Author Topic: Shamatha Meditation  (Read 19930 times)

Harlie

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Shamatha Meditation
« on: February 25, 2010, 10:04:50 PM »
Hello everyone my name is Harlie

I've been practicing shamatha meditation for about a week now and I've been noticing my thoughts more often than I have been. I've read that shamatha meditation is meant to increase awareness of the thoughts that are going through ones mind. I've been trying to maintain the feeling of awareness sometimes throughout the day whenever I would remember to do so, hoping to remain aware of my thoughts, is this unwise to do? I'm not sure if it's a cause of this or not but I've also had trouble sleeping lately as well, I would feel a constant torrent of thoughts in my mind.

Also while meditating I try to remain on the object of breathing as much as I can, being taken in by the thoughts that arise from time to time. However while I'm maintaining the concentration on my breath I feel as though I'm unable to realize the thoughts passing coming and going. Might there be to much concentration being put on the thought of remaining concentrated on the breath?

I also seem to be having trouble blinking, possibly because of my eyes becoming dry? I've read the eyes should remain motionless while meditating, is there anything to fix this or is it another thought that should be overcome by allowing it to pass?

Any suggestions, advice, or opinions are greatly appreciated

Thank you

Harlie

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2010, 10:20:13 PM »
I forgot to add: How might I use the awareness that is gained from this practice when I'm not meditating and out in life at say school or anywhere else? I fairly understand that the awareness of the thoughts and the continuation of shamatha will lead to vipassana mediation which will help to un-condition our minds. However before that time has come how might it be practiced outside of training?

Thanks again

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2010, 10:00:10 PM »
Hi Harlie,

Welcome to rhe forums.

To save time I'll quote something I wrote before:

.....

Wherever your focus, though particularly at the nostrils, my answer will be the same and the same as advice I have often repeated. I think you may be trying too hard to concentrate without having first established a calm base of Shamatha meditation practice. Meditation begins as relaxing into your bodymind and reconnecting body and mind through total awareness of breath.

Awareness occurs throughout the body and mind through the distributed nervous system, though is of course centred in the brain - as the final organ of cognition of all perceptions.

There is a particular issue with Anapana at the nose. By focussing one's attention on the nose one is primarily using the 5th Cranial nerve, the Trigeminal nerve, as the  conduit of sensation to the brain. This means that most of the meditative activity is taking place entirely in your head because the Trigeminal nerve directly enters the brain stem and does not pass through the spinal cord.

The Buddha did not teach to focus breathing on the nose. For westerners who are often "head heavy" in their general way of living - and to some extent disembodied because of our cultural preference and conditioning towards rationality - this can be a particular and significant problem.

The Buddha taught:

Quote from: www.accesstoinsight.org
"There is the case where an aspirant -- having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building -- sits down cross-legged, holding the body erect and setting her (4) awareness before her. Always aware, one breathes in; aware one breathes out aware.

"Breathing in long, one discerns that one is breathing in long; or breathing out long, one discerns that one is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, one discerns that one is breathing in short; or breathing out short, one discerns that one is breathing out short. One trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. One trains herself to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body.
"

So according to the Buddha the focus of meditation is the entire breathing experience and body, not the nostrils. And the prime first goals are awareness or sensitivity to the entire body and relaxation or calming.

This is important because when one is meditating in this way, as opposed to nostril-focussed Anapana, one is using/activating many other nerves and neurological systems - particularly the Vagus, or 10th Cranial nerve, "The Wanderer" - so called because it wanders down the neck, into the chest and abdomen and controls and senses the larynx, other parts of the speech and hearing apparatus and senses the visceral muscles of the chest, trunk and abdomen including the diaphragm and the organs including your heart (though control of the diaphragm is principally by the Phrenic nerve and the heart by the Cardiac nerve, you also want these fully activated).

The Vagus nerve amongst other things is responsible for:

Quote from: Yale School Of Medicine
Provides visceral sensory information from the larynx, esophagus, trachea, and abdominal and thoracic viscera, as well as the stretch receptors of the aortic arch and chemoreceptors of the aortic bodies .

 
Thus by focussing on the entire breathing process in the body one is activating many more nerves - particularly the Vagus, a very important nerve to have properly activated, and is actively reconnecting body (through the Vagus and other nerves) and mind (through awareness).

Anapana (focussing on the nostrils or area between lips and nostrils) or any other kind of breath meditation can be too forced, too aimed at achieving concentration and still mind. Anapana at the nostrils can heighten this imbalance due to the fact that most westerners live in their heads to a large degree.

Still mind can be quickly achieved by Anapana or any other over-forced breath meditation - but it becomes a form of self hypnosis and I believe this is what you are experiencing and describing.


.....


1) If you are focussing on the nostrils, then stop doing so for the reasons I have outlined, namely: (i) It is not what the Buddha taught and (ii) it is physiologically more likely to lead to self-hypnosis.

2) Develop awareness of your whole body breathing. Relax more during your meditation and feel the breath entering your lungs, feel the abdomen stretching out to accommodate this.  "train (yourself) to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. Train (yourself) to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body." Let thoughts, feelings and emotions arise, be aware of them but do not engage of them. If you do then when you realise return to awareness of whole body breathing, noting the deviation from practice without self criticism.

My strong sense is that you are self-hypnotising and that proper calming, breathing Shamatha meditation, as described above, will overcome this obstacle.

Don't believe or disbelieve me. Try it for yourself for some time and see what difference in your experience occurs. It may take some time to get over the way you have been doing it until now if Anapana on the nose has been your practice.

Also do not be afraid to have the eyes open a little, looking gently at the floor 1 - 2 metres in front of you. The eyes should be relaxed - as in when sleeping - but not forcefully closed, when meditating.

In short:

"The meditator, having taken himself to a secluded spot, bringing mindfulness to the fore, breathes in aware of the entire body, calming the entire body, breathes out aware of the entire body, calming the entire body".

That is all there is to it for now. That and the four immeasurables OFF the cushion. That might seem to be a odd way to answer your question. Harlie .. but it is how I recommend people practice for the start.

If it isn't helpful, tell me, otherwise I hope you find something there to guide you.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
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Harlie

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2010, 10:58:19 PM »
Thank you very much for the advice, i tried to be aware of my body while trying as much as possible to breath naturally after I read your instructions, it seems like a lot to be aware of, however it does feel calming and the awareness of the body is much sharper.

I haven't been concentrating on the nostrils alone, I've been concentrating on the breath that would pass through the nostrils, then down the esophagus, and into the lungs however I haven't been concentrating on quite as much as the entire body.

Earlier in the night that I posted this topic I found:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyadhamma/bl115.html

I read almost half of it before I went to bed. I didn't quite understand all of what I was reading however what you've said has shed some light onto what I had read.

I've also noticed since meditation my back has been hurting at times especially when I'm sitting in meditation with my back erect. How tight is to tight to hold the back, and how will I know if its to tight or to loose?

I do feel within a week or so I will be able to see if this is the problem.

Thank you again for your advice

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2010, 06:50:11 AM »
Harlie,

That explanation is self-contradictory. The Sutta it is based on is here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html

Quote
This means that any person ... desirous of practicing this meditation, should go either to a forest, to the foot of a secluded tree, or to a solitary dwelling. There he should sit down cross-legged, and keeping his body in an erect position, fix his mindfulness at the tip of his nose, the locus for his object of meditation.

If he breathes in a long breath, he should comprehend this with full awareness. If he breathes out a long breath, he should comprehend this with full awareness. If he breathes in a short breath, he should comprehend this with full awareness. if he breathes out a short breath, he should comprehend this with full awareness.

"He breathes in experiencing the whole body, he breathes out experiencing the whole body"

The Maha-satipatthana Sutta makes no mention of noses. It does place an emphasis on awareness of whole body breathing.

Warmly,

Matthew
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elliberto

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2010, 05:05:59 PM »
Quote
The Maha-satipatthana Sutta makes no mention of noses.

Can indeed find no mention of focussing on the nose or upper nostrils.
So if not from the Maha-satipatthana Sutta  then where does this advice come from??
I come across this technique advice a lot. In Goenka courses, in books of Bhante Gunaratana I read and also in the accesstoinsight link provided by Harlie.
You reasons for not doing it sound plausible but so do the reasons for doing it, namely choosing vantage point from where you can follow the breath.
Here a quote from mindfulness in plain english:

Without having selected such a point, you will find yourself moving in and out of the nose, going up and down the windpipe, eternally chasing after the breath which you can never catch because it keeps changing, moving and flowing.
If you ever sawed wood you already know the trick. As a carpenter, you don't stand there watching the saw blade going up and down. You will get dizzy. You fix your attention on the spot where the teeth of the blade dig into the wood. It is the only way you can saw a straight line. As a meditator, you focus your attention on that single spot of sensation inside the nose. From this vantage point, you watch the entire movement of breath with clear and collected attention.



Quote
It does place an emphasis on awareness of whole body breathing.

It seems to me that this might be a matter of interpretation/translation.
See for instance this quote in the link provided by Harlie:

The Buddha has declared in the next passage that a meditator trains himself thinking: "I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body, and I shall breath out experiencing the whole body." Here, what is meant as "the whole body" is the entire cycle of breathing in and breathing out. The meditator should fix his attention so as to see the beginning, the middle and the end of each cycle of in-breathing and out-breathing. It is this practice that is called "experiencing the whole body."

Or a quote from a translation from the Sutta by Nyanasatta Thera:

"Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself.

source:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html#found


So I guess my question is: what's your opinion on this or anyone else's of course?
I'm very interested in arguments pro & contra focussing on the nose/upper nostril region because it's something I haven't decided on myself. Have experimented with both.

Lokuttara

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2010, 01:06:32 PM »
It's hard to learn to meditate from a book or through somebody elses words - all sorts of contradictions and questions seem to come up, and different interpretations get in the way. We are attempting to understand and approaching something that is not of the mind, through the mind. I think it's quite dangerous. Everything is subject to the writers prejudice, and words - being of the mind - are inherently corrupt.

The best way is through personaly experience, and by working with a good teacher or guide who will take you away from words, who will lead you ouf of the mind. My advice is for you to get established in meditation by taking a long-term course of some sort, this is what helped me to answer a lot of questions and to develop awareness.

That said, for what it's worth, I personally found using the area around the nostrils helpful. But, for me, there is also truth in what Irreverent Buddhist said, in that ultimately we will breath in a experience the whole body. This usually occurs after progressing from ana-pana to vipassana. But for me, starting with Goenkas ana-pana worked best. Then, at a later stage and when I had developed samadhi, I found that on each in-breath I would experience the sensations in and on the whole body, and on each out breath I would again experience the sensations throughout the whole body. Complete body awareness in each-breath. But this is just my experience, and it may take a while to get to that stage, or it may be different for you.. so please don't aim to get there, this was just my own path - let it happen naturally for you, in your own way.

I think all of these things will happen naturally, in their own time, no matter what "technique" you use. Just try to stop reading things at some point, trying to approach it less psychologically because really it's just about sitting down and being. Then let your journey begin. Be simple.
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

soma

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2010, 03:17:16 PM »
Quote
I personally found using the area around the nostrils helpful. But, for me, there is also truth in what Irreverent Buddhist said, in that ultimately we will breath in a experience the whole body. This usually occurs after progressing from ana-pana to vipassana. But for me, starting with Goenkas ana-pana worked best. Then, at a later stage and when I had developed samadhi, I found that on each in-breath I would experience the sensations in and on the whole body, and on each out breath I would again experience the sensations throughout the whole body.

This is also my experience.
I start with anapana at the nose and when a certain degree of concentration is developed then naturally the the focus moves to breathing with the whole body.
For some time I did not concentrate hard enough on the breath because I  thought that there should be no effort in concentration, that effort would come in the way of concentration but to some degree concentration IS effort but it must be effort without tension or strain
So when I started to really concentrate on my breath at the nose it felt a bit like I was trying too hard but this was not so - instead concentration led to absorbtion very quickly, and when this was attained then I did not have to concentrate any longer and automatically I was breathing with the whole body and there was no more effort needed.
There is no self hypnosis in this - when absorbtion is reached everything is very, very clear.

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2010, 03:28:59 AM »
elibarto,

Thank you for an interesting post and set of questions. I will do my best to answer them.

Quote
The Maha-satipatthana Sutta makes no mention of noses.

Can indeed find no mention of focussing on the nose or upper nostrils.
So if not from the Maha-satipatthana Sutta  then where does this advice come from??

I do not know. My suspicion is that it was an introduction after the Buddha passed away. Yesterday I watched a video made by an American academic called "The Buddha as a Businessman". Based on some writings on early Buddhist monasteries this man decided the Buddha was a businessman leading a Sangha organised much like the middle age communities of Catholic monasteries, wealthy and living better than the people they served.

As I understand it his understanding is completely historically inaccurate. The first Buddhist monasteries were built after the Buddha died, and lead, much like Catholicism became a perverted form of Christianity, to some perversions of Buddhism. It was a necessity - out of political expediency, as the Buddhists were being persecuted and they agreed to stay behind the monastery walls, to avoid such. Perhaps they did fall into making money and the like but the Buddha's teachings are very contradictory to this. He accepted the gift of land for the use of the Sangha during the rainy season when they were on retreat to avoid damaging wildlife and growing plants. The rest of the year they were wandering mendicants, walking around in small groups.

I come across this technique advice a lot. In Goenka courses, in books of Bhante Gunaratana I read and also in the accesstoinsight link provided by Harlie.
You reasons for not doing it sound plausible but so do the reasons for doing it, namely choosing vantage point from where you can follow the breath.
Here a quote from mindfulness in plain english:

Without having selected such a point, you will find yourself moving in and out of the nose, going up and down the windpipe, eternally chasing after the breath which you can never catch because it keeps changing, moving and flowing.
If you ever sawed wood you already know the trick. As a carpenter, you don't stand there watching the saw blade going up and down. You will get dizzy. You fix your attention on the spot where the teeth of the blade dig into the wood. It is the only way you can saw a straight line. As a meditator, you focus your attention on that single spot of sensation inside the nose. From this vantage point, you watch the entire movement of breath with clear and collected attention.

This is a misunderstanding of the entire meditative path in action. First one attains calm abiding through Shamatha and whole body breathing-relaxing. The introduction of Vipassana comes later. When relaxing/calming the whole body, breathing in aware and breathing out aware, as the Buddha taught, one calms the autonomic nervous system.

Quote from:
The autonomic nervous system (ANS or visceral nervous system) is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness, and controls visceral functions.[1]  The ANS affects heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils, micturition (urination), and sexual arousal. Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind.

It is classically divided into two subsystems: the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.[1][2] Relatively recently, a third subsystem of neurons that have been named 'non-adrenergic and non-cholinergic' neurons (because they use nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter) have been described and found to be integral in autonomic function, particularly in the gut and the lungs.

The parasympathetic system is of great import in this:

Quote from: Wikipedia
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is a division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), along with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and enteric nervous system (ENS or "bowels NS"). The ANS is a subdivision of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). ANS sends fibers to three tissues: cardiac muscle, smooth muscle, or glandular tissue. This stimulation, sympathetic or parasympathetic, is to control smooth muscle contraction, regulate cardiac muscle, or stimulate or inhibit glandular secretion. The actions of the parasympathetic nervous system can be summarized as "rest and digest".

"Rest and digest" .... most of our lives we are running around busy. It takes time to calm the system from a highly enervated "normal" state. There will be changes to body chemistry and brain chemistry as this process of calming takes place. The body leads the mind into quiet. By establishing calm in the body this leads to a calm mind, that is just how our bodyminds work.

Quote
It does place an emphasis on awareness of whole body breathing.

It seems to me that this might be a matter of interpretation/translation.
See for instance this quote in the link provided by Harlie:

The Buddha has declared in the next passage that a meditator trains himself thinking: "I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body, and I shall breath out experiencing the whole body." Here, what is meant as "the whole body" is the entire cycle of breathing in and breathing out. The meditator should fix his attention so as to see the beginning, the middle and the end of each cycle of in-breathing and out-breathing. It is this practice that is called "experiencing the whole body."

Or a quote from a translation from the Sutta by Nyanasatta Thera:

"Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in," thus he trains himself. "Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out," thus he trains himself.

source:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanasatta/wheel019.html#found

Both of these quotes support my reading of scripture and personal experience. The first one arbitrarily cuts breathing up into a beginning, middle and end. This is a false division. Up to that point he's doing OK.

So I guess my question is: what's your opinion on this or anyone else's of course?
I'm very interested in arguments pro & contra focussing on the nose/upper nostril region because it's something I haven't decided on myself. Have experimented with both.

My experience is that the body leads the mind to calm. The body has direct links with the reptilian brain that mediate the overall level of "excitation" of the bodymind. The Amygdala can flood the brain in a fraction of a second with chemicals that stop rational thinking and force reptilian instincts to the fore. The frontal cortex is knocked out by these chemicals but not in long term meditators who have strongly activated the anterior cingulate which gives the rational brain the power to overcome the chemical rushes of the Amygdala.

Based on my experience and reading of the Suttas I feel there is a strong case that this is how the Buddha intended practice:

Whole body calming/awareness breathing meditation. The calming of the body is as much the object of awareness as the breathing process itself (which is where you find your "anchor") .... this leads to ....

A cumulative reduction in nervous activity throughout the bodymind.

Which is the development of calm, eventually calm abiding, one pointed mind or Samadhi, and then the Jhannas or absorption states.

These states can be fully entered into and passed through at will at this point.

With this bodymind now established in total one pointed calm, utter concentration, Vipassana comes in to play to work relentlessly on the finer and finer unwholesome residual states. And because the proper route to Samadhi has been followed and total calm and concentration established this Vipassana is like a guided missile in it's accuracy and ability to cut through obstacles.

That's my take on it.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: March 26, 2010, 04:11:37 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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elliberto

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2010, 01:08:01 PM »
Quote
Both of these quotes support my reading of scripture and personal experience.

That depends on how you interpret them:
The translation in the quotes I posted are slightly different from yours. They suggest a different interpretation of what is meant

by 'whole body':

The Buddha has declared in the next passage that a meditator trains himself thinking: "I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body, and I shall breath out experiencing the whole body." Here, what is meant as "the whole body" is the entire cycle of breathing in and breathing out. The meditator should fix his attention so as to see the beginning, the middle and the end of each cycle of in-breathing and out-breathing. It is this practice that is called "experiencing the whole body."

as is explained in: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyadhamma/bl115.html

Of course at first you would think 'whole body' means well.... 'whole body' :D, but maybe it's a translation artefact and it actually means the 'entire cycle', just like you can say in english: body of work which also literary doesn't mean your actual physical body.

Quote
This is a misunderstanding of the entire meditative path in action. First one attains calm abiding through Shamatha and  whole body breathing-relaxing. The introduction of Vipassana comes later. When relaxing/calming the whole body, breathing in aware and breathing out aware, as the Buddha taught, one calms the autonomic nervous system

Think you read to much into this quote.
Don't think the author of the book would neccesarily disagree with you judging by his second book (beyond mindfullness) and this:

Bhante Gunaratana (1) What is samatha-vipassana? Part 1: sam

But I'm interested to know: on what in the sutta's do you base this view that you should first attain calm abiding and vipassana later?

Also it seems to me when you do shamatha you automatically do some basic vipassana at the same time.
Because when distractions arise you stay with your breath by being mindfully aware of the disctraction. As I understand it that is vipassana, because you're minfully examining the distraction. It's just that you stop this examination as soon as you can let go of the distraction to return to the breath (be it, whole body breathing or not :D)

Here a quote from Beyond Mindfullness in Plain English, which IMO explains why shamatha (developing concentration) and vipassana
(developing mindfullness) go hand in hand:

There is an essential relationship between concentration and mindfullness practice. Mindfulness is the prerequisite and the basis of concentration. Concentration is developed and strengthed through "serenity [and] nonconfusion, and mindful reflection upon them."
Stated somewhat simplistically, you develop concentration through mindful reflection within as serene and unconfused state of mind. And what are you mindful of? You are mindful of the state itself, the very fact that it is serene and unconfused. As jhana practice is developed, mindfulness gradually increases.
Mindfulness is used to develop your concentration and it is used within the concentrated states to lead to liberation. The most important results of right concentration are the four mundane jhanas, without which right concentration is not complete. Right effort and right mindfullness join together to allow right concentration to reach completion. It is this kind of right concentration that shows things as they really are.
Once you see things as they really are, you become disenchanted with the world of suffering and with suffering itself. This disillusionment with suffereing thins down desire and some amount of dispassion arises. Withdrawn fro passion, the mind is liberated from desire. This leads to experiencing the bliss of emancipation. Right concentration and right mindfulness always grow together. One cannot be seperated from the other.
Both concentration and mindfulness must work together to see things as they really are. One without the other is not strong enough to break the shell of ignorance and penetrate the truth. You may start with concentration and gain jhana, and then use the concentration to purify insight or mindfulness to see things as they are. Or you may start with mindfulness, then gain concentration to purify mindfulness, so that you  can use this purified mindfulness to see things as they really are.


This seems to suggest that vipassana is not something you do after shamatha but more that you zigzag between vipassana and shamatha.
Which would imply that it might be just as good to start with vipassana first.

What's your take on this?


Quote
That's my take on it.

Thank you and also Lokuttara and soma.

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2010, 07:58:32 PM »
I can only answer quoting a post from last November which makes my views abundantly clear.

My only disagreement with Bhante Gunaratana is in the focus of breathing on the nostrils as the vantage point and the focus of the breathing on calming the body as the vantage point. The Buddha seems to teach the vantage point of calming the body from reading Sutta. This is better facilitated being aware of the whole body-breathing process than your nose. The neurological understanding of today underpins this truth. The basis for this is that before developing concentration one must develop calm. However, I have always said that Shamatha nor Vipassana can neither one be practiced in isolation.

.... Interestingly Henepola Gunaratana has recently published his new book: "[amazonsearch]Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English - an introductory guide to DEEPER STATES OF MEDITATION[/amazonsearch]"



From the introduction:

Quote
While the words mindfulness and even vipassana have grown increasingly common and the practice itself has received lots of attention, deep concentration meditation, shamatha, seems to have received less. In fact, it was widely considered a kind of meditators' Olympics, a pursuit suited only to extraordinary beings who lived in caves or monasteries, far beyond the ken of "normal people", folks with busy daily lives.

In the first decade of this century, interest seems to be turning toward the concentration path. And that is a good thing, because it is truly a parallel yet complimentary path to insight meditation, to mindfulness. The two are intertwined and support one another. Over the last two millenia, these two paths were codified and refined as parallel paths for a very good reason: they both work and they work best together. In fact the two are really one. In truth the Buddha did not teach shamatha and vipassana as separate systems. The Buddha gave us one meditative path, one set of tools for becoming free from suffering.

This book is intended to serve as a clearly comprehensible meditators' handbook, laying out the path of concentration meditation in a fashion as close to step-by-step as possible. Also, this book assumes you have read [amazonsearch]Mindfulness in Plain English[/amazonsearch] or something similar, that you are now ready to take the next step - beyond mindfulness.

"One note about the structure of this book: throughout it (and especially where talking in detail about the jhanas), I have offered a number of quotations from the Pali suttas, our best record of what it is the Buddha himself taught.

Emphasis mine.

This is something I have been trying to promote awareness of within this community:

The defining line between Shamatha and Vipassana is not so much a line as a great big grey cross-over area. Both techniques are part of a whole path that includes much more than meditation. In the initial stages meditation is more Shamatha and slowly transitions to Vipassana. But right from the start Shamtha practice includes Vipassana and at the very end Vipassana practice is still Shamatha.

Calm facilitates insight. > Shamatha leads to Samadhi which allows Vipassana.

Insight facilitates calm. > Vipassana improves and deepens Samadhi.

The teacher just published the teachings "... this (book) was written for ordinary people in straightforward language".

Quote
"Bhante Gunaratana has done it again!" - Ajahn Amaro, abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery

I was never taught Vipassana meditation. My teacher taught me Shamatha-Vipassana as a system. As it should be.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

« Last Edit: March 26, 2010, 08:12:24 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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elliberto

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2010, 08:53:51 PM »
Have just read the (very interesting!) thread that post came from and also the "Meditation: Some basics for beginners."-sticky....and feel a bit silly now for not having noticed you were saying this all along  ;D
But also grateful I seem to be getting a bit closer to gaining some perspective on shamatha, vipassana and meditation in general. Because after the questions that arose after attending the Goenka retreat last dec/jan things started to get a bit confusing with regard to which basic direction I should give my practice.
Hope that you are grateful as well for me giving you the opportunity to remain equinanimous through me rehasing old shit that's spanking new for me  ;D ;D

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2010, 10:54:54 PM »
Have just read the (very interesting!) thread that post came from and also the "Meditation: Some basics for beginners."-sticky....and feel a bit silly now for not having noticed you were saying this all along  ;D
But also grateful I seem to be getting a bit closer to gaining some perspective on shamatha, vipassana and meditation in general. Because after the questions that arose after attending the Goenka retreat last dec/jan things started to get a bit confusing with regard to which basic direction I should give my practice.
Hope that you are grateful as well for me giving you the opportunity to remain equinanimous through me rehasing old shit that's spanking new for me  ;D ;D

Elibarto,

The day we stop learning is the day we die.

Though you have been an infrequent contributor to discussion your posts have always been relevant.

I feel we are coming to a stage where we can collectively start to make the archives more available and informative for newcomers. Please accept my apology that we had to jump through these hoops to come to this point. Perhaps we need to develop a "front end" to the forum that introduces people in a through way to the variety and different approaches, their convergences and differences, the core concepts and practices.

This is something I invite views upon.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
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Lokuttara

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2010, 11:09:45 AM »
concentration led to absorbtion very quickly, and when this was attained then I did not have to concentrate any longer and automatically I was breathing with the whole body and there was no more effort needed.
There is no self hypnosis in this - when absorbtion is reached everything is very, very clear.


Yes, this is what happens after some time. There is absolutely no self-hypnosis, although how one defines self-hypnosis depends on the individual.

I also find that when thoughts come into the mind, we just observe them instead of getting too involved. When you observe the thought - you can then observe it's arising and it's passing away. As if it were a breath. When on the Satipathanna course, the section on observing the mental contents of the mind helped a lot with this. Like sensations, all thoughts arise and pass away :)

It's really quite simple.

"My teacher taught me Shamatha-Vipassana as a system. As it should be."

Is that so? :)
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2010, 04:38:41 PM »

"My teacher taught me Shamatha-Vipassana as a system. As it should be."

Is that so? :)

Yes :)
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Psychtrea

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #15 on: May 19, 2010, 09:40:19 PM »
I feel like I still don't really understand how there is that much of a difference between Shamatha and Vipassana to warrant there being two different words for each...Am I missing something here? It seems like Gunaratana is saying Shamatha = Concentration and Vipassana = Mindfulness. He then seems to state from that quote that the two are inseperable and part of the same system. So, what is the difference in practice? TIB, it sounds like you would also say that the two are inseperable and part of the same system, despite the disagreement concerning the actual object of meditation itself. However, do you agree with "Shamatha = Concentration" and "Vipassana = Mindfulness"?  I believe you have said first one must practice Shamatha, and then move to Vipassana, with the object of meditation (whole body breathing), remaining the same. So, am I wrong in deducing that the "difference" is a kind of mental state rather than a difference in technique? These variations in the vernacular of Buddhist meditation, and differences of opinion concerning the object of meditation itself, are enough to make my head spin! I feel sometimes like: a) I don't know what the hell I am doing and b) I don't know who to believe. Perhaps this isn't that paramount for folks who have read Buddhist scripture, and have some seniority in the field, but for a beginner like myself, this is really confusing! I suppose the only thing to do is to continue to practice, and see what works.

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #16 on: May 19, 2010, 09:49:03 PM »
Psychtrea

a) you won't know what you are doing until b) you believe yourself by being in touch with yourself. Shamatha is the starting point for this.

Shamatha and Vipassana are not two meditations. Shamatha develops calm and concentration and stills the mind in an unforced way. This allows one pointed concentration (Samadhi) to arise which is the founding factor for Vipassana (insight).

The object of meditation is not always the breath but should be until the mind has calmed. There will come a point where your awareness of the breathing process and the breathing process merge into one. Then you start to examine other phenomena.

I trust that clears up and simplifies the schema a little for you. Meditation is not about understanding other people's ideas about what meditation "should be" though - mainly it is about learning to feel, experience, be - yourself, beyond the limits of the thinking mind - in which we are trapped more deeply than we can fathom using the mind itself - this is why Shamatha with the whole body as the object of the meditation works.

Otherwise, trying to clean the mind with the mind is like trying to clean a dirty rag with itself ....

Warmly,

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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Morning Dew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2010, 09:07:44 AM »
Quote
Otherwise, trying to clean the mind with the mind is like trying to clean a dirty rag with itself ....

Well said  :D

Rocket

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #18 on: January 14, 2011, 04:25:35 PM »
Hello Harlie
I have a suggestion .....  B. Alan Wallace is a exceedingly well trained and experienced instructor of Shamatha practice.  Trained by the Dalai Lama himself in this practice with support from dozens of other Tibetan lineage holders over four decades.

When I listened and followed his rather exacting and nuanced entry level instruction for shamatha practice I began to have profound and life changing experiences immediately.   First weekend.  After two years of moderate and sincere effort my life will never be the same.   Dharma practice became far more enriching than I ever thought it could be from being around all previous teachers.

The technique is exceedingly simple though not always easy.  I think its in print in a few paragraphs on his website.

http://www.sbinstitute.com/

If you want more detail please feel free to contact me for some chit chat.

Best
John

ADMIN EDIT: please do not post emails in public boards

« Last Edit: January 14, 2011, 06:08:10 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »

Mindfullness

  • Member
Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2011, 09:12:28 PM »
This is a question regarding Goenka's concept of Body Scanning. If I were to do Goenka's body scanning after doing shamatha-vipassana meditation as described by The Irreverent Buddhist, wouldn't that affect the Vagus Nerve rather than the Trigeminal Nerve>

Matthew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2011, 09:03:52 PM »
Yes, though in a fabricated manner.

Matthew
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danielted

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2011, 03:18:25 PM »
A sensation of ku through complete quantum determinism and scientist mental concentration in the highest idoneity, a record of the scientist. Weakest complementarity to Sambodhi.

Andrew

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2011, 03:50:25 AM »
danielted,

It's not every day that I can read a sentence with seven distinct subjects, and not understand even one of them. That takes quite some skill to put together! :D

love
andy
getting it done

Alexanderjohn

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2011, 06:05:49 AM »
 :D Well put Andy. Care to elaborate...?

Anglepen

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Re: Shamatha Meditation
« Reply #24 on: June 06, 2011, 08:55:11 AM »
In my limited experience I have been struggling with the same thing.

I had always read and watched clips that always emphasised concentrating on the nostrils or upper lip, I did this and I always felt a little disconnected, I'll try to explain - it seemed almost as though my head were placed inside a fish bowl and my invading thoughts seemed to be 'trapped' inside this bowl with me, when I placed my focus on my chest and abdomen taking in and expelling the breath I seemed to feel more 'grounded' and my thoughts seemed to be allowed to released easier. This focus away from the nose allows me also to place my emphasis on other parts of my body (an itch, a pain etc) much more effectively and also its easier to return my attention to the breath in my abdomen than the nose, almost as though I was aware of the role the breath is having inside my body rather than merely mechanical act at its entry and exit point.

Its hard to put this into words so forgive me if it sounds nonsense!
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 09:02:25 AM by Anglepen »