Bhante Vimalaramsi wrote:
Dhamma Greetings all,
Here are some definitions for commonly used words.
Hope you find them useful. This is from some of KK's notes.
If you are examining this information, just for
today, pretend you don’t know what these words mean and just for
now, try to create a beginner’s mind, start at the beginning and
consider these definitions as the proper "working definitions" as
you approach the subject of meditation. Later when reading the
suttas you will be amazed at the clearer understanding you have and
the difference you will experience.
This request is set forth here because it appears
that one of the major set-backs in making significant progress today
for meditators has been the wishy-washy definitions that have been
given for the primary words needed to practice and understand the
meditation properly. Much of this has been caused by the inadequacy
of presentations given with English as a second language. It is the
state of things at this time.
Take a look:
It helps to have a clear working definition of Meditation to start
out with so you understand what you are going to do, how to do it
and why are going to go to do it? These definitions are really good
working definitions to memorize and keep with you as you go on your
Meditation (bhāvanā) is "watching how
mind’s attention moves (anicca) moment-to-moment in order to see
clearly the Four Noble Truths and the true nature of HOW the pattern
of Dependent Origination occurs."
After reading books upon books on meditation and never finding out
what mindfulness is, or what the student is supposed to "remember"
it should be very evident to every teacher that a workable
definition is very badly needed. This definition came into being,
after several years of practicing and refining it to have the fewest
words possible and being able to apply it to the most situations
across the board. It works in the meditation wherever you apply it.
Mindfulness (Sati) is "the act of
remembering to recognize and release any distraction that pulls
one’s attention away from the meditation object."
The trick here is to keep mindfulness going ALL
THE TIME. With this definition, when a person says to you, "are you
being mindful?" this means "are you watching where mind’s attention
is and what it is doing?" One then stops and checks and releases
whatever is arising, relaxes all tension, and then returns to the
object of meditation.
COLLECTEDNESS VS CONCENTRATION:
COLLECTEDNESS (Samādhi) describes the quality of observation
while observing the movements of mind’s attention.
This is not the same as Concentration. To use the word
concentration, here in the West, has led to headaches, tinnitus, and
vertigo problems amongst practitioners who get into too deep of a
level of concentration. It should be noted that this kind of
one-pointed concentration was abandoned by the Buddha with his
earlier teachers. In the west we grow up concentrating very hard and
we are goal oriented and pretty serious. To tell us to
concentrate brings on a hardened approach that does not lead to
happiness and tranquility or to the results we seek. Instead
it narrows and sometimes hardens the mind to the extent we can’t
consider other alternatives anymore. Thus we continue to struggle
for years upon end for we know not what.
Some teachers have backed off and tried saying "unified mind" to
ease up a little. But the idea of a "collected mind" (Samādhi) works
very well to reach the level we need for the observation we are
going to do.
CRAVING (Taṇhā) and CLINGING (Upādāna)
There is a very important difference in Craving and Clinging. One of
the most dangerous things to have happened today was introducing the
word "grasping" which so many people have come to use in place of
"craving and clinging". This is not good practice because it cheats
the student out of an opportunity to investigate specifically the
difference in these two links for themselves.
CRAVING (Taṇhā) manifests as a slight tension and tightness in
mind and in body as a Feeling is arising and moving into the
craving link. ( usually indicated on the sides of the head or at
the base of the skull in the back)
At this point, Craving manifests as the
"I like it" or the "I don’t like it" mind. Of course this is
equivalent to the "I want it" or attachment and tension of pulling
to you; OR it can be equivalent to the "I don’t want it" and
aversion and tension of pushing away. On either side of the coin,
the tension is equal and needs to be released.
CLINGING (Upādāna) on the other hand is conditioned by that link we
just called Craving. Immediately following this action, clinging is
the rising up in mind of the "story of WHY I do or do not like it",
whatever has just arisen.
CLINGING (Upādāna) is the chatter that follows craving as one
gets involved with this story about why you like or dislike what has
arise and the thoughts stream out from there.
Most important to understand is that within CRAVING link is where
"personality first appears as I! " Atta or (idea of a self). It
is here that the idea of a self raises its head and gets involved.
To put the two links of Craving and Clinging together was never
intended by the Buddha and it takes away the opportunity for the
student to sort this out as their sensitivity develops properly and
their awareness sharpens during the meditation so they can actually
observe these links happening through noticing subtle tensions
As we all know the Buddha said that CRAVING is at the root of
suffering. It’s the weak link in the cycle. If one can RELEASE
whatever is arising when just beginning to identify this point of
craving, then one can experience a brief cessation of suffering as
the tension falls away. However you must remember that if one stops
the chatter of CLINGING, one has not reached the summit but rather a
false peak! Do not be deceived. One has NOT abandoned the
CRAVING. It is "with craving as condition, clinging arises."
This is key to understand. For this reason, it’s important to keep
the two links as they are taught in the texts; clearly "two"
separate links, and go on with the training.
So to summarize this:
CRAVING (Taṇhā) manifests as tightness and tension in mind and
body as it arises.
Craving is where Personality first arises with "I" like it, or, "I"
don’t like it" labeling a feeling that arises.
CLINGING (Upādāna)- is the run- on story that comes up for
the student in their mind about "Why" they like or dislike whatever
SAMATHA (SERENITY) and VIPASSANᾹ
What needs to be said about these two is brief. In the suttas these
two were NEVER separated into two meditations. There are many
examples of early followers in the suttas doing a meditation where
they are in the jhanas while fully aware. It is very clear that
Serenity and Insight occur together here. (see MN-111) This was
unique to Buddhist meditation.
SAMATHA and VIPASSANᾹ were yoked together.
Since it was presented so widely, I decided to give the position of
"separation of these two" a fair chance to prove itself out in the
suttas. Checking out the two topics throughout the index of the
entire Majjhima Nikaya it was found that the same pages and sections
were cited for both topics and In all instances they appeared as
"SERENITY AND INSIGHT" within the texts! Neither appeared alone,
ever! So to follow the instructions in the suttas for the
meditation it is logical to assume that the practice was done in
this way: with serenity and insight yoked together. By doing this
the experience begins to deepen and to make total sense in
conjunction with other sutta materials.
SAMᾹDHI – In the dictionary by Rhys
Davies, he notes something about this word; he tells us that the
word Samadhi was never used before the time of the Buddha and that
the Buddha made this word up to talk about this particular kind of
meditation that he discovered.
The Buddha used this word to mean Tranquil or Quiet Wisdom and when
we use this definition while reading the texts, they become clear.
JHᾹNA - The word jhāna means "level
of understanding". Jhana was not indicated as being a separate
practice of meditation but rather occurred within the regularly
taught meditation if the instructions within the suttas were
followed precisely. The states we reach while passing through
various jhanas are not equivalent to the attainment of Nibbana as
assumed and advertised by some people today.
There are two forms of jhāna and it helps to understand them
clearly. The form the Buddha was practicing was a
Serenity-Insight (Samatha-Vipassanā) meditation with full Awareness
or (Sampajjana). The other form of jhana was a one-pointed
form of concentration that leads to absorption without full
awareness, where the deeper insights cannot take place clearly.
The absorption type was what he experienced with his two teachers
previous to his enlightenment and which he laid aside.
Today there is a lot of absorption type meditation being taught with
a division of Serenity and Insight and people are getting frustrated
about their progress. Following many, many years of practice, people
are not experiencing what is written about in the texts. But with a
slight tweak in understanding, adding back a few ingredients to the
recipe, a little different approach, and a little determination, all
of their training and discipline can pay off as they begin to
experience these deeper states with a clear awareness.
SAMPAJAÑÑA – Full Awareness. This was
the nature of the Buddha’s meditation practice while in sitting
meditation, while in walking meditation, and all the time. Full
awareness of what? Full awareness of the movements of mind’s
NIRODHA- CESSATION- Nibbāna. Everyone
agrees that the practice is about the cessation of suffering.
The question arises, the cessation of what? Suffering has its root
in Craving. Craving manifests as "tension and tightness" explained
above under the definition of Craving. Tension is the ‘cause’ of the
‘condition’ of Stress. Stress is today being identified as the
‘cause’ of both mental and physical dis-eases. The dis-ease is seen
during the meditation and is noted, ` up close, as the tension which
actually is the contraction of muscles in the brain, face, body as
the craving arises. RELEASING any arising feeling and RELAXING all
tension and tightness lets go of this contraction.
It has been said by some teachers that Nibbana, by definition, is
"the absence of all movement of mind". This fits in because
‘movement is also the contraction of the muscles within the brain’.
By ceasing this movement, one reaches a momentary cessation.
There are 2 kinds of Cessation. Momentary cessation is known to be
the Mundane Nibbāna and Super-Mundane Nibbāna which is much bigger
and lasts longer which is a part of our final goal.
The Mundane Nibbāna can happen often for us to observe during our
practice and we can see it if we understand what to look for.
The Super-Mundane Nibbāna occurs following Nirodha Samāpatti
(cessation of perception and feeling) and lasts a bit longer. It’s
the one we have all heard about before.
The gist of this is that Mundane
Cessations occur at the point where the meditator RECOGNIZES arising
phenomena; RELEASES whatever is arising and RELAXES (tranquilizes)
all excess tension and tightness in body and mind. At that moment,
between RELAXING and as they are RETURNING mind’s attention over to
the object of meditation, there is a point of what has been called
Pure Mind, absolutely clear mind or Still-Point. This is only a
momentary cessation! It’s real! It can be observed! This is the
mundane Nibbāna. To see this brings real confidence to the
practitioner concerning the entire Teaching. Zeal arises beyond the
normal Faith one usually has because one comes to realize that
Nibbāna as a state IS REAL.
IGNORANCE (Avijjā)- means not
understanding the Impersonal Process of Dependent Origination and
the 4 Noble Truths.
EKAGGATᾹ—means unified mind. Found by
breaking down the Pali word as EKAGGA= Tranquil + TA-brought
Wisdom means seeing clearly the impersonal process of Dependent
If every time we see the word WISDOM mentioned in any form
throughout the texts, we first consider that reference is being
made directly concerning ‘the process of dependent origination’,
then we will find new meaning in reading the texts.
The word wisdom is found in many contexts:
"And his taints were destroyed with his seeing
"He sees with wisdom"
"He is wise"
Just the word wisdom by itself anywhere should be
considered first as being in this context unless it’s very obviously
referring to something else.
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