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.
❋ To get Enlightened or Awakened, get proficient in a fit method for it.
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.
❋ Go skilfully, gently enough, as you are up to it, and learn to protect yourself also.
Tranquillity of a well unified mind – Samatha
Now for the two "main meditation ways" with many variations as found in traditional Buddhism: 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.
❋ Gentle meditation training should not be a burden or a drag; for skilled practice is allied to great natural delights.
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 much splashing can follow, and finally swimming – first in shallow waters and later on the deeps.
❋ Better adjust one's awareness sensibly to things Maslow's peakers talk about, to the degree such adjustments or climbs produce the better quality of life a spirit craves for.
Wisdom of the Buddhist Shurangama Sutra
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva perfected his cultivation through the organ of the ear, and . . . Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of former times have left us such a wonderful Dharma-door that we should also follow the method of cultivating the organ of the ear to perfect penetration. This is the easiest method. [Shurangama Sutra ]
The method suggested here, is referred to as the easiest method because it involves the simple and effortless act of allowing one's attention to remain with a sound in order to go deeper within, aiming at perfect penetration. Perfect penetration means that one has been able to penetrate beyond all the temporal, ever-changing values of all the conditioned states of existence and become at one with the Absolute, unconditioned, eternal, never born and never dying peace and fulfilment – it is the infinite all-knowing state of Nirvana, the end of much suffering.
How to remain with a sound? What is a proper, efficient method for setting in motion a process such as hinted at? The Shurangama Sutra offers further explanation in the following verses:
Return the hearing to hear your own nature
❋ To end some forms of suffering and also become at One with the Way, you should be wholly yourself too. That is a basic.
On turning hearing inwards
Turn hearing inwards and reach beyond somehow. It may take more than three months to get the knack of it. Here is more on how to "turn words inward". It is from the age-old Manu Samhita, and is about prayers – which are words, and there are words that also serve as mantras. They are words (better: syllables or sounds) of power.
An offering, consisting of muttered prayers, is ten times more efficacious than a sacrifice performed according to the rules (of the Veda); a (prayer) which is inaudible (to others) surpasses it a hundred times, and the mental (recitation of sacred texts) a thousand times. [Manu Samhita, 2:85. Words in brackets are interpolations by the translator]
Allied with a helpful and personally suitable mantra you may learn to meditate properly, and "training makes better, and better -" That is, perfect your performance of the smart mantra you have been given. Be meticulous about it, and you "turn hearing inwards" in an old way when you do it right.
Quite effortlessly we turn our attention to a good sound, and find that as we mentally think-repeat it, our state of body and mind changes for the better, and we meditate. That is an immediate effect of repeating the good mantra in the inward direction toward the source of the recalled, repeated sound in your mind. The appreciated inward-going and good rest are brought on spontaneously, and your part is to dispense with many words for just one, or a few, as in the following story about the "Little Wagoner", Culapanthaka. I just render it.
While living in the Bamboo Grove, Buddha told of Culapanthaka.
❋ The little wagoner got help. Others get help too.
In Theravada Buddhism there is seldom talk of mantra meditation. One may come across words about the term Buddho and how it is tied mentally to the in- and outgoing breath, though. It is a Thai method that looks like the common hamsa meditation training of yoga. "Close your eyes and inwardly recite the mantra "Buddho" in conjunction with the breath. Concentrate the mind on Buddho," teaches the abbot Looang Boo Sim Buddhacaro. Ajaan Sao, his teacher, had taught: "Meditate on the word 'Buddho'."
If asked, "What does 'Buddho' mean?" Ajaan Sao would answer, "Don't ask . . . Your only duty is simply to repeat the word 'Buddho' over and over in your mind." That's how he taught. En passant, "Buddho" means 'Awake; enlightened'. 
What is more, "you can repeat buddho in the mind with each in-and-out breath, but only in the very beginning stages. You repeat buddho to keep the mind from concocting thoughts about other things," explains Upasika Kee Nanayon. 
However, these Thai uses of a mantra in Theravada may be termed special cases, and are hardly mainstream Theravada practice, which is training of fundamental mental awareness.
In Mahayana Buddhism there is mantra meditation and use of mantras of many kinds and for many purposes. In good practice the sound of the mantra is experienced on subtler levels until the sound fades and the meditator is in Samadhi (inward-turned mind, also called absorption).
Great benefits. A beneficent and easy way of turning around the "mechanism for hearing" from outward-directed to inward-turned awareness is the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM is an almost effortless practice that does not require belief to work as intended. People of many religions practice it, and people of no religion. Its practical benefits have been scientifically researched and documented for 40 years and it has been taught world-wide to over 6 million people.
TM meditation does not involve straining contemplation, or any controlled effort to distance oneself from one's experiences by trying to remain unmoved, detached and impartial. This is a vital point. Besides, one can easily gain and develop Tranquillity and Insight by regularly transcending.
Bright and great methods of meditation would be those that are capable of bringing us beyond in a short time, and gradually integrate and stabilize the delightful yonder-state in our world and go for its fruits in several ways too.
To gain great tranquillity of Perfect Wisdom, try a fit method of turning the awareness within, and reap great benefits too.
❋ The great technique of Transcendental Meditation - TM, in short - has helped very many already.
The Buddhist leader Bhikkhu Sanghasena, who practices Trancendental Meditation, has decided to introduce TM in his schools and monastery in Ladakh, Kashmir, in Himalayan India. People from many parts of the world formerly came to his international meditation centre to learn his Buddhist meditation techniques. Sangashena has expressed great appreciation of Maharishi and his teachings, which he will implement in Ladakh.
During the last few years, Rev. Koji Oshima, a Japanese Buddhist monk who has practices TM for nine years, has inspired Buddhist monks in Thailand and Sri Lanka to learn TM. Today over 3100 such monks have learned TM. [◦More]
Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedictus XVI, in 1990 signed a newsletter where TM and other eastern meditations were described as helpful for attaining peace "even amidst turbulence". So Transcendental Meditation, TM, is practiced among Buddhists and many others. The method of TM may be practiced without any formal faith as well.
❋ The last pope, Benedictus, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, signed a newsletter that described TM and other methods as helpful.
The Shurangama Sutra has a long history. Its has been especially influential in Chan Buddhism, the Chinese reservoir of Zen, one might say. A current scholar agreement is that the text was written in China, based on Indic text. Ronald Epstein:
The Sutra is probably a compilation of Indic materials that may have had a long literary history. . . . The Sutra has an intricate beauty of structure that . . . shines through and can clearly be distinguished from the Classical Chinese syntax . . . It seems likely that the origin of the great bulk of material in the Sutra is Indic, though it is obvious that the text was edited in China. However, a great deal of further, systematic research will be necessary . . .Epstein also notes that the general doctrinal position of the sútra corresponds to what is known about the teachings at the Nálandá the ancient Buddhist university in Bihar, India, during this period. Other scholars too have associated the Shúrangama Sútra with the Buddhist tradition at Nálandá. Nalanda flourished between 415 and 1193 CE, when it was destroyed by Muslim invaders. A vast amount of what came to comprise Tibetan Buddhism, both its Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, stems from the late (9th–12th century) Nalanda teachers and traditions.
The text stresses moral, and teaches about end results of deep meditation. Gradual ascent (a glide "inwards" by a method of meditation described in the text conforms with how deep meditation - including Transcendental meditation - is done. [Shurangama Sutra 5:129-230] [◦Global Good News, 24 Jan. 2008]
The text tells of a meeting of Buddha with prominent followers. Main themes are (1) getting into samádhi and (2) keeping the moral precepts, and (3) dealing with delusions in meditation.
The end state of Awakening is termed everlasting understanding - wondrous suchness of reality.
The work has been translated into English.
[Chapter source: Wikipedia, s.v. "Surangama Sutra"; "Nalanda"]
❋ The Shurangama Sutra is a text on how to go for everlasting wisdom, also termed Awakening.
The Shurangama Sutra Translation Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society, trs. The Shurangama Sutra: With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua. A New Translation. Ukiah, CA: The Buddhist Text Translation Society / Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ This translation was carried on for more than six years by a committee of Buddhist academics and ordained monks. The committee was lead by David Rounds and Dr. Ronald Epstein, retired professor of religion and philosophy at California State University, San Francisco. The text comes with excerpts from the commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (Xuanhua). A recommended work.
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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