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Buddhist Treasures

The Tree of Wisdom The River of No Return

  • Author : Bhante Sujiva
  • Publisher : Sukhi Hotu Sdn Bhd
  • Number of Page : 429
  • ISBN : 983-9382-47-1
  • Edition : 2009

Table of Contents

 
PREFACE
Part I  GROUND ZERO
Obscure Origins  
What is Insight Meditation?
Basic Requirements
Five Factors of Striving
Mindfulness
Satipatthana Mindfulness
The Process of Mindfulness
Concentration and Mindfulness
 
Part II THE SATIPATTHANAVIPASSANA METHOD
The Satipatthana Sutta
Chapter 1  Mindfulness of Body - Establishing Stability
Chapter 2  Mindfulness of Feelings — Crossing the Ocean
Chapter 3  Mindfulness of Consiousness
Chapter 4  Mindfulness of Phenomena
 
Part III  FUNCTIONAL VIPASSANA
Chapter 1  Clearing
Chapter 2  Strengthening Concentration
Chapter 3  Balancing of the Controlling Faculties
Chapter 4  Sharpening of Faculties
Chapter 5  Wisdom/Understanding
Chapter 6  Nibbana
Chapter 7  Purification and transformation
 
Part IV AUXILLIARY MATTERS
Chapter 1  Helpful tranquility exercises
Chapter 2 Meditation and Problems
Chapter 3  Practice of Mindfulness in Daily Life
 
Part V CONCLUSION
Spreading the Light
Spreading the Way
 

Selected Readings

 
PART I GROUND ZERO
 
OBSCURE ORIGINS
 
Just exactly when and how did I begin to practice meditation? Frankly, I do not know. The past is far too blurred for me to be precise. Maybe it was those Lobsang Rampa books that stimulated my interest enough for me in try out something like meditation. This later led me to search for a meditation master which brought encounters and experiences I would rather forget but cannot. Finally, I ran into a Chinese monk whom I later discovered was a genuine Chan Master. Through him I can safely say I had some genuine spiritual (Vipassana) experiences, although there was the need for clearer understanding on how I got there if the practice was to be stable and progressive. Fortunately, I then proceeded to discover the Theravadin Vipassana approach ― the Burmese Satipatthana method as taught by Mahasi Sayadaw. This provided a more rational structure I was used to, having undergone British education that emphasizes on reason and rationality From then on, the path was clear.
 
As I am not writing an autobiography, it is not necessary to go into the details of how I took up meditation. I only want to show that for many like me, the initial phase was a rumble and stumble. Maybe there was a little more of choice than chance but just a little more. A more meaningful question is, “WHY did I take up the practice?”
 
The question takes a step back from the actual issue of meditation. It concerns the grounds of faith, which has been compared to the seed of spiritual life. This question will also lead to the consideration of past lives which can be used to explain why things happen as they do. But to avoid unnecessary arguments and skepticism, I will just limit the discussion to the present existence which, by itself, often lacks clarity
In the recollection of my earliest childhood, I cannot think of anything spiritual or remarkable associated with meditation. Even from what my mother told me, it sounded very ordinary. For example, she had a craving for pineapples when she was expecting me, and pineapples, I assure you, are not my favourite fruit. Another thing that she said was that I often slept halfway when breast fed. Sorry, no lotuses blossoming under my feet, no stars overhead that lead a magi. If there was anything spiritual, it was put into me by my dear mother in accordance with Chinese moral standards and customs.
Why I took to Buddhism was purely because I was born into a Buddhist family. Therefore, I thought that I might as well know what Buddhism was all about. From the little I could get hold of, it sounded good. Therefore, I can “conclude” that I belong more to the category of people who use reasoning as a vehicle for the awakening of faith in Buddhism, which is more often the case of people in non-Buddhist countries for the Buddhist faith. In Buddhist countries, it can be quite the reverse.
Here is where it begins (I suppose) - reason/understanding and faith. The former can also be called Right View; the second is one’s inborn inclination to goodness and purity. These two work as forerunners of that long process of search and cultivation. They are also called spiritual faculties, which have to be balanced for them to function effectively. Too much faith leads to gullibility; excessive reasoning to skepticism. Some common sense (which I call mindfulness and clear comprehension) help to keep the faculties in balance. But the beginner is usually not clear how to do this even when told, so maybe it is best to be practical, to work on the practices that nurture these two mental qualities - wisdom and faith, hand in hand.
 
WHAT IS INSIGHT MEDITATION?
 
There are two words here - insight and meditation. First, let us consider “meditation”. The Pali word for it is “bhavana”, which literally means “cultivation” with reference to the mind. Generally, the word “meditation” refers to contemplative practices, once linked closely to religion and spirituality, but now it includes many self-improvement techniques.
In Buddhism, especially in the Theravadin School, “insight” refers to direct experiential knowledge of reality. Insight is differentiated from knowledge that involves thinking and conceptualization. The emphasis is on insight because it is through this means that the Truth can be realized. It is the realization that radically removes defilements and puts an end to suffering, or expressed positively it brings eternal peace.
Hence, the practice of Insight Meditation is a practice that traced back to what was taught by Siddhartha Gotama, and passed down through the centuries by his disciples. It is a mental process where mindfulness is cultivated, concentrated and sharpened into penetrative, purifying insight. Often, tranquility meditation is also used to support this practice. Tranquility meditations, which use concepts as their objects of concentration form a stable, pure base for insight to work from. The objects for Insight meditation, on the other hand, are mind/body processes which can be observed directly, and experienced as a flow of nature, embodied with the three universal characteristics, i.e., impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self.
 Centuries after the Parinibbana (passing away) of the Buddha, his disciples spread far and wide. Different views and interpretations emerged, giving rise to different schools and multiplicity of methods. Even within one school, the methods, approaches and attitudes vary with individual teachers. But truth is always the same no matter the time, place or person, and this serves as the criteria of which methods and approaches are based.
One way of finding out what was the method taught by the Buddha is to try to trace back to his original instructions. Theoretically, this would lead us to the earliest recorded scriptures that began as an oral transmission. Commentaries and sub-commentaries were written later to expand on the early teachings and stem down deviations and misinterpretations.
A diagram to represent this will be:
Buddha’s-instructions
oral
disciples
oral
{ later disciples - scriptures and commentaries
possible mistakes{
{ recent disciples - recent works
 
The later disciples broke up into schools. Generally, there is the conservative Theravadin School that preserved the earlier form and the progressive Mahayanists which include Vajrayana and are more flexible in their approach. Therefore, there is one conservative school which preserves orthodoxy, whilst the other later schools are expansive but may deviate from the original forms.
The methods of practice also reflect this development. The Theravadin School remains loyal to original instructions, down to the word, and so may be limiting. The Mahayana School gives more room for more creativity and expansion, but if not careful, one can end up deviating from the truth.
This book reflects the first form but with less emphasis on the word-for-word instructions. The emphasis is more on the essence and principles of original teachings, while giving more room for creativity and expansion.
Another way as viewed by the practitioner is one that is based on Truth or Reality. The key, however, will depend on how well one knows Reality If one does, then it is clear which methods enable one to reach it and which methods do not. It is as if you are in Rome, and you know which roads will bring you there if you come from elsewhere.
 
Other Relevant Methods Suited to Individuals – e.g. Samatha Base
↘ Coercive Methods – Vipassana Methods 
   Methods directly pointing to the core  
                 
True Nibbana
 
One can assume that the further we work away from a truth, the less relevant are the methods. In the diagram below, B methods are closest to the truth because they are spoken from the direct experience of A, the truth, and they point directly to it. C methods are most relevant to those who have no direct experience from A and so, one has to work towards eliminating what is not connected with the truth. D are methods which are usually considered to lie outside the practices that can or may lead to A. But some of the D methods enable individuals of certain temperaments to slip into C. Samatha methods can fall under this category because some (the meditation objects, e.g. Death) deal with impermanence, etc which are central to vipassana practice.
 
 
D) Other methods suited to Individuals, can be conceptual e.g. Samatha methods that lead spontaneously to insight
C) Coercive proximity as in methods used in Vipassana methods
B) Directly pointing – pin point method
A) Truth
 
 
In this book, all B, C and D are included. B is referred to as the pin-point method. C falls neatly into Vipassana methods. In D are the Samatha methods that support the direct Vipassana methods and therefore, can be turned into C or B methods. How this happens can be explained.
There is also a third phase of the instructions. There are more advanced methods meant for one who has come to true realization. These instructions would not make sense if one has not reached that level and may seem contradictory. The methods work from the center to transform all the way to the conventional world. I would call it the YYG Transformation Method.
 
 
 
↘↖    Illusions Fantasies  ↗↙
↘↖ Conventional Realities ↗↙
↘↖ Ultimate Realities ↗↙
Truth

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