Introduction to Meditation

Rishi Offering Instructions

The pur­pose of med­i­ta­tion (of devel­op­ing con­cen­tra­tion—samād­hi) is to fos­ter tran­quil­li­ty and calm—to not be agi­tat­ed by unpleas­ant sense impres­sions. Also impor­tant is the inten­tion to escape from the ‘states of woe’ (apāya-bhū­mi): to not be born as a hell-being, a ghost, a demon (asura), or an ani­mal. If one must be reborn then one should aim to be reborn as a human being with the fol­low­ing qualities:

  1. To have a fair phys­i­cal appear­ance; to not be oppressed by ill­ness; to not die prematurely.
  2. To be well-endowed with wealth; to not lose one’s wealth to fire, thieves, floods, or tempests.
  3. To have depen­dents who are obe­di­ent and not stub­born, who would oth­er­wise cre­ate hard­ship and cause one to lose one’s wealth and reputation.
  4. To have pleas­ing speech; to give sat­is­fac­tion to oth­ers through one’s speech.
  5. To not have ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders: exces­sive headaches, men­tal dis­or­ders, or dementia.

The advan­ta­geous and desir­able mind state gen­er­at­ed by med­i­ta­tion is ease—an absence of stress. An ease­ful, peace­ful mind state is not a state of extinc­tion in which one is not aware of any­thing. It is an ordi­nary mind state—there still exists ordi­nary feel­ings and sensations.

To begin med­i­ta­tion is easy; it does not require a lot of cer­e­mo­ny. One may wish to pay respects to a Bud­dha image with can­dles and incense. One can wear what­ev­er cloth­ing is convenient—one need not dress in white clothes, because what one wears is not impor­tant. The impor­tance rests with the mind—to man­age or gov­ern the mind in a sat­is­fac­to­ry way.

Buddhist Monk in Prayer

If one med­i­tates at home, one can sit in what­ev­er way is com­fort­able: cross-legged, with legs fold­ed back to one side, or in a chair. If one prefers to walk, stand, or lie down, that is also acceptable.

After one has payed respects to the Bud­dha image, one begins to focus on the in and out breath­ing. To focus here means to be aware of the in-breath and to be aware of the out-breath. One can even take note of whether the in- and out-breath is shal­low or long. A moment of aware­ness of the breath­ing, when the mind is not engaged with any intrud­ing thoughts, is already con­cen­tra­tion. To sus­tain a focused aware­ness on the breath­ing dur­ing which time oth­er sense impres­sions, espe­cial­ly thoughts, do not interfere—however long or short this focus may be—is already called samād­hi.

Gen­er­al­ly in med­i­ta­tion peo­ple use a mantra or accom­pa­ny­ing word or phrase. On this mat­ter of a mantra, I don’t set down any restric­tions, because peo­ple have dif­fer­ent dis­po­si­tions. Some peo­ple like to use a short phrase, oth­ers pre­fer a long phrase—whatever is agree­able is okay. I sug­gest the sim­ple mantra of ‘Bud­dho.’ It is a short and sim­ple mantra suit­able to begin­ning prac­ti­tion­ers. It is pow­er­ful and aus­pi­cious because it is the name of the Bud­dha. In the sto­ry of the deity Maṭṭhakuṇḍalī, the Bud­dha said that the sim­ple rec­ol­lec­tion of the Buddha’s name can lead to rebirth in heaven—it is not nec­es­sary to chant the names of hun­dreds or thou­sands of Buddhas.

Ajahn Reusee Ling Dam (‘The Black Mon­key Sage’)—Phra Rājabrahmayāna

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