Meditation


Introduction to Insight Meditation

Meditation in Buddhism is called Jit-Ta-Pao-Wa-Na, which basically means mind development. Don't let your mind go unused. It is like a person being unemployed. It is wasteful. If your mind wanders, it will create problems. It will be susceptible to the hindrances. By practicing mediation, your mind will go in the right direction. Ajahn Chah was an influential teacher of the Buddhadhamma and a founder of two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. In the following section he describes the most basic meditation practice:

The training in samadhi (concentration) is practiced to make the mind firm and steady. This brings about peacefulness of mind. Usually our untrained minds are moving and restless, hard to control and manage. Mind follows sense distractions wildly just like water flowing this way and that, seeking the lowest level. Agriculturists and engineers, though, know how to control water so that it is of greater use to mankind. Men are clever, they know how to dam water, make large reservoirs and canals – all of this merely to channel water and make it more useable. In addition the water stored becomes a source of electrical power and light, further benefits from controlling its flow so that it doesn’t run wild and eventually settle into a few low spots, its usefulness wasted.

So too, the mind which is dammed and controlled, trained constantly, will be of immeasurable benefit. The Buddha himself taught, “The mind that has been controlled brings true happiness, so train you minds well for the highest of benefits”. Similarly, the animals we see around us – elephants, horses, cattle, buffalo, etc. – must be trained before they can be useful for work. Only after they have been trained is their strength of benefit to us.

In the same way, the mind that has been trained will bring many times the blessings of that of an untrained mind. The Buddha and his noble disciples all started out in the same way as us – with untrained minds; but afterwards look how they became the subjects of reverence for us all, and see how much benefit we can gain through their teaching. Indeed, see what benefit has come to the entire world from these men who have gone through the training of the mind to reach the freedom beyond. The mind controlled and trained is better equipped to help us in all professions, in all situations. The disciplined mind will keep our lives balanced, make work easier and develop and nurture reason to govern our actions. In the end our happiness will increase accordingly as we follow the proper mind training.
The training of the mind can be done in many ways, with many different methods. The method which is most useful and which can be practiced by all types of people is known as “mindfulnessof breathing”. It is the developing of mindfulness on the in-breath and the out-breath. In this monastery we concentrate our attention on the tip of the nose and develop awareness of the in-and out-breaths with the mantra word “Bud-dho”. If the meditator wishes to use another word, or simply be mindful of the air moving in and out, this is also fine. Adjust the practice to suit yourself. The essential factor in the meditation is that the noting or awareness of the breath be kept up in the present moment so that one is mindful of each in-breath and each out-breath just as it occurs. While doing walking meditation we try to be constantly mindful of the sensation of the feet touching the ground.
This practice of meditation must be pursued as continuously as possible in order for it to bear fruit. Don’t meditate for a short time one day and then in one or two weeks, or even a month, meditate again. This will not bring results. The Buddha taught us to practice often, to practice diligently, that is, to be as continuous as we can in the practice of mental training. To practice meditation we should also find a suitably quiet place free from distractions. In gardens or under shady trees in our back yards, or in places where we can be alone are suitable environments. If we are a monk or nun we should find a suitable hut, a quiet forest or cave. The mountains offer exceptionally suitable places for practice.
In anycase, wherever we are, we must make an effort to be continuously mindful of breathing in and breathing out. If the attention wanders to other things, try to pull it back to the object of concentration. Try to put away all other thoughts and cares. Don’t think about anything – just watch the breath. If we are mindful of thoughts as soon as they arise and keep diligently returning to the meditation subject, the mind will become quieter and quieter. When the mind is peaceful and concentrated, release it from the breath as the object of concentration. Now begin to examine the body and mind comprised of the five khandhas : material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Examine these five khandhas as they come and go. You will see clearly that they are impermanent, that this impermanence makes them unsatisfactory and undesirable, and that they come and go of their own – there is no “self” running things. There is to be found only nature moving according to cause and effect. All things in the world fall under the characteristics of instability, unsatisfactoriness and being without a permanent ego or soul. Seeing the whole of existence in this light, attachment and clinging to the khandhas will gradually be reduced. This is because we see the true characteristics of the world. We call this the arising of wisdom.

Breath Meditation: Seven Steps
By:Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

There are seven basic steps:
1. Start out with three or seven long in-&-out breaths, thinking bud- with the in-breath, and dho with the out. Keep the meditation syllable as long as the breath.
2. Be clearly aware of each in-&-out breath.
3. Observe the breath as it goes in & out, noticing whether it's comfortable or uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or slow, short or long, warm or cool. If the breath doesn't feel comfortable, change it until it does. For instance, if breathing in long & out long is uncomfortable, try breathing in short & out short. As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body.
To begin with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let it spread down your right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. Inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine, down your left leg to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. (If you are female, begin with the left side first, because the male & female nervous systems are different.)
Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both shoulders, past your elbows & wrists, to the tips of your fingers, and out into the air.
Let the breath at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve at the front of the body, past the lungs & liver, all the way down to the bladder & colon.
Inhale the breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all the way down to your intestines.
Let all these breath sensations spread so that they connect & flow together, and you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being.
4. Learn four ways of adjusting the breath:
a. in long & out long,
b. in long & out short,
c. in short & out long,
d. in short & out short.
Breathe whichever way is most comfortable for you. Or, better yet, learn to breathe comfortably all four ways, because your physical condition & your breath are always changing.
5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind — the resting spots of the breath — and center your awareness on whichever one seems most comfortable. A few of these bases are:
a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).
If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely & naturally. Let the mind be at ease with the breath — but not to the point where it slips away.
6. Spread your awareness — your sense of conscious feeling — throughout the entire body.
7. Unite the breath sensations throughout the body, letting them flow together comfortably, keeping your awareness as broad as possible. Once you are fully aware of the aspects of the breath you already know in your body, you'll come to know all sorts of other aspects as well. The breath, by its nature, has many facets: breath sensations flowing in the nerves, those flowing around & about the nerves, those spreading from the nerves to every pore. Beneficial breath sensations & harmful ones are mixed together by their very nature.
To summarize: (a) for the sake of improving the energy already existing in every part of your body, so that you can contend with such things as disease & pain; and (b) for the sake of clarifying the knowledge already within you, so that it can become a basis for the skills leading to release & purity of heart — you should always bear these seven steps in mind, because they are absolutely basic to every aspect of breath meditation.