The Body and Feeling: Together in Review
The cultivation of the mind aims for a steady, calm mind and a penetrative
insight into the truth. I have explained this, stage by stage, following the
Lord Buddha's Way set forth in the Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness,
this being the only way to realize one's aim. Even His other Teachings can be
summarized into this form. Therefore, we shall reconsider this way of practice
right from the beginning. Centre the mind and focus on your own body and feelings.
Seeing the whole body concerns: mindfulness of breathing; knowing the whole body, both the mental group and the corporeal group; calming the mind, body and breath; being aware of one's present posture; examining the external and internal bodily parts and organs; reducing those to their elements; seeing that with the dispersal of the elements what remains is a corpse in its varying stages of decomposition, until there in nothing left to assume as body. This examination of one's body is a wide-ranging, overall inspection, while the practice of samadhi requires the resting of the mind in any one particular bodily part. For example, if one finds that mindfulness of breathing suits one then concentrate on that one point.
In the initial stages of practice there will be pain in both body and mind. There are the aches from sitting in unaccustomed positions and the mind's discomfort from being forced to be still and calm when it has never practised before. Realize that this is painful feeling arising in outside attractions with their baited hook. Past bodily comfort and that feeling of pleasure is then used to lure it into pain. The mind, habitually thinking as is its want, becomes distressed when it is forced to gather into calm. However, with patience, persistence and unwavering determination, such pain will fade away and happiness will arise. The body will then be at ease and the mind serene.
But on no account can mindfulness be allowed to lapse. If it is lost then the mind will race out and grab hold of external objects. Whenever you catch the mind engrossed in such pleasures then fully realize that this is baited-hook pleasure and based in external attractions. Be similarly aware of that bodily pleasure based on an external lure. These things that induce the mind to dodge outside are of critical importance because on going out it does not stop at just one excursion. The sound of someone walking or speaking, or of a car or some other noise, may immediately lead the mind away, and then it will continue on into myriad involvements. Do not allow the mind to become engrossed in these external attractions with their baited hooks. Should you catch the mind in such pleasures, then realize their origin and bring it back to the object of your samadhi, to one-pointedness.
Sometimes a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling may similarly arise from the mind's excursion into external involvements. So make yourself aware of this.
Always be watchful and lead the mind back to its samadhi object so that it becomes stilled and free from sensuality and all unwholesome states. You can then be confident that the happiness which you experience is completely untainted by external lures and is born from tranquillity. This happiness gives a taste of the initial stage of practice. However, do not lose yourself in it, but continue to steady the mind in the samadhi object.
Focusing and Settling the Mind
After understanding feeling as I have explained, now turn inwards to the
mind itself. Look and note its condition, its state and disposition. As you
focus there you will experience that the feeling shifts into the mind as well
--but only if you watch carefully. You will find that any bodily distress runs
into the mind, while any mental distress is already directly concerned with
the mind. This gives rise to dislike which is also known as hatred or aversion
(dosa). However, I feel that this word seems a little too strong so we will
use 'dislike'. It has a broad meaning because everyone dislikes suffering. Suffering,
once present, leads to the arising of dislike and as it intensifies so the aversion
arises more sharply. Therefore this dislike, or what can be called aversion,
arises through painful bodily and mental feeling (dukkha vedana). When something
is contacted, then bodily and mental pain must arise before it becomes a matter
for aversion. Painful feeling is therefore the fuse for aversion and dislike.
When this is the case, be aware that the mind is possessed with hatred or aversion,
that dislike has already arisen in the mind.
In the opposite case, pleasant bodily and mental feeling (sukha vedana) will lead to liking. One might also call this lust (raga) but again it seems rather too strong a word. 'Liking' may seem too general a term but just understand that it refers to the beginning of lust. Lust here starts with the subtle forms of attachment and hankering, everything which involves liking. Every type of fondness, or one may call it lust, therefore first springs from pleasant feeling. The contact that brings bodily and mental comfort and ease immediately leads on to hankering, attachment and lust. Therefore be aware whenever these have arisen in your mind.
That feeling which is intermediate --neither-painful-nor-pleasant (adukkha-m-asukha vedana)-- refers to the experiencing of whatever is already familiar. At the experience of something new, a pleasant feeling may arise, as when one acquires something one hankers for. However, after the initial excitement has faded, one may begin to feel quite indifferent towards it and this is neutral feeling. This feeling then shifts into the mind where it creates an attachment to that thing. Such attachment, developing from an initial excitement into an indifferent feeling, is really a type of deception because the object is still not released. This grasping, which is a stinginess and jealous guarding, makes that object impossible to relinquish. Even though the object no longer thrills and excites, it can still not be given up. It's like all those other things we own and have squirrelled away. This attachment is a form of deception. When it arises in your mind be aware that delusion (moha) is present.
Pleasant and painful feelings flash to and fro, inciting the springing forth of liking or disliking, but this intermediate feeling is discernible only if one carefully examines the underlying ground. One will then come to appreciate its great extent. The mind is, in fact, deceived and attached to many of these intermediate experiences which lack any of the flashing back and forth of pleasure-and-fondness and pain-and-dislike. See the truth of all of this in your own mind.
At the opposite pole also be aware when the mind is free and unstained by lust, hatred and deceiving attachment. When the mind cannot be established in the samadhi practice of mindfulness of breathing, this is because of its wandering out with liking, hating, and deceiving. It's therefore always necessary to keep a watch on your mind and to realize when it has wandered away. That awareness will allow the mind to return to calmness.
At this stage in your practice, discouragement or restless and fretful thoughts may arise. Be aware of such feelings and steadily lift the mind so that it brightens and takes heart. Otherwise realize that such dejection arises only because one has yet to receive the happiness resulting from tranquillity. Do not, therefore, give up on the practice. Do not indulge in those restless whirling thoughts, but use mindfulness to bring everything back.
On some occasions your mind may be expansive and broad. Be aware of it. Also be aware should the mind ever become narrow and cramped. The expansive mind has high spirits which must be moderated with mindfulness if they should go to excess. While if the mind becomes too narrow and cramped it will bring suffering so one must be careful not let this happen. A lot of happiness may make the mind over-expansive and too high spirited, whereas too little may make it narrow and cramped. Such extremes must therefore be avoided for the sake of what is just right and most suitable.
Sometimes the mind will feel unsurpassable --when, for example, one wants to work and practise as hard as possible-- whereas sometimes the mind appears clearly surpassable, even rather slack. This can lead to negligence. In these cases one must also adjust, make a give-and-take, so that they balance out just right. Do not think that you can be extra-superior, for you will thereby also become overhasty. Similarly, do not allow too much slackness and negligence. Carefully balance them together and as one's practice progresses then take it steadily, stage by stage.
Sometimes the mind will be steady and established, and at other times it will lack this quality. Be aware of this. The well-established mind is right and good, but you must examine to see the reason if it should waver and wander away. There must be something lacking, some omissions in your practice which stop it from stabilizing. You must find the causes and bring the mind back to stability.
Sometimes the mind is liberated, and at other times it is unliberated. At the mundane level this refers to releasing, letting go of something and achieving calm in one's practice. When the mind cannot pass beyond, it means one cannot relinquish, and the mind keeps returning to outside involvements, been concerned about one's work, for example. If you allow the mind to go on in this way, then your practice won't be productive. When sitting in practice you must therefore always succeed in your efforts to release yourself from those external entanglements and worries, and bring the mind back to calm. This can then be called the mind gone beyond. This state of mind free from external preoccupations will then smooth the way for your sitting practice. You must therefore maintain a constant vigilance concerning the state of your mind.
Understanding the way of practice expounded by the Lord Buddha means being aware of the body, being aware of feeling and being aware of the mind. Establish one of them --such as mindfulness of breathing--as a basis for the practice of samadhi. But for that practice to progress, an awareness of feeling and mind will also on occasion be required. You must be able to focus on feeling and the mind with its involvements in order to steady the mind and firmly establish it in the chosen object.
3rd September 2504 B.E. (1961)
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The Section on the Mental Objects (dhamma)
The Five Hindrances (Nivarana)
Our cultivation of the mind is aimed both at firmly establishing calm and
at developing the arising of true wisdom and insight. We depend on the practice
as laid down by the Lord Buddha which I have been explaining in stages.
We begin by developing calm and firmly establishing the mind. If you are happy with mindfulness of breathing then focus on the in-and-out breath, as I have already explained. While practising, you must also note feeling and mind because if the mind has not yet reached one-pointedness, the various sense-bases are still active. The ear hears sounds, the body receives the touch of objects and because the mind is still not firmly centred, mental objects will arise. The feelings which arise go immediately to the mind. Painful feeling will then bring disliking, pleasant feeling brings liking while intermediate feeling brings delusion and attachment. Constant mindfulness is needed to watch over all of this to make one's concentration firm and centred.
When your effort to help establish and centre the mind fails or else does not progress in developing samadhi, then you must see where the obstruction lies. The Lord Buddha called these obstacles the hindrances (nivarana). They bar the mind from samadhi and you should be aware of their features. There are five hindrances:
1. Sensual desire (kamacchanda): Satisfaction that external objects are worth desiring and wishing for. When such desire is present, it leads the mind out and prevents its concentrating, thereby thwarting samadhi.
2. Ill-will (byapada): Dislike for the practice or for external objects. When the mind is darkened by ill-will or dislike then it is a danger to samadhi.
3. Sloth and torpor (thina-middha): Drowsiness and discouragement which dull the mind and make the body sluggish and lethargic. When this hindrance arises it is a danger to samadhi.
4. Restlessness and worry (uddhaccakukkucca): Fretfulness and agitation concerning external objects or caused by rapture arising from the practice. This annoyance mixed with dislike makes one feel fretful and makes samadhi impossible.
5. Sceptical doubt (vicikiccha): Wavering and uncertainty concerning one's motivations for practising and concerning the method and fruits of practice. For example, one has misgivings about whether one should practise at all, or one questions why one is doing it, for what advantage. The danger to one's immediate practice is vacillation about which of the various methods I have explained should be taken up --from the section concerning the body, or feeling or mind? To be uncertain about choosing the right way displays a doubt about the way of practice. This makes the mind vacillate and samadhi becomes impossible. One may also be unsure about the benefits of practice or about whether certain things will appear. These anticipations and expectations about future results, or about seeing various things, are a danger to samadhi.
You must therefore look at your mind: What state is it in at this moment? Is the inclination (chanda) towards external things or is there already some towards the object of samadhi? If the inclination is still mostly towards the external, then there won't be any for the internal and samadhi will be difficult to achieve. One must therefore arrest such zeal for externals and endeavour instead towards the object of samadhi. It does not matter so much that zeal towards the samadhi-object has not yet arisen, for that will come of itself once some of the fruits of samadhi are gained.
Examine your mind for the darkness of dislike. Is it all caught up in those external objects which cause dislike? Is it starting to build up dislike towards the practice? If you indeed find that such is the case, then endeavour to restrain those disturbing objects and reject the dislike for the practice. The putting down of such dislike avoids the subsequent prejudice and bias to the point where you can experience the merits of samadhi when such dislike subsides. This is similar to disliking a person or thing because one has noticed only their faults and bad points. Whenever one manages to see their good qualities then that dislike will be stilled. Your reluctance and dislike for the practice will therefore disappear when you have actually experienced samadhi.
Now, when the impulse and aversion towards external objects subsides and reluctance about the samadhi object diminishes, the mind will come to calm. Another antagonist to that calm will then appear: drowsiness. The state of calm and this drowsiness are very similar. This becomes evident when one calms the mind --listening to a Dhamma talk, for instance-- and one also feels drowsy. The untrained mind is usually characterized by restlessness, or if it's not restless, it's drowsy. Thus there is a need to take great care that one doesn't doze-off, which would effectively extinguish any mindfulness. Mindfulness, recollection and awareness are always essential for the development of samadhi. As the samadhi becomes more refined, one's clear-comprehension and mindfulness must be clearer and more subtle. The greater clarity of one's awareness promotes an equally greater steadfastness of samadhi. The practice of samadhi does not therefore aim to obtain a sort of deadened-unconsciousness. The way to solve this problem of drowsiness is by realizing its causes. It arises because one has let mindfulness and awareness slip in trying to calm the mind. When going to sleep it is much the same: One lets go of awareness and, in turn, one falls asleep. In practice, therefore, mindfulness cannot be given up otherwise sleepiness will descend. You must fully deploy awareness and mindfulness, which will prevent such drowsiness from occurring.
As soon as you feel sleepy, use this method together with a fixing on the arising of bright light. This means that it is as bright as noon in the mind through the vividness and brilliance of awareness and mindfulness. The mind is radiant with full, clear comprehension and mindfulness. There can be no dimming of this --as if one were trimming down a lantern's flame-- because that can lead only to sleep.
Also, do not allow any wild and unsettling thoughts concerning the way of practice because this will abort any development of samadhi. Be sure to focus on the meditation object. If you decide on mindfulness of breathing, then concentrate fully there. However, also be aware of the ways of feeling and mind, as I have already explained. This allows you to correct anything that might spoil the samadhi and also avoids any oppression of the mind. In mindfulness of breathing this will stop any irregularity which would cause restlessness or irritation. If you give free rein for the mind to enjoy the rapture and happiness of the early fruits of samadhi, then that excitement will lead to restlessness. Such restless and proliferating thoughts need to be constantly guarded against, as I have mentioned before.
Sceptical doubt and conjecture also need putting down. Be clear and certain in your practice without speculating on any future effects, or thinking, "What will I see? What will appear? What will it be?" Aim only to establish the mind firmly in the object of samadhi, with awareness and mindfulness full and clear. The more refined the samadhi becomes, the more sophisticated and comprehensive the mindfulness and awareness must be.
By getting to know the features and characteristics of these hindrances which bar the mind from samadhi you can prevent their occurrence. If they have already arisen, you must endeavour to wipe them out. The effort to prevent and eliminate these hindrances is what leads to progress and success in your samadhi practice.
4th September 2504 B.E. (1961)