Ajahn Jayasaro's talks on Buddhist 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.

Ajahn Jayasaro's talks on Buddhist meditation

Postby Dmytro » Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:01 am

Hello friends,

Currently we at the "Buddhist Educational Fellowship" translate in Russian the series of talks:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p ... 9E7E2740DB

Here's what we have already uploaded:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p ... BC4F814F2F

However I wasn't able to recognize some words. If someone would kindly help to recognize them (marked with underlined italics below), that would be very helpful.

Metta, Dmytro

9. Physical Pain

Meditation is not all-or-nothing, white-or-black experience. It's life, it's like you are looking at yourself in the microscope, you are learning about your experience, about yourself. And so it's not a matter of if you find some peaceful mental state then meditation is successful, and if you don't, you are a failure. Because a lot of the obstructions and difficulties that come up in applying a meditation technique, are actually great treasures because you are learning very important things and skills that you can make use of in your daily life, and one particular area is that of dealing with pain. We all have strategies for dealing with pain. Most of them are unconscious, that we've adopted since we were children, and sometimes it's quite sobering to see how unsuccessful and even immature our reactions to pain are. So we are putting ourselves in the position where yes, we're going to experience some physical discomfort at certain times during the sitting, at some times more than at others. And we want to really understand the nature of this unpleasantness, rather than saying 'I don't want this' and just get up straight away, because in life when we get sick, when we get old, we are not going to have that option. So let's learn about it now, while we still are simply healthy. And the most important observation or insight that we make is that pain is not a purely physical phenomenon. It has a large mental component, or contribution, and that we can see, I think, quite easily even outside meditation. If you're watching a movie, you can sit quite still, or reasonably still, for maybe two or three hours without feeling any great discomfort, because your mind is elsewhere. Whereas in meditation your mind is not elsewhere, you're right here, and what we can see is at some time physical difficulty can be experienced sometimes as tormenting, at other time as a minor irritation. And that is because of the mental reaction to the pain. Reactions which are almost automatic and can vary from day to day or vary from person to person. But the kinds of things that are arising are aversion, fear, anxiety, or sense of big 'Why me? Why everybody else seem to be sitting so peacefully, why do I have to deal with this every time I meditate?' So there are all kinds of habitual and accumulated responses to physical discomfort that we are starting to eliminate through sitting with it. Now briefly, there are two main ways of dealing with pain, and these correspond to the two kind of aspects of meditation, the tranquilising, pacifying aspect and the insight, the looking, the observing, penetrating nature of things. So, with the first strategy, if the pain is not particularly piercing and oppressive, sometimes just bringing the mind back to the meditation object very patiently, every time it strays to the pain, can be successful. But if the pain is a little bit more intense, then we can practice breathing through the pain, or developing loving-kindness, that sense of kindness, and love and affection, and being a friend of the pain, so adopting a skillful, constructive attitude to the pain, to remove or to replace the habitual negative reaction to it. So you are using a positive emotion which can be allied to the breath, and breathing in and breathing out, as if through the area of pain, with a very positive, accepting, kind attitude. So that's two possible techniques of the calming, calming strategy. Now the other strategy is to say: 'OK, I will leave my meditation object, the breath, the mantra, or whatever, and I'm going to take up pain as my object of meditation. And what you want to be doing in this case is to be looking particularly at the impermanence of the pain. Now there are three aspects of this. First, the actual nature of the pain. Pain, when we start looking at it, is not just this hard, single mass. We can see that there are different kinds of pain - there are shooting pains, burning pains, aching pains, and so on. And the nature of the pain is changing. And seeing that change is a way of reducing the attachment and the negative emotions, that do become one and the same thing with this feeling in the mind lacking awareness. Another, the second aspect, is the location of the pain. Again, we can see that it's not just one, single point. It's moving around, and we see how the pain is 6:47 coming quite a complex phenomenon. And then we can notice that if we tighten up around the pain, and reaction to it, then there can be secondary pain, arising in other parts of the body, as a result of that. Then the third aspect is the intensity of pain. So if you take that simple one to ten kind of standard, you notice that the intensity of the pain is also not stable. Often pain is coming in waves. So looking at impermanence in terms of uneven nature of the pain, particularly characteristic of the pain, the location of the pain and intensity of the pain, this is giving the mind work to do, - looking at the impermanence of the phenomena. Now this is revealing the truth of what's going on more clearly to us, which is purifying in itself. But similarly with the calming technique, what's happening on psychological level, if you like, is that the mind can have only one interest at a time, so when you give your mind some work, some insight work to do, it can't at the same time be worrying and feeling averse and full of self-pity, and so on. So there is also this replacement process taking place. So I would say in conclusion that working with pain is not something that you want to be doing very often, particularly in early days of meditation, because your attitude to meditation, and your enjoyment of meditation, is probably the most important condition for you in being able to maintain steady, regular meditation practice. If you start to conceive of meditation as being a daily struggle with pain, before long you'll probably find some good reasons to cut down the sessions, or to eliminate the sessions altogether, because nobody wants to have to deal with that on such a regular basis. So every now and again take on pain as a meditation object, it's something that is an important part of meditation, a good skill to learn. But other times, particularly if your mind is really starting to calm down and settle down, you've got some awareness there, then very mindfully change posture. So it's not something that you have to do at the time that you meet pain, but it's something that you should have some experience of dealing with.

11. Meditation Experiences

When you can isolate or become aware of the nature of mindfulness, just not forgetting the instructions, not forgetting the technique, not forgetting what's going on right now, not forgetting the breath, for instance, when you have sampajañña, this clear comprehension, alertness, wakefulness, sharpness of mind which acts as the quality control, when you have these regulated, and balanced effort, which is constantly being re-aligned for the optimum results, then meditation becomes a little bit easier, because when you have experiences of various kinds, then these are measures of the validity and usefulness of them. You are checking them, the mindfulness and clear comprehension, the effort, and I would say that as meditators on this internal journey that no one is quite the same as anyone else, and even the Buddhist instructions, you know, are not for everybody, and they are not so, - we can say that they are inscribed on the palm leaves, and then in books and computer discs, but I believe that at the time of the Buddha become ... Now, I'm speaking from my very limited experiences as a teacher, and if you speak, teaching to a hundred people, you can't give individual instructions, you can't tailor a general talk to the every single person, and also you take what's going to be valuable for maybe eighty or ninety percent of the people. I think because that's the case, then we can be willing to experiment a little, and don't feel inhibited that: "Oh, this isn't what this teacher says, or this is not what's in the book, this isn't what's in Visuddhimagga". Then you can, given the guarantees of safety which are your sīla and right view, which you put a lot of effort into developing, then you can be a little more creative, trying things out. Now 2:44 ? the instructions for Anapanasati, for breath meditation, is that when you experience, let's say, pīti or some rush of pleasure, happiness in the mind, to be aware of that, not to say you shouldn't feel happy, that's going to delude you. No, this is what it's like, this is very pleasant feeling, and sights - they say, of different kinds of lights and colours, things like this. I would say generally to try to return to breath. But there are certain kinds of experiences which I would say, can... and I would say, if you have opportunity to converse with, to discuss with a good friend, and a teacher, this would be important here. If you have image of the physical body, some part of the body, - sometimes you can have images, which conventionally speaking, may be quite disturbing, like a dead body, or a decaying body, or some image concerned with dissolution of the body, or the body in unattractive aspect. These kinds of images can, for a skillful meditator, be taken up and be used to develop insight, and to develop more deeper states of concentration. So that would be one exception to general attitude I would advocate of just recognizing whatever arises as just that, nothing more, nothing less. And maintaining this interest and loyalty, devotion to the meditation object, and the faith that meditation object will take you beyond the hindrances, and to deeper levels of concentration. But another point I would like to make is that the very strong waves of pīti or intense sensations of well-being that arise in meditation, can also at times be taken as meditation object. So what I'm trying to say here is that on a general basis, I would say, stay with the breath, come back to the breath, but there are certain circumstances which you may or may not be able to make use of. One is images of the physical body, particularly in unattractive or in a state of decay, and another is strong feelings of well-being or even bliss. Now, when the mind becomes calm, then for some people, it will from there go into states of deep calm. But for other people, the mind hovers on the edge, and it's just applying the effort to the meditation object, it's just full 6:30 short, it gets stuck in a way, and in that circumstances, taking up and use some practice, like investigating the nature of hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, all practices that take up the contemplation of impermanence, of dukkha, unsatisfactoriness, can just tip the mind over into the very deep states of calm. So the whole debate about samatha or vipassana or so, I don't feel it's such a helpful one. Sometimes it's the insight practices, adopted at crucial points in the effort to calm the mind, which can intensify the calm. And sometimes the calm itself will lead naturally to these insight practices, without having to worry much: "What is this am I doing, samatha or vipassana?". It's more this through experience, the sense of awareness of what the mind needs at that particular moment, for the progress on the Middle Path.

12. Contemplation

I think it's quite useful to look at thinking as a kind of a drug, or as an addiction. We are addicted to thought, and we are afraid if we don't think, we'll just disappear. So this is why this difficulty about meditation is so much not about lack of technique, but the willingness to apply it. But if we look at thinking as an addiction, then I think we can also compare it with different strategies people have for abandoning addictions. Let's compare it, say, with smoking. Now when we are giving up smoking, you just say: "Right, from today, I'm never going to smoke another cigarette!" And some people can do that, some people can't. But another strategy some people use is some could say: "I'm smoking twenty cigarettes today, and tomorrow - smoking nineteen or eighteen." You just gradually reduce the number from twenty to zero, so that you don't have the sudden jolt and cold turkey experience. Now I think this can be applied to meditation, that if you take a meditation object, such as the breath, or a meditation word, maybe used in conjunction with the breath, like 'Buddho', then it's like giving up cigarettes all 1:24 in one go. You are not giving any space at all to the thinking mind at all. Whereas sometimes the power, the momentum of thought is so strong, is basically the mind wants to think, you know, needs to think, 1:40 ??? and using that first technique of breath can be frustrating and not very successful. So what can you do? You use the meditation technique, which employs thinking. So the only thing to bear in mind here is that you have to think systematically, you have to follow a train of thought. It doesn't mean thinking this, thinking that, basically on the subject of Dhamma, because the mind will not became clear and calm enough in that way. But if you're taking the 32 parts of the body, or the first five parts of the body - hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth and skin, and investigating them one by one, considering them in terms of impermanence or unattractiveness, not-self, for instance, and allowing the mind to think and to imagine, and to expand upon those themes one by one, or taking the subject of death, the fact of inevitability of our death, the uncertainty of the time, or of the particular cause of death, or so. These kinds of discursive meditations can allow us to gradually reduce our addiction to thinking. And if you follow one of these meditations through, in that kind of systematic way, and sometimes before beginning this kind of meditation you can maybe write down a few points, you know, point one, point two, point three, point four, and to do it in an artificial way, until after a certain amount of practice you become fluent at it, you don't have to think in that way. Then you reach a certain point, where this is as if the mind just gets bored of thinking. It's just like the thinking is heavy weight, and you just: "I don't want this any more". And you just put down the burden of thought. And then the mind can go to the not-discursive object such as the breath, in a very complete, enthusiastic, committed kind of way. So dealing with the addiction of thought by cutting it off right at the beginning, returning the mind to the breath, or some physical sensation, or some word, or some concept, or else using discursive thought in a very systematic, step-by-step manner, until the mind puts down thinking with a sigh of relief.

13. Daily meditation

So the most important thing is that you meditate every day. Even if it's for very short time, maintain that sense of continuity, because it's continuity that will 0:16 tell us in the long run. it's easy to get very inspired with meditation, and to throw yourself into it, and to meditate every day for some period of time, but to maintain that for months or years is another matter. Now some people feel that they are failures in meditation. So what does that mean? 0:43 I like to think the only way to fail in meditation is to stop meditating. A little 0:48 nod and you are successful. Maybe not as successful as you would like to be, but you are successful in that you manage to create the interest and the commitment, and the patience to carry on, something which is not not always very easy. Now when is the best time for a meditation session? It's common in Buddhist countries for people to meditate before they go to sleep. And that's a very good calming technique, means you 1:17 probably won't have to use sleeping pills, and you'll sleep well. So it has benefits on the physical level, stress reduction level. But in terms of integration, integrating meditation experiences, meditation skills into daily life, problem is that as you wake up next morning, it's a new chapter in your life, there's no sense of continuity. So I am not advocating you to give up meditation before you go to sleep, but what's really important is first thing in the morning, because you've rested, you are fresh, you don't have very much going on in your mind, it's a really good time to meditate. So get up in the morning, do few stretches, or shave face, just prepare yourself, and then begin your meditation session. If you have particular room, or a particular corner of the room, a space which is devoted to chanting, meditation, or whatever, and in which you don't do anything else at all, psychologically that's very helpful, because just sitting in that space, in that place, helps you to focus on what you are doing. It is, I think, skillful to learn some of the basic Pali chants. Some of the important chants are translated into English, and you can find those on websites. And just to do a short period of chanting is a way of just focusing the mind, preparing the mind for the meditation. The length of time you spend on chanting depends on you, and you enjoy it or not. So remember, you should enjoy meditation, because if you don't, you won't be able to keep it up for very long. So the idea is that you reach a point where you will consider missing your morning meditation on the par with missing breakfast, or even more tragic than missing breakfast. And so before you meditate, just talk to yourself internally a little bit, just about what you're doing, why are you doing it, what your goals are, what are the possible problems and challenges that are likely to arise. Sometimes you don't need that. Sometimes, otherwise you can waste a lot of time, just sort of stray thoughts, and 4:04 ??? lack of clarity about what you're doing, a bit of fuzziness, which, particularly if you're pushed for time, is wasteful and unnecessary. So, just 4:17 ??? "What I'm actually doing here, or what do I want to apply my mind to, what do I not want to apply my mind to, what do I need to be very careful about (morning sleepiness, for instance)?" And then start to push your attention from top of the head, down, through the body, and just say hello, say good morning to your body before you start, because your body is what you are using for meditation. And just the sense of basic well-being, sitting straight, sitting still, and sense of self-reliance, straight like a mountain, not straight like a rod, the sense of the balance between effort and relaxation, and then apply yourself to meditation object. And most important is your attitude to the meditation object. Don't think you got to concentrate or you 5:14 got to drive thoughts out of your mind, don't get into very sort of violent or oppressive sort of relationship with your meditation object. In the case of the breath, one analogy (this is an example of a way of looking at the breath) imagine a doctor in a third world country, with a great long line of patients waiting outside his cubicle, and he sees, or she sees one patient at a time, and gives absolute attention to every single patient, without interest in whether they are rich or poor, whether they seem charming or seem difficult 5:58 ???, or whatever. So if you take one breath a time, and look at each breath, as a doctor would examine each patient with absolute respect, absolute care, then you begin to get an idea of what it means to be with the breath, and your meditation will start to take off.
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Re: Ajahn Jayasaro's talks on Buddhist meditation

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:19 am

9. Physical Pain
Again, we can see that it's not just one, single point. It's moving around, and we see how the pain is, can be, quite a complex phenomenon.

11. Meditation Experiences

Now often the instructions for Anapanasati, for breath meditation, is that when you experience, let's say, pīti or some rush of pleasure, happiness in the mind, to be aware of that, not to say you shouldn't feel happy, that's going to delude you.

But for other people, the mind hovers on the edge, and it's just applying the effort to the meditation object, it's just falls short, it gets stuck in a way,

12. Contemplation

Now I think this can be applied to meditation, that if you take a meditation object, such as the breath, or a meditation word, maybe used in conjunction with the breath, like 'Buddho', then it's like giving up cigarettes all at one go.

You are not giving any space at all to the thinking mind at all. Whereas sometimes the power, the momentum of thought is so strong, is basically the mind wants to think, you know, needs to think at this real time? and using that first technique of breath can be frustrating and not very successful.

13. Daily meditation

So the most important thing is that you meditate every day. Even if it's for a very short time, maintain that sense of continuity, because it's continuity that really tells in the long run.

Now some people feel that they are failures in meditation. So what does that mean? I would think that the only way to fail in meditation is to stop meditating. 0:48 Other than that and you are successful. Maybe not as successful as you would like to be, but you are successful in that you manage to create the interest and the commitment, and the patience to carry on, something which is not not always very easy. Now when is the best time for a meditation session? It's common in Buddhist countries for people to meditate before they go to sleep. And that's a very good calming technique, it means 1:17 that you probably won't have to use sleeping pills, and you'll sleep well.

Sometimes, otherwise you can waste a lot of time, just sort of stray thoughts, and 4:04 sort of lack of clarity about what you're doing, a bit of fuzziness, which, particularly if you're pushed for time, is wasteful and unnecessary. So, just 4:17 come back? "What I'm actually doing here, or what do I want to apply my mind to, what do I not want to apply my mind to, what do I need to be very careful about (morning sleepiness, for instance)?"

Don't think you got to concentrate5:14 on it or you've got to drive thoughts out of your mind, don't get into very sort of violent or oppressive sort of relationship with your meditation object. In the case of the breath, one analogy (this is an example of a way of looking at the breath) imagine a doctor in a third world country, with a great long line of patients waiting outside his cubicle, and he sees, or she sees one patient at a time, and gives absolute attention to every single patient, without interest in whether they are rich or poor, whether they seem charming or seem difficult 5:58 irrascible, or whatever.
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Re: Ajahn Jayasaro's talks on Buddhist meditation

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:36 am

:anjali:

Thank you both for your efforts.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Ajahn Jayasaro's talks on Buddhist meditation

Postby Dmytro » Wed Oct 07, 2009 2:33 pm

Thank you very much, Bhante Pesala!

:anjali:
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