Samadhi Meditation


by Luang Por Poot
The Path of Buddhism

Venerable ones with hearts of virtue, today I feel that it must be due to the pirami and merit I've accumulated in the past that I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit you, people so firmly committed to practising Dhamma in the right way. The fact that all of you had so much faith in Buddism that you gave up everything in order to ordain as monastics is worthy of the highest praise. There's nothing I have to offer you other than some encouragement and a few well considered reflections concerning the correct way to practice.

The religion of Buddism is the religion of nature. He studied nature and its laws. After the Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta) had trained with and mastered the teachings of the most notable sages of that era, and after he had embarked on and rejected the path of extreme asceticism, he reflected on a childhood incident. While his father was engaged in the royal plowing ceremony, the Bodhisatta sat in the shade of a tree. Relying on the abilities developed in his long quest to become a Buddha, he focused on his breathing and was able to enter the first jhana, the meditative state with initial and sustained application of mind (vitakka and vicara), bliss (piti), happiness (sukha) and one pointed unity (ekaggata). He then understood what effort was needed to realize the true Enlightenment of a Buddha: one must study nature and understand the laws of nature.

It is the nature of our bodies to breathe. Whether we intend it to or not, this process continues on by itself, both while sleeping and being awake. Contemplating this, the Bodhisatta then relied upon the breath as his focus of awareness, mindfully knowing each inhalation and exhalation. His heart (citta) calmed, experiencing the peace of samadhi. The breathing then became progressively more subtle until, in letting go of focusing attention on the breath, his heart became still, bright, aware, awake and radiant. Remaining were piti, sukha and oneness, the quality of knowing in the heart. When the heart calmed to an even more peaceful state, piti—the lightness and deep peace of both body and mind—disappeared from the Bodhisatta's perception. piti was let go of. Sukha was then let go of, and he entered the state with only the one-pointed unity of ekaggata remaining. The heart unified in the state of oneness called appana samadhi, characterized by simply being able to know that during that time there was only the heart, the citta alone: absolutely still, clear, bright, aware, awake and radiant. The body had completely vanished from the field of awareness.

In this state there is just the awareness of the pure citta and nothing else. The heart's quality of knowing is focused solely on the heart. Awareness of other things does not arise. The feeling of having a body disappears. There's no body. There's no thing. There's only the heart: still, bright, aware, awake and radiant. It's as if in the entirety of space there exists only our radiant citta. It's here that the heart enters appana samadhi. This state is also known as appanเ citta, appanเ jhana or the fourth jhana.

This is the path walked by the heart of a meditator. However one chooses to practice—using the mantra 'Buddho' or 'Samma Arahan,' being aware of the rising and falling of the abdomen (the 'Mahasi' technique from Myanmar) or focusing attention on the breathing--when the heart becomes so peaceful that it enters samadhi, the experience is one and the same. It has to proceed this way. If someone reaches the stage of samadhi where the body has disappeared, samadhi characterized by vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha and ekaggata, the citta is then able to advance to the realm of vipassana. This is a point where we as meditators need to understand each other.

When the heart calms to a subtle level of samadhi with a subtle object of awareness, the heart is aware only of the heart. Awareness of anything else does not arise. But when the heart withdraws from samadhi, it seems as if the body appears. At this point the meditator shouldn't hurry to get up from the place where he or she is sitting. Remain still, focus on and know your heart.

If there's no thinking, no insight, only stillness and equanimity, then simply allow the citta to remain still. If there are thoughts arising, then allow the citta to think, but make sure you mindfully follow and are aware of each mind-moment as it thinks. At this point no matter what you're thinking about or what direction the thoughts are leading--be it good, bad, wholesome or unwholesome--just allow it to think. It's essential however, that mindfulness follows each moment with focused awareness, until the thinking ceases and the citta once again enters the peace of samadhi. Practice like this. Most meditators however, have the misunderstanding that once one emerges from samadhi, if thoughts arise one should try to prevent them, try to not think at all. Actually this isn't how one should practice. Because a thought is an object of the heart's awareness, when it arises by itself and is followed by mindfulness, the heart will return to the deep peace of samadhi that it had previously experienced.

This is the first step in developing samadhi: when a meditator, through relying on whatever technique, is able to attain this peace of mind--whether it be kha๕ika samadhi (where the heart unifies briefly without depth or stability), upacara samadhi (where the heart is unwaveringly serene but is still able to receive external sense input) or appana samadhi. Whenever one attains to one of these levels, if one can do it often, honing it until proficient, until an expert, able to enter samadhi any moment one wishes, this is even better. If in this beginning stage insights of various kinds aren't arising, don't worry about it. Just work on developing peace of mind. When the heart is at peace with increasing frequency, the insights on the path of vipassana meditation will begin to arise as a matter of course.

If anyone experiences such peace of mind, notice that upon getting up from meditation, whatever you do: stand, walk, sit, lie down, eat, drink, act, speak or think--it will feel like there is continually vigilant mindfulness. This focusing of the heart's awareness during every activity, in every posture, indicates that the heart is beginning to become composed. Restraint and composure is one aspect of sใla. It leads to actions and speech becoming naturally refined and serene. The heart with mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-sampajanna), aware of everything that's happening around one, well established and composed, consequently lets go into its natural state as well. The heart with sใla, samadhi, mindfulness and clear comprehension during every moment of standing, walking, sitting, lying down, sleeping, eating, drinking, acting, speaking and thinking, will be continually aware and keep pace with the flow of causes and conditions. At this point wisdom (panna) begins to arise.

The heart with mindfulness and clear comprehension, with continuous, sharply focused awareness, becomes increasingly energized and firmly determined. This heart inclines toward the path of right practice and eventually becomes permeated with the flavor of Dhamma, by the words of the Buddha. Being mindful, restrained and careful is what we refer to in our chanting as ‘supatipanno (those who practise the good way), ujupatipanno (those who practise the straight way), ¥ayapatipanno (those who practise the true way), Samใcipatipanno (those who practise the proper way).’ One becomes a true disciple of the Buddha's Buddism.

Having a focused awareness in all activities is to have sincere concern for oneself. It is paying attention to oneself, comprehending oneself, and it leads to the mindful wisdom of knowing oneself. You understand now what is meant by 'oneself,' what one's responsibility is, and what is lacking or excessive in one's behavior. We can then cut out what is excessive and increase what is lacking, so that all is balanced in just the right proportions: the Middle Way.

In the case of someone who has samadhi but their heart doesn't proceed to analyze or investigate, the Krooba Ajahns of our tradition have a method for waking up the heart, for stimulating the arising of wisdom (panna): contemplation of the body (kayagatasati). As we chant, "This which is my body, from the soles of the feet up, and down from the crown of the head, entirely wrapped with a layer of skin, is a collection of unattractive things." Then continue on to analyze the body in terms of its component parts.

There are two ways you can go about this. The first is to contemplate one by one each of the traditional 32 parts of the body, beginning with the hair on one's head. The other is to focus one's attention in the chest area and mentally peal off the body's skin. Then peal off the muscles and flesh. Next, bring up the perception of one's bones. Repeat the process, backwards and forwards, over and over, until the heart is convinced that there are bones in there. Then focus and hold the attention on the mantra 'bone, bone, bone' ('atthi, atthi, atthi') until the heart settles down into the peace of samadhi.

A mental image (nimitta) of a skeleton will then arise in the chest area, or all the bones in one's body will become visible (with the mind's eye.) We call this 'bone contemplation.' Once you're able to see your skeleton, stabilize the image by keeping your attention on it. Do it often. If the skeleton is still and stable, without change, this is called gaining the uggaha nimitta. From this point shrink the skeletal image or enlarge it. Crush it down into powder until it mixes with and disappears into the dirt. This stage of the meditation is referred to as the arising of the patibhaga nimitta.

When this image of a skeleton is still, stable and without change, this is samatha meditation. When the skeleton is manipulated, broken down, crushed into powder and disintegrates, the heart has then entered the realm of vipassana. If we cannot develop the levels of samadhi I've previously mentioned, how will we ever be able to practice vipassana?

The wise one, the mindful meditator, is clearly aware of each state of happiness (sukha) or unhappiness (dukkha) as it arises, and wisdom understands both as the Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha). This was the Truth unveiled by the Buddha that led to his Enlightenment. A heart with mindfulness, clear comprehension, wisdom and awareness knows that there's nothing but dukkha that arises, nothing but dukkha that ceases. Only dukkha arises. Only dukkha ceases. In the end we know in our hearts that whatever is of the nature to arise is of the nature to pass away..., just like Anna Kondanna while listening to the Buddha expound the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, when his eyes opened and he saw the Dhamma: 'All that arises is subject to passing away.' Knowing and seeing this means understanding Dhamma on a refined level: one attains sotapanna, the first level of Enlightenment in Buddism. I've said enough for now.


Source: http://www.knowbuddhism.info/2009/02/samadhi-meditation-in-buddism.html


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