Category Archives: Book1

Meditation & Enlightenment

Buddha achieved enlightenment in a very short time once he started to practice mindfulness meditation.

1The words the Buddha uttered involuntarily at this time are recorded variously in the Buddhist scriptures. According to the Kegon sutra, at the moment of enlightenment he spontaneously cried out: “Wonder of wonders! Intrinsically all living beings are Buddhas, endowed with wisdom and virtue, but because men’s minds have become inverted through delusive thinking they fail to perceive this.”

The original word for enlightened is Bodhi, which means “awakened”. Zen Buddhism2 uses the word satori to describe Buddha’s enlightenment as “Self-realization, opening the Mind’s eye, awakening to one’s True-nature and hence of the nature of all existence.” 

This provides a scientific definition of enlightenment as follows.

Enlightenment is the direct awareness of the laws underlying our spiritual nature.

Oxford dictionaries, however, define enlightenment as “The action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight, in particular (in Buddhism) that awareness which frees a person from the cycle of rebirth.” This definition imparts a sense of mystery.

Enlightenment is not some vague spiritual awareness. Linking it to some mysterious cycle of rebirth does not explain it. Instead, enlightenment is the understanding of the laws that underlie our spiritual nature. These laws determine wisdom and virtue. They also explain how our minds become inverted and deluded.

A human being, whether clever or stupid, male or female, ugly or beautiful, is capable of being awakened to the laws of spiritual nature. There is no other perfection than this state of being awakened. This is the enlightenment that Buddha sought and attained. You, therefore, meditate until you directly perceive the laws underlying your spiritual nature.

When you practice meditation its immediate effect is to reduce the turbulence in your mind so you are more aware. The following chapters guide you step by step on the path to enlightenment through mindfulness meditation.

1Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, Chapter I, Lecture 1 “Theory and Practice of Zazen”
2Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, Chapter X, Definition of satori

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Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

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Introduction to Meditation

Twenty-six hundred years ago Buddha launched a grass-root movement of spiritual awakening, which was so successful that it civilized three-quarters of the world. The essence underlying that movement was mindfulness.

Buddha describes mindfulness in Bahiya1 sutra as, “In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought.” 

We may express this description in modern language as follows.

Mindfulness is being there with total attention, and seeing things as they are.

For Buddha, mindfulness was the path to spiritual awakening. An awakened mind not only overcomes the vagaries of life but it also makes it possible for a person to evolve to higher states. This path to spiritual awakening starts with meditation. Meditation is the time set aside when one dedicatedly applies mindfulness to resolve the unsettling thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding one’s mind.

Meditation is the dedicated application of mindfulness to resolve the thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding your mind.

The resolution comes about when you are being there with total attention, and perceiving your thoughts, feelings and sensations just as they are. Mindfulness sets up an attentive and relaxed environment because you do not interfere. In fact, you do nothing else but perceive. The mind then starts to relax and unwind. Experiences that have been suppressed for some time start to release The released data then helps to resolve the thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding the mind.

But many misconceptions exist about mindfulness meditation. On the website Qura.com2 the following popular explanation is provided, “Mindfulness meditation is a period of time allocated purely to being mindful and still. You practice what you want to do daily in every moment – having focused attention, being aware of thoughts and feelings tugging at you, and train yourself to bring yourself back to your meditation over and over again.”

But if you are forcing your attention back from these thoughts, and not letting them resolve, then those thoughts will continue to distract your attention. You will end up training your mind to deny, avoid, resist or suppress those thoughts. Such outcome is harmful being the opposite of what the mindfulness meditation is designed to accomplish. Buddha’s words above simply ask one to perceive, and not do anything else but perceive.

When you look up the general description of meditation, the dictionaries provide synonyms, such as, concentration, contemplation and reflection. Wikipedia3 describes meditation as “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.”

But all these things are doing something in addition to perceiving. That is not mindfulness meditation.

The whole idea in mindfulness is to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

This means that you do not focus your attention on some object, thought, or activity. You do not concentrate, contemplate or reflect. Let the mind do what it may. You are required only to be there and perceive. This is a very subtle point, but understanding it makes all the difference in the world.

As you meditate, you start to see through the mind’s obfuscation. You begin to recognize the things that have always been there in plain sight. You start to get realizations. This is exactly what happens when scientists make fundamental discoveries.

So, what do these realizations in mindfulness meditation ultimately lead you to? This is the subject of the next chapter.

1Udāna 1.10; Bāhiyasuttaṃ 10
2See the question “What is mindfulness meditation? On Quora.com.
3See the Wikipedia article on Meditation.

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Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

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Preface

I recently accompanied my wife to a Yoga center in Ocala, Florida, where I chanced upon a book, The Surrender Experiment, by Michael A. Singer. This book is about the author’s journey into life’s perfection through the practice of meditation. He desperately wanted to get rid of the voice that chatted incessantly inside his head.

I was fascinated by how this author was able to establish himself into deep meditation quickly and comfortably. He had no teacher. He had only the book, Three Pillars of Zen, by Philip Kapleau to guide him. This book answered his real questions, like “Who am I that watches that voice talk?” It guided him simply to sit down in a quiet spot, watch his breath go in and out, and mentally repeat the sound Mu with his focus centered below his belly button. This simple formula worked like a charm.

This surprised me because not many people get such results so quickly in meditation. Even the book, Three Pillars of Zen, describes the practice of meditation in monasteries to be arduous, and monks taking years to reach enlightenment. An instance of a person making rapid progress through meditation is unheard of. I was curious to know about the example that Buddha set.

Buddha left home in search of self-realization when he was twenty-nine. By the time he attained enlightenment he was thirty-five. It may seem that it took him six years to attain enlightenment, but Buddha spent most of those years practicing asceticism, which almost killed him. Once Buddha realized the middle way of mindfulness (seeing things as they are), he abandoned asceticism. It was then a matter of months before he attained enlightenment.

This book is written on the premise that when meditation is practiced correctly, it takes months, and not years, to reach enlightenment.

This book therefore focuses first on defining the terms meditation and enlightenment so they are understood correctly. Second, it provides a number of simple exercises that guide one smoothly through the gradients of meditation.

Many of us have dreamed of a grass-root movement of spiritual awakening spreading throughout the world like wild fire. May this book provide the spark, which makes this dream become a reality.

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Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

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Being Comfortably There

Comfortable

Reference: Mindfulness Meditation

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EXERCISE MM 5:

Being comfortably there.

PURPOSE:

To train the student to BE there comfortably in the presence of another person. The idea is to get the student to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

PRE-REQUISITES:

The student must have completed Exercise MM 4: Relief from Guilt

The student must have read and understood: Be a Friend

INSTRUCTIONS:

You sit with a fellow student a comfortable distance apart facing each other with eyes closed. There is no conversation. This is a silent drill. (Note: The fellow student may be different for different sessions).

Both must establish themselves in mindfulness meditation with the awareness that another is sitting in front of you. Comfortably perceive whatever is presented by your environment and the mind. Hold still, watching the flow of your breath, not attaching yourself to passing attitudes, emotions, sensations and pains, and see what happens.

Do this with eyes closed for the first half of the session. In the second half of the session, the students sit and look at each other and say and do nothing. (Note: You may set up an alarm when to switch.) Students must not speak, blink, fidget, giggle or be embarrassed or go unconscious. They must not use a body part or some system to confront. There should be no apologizing or moving or being startled or embarrassed or defending self. They should just BE there and PERCEIVE.

Many reactions may occur, but they all disappear as one perseveres with this exercise.

Each session may be 20 to 30 minute long; but a session can be as long as two hours. You may continue with this exercise over several sessions until you reach the end of this exercise.

END OF THE EXERCISE:

When the students can BE there comfortably and PERCEIVE and have reached a major stable win, the exercise is passed.

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The Comfort of Friendship

Friend

Reference: Mindfulness Meditation

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As a person handles his feelings of guilt he starts to become his own friend. He can now see more of his natural self. His defensive façade starts to melt away. His level of affinity comes up, and he starts to feel differently about others. He wants to go out and talk to other people. But there could be a feeling of shyness. He may still hold himself back because he does not feel comfortable in the presence of others.

However, the truth is that we are not very different from each other. As you learn more about yourself, you are actually learning more about others at the same time. Others have the same curiosities, urges, fears, anxieties, aches and pains as you have. They may have somewhat different experiences and reactions, but, at the core, others are not very different from you.

Shyness is a general reaction you may feel in the presence of others. When you meet a stranger or somebody familiar, other reaction may arise. It is simply a matter of facing and letting go of a new level of reactions.

As you get rid of more reactions, you come to learn more about yourself; and in doing so, you come to learn more about others. Finally you can simply be there and comfortably perceive no matter whom you meet. At this point you have become more yourself.

You have also become a friend to others; because a friend is one who can calmly listen and assist.

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