1-1-Precepts

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Precepts

The Buddha also emphasizes the importance of keeping our moral discipline (sīla). The precepts are not commandments but rather they are suggestions to follow. Keeping them leads to a mind that easily becomes calm and composed. These five moral precepts release mind from remorse, anxiety, and guilty feelings if they are continually kept and observed.

These precepts are:

  1. Abstaining from killing or harming living beings on purpose;
  2. Abstaining from taking what is not given;
  3. Abstaining from wrong sexual activities;
  4. Abstaining from telling lies, using harsh language, slandering, and gossip;
  5. Abstaining from taking drugs and alcohol that dull our mind (this does not mean a doctor’s prescriptions; just drugs or alcohol for the purpose of taking the edge off of daily living).

Keeping these precepts closely means that our mind will be tension and guilt-free.

Subsequently, the Buddha taught the methods of meditation or mental development (bhāvanā) to free mind from tension and confusion. The essence of meditation is to open and calm your mind and accept whatever arises without any tightening at all.

This book of instructions is written for those who are on this noble quest. To a beginner, these instructions may appear confusing and difficult to understand. However, you will gradually discover the many benefits when these instructions are followed closely.

In actual fact, within the texts, meditation, as taught by the Buddha, is never broken into different kinds of meditation. It is never taken to be deep concentration in any of its forms, that is, fixed or absorption concentration (appanā samādhi), access or neighborhood concentration (upacāra samādhi) or moment-to-moment concentration (khanika samādhi), which actually brings tightness to mind and suppresses the hindrances.

The “concentration” meditation is a form of suppression, a kind of cutting off of your experience, which causes a kind of resistance to arise in your mind. As a result, there is a conflict with reality.

On the other hand, Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM), as found within the texts, opens mind and is continually expanding it. It does not ever exclude or resist anything. A “concentrated” mind does not meditate in the “Buddha’s Way”. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about full or fixed absorption concentration, or access concentration. These still cause the same difficulties in practice.

The important rule of the meditation is, no matter what distracts your mind away from the breath and tranquilizing your mind, you simply open, expand, let it go without thinking about the distraction, relax mind and tightness in the head. As you feel mind open and relax away the tension, you lightly smile, and softly redirect your attention back to the object of meditation, i.e. the breath and relaxing on the in-breath and relaxing on the out-breath.

Next is the Pāli word samatha. The more accurate meanings of samatha are peacefulness, calmness, tranquility, serenity, or stillness, and not as the commonly translated terms of absorption or fixed concentration. Thus, the author prefers to use the word tranquility.

The Pāli word samādhi is equally important as it has many different meanings such as calmness, unified mind, tranquility, peacefulness, stillness, composure of mind, quiet mind, serenity, and one of the lesser meanings, “concentration”. Thus, the true meaning is not merely fixed absorption concentration or access concentration, but calmness or stillness in different degrees. Interestingly, Rhys Davids found through his studies that the word “samādhi” was never used before the time of the Buddha. [2]

Even though, as a Bodhisatta, he practiced “absorption meditation”, the word samādhi has a different meaning other than concentration. The Buddha “popularized” the word samādhi to express collectedness, calm wisdom, tranquility, openness, awareness, along with developing a mind which has clarity and wisdom in it. Later, the Hindus changed the meaning to “concentration”. Hence, the author will use collectedness, stillness, composure of mind, or unified mind for the meaning here.

If one chooses to use the word “concentration”, they must understand that it means “collectedness of mind”, “composure of mind”, or “a unified mind”. It does not mean absorption, fixed (appanā), or access (upacāra) concentration, or even momentary (khanika) concentration.

This book is written with a deep conviction that serenity and insight were yoked together in the Buddha’s practice. It is committed to the understanding that the systematic cultivation of TWIM brings both serenity of mind and the insights needed to realize the true nature of this psycho/physical (mind/body) process together at the same time!

Furthermore, there is the seeing and realizing the cause and effect relationships of all dependent conditions. This means seeing the impersonal process of Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths, which, in fact, is the development of penetrative wisdom that leads to dispassion, emancipation, and awakening. As a matter of fact, the Buddha discovered that “concentration practices” of any kind did not lead him to Nibbāna.

After becoming a homeless one, the Bodhisatta went to two different teachers of “absorption concentration meditation”. His first teacher was Āḷāra Kālāma. After learning the Dhamma and discipline, he practiced until he attained a very high and distinguished stage of meditation called the Realm of Nothingness. The Bodhisatta then went to his teacher and asked whether he could proceed any further with that meditation. Āḷāra Kālāma replied that it was the highest stage that anyone could attain.

The Bodhisatta was dissatisfied and went to another teacher by the name of Uddaka Rāmaputta. He learned that Dhamma and discipline and then practiced it and attained the Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception. The Bodhisatta again went to his teacher and asked a similar question about there being more to attain. Again, the Bodhisatta was told that this was absolutely the highest attainment anyone could achieve in their lifetime.

The future Buddha was disappointed because he saw that there were still many more things to let go of in his mind. He observed that these “absorption concentration techniques”, which focused intensely on the object of meditation, caused tightening in mind.

The Buddha reasoned that there was still attachment whenever there was tension in mind. He also noticed that if any part of the experiences were suppressed or not allowed to arise, there was still some kind of holding on or attachment to an ego belief. This occurs with every form of “concentration”, that is, fixed absorption concentration, or access concentration,

Thus, after six long years of trying all of the various spiritual and ascetic practices from body mortifications like starving the body, to holding the breath, he realized that these practices did not lead him to a calm and open mind, which was free from craving and suffering.

On the night of the Bodhisatta’s realization of supreme Nibbāna, he recalled an incident at a plowing festival while he was just a young boy of one or two years old. When his attendants left him alone under a rose-apple tree, he sat in TWIM and experienced a mind that was expanded and opened! He saw that this form of meditation would lead him to the experience of “tranquilityjhānas” (the Pāli word jhāna means a meditation state of understanding), as opposed to “concentration jhānas”. [3]

As a result of the gentle TWIM, his mind was filled with joy, his body became light and happy. When the joy faded away, he then experienced strong calmness and peacefulness. His mind and body became very comfortable. His mind was very still, very composed, and his body was exceptionally at ease, with sharp mindfulness and full awareness of what was happening around him. He could still hear sounds and feel sensations with his body at that time.

When the Bodhisatta sat under the Bodhi tree to meditate on the full moon night of May and made his great effort to attain supreme Nibbāna, he recalled that not all forms of pleasure are unwholesome. He realized that there could be pleasurable feelings arising in mind and body although there was not an attachment to anything. (Refer to the Majjhima Nikāya, sutta MN-36, the Mahāsaccaka Sutta.)

That very night, the Bodhisatta practiced TWIM through the method of opening, relaxing, and expanding mind. In short, he practiced the “Ānāpānasati” or “Mindfulness of Breathing” and the 6R’s, which are the steps of Right Effort. As we all know, he became the Buddha or the Supremely Awakened One.

The Ānāpānasati Sutta, as taught by the Buddha 2600 years ago, still provides the most simple, direct, thorough, and effective method for training and developing the 6R’s and smiling through our daily tasks and any problems as well as for our highest aim—mind’s own unshakable deliverance from greed, hatred, and delusion, which is another way of saying craving.

The simple steps that are the 6R’s and the practice of smiling into our daily tasks are what this sutta is really communicating to us. The method described here is taken directly from the sutta itself and the results can be seen clearly and easily when you practice according to the instructions in this sutta.

The author would like to emphasize that the instructions in this book are not his “own opinion”. Actually, these are the Buddha’s own instructions given in a clear and precise way. This can be called the “Undiluted Dhamma” because it comes directly from the suttas themselves, without a lot of additions or free-lance ideas.

The Ānāpānasati Sutta gives the most profound meditation instructions available today. It includes the “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” and the “Seven Awakening Factors” and shows how they are fulfilled through the practice of “Mindfulness of Breathing”. This is done through attaining all of the meditation stages of understanding (jhānas). [4] This sutta shows the direct way to practice TWIM and does not mix in any other meditation practices.

Strangely, the current separation into various types of meditation like “fixed absorption concentration”, or “access concentration” and “momentary concentration” seems to appear only in the commentaries and never in the suttas. Thus, you must notice this and compare these commentaries with the suttas for their accuracy.

Upon the attainment of the fourth jhāna, three alternative lines of further development become possible. This sutta deals with only one of those lines, namely the attainment of all the material and immaterial jhānas (meditation stages of understanding), followed by the experience of the cessation of perception, feeling, and consciousness (nirodha samapatti in Pāli), and finally the experience of seeing clearly the links of Dependent Origination (paṭicca-samuppāda) and the Four Noble Truths (ariyasacca).

In these attainments, the Buddha mentions four meditative stages that continue the mental unification established by the jhānas(meditation stages of understanding). These states are described as “the liberations that are peaceful and material”, (rūpa), and they are still mundane states.

These mundane states are distinguished from the immaterial (arūpa) jhānas (meditation stages of understanding), which then deepen the subtle mental observations, and are named after their own exalted stages: the Base of Infinite Space, the Base of Infinite Consciousness, the Base of Nothingness, and the Base of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception.

These states of consciousness are very attainable if one ardently and continually keeps their daily meditation practice going. As this is a gradual training, you first must learn to walk before you run. Thus, the beginning of the meditation practice is the basis for further development.

This is a straight and direct path towards liberation and the supra-mundane Nibbāna. It does, however, require sustained meditative effort, applied to a simple object of meditation: to the breath and relaxing. This allows the mind to become calm and clear without distractions.

When you practice the Ānāpānasati Sutta as a TWIM, you will find that your creativity and intuition increase as your practice develops.

This approach forms the timeless and universal appeal of a true “Doctrine of Awakening”, that is, realizing Dependent Origination and the Four Noble Truths, which has the depth and breadth, the simplicity and intelligence for providing the foundation of a living Dhamma for all. You will sense the urgency of the fundamental “non-materialistic” problems and search for solutions that neither science nor “religions of faith” provide.

More important is the final realization which comes through the method of TWIM. This practice invites you to experience the various meditation stages of understanding (jhānas) and allows you to see through direct knowledge all twelve impersonal links of “Dependent Arising”.

This means you will see and realize directly the first, second, third, and fourth Noble Truths in each of the links. When these Four Noble Truths have been seen and realized directly, you will truly understand the Buddha’s Teachings. This is because one cannot see the “Origin of Suffering” without first seeing the “Suffering” itself, and “Suffering” would not cease without practicing the way leading to the “Cessation of Suffering” (the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes the 6R’s). Thus, seeing and realizing Dependent Origination means that you see and realize all of the Four Noble Truths, which is actually the true essence of Buddhist meditation.

The true aim of the Ānāpānasati Sutta is nothing less than final liberation from suffering, which is the highest goal of the Buddha’s Teachings—Nibbāna. The practice of the Buddhist Path evolves in two distinct stages, a mundane (lokiya) or preparatory stage, and a supra-mundane (lokuttara) or accomplished stage. The mundane path is developed when the disciples undertake the gradual training to develop their virtues (continually keeping the precepts), collectedness, or deep composure of mind, and wisdom. This reaches its peak in the practice of TWIM, which deepens direct experience, and at the same time, shows you the Three Characteristics of all Existence that are: impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and the impersonal nature of existence (anattā).

In short, there are two kinds of Nibbāna. One is the worldly or mundane type of Nibbāna, and the other is the supra-mundane or unworldly type of Nibbāna. The mundane or worldly type of Nibbāna is attained every time the meditator lets go of craving and relief arises along with a kind of happiness. This type of Nibbāna will occur many times when one is seriously practicing TWIM. The supra-mundane type of Nibbāna only occurs after the meditator sees and realizes “Dependent Origination” (paṭicca-samuppāda) and the four Noble Truths. This supra-mundane Nibbāna takes patience and effort to achieve.

It is not impossible for laymen and laywomen to attain the supra-mundane state of Nibbāna. With persistent daily practice and by taking an occasional meditation retreat with a competent guide who understands how the TWIM works, even those who live active lives in the world can still achieve this highest goal.

It was mentioned in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, that during the time of the Buddha, many more laymen and laywomen became saints than the monks and nuns when they practiced on a regular basis. The common belief that one must be a “monk” or “nun” in order to reach this goal is just not true. The exhortation of the Buddha was for all people who were interested in the correct path. He encouraged them to “ehipassiko” (a Pāli word meaning “come and see”). This is very good advice because it helps those who are interested to get out of their judgmental, critical mind and honestly practice to see if this is, in fact, the right way. (See the Majjhima Nikāya, sutta MN-73, the Mahāvacchagotta Sutta, for confirmation of lay people attaining Nibbāna).

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