Meditation: Is it Required?

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

Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby theravada_guy » Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:23 pm

Greetings all,

I was reading the Theravada section on the Religious Tolerance Web site, based in Ontario, Canada and came across this quote:

"Theravada Buddhism initially reserved the practice of meditation to monks. The laity were "... encouraged to engage in merit-making activities to improve their future rebirth status." However, in recent times, the laity have embraced meditation and aspire "to more dramatic progress along the path to nirvana."

Is this true, in any way? Did early Theravada reserve meditation for the Sangha only? And, if so, does that give us, who follow Theravada today, the choice of whether or not we wish to engage in meditation, or dispense with it?

The quotes within my own quote come from an outside source, and are not my quotations. Here is the link to the full article:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddther.htm
With metta,

Justin
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby bodom » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:56 pm

It was the burmese who started the lay meditation movement but the Buddha did instruct the laity to meditate. Note that below rapture refers to the first two jhanas as explained by the commentary.

Then Anathapindika the householder, surrounded by about 500 lay followers, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him, "Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn't rest content with the thought, 'We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick.' So you should train yourself, 'Let's periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture.' That's how you should train yourself.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby theravada_guy » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:24 pm

Greetings bodom,

Thank you for the clarification!
With metta,

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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:00 pm

Of course the Buddha taught meditation to lay people. There are many examples, but he taught to suit their ability to understand. Although when the Buddha taught the Dhamma addressing the monks — bhikkhave — the audience usually included lay people. When lay people were wise enough to understand higher teachings, then the Buddha taught discourses like the Jīvaka Sutta.

He taught the Satipatthāna Sutta among the Kuru people because by nature were earnest in the application of the Arousing of Mindfulness to their daily life.

To the Kālāmas the Buddha taught the four Brahmavihāras. They were not yet lay followers, and this is also the case with many other discourses.

After gaining faith in the Dhamma, many lay people would have attended regular discourses, and thus learnt about meditation practise — both samatha and vipassanā.

Mātikamātā was a lay women who looked after the needs of forest monks. She asked them for meditation instructions, and soon gained mind-reading powers.

Although it may be true, just as it is now, that the majority of lay people did not practise meditation, the Buddha and the monks certainly taught meditation to those who were able to understand.
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:06 pm

Greetings,

Moved to the Meditation Forum at theravada_guy's request.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby PeterB » Tue May 04, 2010 7:56 am

theravada_guy wrote:Greetings all,

I was reading the Theravada section on the Religious Tolerance Web site, based in Ontario, Canada and came across this quote:

"Theravada Buddhism initially reserved the practice of meditation to monks. The laity were "... encouraged to engage in merit-making activities to improve their future rebirth status." However, in recent times, the laity have embraced meditation and aspire "to more dramatic progress along the path to nirvana."

Is this true, in any way? Did early Theravada reserve meditation for the Sangha only? And, if so, does that give us, who follow Theravada today, the choice of whether or not we wish to engage in meditation, or dispense with it?

The quotes within my own quote come from an outside source, and are not my quotations. Here is the link to the full article:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddther.htm

Ajahn Chah once said that among the many positive results of the Theravada Dhamma moving west is the fact that the default position among westerne Buddhists is that they can and should practice meditation, not just confine themselves to merit making. He suggested that this was having an impact on the lay Buddhists in Thailand, Laos and Sri lanka etc. And that there was a reawakened interest in meditation by those who previously assumed that it was not for them.
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby Agent » Thu May 06, 2010 8:21 pm

The laity certainly didn't have much interest in meditation at the Sinhalese temple where I used to meditate. The temple seemed to be more of a cultural center for the Sinhalese people in the area. On the other hand, the western laity tended to just use the temple as a place to meditate. In my experience we could learn something from the lay practitioners of other countries when it comes to dana and they could learn something from western laity when it comes to practicing meditation.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā.
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby Jack » Tue May 11, 2010 3:33 pm

A monk once told me that only 4% of Thera monks meditate. I have no idea where he got that number and think he is probably wrong. I do know that few monks at some of the Thera centers here in the Midwest do meditate.

My experience is that few of the laity either in SE Asia or from SE Asia and now live in the west meditate.

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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 11, 2010 8:56 pm

Ok, so laypeople can and even should practice meditation. Follow-up question: what forms of meditation practice are best suited for laypeople? Are there any which are not particularly suitable? Any that might be "contraindicated"? What might be an ideal meditation program for someone in this circumstance?

To clarify, by laypeople I mean
Milinda wrote: a white-clad householder, enjoying sense pleasures, dwelling in a lodging crowded with wife and children, accustomed to Benares sandalwood, using garlands, perfumes and unguents, handling gold and silver (money), his hair in a top-knot adorned with a variety of jewels and ornaments


...or the modern equivalent.
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby PeterB » Tue May 11, 2010 9:40 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Ok, so laypeople can and even should practice meditation. Follow-up question: what forms of meditation practice are best suited for laypeople? Are there any which are not particularly suitable? Any that might be "contraindicated"? What might be an ideal meditation program for someone in this circumstance?

To clarify, by laypeople I mean
Milinda wrote: a white-clad householder, enjoying sense pleasures, dwelling in a lodging crowded with wife and children, accustomed to Benares sandalwood, using garlands, perfumes and unguents, handling gold and silver (money), his hair in a top-knot adorned with a variety of jewels and ornaments


...or the modern equivalent.

Thats uncanny . It describes me to a "t"... ;)
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby bodom » Tue May 11, 2010 10:06 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Ok, so laypeople can and even should practice meditation. Follow-up question: what forms of meditation practice are best suited for laypeople? Are there any which are not particularly suitable? Any that might be "contraindicated"? What might be an ideal meditation program for someone in this circumstance?

To clarify, by laypeople I mean
Milinda wrote: a white-clad householder, enjoying sense pleasures, dwelling in a lodging crowded with wife and children, accustomed to Benares sandalwood, using garlands, perfumes and unguents, handling gold and silver (money), his hair in a top-knot adorned with a variety of jewels and ornaments


...or the modern equivalent.


Mindfulness of Breathing, The Four Divine Abidings and The Six Recollections are the most appropriate meditation subjects for laymen according to some modern day teachers.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 12, 2010 1:03 am

Greetings Bodom,

bodom wrote:Mindfulness of Breathing, The Four Divine Abidings and The Six Recollections are the most appropriate meditation subjects for laymen according to some modern day teachers.

There's the wide variety amongst laymen in terms of their starting points, earnestness, personal goals, and time available for meditation.

I think the most suitable meditation for someone depends upon all these factors.

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


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby bodom » Wed May 12, 2010 1:31 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Bodom,

bodom wrote:Mindfulness of Breathing, The Four Divine Abidings and The Six Recollections are the most appropriate meditation subjects for laymen according to some modern day teachers.

There's the wide variety amongst laymen in terms of their starting points, earnestness, personal goals, and time available for meditation.

I think the most suitable meditation for someone depends upon all these factors.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I agree. There are 40 subjects to use and one chooses based on preference and personality. I was not stating this from personal opinion, but the opinion of some modern day teachers. Never the less its safe to say that for one practising in the homelife, without access to a teacher these would be a safe bet.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby PeterB » Tue May 18, 2010 12:50 pm

While agreeing I find myself wondering how many people are actually in the position of not having access to a teacher..
I have this theory which I am happy to have disproved, that least least some people who do not have a teacher or teachers actually eschew teachers because of a kind of fear.

Be that as it may M.O.B and the BV's seem to cover most of our needs.
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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby whitewedding » Wed May 19, 2010 7:37 pm

PeterB wrote:While agreeing I find myself wondering how many people are actually in the position of not having access to a teacher..
I have this theory which I am happy to have disproved, that least least some people who do not have a teacher or teachers actually eschew teachers because of a kind of fear.

Be that as it may M.O.B and the BV's seem to cover most of our needs.


Well Peter - as we say in mathematics - too many lectures dull your mind.
Sure - meditation is a massively multidimensional thing - but if you stick to the instructions in the suttas, read a few books and maybe ask a question once in a while in this forum then I think you start to figure out where your going wrong and were your going right. Everybody's different - they should design there meditation how it suits them (as long as it's along the right path). Plus - If you figure things out by yourself you get a hell of a lot more insight and control than by following instructions I reckon.

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Re: Meditation: Is it Required?

Postby PeterB » Thu May 20, 2010 3:19 pm

whitewedding wrote:
PeterB wrote:While agreeing I find myself wondering how many people are actually in the position of not having access to a teacher..
I have this theory which I am happy to have disproved, that least least some people who do not have a teacher or teachers actually eschew teachers because of a kind of fear.

Be that as it may M.O.B and the BV's seem to cover most of our needs.


Well Peter - as we say in mathematics - too many lectures dull your mind.
Sure - meditation is a massively multidimensional thing - but if you stick to the instructions in the suttas, read a few books and maybe ask a question once in a while in this forum then I think you start to figure out where your going wrong and were your going right. Everybody's different - they should design there meditation how it suits them (as long as it's along the right path). Plus - If you figure things out by yourself you get a hell of a lot more insight and control than by following instructions I reckon.

Steve.

I think that you need to listen a bit more and preach a bit less. And I would start with reading what people have actually written and not what you are projecting.

:anjali:
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