An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea. - Buddha
Dharana and dhyana
Dharana is Sanskrit for focusing (concentration). Dhyana is Sanskrit for contemplation, which is inner diving. A Buddhist contemplation method is hinted at above. Increasing awareness through contemplation (meditation) and other methods has a central place in Buddhism. Basic contemplation helps insight, clarity, and wisdom. Insight is here taken to mean "seeing things as they are". The teaching is that great insight goes along with inner purity, which is to be aimed at by contemplation. Ancient sutras (suttas in Pali) in the Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of the Gradual Sayings) state that there are three areas where training is needed: in conduct, focus (concentration, dharana), and insight. What to contemplate on, may vary. One compendium, the Visuddhimagga (Way to Purity) by Buddhaghosa from the early 400s AD, advices how to choose what accords with character or inclination.
Stages of dhyana
Inner diving (contemplation ways) and interiorised experiences are shown in a structured way in the Visuddhimagga compendium of Theraveda teachings. Four stages of interiorisation of the mind (called dhyanas in Sanskrit and jhanas in Pali) are enumerated in it. The work describes how meditators train their attention and the landmarks and stages they could encounter while boring and gliding along "within themselves". Practice hardly leaves out systematic cultivation of virtuous thought, word, and deed. Daniel Goleman of Harvard shows the work's "road map" for inner diving and its joy and bliss. Goleman goes on to compare other well-known contempation techniques with the contemplative points and streams of development of the Visuddhimagga. [Goleman 1975] [Dhyana]
Many methods exist
Also, several contemplation techniques are in use. One is the Vipassana method of observing, others include the "wall-staring" of Zen, a method attributed to Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese). In Esoteric Buddhism you find many more methods under the heading Vajrayana (Vehicle of the Diamond or Thunderbolt). Mantrayana (Vehicle of the Mantra) is a way that is recommended by such as Tibet's great, Medieval yogi Milarepa. Mantrayana uses mantras (sounds, sets of syllables, etc) to increase subtlety and gain awareness within.
Symbols to take in
Some inner experiences are referred to in very symbolic language.
Finally, the stages of Buddhist meditation show many similarities with Hindu meditation (Buddhist Yoga and Hindu Yoga have similar practices). Both may take off from a common tradition in ancient India. Buddhist contemplation developed marked variations in different traditions.
Part 1. Meditate in the here and now somehow
Proficient meditation leads to inner development of mind - to deep developments.
This process may establish a good foundation for future work too.
We can refine the present and the moments by improving our silent awareness here and now.
Part 2. Recognise the inner side to yourself
We can go back to a primary existence by "tall breathing".
Following the breath you should have let go of chatter long ago. ◇
Part 3. Adhere to this single moment-stream's mindfulness to be able to delight too
"The cat with a smile on her face" stands for The Deep Breath.
Breath awareness may be abate as the nimitta (mind sign, for example a nice light) appears in vision.
A first bliss of elevated mind states (jhanas) should preferably be delighted in often (See "Latukikopama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya").
High Jhanas [dhyanas] may go on for hours at a time.
Meditate toward great effortlessness. "Identifying the mind essence . . . is the easiest of all meditations. All other exercises and practices are merely preparations for it . . . to recognize the nature of one's own mind, or at least to glimpse it." Then it "will always shine brightly within him."
"After the recognition [of it] there is still a very long way to go, yet the first glimpse is regarded by all Buddhist sages as the most important thing, that which every yogi must first try to obtain. Once the "gateless gate" is entered, meditation will no more be a "practice" or an effort. It now becomes a natural and spontaneous act of life . . . No effort needs to be made, and no object or idea need to be worked upon."
"In order to reach this gateless gate, one must work . . . practice," writes Garma Chang [1970:214-15]. The method is described in books by W. Y. Evans-Wentz: Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (Evans-Wentz 1968:202ff), and Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines [Evans-Wentz 1967].
The Tibetan teaching of Padma-Sambhava is: "The deep mind remains eternally Reality." To realise it, conform to "Easy - Subtilise - Enter dhyana (deep meditation) to a spontaneous flow - Consolidate, and so on." Fruitful practice gives clear wisdom alias self-knowledge. And there is not really a need to fall under the sway of trusting, or of ignorance. Transcending and uninhibited Deep Mind is the Great Symbol (mahamudra) [Evans-Wentz 1968:220-240, passim]
To know it first-hand you may decide to practice meditation.
Brahmavamso, Ajahn. The Basic Method of Meditation. Nollamara. WA: Buddhist Society of Western Australia, 1998. [◦Online]
Chang, Garma C. The Practice of Zen. New York: Perennial/Harper, 1970.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, i.e. Britannica Online, s.v. "Buddhist meditation", "Buddhism", "Visuddhimagga".
Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation or the Method of Realizing Nirvana through Knowing the Mind. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.
Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Goleman, David. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. London: Rider, 1975.
Meditation - research findings in the media
Law, Naomi. Scientists probe meditation secrets. BBC News. 31 mars 2008.
BBC 1. Meditation 'brain training' clues. BBC News. 13. juni 2005
BBC 2. Buddhists 'really are happier'. BBC News. 21. mai 2003.
BBC 3. Meditation mapped in monks. 1. mars 2002.
Harvesting the hay
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