relaxing the tightness and tension caused by craving, and becoming increasingly familiar with it (at first, I was pretty 'ignorant' of this tension and tightness in the head and found it difficult to recognise, but as I persisted with the practice I became increasingly aware of it and able to recognize it more and more, and the process of relaxing this tension and tightness became an automatic and instinctual habit, leading to releasing finer and subtler manifestations of this tightness and tension caused by craving) one potentially brings this 'unseen' craving back to the primary object of meditation instead of shedding it bit-by-bit, more-and-more as the meditation deepens. Ven Bhante has stated that craving is the weak link in the chain of dependent origination, and I'm coming to recognise the truth of this statement directly through applying the '6-Rs' in my own practice. Ven Bhante had stated this '6-R' (http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=The_6_r%27s_by_Bhante_Vimalaramsi) practice is right effort.

Has anyone any thoughts or views on this at all?
Last edited by 2pennyworth on Sat May 10, 2014 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Wed May 07, 2014 3:39 am

Isn't that a coincidence... This is my first post as well and I too have joined this forum for insight into the same subject matter! :)

My research and studies have led me initially from a strict Vipassana cultivation meditation routine to very recently the work and methods of Vimalaramsi and the practice of Tranquil Wisdom Meditation.

If Vimalaramsi is accurate in his interpretations of the Suttas, then many aspects of the Vipassana and Samatha cultivation methods are based on flawed understandings and are distortions of truth, especially with regards to the over-emphasis on strict, one-pointed concentration in these practices.

The only thing I would modify from your rundown of his method is that the practitioner doesn't choose the meditation object- the object of meditation unwaveringly remains the breath, the full body of breath, and a continual mental relaxation on each in and out breath.

Thanks for posting this. I look forward to hearing various opinions and experiences with this method.
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 07, 2014 3:49 am

VinceField wrote:
If Vimalaramsi is accurate in his interpretations of the Suttas,
If. He certainly is not accurate in his portrayal of Burmese vipassana practice or Buddhaghosa. viewtopic.php?f=41&t=7375#p116920
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Wed May 07, 2014 4:01 am

This is probably the most relevant post that was in that thread:

Postby legolas » Mon Feb 21, 2011 4:40 am

It was Bhante Vimalaramsi who helped me escape the person I had become via "vipassana". Numerous 10 day courses, although initially enticing had turned me into an unthinking, hard-hearted individual who was gradually losing all sense of the joy and wonder of the Dhamma - which is what attracted me to it in the first place. There is more between heaven & earth than bare attention & observing sensations, and Bhante Vimalaramsi is one of the few monks who actually teach what that is. If we want to hang around waiting for the "perfect" monk as a teacher, we might have a long wait. All I know is that Bhante's teachings resonate with the suttas, introduce clear guidelines for practice which find verification in the suttas, and most importantly they work. viewtopic.php?f=41&t=7375#p117108


Thanks :)
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby 2pennyworth » Wed May 07, 2014 2:46 pm

That is quite frustrating! Spent about two hours writing and editing a lengthy reply, then, due to being automatically signed-out, lost the whole thing when I tried to post it! :computerproblem: haha! Time for a break then come back later!
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby beeblebrox » Wed May 07, 2014 3:20 pm

2pennyworth wrote:Ven Bhante Vimalaramsi's 'vital' additions/modifications:

Choose a primary object
Rest attention on primary object
Recognise when attention has been caught by something other than primary object
Release attention from secondary object/'distraction'
Relax physical manifestation of craving - ie tightness and tension in head and body
Re-smile (promotes a joyful, uplifted mind)
Return attention to primary object along with the tranquil, uplifted mind.
Repeat as necessary


Hi 2pennyworth,

Those "additions" are in line with cultivating two of the seven factors for awakening: joy (piti) and tranquility (passaddhi). Ven. Vimalaramsi was correct to point out these.

VinceField wrote:If Vimalaramsi is accurate in his interpretations of the Suttas, then many aspects of the Vipassana and Samatha cultivation methods are based on flawed understandings and are distortions of truth, especially with regards to the over-emphasis on strict, one-pointed concentration in these practices.


I think that this goes too far.

As was pointed out in the thread shared by Tiltbillings above: some of things said by Ven Vimalaramsi were misleading (whether it was intentional or not), and the way that he conveyed them still seems questionable.

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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Wed May 07, 2014 5:05 pm

beeblebrox wrote:I think that this goes too far.

As was pointed out in the thread shared by Tiltbillings above: some of things said by Ven Vimalaramsi were misleading (whether it was intentional or not), and the way that he conveyed them still seems questionable.


What seems misleading to me is to claim that one can mindfully dissipate one's hindrances when in fact all one is doing is pushing them away, shutting them out, cutting one's perception off from them, blocking them from arising. This is not so much about misleading interpretations, but rather a matter of facts regarding these practices. Either the methods called for in Vipassana and Samatha lead one to mindful acceptance and dissipation of hinderances in a wholesome way, or they lead to mental tightening, resistance, and the blocking and suppression of hinderances.

I am interested in hearing the experiences of others in regards to this matter. Who here has successfully rid oneself of their hindrances by the intense, one-pointed concentration practices of Samatha and Vipassana in a mindful manner? How does your experience apply to the teachings of Vimalaramsi? And who here has any experience with Tranquil Wisdom meditation?
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby beeblebrox » Wed May 07, 2014 6:35 pm

VinceField wrote:I am interested in hearing the experiences of others in regards to this matter. Who here has successfully rid oneself of their hindrances by the intense, one-pointed concentration practices of Samatha and Vipassana in a mindful manner? How does your experience apply to the teachings of Vimalaramsi? And who here has any experience with Tranquil Wisdom meditation?


Hi VinceField,

It might be a bit naive to expect others to be straightforward about their experiences. I think it's better to look at their behaviors... either in real life, or by studying their attitudes through the postings on the forum. Even with the latter, it still would be difficult to keep up a false appearance over a period of time.

Just for information, I practice meditation the way that Thich Nhat Hanh teaches it. It is something that I picked up on my visit to one of his monasteries.

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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby 2pennyworth » Wed May 07, 2014 6:52 pm

Hey Vince, tiltbillings, beeblebrox.

VinceField wrote:Isn't that a coincidence... This is my first post as well and I too have joined this forum for insight into the same subject matter! :)


That is a weird bit of synchronicity!

VinceField wrote:The only thing I would modify from your rundown of his method is that the practitioner doesn't choose the meditation object- the object of meditation unwaveringly remains the breath, the full body of breath, and a continual mental relaxation on each in and out breath.


You’re right, I stand corrected! Although as well as re-presenting the Buddha’s instructions for anapanasati practice, I believe Ven Vimalaramsi mainly encourages and ‘endorses’ practicing the brahmaviharas; metta, lovingkindness, etc. because I think he feels students who have been practicing breath awareness previously, run the risk of falling back into unhelpful habits that may have developed before, habits which may be preventing them from making further progress, or slowing their progress down.


beeblebrox wrote: As was pointed out in the thread shared by Tiltbillings above: some of things said by Ven Vimalaramsi were misleading (whether it was intentional or not), and the way that he conveyed them still seems questionable.


Yeah, I agree, Ven Vimalaramsi does make some inflammatory comments, particularly in his criticisms of the Mahayana traditions, I've noticed.
Last edited by 2pennyworth on Sat May 10, 2014 5:22 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Wed May 07, 2014 7:13 pm

Beeblebrox

It might be a bit naive to expect others to be straightforward about their experiences. I think it's better to look at their behaviors... either in real life, or by studying their attitudes through the postings on the forum. Even with the latter, it still would be difficult to keep up a false appearance over a period of time.


It is logical to attempt to obtain knowledge in the most straightforward way and from as many different perspectives as possible, although I agree that actions speak louder than words and this is something I most certainly keep my eye open for. Being ignorant of the experiences of others is no way to gain knowledge, especially when it comes to the realm of spiritual practice, although this is just one aspect of any honest investigation, the other being witnessing the results of the said experiences and discerning the validity of one's claims.

I don't expect the best in people, although I certainly encourage and appreciate honesty and purity. I accept everything with an open mind and take everything with a grain of salt, although the grain may vary in size. Years of experience on spirituality forums has taught me how to discern a person's underlying motivations that often times are contrary to their spoken position. It might be a bit naive to assume that I expect anything. :jumping: :hug:
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby 2pennyworth » Wed May 07, 2014 7:26 pm

VinceField wrote:I don't expect the best in people, although I certainly encourage and appreciate honesty and purity. I accept everything with an open mind and take everything with a grain of salt, although the grain may vary in size. Years of experience on spirituality forums has taught me how to discern a person's underlying motivations that often times are contrary to their spoken position. It might be a bit naive to assume that I expect anything. :jumping: :hug:


I think perhaps Beeblebrox is referring to the potential conceited aspect inherent in talking of "attainments"? Bit of an awkward subject. That's how I read it anyway. For example monks, such as Ven Bhante, cannot and do not talk about any claims of attaining jhana states or anything like that. Although, having said that, I do have a certain respect for people who attempt to be honest and open about these things in order to help others, because they are setting themselves up a bit. It's a slippery business.
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Wed May 07, 2014 8:22 pm

I don't see a problem with sharing one's experiences. It's a matter of intention and perspective. A person can relate his experiences, his perceived successes and failures with a meditative practice, without necessarily coming from a place of ego identity attachment, and people can, to an extent, learn from another's experiences, discoveries, and mistakes. "Setting oneself up" for criticism or whatever you may be implying is not an issue for those who are not slaves to their defilements.

I encourage anyone with experience with these methods to share, although as I am currently building my own body of experience, I suppose I will eventually discover my own truth. I just want to be sure I don't waste my time with distorted or faulty practices. Diggin these smilees by the way! :clap: Let's not get too :offtopic: !!!
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby 2pennyworth » Wed May 07, 2014 8:27 pm

VinceField wrote:
I am interested in hearing the experiences of others in regards to this matter. Who here has successfully rid oneself of their hindrances by the intense, one-pointed concentration practices of Samatha and Vipassana in a mindful manner? How does your experience apply to the teachings of Vimalaramsi? And who here has any experience with Tranquil Wisdom meditation?


For what it's worth, I think the pertinent issue here is beginning to see how the way one habitually greets the hindrances has an effect. If one has developed keen mindfulness and collectedness, and are thus able to recognize the hindrance when it arises, the next question is what is mind's usual reaction to it, and can one see that habitual response? ie is one aware of that habitual response objectively? For example, sensory desire could arise and be recognised, but then is met with Ill-will, which is recognized and that is met with restlessness-worry, then doubt! So proceeds this tangled mass of suffering. Like, ill-will could arise off the cushion in day-to-day life, then that's met with more ill-will directed at the ill-will! If on the other hand that ill-will is instead met with the new, wholesome habitual response of warmth and humor ("oh look there I go again, ha! no matter, is empty afterall!") one is maybe able to "let go" of something which really is just an impersonal, habitual cause and effect arsing and not worth getting stressed about.
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby fraaJad » Wed May 07, 2014 9:12 pm

Greetings all!
Long-time off-and-on lurker here, finally decided to create an account. :-) A friend alerted me to this thread because of my interest in Bhante V's "Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation."

I've been going back and forth on whether to say anything here, but finally decided it wouldn't do any harm, and might (hopefully) help at least one person out there. So here goes.

About 7-8 years ago, a good friend of mine started telling me about this new meditation technique he was trying. I was only mildly interested, having come from a background of mixed spirituality (I was into Ram Dass and Terence McKenna, if that means anything to you) -- i.e. never really tried meditation before, but I was interested in finding a hardcore path. After a few gentle prods from my friend, and what to me seemed like a subtle but gentle change in his personality as of late, I thought, "why not?"

I was a new father with zero free time, so most of my meditation was done on a crowded bus, on my commutes to/from work. Certainly not the best way to start, but, Bhante's recommendation of sending metta ALL THE TIME, and constant mindfulness of smiling, made it somehow fit -- especially with fatherhood. :-) It felt good. Keep in mind, I'd never tried other forms of meditation, so "the 6 Rs" was it for me. I got into listening to Bhante's talks whenever I had time. Many of them are geared toward people who are coming from "straight vipassana," hence didn't interest me.. but some of the other talks were just gold to me.

A year or so later, I was able to fit in some more actual sitting time.. a half hour a day. Not too long after that, I started experiencing the first jhana. It felt *really* good. As in, is this stuff legal? But better than that -- clear mind, coupled with the goodness of sending well wishes to the people around me, and actually feeling it pouring out. So I start listening to more talks, and more things made sense. For instance, being able to look fast enough to feel that little "tug" of craving in the mind after something hits a sense door -- that would take me to the second jhana.

The first time I experienced the fifth jhana (aka the base of infinite space) was actually a little scary. :-) Only because it's so different from the first four, where you're still in your body. Around the same time, I was getting used to doing the 6Rs whenever I remembered to. (One day, I popped into the 5th during a meeting at work -- I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom for a minute. I don't mind doing this now, but that first one was a bit jarring.)

Over the next couple of years, I fell off the wagon a couple of times -- life got in the way, I won't go into details -- but essentially did a big push for a couple months about once a year, and gained one more jhana, up to the 7th (nothingness). Let me just say that I can't describe the ____ (bliss? not sure what the best word is) of the 6th and 7th jhanas -- these are simply not comparable to anything I've ever felt before, and I've done my share of exploring. Around this time, the insights start rolling in, too. You know, the ones that sound cliche in the all the dhamma talks, about not having a self behind the thoughts.. and also stuff about where "becoming" comes in every quick round of dependent origination, etc. etc. -- these become amazingly real.
At the same time, it starts becoming less and less about the bliss, and more about balance, living a good life, having more of those insights, and .. well, sitting more and more because it feels right/good.

Fast forward to this past year. The 8th jhana, neither-perception-nor-non-perception. How to explain this? Have you ever sort of half-woken up from sleep, in that super calm mind state.. where you know that if you start to have a thought, you'll pop out of it.... and just having that thought pops you out of it? It's sort of like that, except with more awareness, more really really really nice calm and balance...... It is much unlike the bliss of the lower jhanas in that there's no "buzz", it is more like just.... *such* a relief. You really feel how awesome it feels to have nothing going on in your mind except for the awareness of nothing going on. :-) If that makes sense. And then you start to see a thought coming, like a train from far away..... a little tiny vibration.... and you 6R that right away and go back to the calm. Sooo nice. (As you experience this more, the other jhanas are still nice -- but not AS nice as that pure calm.) At the same time, insights start popping up quite a lot. And other interesting things in life, weird little happy coincidences that might stem from being closer to your intuition (you know, that little voice that's usually crowded out by the other stuff).

So that's where I'm at now. No nibbana yet. But that's.... okay. :-) I sit over an hour every morning -- two hours if I can, but that just means getting up early, and potentially being too tired for work and family life -- it's a balance.

I also haven't been on a retreat yet. But two of my close friends (including the one I mentioned at the start) have attained stream entry on retreats with Bhante. Heck, the one friend actually leveled up to sakadagami/once-returner on his last retreat. (He has experienced nibbana 4 times.)

Can anyone do this? Sure, probably. I don't know. I've been lucky to have the two close friends I mentioned -- we talk about this stuff practically daily (mostly via SMS(!)), and that helps a lot. I get a lot of valuable tweaks and tips that way. Without them, I'd probably have needed to go on a couple of retreats to get this far, because it does take some one-on-one, I think. But hey, we have the internet.

Soooo, there, I said it. Even now I'm not sure about clicking the Submit button -- weird to talk about this stuff, even under a psuedonym. But I am only doing this in hopes that it will help some folks. I'm certainly not trying to sell anything here -- you all can do what you want. But sometimes I wish that people would come out and say "THIS HAS REALLY HELPED ME!!" I mean -- it's how I found this path. Prior to my friend sharing his experiences with me, I could only judge books by their covers. The spiritual marketplace is big. :reading:

:candle:
Peace out.. Please PM me or reply to this if you have questions.
With metta....
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby Mkoll » Wed May 07, 2014 9:38 pm

fraajad,

I'm glad you're experiencing such good results from your practice.

I don't have much time to write right now but I'll say one thing about your friend who "levelled up" to once/non-returner: he hasn't experienced Nibbana four times if he's a once or non-returner. That doesn't make sense.

Anyways it sounds like what you're doing is working for you so right on!
Peace,
James
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby fraaJad » Wed May 07, 2014 10:29 pm

Hi Mkoll,

You know, that about the number of nibbana experiences is most certainly my own misunderstanding. Those weren't the words used to describe it, it was just how I conceptualized it.
From what I've heard, each "level" (stream entry, once returner, non returner, arhant) has a "path" and a "fruition"... Perhaps those are not separate experiences of nibbana. Most likely it is not possible to put into words what's really going on there. Oh well.

Thanks for calling me on that! :toast: Probably best not to think about nibbana anyway.

metta,
Jad
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 07, 2014 10:44 pm

VinceField wrote:What seems misleading to me is to claim that one can mindfully dissipate one's hindrances when in fact all one is doing is pushing them away, shutting them out, cutting one's perception off from them, blocking them from arising. This is not so much about misleading interpretations, but rather a matter of facts regarding these practices. Either the methods called for in Vipassana and Samatha lead one to mindful acceptance and dissipation of hinderances in a wholesome way, or they lead to mental tightening, resistance, and the blocking and suppression of hinderances.
Okay. Which practices lead to blocking and suppression of hindrances?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 08, 2014 12:51 am

2pennyworth wrote:For what it's worth, I think the pertinent issue here is beginning to see how the way one habitually greets the hindrances has an effect. ....

Which is something emphasised by many teachers.

I've nothing against Ven V's instructions, they seem consistent with the suttas, and many other teachers. What I always find problematical (not just in this case) is claims that others have overlooked various stuff. In most cases I'm familiar with, these sorts of claims appear to be a matter of not having a detailed knowledge of what the "others" actually teach. And, by this I mean not just their introductory instructions --- one has to look at their whole "package".

:anjali:
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Thu May 08, 2014 1:26 am

Fraajad

Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It has helped enhance my confidence and motivation in my own practices. I am surprised that you were able to attain such significant results with the seemingly little time you put in, but perhaps you invested more time than what I have understood from your post. Regardless, I want you to know that your post is greatly appreciated and helpful. Cheers! :clap:
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Re: Key component missing? Does the wheel turn smoothly with

Postby VinceField » Thu May 08, 2014 1:55 am

Tiltbillings

tiltbillings wrote:Okay. Which practices lead to blocking and suppression of hindrances?


Here are a few excerpts from Bhante's book, which is where I was introduced to the idea that certain practices suppress hindrances.

"A meditator who practices "Concentration Meditation" over-focuses on the object of meditation and thus, they have the tendency to close or tighten mind until there are no more distractions. This practice leads to deep absorption of mind where hindrances are blocked."

"When a hindrance arises, one must work to open their mind by seeing it clearly as anicca (impermanence, it wasn't there and now it is), dukkha (suffering or unsatisfactoriness, one sees that when these distractions arise they are painful), and anatta (not taking it personally, seeing the hindrances in the true way as being an impersonal process that one has no control over and not taking these hindrances as "I am that"). As a result, one begins to see clearly how mind works and this leads to the development of wisdom. When one allows and does not identify with these hindrances, they will naturally fade away."

"One-pointed concentration suppresses the hindrance. Thus, they have not completely let go of the ego-attachment to that distraction. Their mind is also tight and tense because they are not seeing clearly that they are not opening and allowing, but closing and fighting with that distraction."

"Whenever one suppresses anything, they are not purifying mind, or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, one is pushing away or not allowing part of their experience and thus, this contracts mind instead of expanding and opening mind. As a result, it is not purifying mind of ignorance. One is actually stopping the process of purification of mind!"

"The Lord Buddha had never taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes mind to fix or to absorb into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected every form of 'concentration meditation' as not being the correct way. Rather, suffering must be accepted with equanimity, full awareness or strong attention and not identifying with it or taking that pain personally."

"Other meditation's instructions have the meditators put their attention into the middle of the pain and try to see its true nature and watch its changes. But pain by nature, is repulsive and thus, the meditators have the tendency to tighten and harden mind so that they can continue watching the pain. The meditators will eventually develop enough concentration (fixed attention) to be able to overcome the pain. However, this is achieved by repressing and tightening mind."

"One can clearly observe that the spiritual base of investigation of one's experience is to purify mind by allowing everything that happens in the present moment to be there without trying to fight, control, or even disturb it in any way. Loving-acceptance and patience (or non-aversion) of the present moment is the way to attain Nibbana. It is not attained by concentration, tightness, suppression and repression."

While these ideas make sense to me, I do not have sufficient experience to accurately discern their truth. Anyone with first hand experience with the concepts raised here is encouraged to share their opinions and findings! :soap: :twothumbsup:
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