Robin

Considering the Notion of Progress in Meditation

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I've been involved with mediation for many years. Initially I was involved with Buddhist meditation but then I got involved with Taoist meditation through the teachings of Bruce Frantzis. Bruce often mentioned Dzogchen with high regard, so when Lama Lena (a highly esteemed Dzogchen teacher) came to teach for several years in a row very near to my home, I went along. I also came across Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (a Bon Dzogchen teacher) mainly through his online content, although I did travel to see him once.

 

I have some curiosity concerning two apparently different categories of meditation practice.

 

With Inner Dissolving (Taoist meditation from Bruce Frantzis), and Dzogchen both from Lama Lena and Tenzin Rinpoche, there is a notion of "progression" in the sense that we have obscurations/blockages/"pagchas"(like neuroses in Tibetan), and that through practice over time we can resolve these to move closer towards "enlightenment"/clarity/healing etc... In all these traditions, there is the possibility of using an agenda to work with specific issues in our lives, with a view to dissolving/resolving them at some root energetic level.

 

This makes sense to me, and gives some kind of sense of structure/progression to my practice. I am aware that there are certain paradoxes that come from the idea/reality that we are "already there" (non-duality teachings etc.), and yet there is a firm understanding from the teachers I follow that we do actually need to meditate to attain(?) the fruits of meditation. Like the last lesson of Marpa to Milrepa - to show the callouses on his arse to emphasize the need for practice!

 

In other traditions I've come across, such as the teachings of the FWBO (whatever they are now know as), Zen, Mindfulness etc. there seems to be a conspicuously different attitude towards "progress". You do the practice, whether it's mindfulness of breathing or body scanning or even working with emotions by "simply being" with them - but there is no sense in the practices I have come across of working with specific issues/blockages and resolving them at a root or energetic(?) level. It's more like "here we are again looking at our minds and sensations...." with no particular sense of direction or need to attain/achieve anything. 

 

I know that the need to achieve anything is seen as a hindrance in both categories of practice, but this is in some ways something of a contradiction. While of course grasping will not lead to freedom, nonetheless there is an implicit intention to get somewhere/something, in the very decision to become involved in meditation in the first place.


So these are some of the observations and thoughts I'm having around my practice at the moment. Partly wondering which practices to emphasize to help me navigate a chronic illness, and also wondering about the notion of progress and achievement in relation to meditation. Very curious to hear your thoughts on all this.

Edited by Robin
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I started out in camp 1 with diligence, focused work on specific aspects.  Then some years in I realized I'd morphed into camp 2 in that, the nature is already within and effort can cloud the revelation of its nature as surely as ignorance.  And went into a period of radical release.  Sort of like letting a cloudy glass of water rest until it was in clarity.

 

and now I find i've rather come round to comfortably occupy both camps, simultaneously.

Praxis (far more relaxed and open) provides an environment conducive to releasing what obscures clarity and awakening spontaneously arises.

 

Even in my most diligent of years... the awakenings always arose seemingly spontaneously in the moment, tzujan.  As if of themselves. 

 

It's a fascinating question and I suspect there is no wrong path.  Perhaps one or the other are more effective at given points in our process and both have their place.  That's what I'm living currently at least.

Edited by silent thunder
grammar bogies
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2 hours ago, Robin said:

 

... I know that the need to achieve anything is seen as a hindrance in both categories of practice, but this is in some ways something of a contradiction. While of course grasping will not lead to freedom, nonetheless there is an implicit intention to get somewhere/something, in the very decision to become involved in meditation in the first place.


So these are some of the observations and thoughts I'm having around my practice at the moment. Partly wondering which practices to emphasize to help me navigate a chronic illness, and also wondering about the notion of progress and achievement in relation to meditation. Very curious to hear your thoughts on all this.
 


I finished a post on my own website about a week ago (A Way of Living), and I added a link to the post to my Facebook page, "Zazen Notes".

Randy Raine-Reusch commented on that post, saying "enlightenment just is, it is not a goal."  I replied:

 

I write in the piece, "There can also come a moment when the movement of breath necessitates the placement of attention at a certain location in the body, or at a series of locations, with the ability to remain awake as the location of attention shifts retained through the exercise of presence."
 

I wrote: "I would say that the placement of attention by the movement of breath is actually a common experience for everyone, if at no other time, then in falling asleep."
 

I think to a certain extent the same kind of necessity underlies 'the cessation of ("determinate thought" in) feeling and perceiving', the attainment associated with Gautama's enlightenment, so in that sense you could say that the attainment that underlies enlightenment "just is".
 

Gautama's enlightenment, though, I think is considered to be his insight into the dependent origin of suffering. I go into that more in my post Response.

 

 

"A Way of Living" goes into some detail about Feldenkrais's notion of "automatic movement", with my thesis being that such movement stems in part from allowing the weight of the body to rest with the ligaments, in the stretch and resile of ligaments.  I quote from Cheng Man-Ching's "Thirteen Chapters", where he recounts the three levels/nine stages in the development of ch'i, and the ligaments play a major role.

The other part of "automatic movement" in the body is relinquishing volition in the activity of the body.  

As you say, there are two sides in my approach.  The first I summarize in "A Way of Living" as:

 

In my experience, the ‚Äúplacement of attention‚ÄĚ by the movement of breath only occurs freely in what Gautama described as ‚Äúthe fourth musing‚ÄĚ:

 

Again, a (person), putting away ease… enters and abides in the fourth musing; seated, (one) suffuses (one’s) body with purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded with purity by the pureness of (one’s) mind.
 

(AN III 25-28, Pali Text Society Vol. III p 18-19, see also MN III 92-93)

 

The ‚Äúpureness of mind‚ÄĚ refers to the absence of any intention to act. Suffusing the body with ‚Äúpurity by the pureness of (one‚Äôs) mind‚ÄĚ is widening awareness so that there is ‚Äúnot one particle of the body‚ÄĚ that cannot become the location where attention is placed.¬†
 

 

The second would be:

 

(The placement of attention by necessity in the movement of breath) can shift, as every particle of the body (with no part left out) comes into the placement of attention.  At the moment when (the placement of attention) can shift as though in open space, volition and habit in the activity of inhalation and exhalation ceases. 

 

 

Very helpful to me of late is Hida Hiramitsu's suggestion for seated meditation:

 

We should balance the power of the hara (area below the navel) and the koshi (area at the rear of the pelvis) and maintain equilibrium of the seated body by bringing the center of the body’s weight in line with the center of the triangular base of the seated body.
 

(Hida Haramitsu, ‚ÄúNikon no Shimei‚ÄĚ [‚ÄúMission of Japan‚ÄĚ], parentheticals added--as found in Omori Sogen's ‚ÄúIntroduction to Zen Training‚ÄĚ)

 

This I take to be a recipe like the one Feldenkrais provided, to engage "automatic movement", but where Feldenkrais spoke of activity in the legs in standing, I believe Haramitsu is addressing the engagement of automatic activity in the movement of inhalation and exhalation.  Nevertheless, as Sogen comments:

 

… It may be the least trouble to say as a general precaution that strength should be allowed to come to fullness naturally as one becomes proficient in sitting.  We should sit so that our energy increases of itself and brims over instead of putting physical pressure on the lower abdomen by force. 
 

(‚ÄúAn Introduction to Zen Training:¬† A Translation of Sanzen Nyumon‚ÄĚ,¬†Omori Sogen, tr. Dogen Hosokawa and Roy Yoshimoto, Tuttle Publishing, p 59)

 

 

Also important to me is my understanding of kinesthesiology, which I summarize in my piece:

 

I would posit that the patterns in the development of ch’i reflect involuntary activity of the body generated in the stretch of ligaments. There is, in addition, a possible mechanism of support for the spine from the displacement of the fascia behind the spine, a displacement that can be effected by pressure generated in the abdominal cavity and that may quite possibly depend on a push on the fascia behind the sacrum by the bulk of the extensor muscles, as they contract (see my Kinesthesiology of Fascial Support). 

 

One thing Haramitsu's advice seems to accomplish for me is engaging the abdominals, and if I relax the abdominals and calm the corresponding stretch of ligaments around the sacrum and along the spine, I can recover the experience of "one-pointedness" in the placement of attention and the relinquishment of volition in the activity of the body.

For what it's worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Mark Foote

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6 hours ago, Robin said:

the notion of progress and achievement in relation to meditation.

 

In my observation the human has three primary steps to first stage enlightenment involving control and refinement of the physical-etheric body, the emotional body and the mental body.

 

These steps require right relationship internally and externally (including parasitic connections), release from personal karma, and proper alignment of subplane energies.

 

When that has been achieved the final internal step is the will to be at one with all that is.

 

Well-chosen meditation is useful but not essential.

 

Edited by Lairg

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15 hours ago, Robin said:

I've been involved with mediation for many years. Initially I was involved with Buddhist meditation but then I got involved with Taoist meditation through the teachings of Bruce Frantzis. Bruce often mentioned Dzogchen with high regard, so when Lama Lena (a highly esteemed Dzogchen teacher) came to teach for several years in a row very near to my home, I went along. I also came across Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (a Bon Dzogchen teacher) mainly through his online content, although I did travel to see him once.

 

I have some curiosity concerning two apparently different categories of meditation practice.

 

With Inner Dissolving (Taoist meditation from Bruce Frantzis), and Dzogchen both from Lama Lena and Tenzin Rinpoche, there is a notion of "progression" in the sense that we have obscurations/blockages/"pagchas"(like neuroses in Tibetan), and that through practice over time we can resolve these to move closer towards "enlightenment"/clarity/healing etc... In all these traditions, there is the possibility of using an agenda to work with specific issues in our lives, with a view to dissolving/resolving them at some root energetic level.

 

This makes sense to me, and gives some kind of sense of structure/progression to my practice. I am aware that there are certain paradoxes that come from the idea/reality that we are "already there" (non-duality teachings etc.), and yet there is a firm understanding from the teachers I follow that we do actually need to meditate to attain(?) the fruits of meditation. Like the last lesson of Marpa to Milrepa - to show the callouses on his arse to emphasize the need for practice!

 

Hi @Robin,

 

Not that it matters but it was Milarepa who showed his arse to Gampopa.  I practice Mahamudra which is similar to Dzogchen (and Lamdre of the Sakya sect) - and there is a kind of paradox between 'already there' and the need to progress.  There is a structure to progress, for instance the ngondro practices and so on.  There is also a kind of hierarchy for practice from sutrayana, mahayana, vajrayana and dzogchen/mahamudra.  At each level the attitude to obstructions is different - say from something to be removed, something to be overcome with positive emotions, something to be transformed - to something to be seen as being empty anyway.  The stages don't negate each other.  It's a bit like a telescope where the different sections slide together - when extended they seem different but when slid together they are actually the same. (Hope this makes sense - I just made up that analogy :) ).

 

Mostly the emphasis is on purifying to see, as if your being is a lens through which the nature of things is seen.  For instance in Guru Yoga (one the stages of the ngondro) you pray to remove self clinging in order to see the 'unborn' nature of mind, to loose any worldly wants and desires to see how your illusions about reality collapse and to remove all doubt in order to realise the Dharmakaya (true nature of reality).  So the idea is that your confusion obstructs you seeing things as they really are and the task is to do something about that.

 

 

15 hours ago, Robin said:

In other traditions I've come across, such as the teachings of the FWBO (whatever they are now know as), Zen, Mindfulness etc. there seems to be a conspicuously different attitude towards "progress". You do the practice, whether it's mindfulness of breathing or body scanning or even working with emotions by "simply being" with them - but there is no sense in the practices I have come across of working with specific issues/blockages and resolving them at a root or energetic(?) level. It's more like "here we are again looking at our minds and sensations...." with no particular sense of direction or need to attain/achieve anything. 

 

I would discount anything to do with the FWBO.

 

15 hours ago, Robin said:

I know that the need to achieve anything is seen as a hindrance in both categories of practice, but this is in some ways something of a contradiction. While of course grasping will not lead to freedom, nonetheless there is an implicit intention to get somewhere/something, in the very decision to become involved in meditation in the first place.

 

Aspiration is key and much more than a general wish.  It is more like a will towards something e.g. Buddhahood.  It is different to grasping or wanting.  But generally you work with bodhicitta aspirationally until the absolute version begins to dawn.  

 

15 hours ago, Robin said:

 

 


So these are some of the observations and thoughts I'm having around my practice at the moment. Partly wondering which practices to emphasize to help me navigate a chronic illness, and also wondering about the notion of progress and achievement in relation to meditation. Very curious to hear your thoughts on all this.

 

If you have a chronic illness then I would say that you should not tax your system too highly.  You may try different therapies and wotnot of course but in terms of meditation it would be best to rely on deep but gentle shamatha (which I assume you have learned) - in the certain knowledge that your body and the wisdom inherent in your mind knows how to right itself given time.  Apart from anything else this will teach patience (!). 

 

 

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16 hours ago, Robin said:

I've been involved with mediation for many years. Initially I was involved with Buddhist meditation but then I got involved with Taoist meditation through the teachings of Bruce Frantzis. Bruce often mentioned Dzogchen with high regard, so when Lama Lena (a highly esteemed Dzogchen teacher) came to teach for several years in a row very near to my home, I went along. I also came across Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (a Bon Dzogchen teacher) mainly through his online content, although I did travel to see him once.

 

I have some curiosity concerning two apparently different categories of meditation practice.

 

With Inner Dissolving (Taoist meditation from Bruce Frantzis), and Dzogchen both from Lama Lena and Tenzin Rinpoche, there is a notion of "progression" in the sense that we have obscurations/blockages/"pagchas"(like neuroses in Tibetan), and that through practice over time we can resolve these to move closer towards "enlightenment"/clarity/healing etc... In all these traditions, there is the possibility of using an agenda to work with specific issues in our lives, with a view to dissolving/resolving them at some root energetic level.

 

This makes sense to me, and gives some kind of sense of structure/progression to my practice. I am aware that there are certain paradoxes that come from the idea/reality that we are "already there" (non-duality teachings etc.), and yet there is a firm understanding from the teachers I follow that we do actually need to meditate to attain(?) the fruits of meditation. Like the last lesson of Marpa to Milrepa - to show the callouses on his arse to emphasize the need for practice!

 

In other traditions I've come across, such as the teachings of the FWBO (whatever they are now know as), Zen, Mindfulness etc. there seems to be a conspicuously different attitude towards "progress". You do the practice, whether it's mindfulness of breathing or body scanning or even working with emotions by "simply being" with them - but there is no sense in the practices I have come across of working with specific issues/blockages and resolving them at a root or energetic(?) level. It's more like "here we are again looking at our minds and sensations...." with no particular sense of direction or need to attain/achieve anything. 

 

I know that the need to achieve anything is seen as a hindrance in both categories of practice, but this is in some ways something of a contradiction. While of course grasping will not lead to freedom, nonetheless there is an implicit intention to get somewhere/something, in the very decision to become involved in meditation in the first place.


So these are some of the observations and thoughts I'm having around my practice at the moment. Partly wondering which practices to emphasize to help me navigate a chronic illness, and also wondering about the notion of progress and achievement in relation to meditation. Very curious to hear your thoughts on all this.

 

What I've come to appreciate with regards to this question of progressive achievement versus instantaneous enlightenment or 'simply being' is the critical importance of seeing clearly where we are in our understanding and needs at any given moment and the ability to be honest with ourselves about that. When approaching spiritual teachings, especially the highly esoteric teachings of dzogchen, I think there is a tendency to get wrapped up in our ideas, assumptions, projections, and desires to the point that we are blind to what is really happening in our lives and minds. We are then likely to spin our wheels and get frustrated or have an unrealistic view of ourselves due to spiritual bypassing. 

 

I am also a student of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and have found his ability to show me the practical and accessible life lessons in the most esoteric of Bön teachings to be priceless. In addition, the Bön teachers I've met have been firmly grounded in reality and practicality when it comes to an honest and open appraisal of their own relationship to practice and fruition. This is one of the profound benefits of having a personal relationship with "one who has gone before." One thing I've learned is that it is valuable to have a tool box, not just a single tool. When I am able to simply abide and self liberation occurs effortlessly nothing more is needed. This is the ultimate level of practice (according to dzogchen) but for most of us this is not our consistent and continuous experience. When this is not happening, I need to be aware and it is beneficial to have other tools to work with. These tools help us to connect with and loosen those things that are preventing us from allowing the ebb and flow of unobstructed and unfabricated experience. When it comes to the effortless approach of resting in the nature of mind versus a progressive, goal driven approach Tenzin Rinpoche offers the following advice - 

 

As far as abiding is concerned of course there is no practice. If there is somebody there that is not abiding, then there is practice. That is a decision you have to make. Just recognize.

~ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

 

In terms of practices for navigating a chronic illness, it can be helpful to talk with a medical specialist from whichever tradition you feel a deep connection to and intend to practice. I have found the following approach to be very supportive for me. From Bön, I practice the nine breathings of purification which help me open to and liberate the effects of the three poisons and their contribution to illness. I also practice the five tsa lung exercises which help to identify and clear obstacles to balancing the five subtle winds that support health and well being. In addition, I often engage in Daoist practices of zhan zhuang, qigong, and taijiquan which I find to be wonderful adjuncts. Finally, the most important practice for me is connecting to inner refuge (the nature of mind) through the three doors of body speech and mind. This is not only a formal practice on the cushion but an informal practice, progressively integrated into all aspects of life. The inner refuge is often referred to as the true source of healing which is not coincidentally the title of one of Tenzin Rinpoche's books. 

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1 hour ago, steve said:


Finally, the most important practice for me is connecting to inner refuge (the nature of mind) through the three doors of body speech and mind. This is not only a formal practice on the cushion but an informal practice, progressively integrated into all aspects of life. The inner refuge is often referred to as the true source of healing which is not coincidentally the title of one of Tenzin Rinpoche's books. 
 


On the topic of "body, speech, and mind":
 

Gautama’s teaching revolved around action, around one specific kind of action:

 

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

(AN III 415, Pali Text Society Vol III p 294)

 

‚ÄúWhen one determines‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒwhen a person exercises volition, or choice, action of ‚Äúdeed, word, or thought‚ÄĚ follows.
 

Gautama also spoke of ‚Äúthe activities‚ÄĚ.¬† The activities are the actions that take place as a consequence of the exercise of volition:
 

‚ÄúAnd what are the activities?¬† These are the three activities:‚Äďthose of deed, speech and mind.¬† These are activities.‚ÄĚ
 

(SN II 3, Pali Text Society vol II p 4)
 

Gautama claimed that a ceasing of ‚Äúaction‚ÄĚ is possible:
 

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.
 

(SN IV 145, Pali Text Society Vol IV p 85)
 

He spoke in detail about how ‚Äúthe activities‚ÄĚ come to cease:
 

…I have seen that the ceasing of the activities is gradual. When one has attained the first trance, speech has ceased. When one has attained the second trance, thought initial and sustained has ceased. When one has attained the third trance, zest has ceased. When one has attained the fourth trance, inbreathing and outbreathing have ceased… Both perception and feeling have ceased when one has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.

 

(SN IV 217, Pali Text Society vol IV p 146)
 

The ‚Äúactivity‚ÄĚ of speech ceases in the first trance‚ÄĒthat would imply that the ‚Äúword‚ÄĚ occasioned by ‚Äúdeterminate thought‚ÄĚ has ceased. ¬†

 

Gautama spoke of the ‚Äúactivity‚ÄĚ of deed, but when he spoke of the ceasing of the activities, he spoke of the ceasing of ‚Äúinbreathing and outbreathing‚ÄĚ. ¬†Even when ‚Äúdeterminate thought‚ÄĚ is not directly involved in the movement of the diaphragm, actions in the body that are occasioned by ‚Äúdeterminate thought‚ÄĚ affect the movement of breath, and can leave a residue of habit that further affects the movement of breath.¬† If ‚Äúactivity‚ÄĚ in inbreathing and outbreathing‚ÄĚ has really ceased, then the ‚Äúdeterminate thought‚ÄĚ that gives rise to ‚Äúactivity‚ÄĚ in the body of any kind must likewise have ceased.

 

(A Way of Living)
 

 

As you say, Robin, "I know that the need to achieve anything is seen as a hindrance in both categories of practice...".  Gautama said:

 

[The bad person] reflects thus: ‚ÄėI am an acquirer of the attainment of the first meditation.‚Äô [Such a person] then exalts [him or her self] for that attainment of the first meditation and disparages others‚Ķ But a good (person] reflects thus: ‚ÄėLack of desire even for the attainment of the first meditation has been spoken of by [Gautama]; for whatever (one) imagines it to be, it is otherwise‚ÄĚ [Similarly for the second, third, and fourth initial meditative states, and for the attainments of the first four further meditative states].
 

And again … a good [person], by passing quite beyond the plane of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, enters on and abides in the stopping of perception and feeling; and when [such a person] has seen by means of wisdom [their] cankers are caused to be destroyed. And… this [person] does not imagine [his or her self] to be aught or anywhere or in anything.


(MN III 42-45, Pali Text Society Vol III pg 92-94)

 

 

The transition from "neither-perception-nor-non-perception" to the cessation of (determinate thought in) "feeling and perceiving", he attained through "lack of desire, by means of lack of desire" (MN III 220, Pali Text Society Vol III pg 269).

All that is to say, there's a necessity in the core that places attention, first with respect to the movement of breath, and finally with respect to feeling and perceiving.   

 

Herein… the (noble) disciple, making self-surrender the object of (their) thought, lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness.  (The disciple), aloof from sensuality, aloof from evil conditions, enters on the first trance, which is accompanied by thought directed and sustained, which is born of solitude, easeful and zestful, and abides therein.
 

(SN v 198, Pali Text Society vol V p 174; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

 

My understanding is that Gautama spent most of his time in that first trance, with "one-pointedness of mind" and with thought applied and sustained with regard to the four arisings of mindfulness (body, feelings, mind, and mental state)--each thought applied or sustained with respect to the movement of an inhalation or exhalation.

 

 

Edited by Mark Foote
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well Mark you've brought that up several times...is not the overview on all of it that the historic Buddha determined that he was going to sit under that  tree and have a culmination of all that had gone before and then somehow go beyond....?

 

Also did he not later determine that he was not going to remain in any form including subtle, for the rest of the cosmic cycle after his physical passing, which Btw he gave several chances to Ananda to ask of him but Ananda missed his drift...?

Edited by old3bob

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The only way one can abide in open primordial awareness naturally without any effort is if a meditator has sufficient level of mindfulness developed, sufficient purification done on the mind perhaps, and necessary refining of energies, and who knows what else. Many conditions need to be met i believe. And to achieve those conditions there are many methods for that. So... i don't know where I'm going with this

Edited by Salvijus
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3 hours ago, old3bob said:

 

well Mark you've brought that up several times...is not the overview on all of it that the historic Buddha determined that he was going to sit under that  tree and have a culmination of all that had gone before and then somehow go beyond....?

 

Also did he not later determine that he was not going to remain in any form including subtle, for the rest of the cosmic cycle after his physical passing, which Btw he gave several chances to Ananda to ask of him but Ananda missed his drift...?

 

 

It doesn't get old for me, old3bob, sorry if it does for the rest of the Bums here!

Yes, Gautama studied under Rama and then Alama, mastering "the sphere of no-thing" under Rama and "the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception" under Alama.  Both teachers acknowledged his mastery of what they had to teach, and invited him to remain with them and teach others.

 

He joined the five ascetics, and practiced austerities for awhile.  After he made himself so weak from starvation that he almost drowned,  but pulled himself out of the river by a branch and recovered his health, he had the following insight (as recorded in a conversation with the Jain Aggivessana):

 

I know that while my father, the Sakyan, was ploughing, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, I entered on the first meditation, which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful, and while abiding therein, I thought: ‚ÄėNow could this be a way to awakening?‚Äô Then, following on my mindfulness, Aggivissana, there was the consciousness: This is itself the Way to awakening. This occurred to me, Aggivissana: ‚ÄėNow, am I afraid of that happiness which is happiness apart from sense-pleasures, apart from unskilled states of mind?‚Äô This occurred to me‚Ķ: I am not afraid of that happiness which is happiness apart from sense-pleasures, apart from unskilled states of mind.‚Äô

 

(MN 1 246-247, Vol I pg 301)

 

The four initial states are marked by "equanimity in the face of multiplicity (of the senses)", the four further states are marked by "equanimity in the face of uniformity".  Gautama's advice for those who attain Alama's "neither-perception-nor-yet-non-perception":

 

‚ÄúBecause of lack of desire, ‚Ķby means of lack of desire, get rid of and transcend that equanimity in face of uniformity. connected with uniformity. Thus is the getting rid of it, thus is its transcending.‚ÄĚ
 

(MN III 220, Vol III pg 269)

 

 

All the states, including what remains on the transcendence of the further states, are marked by happiness (according to Gautama). 
 

... I, reverend Jain, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for one night and day. I, reverend Jain, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for two nights and days,, for three, four, five, six, for seven nights and days.

(MN I 94, Vol I pg 123-124)



Not sure about Ananda and the lack of a question about the fate of the Tathagatha after demise. I'm guessing you're right, but here's a dialogue with a brahmin named Dona that definitely addresses the subject:

 

Your worship will become a deva?

No indeed, brahmin.  I'll not become a deva.

Then your worship will become a gandarva?

No indeed, brahmin, I'll not become a gandarva.

A yakka, then?

No indeed, brahmin.  Not a yakka.

Then your worship will become a human being?

No indeed, brahmin.  I'll not become a human being.

... Who then, pray, will your worship become?
... Just as, brahmin, a lotus, blue, red, or white, though born in the water, grown up in the water, when it reaches the surface stands there unsoiled by the water,--just so, brahmin, though born in the world, grown up in the world, having overcome the world, I abide unsoiled by the world.  Take it that I am a Buddha, brahmin.

(AN Book of Fours 36, Pali Text Society AN Vol 2 p 44)

 

 

Not sure what he meant by "Buddha", actually.  As I'm sure you know, there were categories of attainment according to what would happen after death, and he was something more than a "never-returner", which is really all the above conversation implies. 

 

Likely there just is no terminology to describe the dissolution he expected:  "take it that I am a Buddha".

I love a parade... sorry, guys.

Edited by Mark Foote
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For what its worth, the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree was likely to obtain the assistance of the elegant nature spirit that sits in the top of most mature healthy Bodhi trees.

 

The Bodhi tree has fruit (fig) that is open to the air through the hole at the end.  The element of air is particularly connected to the heart and it is access to heart (buddhic) energies that allows the human to lift above the mind.

 

The local botanic gardens has such a Bodhi tree with a very nice nature spirit in the top.  The gardeners have placed a seat underneath that gets much use.

 

 

Edited by Lairg
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1 minute ago, Lairg said:

For what its worth, the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree was likely to obtain the assistance of the elegant nature spirit that sits in the top of most mature healthy Bodhi trees,

 

The local botanic gardens has such a tree with a very nice nature spirit in the top.  The gardeners have placed a seat underneath that gets much use.

 

 

the earth Goddess also came to his acknowledgement/witness/assistance which he pointed to with a famous mudra

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4 hours ago, Mark Foote said:

 

It doesn't get old for me, old3bob, sorry if it does for the rest of the Bums here!

Yes, Gautama studied under Rama and then Alama, mastering "the sphere of no-thing" under Rama and "the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception" under Alama.  Both teachers acknowledged his mastery of what they had to teach, and invited him to remain with them and teach others.

 

He joined the five ascetics, and practiced austerities for awhile.  After he made himself so weak from starvation that he almost drowned,  but pulled himself out of the river by a branch and recovered his health, he had the following insight (as recorded in a conversation with the Jain Aggivessana):
 

I know that while my father, the Sakyan, was ploughing, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, aloof from pleasures of the senses, aloof from unskilled states of mind, I entered on the first meditation, which is accompanied by initial thought and discursive thought, is born of aloofness, and is rapturous and joyful, and while abiding therein, I thought: ‚ÄėNow could this be a way to awakening?‚Äô Then, following on my mindfulness, Aggivissana, there was the consciousness: This is itself the Way to awakening. This occurred to me, Aggivissana: ‚ÄėNow, am I afraid of that happiness which is happiness apart from sense-pleasures, apart from unskilled states of mind?‚Äô This occurred to me‚Ķ: I am not afraid of that happiness which is happiness apart from sense-pleasures, apart from unskilled states of mind.‚Äô

 

(MN 1 246-247, Vol I pg 301)
 

The four initial states are marked by "equanimity in the face of multiplicity (of the senses)", the four further states are marked by "equanimity in the face of uniformity".  Gautama's advice for those who attain Alama's "neither-perception-nor-yet-non-perception":

 

‚ÄúBecause of lack of desire, ‚Ķby means of lack of desire, get rid of and transcend that equanimity in face of uniformity. connected with uniformity. Thus is the getting rid of it, thus is its transcending.‚ÄĚ
 

(MN III 220, Vol III pg 269)

 

All the states, including what remains on the transcendence of the further states, are marked by happiness (according to Gautama). 
 

... I, reverend Jain, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for one night and day. I, reverend Jain, am able, without moving my body, without uttering a word, to stay experiencing nothing but happiness for two nights and days,, for three, four, five, six, for seven nights and days.

(MN I 94, Vol I pg 123-124)

Not sure about Ananda and the lack of a question about the fate of the Tathagatha after demise. I'm guessing you're right, but here's a dialogue with a brahmin named Dona that definitely addresses the subject:

 

Your worship will become a deva?

No indeed, brahmin.  I'll not become a deva.

Then your worship will become a gandarva?

No indeed, brahmin, I'll not become a gandarva.

A yakka, then?

No indeed, brahmin.  Not a yakka.

Then your worship will become a human being?

No indeed, brahmin.  I'll not become a human being.

... Who then, pray, will your worship become?
... Just as, brahmin, a lotus, blue, red, or white, though born in the water, grown up in the water, when it reaches the surface stands there unsoiled by the water,--just so, brahmin, though born in the world, grown up in the world, having overcome the world, I abide unsoiled by the world.  Take it that I am a Buddha, brahmin.

(AN Book of Fours 36, Pali Text Society AN Vol 2 p 44)

 

Not sure what he meant by "Buddha", actually.  As I'm sure you know, there were categories of attainment according to what would happen after death, and he was something more than a "never-returner", which is really all the above conversation implies. 

 

Likely there just is no terminology to describe the dissolution he expected:  "take it that I am a Buddha".

I love a parade... sorry, guys.

 

a lot to reflect on there...¬† ¬†For instance in the quote,¬† "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"¬† ¬†Well If he meant a¬†ceasing of identification with those then that is a saying I get whereas a ceasing of action sounds ¬†kind of blank? (or all around¬†nullifying thus not of freedom)

 

and this, "Likely there just is no terminology to describe the dissolution he expected:  "take it that I am a Buddha" "  Here I think we could also come back to the four-fold negation which delineates and knows its own limits so to speak.

 

As for "determinate thought" if meaning going around in circles of mentation then I get it, otherwise giving or implying "determination" of all kinds being of a convoluted negative sounding connotation does not compute for me.

 

In one context the lotus flower has its roots in mud,  which is also a metaphor for evolving human beings who can't honestly forget or put down the fact that they too had or have roots in mud, so to speak.  So I'd say we need to be beware of context being misapplied or stereotyped.

 


 

Edited by old3bob

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1 hour ago, old3bob said:

 

a lot to reflect on there...¬† ¬†For instance in the quote,¬† "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"¬† ¬†Well If he meant a¬†ceasing of identification with those then that is a saying I get whereas a ceasing of action sounds ¬†kind of blank? (or all around¬†nullifying thus not of freedom)

As for "determinate thought" if meaning going around in circles of mentation then I get it, otherwise giving or implying "determination" of all kinds being of a convoluted negative sounding connotation does not compute for me.
 

 


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

 

(AN III 415, Pali Text Society Vol III p 294)
 


‚ÄúWhen one determines‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒwhen a person exercises volition, or choice, action of ‚Äúdeed, word, or thought‚ÄĚ follows.

But how can a person intentionally give up the exercise of intent?  Willfully give up the exercise of will?  By "determinate thought", give up the exercise of "determinate thought" in speech, body, and mind, so as to contact a freedom of action, an action, perhaps, unfolding spontaneously from the heart-mind?

 

‚Äú‚ĶI have seen that the ceasing of the activities is gradual. When one has attained the first trance, speech has ceased. When one has attained the second trance, thought initial and sustained has ceased. When one has attained the third trance, zest has ceased. When one has attained the fourth trance, inbreathing and outbreathing have ceased‚Ķ Both perception and feeling have ceased when one has attained the cessation of perception and feeling.‚ÄĚ
 

(SN IV 217, Pali Text Society vol IV p 146)

 

 

Gautama described the induction of the initial state of concentration:

 

Herein… the (noble) disciple, making self-surrender the object of (their) thought, lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness.  (The disciple), aloof from sensuality, aloof from evil conditions, enters on the first trance, which is accompanied by thought directed and sustained, which is born of solitude, easeful and zestful, and abides therein.
 

(SN v 198, Pali Text Society vol V p 174; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

 

How does a person "lay hold of one-pointedness"?  From my last piece:

 

‚ÄúAutomatic‚ÄĚ activity in the movement of breath also follows as one ‚Äúlays hold of one-pointedness‚ÄĚ, but in order to ‚Äúlay hold‚ÄĚ, carriage of the weight of the body must fall to the ligaments and volitive activity in the body must be relinquished.¬†

 

Body and mind dropped off is the beginning of our effort.

 

(Eihei Dogen, “Dogen’s Extensive Record, Eihei Koroku, #501, tr Leighton and Okumura p 448)

 

‚ÄúOne-pointedness‚ÄĚ can shift, as every particle of the body (with no part left out) comes into the placement of attention.¬† At the moment when ‚Äúone-pointedness‚ÄĚ can shift as though in open space, volition and habit in the activity of inhalation and exhalation ceases.¬†

(from my A Way of Living)

 

 

Exactly how the weight of the body comes to be borne through the stretch and resile of ligaments--I would say that's mostly about relaxing particular activity and calming the stretch of particular ligaments.  How volition in activity is relinquished, how "determinate thought" in speech, body, and mind is abandoned in favor of action free of intention--not so simple:
 

But a good (person] reflects thus: ‚ÄėLack of desire even for the attainment of the first meditation (concentration) has been spoken of by [Gautama]; for whatever (one) imagines it to be, it is otherwise‚ÄĚ [Similarly for the second, third, and fourth initial meditative states, and for the attainments of the first four further meditative states].

(MN III 42-45, Pali Text Society Vol III pg 92-94; emphasis added)

 

 

If I focus too much on the weight being borne by the ligaments, and forget to resume¬†‚Äúone-pointedness‚ÄĚ as though in open space, I lose awareness of the ligaments.¬† If I focus too much on "one-pointedness", and ignore¬†the lesson in the activity and stretch of the body, I lose my ability to relax and sink.¬†¬†

 

What's a mother to do.

Edited by Mark Foote
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In secret mantra, one lays hold of one-pointedness -- 

 

Via the body thru performing prostrations, various esoteric mudras, yantra yogas. 

 

Via speech, thru mantra recitation. In the millions, over a few years. The mind settles easily into its own nature after doing a block of 5000 active recitations. Effort prior, but post recitation, during the settled phase, bliss, clarity and non-thought is experienced as presence, effortlessly and spontaneously. The wu wei spoken of in Daoism. Adepts are able to enter this settled state at will. In the higher yogas, this is the fruit of the completion stage. Neophytes need to crank the various practices to bring about temporal glimpses of this phase. With time, the gaps, wherein one tastes and experiences this presence in its true state, gradually expands. When habituated, it becomes permanent, which means distractions will no longer pose as obstacles to equanimity. 

 

Via mind, thru visualisations. Yidam and mandala practices, so can't say more since it requires initiations. 

 

It's not possible to intellectualise one's way to the settling into samadhi as spoken of by Gautama. 

 

 

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On 5/27/2023 at 10:36 PM, C T said:

 

In secret mantra, one lays hold of one-pointedness -- 

 

... Adepts are able to enter this settled state at will. ... With time, the gaps, wherein one tastes and experiences this presence in its true state, gradually expands. When habituated, it becomes permanent, which means distractions will no longer pose as obstacles to equanimity. 

 

... It's not possible to intellectualise one's way to the settling into samadhi as spoken of by Gautama. 

 

 


Although I agree that "it's not possible to intellectualise one's way to the settling into samadhi as spoken of by Gautama", I will pick a nit about the permanency of "this settled state".  

 

Gautama said that after he lectured, he returned to concentrating his mind:

 

And I… at the close of (instructional discourse), steady, calm, make one-pointed and concentrate my mind subjectively in that first characteristic of concentration in which I ever constantly abide.
 

(MN I 249, Pali Text Society vol I p 303)

 

‚ÄúThat first characteristic of concentration‚ÄĚ is ‚Äúone-pointedness of mind‚ÄĚ, as here in Gautama‚Äôs description of ‚Äúright concentration‚ÄĚ (‚Äúright concentration‚ÄĚ, part of ‚Äúthe eight-fold path‚ÄĚ that leads to the end of suffering):

 

And what… is the (noble) right concentration with the causal associations, with the accompaniments?  It is right view, right purpose, right speech, right action, right mode of livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness.  Whatever one-pointedness of mind is accompanied by these seven components , this… is called the (noble) right concentration with the causal associations and the accompaniments.

 

(MN III 71, Pali Text Society vol III p 114; similar at SN V 17; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

 

Gautama spoke of laying hold of ‚Äúone-pointedness‚ÄĚ in the induction of the first ‚Äútrance‚ÄĚ:
 

Herein… the (noble) disciple, making self-surrender the object of (their) thought, lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness.  (The disciple), aloof from sensuality, aloof from evil conditions, enters on the first trance, which is accompanied by thought directed and sustained, which is born of solitude, easeful and zestful, and abides therein.
 

(SN v 198, Pali Text Society vol V p 174; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

(A Way of Living)
 

 

I think that says that when Gautama spoke, he did not have one-pointedness of mind.  He returned to that characteristic of concentration after he spoke, and with it the "first trance".  

Everybody wants to go to heaven, permanently, nobody wants to have to die "the great death" over and over.  I get that.

I think it's as Shunryu Suzuki described it:

 

So, when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated in your breathing and this kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. If so, how you should use your mind is quite clear. Without this experience, or this practice, it is impossible to attain the absolute freedom.
 

(‚ÄúThursday Morning Lectures‚ÄĚ, November 4th 1965, Los Altos; emphasis added)

 

 

Gautama described the "thought directed and sustained" of the first concentration as "the intent concentration on inbreathing and outbreathing" (F. L. Woodward's translation).  That's because each of the sixteen thoughts that he outlined was to be applied or sustained in the course of an inhalation or exhalation. 

Suzuki says, "when you practice zazen".  Gautama spoke of the "intent concentration" that was his way of living, "especially in the rainy season".

I think I'm just learning how I should use my mind--what a relief that is, after all these years.  However, I don't believe attaining "absolute freedom" is the same as remaining in "absolute freedom".   

 

 

Edited by Mark Foote

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7 hours ago, Mark Foote said:


Although I agree that "it's not possible to intellectualise one's way to the settling into samadhi as spoken of by Gautama", I will pick a nit about the permanency of "this settled state".  

 

Gautama said that after he lectured, he returned to concentrating his mind:

 

And I… at the close of (instructional discourse), steady, calm, make one-pointed and concentrate my mind subjectively in that first characteristic of concentration in which I ever constantly abide.
 

(MN I 249, Pali Text Society vol I p 303)

 

‚ÄúThat first characteristic of concentration‚ÄĚ is ‚Äúone-pointedness of mind‚ÄĚ, as here in Gautama‚Äôs description of ‚Äúright concentration‚ÄĚ (‚Äúright concentration‚ÄĚ, part of ‚Äúthe eight-fold path‚ÄĚ that leads to the end of suffering):

 

And what… is the (noble) right concentration with the causal associations, with the accompaniments?  It is right view, right purpose, right speech, right action, right mode of livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness.  Whatever one-pointedness of mind is accompanied by these seven components , this… is called the (noble) right concentration with the causal associations and the accompaniments.

 

(MN III 71, Pali Text Society vol III p 114; similar at SN V 17; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

 

Gautama spoke of laying hold of ‚Äúone-pointedness‚ÄĚ in the induction of the first ‚Äútrance‚ÄĚ:
 

Herein… the (noble) disciple, making self-surrender the object of (their) thought, lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness.  (The disciple), aloof from sensuality, aloof from evil conditions, enters on the first trance, which is accompanied by thought directed and sustained, which is born of solitude, easeful and zestful, and abides therein.
 

(SN v 198, Pali Text Society vol V p 174; ‚Äúnoble‚ÄĚ substituted for Ariyan)

 

(A Way of Living)
 

 

I think that says that when Gautama spoke, he did not have one-pointedness of mind.  He returned to that characteristic of concentration after he spoke, and with it the "first trance".  

Everybody wants to go to heaven, permanently, nobody wants to have to die "the great death" over and over.  I get that.

I think it's as Shunryu Suzuki described it:

 

So, when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated in your breathing and this kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. If so, how you should use your mind is quite clear. Without this experience, or this practice, it is impossible to attain the absolute freedom.
 

(‚ÄúThursday Morning Lectures‚ÄĚ, November 4th 1965, Los Altos; emphasis added)

 

 

Gautama described the "thought directed and sustained" of the first concentration as "the intent concentration on inbreathing and outbreathing" (F. L. Woodward's translation).  That's because each of the sixteen thoughts that he outlined was to be applied or sustained in the course of an inhalation or exhalation. 

Suzuki says, "when you practice zazen".  Gautama spoke of the "intent concentration" that was his way of living, "especially in the rainy season".

I think I'm just learning how I should use my mind--what a relief that is, after all these years.  However, I don't believe attaining "absolute freedom" is the same as remaining in "absolute freedom".   

 

 

Theoretically, it's possible to extend satori to a point of permanency. It's like meeting a pothole driving on a regularly-used road, the first couple of times there is Mindfulness in steering clear of it, but if Mindfulness is still required after a handful of times, then there's a problem. 

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I like how it is described in Peter Brown's work 

 

http://www.theopendoorway.org/yoga.htm

 

Reality is already your experience but is not perceived correctly thus needing work to perceive it as it really is. 

 

I feel that page also transmits a knowledge/transmission to get that correction a cross. 

 

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Aye.  Raw reality is as it is.

 

Occlusions to awareness of true nature can be likened to dirt on a window, preventing one from seeing past it.  The window may be cleaned due to active, focused pursuits and praxis. 

 

Or a natural rainshower may bring clarity of itself, tzujan. 

 

Myriad Paths.

One Source.

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