Introduction to Meditation

In Buddhism, Buddhism 101 Series, Dharma Teachings, Lectures, Meditation by Tsony

The Purpose of Dharma

What the Buddha wishes is for all beings to know and see true wisdom, as opposed to confusion.

Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche:

“Mind needs to be tamed. Thoughts should be controlled. In order to accomplish this you need to learn calm abiding meditation.

There are many kinds of calm abiding practice, but the initial level is crucial to learn in order to have strong stability of concentration.

First you need to know how to sit, and then in order to train the mind to concentrate, you must focus on your breath. Count twenty-one breaths and then take a short break, then start again. When you first try to do this, your mind may be distracted and it will be hard to count twenty-one breaths. Don’t be concerned, even if it is very difficult at first. Just keep calmly placing your concentration back on your breath. Counting twenty-one breaths with good concentration will develop tranquility in your body, speech and mind.

When you can manage to count twenty-one breaths without any disturbance or distraction you will already have achieved a very good quality concentration.”

    How to Relate to the Path

From the Kadampa spiritual teachers comes the advice:

« Look far ahead, generate a vast mind, do not squeeze yourself. »

Look far ahead:

Buddha, the awakened state, is the ultimate goal. This is what we should be aiming at.

Buddha Sakyamuni did the inner work–meditation, reflection, and transformation. He also did outer work–traveling to meet people from all walks of life to give them wise and adapted instructions. He told them not to take his word for granted, but to see for themselves.

The Buddha is a role model and a source of admiration. Admiration should carry a sense of longing for the similar state of freedom one wants to achieve. It is not the type of fascination a teenager has for his idols. 

Generate a vast mind:

Be ready to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal: Study, reflection, meditation, integration in daily life. Include all beings in your wish for enlightenment, excluding none. It will take time, so be steady but relax.

Do not squeeze yourself:

The path is an exciting and interesting journey. Don’t become obsessed with the goal. Understand and accept who and what you are. Be honest. Don’t lie or fool yourself, otherwise you are wasting time. Just work with the good and bad parts of you. Don’t worry about what others think of you.

Beings who have attained Buddhahood are sources of inspiration for us.  However, we have to do the work.

The Importance of Stability on the Path

 The Buddha mind is all pervading as space and is accessible by everyone. Everyone has its seed within.

The reason we are not enlightened is our veils and filters obscure this nature, very much like clouds obscure the sun. We are so absorbed by the clouds we don’t see the sky. The Buddhist path can help you see through the clouds. It is easy to lose sight of the sky, especially if we have neither driving force nor wisdom.

Without driving force or wisdom, we are unstable, and easily diverted by our veils and filters. We need to build up these two “accumulations” in order to be stable on the path.

Wisdom is knowing the right way. The driving force is the confidence that springs from all the challenges we have already overcome.

Ethics Help Us Achieve Stability

Maintening an ethical attitude, the first training, doesn’t constrain you. Instead, it helps you to cool down the agitation of your mind by enabling you to choose correct actions.

An incorrect action harms other beings and takes you away from enlightenment. A correct action benefits other beings, and thus leads you to enlightenment.

One, of course, needs to learn how and when to help. When we are about to help, because of our habitual patterns, we immediately think : «What might I lose, and what could I gain ? »

This is the first confrontation with your self-centered concern. When you genuinely practice wholesome actions, you will have to let go a lot of things. This will initiate a transformation. New ways of doing things will be developed. This is how this driving force is cultivated.

Ethics also helps you sort out needs and desires; not to be possessed by the things you own. Even if you have plenty, it is never enough. Ethics helps you.

Still, rejecting everything is not the solution; it is a reverse form of desire. You need to find a sense of balance that will bring a sense of peace in your being, and calm down the restless frustration of your mind.

It is hard to sit down and meditate when you are restless; any little thing will break your focus. Often you don’t meditate at all because you are preoccupied with too many plans, obligations and so forth (lots of excuses). 

Meditation Also Helps Us Achieve Stability

 The second training is meditation. We often make the mistake of thinking of meditation as another task. Meditation is about BEING, not doing. It is about giving yourself space. When you experience it in this way, you will want this stability all the time. You progressively come to be familiar with the beautiful moment where your body, breath, and mind are HERE.

You look past the restlessness, drowsiness, and other clouds. You use them to see what is going on in your mind. The training is to come back to the breath when you see your mind is going off in some direction.

Don’t scold yourself for being gone or praise yourself for being back. It’s a waste of time!

Be HERE–below your nose and above your upper lip. Count the breaths and strive to be present for a certain number of breaths. Choose a number you feel comfortable with. Once you have reached it, pause. Be sure to come back to your counting when you see you are REALLY gone.

In a Nutshell

Ethics frees your life from the anxieties and expectation that come from incorrect actions. It gives a basis for the second training, meditation. Meditation will help you focus more on the sky than on the clouds.

You will progressively gain the capacity to hear and see people as they really are, and not through your filters and veils. To truly help others, you need this clarity in your mind. Once the mind is clear, insight comes naturally. This is the third training.