will now explore both serenity meditation and insight meditation.
Preliminaries to meditation — the three refuges
First I'd like to briefly introduce the preliminary to
These guiding ideals are the triple gem — the Buddha,
the Dharma and the Sangha — upon which this course
These are also called the three refuges,
because they make possible complete deliverance from all
of the dangers and suffering of existence.
The Buddha is like a wise physician who diagnosis our
condition and prescribes a remedy.
The Dharma is like the medicine he gives.
The sangha is like the attendants who help us to get
The most important of the three is the Dharma. The dharma
is the medicine, the actual refuge.
The act of entrusting oneself to these three, relying
on them for guidance is going for refuge. And the practice
of meditation properly begins with the the attitude of
Taking the Precepts
Another preliminary to Buddhist practice is taking the
precepts — pledging to observe morally pure conduct.
Before undertaking the practice of meditation, we
make the firm resolution to observe the five precepts,
the basic framework of moral discipline, abstaining from:
taking life, destroying life.
taking what is not give — .stealing
unwholesome form of sexual misconduct — for
lay people this includes adultery, forced relations.
promiscuous relations, meaningless relations that harm
false speech —lying.
taking intoxicants that cause unclarity
Serenity meditation aims specifically at developing concentration
or samadhi, the unification of the mind upon a single object.
When you set out to develop concentration you select a
single object to be your primary meditation subject, your “field
The Buddhist texts mention a variety of meditation objects
parts of the body.
the three refuge objects — the Buddha, the Dharma
and the sangha,
the breath— in and out breathing
the divine abodes (brahma viharas) of loving
kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity
You may choose an object or you may an object may be chosen
by your teacher. When you begin you try to focus the mind
upon the single object, excluding all sensory impressions,
all discursive thoughts, all the other countless mental
distraction. Whatever arises, whatever comes
up just let it go and brings the mind again and again
to the meditation object. For
example if meditating on the breathing, bring
the mind back to the touch sensation of the breath as it
moves in and out. Whatever
thoughts come up just note them briefly and bring
the mind back over and over to the same focal point.
The hindrances As you concentrate on your field of work, various impediments
inevitably arise, obstructing your effort, preventing you
from reaching deep concentration.
The Buddha himself gained a thorough familiarity with
these impediments and classified them into the five hindrances.
(As well he offered a simile comparing each of the hindrance
to a particular impurity of water which prevents a person
from seeing his reflection in a pool of water.)
Sensual desire The yearning and craving for the objects of
the senses — for agreeable sights and delightful
sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, as well as for
the thoughts and images based on these.
Sense pleasures are like water having many different
colored paints on the surface. They seem beautiful
and attractive, but when the surface water is colored
with paints, you can’t see your reflection. In
the same way, you can’t gain concentration and
insight if the mind is obsessed by sense desires.
Ill will Includes all negative mental states — hatred,
anger, hostility, aversion discontent, depression — directed
sometimes to people, sometimes to things, sometimes
Ill will is like boiling water, water with bubbles
rushing to the surface, making it impossible to see
your reflection in the water. Similarly when the mind
is boiling over with anger, ill will you can’t
gain calm and concentration
Dullness and drowsiness
Mental inertia, rigidity and stiffness of mind. Often referred
to as sloth or torpor, these include drowsiness, sleepiness,
indolence, and lethargy.
Sloth and torpor are like water grown over with moss,
a symbol of stagnation and sliminess. Dullness and
drowsiness indicate a stagnant state of mind incapable
of allowing calm and insight.
Restlessness and worry The excited and agitated state of mind. Worry
is the nagging sense of remorse and regret over things
we’ve done mistakenly in the past or problems
lurking ahead in the future.
Like the surface of water churned up by strong winds,
which break it into waves and riplets, when restlessness
and worry pass through the mind they prevent calm and
Doubt Not questions about the doctrine or
discipline but rather persistent uncertainty about
the teachings, the inability to make up one’s
mind to follow the path and commit oneself to the practice.
Doubt is like muddy water. Unclear, it is unable to
give back one's reflection.
To attain concentration, the Buddha recommends a variety
of methods, including:
Make a note of the hindrance when it arises and then
to let it go without becoming disturbed by it. If you
don't feed it with concern and bring the mind back to
the object, the hindrance will lose its momentum and
Focus attention on the hindrance itself; observe it
with mindfulness. Since the calm and clarity of
mindfulness are incompatible with the mental disturbances,
this method shuts out the hindrance and often succeeds
in making it subside.
If the hindrance does not subside, drop the primary
subject and take up a special method to counteract the
hindrance, an antidote.
Ashoka offers a course for meditators that
teaches the hindrances and their antidotes.
This course, taught by Joseph Goldstein,
guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Society,
can be found at >>>
The five factors of absorptions — the janas
As one continues practicing serenity meditation, concentration
becomes stronger until it leads by stages to the deep states
of absorption called the jhanas. There are four jhanas
named simply after their numerical position in the series:
the first, second, third, and fourth jhanas. In each successive
jhana, the concentration is stronger, the mind more focused
and peaceful. In the jhanas the defilements are suspended
and suppressed, so that they do not manifest in the mind.
However, even when the defilements are completely suppressed,
they are still lying dormant because the fundamental root
is still lying dormant – ignorance. In order to get
free from the latent tendencies, one has to eliminate ignorance,
and to do this the one practices insight meditation.