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Samatha then vipassana ?

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  • Weychin's Avatar
    1,757 posts since Jul '09

      So for a beginner actually  it should be samantha first or  vipassana then samantha. While I was googling samatha and vipasanna, there was this one article claiming Myanmese teachers having no difficulty teaching samatha initially then vipassana later stages. However, when they started with Western students, it was very difficult as the Western due to there cultural back ground were mentally more active. 

      Let me elaborate, often our mind is compared to as monkey or elephant mind, sometimes visually presented as monkey sitting on elephant. This represents our state of unrestrained/ untrained mind.
       It could be like a monkey running all directions and the more you try to control or restrain it, the more agitated it becomes.

      The opposite is the elephant mind, toporific or slothful mind. Try to leash and move an unwilling elephant! You can't! It does what it want but pass around.

      Yes, we can be predominantly agitative or slothful, but really we can be a mixture of both. Nevertheless, we must start somewhere. For years, I practiced calm abiding or samantha only to find myself becoming more agitative and wishing to escape the practice.  Occasionally, I might have nailed it, but couldn't maintain a constant practice,I did not actually find the right formula. Needless to say, I was not particularly enthusiastic and could not follow through.

      Only the other hand, if you are slothful or dreamy mind, probably vipassana will strain your mind lulling you to drift off to sleep. Generally, I am mentally active most of the time, however, I have a certain period where I was physically active and when it comes to meditation, calm abiding comes more easily without having to control the "monkey" mind.

      Right effort; in this context putting right application on a particular mind state. We are dealing with a gross state initially and therefore deal with it appropriately.  

      So as personal conditions change, so  our daily initial mindset change. Generally I believe if you find yourself mentally active until the last minute to sleep, you should start with with vipassana practice. Simply watch your thoughts running around without restraining them;initially. Pay attention to gross reaction or emotion.As time goes by, your scattered thoughts become more collected, you will start to sense the patterns and emotional triggers your thoughts give and vice versa, you may start to understand your personality, your karmic imprint so far.  You may not have full absorption initially, but at least you have lasted so far, and will continue from gross emotions to conceptual or judgemental thoughts without emotions. Your mental control has actually improved.

      For people who are not so mentally agitated, calm abiding is much easier as the mind settles much faster. But why then, the need to do "awareness of" training? Well simply it is an investigation tool we need acquire insight to "Self" or "No Self". Being with better collectedness allows you to deal with more subtle thoughts process. The danger is not wanting to investigate.
      Each time you will find you experienced in line with Buddhist teachings.

      Also, these two starting approaches also works with Mantrayana. It doesn't change the way our mind essentially works, if fact, it provides a period of stability in both familiarity and regularity allowing the rising and non arising in our minds. Same mind, same chanting different mind thoughts at different times. Notice I did not emphasize on posture or breathing, just get comfortable, leaning against the wall if you want to. Past your first hurdle first. Correct those later.

      The point I am trying to put by putting the right effort vipassana can lead to samatha and vice versa, just what gives a better grasp initially. Especially for mentally more active people who might have a develop a phobia by starting at the wrong end. Reach to a level of comfortable habit sitting of longer and longer periods. Our mind will eventually collect, those periods of non calm abiding is not as unproductive as you think. It will create a basis and foundation. Each achievement, either calm abiding or awareness reinforces each other. One rung of the ladder before the other. So you can either face your monkey or you elephant first but ultimately you can rein and ride both.

  • 2009novice's Avatar
    950 posts since Oct '09
    • Hi Weychin,
      I don't know where to begin with in this post
      I also face difficulties in meditation, being mindful of each breath

      I felt that whatever "monkey" or "elephant" comes is just the 5 hindrances present in our mind. Sloth and torpor vs restlessness. Closing both eyes completely will induce sleepiness, so try to open the eyes a bit if you face the "elephant"... but avoid fully open states because the "monkey" may come

  • Weychin's Avatar
    1,757 posts since Jul '09
    • Aim for series of entering and leaving absorption in a single sitting. When one loses focus, instead of trying to maintain absorption, but rather start focus on  back at square one.

      Perhaps you are applying too much effort? If minds wanders, take note" drifting/ wandering and watching it wander, when concentration collects again start again.

      My suggestion is maintaining a time frame of 25mins up of non productive sitting. Accustom oneself to devote that much time to reduce agitative state of trying to rush through. Results is intermittent but observable.

      Pertaining to breath, deep abdominal breathing leads to faster absorption, shallow breathing leads to more agile mind. 
      Pertaining to posture leads to proper breathing. Erect and tense body posture vs relaxed body posture, shift accordingly.

      Optimal relaxation and alertness, time of day, after work or exercises makes a difference. All about getting comfy without too comfortable.
      Also whether we are physically or mentally tired makes a difference.

    • The fives hindrances is basically our untamed state. I stopped having an adversarial relationship with. I just let it wander initially and observe when I am able to. 

    • Originally posted by 2009novice:

      Hi Weychin,
      I don't know where to begin with in this post
      I also face difficulties in meditation, being mindful of each breath

      I felt that whatever "monkey" or "elephant" comes is just the 5 hindrances present in our mind. Sloth and torpor vs restlessness. Closing both eyes completely will induce sleepiness, so try to open the eyes a bit if you face the "elephant"... but avoid fully open states because the "monkey" may come

      I practice with my eyes wide open, that is why I only deal with "monkey", one adversary at a time.

      With eyes wide open, one deals with consciousness of the sight, sound , body sensation and mind. Our awareness  cycle within these consciousness.

      When one visualizes,one concentrates on consciousness of sight. When one chants, the mind concentrates on consciousness of sound. When one chants inwardly, one focuses on sound thoughts arising from mind. When one concentrates on breathing, one concentrates on bodily sensation, sensations of body will be magnified as well.

      When sight or sound defocuses, one enters preliminary stages of absorption.
      Edited by Weychin 02 Aug `17, 11:04AM
  • Faded's Avatar
    4 posts since Aug '17

    • What is this "absorption"?  How does it feel like?  How do you know when you are there?

  • Weychin's Avatar
    1,757 posts since Jul '09
    • I can only speak of my own experience, there are probably meditators who have achieved deeper states.

      Imagine you are short sighted and wearing a scratched pair of spectacles.

      Now, you have just worn your new pair of spectacles for the first time! Wow! The cloudiness in your mind suddenly disappears, you see in such sharpness, such clarity and vividity in colors. Your sight and sounds seems to merge and you feel a expansive sensation of "seeing" all around you. There is a three dimensionality in this sensation. I realise it is a combination of acute seeing and hearing of sounds around you.

      Even as the wind blows, you can feel the oozing of sweat coming out of your pores. Although together a sense of scary sharp you have never experience better. There is a pleasant sensation of lightness, like something heavy have been lifted.

      The sensation lasted while in absorption, however, afterwards the lack of cloudiness within mind lasted quite a while, a few days, up to a week before returning to more or less normal. 

      Thoughts in the mind becomes incredibly tiny, inconsequential,  as you see and hear everything in clarity. Thoughts is there but like a slight note. A curious analogy I have is that, you are wearing  new glasses, your thoughts appear like clear water droplets flowing over your glasses. A light rippling, inconsequential, quite charming. You can't stop the satisfied feeling for a while.
    • I was usually meditating in the day, in a bright and noisy environment. As such, my experience may differ from others.

      Edited by Weychin 03 Aug `17, 3:56AM
    • Typically, if in the quiet, eyeballs shudders sideways and eye glazes ahead and the visualization deity will becomes glowing in reflection. Sort of stands out.

      If on a bus, after chanting, sounds becomes indistinct and one looks ahead without actually seeing. Expansive or airy sensation.
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