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Buddhist Meditation

Bhikkhu Pyadassi Mahathera

The Way to Inner Calm and Clarity

Meditation forms the very heart and core of the Buddha's teaching. As the subject is vast, this work will discuss some aspects of Buddhist meditation with special reference to Satipatthana, "setting up or application of mindfulness."

The world today is not what it was half a century ago. Ideas of good and bad are changing fast, moral attitudes are in flux and the general outlook of people is very different.

We live in an age of rush and speed. Tension is everywhere. If you stand at the corner of a busy street and scan the faces of the people hurrying feverishly by, you will notice that most of them are restless. They carry with them an atmosphere of stress. They are mostly pictures of rush and worry. Rarely will you find a picture of calm, content and repose in any of these faces. Such is the modern world.

Today's world is characterised by inordinate haste leading to quick decisions and imprudent actions. Some shout when they could speak in normal tone, others talk excitedly at a forced pitch for long periods and finish a conversation almost exhausted. Any kind of excitement is a stress in the physiologist's sense of the word, and stress causes the speeding up of bodily processes. It is not seldom that a person driving a vehicle gets agitated on seeing the green colour of the traffic lights giving place to amber. The anxious man regards even a minor event as if it were a crisis or a threat. As a result man is worried and unhappy.

Another feature of the modern world is its noisiness. "Music hath charms," they say, but for many today, even music is not agreeable if there is no noise; the louder the noise, the greater is the music to them. Those who live in big cities have no time to think of the noise, they are conditioned by it and accustomed to it. This noise, stress and strain have done much damage by way of ailments --heart diseases, cancer, ulcers, nervous tension and insomnia. Many of our illnesses are caused by anxiety, nervous tension, economic distress and emotional unrest -- all products of modem life.

Our nervous exhaustion is increasing with the speeding up of our life. People often return home after work with their nerves on edge. As a consequence their concentration is weakened and mental and physical efficiency are lowered. Man becomes easily irritated and is quick to find fault and pick a quarrel. He becomes morbidly introspective and experiences aches and pains and suffers from hypertension and sleeplessness. These symp-toms of nervous exhaustion clearly show that modern man's mind and body require rest -- rest of a high quality.

Let us bear in mind that a certain aloofness, a withdrawing of the mind from the busyness of life is a requisite to mental hygiene. Whenever you get an opportunity, try to be away from the town and engage yourself in quiet contemplation, call it yoga, concentration or meditation. Learn to observe the silence. Silence does so much good to us. It is quite wrong to imagine that they alone are powerful who are noisy, garrulous and fussily busy. Silence is golden, and we must speak only if we can improve on silence. The greatest creative energy works in silence. Observing silence is important. We do that in our meditation. Hear these words of the Buddha:

"When, disciples, you have gathered together there are two things to be done: either talk about the Dhamma (the doctrine, what is righteous) or observe noble silence." [1]

The Value of Solitude

People are so used to noise and talk that they feel lonely and out of place if they do not speak. But if we train ourselves in the art of cultivating silence, we will learn to enjoy it.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember that there is peace in silence. We must take time off to go into retreat in search of silence. We must, now and then, break away from motion to remain motionless. It is a peaceful form of existence. In lonely retreat we experience the value of silent contemplation. We make an inward journey. When we withdraw into silence, we are absolutely alone to see ourselves as we really are and then we can learn to overcome the weaknesses and limitations in ordinary experience.

Time spent in secluded contemplation is not wasted; it goes a long way to strengthen a man's character. It is an asset to our daily work and progress if we can find the time to cut ourselves off from routine and spend a day or two in quiet contemplation. This is surely not escapism or living in idleness, but the best way to strengthen our mind. This is beneficial introspection; for it is by examining our thoughts and feeling that we can probe into the inner meaning of things and discover the powers within.

Modern man is starved for solitude. A little solitude every day, a little aloofness, a little cutting away from the "madding crowd," is very necessary to give balance to the mind which is greatly upset by the rush and speed, din and turmoil, clash and clang of modern life. It is in and through solitude that the human mind gains in strength and power.

Modern man seeks happiness outside himself instead of seeking it within. Thus he has brought the external world under his sway. Science and technology seem to promise that they can turn this world into a paradise. Today there is ceaseless work going on in all directions to improve the outer world. Scientists pursue their experi-ments with undiminished vigour and determination. Man's quest to unravel the hidden secrets of nature continues unabated. Modern discoveries and methods of communi-cation have produced startling results. All these improve-ments, though they bring their rewards, are entirely material and external. In spite of all this, man cannot yet control his mind. Therefore, for all his scientific progress he remains discontent, anxious and tense.

People are searching for solutions to their various problems in vain because their approach, their method, is wrong. They think all problems can be solved externally. Most of the problems, however, are internal. They spring from the world within, and so the solution, too, is to be sought within.

Those interested in protecting the environment have raised their voice against air, sea and land pollution. But what of our mind pollution? Are we equally interested in protecting and cleansing our minds? As the Buddha points out: "For a long time has man's mind been defiled by greed, hatred and delusion (ignorance). Mental defilements make beings impure; mental cleansing purifies them." [2] The Buddhist way of life is an intense process of cleansing one's action, speech, and thought. It is self-development and self-purification resulting in self-realization. The emphasis is on practical results and not on philosophical speculation or logical abstraction. Hence the need to practise daily a little meditation, to behave like the hen on her eggs; for we have been most of the time behaving like the squirrel in the revolving cage.

Meditation is not a practice of today or yesterday. From time immemorial people have been practising meditation in diverse ways. Yogis, saints and enlightened ones of all ages have gone on the path of meditation and have attributed all their achievements to meditation. There never was, and never will be, any mental development or mental purity without meditation. Meditation was the means by which Siddhattha Gotama, the Buddha, gained supreme enlightenment.

Meditation is not only for India or for the Buddha's time, but for all mankind -- for all times and climes. The boundaries of race and religion, the frontiers of time and space, are irrelevant to the practice of meditation.

All religions teach some kind of meditation or mental training for inner development. It may take the form of silent prayer, reading individually or collectively from some holy scriptures, or concentrating on some sacred object, person or idea. And it is believed that these mental exercises, at times, result in seeing visions of saints or holy men, engaging in conversation with them, or hearing voices, or some mysterious occurrences. Whether they are illusions, imaginations, hallucinations, mere projections of the subconscious mind or real phenomena, one cannot say with certainty. Mind is an invisible force capable of producing all these phenomena.

"Trance is carried so far by certain yogis and mystics that it becomes anaesthetic, and they do not feel anything." [3] We have seen people in "meditation" postures who have fallen into a kind of coma and seem to be lost in thought. Others witnessing such occurrences wrongly think that this is a kind of meditation (bhavana).

Buddhist books tell us that through meditative absorption (jhana), through the development of mental faculties, man is capable of gaining psychic powers. But it is very important to bear in mind that the Buddhist jhana is not a state of auto-hypnosis, coma or unconsciousness. It is a state of mental purity where disturbing passions and impulses are subdued and calmed down so that the mind becomes unified and collected and enters into a state of clear consciousness and mindfulness.

It is interesting to observe that these phenomena have gained some acceptance through recent research in parapsychology. Interest in the subject of extra-sensory perception, in experimental psychology, is slowly gaining ground and the results obtained seem to be beyond ordinary comprehension. These are, however, only side-products which are of minor significance when compared with man's final deliverance, his release from bonds, from mental fetters. At times these paranormal happenings may even act as fetters and retard realization and enlightenment.

The meditation taught in Buddhism is neither for gaining union with any supreme being, nor for bringing about mystical experiences, nor for any self-hypnosis. It is for gaining tranquillity of mind (samatha) and insight (vipassana), for the sole purpose of attaining unshakable deliverance of the mind (akuppa ceto vimutti) -- that supreme security from bondage attainable through the total extirpation of all mental defilements. All may not be able to reach such heights as unshakable deliverance of the mind, but failure does not matter so long as we are sincere and pure in our motives. Let us strive on, falter not. It is worth striving again and again. Some day, if not in this life, we may reach the summit that those who really strove have reached.

Even if we fail to attain full enlightenment, we will surely be rewarded in our efforts. A fast-moving society needs a little meditation to ease the stress and tension and to withstand the vicissitudes of life. Through meditation we can overcome most of our psychological or psychosomatic problems and anxiety disorders, emotions and impulses, and gain mental calm and peace.

Self-Mastery and Drugs

The Buddha says: "Though one may conquer in battle a million men, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself." [4] This is nothing other than self-mastery. [5] It means mastering our minds, or emotions, likes and dislikes and so forth. Milton echoes the words of the Buddha when he says: "The command of one's self is the greatest empire a man can aspire unto, and consequently, to be subject to our own passions is the most grievous slavery."

Control of the mind is the key to happiness. It is the force behind all true achievement. The movements of a man void of control are purposeless. It is due to lack of control that conflicts of diverse kinds arise in our mind. And if conflicts are to be controlled, if not eliminated, we must give less rein to our longings and inclinations and endeavour to live a life self-governed and pure. Everyone is aware of the benefits of physical training. However, we are not merely bodies, we also possess a mind which needs training. Mind training or meditation is the key to self-mastery and to that contentment which brings happiness.

Of all forces the force of the mind is the most potent. It is a power by itself. To understand the real nature of life, we have to explore the innermost recesses of our mind which can only be accomplished by deep self-introspection based on purity of conduct and meditation.

From the Buddhist point of view the mind or consciousness is the core of our existence. All our psychological experiences, such as pain and pleasure, sorrow and happiness, good and evil, life and death, are not caused by any external agency. They are the result of our own thoughts and their resultant actions.

In recent times people have been busy examining and investigating psychic phenomena, the study of which seems to reveal the hidden resources of the human mind. The urge in man to seek spiritual guidance, his desire for inner development, is on the increase. This is a good sign. Western interest in Indian thought, yoga and meditation is increasing at an amazing rate. The reason is not far to seek. There is a mounting feeling of restlessness among the people the world over. This feeling is prevalent mostly among the youth. They want a quick remedy for the turmoil of the materialistic world. They are in search of peace and tranquillity.

The problem of youth finds no solution in the dogmatic creeds of hereditary religion. The question of the inner world remains unanswered. The value placed on the material aspects of life which are taken so much for granted by modern man, seems so superficial to the searching mind. The problems of the Western world are basically psychological. Obviously material knowledge and scientific and technogical know-how have not brought man the answer to world problems, to man's problems. This type of knowledge has only led to the multiplication of problems.

Young people who took to narcotic drugs in the belief that it has the answer to their mental frustration, are now turning to yogic discipline and meditation. Surely narcotic drugs cannot do for us what true meditation can do. Drugs are no substitute for true meditation in the search for a quiet mind. Drugs weaken the mind rather than strengthen it.

"The world is beset by a new plague, a disease which is incurable for most of those it touches, fatal for many, a pestilence which promises a flight into the world of dreams away from a life which is allegedly devoid of purposes and value, a disease which above all threatens the children of our technological age: narcotics. Millions of young people are already infected with this disease, thousands of them are condemned to an early death, hundreds of thousands are addicted or psychologically dependent on the soft-drugs, such as hashish, which cause brain damage, impair efficiency and lead to character disintegration ..." [6]

There is indisputable evidence that meditation can produce physiological changes that may, in turn, have beneficial psychological side-effects. Attempts have already been made to measure these effects. Dr. Herbert Benson, who experimented with meditation for nearly a decade, was mainly interested in finding out how factors that are psychological in nature come to exert physical effects on the heart, blood pressure and other aspects of the circulatory system and its functions. His ideas and research are fully presented in his book, The Relaxation Response. Research done at Harvard University, Cambridge, U.S.A. revealed that hundreds of youths who took LSD and smoked marijuana abstained from using them after several months of meditation. [7]

Meditation Cures Pressure

Meditation is not a voluntary exile from life or something practised for the hereafter. Meditation should be applied to the daily affairs of life, and its results obtained here and now. It is not separated from the work-a-day life. It is part and parcel of our life. This fact becomes clear when we study the four-fold setting up, or application of mindfulness (satipatthana). When free from the rush of city life, from nagging preoccupation with the world, we are not so liable to lose control. It is only in society that it takes some effort to check such lapses. Any meditation we do is of immense help in enabling us to face all this with calm. If we ignore meditation, life lacks meaning, purpose and inspiration.

There was a time when many thought that meditation is only for the recluses, yogis and forest dwellers. Things, however, have changed, and now there is a growing interest in meditation. If by meditation is meant mental discipline or mind culture, it goes without saying that all should cultivate meditation irrespective of sex, colour, creed or any other division. Modern society is in danger of being swamped by distractions and temptations which can only be controlled if we undertake the dificult task of steadily training our minds.

It is very difficult, indeed, for people to turn away from accustomed modes of thought and conduct, but meditation can help to ease the burden of chaotic cares in life. The ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation is to gain full enlightenment, self-mastery and complete mental health or Nibbana through the conquest of mental defilements. But apart from this ultimate aim there are other advantages and benefits that can be derived through meditation. It can inspire us to discover our own intelligence, richness and natural dignity. Meditation can also stimulate the latent powers of the mind, aid clear thinking, deep understanding, mental balance and tranquillity. It is a creative process which aims at converting the chaotic feelings and unwholesome thoughts into mental harmony and purity. It is the most meaningful therapy for the problems of modern life. When the mind is trained through meditation, it can perceive things that are beyond the range of normal senses. All these benefits can be obtained through meditation, not all at once, but gradually, through systematic training and practice.

In addition, meditation has physical ramifications. Meditation can relax the nerves, control or reduce the blood pressure, make us zestful by stemming the dissipation of energy through tensions, improve our health and keep us fit. The medical profession has taken cognizance of the use of meditation as is shown by this article:

"It has now been proved that high blood pressure and other diseases connected with the heart could easily be cured by Buddhist meditation. Dr. Buddhadasa Bodhina-yake, Consultant Psychiatrist, Harley Hospital Essex, UK, and Postgraduate Tutor of the British Medical Federation in charge of doctors' appointments in East London, said that the British Cardiac Society had recently accepted the curative effects of Buddhist meditation. Dr. Bodhinayake stated that over 68,000 British patients were now practising Anapanasati meditation. They had found that this meditation treatment did more for them than drugs. He said that all religions had meditation practices, but the Anapanasati (breathing meditation) was exclusive to Buddhism. Unlike other meditation practices, this had an effect on both sides of the brain. Thus it was capable of bringing the marvellous results on patients. He said that 30 minutes of meditation -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening gave the patients the body relaxation equal to 6 to 7 hours of sleep.

"It had been scientifically proved through electro-encepholograph (EEG) readings that the Anapanasati meditation was capable of synchronising the working of the two sides of the brain. This reduced the patient's oxygen needs, reduced the heartbeat, blood pressure, and the breathing rate. Fifteen minutes of Anapanasati meditation had the effect of three Aldomat tablets (250 mg) on a high blood pressure patient. Dr. Bodhinayake said that it had also been proved that this meditation could be used to get people out of drug addiction. It also greatly helped brain development, thinking capacity and retentive power.

"A large number of students of Harvard University in the USA were now practising Anapanasati bhavana to get through their exams." [8]

Buddhism and Mysticism

Even some psychosomatic ailments can be cured by meditation. We can use meditation in treating emotional and stress disease as well as to break the vicious addiction to drugs. Meditation, relaxation, and other types of mental therapy can be used with advantage in chronic illnesses.

Meditation is a way of living, a total way of living and not a partial activity. It aims at developing man as a whole. Let us strive for perfection here and now, not in some golden age yet to come. It may not be impossible to get what we really want in life by unlocking the psychic powers within us, the wonderful power of our mind.

Meditation is a distinctively human phenomenon, and therefore, should be dealt with from a human point of view, with human feelings and human understanding. Human problems and their solutions are basically psychological in nature. True meditation and mysticism do not co-exist. They are two different things. While mysticism takes us away from reality, meditation brings us to reality; for through real meditation we can see our own illusions and hallucinations face to face without pretence. This brings about a total transformation in our personality. It is more of an unlearning than a learning. We have to give up many things that we have learnt and hugged in great glee once we realize that they are hindrances and obsessions.

All of our psychological problems are rooted in ignorance, in delusion. Ignorance is the crowning corrup-tion (avijja paramam malam). [9] Our greeds, hates, conceits and a host of other defilements go hand in hand with our ignorance. The solutions are to be found in the problems themselves and hence we should not run away from them. Analyse and scrutinize the problems, and you will see that they are all human problems, so do not attribute them to non-humans. Our real problems can be solved only by giving up illusions and false concepts and bringing our lives into harmony with reality. This can be done only through meditation.

The Eightfold Path

Refraining from intoxicants and becoming heedful, establishing themselves in patience and purity, the wise train their minds. It is not too hard a task for a man to be calm when everything around him is favourable, but to be composed in mind in the midst of unfavourable circums-tances is hard indeed. It is just this difficult thing that is well worth accomplishing, for thereby one builds up one's strength of character.

It is through training in quiet contemplation that a quiet mind is achieved.

Can we also achieve it? Lord Horder answers the question thus: "Yes. But how? Well, not by doing some great thing. 'Why were the saints saints?' someone asked. And the answer came: 'Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful and patient when it was difficult to be patient. They pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk.'

That was all. So simple, but so difficult. A matter of mental hygiene..." Strive again and again without giving up the struggle. No one reaches the summit of a hill at once. Like the skilful smith who removes the dross in silver bit by bit, man must try to purge himself of his impurities. [10]

The path pointed out by the Buddhas or Enlightened Ones of all ages for inner growth and development is that of meditation, and this is the Noble Eightfold Path. Its eight factors are in three groups: virtue, concentration and wisdom or insight (sila, samadhi and panna). This is the only path; there are no short cuts to enlightenment and deliverance of the mind. All the practical guidance and instructions given by the Buddha to remove mental conflicts due to the unsatisfactoriness of life are to be found in the Noble Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Twofold Meditation: Calm and Insight (Samatha & Vipassana)

The exposition of meditation as it is handed down in the early Buddhist writings is based on the methods used by the Buddha for his own attainment of enlightenment and Nibbana, and on his personal experience of mental development.

The word "meditation" really is no equivalent for the Buddhist term"bhavana" which literally means "development" or "culture," that is development of the mind, culture of the mind, or "making-the-mind-become." It is the effort to build up a calm, concentrated mind that sees clearly the true nature of all phenomenal things and realizes Nibbana, the ideal state of mental health.

Meditation as taught by the Buddha is twofold: concentration (samatha or samadhi), that is, one-pointedness or unification of the mind (cittekaggata), and insight (vipassana). Samadhi or concentration has the function of calming the mind, and for this reason the word samatha or samadhi, in some contexts, is rendered as calmness, tranquillity or quiescence. Calming the mind implies unification or "one-pointedness" of the mind. Unification is brought about by focusing the mind on one salutary object to the exclusion of all others.

Meditation (bhavana) begins with concentration (samadhi). Concentration is a state of undistractedness. What is concentration? What are its marks, requisites and development?

"Whatever is unification of mind, this is concentration; the four settings up of mindfulness are the marks of concentration; the four right efforts [11] are the requisites for concentration; whatever is the exercise, the development, the increase of these very things, this is herein the development of concentration." [12] This statement clearly indicates that the three factors of the samadhi group, namely, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, function together in support of each other. They comprise real concentration.

It must be mentioned that the development of concentration or calm as taught in Buddhism is not exclusively Buddhist. Yogis before the advent of the Buddha practised different systems of meditation as they do now. India has always been a land of mysticism, but the yoga then prevalent in India never went beyond a certain point.

Samadhi taught in Buddhism culminates in jhana [13] . But the Buddha was not satisfied with mere jhana and mystical experiences; his one and only aim was to attain full enlightenment -- Nibbana. Having gained perfect concen-trative calm through samatha meditation, he was able to develop vipassana (insight) meditation. The word vipassana (vi+ passana) means seeing in an extraordinary way-- from the word "passana" to see and the prefix "vi" denoting special, particular. Vipassana therefore means seeing beyond what is ordinary, clear vision. It is not surface seeing or skimming, not seeing mere appearances, but seeing things as they really are. This means seeing everything in terms of the three characteristics, the signs of all phenomenal existence: impermanence, suffering and egolessness (anicca, dukkha and anatta). It is this insight meditation, with calm concentration of mind as its basis, that enables the meditator to purge his mind of all defilements, to remove ego-illusion, to see reality, and to experience Nibbana.

Vipassana or insight meditation, therefore, is an essential, a typical doctrine of the Buddha himself, not heard by before him, a unique experience of the Master, exclusively Buddhist, which was not in existence prior to the Buddha.

It must be stressed that both tranquillity and insight (samadhi and vipassana) are essential for the realization of the Dhamma, for enlightenment and Nibbana. The Buddha points out: "When tranquillity is developed, the mind is developed and lust is abandoned; when insight is developed, right understanding is developed and ignorance is abandoned. The mind defiled with lust is not liberated; when there is defilement through ignorance, right understanding is not developed..." [14]

Samadhi (samatha) being one of the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, under no circumstances can it be dispensed with. Samadhi is cittavisuddhi, purity of mind which comes into being through the elimination of hindrances (nivarama).

Now it is clear that according to the teaching of the Buddha, samadhi cannot be bypassed on the journey to enlightenment and Nibbana.

Types of Temperament

Mind is such a subtle and intricate phenomenon that it is not possible to find two men of the same mind. Man's thoughts are translated into speech and action. Repetition of such speech and action gives rise to habits and finally, habits form character. Character is the result of man's mind-directed activities and so the characters of human beings vary. The Path of purification, the Visuddhimagga, mentions six main types of character or temperament (carita) which include many lesser ones. They are those disposed to lust, hatred, infatuation, faith, intellectuality and discursiveness. As temperaments differ, so do the subjects of meditation (kammatthanas). One comes across these kammatthanas enumerated in the Pali texts, especially in the discourses of the Buddha. The Path of Purification describes forty of them. They are really like prescriptions for various mental disorders that human beings are heir to.

In the Majjhima Nikaya, one of the five original collections in Pali containing the discourses of the Buddha, there are two discourses (Nos. 61 and 62) that are devoted wholly to instructions on meditation. In Discourse No. 62 the Buddha gives seven types of meditation to young Rahula, the novice, who, according to the commentary, was only eighteen years of age when he received them. Here is an extract from the discourse:

"Develop the meditation on lovingkindness (metta), Rahula; for by this, ill will (vyapada) is banished.

Develop the meditation on compassion (karuma), Rahula; for by this, cruelty (vihesa) is banished.

Develop the meditation on sympathetic joy (mudita), Rahula; for by this, aversion (to meditation) (arati) is banished.

Develop the meditation on equanimity (upekkha), Rahula; for by this, hatred (patigha) is banished.

Develop the meditation on repulsiveness (asubha), Rahula; for by this, lust (raga) is banished.

Develop the meditation on the perception of impermanence (anicca sanna), Rahula; for by this, pride of self, or 'I', (asmimana) is banished.

Develop the concentration of mindfulness on in-and-out-breathing (anapanasati), Rahula; in-and-out-breathing with mindfulness, developed and frequently practised bears much fruit, is of great advantage." [15]

The Buddha not only instructed and encouraged others to practise meditation, but also used to practise it as a way of peaceful abiding here and now (ditthadhamma sukha-vihari). Once the Blessed One said: "Monks, I wish to live in solitude for three months. Let my only visitor be the one who brings me food." "Very well, Venerable sir," replied the monks. At the end of the three months the Blessed One addressed the monks thus:

"Monks, if others (those belonging to other faiths) were to ask you: 'What meditation did Samana Gotama frequently practise during the Rains?' you should say: 'The Blessed One spent the Rains frequently practising the meditation of mindfulness on in-and-out breathing.' Herein, monks, I breathe in, mindful I breathe out ... Monks, one who speaks rightly should say: mindfulness on in-and-out-breathing is the ariya (noble) way of life, the brahma (sublime) way of life, the Tathagata's (an epithet for the Buddha) way of life." [16]

One should not try to practise all the forty subjects of meditation. What is important is to select the one that suits one best. It helps to seek the guidance of a person who is experienced in meditation. Books written on meditation could also be useful. It is, however, important to recognize honestly what our temperament or character is; for until we have done so, we cannot select the subject suitable of meditation. Once we have chosen it, we should work at it with confidence. Meditation is a "do it yourself practice."

If we are engrossed in worldly affairs, in routine work, it may not be easy for us to cut ourselves off and sit down in a quiet place for a definite period each day for various meditations. But it can be done, if we have the will. Surely we can devote a short period every day to meditation, whether it be at dawn or just before retiring to bed or whenever the mind is ready -- some short period of time, however brief, in which to collect our thoughts and concentrate.

If we thus try to cultivate a quiet contemplation day by day, we will be able to perform our duties better and in a more efficient way; we will have the courage to face worries and tribulations with a brave heart and will find contentment more easily. It is worth trying, only we must have the patience, the firm determination and the urge to make the effort, and if we are sincere we may well succeed. The meditation should be done, if possible, regularly at fixed times, for a considerable period, and we must not expect quick results. Psychological changes come slowly.

The Threefold Training

It is essential for us to discipline ourselves in speech and action before we undertake the arduous task of training our mind through meditation. The aim of Buddhist morality (sila) is the control of our verbal and physical action, in other words, purity of speech and action. This is called training in virtue (sila-sikkha). Three factors of the Noble Eightfold Path form the Buddhist code of conduct (sila). They are right speech, right action and right livelihood. The strict meditator observes at least the five basic precepts of morality known as panca sila -- abstinence from killing, stealing, illicit sexual indulgence, speaking falsehood and from taking liquor, including narcotic drugs that cause intoxication and heedlessness. In a meditation course the participants are expected to abstain from all sexual relations, and observe chastity.

This code of conduct (sila) is the stepping-stone to the Buddhist way of life. It is the basis for mental development. One who is intent on meditation or concentration of mind should develop a love of virtue that nourishes mental life and makes it steady and calm. This searcher of the highest purity of the mind practises the burning out of the passions.

He thinks:

"Others may harm, but I will become harmless; others may slay living beings, but I will become a non-slayer; others may wrongly take things, but I will not; others may live unchaste, but I will live pure; others may slander, talk harshly, indulge in gossip, but I will talk only words that promote concord, harmless words, agreeable to the ear, full of love, heart pleasing, courteous, worthy of being born in mind, timely, fit and to the point; others may be covetous, I will not covet; others may mentally lay hold of things awry, but I will lay mental hold of things fully aright. Energetic, steeped in lowliness of heart, unswerving as regards truth and rectitude, peaceful, honest, contented, generous and truthful in all things will I be. I will cherish mindfulness and wise penetration that is fully aware of the truth at all times, and will not be moved by the evanescent or grasp at it." (See Majjhima Nikaya 8)

Thus, he never acts slavishly like the unthinking herd.

Sila or the code of conduct set forth by the Buddha, therefore, is not a set of mere negative prohibitions but an affirmation of doing good -- a career paved with good intentions for the welfare and happiness of mankind. These moral principles aim at making society secure by promoting unity, harmony and mutual understanding among people.

Virtue aids the cultivation of concentration (samadhi). The last three factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, namely: right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, form the concentration group. This is called training in concentration (samadhi-sikkha). Progressing in virtue the meditator practises mental culture. Seated in cloister cell, or at the foot of a tree, or under the open sky, or in some other suitable place, he fixes his mind on a subject of meditation and by unceasing effort washes out the impurities of his mind and gradually gains mental absorption by abandoning the hindrances.

High concentration is the means to the acquisition of wisdom or insight. Wisdom consists of right understanding and right thought, the first two factors of the path. This is called training in wisdom (panna-sikkha). Thus the path is virtue, concentration and wisdom which are referred to in the discourses of the Buddha as the threefold training (tividha-sikkha). None of them, however, is an end in itself, each is a means to an end. One cannot function independently of the others. As in the case of a tripod, which falls to the ground if even a single leg gives way, so here, one cannot function without the support of the others. These three go together supporting each other. Virtue strengthens concentration. Concentration in its turn promotes wisdom, and wisdom helps us to get rid of the clouded view of things -- to see life as it really is, that is to see life and all things pertaining to life as arising and passing (udaya-vaya). By a gradual process, a gradual training and gradual practice, [17] the disciple rids himself of all defilements, eradicates them and attains deliverance, which means the living experience of the cessation of the three root causes of all evil: greed, hatred and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha). These three root causes are thus eliminated through training in virtue, concentration and wisdom.

With that final cleaning up he reaches the state where dawns for him the light of Nibbana, the calm beyond words, the unshakability beyond all thought, the freedom that is beyond all deeds, the sure and secure ground, the splendour that is imperishable, the happiness of stillness, of relief and perfect peace, immeasurably deep and pure, which can be overturned by nothing and by none, the highest truth. That is the very crown of the meditative life; it is its greatest fruit. With the attainment of that fruit all birth, old age and death are brought to an end, the pure life of holiness is lived out, all that must be done, is done, and the world holds nothing more for him. This, in short, is the way by which the meditator by gradual training attains his goal. Thus we see that virtue, concentration and wisdom are not isolated qualities but integral parts of the Noble Eightfold Path which is also the path of meditation already outlined.

Application of Mindfulness

Now let us proceed to the special procedure attached to the practice of meditation, to discuss one very important aspect of Buddhist meditation, namely, satipatthana, the "setting up, the application of, mindfulness." The word "patthana," the shortened form of "upatthana," means literally "placing near (one's mind)," that is, remaining aware, setting up, establishing, applying or arousing. To raise up the person to a keen sense of awareness in regard to an object, and to bring into play, call forth, and stir up the controlling faculty, the power, the enlightenment factor, and the way factor of mindfulness -- this is the setting up of mindfulness.

The Discourse on the Setting up of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta), is one of the most important discourses delivered by the Buddha. It occurs twice in the Buddhist Canon. [18] The opening lines of the discourse clearly state: Satipatthana is the one and only way (ekayano maggo) for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the abandoning of pain and grief, for reaching the right path and realising Nibbana.

The setting up of mindfulness is fourfold: Application of mindfulness in regard to: 1. the body (kayanu-passana); 2. feeling or sensations (vedana-nupassana); 3. activities of the mind (cittanupassana); and 4. mental objects or mental contents (dhammanupassana). The essental thing here is mindfulness (sati), attention or observation (anupassana).

As mentioned above, concentrative calm is fulfilled by the conjunction of the last three factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, namely: right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. These form the three strands of the rope; they are intertwined and interrelated. Mindfulness, however, is considered as the strongest strand for it plays an important role in the acquisition of both calm and insight. Mindfulness is a certain function of the mind, and therefore, a mental factor. Without this all-important factor of mindfulness one cannot recognize sense objects, one cannot be fully aware of one's behaviour. It is called right mindfulness because it avoids misdirected attention and prevents the mind from paying attention to things unwholesome, and guides its possessor on the right path to purity and freedom.

Right mindfulness sharpens the power of observation and assists right thinking and right understanding. Orderly thinking and reflection is conditioned by man's right mindfulness. The discourse states clearly how a meditator becomes aware of his thoughts, mindfully watching each and every one of them, be they good or evil, salutary or otherwise. The earnest student will note that even reading the discourse makes him watchful, earnest and serious-minded. Right mindfulness is a quality that no sensible man would treat with contempt. Truly it is essential to cultivate mindfulness in this confused age when so many people suffer from mental imbalance.

Right mindfulness is instrumental not only in bringing concentrative calm, but in promoting right understanding and right living. It is an essential factor in all our actions, both worldly and spiritual. Now we see that meditation is not escapism, running away from life and society, not a voluntary exile from life, but the ideal form of life itself.

Meditation in Practice

It is only when we sit down for meditation that we can analyse ourselves seriously without pretence. Then the concept of a self or ego disappears. We see only a conflux of mind and body void of any permanent entity, any core or an indestructible ego. Looked at from this point of view, we are neither oriental nor occidental, neither man nor woman.

Life is just a process that goes beyond the boundaries of caste, colour, creed, race and space.

So try to be straight, transparently straight with yourself, your feelings and thoughts. Try to see yourself as you really are and not as you appear to be. This cannot be done unless you are sincere and have confidence in yourself. Open-mindedness or free inquiry is a necessity in the Buddhist system of meditation. Without it the beginner cannot lay the foundation on which the superstructure has to be built. And as truth is a personal and individual concern, neither information nor instruction can inspire a meditator unless he is trained in the methods of self-inquiry.

Meditation, therefore, is vital because it is through meditation that the secrets of the mind can be unlocked.

The discourse on mindfulness prescribes the technique for mental culture. It shows us how to get beyond the intellect to the actual experience of life itself, to discover the deeper universal maladies of the human mind and to work for its deliverance -- supreme security from bondage.

Now let us proceed with the discussion of the contemplation of the body (kayanupassana), especially the method known as anapanasati or mindfulness of in-breathing and out-breathing. This is a well-known meditation liked and practised by many the world over, a universally applicable method for concentrating and calming the mind. It was used by the Bodhisatta, Siddhattha Gotama, when striving for enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and the Buddha himself was emphatic on the importance of practising it. This meditation is described as peaceful, sublime, unadulterated, happy living (santo ceva panito ca asecanako ca sukho ca viharo) [19] . It must, however, be noted that anapanasati is not a "breathing exercise" for physical vigour and is not similar to pranayama taught in Hindu yoga systems.

The type of place recommended for this meditation is a forest, the foot of a tree, or a lonely place either under the open sky or in some other suitable place. Find a quiet place, if possible away from the din and bustle, clash and clang of busy life. Your own bedroom or your "shrine room," if you are fortunate to have one, may be a more private place for you.

For this meditation one needs the sitting posture. Sit erect with legs crossed, but not stiff and rigid; be mindful and alert. You may sometimes feel uncomfortable if the legs are interlocked, or if sitting on the hard floor interferes with your concentration. Then you can adopt a posture that does not bring discomfort. You may sit on a chair with a straight back, but for this particular meditation, unlike the others, the body (spinal column) and head should be erect, balanced and upright. You should sit comfortably but without leaning or lying back, otherwise you may become sleepy. Hands may be relaxed on the lap, or the right palm may placed on the left, palm facing up. Eyes may be half-closed, or shut, without strain, lips should be closed, the tongue touching the upper palate. All these indicate that a person bent on this meditation should also have his body collected, which is an asset to his mental concentration and mindfulness.

Keep the body as motionless as possible, the mind alert and keenly observant. Body and mind alike must be as well strung as a bow, and as well-tuned as a lyre. Meditation is really a practical occupation. Just as the tortoise shelters its limbs under its shell, so should the meditator guard his five sense organs and overcome the sex impulse with mindfulness. He should preserve all his energy to gain mental development. Try to do your meditation regularly. If possible, at the same time, every day; for these psychological factors make for the success of the meditation.

The in-breathing and out-breathing, we know, is automatic. Normally no one tries to breathe consciously, or mindfully but when practising breathing meditation it is essential to breathe mindfully and to be aware of the breath. The normal flow of breath should be noticed, observed. Breathing calms down the body and prepares it for deep meditation. What is aimed at is the power of concentration. Psychologists have recognized the value and importance of mindful breathing as tending to ease the tension of body and mind. This meditation is, therefore, a really practical occupation, therapeutic in the best sense of the word. It is not for mere intellectual understanding but to liberate oneself from mental defilements and to attain purity and peace of mind.

In this breathing meditation, the most important thing is to be mindful of the breathing. It is essential to be mindful, to be aware (sati), and attentive and observant (anupassana) in all the four types of meditation on mindfulness. Relax utterly, leave the world of stress when you sit down for meditation. When you do the first three in-breathings, imagine that you are taking in all that is good and pure in the environment, in the cosmos. When you do the first three out-breathings imagine that you are putting out all the "toxic" thoughts in you, all that is bad and ugly. That is how you should get into the meditative frame of mind.

Actors on a Stage

Now start your meditation on mindfulness of in and-out-breathing (anapanasati). Your breathing should be very natural and effortless. Breathe calmly. There should not be any effort to control the breath. Merely allow the breath to ebb and flow freely in its own natural rhythm under the light of full awareness.

The meditator breathes in and breathes out mindfully with full awareness. He is mindful of the breath and not of himself. His one and only aim is to focus the mind on the breath to the exclusion of all other thoughts and to fix the mind there; for if what is in the marginal zone breaks in upon the focal zone, he will find it difficult to concentrate, he becomes discursive. It may be helpful for a beginner to make note of "in" and "out," when doing the breathing meditation. If you experience difficulty in keeping your attention on the breath, count "one" for inspiration, "two" for expiration: register "one" at the end of one inspiration, "two" at the end of an expiration and so forth. Do not count to less than five or more than ten since your attention might divert from breaths to counts. Give up counting when concentration can be focused on breath alone.

When you practise mindfulness on in-breathing and out-breathing, fix your attention at the point where the moving air strokes the nostrils or the upper lip. Note your breath as it goes in and out, but do not follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air. There should not be any holding or stopping of your breath. It should be quite natural without any effort or force on your part. Keep your focus at the nose breath. At times the breath may become so fine that you can hardly catch it. You may no longer notice the breath, but that must not be taken to mean that your mind is blank. This is just impossible; for you cannot think of a mind void of thoughts. When you cannot notice the breath you are aware of this, and that certainly is not a blank mind. You will become aware of the breath again.

Whenever your mind wanders to other thoughts, be aware of them, but do not get involved in them emotionally or intellectually; do not comment, condemn, evaluate or appraise them, but bring your attention back to the natural rhythm of your breathing. Your mind may be over-whelmed by evil and unwholesome thoughts. This is to be expected. It is in meditation that you understand how your mind works. Become aware of both the good and evil, the ugly and beautiful, the wholesome and unwholesome thoughts. Do not become elated with your good thoughts and depressed with the bad. These thoughts come, and they go like actors on a stage. When you hear sounds, become aware of them and bring your attention back to your breath. The same with regard to smell, taste (which you may get mentally), touch, pain, pleasure and so forth. Observe the thoughts in a calm detached way. Mindfulness means observing whatever happens inside oneself, whatever one does, not judging it as good or bad, but just watching with naked awareness. It is really using full concentration on whatever one is doing or experiencing.

You may also get mental images produced by memory or imagination, such as light, colour, figures, etc. Do not be deceived by them thinking that this is a mental development. Far from it, they are hindrances that retard progress. Become aware of these images without getting mentally involved in them; bring your attention to your breath. One needs much patience and effort to get away from these by-products and to get busy with the real task of practising concentration. How strong and stupendous should the mental effort and patience be to bring about mental purity and perfection through calm and insight (samatha-vipassana)? Only a genuine meditator knows this.

It is natural for the worldling to entertain evil and wrong thoughts. "Lust penetrates an undeveloped mind, as rain an ill-thatched house" [20] . Man's passions are disturbing. This lust, when obstructed by some cause, is transformed into anger. One, therefore, should try to develop and unfold good and wholesome thoughts, the infinite possibilities that are latent in human nature. To do this, one

needs training in calmness (samadhi-sikkha). It is through gradual training that one can check the mind and rule it (cittam vasam vattati), and not become a slave to mind (cittassa vasena vattati) [21] . With such training in mind-culture, one can free oneself from the influence of sense-objects.

Since wordly progress, gain and profit, depend largely on your own efforts, surely you should strive even harder to train your mind and so develop the best that is in you. As mental training requires great effort and personal integrity, strive on now. "Do not let your days pass away like the shadow of a cloud which leaves behind it no trace for remembrance."

Advice to a Meditator

The Buddhist Canon is full of reference to this meditation on in-and-out-breathing (anapanasati) and it is no wonder that the Buddha, when exhorting the novice Rahula, gave detailed instruction on its practice. Let us turn again to Discourse 62 of the Majjhima Nikaya, Maha Rahulovada Sutta:

"A disciple, Rahula, having gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to a lonely quiet place, sits down, cross-legged, keeping the body erect and mindfulness alert. Mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out; when breathing in a long breath, he knows 'I breathe in a long breath'; when breathing out a long breath, he knows 'I breathe out a long breath'; when breathing in a short breath, he knows 'I breathe in a short breath'; when breathing out a short breath; he knows 'I breathe out a short breath'; 'mindful of the entire process, [22] I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself 'Mindful of the entire process, I shall breathe out, thus he trains himself.'

" 'Calming the entire process, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself, 'calming the entire process I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Experiencing rapture, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing rapture, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Experiencing bliss, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing bliss I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Experiencing the mental activity (feeling and perception), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing the mental formations, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Calming the mental activity, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'calming the mental formations, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Experiencing the highly concentrated (jhanic) mind I shall breath in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing the highly concentrated (jhanic) mind, I shall breath out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Exceedingly gladdening the mind (by samatha, calming, as well as by vipassana, insight), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'exceedingly gladdening the mind, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Thoroughtly establishing the mind (on the breath), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'thoroughly establishing the mind I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Liberating the mind (from the nivaramas, or hindrances), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'liberating the mind I shall breath out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Contemplating impermanence (in body, feeling, perception, volitional formations, consciousness), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating impermanence I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Contemplating detachment, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating detachment I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Contemplating cessation I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating cessation I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

" 'Contemplating abandonment, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating abandonment, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.

"Mindfulness on in-and-out-breathing, Rahula, thus developed and frequently practised is productive of much fruit, of much advantage. When, Rahula, in-and-out-breathing with mindfulness is thus developed and frequently practised, even the last in-breaths and the out-breaths are known (clear) as they cease, not unknown." [23]

There are those who say that this type of meditation is purposeless and stupid. Well, let them say what they will. Let philosophers philosophise, orators go on with their oratory; you go your way practising mindfulness. Even the Buddha was attacked by his contemporaries for leading the life "far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife." Thus in Digha Nikaya, we find these aspersions cast at the Buddha by the wanderer Nigrodha: "The Samana Gotama's insight is ruined by his habit of seclusion. He is not at home in conducting an assembly. He is not ready in conversation. He is occupied only with the fringes of things. Even as a one-eyed cow that avoids contact and follows only the outskirts, so is the Samana Gotama." [24]

The Buddha really did not spend all his time in solitude. He walked the highways and by-ways of India enfolding all within the aura of his love and compassion. They listened to the Buddha, took refuge in him, and followed him who showed the path to peace and enlightenment; the path is open to all. Occasionally he went into long solitude.

The Five Hindrances

As you proceed developing this mindfulness by degrees, your mind will get fully concentrated on the breath. You will notice that there is only a breath and the mind noticing it and nothing behind it -- no self or any permanent ego entity or anything of that nature. The breath and you are not two things, only a process, a mere rise and fall of the breath like the waves of the sea. In the highest sense there is a meditation, but no meditator. If you can come to that level of understanding, then your concentration is very high and with this comes rapturous joy, calm and peace of mind, and this will be a tremendous experience for you, a kind of experience you have never had before.

This may be only for a short while, and your mind may again become discursive. It may wander and you may find it diffcult to concentrate. You may feel lazy or sleepy, bored or restless, and get fed up with your meditation. It does not matter, that is how the human mind works. Now you know the behaviour of your mind through self- experience and not through books or hearsay. You should whip up enthusiasm, marshal energy and onward ever bravely press forgetting yourself. One day, you may even attain jhanic experience or meditative absorption by casting out the hindrances. This concentration, this calming meditation (samatha-bhavana) is essential for right unders-tanding, penetration and insight (vipassana), to the attainment of complete mental health -- Nibbana.

There are many obstacles that confront a meditator, but there are five hindrances in particular that obstruct concentration and the path to deliverance. They are called hindrances (nivaramani) [25] because they completely close in, cut off and obstruct. They close the door to deliverance. What are the five? Sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, sceptical doubt.

A mind that is obsessed by such detrimental forces cannot concentrate successfully on any object of wholesome nature. Without right effort the five hindrances to mental progress cannot be overcome. The function of right effort is fourfold: to prevent, abandon, develop, and maintain. Right effort is the persevering endeavour (a) to prevent the arising of evil unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen in the mind; (b) to discard such evil thoughts already arisen; (c) to produce wholesome thoughts not yet arisen; and (d) to promote and maintain the good thoughts already present. [26]

The unwholesome thoughts referred to here are the three root causes of all evil, namely: thoughts of greed (lust), hatred, and delusion (ignorance). All other defilements rally round these root causes, while wholesome thoughts are their opposites.

The four right efforts are the requisites for concentration. Right effort functions together and simultaneously with the other two factors of the group, namely: right mindfulness and right concentration. Right effort removes the evil and unhealthy thoughts that act as a barrier to the calm of absorption and promotes and maintains the healthy mental factors that aid the development of concentration. When the meditator's mind slackens, it is time for him to summon courage, whip up effort and overcome indolence. Obduracy of mind and of mental factors is a dangerous enemy to meditation, for when a man's mind is inert, slackness arises. This leads to greater slackness which produces sullen indifference.

Avoid Extremes

Mind culture through such great efforts is not something that can be gained overnight. It needs time and regular practice of mental exercises. An athlete or body-builder does not stop training after a day or two, but goes on with his program. Regular exercises, without unnecessary strain, are the key to physical fitness. If he practises only by fits and starts, he will never be a good athlete. When training the mind, the same golden rule has to be applied -- regular work and perseverence.

One need not struggle with evil thoughts when doing mental exercises. It should all be natural. If we try to fight with thoughts we shall not succeed. Instead we should note and watch our thoughts as they rise, and try to ease the tension. The technique is like that of swimming. If you do not move your limbs, you will sink; if you whirl about, you will also sink. Again, it is like trying to fall asleep -- if you struggle with the thought of sleep, you will never fall off; it will only be a mental torment to you. You must not make any effort to sleep. It must come naturally, and you should only relax the tense muscles. So this is, shall we say, an effortless effort to stay vigilant and be aware in the present.

Again self-torment is one of the two extremes (the other is self-indulgence) that the Buddha wants the meditator to avoid as profitless, and not leading to calm and enlightenment [27] . It is useless to torture the body (as is still done by Indian ascetics) in order to stop the arising of evil thoughts; for such torments often end in aversion and frustration. When the mind is frustrated, callous indif-ference to meditation follows. All our mental exercises should be natural and performed with awareness. "Zeal without prudence is like running in the night."

As the Buddha points out, extremes should be avoided everywhere by those who wish to gain deliverance of mind through enlightenment. They should keep to the Middle Path. In the practice of right effort, too, one has to follow the same median way.

A horseman, for instance, watches the speed of his mount and whenever it goes faster than he wants, he reins it back. On the other hand, whenever the horse shows signs of slowing down, he spurs it on and thus keeps to an even speed. Even so should one cultivate right effort, neither overdoing it, lest one be flurried, nor becoming slack lest one become slothful. Like the horseman one should always be prudent in one's effort.

When the strings of the lute are overstrung, or too slack, it is not in tune and not playable. If, on the other hand, the strings are neither overstrung nor too slack, but keyed to the middle pitch, then it is in tune and playable. Even so, effort when too strenuous leads to flurry, and when too slack to indolence. [28] Understanding the balancing of the five faculties -- faith, effort, mindfulness, concentra-tion and wisdom (saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi, and panna) -- one should grasp at the aim by uniformity of effort.

Clear Comprehension

In this context it must also be noted that in the Buddhist texts the word mindfulness (sati) is often used with another word of equal significance, "clear comprehen-sion" (sampajanna). The compound word "sati-sampajanna" occurs frequently in the discourses. Mindfulness and clear comprehension are co-operative. It is clear comprehension of one's activities and bodily movements.

The meditator who is mindful of his bodily activities becomes aware of his postures: when going (walking), standing, sitting or lying down, he is aware of the postures. All his bodily activities he does with mindfulness:

"In walking to and fro, in looking ahead and in looking aside, he applies clear comprehension (sampajana-kari hoti); in bending and stretching he applies clear comprehension; in wearing clothes, in eating, drinking, chewing, savouring, in answering the calls of nature, he applies clear comprehension; walking, standing, sitting, lying down (sutte), in keeping awake (jagarite), speaking, and being silent, he applies clear comprehension." "Sutte"-- as a posture -- implies "in lying down" but strictly rendered it would mean "in sleeping" or "in falling asleep." A meditator lies down with his mind on the kammatthana, subject of meditation, and thus falls asleep undeluded.

"Jagarite": in waking, or in keeping awake. In waking up, the application of mindfulness would mean taking up the kammatthana, immediately, even before one opens up one's eyes. The term can also apply to such situations as (i) keeping awake mindfully (not allowing sleep to overcome one) when one is intent on meditating in the sleeping posture (due to illness or other physical disabilities), and (ii) on sleepless nights when one vainly struggles to "catch" elusive sleep, mindfulness and clear comprehension would help one to accept the situation with calmness and understand the cause of insomnia. In that very calmness and understanding, perhaps, sleep will come on its own.

In the widest sense the words "sutte" and "jagarite" (in sleeping and in keeping awake) go beyond the question of postures since one can be sleeping on a seat or while standing. In the highest sense one sleeps when one is under the sway of kilesas or defilements. [29] Likewise the word "jagarite" in its widest application, embraces that salutary wakefulness which characterises vigilance (appamada). As the Buddha says:"The defilements disappear (are destroyed) of those who are ever vigilant, who train themselves day and night (ahorattanusikkhitam) who are wholly intent on Nibbana." [30]

Thus in all activities, the meditator should be mindful and wide awake. Hear these words of the Buddha: "Mindfulness, 0 monks, I declare, is essential in all things everywhere." [31] "It is as salt to curry." [32] Further says the Buddha: "Mindfulness, verily, brings great profit. [33]

One has to understand the question of mindfulness and clear comprehension in a wider sense. Of course the fourfold effort already mentioned is a good safeguard. Mindfulness has to be spread over all situations at the outset so that its calmness helps one to take stock of a situation wisely. But (as an aspect of the Middle Path itself) upon occasion one has to exert the fourfold effort, even the vigorous type as given in Vitakkasanthana Sutta, [34] that is, when bare awareness is in itself insufficient.

The suttas tell us the interesting story of the Thera Maha Phussa. Practising mindfulness he was always watching his thoughts. If while walking an evil thought were to occupy his mind, he would stop and would not proceed until the evil thought had been got rid of. People who noticed this used to wonder whether he had lost his way, or lost something on the way. Later, through constant practice of mindfulness and clear comprehension, he achieved his wish, attained purity of mind, and became an Arahat, a man without taints. This indicates that the ancients were aware of their thoughts not only when seated in a given posture at a particular time for meditation, but always.

The Art of Relaxing

If you do your sitting meditation for a considerable time, you may need to ease your aching limbs. Then you can start your walking meditation. Walk slowly, mindful of the movements. Now you need not think of the breath but become aware of the walk. If your mind wanders, give attention to your walking without getting involved in other thoughts. If you stop, turn or look round, be mindful and apply clear comprehension. When your foot touches the ground, you get a sensation; become aware of it. Walking also is an exercise in mindfulness.

When we are following a meditation course, let us try to be mindful always, everywhere when sitting, standing, walking, working, eating, and so forth, let us be mindful.

If your limbs get numbed while in meditation, rub and stretch them. You can also relax in a lying down position; this you may do at the end of a sitting meditation. Lie on your back on a flat surface, and try to avoid using a pillow or cushion under your head. Keep your legs stretched out slightly apart and arms loosely by your sides, keep your eyes shut. Do not go to deep thinking, but allow your mind to relax, and not wander. Relax each muscle, be completely relaxed for a few minutes. At times you may fall asleep for a couple of minutes! At the end of the relaxation you get up feeling fit. This type of relaxation you could do, not only during meditation hours, but at any time you feel fatigued or when you have the inclination to relax.

The Fairest Girl

The practice of clear comprehension regarding the postures of the body helps us to remove discursive thoughts, improves our power of concentration and develops awareness and heedfulness.

The Buddha gives a very striking parable to emphasize the importance of developing mindfulness relating to body:

"Suppose, monks, a large crowd gathers together crying: 'Oh, the fairest girl, a country beauty!' Then, monks, that most beautiful girl, expert in dancing and singing, displays all her charms, and still a large crowd flocks together crying, 'Oh, the fairest girl is dancing, she is singing. Then comes a man fond of his life, not fond of death, in love with pleasure and not with pain, and they say unto him: 'Look here, my man! Here is a bowl brimful of oil. You should carry it between the multitude and the fairest girl. Right on your heels comes a man with uplifted sword. If you were to spill a drop, off goes your head!'

"Now what do you think, monks? Would that man, not paying serious attention to that bowl of oil, give his mind to things outside and become careless?"

"Surely not, Venerable Sir."

"Well, monks, this is a parable I have made to make clear the meaning (what I have to say). This is the meaning of it: The bowl brimful of oil, monks, is a term for mindfulness relating to the body. Wherefore, monks, thus must you train yourselves: 'Mindfulness relating to the body shall be cultivated by us, shall be made much of, made a vehicle (of expression), established, made effective. It shall be increased and well applied.'

"Thus, monks, must you train yourselves. [35]

The section on body contemplation (kayanupassana) includes not only anapanasati (i.e. only the first tetrad of its sixteen steps), but also other types such as the reflection on the repulsiveness of the body (asubha).

(See Part2 )

[1] Majjhima Nikaya 26/ I 21

[2] Samyutta Nikaya iii, 100

[3] Alexandra David-Neel, With Mystics and Magicians (London; Penguin, 1940) given interesting accounts of Tibetan mystics.

[4] Dhammapada, v. 103.

[5] Buddhism denies a permanent soul, self, indestructible ego, or any permanent entity, because there is nothing, animate or inanimate, that is permanent, stable, fixed, or lasting. All things change, not remaining the same for two consecutive moments. In Buddhism the word "self" is used as a reflexive pronoun, like oneself, myself, yourself, himself, etc.

[6] International Scala, Nov. 1971

[7] Time, Vol. 100, No 17 October 1972.

[8] Edward Arambawela, "Meditation Cures Pressure", Sunday Observer (Ceylon), May 30, 1982.

[9] Dhammapada, v. 243

[10] Dhammapada, v.239.

[11] See Addendum III

[12] Majjhima Nikaya, 44 - I. 301.

[13] Meditative absorption is a term difficult to translate. For a desciption of the jhanas, see the author's The Buddha's Ancient Path (Fifth impression 1987, BPS)

[14] Anguttara Nikaya, i. 61

[15] See below under the sub-title "Advice to a Meditator"

[16] Samyutta Nikaya, v. 326

[17] Anguttara Nikaya, iv, 200; Udana 54.

[18] Majjhima Nikaya, 10; Digha Nikaya 22

[19] Samyutta Nikaya, v. 321

[20] Dhammapada, v.13

[21] Majjhima Nikaya 32/ I. 214

[22] Sabba-kaya. Literally, "The whole (breath) body". According to the Visuddhimagga, "kaya" here does not mean the physical body, but the whole mass of in-breathing and out-breathing.

[23] Tepi viditva nirujjhanti no avidita'ti. Commentary to the discourse.

[24] Dialogue of the Buddha, Part III, p. 35

[25] For details see Addendum IV.

[26] See Addendum III.

[27] Vinaya Pitaka I, 10; Samyutta Nikaya v. 420.

[28] See Addendum V for an interesting story of a meditator.

[29] See Jagara Sutta, Devata Samyutta, 1, 6.

[30] Dhammapada, v .226.

[31] Samyutta, v. 115.

[32] Satipatthana Commentary.

[33] Anguttara Nikaya i, 3.

[34] See Addendum VI

[35] Samyutta Nikaya v. 170.

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  revised: 27-08-2003