Buddhism FAQ0 >> 17. Best Practices for Meditation
Summary:On every part,while without thoughts,1.apply intensity then 2.relax & use equanimity
- 1 Buddhism FAQ
- 1.1 17. What are the best practices for meditation?
(Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism)
17. What are the best practices for meditation?
Ans : You may first read - How to Practice meditation?
In The following suttas Buddha talks in detail about how to practice meditation the right way in order to achieve fast & better results. These are then summarized in step by step process.
A secret of success is also provided to attain fast results based on experience.
Original Pali texts are also provided for comparison.
Directed method of Meditation
The Refinement of Mind - I
Link : AN 100.1-10._The_Refinement_of_the_Mind_-_I
(Note : A Similarity to Refinement of Gold)
There are, O monks, gross impurities in gold, such as earth and sand, gravel and grit. Now the goldsmith or his apprentice first pours the gold into a trough and washes, rinses and cleans it thoroughly. When he has done this, there still remain moderate impurities in the gold, such as fine grit and coarse sand. Then the goldsmith or his apprentice washes, rinses and cleans it again. When he has done this, there still remain minute impurities in the gold, such as fine sand and black dust. Now the goldsmith or his apprentice repeats the washing, and thereafter only the gold dust remains.
He now pours the gold into a melting pot, smelts it and melts it together. But he does not yet take it out from the vessel, as the dross has not yet been entirely removed and the gold is not yet quite pliant, workable, and bright; it is still brittle and does not yet lend itself easily to moulding. But a time comes when the goldsmith or his apprentice repeats the melting thoroughly, so that the flaws are entirely removed. The gold is now quite pliant, workable, and bright, and it lends itself easily to moulding. Whatever ornament the goldsmith now wishes to make of it, be it a diadem, earrings, a necklace or a golden chain, the gold can now be used for that purpose.
It is similar, monks, with a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind: there are in him gross impurities, namely, bad conduct of body, speech, and mind. Such conduct an earnest, capable monk abandons, dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.
When he has abandoned these, there are still impurities of a moderate degree that cling to him, namely, sensual thoughts, thoughts of ill will, and violent thoughts. Such thoughts an earnest, capable monk abandons, dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.
When he has abandoned these, there are still some subtle impurities that cling to him, namely, thoughts about his relatives, his home country, and his reputation. Such thoughts an earnest, capable monk abandons dispels, eliminates, and abolishes.
When he has abandoned these, there still remain thoughts about higher mental states experienced in meditation. That concentration is not yet peaceful and sublime; it has not attained to full tranquillity, nor has it achieved mental unification; it is maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.
But there comes a time when his mind becomes inwardly steadied, composed, unified, and concentrated. That concentration is then calm and refined; it has attained to full tranquillity and achieved mental unification; it is not maintained by strenuous suppression of the defilements.
Then, to whatever mental state realisable by direct knowledge he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
The Refinement of Mind - II
A monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should from time to time give attention to three items. He should from time to time give attention to the item of concentration(Samadhi/Trance), from time to time to the item of energetic effort, from time to time to the item of equanimity.
If a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should give exclusive attention to the item of concentration'(Samadhi/Trance)', it is possible that his mind may fall into indolence(sloth/laziness). If he should give exclusive attention to the item of energetic effort, it is possible that his mind may fall into restlessness. If he should give exclusive attention to the item of equanimity, it is possible that his mind will not be well concentrated(focussed) for the destruction of the taints(material desires).
But if, from time to time, he gives attention to each of these three items, then his mind will be pliant, workable, lucid, and not unwieldy, and it will be well concentrated for the destruction of the taints(material desires).
Suppose a goldsmith or his apprentice builds a furnace, lights a fire in its opening, takes the gold with a pair of tongs, and puts it into the furnace. From time to time he blows on it, from time to time he sprinkles water on it, from time to time he just looks on. If the goldsmith were to blow on the gold continuously it might be heated too much. If he continuously sprinkled water on it, it would be cooled. If he were only to look at it, the gold would not come to perfect refinement. But if, from time to time, the goldsmith attends to each of these three functions, the gold will become pliant, workable, and bright, and it can easily be moulded. Whatever ornaments the goldsmith wishes to make of it, be it a diadem, earrings, a necklace, or a golden chain, the gold can now be used for that purpose.
Similarly there are those three items to which a monk devoted to the training in the higher mind should give attention from time to time, namely, the items of concentration, energetic effort, and equanimity. If he gives regular attention to each of them, then his mind will become pliant, workable, lucid, and not unwieldy, and it will be well concentrated for the destruction of the taints(material desires).
To whatever mental state realisable by direct knowledge he directs his mind, he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes: ’May I wield the various kinds of spiritual power: having been one, may I become many; having been many, may I become one; may I appear and vanish; go unhindered through a wall, through a rampart, through a mountain as if through space; dive in and out of the earth as if it were water; walk on water without sinking as if it were earth; travel through the sky like a bird while seated cross-legged; touch and stroke with my hand the moon and sun, so powerful and mighty; exercise mastery with my body even as far as the Brahma-world’—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
“If he wishes: ’With the divine ear element, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I hear both kinds of sounds, the divine and human, those that are far as well as near’—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
If he wishes: “May I understand the minds of other beings, of other persons, having encompassed them with my own mind. May I understand a mind with lust as a mind with lust; a mind without lust as a mind without lust; a mind with hatred as a mind with hatred; a mind without hatred as a mind without hatred; a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion; a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion; a contracted mind as contracted and a distracted mind as distracted; an exalted mind as exalted and an unexalted mind as unexalted; a surpassable mind as surpassable and an unsurpassable mind as unsurpassable; a concentrated mind as concentrated and an unconcentrated mind as unconcentrated; a liberated mind as liberated and an unliberated mind as unliberated”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
If he wishes, “May I recollect my manifold past abodes(lives/rebirths), that is, one birth, two births, three births, four births, five births, ten births, twenty births, thirty births, forty births, fifty births, a hundred births, a thousand births, a hundred thousand births, many aeons of world-contraction, many aeons of world-expansion, many aeons of world-contraction and expansion thus: ’There I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my lifespan; passing away from there, I was reborn elsewhere, and there too I was so named, of such a clan, with such an appearance, such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such my lifespan; passing away from there, I was reborn here.’ May I thus recollect my manifold past abodes(lives/rebirths) with their modes and details”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
If he wishes, “With the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I see beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and understand how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma(karma/actions/decisions) thus: ’These beings who engaged in misconduct of body, speech, and mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong view, and undertook actions based on wrong view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell; but these beings who engaged in good conduct of body, speech, and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right view, and undertook action based on right view, with the breakup of the body, after death, have been reborn in a good destination, in the heavenly world.’ Thus with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, may I see beings passing away and being reborn, inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate, and understand how beings fare on in accordance with their kamma(karma/actions/decisions))”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
If he wishes, “By the destruction of the taints(material desires), may I in this very life enter and dwell in the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, realising it for myself with direct knowledge”—he achieves the capacity of realising that state by direct knowledge, whenever the necessary conditions obtain.
Summary & Step By Step Process
Meditation needs to be learned in a proper manner. One way is to learn it in a retreat such as Vipassana meditation (www.dhamma.org) which is free. An introduction is provided here too : How to practice meditation?
Remember merely reading does not help, meditation practice is simple but strenuous to do the same thing again & again so it requires patience.
Refinement of mind - I :
Now practice removal of gross impurities of bad conduct of body , mind & speech using Sheel or moral laws i.e. not killing any creature, speaking truth, non-stealing, no sexual misconduct & no intoxication.
Now, observing within mind, abandon thoughts of sensuousness, ill will & violence.
Still subtle impurities remain such as thoughts of relatives, home country , reputation and also of this path of meditation & its teaching etc. which also need to be calmed & removed to achieve perfect silence of mind.
Refinement of mind - II :
Now practice meditation in a 3 step manner- (1) Concentration(Samadhi/Trance) (2) Energetic Effort (3) Equanimity;
(1) Concentration(Samadhi/Trance) : Experienced practioners of meditation experience Samadhi/trance. It is the awakening as mentioned by Buddha. Many people experience it in various degrees according to their level of experience/awakening. Those who can, they should & they must, practice it whenever they are doing mediation as this is the most important part of meditation/Buddhism.
In simple words trance is tried out by starting with attention on whole body, then, withdrawing all attention within the brain & spine & trying to experience an ignition/spark here. If brain & spine feel ignited & appear distinctly supercharged then the trance has started, which is a very pleasant higher state. If trance is not experienced then keep on repeating the other methods mentioned below i.e. Energetic Effort & Equanimity.
In order to understand trance/awakening/enlightenment , see: Buddhism_FAQ2_Trance_States
(2) Energetic Effort : Now practice Vipassana meditation energetically (First do Anapana meditation i.e. focus on breathing. Simply watch breath coming in & going out while abandoning all thoughts. This makes mind focussed) & then watch all phenomenon/sensations in a patch of about four fingers each from head to feet & back. This is a method of differentiation i.e. putting attention to each organ separately. This can be practiced using either of 2 methods (a) Directed Thought (b) Undirected ;
(2.a) Directed Thought : Here an explicit thought is given to awaken each organ connected to brain & spine i.e. 'Now I am putting intense attention to head on place of hair, now put attention on face and on its each sense organ, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, throat, now put attention on neck, put attention on shoulders & arms , put attention on chest & back, put attention on stomach & back, put attention on private parts, put attention on hips & thighs, put attention on legs & feet' ; now move in reverse order;
Note : Here one must learn to increase intensity of attention like using accelerator of a vehicle. In any part/patch where sensation is not sensed, simply increase the attention there forcefully, again & again few times till it can be achieved .
(2.b) Undirected : After a lot of practice of directed thought , now no direct thought is given, simply intense attention is moved in all organs of body in the order as mentioned before, keeping mind without thoughts.
(3) Equanimity(Samatha) : This can be practiced either as integration or differentiation.
(3.a) Integration i.e. attention is put on whole body simultaneously & watching any phenomenon/sensation anywhere with an attitude of neither indulging in liking(Raag) it nor in disliking(Dvesh) it, rather keeping in mind 3 ideas for each part of body, that it is impermanent decaying(anicca/anitya), so leading to sorrow(dukkha), therefore it is nonself(anatta sans. Anatm); so attachments & cravings are removed. An example , while putting attention on sensations in hands mentaly note that it is neither good nor bad, also note that (i).The hand is decaying i.e. going to old age so impermanent (Anicca/anitya) (ii) If a disease or injury happens to hand it will cause unpleasentness/sorrow(Dukkha) & if any disease/injury already exists it is already Dukkha(sorrow) (iii) This hand is not me, this hand is not myself therefore anatta(non self).
(3.b) Differentiation i.e. practicing equanimity part by part , patch by patch similar to (3.a)
Now again practice step(1) :
(1) Concentration(Samadhi/Trance) : Withdrawing all attention within the brain & spine & trying to experience the blissful illumination here. If brain & spine feel illuminated & radiating then it is the trance state. Know that this is where you find all happiness & the truth about self , this is the gateway to benign & blissful spirituality from where other gates of highter spirituality i.e. higher trances will be unlocked alongwith powers as mentioned in the 100.1-10._The_Refinement_of_the_Mind_-_I
In order to understand 2.Energetic Effort and 3.Equanimity , see explanations on meditation practices :
Secret of Success
Caution : Only healthy persons should apply this. This method should not be used by those having STD/VD/HIV or any neural disease or ever had it in past because this generates large currents of sensations which can affect the person. Also a person who did sex in past 3 days or with headache, fever or any other disease should not do it because it can lead to enhancement of perception of discomfort.
How to attain samadhi/trance in brain & spine : Brain & spine are difficult to master, brain cannot be easily accessed from outside, but if attention is put on the inside of either
(1) Roof of mouth area(Palate); may also practice touching it by tongue softly in back & forth motion
(2) Upper nose area (i.e on roof of nasal cavity) within ,
then it is a lot easier. Apply the attention, wait till sensations appear here while remaining in equanimity. From there pull the attention upwards to brain within brain upto top of brain where a joint or cavity exists. Then sensation of glowing appears within brain as if illumination. First it is small then it grows stronger. When it is strong enough , direct it & apply it down to spine upto the base of spine. Now , like tornado or lightening, entire brain & spine becomes ablaze within the scope of attention & with bliss. This is first Samadhi/Trance/Jhana/Zen. This is the key to other higher states of samadhi/jhana/trance.
This is a superior method. After practicing Directed Method of meditation and becoming proficient in it, one should try this method which is more intense but it is done if a person can practice thoughtlessness & has strong will.
When one is healthy,calm & peaceful, start the meditation and see that there are absolutely no thoughts in mind, total clarity. Apply meditation on top of head & be alert in thoughtlessness, wait & watch for some time , be patient, then after some time, one will see one's attention will flow automatically as if honey is poured over the head. Remain without thoughts and equanimous, remain watchful & attention flows & flows in pathways as practiced during Directed Method automatically and all organs it touches become awakened. Then also apply the preceding method same way.
This method does not apply directed thoughts. Rather this method relies on intention. A person knows what one intends & the meditation happens according to intention only.
Pali Version - English
(Note : VRI version has different numbering)
Pali Version - Devnagari(Sanskrit/Hindi script)
(Note : VRI version has different numbering)