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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Exemplary Skillful Means in Regards to Sitting Meditation

This marvellous site teachings really impress me with their fine application of skillful means:

On recollecting what a sitting was afterwards

"When it comes to writing about the sitting, there are a few guidelines that I have found helpful (which you may certainly disregard if they do not suit your writing style). One is to focus on "description" and to only include an analysis or "ideas about the sitting" if they occurred within the sitting and are part of the description. You can always put afterthoughts (analysis, ideas) in brackets or write them in the margins as long as you are clear that they were not formed within the sitting. The second guideline is to always include 1) the date, 2) time of day, 3) length of sitting, and, 4) where the sitting took place, especially if it was not at home. This is done as an aid in remembering where and when a sitting occurred and can help you look at what kind of effect time, place, or other people had on your sitting, if any. The third guideline is to use your own words and present things as accurately and honestly as possible. In doing this, you can allow yourself to be vague and uncertain if that is truly the case. Each sitting can take as many sentences and pages as you like; most people write between five lines and two pages. The last guideline is simply to let the journal be what it will and not try to turn it into another project, another exercise, etc. It is just a meditation journal, meant for you to learn about what goes on when you sit in meditation."

On gentleness in beginning a sitting:

"So, to start off a meditation sitting with gentleness is to not dive right into doing some kind of instruction or practice. Simply allow a transition to occur. What you were thinking about before the meditation sitting will naturally carry on into the beginning of the sitting. Many meditators start off a sitting by trying to stop all thoughts. Thoughts, when they arise, are then perceived as distractions. Here is where gentleness truly starts in meditation. These thoughts coming into your sitting are not distractions, for they are your thoughts, and most of the time outside of meditation, you are the one who owns them, acts on them, and produces more of them. They are to be welcomed into the meditation sitting just as you would welcome a friend, a relative, or even someone you may not particularly like into your home."

And finally, an insightful passage on the root text of mindfulness buddhism, reinterpreting it marvellously skillfully in a way that makes it far more accessible:

"If one reads the sutta carefully, however, one will see that there are some "qualities" or "faculties" that are to be recognized as essential to the attainment of nibbana, and are thus to be retained and brought to completion. These qualities, known collectively as the "Components of Wisdom," become increasingly more apparent as one meditates, though they are not as concrete and easy to recognize as their enemies, the Hindrances. Being subtle, these qualities can go unnoticed in a practice of meditation that perpetuates the letting go of everything that arises. The Components of Wisdom are awareness, investigation, courage, rapture, lightness, unification of consciousness, and peacefully looking on. All of these work together in turning a seed of understanding into a fully completed realization. Full realization allows the true and final abandonment of a hindrance. This is where the Satipatthana Sutta says we should direct our attention for the ending of suffering and rebirth. However, it is hard to turn our minds in this direction because we more easily flow with the Hindrances, spending much of our time on earth consumed by them. For our minds to truly work for our liberation from suffering, the significance of these Components of Wisdom must be recognized when they arise in our meditation practice. If they are treated as impermanent or as distractions from our concentrated awareness of breathing or body sensations, then their value often goes unheeded."

This is marvellous and exemplary teaching clarity, and fine examples of skillful means in buddhist teachings!!


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