Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

What to do? What can be achieved?

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • What to do? What can be achieved?

    I've been a bit confused lately about what i should be doing and what i should be aiming for. I don't even know if i can explain my problem properly but i'll give it a go and if there's something you don't understand, ask me some questions.

    http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/article...editation.html I've read this recently and like it and think, yup, i can do that but for how long should i be practicing like this and with what aim and when and how do i practice mindfulness.

    I took up with buddhism in about August last year. I eventually found a buddhist teacher who i like a lot and feel committed too. (We don't have a lot of choice where i live also and so feel lucky that this guy is around.) He is a zen monk and started off by teaching a course on the Four foundations of Mindfulness. I read a lot of books from all the traditions. I am a secular buddhist by temperament and preference but the teachings from whatever tradition have some common themes which I try to pursue. In the main that means i am trying to follow the central distinctive teachings of the buddha as told in the pali canon, namely the four noble truths, the eightfold path, cultivating the four immeasurables, practising mindfulness. And i really wish i was practicing meditation daily and i was until the end of december.

    I did a two day retreat with my teacher late last year. The first retreat i've ever done. It went well but as was mentioned during the retreat, not much can be achieved in two days.

    My teacher then went away at the end of December and is not expected back until April, as he does every year (apparently). He has another sangha to which he is committed.

    Other things happened in my own life and i stopped my daily meditation practice and with that i dropped my focus on trying to live by the eightfold path. The hardest aspect to follow, I find is "right speech" Which i don't think would surprise anyone. It is perhaps the most difficult one for us all.

    As planned in January i went to a goenka vipassana retreat for 10 days. I thought the dharma talks and meditation instruction excellent. I had been unable to actually practice the mindfulness as it was taught by my own teacher because his style of teaching is more the kind where you pick it up slowly over time whereas with goenka, its so incremental and well timed that one can adapt and absorb every new aspect of the technique as its taught so that by the time the course is over, you can do it properly. So that of course was vipassana.

    However, I was disappointed to see that goenka only teaches awareness of bodily sensations and concentration on the breath and does not teach awareness of other aspects of being. This limited angle on meditation and mindfulness does not suit me but i loved his technique for cultivating equanimity. At last someone teaches a tool, and places most emphasis, on cultivating equanimity. But Goenka is not effective on loving kindness where as my zen teacher embodies it and teaches it well. Goenkas chanting of loving kindness made me want to go to sleep. All the chanting was a total waste of time and my listening energy. I do not enjoy listening to a foreign language unless there's beauty in the music which there is not much in buddhist chanting despite goenka himself having a decent voice (which is i am sure what he insists on doing it).

    I find for myself that loving kindness and equanimity are the most important of the four immeasurables at this stage in my progress. I find sympathetic joy very easy. I am always happy that others do well. I do not begrudge other peoples successes or happiness. Compassion is a less urgent goal for me at this point in my life. I feel its more important to develop the other two now as they have more direct impact on my life and how my life impacts on others, whereas compassion is quite a remote practice, having little impact on my life or of those around me.

    Although i was inspired by the goenka retreat, i haven't been able to resume my daily meditation practice since finishing it. I"ve done a bit of meditation but its a lot easier on a retreat.

  • #2
    Dear Andrea,

    I would argue that meditation is neither easier not more difficult on a retreat, it’s just that you can normally go deeper in a retreat situation. It’s all about how you approach your meditation. If you expect to do certain things or achieve certain results, then yes a retreat situation may be required. On the other hand, if meditation is just about getting more peaceful than you are when you start out, then it will be equally effective regardless of when and where you practice.

    In daily life, I would therefore suggest that all you should aim for is to improve your present state of mind. If you can a get a bit more peaceful or have a bit more metta, then you’re meditation has been successful. That peace and metta will in turn carry over into your other daily activities. You will find yourself responding more wisely to your circumstances, and your speech habits too are sure to improve. In this way, even just little bit of meditation every day will support your practice of the eightfold path. When you next do a retreat, you will find your meditation is more powerful and deeper than it was last time around. In other words, your practice in daily life will power your meditation during retreats. Without an everyday commitment to the eightfold path, you are unlikely to see much progress during retreats.

    I hope this is helpful.

    With metta.

    Comment


    • #3
      I had been unable to actually practice the mindfulness as it was taught by my own teacher because his style of teaching is more the kind where you pick it up slowly over time
      About this, i should have said "mindfulness in meditation" cause when i was even just meditating on my breath, i was much more focused on practising mindfulness outside meditation. But i am not yet able to do all the questioning and so on that goes on in mindfulness meditation as my teacher was trying to impart in his teachings.

      Now here's part 2 of my original question. I did not get to post it all yesterday because it was too long for the space.

      And then i don't know what i should be doing in my meditation anymore anyway. I value very highly mindfulness practice. IT seems to me that Vipassana is mindfulness or mindfulness gives rise to vipassana. No one has yet satisfactorily explained the differences and similarity to me.

      Until recently i thought the eightfold path included just concentration and mindfulness. then i started hearing other terms such as shamatha and goenka's explanation of vipassana confused me in so far as how do all these things fit in relation to each other. Where are they the same? How do they differ? What the hell is going on. I thought some of the terms were just terms and practices specific to the different traditions eg jhanas for theravada, shamatha for tibetan. And it was all becoming terribly jumbled.

      I understand that mindfulness is of the breath, the body and sensations, feelings and mental states. But don't really know how to actually do it properly apart from being aware of what is happening in the moment. I know when i feel this or that, if i want i can chase down sensations all over my body, i know what my mental state is. I can even observe my thoughts but now i am not even sure we are supposed to do that in mindfulness anyway. Certainly my zen teacher never instructed us to do that as such and i haven't read we should do that in the satipatta sutta.

      Now i see that jhana and shamatha and concentration are all one and the same. I didn't realise that one should spend quite such a long time doing this before going on to mindfulness, as some people say is essential. I have read recently that the two are to be developed at simultaneously. So this is another point of confusion.

      Theravadans seem to put a great deal of emphasis on jhanas but i never read about them doing mindfulness meditation. In Zen they seem to only do mindfulness with only a minimal amount of cultivating concentration.

      However, I am a lay person, and i need to know what i should be doing. If i were only to practice cultivating concentration in my daily mediations, i think I would never get very far in any respect except it would probably help me remain focused more on following hte eightfold path, the morality aspect of it anyway.

      I just don't know what i should be doing. I would like some sort of program to follow. Ideally something written down on paper that one can use a guide.

      I would like to study the suttas systematically. i am not quite satisfied to be told this and that and then read a contradictory teaching from another angle. It just adds to my confusion about what the buddha meant and intended. I would like to read the suttas (in english) and go through them so that i can determine for myself what teachings would be useful to me and what i can ignore as having nothing to do with what the buddha undoubtedly meant (according to my own 21st century sensibility - ie i've no time for reincarnation and the doctrine of cause and effect as its explained in eastern religion). I don't need these ideas.

      I'm not pursuing a buddhist path for the sake of my future lives. I am only concerned with this one life. Which even makes the understanding of Enightenment a bit of a fog bath. I have no trouble seeing how or why the buddha might have used the notion of rebirth to as a carrot to give people a bigger goal beyond their own petty concern to be a good and happy person but in fact, i think this is a perfectly adequate goal and the one beyond the grave is too remote to be useful, ultimately unless you really really believe in it - which i don't and can't.

      Yes its good to be totally aware, totally free from cravings, aversion and delusion. Yes its good to be the living embodiment of compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and sympathetic joy. But beyond all this, i am not sure there is any value to enlightenment. And what is this enlightement experience anyway? is it very important as an altered state of consciousness. is the experience of feeling the interconnectedness to all of mankind and animal kind and plants and whathaveyou essential. its an easy enough concept to grasp intellectually. the only benefit of the experience of it in meditation would be that you have an something that touches you very strongly so that it is very very vivid and can motivate you to greater selflessness. That, i grant could be very useful. But is it worth the effort of meditating for hours and hours and days and days and weeks and months and years on end. I'm not sure that one should devote all ones time to achieving that experience. It is afterall a type of delusional experience akin to the hallucinations of a schizophrenic - though i fully expect many people would disagree with me. It is real but only for the person who experiences it.

      I think given the usefulness of the core teachings of the buddha, spreading the dharma is an excellent goal to aspire to but of course only once one has reached a certain degree of personal development. Even if i were not to become a teacher, i would like to be involved in the dissemination of the dharma in some capacity. I have a strong evangelical trait and a deep wish to do something that will help other people have happier lives. I think that the dharma can really be put to great effect by directing it towards people with mental health challenges and i see that amongst westerners its almost most attractive to those who have mental health challenges.





      But with all the difficulties of getting good teaching and being able to practice it diligently, I wonder what can i achieve and what should i be aspiring too. But mostly i want to know, what should i be practicing. Exactly! That is in terms of meditation. And then how best to internalise the teachings. Bearing in mind that self discipline is not my strong point. And motivational problems, one of my greatest challenges, hence why i go to a buddhist centre weekly.

      And how should i go about studying the suttas.

      Someone mentioned to me the option of doing long retreats. I would like to do that. I can't leave home for more than six months at a time because i have a cat who needs me. It would be shirking my responsibility to my cat to abandon him and there's no one else i can lodge him with for a longer period satisfactorily.

      Yes the buddha left his wife and child. I used to find that very disturbing but i've recently realised that he most likely did that because he never wanted to be a father and husband in the first place. He probably always wanted to pursue a spiritual path and probably only got married and had a child to satisfy his duty to his parents. Its the only way i can make sense of his behaviour without thinking of him as a callous and insensitive person (contrary to what is said of him) when he left his family. Its the only explanation that makes sense and its fairly much in keeping with Indian cultural traditions which in this regard i am sure were the same back then as in recent times when family is the first priority and doing your parents bidding is pretty important and providing an heir especially in a powerful family, a major matter.

      Comment


      • #4
        I lead an unstressful life so my aim is not to achieve greater calm. I want to be able to study the texts myself and discern what exactly is the wisdom of the buddha with a view to determining how best to pursue my own practice to maximise results.

        I probably want the same things from my practice as you do.

        Comment


        • #5
          Dear Andrea,

          And then i don't know what i should be doing in my meditation anymore anyway. I value very highly mindfulness practice. IT seems to me that Vipassana is mindfulness or mindfulness gives rise to vipassana. No one has yet satisfactorily explained the differences and similarity to me.
          Vipassanā is usually translated as "insight", but a more satisfactory translation might be "clear seeing". Vipassanā is something you develop during all stages of the path, as is the case with samatha, "calm". In other words, you need a little bit of clear seeing even to get started on the path, and then that clarity increases until you reach awakening.

          Mindfulness is basically the ability to be present, here and now, without the mind going all over the place. Mindfulness is an important mental quality for vipassanā to happen, but vipassanā is more than just being present. Vipassanā also involves seeing things clearly, without distortion. Really deep vipassanā requires more than just mindfulness, in particular powerful samādhi (jhāna/samatha).

          I understand that mindfulness is of the breath, the body and sensations, feelings and mental states. But don't really know how to actually do it properly apart from being aware of what is happening in the moment.
          Mindfulness on its own is not of any particular object, such as the breath, the body, etc. Mindfulness is just the clear presence of the mind. It is satipaṭṭhāna ("the focus of mindfulness") that refers to specific objects. Satipaṭṭhāna is using mindfulness to focus on the objects you mention.

          To do satipaṭṭhāna meditation (which is preferable to calling it "mindfulness meditation"), all you need to do is focus on the breath. Please have look at the Anāpānasati Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, sutta 118). This sutta specifically says that you fulfill satipaṭṭhāna just by doing breath meditation. This simplifies the meditation and makes it relatively easy to follow the instructions.

          I have read recently that the two are to be developed at simultaneously. So this is another point of confusion.
          You need mindfulness before samādhi (jhāna)becomes possible. Mindfulness of the breath is what leads to samādhi. But mindfulness continues to increase as the samādhi deepens.

          I just don't know what i should be doing. I would like some sort of program to follow. Ideally something written down on paper that one can use a guide.
          If your able to do breath meditation, then the Anāpānasati Sutta is your best guide. Add mettā meditation to this - to help purify your mind - and you have a very potent mix. I have just completed teaching a weekend sutta retreat on the subject of mindfulness of breathing and how to prepare oneself for this meditation. You may find these teaching helpful. They are available here and here.

          I would like to read the suttas (in english) and go through them so that i can determine for myself what teachings would be useful to me and what i can ignore as having nothing to do with what the buddha undoubtedly meant
          The suttas are now generally available online. Try this website. There are good sutta classes available in audio form from the BSWA website. It can be helpful to get some guidance when one starts out with reading the suttas.

          ie i've no time for reincarnation and the doctrine of cause and effect as its explained in eastern religion). I don't need these ideas.
          It is not about whether you need or don't need these ideas; it's about whether these things actually are real. If rebirth is real it has enormous consequences. That's why it is so important to take it seriously and not reject it out of hand.

          the notion of rebirth ... unless you really really believe in it - which i don't and can't.
          The idea of rebirth is actually very important for Buddhism, and if it is true it has massive consequences. I would suggest you just keep an open mind for now. As you start to contemplate this idea, you may find it makes more sense than you initially thought. There is a fair amount of solid scientific evidence that suggests the idea of rebirth is pointing to a real phenomenon.

          Yes its good to be totally aware, totally free from cravings, aversion and delusion. Yes its good to be the living embodiment of compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and sympathetic joy. But beyond all this, i am not sure there is any value to enlightenment.
          The value of awakening (or enlightenment) is precisely that it is the end of rebirth. This is what the Buddhist path really is about.

          Yes the buddha left his wife and child. I used to find that very disturbing ...
          If you read the suttas carefully, you will find that he only left his family after ensuring they would be properly cared for (see Ariyapariyesana Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 26). He was more responsible that he sometimes is given credit for!

          Hopefully you will find something useful in this!

          With metta.

          Comment


          • #6
            Dear Andrea, (yet again!)

            If you lead an unstressful life that 's a great basis for developing even deeper calm. Take the opportunity! You will be very thankful you did.

            With metta.

            Comment

            Working...
            X

            Debug Information