dmattwads

Is meditation the only path?

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When I first got into meditation and Buddhism (in that order) the common and constant notion I read, or heard was that ultimately the only way to Nirvana was via meditation. Not knowing much I just accepted this as a fact. As time went on and I began to read more of the suttas myself as well as having more time to have personal experience I began to read that there seemed to be more ways to awakening than only meditation, and even that meditation wasn't enough. I read suttas that seemed to indicate that there were multiple methods to enlightenment. Meditation of course was a way, but there also were listed mindfulness, study, loving kindness, devotion, and faith. I was confused when I read these after having been told and read that the only way was meditation.

 

Has anyone else had this experience or have any thoughts on this topic?

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I was once told of a system now probably extinct. My informant, who hoped to develop a system for the western world said that it owed its origins to yoga. There are three realms, environment, which takes priority, social and self. People must look after the natural world. In doing so they try to live with like minded people thus creating the "social" and they must look after them selves physically and spiritually. All activities become dedicated to the three realms. For example house building would ideally be a communal activity and use natural and sustainable material. The arts are encouraged and again communal and sustainable.

 

The aim is to become one with the three realms and it involves the mindfulness, study, loving kindness, devotion and faith that you mention.

I find the idea quite attractive, a sort of cross between an eco-village and a monastery. Without the celibacy of course. I think it is non denominational, he was a Quaker.

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I personally gained the most off of contemplation and inquiry rather than meditation. Reading Texts and understanding them was basically the bread and butter. Practical application came next. Though I think there’s still a point where mindfulness/meditation comes hand in hand with that, because pure contemplation can spiral.

 

My own experience is that contemplation was definitely worthwhile for me to start with. It‚Äôs just now that I‚Äôm really getting into mindfulness, and because the contemplation beforehand it seems to be going really quickly + the ability to choose what ‚Äúpresent‚ÄĚ you unwrap is nice

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3 hours ago, dmattwads said:

heard that ultimately the only way to Nirvana was via meditation

What is meditation? sitting there like a log of wood in the forest? watching breath without falling asleep? these thing which is taught in popular culture I strongly adhere it does not work. Meditation has a purpose you know?! If you go on the meditation reddit they have a picture of a dog in a cross legged position like a human modern 'meditator' (possibly photoshopped) that picture implies everyone can do it. It further implies there is no final purpose to meditation, it's all the same forever. It further implies without any other practice simply watching the air of the breath without falling asleep is the one and only practice to be done.

 

That is modern created 'belief'. When you practice something you must make it count for you. Every session or time spent in practice should be loggable in a journal where you can say what you have achieved. Otherwise does it really matter?

 

Buddhism has identified a lot of mental factors, and is generally very precise in the mechanics of mind,awareness. Yet all this is entirely ignored in this modern view of one technique only. The one technique berets, - a powerful sect.

 

Further in many Dzogchen/Vajrayana/etc lineages genuine empowerment is deemed essential

 

Am I wrong?

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41 minutes ago, EmeraldHead said:

What is meditation? sitting there like a log of wood in the forest? watching breath without falling asleep? these thing which is taught in popular culture I strongly adhere it does not work. Meditation has a purpose you know?! If you go on the meditation reddit they have a picture of a dog in a cross legged position like a human modern 'meditator' (possibly photoshopped) that picture implies everyone can do it. It further implies there is no final purpose to meditation, it's all the same forever. It further implies without any other practice simply watching the air of the breath without falling asleep is the one and only practice to be done.

 

That is modern created 'belief'. When you practice something you must make it count for you. Every session or time spent in practice should be loggable in a journal where you can say what you have achieved. Otherwise does it really matter?

 

Buddhism has identified a lot of mental factors, and is generally very precise in the mechanics of mind,awareness. Yet all this is entirely ignored in this modern view of one technique only. The one technique berets, - a powerful sect.

 

Further in many Dzogchen/Vajrayana/etc lineages genuine empowerment is deemed essential

 

Am I wrong?

 

Based on what you said it is not possible to determine if you are either right or wrong as you made statements but gave no reasons to support them. Who is to say if you are right or wrong?

 

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In both Buddhism and Bön there are many paths. In Bön, with which I am far more familiar, there are nine unique paths. The majority of these paths do not emphasize meditation.

 

The path to enlightenment is said to require the union of method and wisdom. Method is also referred to as skillful means and encompasses a wide variety of activities and practices through which we can generate bodhicitta, some meditative, some behavioral modification, some study. 

 

Wisdom is the realization of emptiness which is primarily reached through meditation but can also be supported by study and debate. There is a marvelous book called the Beacon of Certainty by Ju Mipham Rinpoche which thoroughly discusses the roles of study and meditation and where and how they intersect. The original text is challenging to read but Anyen Rinpoche presents the information in a more accessible manner in his book, Journey to Certainty.

 

In my opinion, what each of us needs to grow spiritually is determined by our unique karma and may change over time. This is precisely why there are so many different methods available to practitioners. I recall a teaching on the 21 Nails, one of the most esoteric and secretive teachings of Bön dzogchen. Each nail points to a different aspect, practice, or characteristic related to the Nature of Mind. Someone asked why there were 21 and my teacher answered that each teaching came about in response to a way in which we can be deluded or blocked on the path. At some point those who compiled the teachings decided 21 was enough but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to add to the teachings if that could help people overcome other obstacles they may encounter.

 

Similarly, when people have deep spiritual realizations they often describe the experience in different ways. According to my teacher this is not because they are experiencing a different fundamental essence. It is because they are for the first time experiencing the opposite, the absence, of what was previously blocking them. 

 

Rather than look at what works or doesn’t work in general terms, it is critical to focus on what works for us as individuals (or for our students, if applicable).

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Hello @steve I noticed that both books mentioned contained the word "certainty" in their titles. For the first time, somehow it stopped being a general term and I think maybe has quite amazing depth. Real certainty, in the context of dmattwads question has become much more profound and is somehow key to the whole thing. I am not expressing this very well, the idea has only just hit me. I would be interested if you have any comments.

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28 minutes ago, rocala said:

Hello @steve I noticed that both books mentioned contained the word "certainty" in their titles. For the first time, somehow it stopped being a general term and I think maybe has quite amazing depth. Real certainty, in the context of dmattwads question has become much more profound and is somehow key to the whole thing. I am not expressing this very well, the idea has only just hit me. I would be interested if you have any comments.

 

@rocala

In the context of the books I mentioned, certainty refers specifically to understanding (through direct personal experience) the Nature of Mind. It is not so much a matter of what it is intellectually or theoretically as how to experience it. On the vajrayana paths ( oth tantra and dzogchen), this Nature of Mind is the key to making progress. As Mipham’s teachings state, meditation is the most direct approach but the conceptual, theoretical piece is important in guiding us until we have that certainty and even beyond, as it takes time to stabilize our connection and make it habitual. Is that at all helpful?

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Thanks @steve I think I am on the right track. I was not considering something accumulative such as knowledge but rather something developmental, experiential.

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"Meditation" is a preparatory practice. Meditation practices purify and focus the mind. 

 

After meditation/along with meditation, one needs to perform Self-inquiry/contemplation. If you want to become a super-being with many siddhis, stick to the methods. If you want to become free from suffering, inquire into who is suffering. :) 

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1 hour ago, dwai said:

"Meditation" is a preparatory practice. Meditation practices purify and focus the mind. 

 

After meditation/along with meditation, one needs to perform Self-inquiry/contemplation. If you want to become a super-being with many siddhis, stick to the methods. If you want to become free from suffering, inquire into who is suffering. :) 

 

In our tradition, that is all a part of what is referred to as meditation. First we train the mind to focus, then to rest in that focus, then to rest without any particular focus. As the mind becomes more settled and clear, it looks back at itself directly and the inquiry occurs spontaneously and naturally. For most it is difficult to really look at it while it is busy. In dzogchen it is said that the view, meditation, behavior, and result are all the same, not different things.

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Not the only path, but maybe a needed ingredient. 

As people above have alluded too, the point is not to leave your meditation on the zafu. 

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To add an example from outside Buddhism, another "path" to internal exploration I've messed about with is floating in the dark- been mad about the idea since the movie "altered states" was in the theaters,  I've used tanks a number of times and really enjoy  the experience.

I get a deeper experience sitting, and I think the position of my breathing stuff while floating is the main reason. On the other hand, would my perception of things within my practice be the same without the time in the tanks? Or without the sheen of pseudo science from the movie - and Dr. Lilly's books, for that matter?

 

As I've mentioned elsewhere,  I worked with an Alexander technique instructor for years and it did a lot of good. In the spirit that "meditation " is described as preparation for other things above, Alexander could be seen as preparation for meditation. 

 

In the same sense, I can't make a distinction between my "meditation " and time I've spent singing in the long run. Certainly needed both.

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In my life, meditation oscillates between dietary and medicinal.

 

For a long time was dietary for me.  A disciplined daily process linked exclusively to the cushion (or the stance, or form).

 

Eventually, some decades in, a process of release was initiated.  A deep foundational shift in paradigm, awareness, perspective, motivations/desires, attachments played out...  all forms and processes dissolved (some still are).  Interesting to note that meditational states had branched out into daily life, work, shopping and so the need to pursue it actively was released into daily embodiment.

 

Formal cushion time and use of stances and forms lately manifests in a more medicinal process. 

 

No longer a daily diet, formal sitting and forms arise tzujan, when conditions call for it and i respond.

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2 minutes ago, silent thunder said:

that meditational states had branched out into daily life, work, shopping and so the need to pursue it actively was released into daily embodiment.

Nicely put @silent thunder that is what I was trying to say about "becoming one with the three realms" in the second post above. You are far more eloquent than me.

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I've been using meditation to access diffuse based thinking to gather ideas without having analysis paralysis and to help in studies to to further my materialistic adventures. But spiritual meditation techniques are great too and the insights/experiences from them can be very moving. But too much stillness or energy cultivation hinders my material desires and puts me in a hermit zone/depersonalization where functioning with friends, love, society, job get's affected and my ego will take a hit.

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I just finished a piece that is a summary of the teachings in the Pali sermons.  Here's something of what it's about:  

 

... the early record of Gautama’s teaching is still there, in Southeast Asia, in Tibet, and in China....
 

In that early record, Gautama is concerned with action, a certain kind of action:
 

…I say that determinate thought is action. When one determines, one acts by deed, word, or thought. 
 

‚ÄúWhen one determines‚ÄĚ‚Äďwhen one makes up one‚Äôs mind, action takes place.
 

Gautama taught the ceasing of action:
 

And what‚Ķ is the ceasing of action? That ceasing of action by body, speech, and mind, by which one contacts freedom,‚Äďthat is called ‚Äėthe ceasing of action‚Äô.‚Ä̬†
 

Gautama taught that action ceases first with regard to speech, then with regard to the body, and finally with regard to the mind.
 

The Early Record

 

I lay out what he taught, about how the cessation of volitive action (action through determinate thought) comes about.  

Not exactly what people think of as meditation, not what people think about as mindfulness either.  

 

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