[ Sitting Practice ]
Sit Down Practice
This is an effort to clarify the use here of a couple of terms used under the general heading of "meditation" or "sit down practice".
Meditation or sit down practice: These terms have no special meaning here, and there is no Pali term intended by the use of these terms. They encompass all the aspects of higher mental development as a deliberate practice.
You might mark "meditation" as beginning where the Nivaranas, or The World, or Deliberate indulgence in participation in the world ends.
The term "sit down practice" does not necessarily denote sitting down; it is just another term for meditation, one that developed from a sense of modesty concerning the status given to meditators at certain times by certain cultures. One can do sit down practice pacing back and forth, standing still, sitting down, or lying down.
The Terms Used to Describe the Sit-Down Practice
Meditation is a process; the process of employing any and all advantageous techniques necessary to accomplish penetrating knowledge and release.
This is penetrating knowledge consisting of
the perception of Pain,
the perception of the origin of Pain in Wanting,
the Perception of the ending of pain in the ending of wanting, and
the perception of The Way to accomplish this as being:
Release from body, sense experience, emotions, and the world. AKA: The End of Pain, Dukkha. The state of not being subject to Time. Objective Detachment. The Deathless. The Unborn. Nibbana.
Concentration: Ekaggata. This is any practice which focuses the mind on one object or subject, or it is the state of being focused.
If another system says it is practicing "Vipassana" and says "pay attention to the thoughts as they arise;" I call this concentration.
If another system calls itself Zen and says:"When eating, just eat." I call this concentration.
The differences between the practice of concentration as advocated here and that advocated elsewhere (over and above the word used) are:
1. Concentration is to be focused on one object ("paying attention to breathing" as opposed to "paying attention to breathing at the tip of the nose").
2. Concentration, in the beginning should be practiced with a variety of "single objects". The reason for this is that in the beginning the mind rebels against concentration and the tendency is to attempt to focus it on one object and have it lose concentration and fly off in a million different directions, while by having several single objects of concentration the beginner will find developing strength of focus comes more quickly if after losing concentration on one object, the mind is immediately brought to focus on another object. In this sense, the entire study of the Dhamma as taught here, and as it is recommended to practice it here, is a set of concentration subjects.
3. Whereas in other schools, concentration is made an end in itself, here it is a tool to be used for two ends:
A. Penetrating knowledge (of body, sense experience, emotions and the world as seen through the Dhamma, etc.) -- by focus on one thing, true detail becomes clear and knowledge is allowed to penetrate through, and
B. Release. Letting go. Concentration, as a tool in "letting go" is a necessary contradiction -- by focus on one thing, there is abandonment of focus on the world, and there is clear understanding of what must be let go, and how.
Calming Down or Samattha: However this is accomplished. It is a preliminary tool. Here this practice starts with simple relaxation and progresses to stilling, calming, and tranquilizing the body, and goes on to methods for coping with guilt, anxiety, doubt, disillusionment, depression, harassment by demonic entities and any other sort of mental disequilibrium that may be impeding release. Calming down is also employed after jhana to facilitate re-entry. Note should be made that other systems say samattha is jhana practice.
Review or Vipassana: The practice of observing in the actions, and while going over past actions in memory, the "relations of this to that" so as to reveal points of attachment and blindness. A very similar process to the psychoanalytic process of free association, and also very similar as a practice to the "Recapitulation" practice of Carlos Castanada's Don Juan. Viewing and Reviewing comparing this to that, various flaws in one's assumptions about the world come into view and are able to be reevaluated against one's growing knowledge of the Dhamma.
Calming down and Review are two dimensions of one intimately related practice here and are what I would call the counter-point to concentration. The actual practice of meditation will involve bouncing back and forth between the practice of Calming Down and Review and the practice of concentration...both sides being put to the service of Letting Go or Release.
Getting High or Samadhi. This is not a practice, this is a state. It is a state that is allowed to happen or is brought about by way of letting go. It is the state reached as a consequence of the attainment of the various jhanas and is made possible by, and to the degree calming down and review and concentration have brought about release. There are three sorts of Samadhi:
A. Aimless or Pointless, Appaṇihita: having no purpose or intent or goal or aim or point -- purposes, intents, goals, or aims or points generally being directed at lust, anger and behavior based on blindness.
B. Signless or Animitta: manifesting no attributes; having no indications of body, sense experience, emotions, or view of the world, attained as a consequence of the practice of the techniques used in the Satipatthana Sutta -- lust, anger and blindness being productive of signs, signlessness is a way of saying that this form of samadhi is without such.
C. Empty Suññata; empty of any disturbance caused by perceptions of self, the born, the become, lust, anger, or blindness; attained by the practice described in the Emptiness suttas.
The three sorts of Samadhi are reached to various degrees by attainment of the various jhanas. The jhanas are not these states. And the Jhanas are not to be made the goal. As temporary steps along the way, they are to be made "habits of habitation".
The jhanas are themselves, each and every one, including the ultimate jhana known as the "ending of perception and sense experience", to be Let Go.
Burning, Knowing, Seeing, Understanding or Jhāna. Here I am saying that "jhana" is a several-phased occurrence of knowing, a "period (of variable length -- one can be in jhana for very long periods of time) of experiencing understanding", very similar to but more complex in make up than what is commonly called "insight". What does it know? it knows the world as free from those states that have been let go in the process of attaining the jhana.
One "sits down,";
calms down the body (through deliberate calming of the body and mental tranquilizing through intellectual understanding and dealing with perturbations); and
focuses the mind through "concentration" which simultaneously causes a break-away or letting go of the world
there results a state of release
followed by increased understanding (or better stated: a diminished state of blindness) (which is sometimes experienced as a state like the lifting of fog, or the washing off of filth, or emerging into light, which state gives the process it's name: "burning" as in "burning off" or "burning with knowledge" or "shinning with brilliance" or being "bright")
In the suttas we find this process categorized in terms of its progression towards absolute release: Vimutti; or complete detachment: Upekkha.
I describe the jhanas in a simple way in order to make a point: these states begin right next door to you: The first burning is, at it's entry point, not much deeper than going into the den, sitting in your favorite easy chair, and enjoying the peace of a moment alone.
The First Burning: Up Past involvement with the world, enjoyment of the Peace and Calm of Solitude.
The Second Burning: Focused Enjoyment of the Process of Getting High
The Third Burning: Experiencing True Ease
The Fourth Burning: Experiencing True Detachment
The so-called "Arupa Jhanas" also have entry points at the level of common experience:
The Sphere of Limitless Space: awareness of the limitlessness of space
The Sphere of Limitless Consciousness: awareness of the fact that consciousness is limitless
The Sphere of Limitless "No Thing There" unreality, grasping the concept of the non-substantiality of it all
The Sphere of Neither-perceiving nor non perceiving: lost in thought without thought aware of self-awareness, totally absorbed, but by no object at all
My point is not to make out that these states are insignificant, or that developing them to a useful degree is an easy task. My point is to indicate where the process is to begin...that it must and can begin somewhere if one is interested, and that those who are speaking about these states as being unattainable are talking through their nariahattamungums.