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Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Kalyanavaca, London, UK
Candradasa, FBA Team
Suvarnagarbha, Cambridge, UK
Viriyalila, Portsmouth, USA
Eric, FBA Team
Mary, FBA Team
Ratnachuda, South London, UK
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... of development, and this is the first of the things that Buddhism, that the Buddha, offers, and the first of the things that the FWBO offers to those with whom it comes into contact, who come into contact with it - a method of personal development.
So what is this method? What is this method of personal development? In a word, the method is meditation. But a second question arises; why meditation? How does meditation come to be a method of personal development? We've seen that human development is essentially a change in consciousness; a change in the level of consciousness; a change from a lower level to a higher level of consciousness, and meditation, of course, helps us to achieve just this, helps us to make that transition from the lower to the higher level of consciousness, and for this reason we use the word `meditation' in a sort of double sense.
Meditation signifies, in the first place, the higher state of consciousness attained, and secondly it signifies the method or methods that lead to the attainment of that higher state or higher level of consciousness. Not that meditation is the only method. There are other methods of development. There is ethical observance, there is ethical life. There are symbolical rituals such as one finds in the Tantra. There are devotional practices of various kinds. There's social service. One could even include the practice of the Arts and crafts. All these act upon the mind; all of these affect the level of consciousness; but they act on it only indirectly, through the physical body, through the senses; whereas meditation acts on consciousness directly, and it's for this reason that we regard meditation as the primary method of personal development.
Now we speak of lower and higher states of consciousness, but how, in fact, are we to tell the one from the other? How do we know which is higher, which is lower? In what way does the meditative consciousness differ from ordinary consciousness? Well, it differs in quite a number of ways. To begin with, the meditative consciousness is less dependent on the physical senses. Much of the time, ordinary Lecture 131: A Method of Personal Development Page 4 human consciousness is a sense-oriented consciousness. Sense impressions are coming in all the time.
Even as we sit here sense impressions are coming in, impressions through the eye, through the ear, through the sense of touch, through smell, even through taste. Sense impressions are coming in all the time and they give rise to various sensations, various feelings, and consciousness - the mind - comes to be preoccupied with these - if you like, coloured by these - and usually we don't realise the extent to which our minds are preoccupied with thoughts, with impressions, with sensations, that have their origin in the world of the senses; which come in through the five physical senses. In the meditative consciousness, however, all this does not happen. Sense impressions are present but the mind does not react. Sense impressions recede, as it were, to the periphery of consciousness, and in deep meditation they may disappear altogether. In deep meditation, the consciousness is absorbed in the object of concentration, it's absorbed in the actual experience of the higher state, and sense-consciousness - awareness of the world of sense objects - fades away, as it were, into the remote distance and is either perceived very, very dimly and very, very faintly indeed, or, in very deep states of meditation, not perceived at all.
And this brings us to the second way in which the higher consciousness differs from the lower. It's simply more concentrated. When I say more concentrated, I'm not thinking of any such thing as a forcible fixation of attention, I'm thinking more in terms of a natural flowing together of all one's energies. Usually, one's energies are divided; they're in conflict; and sometimes some of our energies, even a large part of our energies, are not available to us at all. And this is why very often we can't do very much; we don't have, as we say, much energy; it's blocked, it's suppressed or repressed. But in meditation, especially when we've been practising meditation and had some degree of success with it, in meditation what happens is, quite naturally, quite spontaneously, that these energies, these blocked or suppressed or repressed energies, gradually become liberated and they're all, as it were, gently led, gently guided, in the same direction. So that the higher state of consciousness is thus a more integrated state, a more integrated experience. In it there's no conflict, there's no division, and consequently we experience a tremendous access of energy.
Energy, as it were, bubbles up within us, Not just physical energy, though physical vitality may be enhanced incidentally - it's more of the nature of psychic energy, even emotional energy liberated in the course of the practice of the meditation. And this experience - this experience of energy being liberated - is, of course, intensely pleasurable, and the higher state of consciousness is therefore a state of happiness, of delight, of joy, rapture, even bliss. In other words, it's a state of intense emotional positivity; such as we hardly, if ever, experience at other times.
Now we notice here a rather strange, a rather interesting, fact, which is that when we are happy; when we're really happy; we tend not to think, At least, not to think unnecessarily. We may say that a great deal of our thinking in unnecessary. In other words, a great deal of our thinking is based simply on anxiety, and in the higher, meditative, consciousness there is no thought. So long as we are thinking we are not meditating; at least, we're not meditating very seriously. When I say that in the higher meditative consciousness there is no thought, because it is such a happy, such a blissful state, I don't mean, of course, that there's no consciousness, no awareness; in fact, in the absence of thought, in the absence of thinking, in the absence of discursive thought, consciousness, awareness, is clearer and brighter and more powerful than ever.
So these are just some of the ways in which the meditative consciousness, the consciousness that we experience in meditation - the level of consciousness that we experience in meditation - differs from ordinary human consciousness, it's less dependent on the physical senses; it's more concentrated; more integrated; it's more alive; it's more blissful; and it's free from discursive thought. Now for this kind of state; for this state of higher meditative consciousness; there is a term which is very widely used in Buddhism - it's the term 'Dhyana' - this is the Dhyana state. Dhyana being the Sanskrit term; jhana is the Pali equivalent. Sometimes Dhyana is rendered as superconscious state; in other words, state of intensified consciousness or intensified awareness, as well, of course, of intensified concentration, energy and joy.
Now, there isn't just one Dhyana, just one superconscious state, accessible to man; there's a whole series of such states, and Buddhist tradition often speaks in terms of the Four Dhyanas or four successively higher states; or if you like, stages or levels of superconsciousness, and these are described, in the Buddhist tradition, in two different ways. They are described psychologically - that is to say, in terms of constituent mental or psychical factors; this is the first way in which they are described. For instance, it is said that in the first Dhyana there is a subtle mental activity, there is concentration, there is happiness and there is Joy. This is what one experiences in the First Dhyana, the first of the meditative states, the first of the superconscious states.
Lecture 131: A Method of Personal Development Page 5 The Second represents a sort of simplification. Discursive thought dies away and there is left simply concentration, happiness and joy. By the time you reach the Third there's a further simplification - simply concentration and happiness. And then in the Fourth, happiness, which is a comparatively gross experience, gives way to equanimity, so that one has, in the Fourth Dhyana, simply concentration and equanimity. Now this sort of description - this psychological description, as it were, is all right as far as it goes, It gives us quite a good idea of what the Four Dhyanas are like, what it is like or would be like to experience the Four Dhyanas; but it doesn't perhaps give us very much feeling for them, so in Buddhist tradition we find there's another way of describing the Four Dhyanas; it's a metaphorical way, by way of four comparisons. The First Dhyana is said to be - or rather, one's experience in the First Dhyana is said to be - like mixing soap powder with water. You might think this a rather modern comparison, but actually it's a very ancient one, going back to the Buddha himself. It's as though you took a handful of dry soap powder, and some water and you mixed the two together; you blended them; so that every single speck of soap powder was saturated with water and also there was no drop of water left over, so that you had a ball, as it were, of soap powder fully, completely, saturated with water and no water remaining over. The First Dhyana is like that. It's a state of, as it were, wholeness; a state of overcoming of conflict; a state of bringing things together - almost of integration. So the First Dhyana is rather like that; all schism healed.
The Second Dhyana, or one's experience in the Second Dhyana, is said to be like that of a lake which is fed by a subterranean spring. There's always this fresh, clear, cool water bubbling up from deep down into the lake. The experience, or one's experience in the Second Dhyana, is like that.
And then the Third Dhyana. There one feels rather like lotuses that grow in the water and are completely ...