Observations in Samatha and Vipassana Meditation - in Samatha and Vipassana Meditation ... paththaaner sutra. ... Buddhist text in English as concentration

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  • NOVEMBER 2017 PAHANA - Mid Issue26

    www.pahana.com.au Extra

    Observations in Samatha and Vipassana MeditationYears of distorted Buddhist teaching

    and guidance, thanks to our Sinhala

    Buddhist priests, who possess wide

    knowledge on Thripitaker, yet with

    meager 'Understanding' of Buddha's

    doctrine, have led our society to engage

    in devotional practices as Hindus such

    as poojas, prayers, besieging divine


    Buddha denied such practices, which

    might accumulate merit to qualify for a

    heavenly birth, rather than leading up to

    'Nibbana here & now'.

    The present Sri Lankan society is

    immensely corrupt even the presence of a

    Samma Sambuddha, will fail to guide the

    so called labelled Buddhists to salvation,

    who indulge themselves in rampant

    consumption of liquor, idle chatter,

    watching corrupt programs on TV, wild

    partying etc. etc. instead of devoting

    few minutes a day on meditation, the

    crux of Buddha's doctrine. The lame

    excuse being ' we hardly have time for


    When I practiced meditation under

    the Bodhi tree in Buddha Gaya for

    an extended period, I observed many

    Thai Buddhist monks and lay persons

    in meditation and no Sinhala Buddhist

    monks practicing bhavanaa were seen

    in the vicinity. Our monks' main theme

    was Amisa pooja and delivering talks at

    times emulating our politicians, using

    mega and grama phones, disturbing the

    tranquility and peace, in a noble place.

    I do not pretend to be an expert on

    meditation nor on Buddha Damma

    yet I sincerely wish the content of this

    article will serve as an 'eye opener' for

    those, took refuge in the triple gem and

    who abuse the fi ve precepts and label

    themselves Buddhists.

    The word meditation has been loosely

    used for Samadi or Jhana or Samatha

    Bhavana. Even before someone begins

    concentration which is a mechanical

    process, even non-Buddhist can do, one

    must practice Mindfulness or Sati, which

    means to be aware or conscious of all

    movements and phenomena in day to day

    activities, indeed a diffi cult practice for a

    beginner, as explained in the Mahaa sathi

    paththaaner sutra.

    The word samadhi has been translated in

    Buddhist text in English as concentration

    probably from the beginning f time. but

    does it refl ect the true meaning? sammaa

    Samadhi refers to 4 jhanas which means

    the 4 absorptions (states) of the mind, and

    thus a consequence, rather than a process.

    In fact its the eff ect NOT the cause,

    hence Samadhi should mean absorption

    and not concentration. Concentration is a

    process at arriving at 'one pointedness' but

    Samadhi is a state or damma of the mind.

    Let us now see why people Meditate.

    Nowadays meditation has become

    more of a vogue than a disciplined

    exercise especially in the west. On

    the other hand easterners however are

    more inclined to perform rituals to gain

    merit rather than engaging themselves

    in meditation, thanks to the guidance

    of ignorant Buddhist monks. Some do

    meditation without knowing why they

    practice it. Buddha clearly explains in

    Vijja-bhaagiya Sutta why one needs to

    meditate. He calls it qualities of clear

    knowing. Which in other words is seeing

    things as they really are.

    First quality is Tranquility or perfect

    calmness of body and mind. Some

    practice mindfulness of breathing without

    actually knowing what it intended

    for. In the fi rst tetrad, as explained

    in anaapaaner sutra, the 4th stage is

    calming the body. While you sit in a

    comfortable position and keep your body

    still, without movement, virtually the

    body is fully relaxed and calm. However

    the movement of air in and out of the

    body seem to be in a state of disturbance,

    relatively to the rest of the body, which

    is still. So the aim in Aaanaapaaner Sathi

    is to relax this in breath and out breath

    to reach a state of perfect stillness,

    where one doesnt feel the extent of the

    breath anymore. When Meditator's body

    is calm, the mind becomes happy and

    happiness is a condition for the mind to

    enter Jhana or Absorption. (primararily 4

    in all - however here we will not discuss


    Now Buddha poses the question in the

    Suttra what purpose does it serve to

    tranquilise the breath body and go

    on to state to develop the Mind. This

    clearly indicates that mind needs to be

    developed from the state of monkey

    mind of the ordinary human being,

    puthajjaner or run-of-mill mind, to reach

    a higher consciousness level. When the

    mind is developed, what purpose does

    it serve? Just as what purpose it serves

    to practice tranquility Buddha poses the

    second question. When people see things

    at the bottom in a crystal clear water

    pond, the Passion for things gradually

    disappears, and fi nally is abandoned. So

    we can safely arrive at the conclusion

    that the Purpose of Practicing Tranquility

    or Samatha Bhaavanaa is to abandon

    Passion. Now if someone asks you why

    you practice meditation the one simple

    answer is to abandon passion.

    Just by abandoning passion do we

    reached a state where we do see things as

    clearly as they are? The answer is No. We

    abandoned passion but we have a whole

    lot of work to do to reach the ultimate

    target of Clear Knowing. So we begin the

    practice of Insight or Vipassanaa Bhavana

    and what purpose does that serve?

    Discernment is developed. In the English

    Dictionary the meaning of discernment is

    given as The act or process of exhibiting

    keen insight and good judgment. In

    Buddhist terms the defi nition goes much

    further into metaphysics where one

    sees a being as a mere aggregate of

    5 things, namely Feeling, Perception,

    Mental action, Consciousness consisting

    of the mind, and the last aggregate, the

    physical body. It does not stop there. It

    goes on to fi nd the characteristics of

    the fi ve aggregates in the bhava of a so

    called being, a non-entity. The subject of

    the 5 aggregates to Anichcha, Dhukka,

    and Anattataa, loosely translated as for

    convenience Impermanence, Suff ering

    and Not Self. Now Buddha asks , And

    when discernment is developed, what

    purpose does it serve? Ignorance is

    abandoned, the root cause of all this

    suff ering in Sansaara.

    Readers now know why we meditate

    which has a dual purpose of abandoning

    Passion and abandoning Ignorance.

    Samatha Bhavana which again our

    mislead Sinhala Buddhist monks, with

    a few exceptions, discourage laypersons

    to practice, which however Buddha

    recommended highly, mentioned in

    many Suttras, such as Brahmajaala sutra,

    Saamannapala Sutra. The observation of

    ignorant monks and lay people, is that

    concentration is the domain of Hindu

    Rishis, as the end product of Jhanas

    lead to gaining powers such as walking

    on water or fl ying through air etc. etc.

    Buddha clearly advised to refrain indulge

    in powers and clinging on to them,

    rather to utilize concentration to reach

    higher consciousness levels, to engage in

    insight, through a better understanding,

    to gain more ground on enter the path to


    A good Trainer in bhavanaa or a book

    is mandatory for beginners, and my

    source was Vissudhimagga, which our

    pedantic pundits criticise, instead of

    understanding the absolute brilliant

    exposition of Buddhist principles on

    Bhavana, to elevate consciousness from

    Sensual sphere, Kamavacchara Citta,

    to Fine material sphere, Rupavacchara

    Citta, and beyond. To gain a superior

    understanding of Mind and Matter is one

    of the greatest challenge for an ordinary

    worldling, concentrating on forty

    Kammathanas or objects, the dhammer


    The object of concentration when

    rightly grasped with much practice will

    produce a SIGN, an image or Nimittha..

    At this stage in Samatha Bhavana, a

    meditator reaches Access Concentration,

    however not yet Jhana or Absorption

    and the concentrator will quickly fall

    back from Fine Material consciousness

    which he/she reached, to Sensual

    Sphere consciousness. Some objects of

    concentration, kammathaaners, such as

    Buddha's qualities or a dead body will

    only lead up to Access Concentration. To

    strive for higher levels one should select

    a Kasina or practice Anapaana Sati. The

    image created by the mind comes in

    various shapes and sizes as one reaches

    Absorption or Jhana Consciousness.

    The common sign is a bright light, a

    conceptual image created by mind.

    Anaapaaner Sathi practice, the readily

    available object for concentration,

    should begin with counting In breath

    and Out breath oneone, twotwo

    up to fi ve. With profi ciency, one might

    drop counting and feel Ana and Pana at

    the base of nostril or some point in the

    breath body. Once mastered one can

    practice the fi rst four bases, out of the

    16 bases, as explained in the Anaapaaner

    Suttra. This practice is the domain of

    Buddhas and diffi cult, however one can

    reach Nibbaaner, going through four

    Jhana, stepping on abhinnaa (6th power)

    utilizing Anapana Sati Bhavana.

    Mind by default wonders and attempts to

    keep it focused often fails. The meditator

    should not be frustrated and should make

    every endeavour to re-focus on the object

    of concentration. One of the easiest times

    for beginners to practice Bhavana is

    before going to bed, while in the supine

    position. If one awakes he/she should do

    resume Anapana Sati, until he/she falls

    back to sleep. Noise is one of the thorns

    for meditation and it is advisable to avoid

    such places. In fact Bhavanaa according

    Buddhism is a 24/7 practice, uitilsing

    clear comprehension and mindfulness

    Jhanas numerically are one to eight,

    and the fi rst set of four Jhanas, which

    is confi ned to Fine Material sphere or

    consciousness, is quite adequate to

    contemplate on Mind and Matter (Citta

    and Rupa kaya) gaining insight to liberate

    one from Samsara, reaching the ultimate

    goal Nibbana.

    At the Absorption or Jhana stage a person

    is at the fi fth Impulsion of the seven

    Impulsions in the cognitive series, Citta

    Vitthi (one need to read about Cognitive

    Series in a separate Buddhist text) . The

    fi rst four impulsions belong to Access

    Concentration, mentioned above, and the

    fi fth, Absorption consciousness, which

    is a steady, stable stage. Both Moral

    and Immoral Vipaaker are created at a

    future date, through Actions or Kamma,

    during the seven Impulsion stage.

    Briefl y, a single consciousness, consists

    of seventeen Thought Moments and

    Impulsions occupy numbers from nine to

    fi fteen, seven in all.

    A contemplator should at all times, keep

    the mind relaxed and should never begin a

    session expecting something to happen

    or aiming at going after the Sign. The

    Sign will appear spontaneously at the most

    unexpected situation. Nowadays some

    practice 'factory' Bhavana, the current

    vogue, especially in the west. However

    Buddha recommended meditation in

    solitary retreat in a Kuti or room or under

    a tree or open space etc. etc. One need

    to lead a moral existence to obtain higher

    consciousness and disappointments are

    many yet a person should strive hard as

    the fruits of concentration will eventually

    materialize with patience as the key for


    Under Absorption of Jhana meditator

    will experience happiness, bliss and

    eventually equanimity and unifi cation

    of mind. One need to COME OUT of

    Absorption, to review the Jhana achieved

    and it's shortcomings or move on to the

    next stage of contemplating on mind and

    matter, applying the three characteristics

    of existence Impermanence, Suff ering

    and Anatta on fi ve aggregates. This will

    lead to ponder on Dependant Origination

    or Patichcha Samupaadaayer, detailed in

    Mahanidhaaner Suttra. Understanding

    Dependant Origination, Buddha has

    proclaimed is the key to EXIT Samsara


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