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Tibetan Buddhist Meditation

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by Sangharakshita

... - well, a force which is sort of pulling you down all the time and preventing you from making any further progress. So This also is a hindrance to be overcome, Inc identtally, I should remark perhaps at this stage that these five hindrances by themselves can provide us very easily with material for a whole talk, but we are having in This connection this evening just to skip over them very very briefly and very quickly indeed.

So let*s come on to The fourth hindrance, and This is a hindrance which is the opposite of sloth and torpor: this is restlessness and anxiety, This is hurry and flurry. If you do manage to get out of this state of sloth and torpor, you*ll probably find that you get restless and start worrying; you fly from one extreme, in other words, to The other. So this is a state where you are always on edge about something, always nervy, always worried, always anxious, always looking at things with a furrowed brow as it were, wondering what on earth is going to happen next, what disaster or tragedy is going to strike you down the next minute, And lots of people do go around like this, you can see it from the expression on their faces; they are always expecting something terrible to happen - and of course sometimes it does happen. But in general the hindrance is that of restlessness you can*t settle down. One thought chases after another, and you*re anxious, So this is a hindrance to be suppressed, to beheld in abeyance. If you want success in meditation, you must be calm, you must be peaceful, you must settle down, you mustn*t worry about anything. Just leave your worries just outside the door of the meditation room, In India, as you know, when people enter a temple or a shrine they leave their shoes outside the door, and this is said to be symbolical. It*s said to symbolize the leaving outside of all one*s cares and worries and troubles when you go into the meditation room or into the temple or the shrine. If your wife is sick, well, never mind; forget about it for one hour, If your children aren*t doing too well at school, never mind; forget about it for one hour. Just put it down, just drop it. I*m sure those of you who know anything about Zen find that the little phrase `putting it down*, or `putting her down* in particular, has all sorts of associations, very meaningful ones.

So so much for restlessness and anxiety, These also constitute a hindrance which must be allowed to die down, to sink down, to die away, before one can successfully meditate.

And lastly, doubt. This is vicikitsa, It isn*t doubt in the sense of just wondering whether something is true or false; it*s doubt in the sense of indecisiveness, unwillingness to commit oneself; wondering at the time of the meditation,, is this going to do me any good? or is there any meaning in meditation? or am I really going to get anywhere? or am I not rather wasting my time, and think ing that you*re rather a fool just sitting there with your legs crossed and- - you don*t really think you*re going to get nirvana in six easy lessons? And this sort of Thing is doubt, indecision, So this is suppressed, or held in abeyance, by a firm determination, by a conviction, that as a result of the practice, you are going to get somewhere; and this vicikitsa, this doubt, this indecisiveness, has been placed last for a very definite reason: it*s probably the last one you get rid of, Sometimes people come to me and they say, well, I*ve been meditating in the class for a year; I suppose I*m doing quite well, but I do sometimes wonder why on earth I do it; I can*t help wondering whether it*s any good, whether I*m not wasting my time, whether I*d better read books on Buddhism, or whether I*d better just give up Buddhism altogether. But this is the lurking remnants of vicikitsa, doubt and indeisiveness, So this also is a hindrance to be overcome, If this is present at the time of meditation, no further progress is possible; it just undermines you.

So this is the second stage of meditation experience: freedom frou:, at least temporary freedom from, freedom for the period of The practice at least, of these five hindrances of desire for sensuous experience, ill will, sloth and torpor, and restlessness and anxiety, and lastly doubt.

Unless the mind is free from these, at least for the time being, no meditation, no further meditation experience, is possible, Of course, I know when people come along to meditation classes at the end of a busy day, in The course of which no doubt their m minds have been in turmoil of one kind or another, it isn*t easy just to settle down and allow these five hindrances to die away. It takes time, And sometimes people say; after meditating for an hour, or at least sitting there for an hour, then when the bell rings to mark the end of the session, then they feel that, well, they*re just about ready to begin! Because it*s only then, it*s only by that time, that all these hindrances, all these wild and wandering thoughts, have died down, And this is one of the reasons why we find a retreat so helpful, when one can qet away for a whole weekend, a whole week, even ten days, as we do at Easter time, for instance, because then one finds, when one is living in a pleasant, a congenial, a natural environment, when one sees trees every day and hears birds every day, actually singing, every morning, and when it*s all peaceful and you don*t hear the traffic, and with a bit of luck there are no planes roaring overhead, and when you*re with people who share your own ideals and with whom you can talk on Buddhism, and you do a little reading and you do some meditation, then you find that of their own accord almost these hindrances die away; so that when you do go to sit for meditation, when the bell rings, then you find in the retreat that the hindrances are already just not there, they*ve already gone, and you can get on with your meditation from there, as from this second stage.

Now we come to the third stage of the meditation experience, and this consists in elimination of discursive thought elimination of discursive thought. Very often people think that meditation consists in getting rid of thoughts, Well,, in a sense This is correct, with the proviso that you don*t sit there just as it were throwing out the thoughts or trying not to think thoughts; because if you try not to think thoughts this is rather like, as I said to some of our Friends yesterday evening, like trying not to Think of a monkey: the more you try not to think of it, the more you are thinking, So you don*t make the mind free from Thoughts by sort of setting to work on each individual thought and thinking how to get rid of it, No. You eliminate thoughts by forgetting about thoughts altogether, In other words, you take a particular concentration technique; you take a particular object of concent ration, and without thinking t about the wandering thoughts, without thinking about the discursive mental activity, you concentrate all your attention on that particular object of concentration or object of meditation, For instance, when you*re practising the Mindfulness of Breathing, here your objet is the breath itself, and you*re concentrating on the breath; you*re trying to be aware of the breath in different ways, But if you start think ing about the thoughts which are interrupting your practice, then you lose whatever gains you*ve made. So you have to ignore the thoughts; not try to get rid of them directly, but just concentrate on the object of your concentration, whether it*s the breath, or whether it*s a coloured disc, or whether it*s a mantra; just concentrate on that, forgetting all about thoughts, and then you*ll find - or rather, you won*t find, because you won*t notice, perhaps that the thoughts are no longer there.

So this is the third stage, the stage of the attainment of an experience of thoughtlessness: no discursive thought, And here, of course, obviously, there are different degrees. At first, when you practise, you just manage to hang on as it were, like grim death almost, to your concentration object, and you*re vaguely conscious of a swarm of thoughts sort of swirling all around you, But gradually it so happens that you can almost as it were relax your grip on that concentration object, You don*t need to hang on to it, it*s there, you*re getting more and more absorbed in it, and you feel rather than see that the wandering thoughts are subsiding, They become faint, they become indistinct, And eventually it*ll happen that the thoughts, discursive thoughts, die away altogether, You*re not thinking of this, you `re not thinking of that, You*re not think ing about the day*s work tomorrow; you*re not thinking of anything which has happened in the course of this day; you*re not thinking about your job, you*re not Thinking about your family, you*re not thinking about yourself, you don*t even know who you are.

You*re not thinking about anything, But at the same time, of course, you*re not thinking that you*re not thinking about anything, As soon as the thought occurs to you that `Oh, look, I*m not thinking about anything*, at that moment al,l, your concentration just slides away downhill, and you have to start all over again, or practically all over again.

But one must emphasize, at the same time, that this stage of absence of discursive thought is not a statte of unconsciouusness; it*s not a blank state, Often we hear people talking about meditation in terms of emptying the mind, or making the mind a blank, Well, this is in a sense nonsense, You don*t make the mind a blank by removing discursive thought because when discursive thought is removed, well, awareness is left, and awareness is something very positive, The mind in its purity begins to be revealed, So when we elim inate discursive thought, what results is not just a sort of psychological blank; you*re not in a psychological vacuum.. Then the fullness of the ...

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