Buddha and Meditation
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Buddha says that unless one is using a fit method, one may not gain Nirvana – the awakened state that is called Enlightenment.
Buddha also speaks of two qualities that he says are involved in that awakened state: Tranquillity and Insight. If you develop tranquillity, your mind will develop, even to the point of becoming free, liberated while living. And if you develop insight you may free yourself considerably from fetters as well.
By meditating which brings such as tranquillity and insights in some measure, depending on how well the meditation goes some get Enlightened.
Being Nirvana-attuned Matters
Meditation methods are for gaining Nirvana, and Nirvana has been described in various sources. Since Nirvana in Buddhism holds these two factors of Tranquillity and Insight, fit ways of life are attuned to them and regulated by them too - but also to other sides to Nirvana, such as blessed happiness over and over. In the Dhammapada, Buddha says that nirvana is "the highest happiness". He also says great peace is one of its marks. And luminous consciousness. Also, deep, inner knowledge and being aware of (awake to) the true nature of reality. These are genuine assets, and so is safety.
Further, fit meditation methods manage to resonate somehow to one or several of these innermost sides to Life. Being attuned to that gentle Highest (Innermost) most of the time throughout one's life is essential for good, decent living, at least in theory . . . More goes into living in addition to such "righteous deeds", virtues and essential mindfulness, but poverty, being bound, fettered, sufferings, low clinging, evanescence, and naughty and blunt greed work against a life of harmony and plenty attuned to the Main Thing, holds Buddhism and Guru Dev, father of Transcendental Meditation, TM. So a neat way of living ideally takes us away from such factors, and skilfully, wisely. Very fit ways of life and meditation methods are for that. [More: Wikipedia, s.v. "Nirvana"]
This was to lay bare how more than one meditation method exists. What is more, you have been given touchstones by which to evaluate methods and ways of living too. The touchstones are the noble, main qualities and sides to Nirvana. Accordingly, if you do not get happy and very happy by a way of life, it is not a good sign. Maybe the method is unfit, unfit for you, or maybe you don't practice it as should be. There are many options. One option that is not to be overlooked is how your daily life is. Is it gentle? Also, are the fruits of your efforts at good living and meditation marred and robbed by untrue associates? If so, get rid of them as you are up to it.
There may be hundreds of meditation methods and just as many fine ways of living, up to a point. It is not that all are equally good and well composed for harmonious living and sound, sensible progress in meditation too. Try to ascertain to what degree the ways or methods or what comes with them allow for freedom and knowledge. That is a question, since progress may be hampered for the lack of these factors, among others.
And now for the two "main meditation ways" with many variations as found in traditional Buddhism:
Tranquillity of a well unified mind Samatha
Samatha means "calm abiding", that is, serenity of a well unified mind. Samatha meditation a focusing, pacifying and calming meditation is designed to enhance one's concentration capacity and gain attentiveness that is sustained for several hours at a time. At bottom it is a means to an end. Samatha is commonly practiced as a prelude to and in conjunction with wisdom practices: When the mind is in a highly concentrated state, deep insight may be had. Brain waves studies confirm that trend quite well within its limits.
The mind does not need to be trained to gain the ability to concentrate, although safe and sure practice may improve how focused one becomes, and for how long. The ideal is to enter into great tranquillity as effortlessly and spontaneously as can be. TM is grounded in that: the mind is able to get calm and finely aware or focused to the degree it goes into blessed joy. By finely attuned focusing the awareness is turned inward by itself, and by leaps and bounds too, by a suitable method of meditation, one that makes use of natural tendencies of the body-mind, and cultivate such natural sides to humans. Falling asleep is one way to "go inward". Doing it consciously, in full awareness, is what proper, finely attuned meditation is about. It rests on and uses an inherent ability of the mind.
And just as deep sleep naturally helps, refreshes, and maintains sane balances and one's good spirits, so can fit meditation. It does not have to be a drag, and should not be draining either, ideally. Its fruits may be peace and contentment, and also delight in meditation and open delight in living.
The aim of Samatha meditation in the great Mahamudra tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is to allow the mind to enter into tranquillity naturally. The method of Samatha meditation is to mentally, calmly keeping watch of the in- and out-flowing breath as the breath flows naturally and not interfered with, all of which is called anapanasati.
Insight into "the true nature of reality" – Vipassana
Samatha meditation (of focused awareness for long) is among the main types of Buddhist meditation. Yet the most widely used Buddhist meditation form today is mindfulness training, also called Vipassana. Vipassana, referred to as Insight meditation, has many differing forms. In Mahayana Buddhism it has been understood as contemplating for advancing a clear mind, which is a basis of good insights. Whatever forms it has taken, Vipassana practice is held to promote more and better insight into reality.
Buddha teaches gentle awareness training (mindfulness) in the Pali Canon. One does well to mindfully observe the body in the natural act of walking or during the process of standing up or sitting down. The key element is to try to be continuously aware of whatever process is taking place without necessarily interfering with or reacting to the process that is happening in the moment. However, if you find you had better adjust something, for example your body posture, you can go down a step and use sensible awareness training as a help for that too.
The bottom idea is to be greatly aware of how we and much else manifest – calmly observing this and that by making up our minds to remain aware in the first place, and perhaps focus that greater awareness to harness the benefits it brings, in areas where it matters.
Insight comes at least to some as a result of such awareness training as described by Buddha.
Now, the best observer of the body, its processes and features and so on into surroundings, is a fully-awakened guy in the state of Nirvana-Bliss. This reminds of findings of Abraham Maslow, namely that self-actualisers are better observers, more impartial, and further.
In the peak-experiences, we become more detached, more objective, and are more able to perceive the world as if it were independent not only of the perceiver but even of human beings in general. The perceiver can more readily . . . more easily refrain from projecting human purposes upon it. In a word, he can see it in its own Being (as an end in itself) . . . see more truly the nature of the object in itself. [Maslow 1964, Appendix A More]
Be allied to the best for best results; that is the key, or principle, if you like.
As you try to observe and train yourself in that sort of inward practice, here is what Gautama Buddha said about proper mindfulness?
"When going, the monk knows 'I am going', or, when standing, he knows 'I am standing', or, when lying down, he knows 'I am lying down'. Or in whatever position his body is placed, he is aware of it . . . Whether he goes, stands or sits, sleeps or is awake, speaks or is silent, he is acting with full attention. [Digha Nikaya]
Buddha holds that mindful ones even observe and witness their own sleep as it occurs naturally, by itself. Does it seem impossible? Try as you like. It is possible for the central, inner consciousness to witness the sleeping process fairly says Evan Finkelstein. That inner core keeps watch of the outward-turned mind, its influences and its intentions, as well as the mind, which goes deep within. Many dreams tell of major influences and represent the total organism answers and adjustments. That is a large part of what dreams are about. They appear on the screen of consciousness from some basis –
If a person tries to be an impartial observer of natural processes – on whatever level, in many a field or life what would be appropriate methods? And why spend time on developing skills like these in the first place? It is generally of great value for sound individuals to integrate the conscious awareness with one's inner sides by deepening one's conscious awareness. Sensible and skilled training sees to that. Going within may be crowned by dipping into the Sea of Self, the Higher Self, the state of Nirvana, as we may call It. After dipping one's toes into the water muchsplashing can follow, and finally swimming – first in shallow waters and later on the deeps.
Hsuan Hua, ed. The Shurangama Sutra with Commentary. 1st ed. Burlingame, CA: Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2003.
Maslow, Abraham. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1964.
Compare the article ◦"The Buddha's Meditation" by Evan Finkelstein, in Elephant Journal of 1 July 2011. Dr Finkelstein is professor of Comparative Religion and Maharishi Vedic Science, and has taught many courses on deeper sides to such as TM (Transcendental Meditation), Taoism and Buddhism.
The Transcendental Meditation Program. Official website. [◦Link]
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