Shakamuni the Buddha used 45 years (some say 49) dispensing and elaborating on the Four Noble Truths. From his infinite compassion he shows us many paths to Enlightenment. The most direct is the wisdom path through meditation, although we are also warned that it is not the easiest.
Meditation is by no means an easy activity as it activates a lot of hidden obstacles and hindrances. They appear in mundane forms like physical illness and on rare occasion distractions from other entities.
So, logically, who wants to get ill and distracted from a seemingly stable routine of sitting, walking, standing and lying down? But, let us take a moment before making a rash decision. These accepted routine activities, are they permanent and as rewarding as they appear to be?
Did the Buddha say something to this effect," the grasping of the presence is the building of future suffering!"
The ancients have always advised us to use this 'meditative inconveniences' as a trigger for more effort. They are not wrong! The pain of the present may in fact moderate future obstacles at other stations in Samsara. The common advice is: "Let us be diligent and complete our homework before we need to hand them up to be marked."
A bit of icing on the cake is: one can reduce or even eliminate much distractions by building some form of knowledge. This includes reading on the theoretical aspects and discussions with seasoned mediators. The are lamps that help to illuminate the journey through the 'tunnel of uncertainty'.
The purpose of this paper:
This essay is the work of a novice, just like an apprentice to the seniors of a soccer team. The writer has simply followed the advice of the Buddha, "Confirm one's understanding by speaking, writing and debating."
Putting one's thought in words is perhaps the easiest of the three activities. The future reader is invited to find in their compassion to moderate the wording if not the essay's content. One can only improve through advises.
The centre of focus is: the hindrances faced by a practitioner during meditation. What are their causes, their symptoms and cures.
On the first reading, the reader may even think this short note is too generalised or basic.
The writer hopes you will find the information listed as a critique and a guideline.
What meditation is not:
Going back to basic: the general English word 'Meditation' has a different implication and elaboration in Buddhism. In general usage, it only implies an activity that aims to achieve a calm or soothing perception. Millions of dollars have changed hands due to this general mis-understanding and millions more were handed out to promises of Iddhis (magical powers) and its counterpart Siddhis (super-normal perceptual states), health-improvement, etc.
Two ancient words are shown here for your consideration.
The first is Bhavana, it is Sanskrit and Pali in origin and is roughly translated as 'to develop or to change something'. That is for us to transmute our impure states to that of a higher level of purity and understanding. It is found to be more in use at early discourses given in the earlier phrases of the Buddha's dispensation.sutra collection of the Buddha's teaching.
The other word is a Tibetan word, sGompa, which implies one to get familiar with a situation. That phenomena is our natural state, the original wakefulness with the concept of duality. Many names were used and this include, sugata-garbha, Buddha Mind, etc. sGompa implies at each level of realization, one may realise the previous the obstacles and activities on the paths could have been avoided. They then become lesson for the future generation.
What is the goal:
The Buddha said: "The path is in effortless."
That is: we can leave all phenomena in their natural state (of emptiness) as they arise.
Another facet is ancient's description, "All phenomena is beyond, dwelling, beyond arising and beyond ceasing and all prevailing."
We live in the mundane world and are surrounded by a dualistic environment. Each of us is compelled to do something. Perhaps, a need to get up, to shout some slogans or to be noticed. That response is normal as we need to adapt this change in attitude. This is through a modified behaviour routine.
In short, the goal of a meditation is to regain our original nature before idea of " I " existed.
To go into proper sitting, some fundamental points have to be cleared:
- Body (posture): The traditional cross-legged position is strongly recommended. The most important point lies in the straightening of the back. By placing the body in its original state, meditation natural occurs.
- Eye (gaze): do not close your eyes, blink or glare sideways. Look directly and unwaveringly ahead. Since the eyesight and the consciousness share a single nature, meditation occurs naturally.
- Mind (the way of resting): do not let the natural state of your ordinary mind purse past habitual patterns, or look into future activities of disturbing emotions and do not fabricate the present state by conceptualising. By resting the consciousness in this natural mode, meditation occurs naturally.
Calm Abiding Is Not Meditation;
We are told of the nine stages of progression in this initial practice, but one must be fore-warned, the main obstacles of Shamatha are feeling of exhilaration, dullness and agitation. They must be overcome before one can even contemplate advancing into clear Insight Meditation (vipashyana). See also LAYA: A Definition.
These stages and its hindrances are not universal to all, some meditators may just 'jump' to the next phrase. An indivisible mode called "shamatha inseparable from vipashyana."
A crucial point to note is: other faiths have their own form of classification and methods. However, this is where the similarity ends. The goal of vipashyana and the knowledge sought differs.
Experience and Obstacles of Samadhi
Samadhi is a general word that would be ideal to describe the next level: The level of absorption, insight and realization.
At this stage, we are told three experiences may arise: Bliss, Clarity and Non-Thought.
Non-thought happens when the consciousness is free from conceptual thinking and has three types:
- No Good Thought" - free from clinging to mediator and meditation object;
- No Evil Thought" - is the interruption of the flow of gross and subtle conceptual thinking;
- No neutral Thought" - recognition of the natural face of awareness as being locationless.
During his state of non-thought, there is clarity.
Clarity is the unobstructed, naked radiance of awareness (three types)
"Spontaneous Clarity", the state being free from an object;
"Original Clarity" does not appear for a temporary duration;
"Natural Clarity" is not made by anyone (unfabricated).
Bliss is different from the usual dictionary definition and there are four types:
"Blissful Feeling" - is to be free from adverse conditions of disharmony "Conceptual Bliss" - is to be free from the pain of concepts;
"Nondual Bliss" - is to be free from the clinging of dualistic fixation;
"Unconditioned Bliss" is to be free from the causes and conditions.
When these three experiences appear, their attachment (another hindrance) is known as the "Defects of Meditation". If one does not detach, one strays into three states of existences (Realm of Desire, Form, Formless).
Despite, having the notion of one has detached from the above experience, there is still some subtle attachment. We are asked to contemplate these attachment by ways if three analogies:
Detach from Bliss like a madman (or stray into the Realm of Desire) ;
Detach from Clarity like the dream of a small child (or stray into the Realm of Form);
Detach from Non-Thought like a yogi who has perfected his yogic discipline (or stray into the Formless Realm)
To cut through this pitfall, one uses "Nine Serene States Of Successive Abiding."
The Real Cause behind the Obstacles
Our deluded mind is the singular cause for all the obstacles in our samsaric existence. It gave birth to The Three Poisons of Ignorance, Hatred and Desire. Through recognizing their true essence, we understood the true meaning of the Tripitaka and applied them as paths.
The five emotions are in effect, creation and manifestations of the mind's three poisons. By being mindful when they arise, one reflects on their cause. They arose from an external factors which is empty in essence. By understand their cause and naturally resting in their turbulent state one perfect the five innate wisdoms and convert them as paths.
Using Samadhi as a Path
All good Samadhis produce experiences. These 'taste' or prana may be seen as an advancement in practices but one needs to be careful. It is tempting to cling onto them as an ego. This attachment will only create more karmic deed.
One must be understand all experiences are transitional or temporary. They are displays of our dualistic mind. The practitioner must look into its essence without fixating and without attachment. This set the ground for the dawning and understanding into the empty essence of nondual wakefulness.
Using Bodily Sickness and Pain as a Path
Hindrance of bodily sickness and pain
Padmasambhava, the precious guru, advised us to use hindrances experiences like sickness, pain, headaches, or intense fatigue as helpers for Samadhi.
One starts by understanding its transitional nature.... a temporary experience. Without naming it as a faults or virtue, one simply allows it to naturally occur and be liberated. Without clinging it does not a dwelling ground.
Knowing his future listeners to be entangled by mundane concepts, the guru advises on how to clear these bodily sickness and pain. In brief, the lesson explains:
"Sickness abides laterally in the all-ground, in the manner of the constitution of the channels and as habitual tendencies. Its causes are due to unwholesome karma accumulated through ignorance and ego clinging. It is activated by disturbing emotions, conceptual thinking, prana-winds, or gods and demons. The matured results is the 404 types of disease, heated by heat and cold, phlegm, aches, and swelling. In short, the disease of coemergent ignorance is the chief cause and the disease of conceptual ignorance is the chief circumstance."
In summary, all sickness (including those not related to meditation) posses five factors:
Unwholesome Karma as the cause;
Disturbing emotions as the circumstances;
Conceptual thinking as the connecting link,
Prana-wind as the concluding assembler,
Gods and demons as the supportive factor.
Using Ignorance as an example, the process is:
Since the cause is Ignorance, recognize co-emergent wisdom as the cure.
Since the condition is disturbing emotions, settle your attention to evenness.
Since the connector is conceptual thinking, cut through the ties of thought.
Since the gatherer of the conclusion is wind, focus on the key point of wind.
The back-support is the gods and demons: must abandon the notion of a demon.
By doing this you will be freed from all kinds of disease.
However, the cure for the essence of illness as instructed by the Enlightened master may be beyond our conceptual mind. He went on to explain the alternatives:
Best to leave it to be self-liberated.
That is to say, in the preliminaries, don't pursue the sickness.
During the main part, don't cultivate the sickness.
During the conclusion, don't dwell on feeling sick.
Through that, you will untie old sickness and remain unharmed by new ones.
(Living followers of this advice are those that understood)
Regard the sickness with gratitude and letting your mind be jubilant, eat food that harms the illness and act in adverse ways towards it
This process of illness vacating is the medicine of cutting through.
At least you will not have to suffer with the thought of feeling sick
Last is to cure by meditation.
In general, resting in equanimity should be completely become the essence of Non-Thought. You must cause all concerns far away and be free from doubt and hesitation about what is exorcised or visualised. The visualisation and your mind should be unified. It is important to rely and concentrate upon these three points.
The Fear and Dread of Gods and Demons:
The occurrence of this hindrances is universal. They exist in the mind of the practitioner who has yet to be contact with a glimpse of reality. See Mara.
But where do they come from?
The presence of demonic force and doubt arises from the indivisibility of prana and the dualistic mind (It is nurtured by conceptual thinking).
The guru recommended the following method:
"When hindrances such as thoughts of Fear and Dread arises, we must identify them quickly and bring them onto the path. If you let them run wild or fall under their power and will later matured as an obstacle for your practice,
"The ground of evil forces and magical displays are within your own mistaken mind. There are definitely no 'gods' or 'demons' outside of yourself. The very moment you experienced evil forces and magical displays, apply the vital point of understanding that they do not possess any true existence as they are devoid of arising, dwelling and ceasing
"One start by assuming a yogic posture. Keeping one gaze, we look into its identity. As soon as our thinking turns into empty cognisance, we will possess the confident courage that thoroughly cut through fear and dread."
We are also warned that a self-assuring thought, like, "I cannot be harmed by obstacles!" and "I wonder if I will meet with some obstacles!" may in fact creates a welcome for demons.
In summary, one is advised to cut the stream of conceptual thinking! This includes offering your aggregates as a feast offering or as food. This is the sure way to cast away ego-clinging. One simply applies the vital point and practice!
One may like to try practices like meditation on "Loving kindness" or Chod. The latter is a method developed in Tibet by Lady Machig Ladron. An expedient means that combines the sutra and esoteric teaching.
Integrating Meditative experience into the Five Noble Paths
Padmasambhava said the Five Paths are included within Three Experiences (Bliss, Clarity and Non-Thought) of Samadhi.
The instructions are:
- 1. Having cut these pitfalls (from the 4 Formless States of serenity - 4 Dhyanas), one practices a flawless meditation by remaining serenely and vividly in this clarity and non-thought during the meditation state. In the post meditation state; appearances arise unobstructedly and are as in substantial as a dream or magical illusion. You understand the nature of cause and effects, fill the measure of merit to the brim, attain the 'heat of samadhi'; and thus perfect the Path of Accumulation.
- 2. By practising this for a long time, you see in actuality, locationless and self-cognisant, the nature presence in yourself. Recognising your natural face in the Path of Seeing.
- 3. Experiencing appearance, awareness and emptiness to be locationless and self-cognisant, you see directly the unconditioned innate nature. The obscuration of disturbing emotions is destroyed at its root. Realising that cause and effect are empty, samsara has no solid existence. The meditation state is indivisible from Buddhahood and everything in the post meditation arises as magical illusion. - Path of Joining.
- 4. Growing familiar with this state and sustaining it steadily, all phenomena become nondual. Recognising them as self-display, appearance and mind mingle as one. When emptiness arises as cause and effect, you realise dependent origination. During the meditation state all phenomena are locationless and present as the essence of awareness. The slight presence of objective appearance during the post-meditation state is the Path of Cultivation.
- 5. Maintaining this for a long time, you realise that all samsara and nirvana is nondual, beyond arising and ceasing, unmixed and utterly perfect, locationless and self-cognisant. The cognitive obscuration totally vanishes, and the very moment everything dawns as original wakefulness is the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment, the State of Buddhahood, Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi.
The past several years has seen a proliferation of smartphone meditation apps come on the market, all designed in such a way to ease, assist, familiarize, and put into use meditation techniques for almost anybody interested in learning and implementing the various ins-and-outs of meditation, at least as the manufacturers of the apps view meditation.
Beyond the manufacturers advertisement and promotions, for every page that shows up on the internet or elsewhere in support of using the apps, there is an equal number of pages knocking their use. What the knocking their use people are selling varies, but the in support folk seem to be in line with the app builders and promoters because if nothing else, the apps sell --- and sell big time, especially so the two top brands, Headspace and Calm.
People use all kinds of things to enhance or increase their ability to accomplish things. They wear glasses to improve the clarity of their physical vision. Some use dental implants and dentures to chew, eat, or look better. The same for the use of prosthetics, crutches, canes, or wheelchairs. They help people get things done and walk or move about who otherwise might not be able to. But, if glasses to read or see aren't needed, or implants or dentures, or canes, crutches, or wheelchairs, why use them? Initially, with meditation, other than a coming to know what meditation is and what it can do if you do it, nothing much than the desire to do so and then doing it is required Painting legs on a snake doesn't make it walk any better. Electronically painting photon-pushing meditation legs to swath your synapses with trompe l'oeil may be for some, better than nothing. However, and this is one of the biggest however's ever, it is that better than nothing that makes it not, not nothing, the goal of meditation.
HEADSPACE OR CALM FOR MEDITATION? NOT NEEDED
DOING HARD TIME IN A ZEN MONASTERY
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
OF SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
30 MINUTES TO ENLIGHTENMENT
CODE OF ETHICS FOR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL?
FALSE GURU TEST
ON THE RAZOR'S
MEDITATION ALONG METEOR CRATER RIM
DOGEN'S REFLECTING POOL
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.