Lecture 8: Meditation Buddha’s Teaching As It Is – Bhikkhu Bodhi PowerPoint presentation on Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It Is’. Materials for the presentation are taken from the recorded lectures (MP3) posted at the website of Bodhi Monastery and the notes of the lectures posted at beyondthenet.net Originally prepared to accompany the playing of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s recorded lectures on ‘Buddha’s Teaching As It is’ in the Dharma Study Class at PUTOSI Temple, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. This series of weekly study begins in November, 2010.
Meditation The core of the Buddhist way to liberation consists in the practice of meditation. It is by meditation that the Buddha reached enlightenment himself. Only by meditation that those who follow his teaching can generate in their own mind the wisdom needed to reach enlightenment. There are two main types of meditation: Samatha bhavana, development of serenity (tranquility) Vipassana bhavana, development of insight. ‘Bhavana’, translated as meditation, means bringing into being, development or cultivation.
Samatha Meditation – Serenity Meditation Development of serenity aims specifically at developing samadhi, a deep concentrated state of mind in which the mind is unified, free from discursive thought. This state of concentration brings inner serenity, inner calmness. In the Buddhist practice, the real value of samadhi or concentration is to act as a basis for developing wisdom. As we saw in the previous talk, the Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three stages, moral discipline, concentration and wisdom. The root of all bondage and suffering is ignorance, lack of understanding things as they really are. The one factor that can really cut off ignorance and issue in liberation is wisdom.
Meditation – Development of Wisdom For wisdom to arise, the right conditions are needed. Wisdom can arise only in a concentrated mind, a mind cleansed of disturbing thoughts, a mind brought to a sharp point of focus, clear and precise. Samatha meditation aims at developing concentration as a foundational basis for arousing wisdom. The actual development of wisdom takes place in vipassana meditation. Insight meditation aims at seeing, at gaining a direct insight into the real nature of things. This insight is the essential key to liberation in the Buddhist path. Insight meditation wipes out all delusions. Insight meditation illuminates phenomena just as they are, free from all distortions and projections.
Serenity Meditation Serenity meditation is common to both Buddhist and non-Buddhist systems of practice. Serenity meditation leads to states of deep absorption, the jhanas, lofty and exalted states of consciousness. From the Buddhist perspective, jhanas are not essential are not indispensable for liberation though of value as a base for arousing wisdom. The Buddha mastered these attainments (when he was a bodhisattva before his enlightenment) and found them at best as support but inadequate for the attainment of wisdom. The real way to awakening lies in the practice of insight meditation. Insight meditation is the unique discovery of the Buddha.
Meditation Both serenity meditation and insight meditation are concerned with purifying the mind from defilements, from greed, hatred and delusion and the other unwholesome states that arise from them. The two types of meditation purify the mind in different ways. They clear up the defilements at different levels and they are directed principally to different types of defilements. The defilements have a stratified structure, they fall into three layers and operate at three levels and dealt with differently. Subtlest layer is called the layer of latent tendency. The defilements lie dormant (anusaya) at the base of the mind.
Stratified Structure of Defilements When we encounter experiences that strike us as agreeable or disagreeable, then the defilements can be aroused from dormancy to appear in the active form at the next level. Layer of manifestation of defilements: This is the layer of active form of defilements. The defilements become a formative influence on the thought process. It motivates our thoughts, our attitudes, our emotions. Layer of transgression or action: defilements acted upon in deeds, speech. When the defilement gains more power, it reaches the level of transgression where it expresses itself into speech or act. (e.g. Calm state (anger dormant) seeing unpleasant thing/person anger arises (active manifestation level) expressed in outburst in harsh speech or harmful deeds (level of transgression)
Counteracting Defilements at Various Levels The three steps of the Buddhist Path are designed to counteract the defilements at these three different levels. Sila: Sila (moral discipline) prevents the defilements from reaching the stage of transgression. Samadhi: To overcome defilements (mental level) at the level of manifestation in thoughts, we have to develop samadhi. Panna: Defilements at the level of latency are removed by wisdom of enlightenment developed in insight meditation.
Serenity and Insight Meditation Compared Serenity meditation purifies the mind from the defilements in their active form by suppressing (a conscious process to still the defilements) them. The defilements still remain at the level of latency. Insight meditation purifies the mind by cutting the defilements at their roots by means of wisdom, at the level of latent tendency. Serenity meditation is concerned principally with removing coarser defilements such as greed and hatred. Insight meditation is directed principally with removing subtler defilements such as ignorance.
Development of Insight - Samadhiyana There are two basic approaches to the systematic development ofmeditation. In both of these the essential place belongs to the practice of insight meditation. The two approaches differ in the way they utilize concentration as a basis for insight. One approach is samadhiyana, the other is vipassananayana. Vehicle of serenity/tranquillity = samadhiyana: In this approach we develop serenity to a very deep level, to a level of deep concentration until the mind enters samadhi on a single object. By means of that concentration, we stabilise the mind on the object, make it firm and steady, and clear away the active forms of defilements. After developing this concentration, we use it as a basis and turn the mind to develop insight, the meditator then turns the mind to insight meditation.
Development of Wisdom - Vipassanayana 2. Vehicle of vipassana – Vipassanayana: In this approach, we do not aim to develop a deep concentration by fixing the mind on a single object. We start directly with the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness – contemplating the changing processes of of the body, of the feeling, of states of mind, and of mind objects. As we cultivate mindfulness, we also develop an accompanying kind of concentration. This concentration does not lead to the full depth of stillness developed of the typed developed in samadhiyana. This is a fluid, mobile kind of concentration that runs alongside the development of insight. It is called momentary concentration, it flows along from moment to moment in the changing process of awareness.
Development of Wisdom - Vippasanayana As the concentration is cultivated moment by moment, it picks up momentum until it is strong enough to keep the defilements away (effectively suppressed) and to allow insight wisdom to arise. Which approach is chosen depends on the temperament and inclinations and circumstances of the meditator, or the teachers.
Preliminaries to Meditation Buddhist meditation is a practice that belongs to the Buddhist tradition. It arises out of the Buddha’s understanding of the nature of human existence. It is directed to the goal made known by the Buddha, the attainment of Nibbana. Therefore when meditation is taken up in the traditional context, practice begins with the act called ‘going for refuge’. ‘Going for refuge’ means entrusting oneself to the guiding ideals of the Buddha’s Path. There are three guiding ideals of the Buddha’s Path, the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. 1. Buddha: The Buddha is the enlightened one, the supreme person who, by his own unaided effort, discovered the way to deliverance.
Going for Refuge 2. Dhamma: The Dhamma is the truth of liberation, the path that leads to the attainment of liberation, and the teaching that gives instructions about the path. Sangha: The ‘Sangha’ here is not the ordinary order of monks as the term is usually understood. Here it means the ‘Ariyan Sangha’, the community of noble disciples of the Buddha, those who have followed the Path to the high levels of attainment and reached to one of the stages of enlightenment. These three, the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, are called the three refuges because they make possible complete deliverance from all the dangers and sufferings of existence.
Going for Refuge The Buddha is compared to a wise physician who diagnoses our condition and prescribes the remedy. The Dhamma is like the medicine that he gives. The Sangha is like the attendants who help us to get well. The most important of the three is the Dhamma, the medicine, the actual refuge. The act of entrusting oneself to these three, relying on them for guidance, is going for refuge. The practice of meditation begins with the attitude of taking refuge. This is expressed through the standard formula, in Pali, ‘Buddham saranam gacchami; Dhammam saranam gacchami; Sangham saranam gacchami.’
Going for Refuge ‘Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami; Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami; Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami. Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami; Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami; Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami.’ ‘I go for refuge in the Buddha; I go for refuge in the Dhamma; I go for refuge in the Sangha.’ ‘A second time I go for refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. A third time I go for refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.’ The next preliminary after taking the refuge is taking the precepts, pledging to observe morally pure conduct.
Taking the Precepts Moral discipline, sila is needed primarily to hold in check the coarser expressions of the defilements, to prevent the defilements from motivating unethical actions of body and speech. When we practice meditation, we are trying to purify the mind. In order to clear the mind of the defilements, it is necessary to prevent the defilements from breaking out into unwholesome acts of body and speech. Such unwholesome acts would damage our attempt at developing calm and insight, and destroy our effort at concentration. Therefore before undertaking the practice of meditation, we make the firm resolution to observe the five precepts, the basic framework of moral discipline.
The Five Precepts to abstain from taking life (destroying life). To abstain from taking what is not given (or stealing) To abstain from sexual misconduct (adultery, meaningless relationships; promiscuity, etc). To abstain from false or harsh speech. To abstain from taking intoxicants (drugs/alcohol, etc which cause unclarity of mind). Sometimes in periods of intensive retreat, lay meditators take up temporarily a more austere ethical code.
Additional Precepts These include Observing celibacy or brahmacariya; not eating (any solid foods) after midday; avoiding entertainments and personal adornments; avoiding sleeping on a high bed. These activities in themselves are not immoral, but indulging in them causes distractions of the mind which disrupt the work of meditation and drain energy which could be used more profitably to develop the mind during that precious period of meditation retreat. Therefore to strengthen their practice, lay meditators frequently observe these additional precepts.
Serenity Meditation Now we discuss first the development of samadhi, concentration by means of the practice of serenity meditation. Serenity meditation aims specifically at developing concentration or samadhi. Samadhi or concentration is defined as the wholesome unification of the mind, the collecting of the mind or focusing of the mind upon a single object. One who sets out to develop concentration first selects a single object to be the primary meditation subject, the kammatthana or field of work, field of spiritual work. The texts enumerate forty subjects. These include: 1. Kasinas, circular discs that represent the primary elements, earth fire, water and air; or coloured discs representing the primary colours.
Serenity Meditation 2. Parts of the body; The Three Refuge objects, the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha; Meditation on the ‘in and out breathing’; The divine abodes of compassion, loving-kindness, appreciative joy and equanimity Out of these, the meditator would choose a single object or one assigned by the teacher if he has a teacher. When he begins his work, the meditator will try to focus the mind on the single object, excluding all sensory impressions, all discursive thoughts, all the countless mental distractions.
Serenity Meditation Whatever arises, he lets it go and brings the mind back again and again to his basic meditation object. For example if he is meditating on the breathing, he will bring the mind back to the touch sensation of the breath as it moves in and out. Whatever thoughts come up, he notes them briefly, let them go, bringing the mind back over and over to the same focal point, the touch sensation of the breath. As meditation progresses, various impediments could come up that obstruct his effort and prevent him from reaching deep concentration. These impediments are classified into a set called the five hindrances, pancanivarana.
Five Hindrances These five hindrances are sensual desire, illwill, dullness and drowsiness (sloth and torpor), restlessness and worry, and doubt. The first hindrance is sensual desire. Sensual desire is the yearning and craving for the object of the senses, for agreeable and delightful sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches as well as the thoughts and images based on these. When these kinds of thoughts come up, the hindrance of sensual desire has arisen. The second hindrance is Illwill. Illwill includes all negative mental states, hatred, aversion, anger, hostility, discontent, depression, etc. Sometimes illwill might be directed at things people or situations. It takes many forms.
Five Hindrances The third hindrance is a compound dullness and drowsiness. Dullness is inertia, rigidity and stiffness of mind. Drowsiness is sleepiness, lethargy, indolence, etc. The fourth hindrance is restlessness and worry. Restlessness is the excited and agitated state of mind. Worry is the nagging sense of remorse and regrets over what’s done mistakenly or not done in the past or problems lurking ahead in the future. The fifth hindrance is doubt. Doubt is a kind of persistent uncertainty about the Buddha and his teachings; the inability to make up one’s mind to follow the path; the inability to accept the Buddha as one’s teacher, the Dhamma as one’s teachings; or the inability to commit oneself to the practice.
Simile: Impurity of Water and Hindrances When these five hindrances arise in the mind, they prevent the deepening of calm and concentration. In an interesting simile, the Buddha compares each of these five hindrances to a particular impurity of water which prevents a person from seeing his reflection. If a person wants to see his reflection in a pool of water, the water has to be clear, without any impurities. Sense desire is like water having many different coloured paints on its surface. Sense pleasures seem beautiful and attractive like brightly coloured dyes. But if the surface of the water is coloured with beautiful coloured paints, you can’t see your reflection just as you can’t gain concentration and insight if the mind is obsessed by sense desires.
Simile: Impurity of Water and Hindrances Illwill is like boiling water, water with bubbles rushing up to the surface and breaking moment by moment; one can’t see one’s reflection in it. When the mind is boiling over with hatred and anger, one can’t gain calm and concentration. Sloth and torpor (Dullness and drowsiness) are like water overgrown with moss. The moss is the symbol of stagnation, sliminess. The moss prevents you from seeing your own reflection. Sloth and torpor indicates a stagnant state of mind that is inert and rigid, that can’t allow calm and insight to arise. Restlessness and worry are like the surface of water churned up by strong wind which break it into waves and ripples. When restlessness and worry arise in the mind, they cause many rippling thoughts that prevent calm and insight.
Hindrances – Their Elimination Doubt is like muddy water, unclear, unable to give back your reflection. For concentration to be attained, the five hindrances have to be eliminated. The Buddha recommends a variety of methods to eliminate the hindrances. Noting and letting go of the hindrance – simply make a mental note of it and letting it go without getting disturbed or obsessed or repelled or getting latched by it. Note it, let it go, and return to the primary object. Observe the hindrance with mindfulness – if the hindrance persists, focus on it and observe it with mindfulness. The calm and clarity of mindfulness are incompatible with the mental disturbances. This method shuts out the hindrances.
Countering Hindrances If the hindrance still persists, then drop the primary object and take up a meditation object that opposes the hindrance.
Sensual desire: Meditate or reflect on impermanence or undesirability of the object to counter the hindrance of sensual desire
Illwill: Meditate on or develop Metta to counter illwill; develop patience (accept them as working out of kamma)
Dullness and drowsiness: This can be countered by such methods as perception of bright light; walking meditation; washing the face and going out into the cold air
Restlessness: This can be countered by applying mindfulness of breathing to calm the mind;
Worry and mental disturbance could be countered by meditating on the figure of Buddha –seeing the sublime, peaceful and serene of Buddha;
Doubt could be countered by examining, interrogating or investigating it. Devotional practices are helpful. Make a strong resolution to commit oneself to the practice and to stay with the method and practice .
Meditation – Part II
Jhana Factors As the meditator continues with his practice of serenity meditation, he arouses in his mind five mental factors which are repeatedly strengthened and reinforced by his effort. These are the five jhana factors, mental factors of absorption – initial application, sustained application, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of mind. 1. Initial application, vitakka, is the mental factor of applying the mind to the object. It functions to lift the mind up and direct it at the object. It makes the mind strike again and again at the object. 2. Sustained application, vicara – The second factor, sustained application, applies continued pressure on the object, examines. It keeps the mind anchored on the object.
Jhana Factors The difference between initial application and sustained application is illustrated in the text in this way. Initial application is like the striking of the bell; sustained application is like the reverberation of the bell. Initial application is like a bird striking its wings to go up into the air; sustained application is like the bird continuing in flight. Initial application is gross; sustained application is subtle. Initial application brings the mind to the object; sustained application fixes the mind on the object. 3. Rapture, piti – the third factor is rapture, piti. This is pleasurable interest in the object. It can range from momentary thrills of delight to overwhelming ecstasy with the body and mind flooded with rapture or ecstasy.
Jhana Factors Happiness, sukha – the fourth factor is happiness or bliss, sukha. This is the pleasant feeling that accompanies the practice. This is different from rapture. Happiness is a feeling whereas piti is a mental state of mind. Happiness begins as a new kind of pleasure, pure and peaceful, and rises up to pure, tranquil bliss. One-pointedness of mind, concentration – the fifth jhana factor is one-pointedness of mind, ekaggata. This is concentration , the focusing of the mind on the object without distraction. These five jhana factors counteract the five hindrances. The jhana factors and the hindrances are aligned in a one-to-one relationship so that one particular jhana factor opposes and shuts out one particular hindrance .
Jhana Factors Counter Hindrances One-pointedness of mind counteracts sensual desire. Rapture overcomes illwill. Initial application shuts out dullness and drowsiness. Happiness or bliss overcomes restless and worry. Sustained applications puts away doubt. As the five factors emerge in the mind, they bring about a gradual purification of the mind from the hindrances. When the five hindrances are fully suppressed, the mind enters into a state called access concentration, upacara samadhi. Upacara samadhi means suburb or neigbourhood concentration, approaching full concentration. As the meditator continues to fix the mind on the object, the jhana factors become stronger and stronger until they reach full maturity and plunge the mind into the object with the force of absorption. This is called apana samadhi, absorption or full concentration.
Jhana The mind becomes fixed on the object without wavering or vacillation. The full absorption concentration of the mind is called the jhana. There are four jhanas, each deeper and subtler than the other. Each jhana is defined or constituted by a certain set of jhana factors. First jhana has all the five jhana factors, initial application, sustained application, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness. In the Second Jhana, there are three factors, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness. Initial application and sustained application are eliminated. In the third jhana, there are two factors, happiness and one-pointedness. Initial application, sustained application and rapture are eliminated.
Jhana In the fourth jhana, there are two factors, equanimity and one-pointedness. Happiness is replaced by equanimity. Initial application, sustained application, rapture and happiness are eliminated. After attaining the first jhana, the meditator repeatedly enters the first jhana and gains mastery over it. He perfects and masters the skill of attaining it so that he can enter it, remain in it for as long as he wants and emerge from it without difficulty. When he masters the first jhana, he then begins to see there is certain defect with the jhana. It is still not subtle, not fully peaceful, still a little coarse and disturbed by initial application and sustained application.
Jhana The meditator aspires to reach a deeper level of absorption, the second jhana, without initial application and sustained application. He makes an effort to develop stronger concentration. When the faculty matures, he enters the second jhana. He repeats the same process, he masters the second jhana and sees that it has a defect. It contains rapture, a relatively coarse factor. He undertakes to enter the a more sublime state, third jhana without rapture. He masters it and sees its defect, the presence of happiness, a coarse feeling compared to equanimity.
Jhanas Then he undertakes to develop a deeper level of absorption, the fourth jhana, without the happiness factor. When he reaches the fourth jhana, he attains the state which has equanimity and one-pointedness of mind. In the fourth jhana, the mind is completely still, pure and silent. Beyond the fourth jhana, there are still four more levels of samadhi that can be achieved. These are called the four immaterial or formless attainments: attainment of the sphere of infinite space; attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness; attainment of the sphere of nothingness; and attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. These are very profound levels of samadhi, the last level is the peak in the development of concentration.
Vehicle of Serenity Meditation In all the states of samadhi, the four jhanas and the four formless attainments, the defilements are completely suppressed but not eliminated. The defilements are present in the form latent tendency. The fundamental root of all defilements, ignorance is still present. Only wisdom (the knowledge and vision of things as they really are) can eliminate ignorance. Emerging from jhanas, the yogi’s mind is clear and pure, bright and luminous, soft and malleable. The faculty is fit and proper for developing vipassana, for practicing insight meditation. This is the procedure for one following the vehicle of serenity, to develop deep samadhi first to any level, either access or apanasamadhi, then proceed to vipassana.
Vipassanayana One who follows the vehicle of insight goes directly into contemplating the factors of body and mind without developing deep samadhi. Whatever approach he follows to develop insight, the yogi has to cultivate the four foundations of mindfulness – mindful contemplation of the body, of the feelings, of states of mind, and of dhammas (the mind factors and mind objects). As he practices the four foundations of mindfulness, the field of experience becomes immediately accessible to him in very fine details in microscopic focus. The aim of developing wisdom is to understand the actual nature of experience as it unfolds at the successive moments of experience.
Vipassanayana In the text, wisdom is defined as the knowledge that penetrates the true nature of dhammas, the true nature of phenomena. It has the function of dispelling the darkness of ignorance which covers up the true nature of things. The phenomena which have to be known and penetrated are the states that constitute our experience. Therefore the attention of the meditator has to be bent back upon his own experience in order to understand the fundamental nature of the experiential process. At the first level, the meditator has to see the experience in terms of its constituting elements. This is the analytical side to the cultivation of wisdom, to see the experience as a compounded process made up of many components.
Vipassana Meditation The root form of ignorance is the idea of a self, the false identification of oneself as a subsistent ego entity. What causes this illusion to arise is the tendency to grasp things as solid whole, to see them as monolithic unity rather than to see the complex nature of things, to see the interwoven, intertwining nature of things. To correct this illusion, the experience has to be broken down into its components, the five aggregates. If you look at the experience just as it is, you see many elements fused together functioning in unison. First there is the material form, the body, the sense organs, the sense objects. Then there are the feeling, the perception, the volition ( mental formations) and consciousness, the mental side of the process.
Vipassana The yogi learns to see each occasion of experience as occurring from the integral functioning of the five aggregates. Then the yogi puts the aggregate of material form on one side as materiality; on the other side he puts the four mental aggregates which he classifies as mentality. He then sees the experience as occurring through the unified flow of two streams of events, the stream of material events and the stream of mental events. He sees them as constituted entirely by the two streams without any self underlying them, without any permanent subject supporting or upholding them. He sees that these two streams of events are just conditionally arisen phenomena.
Vipassana They have no being in themselves, no power of independent existence. They occur in dependence on specific conditions, and cannot occur in the absence of those conditions. It’s at the next stage of the process that vipassana actually begins. Vipassana is to see the true nature of phenomena, to see the five aggregates in terms of the universal all pervading characteristics, the three characteristics of anicca, dukkha, anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness). The meditator investigates each of the aggregates in turn, learning to discover the three characteristics. He looks at the material form of the body and sees that bodily
Development of Insight states are impermanent in the sense that they are subject to destruction. They arise, subsist momentarily and pass away. He applies the same to the four mental aggregates. The feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness are all impermanent. They arise, break up and pass away. All the five aggregates are dukkha, subject to unsatisfactoriness in the sense that they can’t provide any permanent basis for security. They are unreliable, subject to the afflictions of ageing and death. They are all selfless, without any ego, without any intrinsic core of substance, just momentary happenings without any self at their base.
Development of Insight Having examined his experience in terms of the three characteristics, the meditator begins contemplating the rise and fall of these phenomena to sharpen his insight. He watches the material form, the body, the feeling, the perception, mental formations and consciousness arise and fall away, arise and fall away. As he contemplates the rise and fall, the three characteristics become clearer, more evident, more pronounced. To deepen his insight, the yogi drops his attention on the rising phase and focuses exclusively on the last stage in the process, the stage of breaking up or dissolution. When he does so, he sees that all formations of existence are subject to
Insight destruction. They all break up and dissolve immediately after they arise. This insight into the dissolution leads to the realisation that no security can be found in conditioned existence. Nothing in the world can be relied on, nothing can be held to for protection or shelter. As he sees the insecurity of all the things in the world, his insight into the unsatisfactory nature of existence matures. His mind begins to turn away from all the things in the world. Now there arises a strong desire for emancipation. That desire leads to a deepening of the power of insight. The mind penetrates to deeper levels of understanding till it reaches a stage of profound equanimity where the yogi
Development of Insight looks upon all conditioned states as impermanent, unsatisfactory and without a self. He has no fear, no disgust, no sorrow; he has complete equanimity as he watches the process. This stage marks the highest level of development of insight. What lies beyond this is the stage of the supramundane path and fruit. As the meditator goes on contemplating, when the mental faculty becomes fully mature, a sudden radical change takes place. Suddenly the meditator realises that the supramundane path is about to arise. The supramundane path is a state of consciousness, a citta with the special function of realising Nibbana and eradicating defilements.
Supramundane Paths & Fruits There are four supramundane paths, successive states of such consciousness. These come in distinct stages with a time interval between them. Each one realises Nibbana for a single moment and eradicates certain defilements right down to the level of latent tendency. The first path to arise is called the Path of Stream Entry (sotapanna), the first stage in the realisation of Nibbana. After the meditator reaches the peak of insight, his mind turns away from all the formations of existence and attains the path of stream entry. For a brief moment, it penetrates the unconditioned element, Nibbana, leaves behind all conditioned states and directly realises the deathless state. Simultaneously with the realisation of Nibbana, three defilements are eradicated at the level of latent tendency.
Stream-entry The defilements that keep beings bound to samsara are called fetters (samyojana) that keep beings chained to the wheel of birth and death. There are ten such fetters which are eradicated at different stages by the four path. The first path, the stream-entry eradicates the first three fetters, i.e. personality view (the view of truly existing self which can be identified as the five aggregates), doubt (perplexity), clinging to rules and rituals. As soon as the mind enters the path of stream-entry and sees Nibbana, these three fetters are all broken simultaneously at once.
Stream-entry The moment of the path is immediately followed by a few moments of another type of consciousness called the fruition consciousness . The fruition consciousness also experiences Nibbana. Each path has its corresponding fruition coming immediately after itself. The fruit has the same name as the path. Thus the first fruition is called the fruit of stream-entry. It’s a sequence of a few moments of consciousness which enjoy the result of the Path, the bliss and peace of nibbana, the joy of freedom. The relationship of the path and fruit can be illustrated in this way. Suppose there is a man bound by a chain. He exerts his energy and breaks the chain. The moment of breaking the chain is like the moment of the path when the fetters are eradicated. As soon as he breaks the chains, he feels relief and happiness and a sense of freedom, and this is similar to the moments of fruition.
Supramundane Path and Fruit The yogi becomes a stream-enterer, an ariyan, a noble one. He enters the stream of dhamma, irreversibly bound for full liberation. At the maximum, he will reach final Nibbana in 7 lives which will be spent in human world or heavenly realm. He could no longer take rebirth in the states of misery – hells, animals, afflicted spirits or titans. After reaching the stage of stream entry, the yogi wants to progress further to reach the next stage of liberation. Again he undertakes the cultivation of insight, passes through the different levels of insight. When he reaches the highest point, when his faculty matures, he attains the second path, the Path of Once returner (sakadagami). This path weakens but does not eradicate any fetters.
Supramundane Paths & Fruits The Once-Returner Path weakens two fetters, the fetters of sense desire and illwill. The yogi experiences the corresponding fruition and comes back to normal consciousness as a once returner, returning only one more time to the human world. Wishing to go further, he again undertakes the cultivation of insight , reaches the highest level of insight and attains the third path, the Path of the Non-Returner (Anagami). This path eradicates the fetters of sensual desire and illwill. The yogi experiences the fruit and emerges a non-returner (anagami). A non-returner will not return to any world in the sense sphere. He either reaches full deliverance in this life or gains rebirth in a special heavenly realm called the pure abode where he would attain the final full liberation.
Supramundane Paths & Fruits To reach the final goal, again the yogi develops insight to the highest peak and attains the fourth path, the Path of Arahatship. The fourth path eradicates the five remaining fetters, desire for existence in fine material and immaterial forms, conceit (subtle conceit of existing ‘I’), restlessness, and ignorance. Following the path, the yogi experiences the fruit of arahatship. He emerges as an arahat, an accomplished one, someone who has completed his training, and lives in the experience of Nibbana. As an arahant, he is no more tied to the round of becoming. He abides in peace (nibbana element with residue) until death. With his passing away, he attains the final goal, the nibbana element without residue remaining. That is the consummation, the end of the Path.
Practical Instructions Anapanasati Probably the most fundamental method of meditation taught in the Buddhist tradition is Ananpanasati, the mindfulness of breathing. This method is often taught to beginners. It could also lead to all the higher stages of the Path, both in serenity and insight. It could even lead to full enlightenment. The mindfulness of breathing meditation was used by Buddha on the night of his enlightenment. Posture Throughout the Buddhist tradition, meditation is practiced generally in the cross-legged posture, sitting on the floor. Even though this might cause some pain or discomfort in the
Practical Instructions beginning, it’s advisable for those who are physically capable of it to try to use the method. It probably takes some time to get accustomed to it, but it will be worthy effort since it will be most valuable in the long run. It gives a firmness and stability that is difficult to achieve when sitting in a chair. To give some support to the body, it’s good to use a cushion (not too soft, about 3-4 inches high) or a folded blanket. Placing a soft rug or blanket underneath the knees would ease the physical discomfort of sitting for long period. When sitting on the floor, it’s not necessary to take the full lotus position. Instead of the full lotus position, one could sit in the half lotus position, one foot resting on the opposite thigh; or
Practical Instructions else one could take the quarter lotus position, one lower leg lying on top of the other; one could try the lion posture, the two lower legs lying alongside one side each other on the ground, the legs do not cross. If one cannot manage any of these positions, then one could sit on a straight-back chair, sitting straight up with the feet on the ground. Whatever position is used, it’s most important to hold the upper part of the body erect. The back should be straight and upright without strain or tension. If the body is too slack, then drowsiness will come. If it’s too rigid, that would result in agitation and tension. Here the best way is the middle way, erect yet relaxed, not too tight nor too loose.
Practical Instructions The head should be upright, can be tilted a little bit forward. The eyes can be closed or half-closed. The hands should be placed on the lap, the right hand on top of the left with the thumbs touching. The mouth should be closed, and all breathing should take place through the nose. Mind An untrained mind generally flits from thought to thought, roaming and wandering restlessly. To develop the mind for calm or insight, we have to learn to focus the mind, to train the mind to remain on the object. The object we use in the meditation on breathing is the breath itself, the in-and-out movements of the breathing.
Practical Instructions We breathe mindfully, aware of the movement of the breath, observing the normal flow of breath. Breathing should be done naturally. There should be no effort to interfere with the movement of the breath, to hold it in, to control it, or to breathe forcefully. Just breathe at the normal rate and observe the movement of the breath with mindfulness. To train the mind, one has to have a place to fix the mind. One fixes the attention in an area around the nostrils on the upper lip where one could feel the touch sensation of the air (breath) coming in and going out. The actual object of attention is the touch sensation, the sensation of breath coming in and going out.
Practical Instructions One should not follow the breath into the lung or out into the air. Just keep the mind posted at the door of the nostrils, mindfully aware of the touch sensation, in and out, in and out. The mind should be like a sentinel keeping logs at the door of the nostrils, remaining there without leaving the station, checking the visitors, the visiting breath coming in and visiting breath going out. To help keep the mind on the breath, it’s helpful to make a mental note, ‘in, in,’ when breathing in; when breathing out, make the mental note ‘out, out,’. Keep the awareness constant through all phases of each movement of the breath, from the beginning through the middle to the end. For the in-breath, mentally note ‘in, in’ from the beginning through the
Practical Instructions middle to the end. For the out-breath, mentally note ‘out, out’ from the beginning through the middle to the end of the breath. Another method is counting the breath for each inhalation and exhalation, counting from one up to ten and start again. The attention itself should be on the breath sensation, not on the mental note. We use mental note to keep the mind on the sensation. Mahasi way - Rising and Falling There is another way of doing this meditation. It was introduced in Burma. Here, the object of attention is on the rising and falling of the abdomen instead of the touch sensation of the breath. As we breathe in, the abdomen rises; as we breathe out, the abdomen falls.
Practical Instructions The rising and falling movement of the abdomen is grosser than the touch sensation of the breath and many people find it is easier to follow. In following the rising movement, one makes the mental note, ‘rising, rising,’; when following the falling movement, make the mental note, ‘falling, falling’. Try to follow the entire movement, from rising in the beginning through to its end, from falling in the beginning through to its end. Pay attention to the actual bodily sensation of rising and falling, not to any mental images of them, not to the mental note. Stay with one method that one finds suitable for oneself; do not change or switch from one method to another.
Practical Instructions Obstacles Obstacles are bound to arise. The most obvious obstacle is the wandering of the mind. The mind strays easily to other thoughts, thoughts about the past, about the future, about the present, about works, about enemies, etc. Whatever stray thoughts arise, just note them ‘wandering, wandering’, let them go and bring the mind back to the object, the touch sensation of the breath or to the rising and falling movement of the abdomen. Don’t hang onto the thoughts, don’t comment on the thoughts, don’t force them to go away, don’t become disturbed or carried away by them. Note and let them go and gently but firmly bring the mind back to the
Practical Instructions meditation subject. The same applies when one hears sounds, note ‘hearing, hearing’; or mental images may arise, note ‘seeing, seeing’. Note the wandering mind, the hearing or seeing, let them go by themselves, and bring the mind back to the meditation subject. Painful sensations of the body may arise, especially pain in the legs or the back. when pain arises, do not shift immediately, note ‘pain, pain’ or ‘sensation, sensation’, let the pain go by itself and return the mind to the meditation subject. Sometimes itching may arise, do not scratch immediately, make the mental note, ‘itching, itching’, let it go and return the mind to the meditation subject.
Practical Instructions When pain arises in the legs and gets too strong and interferes with one’s concentration, then one mindfully readjusts the posture to a more comfortable position, and returns to the primary meditation subject. The meditation on breathing can be extended into the level of serenity or it can be made the foundation for the practice of vipassana or insight meditation. There are many other subjects of meditation.