Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Buddha eye.

The practice of shamatha leads to the development of a mind that is calm, clear and luminous. Our mind is naturally settled in a state of cognitive knowing that is free from the proliferation of thoughts. It is a mind that is like an unstirred candle, it is steady and calm, yet luminous and bright.

What do we do with this newly discovered awareness? We simply use it to look.

The practice of shamatha or calm abiding leads to the practice of vipasyana, or vivid seeing. In the practice of vipasyana, we use this mind that is focused and steady to look at phenomena, self and our own mind. This awareness is like a sharp weapon that we can use to dissect and cut through layer after layer of confused perception and bias. We can peel back layers of habitual grasping and fixation, layers of imputation and exaggeration.

The practice of insight is a continual process of digging deeper, moving from gross to subtle, moving from one to many and many to one. It is a practice of learning to ask better questions, not being content with the answers that you have before you.

The uniqueness of the Buddha's tradition lies in the practice of vipasyana. There are many forms of shamatha meditation, and many similarities among the various traditions as to how to calm the mind and rest in a peaceful state. The wisdom of the Buddha's teachings are what distinguishes it from the other forms of meditation. It is the Buddha's insight into the true nature of the self, how all things are interconnected, and how we can use this wisdom to benefit ourselves and others that makes it truly transformative.

The Buddha taught that your view is important. What you think about things influences your reality and your experience. Our perception binds us, it limits us and our abilities. Our ignorance causes us suffering, we just don't recognize that fact.

Vipasyana is the practice of seeing truly, and coming to the direct experience of that wisdom of the Buddha. It is the practice of developing the Buddha eye.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eight remedial techniques.

The eight remedies are antidotes to the five flaws of meditation. 

Antidote to laziness
1.     Faith
Faith means to study and develop conviction in the teachings. This faith is based on reason and logic and our own experience of the Dharma.
2.     Intention
Intentions lead to mental actions, which eventually become habits. Be clear, be specific.
3.     Effort
Effort is the greatest predictor of progress in your practice. If it is difficult to develop a joyful effort towards practice, reexamine your faith and intention.
4.     Pliancy
Pliancy means that our mind and body become adaptable and dexterous. We become open to change, ready to change. Pliancy is like making friends with a horse and learning to ride it, at some point the horse becomes workable.

Antidote to forgetting the instructions
5.     Mindfulness
Mindfulness is strong and focused, it recalls our intention and the object of our meditation.

Antidote to dullness and agitation
6.     Vigilance
Vigilant awareness is sharp and clear. Vigilance is able to access the quality of our meditation, be aware of our mind, and notice problems as they start to come up. It notices agitation and dullness and can allow us to tighten up our mindfulness before we lose our focus.

Antidote to under-application
7.     Attention
Attention means that we recognize and respond to fault arising in our meditation. Vigilant awareness might notice dullness starting to creep into our meditation, but if we fail to pay attention that subtle dullness might turn into a lose of clarity or even gross dullness.

Antidote to over-application
8.     Equanimity
Equanimity is the mind resting naturally, free from agitation and dullness. It is a mind that is calm, clear and vibrant; like a calm lake during the daytime.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Five flaws of meditation.

There are five flaws (Tib. nyes pa lnga) of meditation that prevent us from developing a calm, clear mind.

1.     Laziness
Laziness is a flaw because it ensures that we don’t start. We may want to start a meditation practice, but when we try we run into the inertia of our own indolence. There are three types of laziness- lethargy, obsession with pointless activity, and discouragement.

2.     Forgetting the instructions
Forgetting the instructions means to not know the object of your meditation or how to meditate. We have sat down to meditate, but we have forgotten how to meditate properly.

3.     Dullness and Agitation
Dullness and agitation are the main problems that we experience during meditation.

4.     Under-application
Under-application means not correcting your meditation when you are aware of the faults of dullness or agitation. Failing to apply the remedy, our mind wanders and our meditation deteriorates.

5.     Over-application
Over-application means continuing to apply remedies when it is no longer necessary. When our minds are naturally resting on our object of meditation, we should not continue to manipulate or try to augment our meditation.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Training the Mind.

The fifth stage of the nine ways of resting the mind is called training the mind. When we have arrived at the completely settled state, our mindfulness can hold our object of meditation continuously without being distracted. We still notice thoughts, sounds and sensations arising in our peripheral awareness, but those appearances aren't strong enough to distract us from our focus.

In the fifth stage, we are primarily focused on overcoming subtle dullness in our meditation. As we are resting in the completely settled state, one of the errors that we can make is that we fall into a state of dullness or numbness. We might be focused on our object, but we've sunk into a mental state that is narrow and without clarity. We are focused on our object, but not really. There might even be the comfort and pleasure of a cozy, peaceful meditative state. We should recognize this error and try to prevent it.

The main goal of this state is to prevent that subtle dullness from overtaking our meditation. The way that we do this is to maintain and strengthen our vigilant awareness. As subtle dullness starts to set in, vigilance starts to collapse and weaken. Our alert awareness starts to shrink, to close in on itself. Everything starts to collapse onto our object of meditation, and we lose the vibrancy and alertness of vigilant awareness. We might maintain our attention on our object for a bit, but eventually this subtle dullness gives way to gross dullness or even sleep.

If we can catch vigilant awareness as it starts to weaken, we can make a correction and increase the intensity or the scope of awareness. We can expand our peripheral awareness, exert a little effort to make it more clear.

As we train our mind, we can eventually notice when subtle dullness is starting to creep in and make the necessary corrections to prevent it from arising at all. When we have eliminated subtle dullness, we move a little closer to resting in the single-pointed state.