Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Basis of Buddhist Practice by Ajahn Pannavaddho (Part 2)

Continue from The Basis of Buddhist Practice Part 1:

Q: Can I ask you a question on wisdom. It is possible for a layman to develop the calm that will produce the wisdom. Such as a monk is able to do it?
A: Yeah, you can do that. You must not make such distinction between monk and layperson. I mean, here we’ve got human beings and they take on different modes of life and different rules and so on. Now, the mode of life is important though it makes it more easier to do it as a monk. Cause the monk haven’t got the restless activity that the average layperson does. We don’t.

And as monks, we don’t have to go catching train or buses, driving cars here and there, go shopping, fighting one’s way down the street through crowds of people and all the rest of it. We don’t have to do this. And because we don’t have to do this, the environment we’re in is natural, more calm so it’s much easier to cool off and getting into oneself. Whereas the layperson has more difficulty in that way.

I’ll can put it roughly like this I would say: the layperson is not one person. It is whole range. And they are those laypeople who can end up develop calm and concentration and they can develop wisdom while living their lay life. But there are few and far between. They are some, not many. They are other laypeople and try as they will, never do it because they’re too involved in the world and the world takes over them and they can’t stop themselves. They can’t control themselves. But between that, there are people who can develop but much more slowly as layperson. The layperson tries to really see the way and to cure oneself- is not easy. The world takes all- the world crams everything into the person. It takes their body, their interest, their mind and their heart and really, they’ve got nothing left.

Q: You mentioned before for layman there are 5 precepts to practice. And do you have any suggestion for meditation practice for layman who is involved in the world and want to calm his mind, and be able to better live in the world and at the same time develop himself as a Buddhist?

A: Yeah, but the first thing is that they should realize is the importance of morality. This is very first thing because without that, meditation practice is likely to go wrong. They may get results from it but the results wouldn’t be the rightful ones.
So there must be some basis in morality. To think that can do meditation, some people teach that way to do medication without having morality and morality does not matter. This is really nonsense.
Coz they have not understood morality or what it means. You got to have the basis in morality. At least one should practising moral way of life. Even if one have been bad in the past in that direction, what one does in the past does not suddenly disappear, it may take a long time before the effects of what one have done wears off. But you got to be at least have to be practicing the moral way of life in the present. Now with that as the basis, anyone can do techniques for developing calm.
Probably the best one for most people in the West to just sit down quietly.
One does not have to sit cross legged, just comfortably is the best way. Sit in a chair. Should’nt be too comfortable or too soft chairs that incline one to go to sleep. It’s best to sit somewhere upright without being too tensed.

And then one puts one’s attention one one’s breathing. Now putting attention on one’s breathing does not mean one tries to breathe more deeply or to modify it. We don’t. Just watch it. By watching it, it is really more feeling. Feeling it going in and out. Normally the nostrils, at the tip of the nostrils or anywhere at the nostrils you can use. One should put one’s attention on where one feels most strongly. And then you just keep your attention on the breath. Next thing you go in and out, in and out. Try to keep your attention just on that.

First thing that people find is that their attention remains on it, for about maybe half a minute if they can concentrate well. Mostly about 15 seconds and their mind jumps away sometime. And it can be 10, 20 minutes before they realize they are doing sitting meditation. They don’t bring it back. Now the thing lacking here is what we call mindfulness. Mindfulness means keeping one’s mind the present. It means what I like to call presence of mind. It doesn’t go daydreaming, wondering, thinking about this, thinking about that or all over the place all over the time. One keeps one’s mind right here and now. One keeps it in the meditation practice on the breath. The breath is an anchor. Don’t think there is anything special with the breath here. Breath is merely a device, it is mainly just a convenient way to put and hold your attention there. Later as the meditation progress, and develops, the breathing can be dropped. It is usually quite a long time before that happens.

The thing is some people may find with this meditation practice, they gets results quite quickly. Most people, it’s a hard slough for quite a long time. There are some who gets results quite quickly and they find they get absorbed and often they see things, images, maybe hear sounds. All sorts of things can happen. Now if the person is such a type and they see things coming up, then they should see all these things are distraction. It maybe very intriguing to try and follow these things- if you see images of streets or houses or people or things like that. This is what one seen in a day and they’re coming up in one’s mind. Then again, it is possible that some people may see things more deep. They may see things like the gods or the angels, that sort. It is possible. But to begin with, one must not have anything to do with any of them. These are realms in which the person can go into once they have skills, once they know what they are doing, once their minds is really strong. But until it is strong, it mustn’t go playing in that field. It is dangerous. But provided they keep on to the breathing or they keep within their own body, keep the attention to the body, the meditation practice is quite safe. Danger can come if they let their mind go wondering outside when one becomes concentrated. They can be danger in this but if you keep it inside, there is no danger.

Q: Can I ask a question about a layperson who is involved in the world and his mind is very active and thinking about different things, worrying about things and planning things, how this person might cut that off, let go of that and relax without being preoccupied with that once it is down at meditation?

A: It is very difficult because when you started the flywheel there, don’t expect it to stop. It goes on. I mean it is like that for the world, it does not happen to stop. It goes on. And because of that, it is only by training that one can learn to drop it. I mean, there are methods of dropping – I can tell you that it will not be much useful because a person who have not trained themselves in this way can’t really do it. And one way is to stop words. Most one’s thinking is kept going by words. That says all dialogues, speech going on the whole time. One way is to block the words but I mean unless one had trained oneself to do it, most people can’t do it. If you block those words, and thoughts they will die away suddenly. If you keep them blocked, they’ll die down, calm down, calm down, calm down. This is one way.

The other way is to put one’s attention firmly on the breathing. This is probably the best way for most people. And if they do that, they will find that the breath becomes more like a friend. Anytime they do that, if they are not doing anything in particular like waiting for the train or whatever they wait for, then they put their attention on the breath and they can calm down. And they find that very beneficial. They find it helps them a great deal.

But whatever one does, whatever method one tries or uses to try to overcome these thoughts, you mustn’t think it is easy. It doesn’t. Controlling the mind is very difficult. But the more one trains oneself, the more one learns mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches presences of mind, keeping oneself in the present, not allowing the mind to go wondering away. This is the real thing. And generally speaking people get no success in meditation practice simply because there isn’t not enough mindfulness. That’s the thing that is lacking in everything.

(to be continued............)

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