ready or not
This item tries to cover the basic principles that
apply to meditation - regardless of what kind of meditation or what
technique you use.
The field of cultivation is the mind
- this is where the work takes place; and very rarely does it not
involve quite a bit of work.
fruits of cultivation are peace and wisdom.
Beyond field and fruit - both of these being subject to the three
conditions - lies nibbana, the unconditioned. This is the ultimate
goal of all Buddhist aspirations. [see TEACHINGS -
There is the body and the mind. The body will be
looked at under POSTURE.
What to do with the mind? - assuming you see the need to do something
Contemplate the conditioned
nature of the mind.
When we are born, as we grow up as children, all through our lives,
we are exposed to a wide range of sensory experience. Much of what
we are today is the result of that exposure. If, for example, you
were plump as a child and your parents and family members didn't like
that and were always calling you fatty, and lard face, and lump, and
... all those unkind things - then it is understandable that in later
life you might have a 'complex' about your body weight or shape. You
may become anorexic? This is probably nothing new to you and is pretty
obvious - the psychology principle that is, not the anorexia.
a vessel of water as an analogy of the mind. If you pour red powder
into the water then surely the water will turn red. The more powder
you pour in the more red the water will become. If you only pour in
a little bit of powder then the water will only be changed a little.
The water is the mind, the vessel is the body, the vessel opening
is the sense door and the powder is sense experience.
What we end up with after a few years of this is a
mind that is coloured.
Why do I speak with this kind of accent? Because
those particular coloured sounds were poured in my ears for many years.
Very many of our likes and dislikes, our views and our opinions are
inherited, absorbed. This is the process of conditioning and much
of it takes place when we are quite young. We
do change and form semi-independent views but the new is usually relative
to the old. There is nothing good or bad about it but it is important
to appreciate the relative nature of our conditioned mind. Also to
appreciate that this is going on all the time, right now. If you spend
time in a peaceful environment this often conditions a peaceful feeling.
If you spend time in a violent environment this can condition fear,
aversion, anger, etc.
There is a process of association with most situations.
You hear a bell, it reminds you of school, which reminds you of homework,
which makes you feel unpleasant, when you are unhappy you often eat
something: bell rings = you eat.
What is vitally important here is to see that we are not just victims
of this - we can observe the process. This is the key to freedom.
There is the object of sense (the bell) there is the sense organ (the
ear) there is contact between the two = consciousness. Awareness can
be present during all of this - we don't have to do the eating
bit. This can be difficult as the links in this chain are often so
close together it is hard to see them.
Meditation is a way of strengthening
our ability to be aware, and to reflect on this process
and our relationship with it. A point to consider here is: 'the process
and our relationship with it'. This proposes that the process is not
me - too big to discuss here [see TEACHINGS - ANATTA].
Nevertheless it is apparent to most that the process can be witnessed
to. I can be aware of hearing the bell, aware of the unpleasant feeling
as it arises and the inclination to eat. Usually it all happens so
quickly that it just melts into the blur that can be our lives and
no sense of one thing relating to another is particularly obvious.
This brings us to the first stage of meditation - slowing down.
not my desk
Whatever means you use to slow down is not so important
- what matters is that you do. If you can see that wisdom is about
understanding the true nature of things then consider how you come
to an understanding of anything: by spending time with it, by studying
a work desk as an analogy of the mind. If it's anything like mine
there is stuff all over the place. You want to know what a ball pen
is and how it is put together. If you open it up on the desk you run
the risk of not noticing some pieces as you pull it apart and they
will get lost or you won't know where they came from. Clear a nice
big space on the desk and lay out the pieces as you slowly and carefully
take them out of the pen. It is then much easier to examine each piece
and see how it relates to all the other pieces.
So too with the mind. Usually it is full of clutter.
We need to clear a space. This is done by practicing samatha
meditation - by developing some form of concentration technique.
Instead of allowing the mind to look here, listen to this, taste that,
etc - which is collecting a lot of stuff, clutter - we bring the mind
to focus on one (simple) thing.
Once there is a degree of space, of calm in the mind then we can clearly
see what is in that space. What we see we can observe, and through
that observation we can come to understand, we can have an insight
into the nature of that thing; and 'thing' can cover a lot of areas
- emotional, perceptual, relational, physical. This is vipassana
meditation - the arising of insight.