[ Sitting Practice ]
Orientation is Everything.
If you sit down to "get" the jhanas, you will not even get started. Sit down to let go of the world.
This is my objection to the practice as deliniated by the Abhidhamma and the commentaries. They focus down on issues and details: the lifting of the foot involves two and a quarter units of apo with one and an eighth units of tejo while setting the foot down again involves .... if these ideas are not outright wrong they are of use only as a matter of concentrating the mind for the mind that is so scattered and out of control that the idea of "Let Go" is inaccessable, i.e. I don't think so. I think this approach has developed as a consequence of persons who have made some advancement in their meditation actually seeing how things work and then making the attempt (perhaps accurately) to explain things. They forget that it was not by seeing how things work that they got to their perceptions, but by doing the practice first.
Let me be clear here: what I am saying here is not the same thing as saying that realization comes before understanding. What I am saying is that the "understanding" that is being spoken of is not the understanding of fine detail about the workings of the mind or various phenomena: it is the understanding that there is a real need to let go because this world really is just simply Pain. There will never be a real letting go until there is a real understanding of this, but this is not to be understood by understanding that first there are three moments of apperception followed by one attainment moment followed by one renunciation moment blah blah blah, or that this is to be seen by concentrating on the lifting of the foot, it's swing, and it's setting down again. A Beggar, Beggars, does whatever a beggar does with the idea of doing it with understanding and letting go. So you know "I am walking" just to the degree that there is consciousness of the fact and to the degree that you are able to let go of any tanha that may be connected with it (ah! I am walking to get...). I say that introducing into the equation the need to pay attention to every detail of the act actually is the introduction of Tanha in the form of all kinds of desires and intents to gain as a result of the practice.
It is the refrain of the Satipatthana that is the important thing: This is the way to see that whatever it is it has come to be only to be burnt out so that you will release your downbound angry ways and yearnings and dissapointments and you will rise up not downbound to anything at all in the world, not even the dhamma. Same thing with the Mulapariyaya; people immediately get wound up in the root concepts and forget that the bulk of the sutta is saying: Let it Go!
The process is one of interaction between theoretical and real understanding and putting into practice. First you just adopt the Four Truths on a "working hypothesis basis" not understanding anything. Then, because you do some of it, you see it has merit. Then you have understood and can rationalize more practice. Then you see more, etc. But what you are understanding in each case is not the minutia of things, but of the truth of the basic concept: Wanting is the root cause of Pain.
It's like a person buried in a huge pile of excrementia. He might take it on faith that he is buiried in a huge pile of excrementia and work his way out. Or he might not take it on faith, he might spend some time examining his surroundings. Then he would see that he was indeed buried in a huge pile of excrementia and work his way out. Or he might not understand that precise knowledge of the width and height of the pile was not a vital issue at this stage, and spend a couple million lifetimes taking those measures. Or examining the nature of the ingrediants that were originally ingested to produce that poo. Etcetera. Enough is enough! More is not just a waste of time, it is wrong technique.
The other thing is more simple:
When you are sitting, with your orientation facing Letting Go, and the world again exerts it's pull (that's "apo" a pull of any sort, suchas Newton's gravitity . . . atsa himsa appo . . . um, not to get into too much detail. . .), and while you remember that you have now reordered your priorities so that you see your activities in the world as an interruption of your sitting practice and not the other way around, and, nevertheless, some urgent activity or another is tugging at you to get up and do it, do this: insist that you have at least two activities that must be done before you will relinquish your sitting practice. Having two introduces an element of letting go of the urgency of the first and with time will serve to demonstrate that there is very little out there that is really urgent...i.e., it will have broken down a tiny bit of that blindness.