This is an article I wrote 10 years ago on Meditation. It goes hand in hand with the next ‘Ultimate Teachings’ article on the same topic. Thank you to the late Steve Klick who taught me so much in the twinkling of an eye before departing for the spiritual world. At that time, I had no hint of living in Japan and encountering the Ultimate teachings of the Buddha, my final teachings, but he somehow knew so introduced me to Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra in preparation!
A Response to the Venerable U. Vimalaramsi’s “Guide to the Anapanasati Sutta” and “The Meditation Teachings of Stephen Klick.”
by Linden Thorp
It seems in our day, the Latter Day of the Law, that there is great conflict and dispute about meditation methods. This is curious and quite shocking as Buddhists are supposedly beings who have relinquished that kind of judgmental mind, that kind of fundamental dualism. But no, they cling desperately to their assertions and negations, and what is more, they consider themselves in a position to prescribe methods for others. When it comes to something as personal and intimate as meditation, something so important as our daily practice, how can we insist, using the arbitrary symbols of words, that there is only one way or one style of meditation? I would suggest that this is not the way forward for the Buddhist community.
There are many substantial books written exclusively on the “subject” of meditation which read as complex manuals containing detailed charts and check lists talking grandly about “access concentration,” “fixed concentration”, which are somewhat freely translated from Pali and Sanskrit without any real experience of the cultural aspects of these languages, it would seem. Given that we all have unique minds and hopefully unilateral control over those minds, surely we each have to find our own unique way. Some developments in the teaching of Buddhist meditation seem to have taken the ideas very far away from what the Buddha actually said about meditation. After all no-body taught him, and he was a human being much like us, so is it not possible that we can teach ourselves? Isn’t it possible that we will recognize what is best for us in the long run. And if we feel the need of the guidance of a teacher, we must look to see which teachers have had the personal realizations which are compatible with our own.
There is also the question of karma (or kamma in Pali). Due to a mix of our karmic links and our physical and psychological make-up, we are bound to be attracted to one style of meditation or another, much as we prefer salty to food to sweet, for example. But remember, in reality, there is only one taste and that is “the taste of liberation.”
” I do not dispute with the world, though the world disputes with me. No one who is aware of the whole truth can dispute with this world, “(Annattalakkhana Sutta). It is essential that we accept other people’s interpretations of the world. It is an act of compassion, though in our time of the domination of the bullying intellect, we stand to be accused of having no opinions of our own, of being tepid or shallow, and other such epithets, if we do. We must realize that this is the childish antics of Mara at work. How is it possible that we can argue with what someone has volunteered to express? Maybe they have their facts wrong and we feel we need to correct them; well this is of course acceptable if it is done in a compassionate and tender way, exchanging “but” for “and,” and so on. To silently accept these proffered ideas is graceful, respectful. Verbal expression, whether written or spoken, can be likened to music. If you want to stand up and sing something original no-one will round on you and say that it’s not correct or it’s in the wrong key or tempo. In the same way, as long as we express what comes from the heart, no one can possibly dispute it.
Bhante Vimalaramsi and Steve Klick are two Buddhists with different karma and different connections even though they are both practicing in America at his time. It is clear at the start of each of their works on meditation that they have different functions in the world; one of them is an ordained monk the other is lay, one with total allegiance to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, the other a champion of Nichiren, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, himself a gifted student of the teachings of Shakyamuni, who appeared in human form in order to broadcast the revelations of the Lotus Sutra which would show people that path to liberation in a time of unprecedented suffering. Naturally, they would each offer different guidance for meditation. Perhaps one of the main differences between these two approaches is the pivotal use of chanting for Nichiren Buddhists. “The word ‘mantra’ actually means, ‘protection for your mind,’ says Steve Klick, and in this terrible time we witness in the history of civilization we certainly need that protection. Bhante Vimalaramsi in his ‘Guide’ takes trouble to redefine Pali words, which have become a little distorted by modern ways, talks lucidly about the Jhanas (the stages of meditation) and eloquently describes ‘tranquil meditation,’ and finally analyses the Anapanasati Sutta, The Mindfulness of Breathing practice, and comments on it in some detail. I have learned much from both works as I am sure practitioners from all disciplines of Buddhism will and have, even though I realize that my personal karma links me indisputably with Steve Klick, the Lotus Sutra, and that the BIONA electronic Sangha is now my direction.
I remark, as I pay attention to the varied language used by many teachers which expresses how to meditate, that despite their disciplines they all have their own inimitable way of talking about stilling the mind. Of stilling the mind and also of opening the heart. Certain words mean certain things to certain people. For example the words “concentration” of the mind, and “expansion” of the mind. While Bhante Vimalaramsi prefers not to use the word “concentration” but favors “expansion,” Steve Klick in his recent book on meditation favors ‘concentration’ and ‘heightened awareness’. Consider these two quotes, one from each teacher, which exemplifies this preferred use of language :
First Bhante Vimalaramsi: “The Lord Buddha had never taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes the mind to fix or to absorb into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected every form of ‘concentration meditation’ as not being the correct way.” (Guide, pp 21)
Then Steve Klick : “The goal of Samatha meditation is to develop a deeper state of concentration. This is something most Western students need to work on with a lot of dedication because television viewing has trained them to view things in very short increments of time.” (The Meditation Teachings of Stephen Klick, BIONA Books, pp 3)
We are looking here at a whole mixture of elements, e.g.; culture, translation, education, social observation, rigorous study of the sutras, etc., Venerable U. Vimalaramsi is a Theravadan monk, and Steve Klick is a lay “Independent” Nichiren Buddhist, etc. These differences mean diversity and a wealth of material from which to make one’s own choice. The “Guide” says, “experience is multi-faceted and the Buddhist view is therefore multilateral. If truth is multifaceted, it cannot be stated in a unilateral way.” (Guide, pp 4)
Today we have to find the words to try to explain experiences of meditation because words are our staple means of communication, but of course these experiences come from individual minds with a background in different kinds of Buddhism. I think in each of these works there is integrity and a real mission to try to guide students, and each practitioner has the ability to look at the whole and not just its microscopic parts. Vimalaramsi uses the charming image of a group of blind men examining different parts of a gigantic elephant to show this idea (Guide, pp 3). We must each have the courage to take what most appeals to us from each view into our own practice; there are few rights or wrongs, and we must resist getting entangled in rows over details. Ultimately we need to find a way of adapting our own inner language for our own needs, which as we become purer and purer through daily practice, disintegrates and falls away in any case. We can take what we need gracefully, and “just practice;” Steve Klick tells with rye humor of formidable Japanese Buddhist matriarchs who, when he was a novice, force-fed him with food he could not tolerate and shouted, as he tried to resist the violent urge to vomit, that he should “just practice!”
Individual differences exist throughout the natural world; no two leaves are identical, and each drop of water in a waterfall differs from the next. The quintessential point which surfaces from close examination of these two works is that if you take away the human invention of language then we are all energetic particles of the universe; if one man wants to chant to make possible that connecting with the whole Universe and the other wants to smile and expand his mind, then neither can we prevent each of them from doing what they intuitively think best, nor can we make comments which may undermine that intuition. Instead why not dedicate ourselves to discovering our own intuition and direction?
I have taken Vimalaramsi’s “expansion” into my practice, and smile even more than before, and also into my artistic life. One could say that one “concentrates” on writing a text or a poem, or painting a picture, or playing the oboe, but I do now understand this to be a tightening, a squeezing of something to get the essence out, a collecting of everything into one locality. Perhaps this does foster the quality of attachment. Whereas if one expands it is almost as if we are sending energy out into the universe where we cannot possibly have any attachment. Bhante Vimalaramsi’s motto is to keep smiling, and indeed allowing a big broad smile to spread across one’s cheeks is an expansion of sorts, without question – ((((smile))))).
“I still respond to the call of the cosmos, although the way I do so has changed. The call is as clear and compelling as it was those many years ago. When I hear it now, I pause, and, with all my body, with every atom of my being, every vein, gland and nerve, I listen with awe and passion. Imagine someone who’s mother has been dead for ten years. Suddenly one day he hears her voice calling to him. That is how I feel when I hear the call of earth and sky.” (Fragrant Palm Leaves, Journals of Thich Nhat Hanh 1962-1966, pp 30) Here is another very impressive Buddhist talking poetically about the connection we all have with the cosmos. His is an auditory approach to reaching out, an intense listening. Perhaps Bhante Vimalaramsi breathes the cosmos in and out, and Steve Klick utilizes vocal vibrations, but they are all indisputably on the path to Enlightenment.
Vimalaramsi suggests that “concentration meditation” can be comfortable whilst we are engaged in it, but that adapting to normal life afterwards is then difficult and so we contract the mind in order to cope with this adaptation and thus become even more attached. Meanwhile Steve talks about chanting in front of the Gohonzon, the mandala of Nichiren, and every thought of a verbal nature simply dissolving. He talks about reaching out to the Universal Law and becoming one with it. Language becomes petty when we see the enormity of what each man is saying. They all three, Thich Nhat Hanh included, shout loud and clear of liberation and taking up our rightful places in the universe. What inspiration and insight they each have despite the limitations or at least ambiguities of language.
As a post script, I think it is interesting that I have never met or spoken to either Ven. U Vimalaramsi or Stephen Klick, and yet I am able to take through their written words their teachings. In a way this is the Dharma of the pioneers of Buddhism who made epic journeys across continents with the often memorized words of the Buddha in order to establish the faith in far-flung countries. BIONA books and the Internet have made it possible for me to be a truly “independent” Buddhist practicing out in the world, but still in no doubt whatsoever about the Dharma.
Now to concentrate a little on the two main works in question in detail.
The Ven. U. Vimalaramsi
The Venerable U Vimalaramsi, the author of “The Anapanasati Sutta: A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom meditation,” is clearly both a marathon meditator and a man of great integrity. Right at the very opening of his Guide he talks about “the futility and absurdity of unilateral belief,” Guide, pp3). Meditation is both his vocation and his contribution to all sentient beings on a daily and colossal basis; there have been periods in his life when he meditated for 22 hours out of 24! And even today as he becomes more and more established as a Dharma teacher and is in the midst of the demanding practicalities of setting up a Dharma Center, Sukkha Dharma Center, along with staunch supporters, he refuses to miss his long sessions of daily Vipassana meditation which then empower the energy needed to clear land and manage the wild forests of the Ozarks, Lesterville, Missouri. He has studied meditation for 28 years in a variety of cultures and disciplines, and worked with the dying in hospices. His approach is, in the words of his assistant Khema, “really quite simple,” and that it is “remarkable that he figured out what he did about Vipassana meditation.”
The Venerable Vimalaramsi has made it his life’s work to find the best teachers and to really get to the bottom of what the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, actually taught about meditation. “The Lord Buddha taught only one kind of meditation, that is by simultaneously developing both the jhanas and wisdom.” He tells us again and again to go to the Suttas to find all we want to know about Buddhist meditation in daily practice, the “Undiluted Dhamma,” and points out clearly that the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha’s clear instructions on the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, “does not categorize meditation practices.”(“A Practical Guide to,” pp 10). In his own writing Vimalaramsi skillfully and respectfully utilizes the Buddha’s ideas on this practice “without a lot of additions or free-lance ideas” (A Prac. Guide, pp10), which he suggests are prevalent in the domain of meditation today, as we have already said.
For me, the two most impressive ideas which come out of this stimulating Guide, are firstly “suppression as a hindrance,” and secondly “chanda, or joyful interest or enthusiasm”.
Suppression as a Hindrance
My own experience of the rigorous, often ascetic Brahminesque advice to meditators is that mindfulness, in their view, seems to be about marshaling the mind with commands; “Walk. Walk,” “Left. Left,” “Right. Right,” “Sleepy. Sleepy,” etc. In this way language is used to “cultivate stopping,” and to switch the mind back to its object of meditation upon which it should be fixed. To my mind this seems very mechanistic. Meditation here is seen as a strict discipline, training the mind as if taming an enormous wild elephant. Surely, in our day and age when “success” and “failure” are important issues even inside one’s own personal development, this approach is bound to encourage damage to one’s self esteem if targets are not met, and as Vimalaramsi says, “The essence of meditation is to open and calm one’s mind and accept whatever arises without any tightening at all.” (Guide, pp 5) In addition, modern psychologists have amply documented the idea that the unconscious mind is perverse in that it will do the opposite of what it is told to do. This is an oddity in the way language works which is not at all surprising given its arbitrariness. It also tends to respond to an indirect style which is why therapists so often use metaphor in their treatment. In other words it does not like confrontation. Perhaps this mechanistic style of encouraging meditation worked in the monastery system or among wandering ascetics, but we moderns are neither of these things. In many ways we are much more fragile at the same time as being much more calculating.
Why do we suppress? Modern psychology offers the explanation that our conditioning trains us to block things which are painful or uncomfortable; this can be strikingly seen in the harmful acts of criminals who often do not recall committing their crimes. We are also trained to select, from thousands of stimuli, the ones we most like or feel most comfortable with. If we want something desperately enough, e.g.. Nibbána, and release from suffering, then we have the ability to block out anything which gets in the way. By suppressing, using the powerful electro-chemical energy of the mind which is on the whole greatly underused, we can instantly clear away all the “gray clouds” which are preventing us from seeing the infinity of blue sky. As Vimalaramsi says, “whenever one suppresses anything, they are not purifying the mind, or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, one is pushing away or not allowing part of their experience and thus, this contracts the mind instead of expanding and opening the mind.” (Guide, pp 21) This means that we are protected from things which we must allow to arise in order that we may let them go, in order to purify the mind of the ego-belief of “I am.” Even death must be allowed to arise so that we can let it go, because everything is impermanent.
Bhante Vimalaramsi is a champion of “Tranquil Wisdom” meditation. He says that it “leads to wisdom, full awareness, sharp mindfulness and eventually to the highest goals of attaining nibbána” (Guide, pp 6). For 6 years before his Enlightenment the Buddha went in search of teachers who could show him how to totally let go of the ego-self, and he never found satisfaction with any of them. Although they helped him develop to a very high standard, the highest anyone else had attained, he observed that the concentration techniques they taught caused a tightening in the mind, which signified that there was still attachment. Then as the Buddha sat vowing not to get up until he had attained enlightenment he remembered an incident from when he was a very young child. During a plowing festival his attendants left him sitting quietly under a rose-apple tree, and it was here that he sat in “tranquil wisdom,” his mind expanded and open. It was this expansion, this opening up to the entire cosmos, that he was in search of, and that no teacher of the time seemed aware of. It is these childlike qualities of suppleness and “not a care in the world” that perhaps, as adults battling with the six lower worlds of Samsara, will lead us to our own personal Nirvana. The vocabulary of concentration meditation, i.e.. “fixed,” and “absorption,” smack of the drama of terrestrial life which we should try not get ourselves mired in.
Vimalaramsi also claims that we cannot experience personality changes if we do not open and expand the mind to let go of any hindrances. This is the silent mind at work, without ego-attachment. Not allowing the iron fist of attachment to release causes tension in the head, and “As a result of this suppression, there is no real purifying of the mind and thus, personality change does not occur. “(Guide, pp 21)
Chanda, or Joyful Interest
“one can see the importance of developing a mind that smiles and has joyful interest.” (Guide, pp27)
I can see that with all the intensified suffering in this Latter Day of the Law, that it is not surprising that we take on some of that intensity in our approach to life. Threats of another World War with weapons of mass destruction at its disposal this time, epidemic cancer, famine and natural disasters all around, and suicide and mental illness rapidly on the increase, all contribute to the proliferation of anxiety and confusion. For these reasons it is possible to become desperate to try to save the world with equal quantities of study and practice, and to replace “no-nonsense” effort with a manic intensity; after all this is the grand epoch of the “ic” and the “ism” – workaholic, alcoholic, shopaholic, and heroism, etc And so we become tight and intense about our practice and have somehow lost touch with joy and curiosity. We are obsessed with the detail and fail to stand back, smile and survey the picture. In fact, we have become specialists, viewing everything through the intensity of a magnifying lens. This has become a habitual way of using the energy of the mind, and like all habits, it is difficult to break.
It is that light luminous feeling which gives us a sense of happiness, a respite from the unilateral taking of things personally. Enthusiasm is a quality quite different from mania and obsessive neuroses. Meditation after all can encapsulate the whole of our lives, ultimately is capable of leading us out of all suffering, and this is good reason to smile and be light and contented. After all, despite all the atrocious things which are happening on our planet, what good does it do to become angry or irate, or debate and disagree with each other. It would be more effective both for ourselves and the world at large if we instead went out and did something practical like join a peace-march, or record Dharma tapes for prisoners, or help those who are helpless.
Vipassana meditation, or “Tranquil Wisdom,” can allow us to see impermanence. If one simply allows thoughts to come and accepts them lovingly, it is possible to realize that the ever-changing nature of thoughts is the mirror of all phenomenon. We can realize that we can have no control over anything in the Saha world. This simple act of observing thoughts and letting them pass away in their own time shows us the true nature of impermanence. “Mindfulness means to lovingly-accept what is happening in the present moment, without trying to control, resist or change it.” (Guide, pp 34) And this we can do with a smile on our faces and radiant, light bodies.
Sadly, meditation in these times of popular spiritual guides from the East and the subcontinent, has become a confused affair. Technicolor visualizations abound and affirmations brim over as we are tossed between Tibetan and Indian Buddhism; Zen Buddhism enforces austere vacuity; and all of this concerns “talk” or, in the case of Zen, “no talk.” We desperately need to get away from words, from their indirectness, from the habitual inner dialogue, the asserting and negating, the “nice” and the “nasty.” We must be wary of trying to achieve meditation as we might a physical feat or intellectual excellence. It leads us to direct knowledge, “not memorized or studied knowledge.” (Guide, pp 50)
Firstly, perhaps it is important to say that this “small” meditation book is not a study document unlike the “Guide.” It is rather more a personal teaching for Steve’s students. However, there are inevitably very important elements to glean from his approach to meditation.
Steve Klick has tried and tested Buddhism whilst living out in the world, although he has spent time in retreat in the past. At the outset he says, “Buddhist realization is always based on direct experience so the only honest solution is for the student to experiment until they discover what works best for them” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 2). He is clearly a pragmatist, and a totally committed and prolific Buddhist. He spends all day almost every day engaged in spreading the Dharma in a variety of ways. He created BIONA books as a way of opening opportunities for “independent” Buddhists to express themselves in spite of their divers backgrounds, as is obvious from the site. www.buddhistinformation.com is a living experiment in “tolerance” and the compassion which this generates (sadly this site no longer exists). However, says Steve, “The one practice that we invariably share in common is the use of mantra, ‘Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. We use this mantra because the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is to develop heightened awareness until we attain enlightenment” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 2).
His introduction to meditation is both clear and compelling, and also a support for modern people coping with the demands of living a modern life in a time of great mental sickness. The tremendous positive-ness that is a direct result of the revelations of the Lotus Sutra, the last teaching of Shakyamuni, open up enormous possibilities of attaining enlightenment for all beings whilst living in the Saha world. “Once you chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo you have a prediction of Buddhahood from the mouth of Shakyamuni Buddha, you are truly the Buddha’s child and heir to the Buddha’s spiritual throne” (The Meditation Teachings, pp 4).
Much of the explanations about Nichiren and his insights into the teachings of Shakyamuni appear in great detail in Steve Klick’s other works, notably “Day By Day” and “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide to Happiness.” It is striking, I think, how meditation is such an integral part of the Dharma, of the truth that each moment of our lives is steeped in. In his view, “Meditation is like any other task that you undertake. The more time and effort you devote to the job at hand the more skill you will develop.” (T.M.Ts, pp 5) The way Steve lives his life is a total integration of the Buddha’s teachings adapted for coping with the Latter Day of the Law. Few commitments could be so unshakeable. “My experience has been that once you pass through such a stage where you do not perceive thoughts as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ the mind stops playing such games and your concentration becomes truly single pointed. You focus on the mandala, do your practice and that’s all.” (T.M.Ts, pp 10)
He is also extremely wise regarding human nature. In a series of questions posed by students at the end of the small book of teachings, one student asks why he becomes so bored when he meditates (chants). Steve answers, “You need to understand that boredom is good because it means you have made contact with the basic problem of all human kind. Samsara exists because humans will do anything to escape boredom. Once you learn to embrace boredom you no longer have to struggle to practice.” This is practical advice to send this student away to his place of practice to test out whether boredom will allow itself to be embraced by him or not. This, you will agree, accords well with the idea of non-suppression suggested by Ven. Vimalaramsi.
“While it is true that meditation practice will pacify your mind and eventually lead you to a state of heightened awareness, which will benefit society as you interact with people, it is also true that you are capable of doing so much more if you only decide to make the effort.” (T.M.Ts, pp 16) He is, as I know well, a tireless inspirer of acting now to liberate all sentient beings, not tomorrow.
Finally, his understanding of “Emptiness” and the isolation of each human being’s mind, the importance of the heart along with exhaustive familiarity with most aspects of the ocean of Buddhist literature, make him a giant, a great Bodhisattva of the Earth. I personally have benefited enormously from his insights and vibrant interpretations of daily life.
I hope that my appreciations of these two works have represented them accurately, and that they will entice people to acquire them both in the near future. Of course, both are available at BIONA books.
Meditation in Everyday Life
My own daily routine is built around both chanting and sitting, both sound and silence in meditation. This combination works well for me. I come from a background where both are essential, i.e.. the world of music. It has been said that without the silences, or rests as they are known, music as we know it would simply be monotonal noise. Science has discovered that both thoughts and sounds are made from vibrations of differing frequencies. If I think in this way I easily can get away from words and verbalizations. Add to this the loving attention to the breath, either counting it or simply observing it, or the sending of loving kindness out to all sentient beings, the gazing at the Gohonzon or a candle flame until nothing else exists, and transformation is inevitable. I have a repertoire of delightfully different ways of stilling my mind, and thus generating new energy for all the work we have to do to help sentient beings. There is no possibility that I will ever become bored, although I do have to deal with the hindrances of course and after Vimalaramsi’s insights into suppression I am determined to let them come so that I can look at them. I find his idea of opening the iron fist of attachment a very powerful image. In a similar way I find Steve’s idea of using meditation to allow us “to de-condition the mind from its usual pattern and to reform it to something healthier” (The Med Teachings, pp 11) very effective. We can easily find the compassion to dwell on the positive aspects of the very different approaches of two very different practitioners to develop our own very personal resource.
Also to be completely available for my practice each day I have adopted various techniques which help to organize my thinking time during that day. In this way I can enjoy creative thinking and planning in its own right without it turning into a distraction or hindrance during my practice. I make thinking time in the morning and usually last thing at night. This always takes place in front of the Gohonzon, the practice place, with the presence of candlelight and purifying incense. This is also a very serene time, which often slides irresistibly into meditation filled with tranquil wisdom. If I have a lot of projects on the go at one time, which is how I seem to do things, I need an efficient way of surveying and recording all my ideas. To deal with this in a creative way I use the idea of mind maps which some of you maybe familiar with. I always have a special notebook and a set of colored pens to hand, and I choose a visual theme to organize my thoughts which I draw in divers colors. For example, colored balloons with a thought or idea written inside each one, or colored and various fish, each carrying an idea. This is fun and it is more creative than writing notes or lists in a linear fashion. It is very freeing and often stimulates something completely unexpected or even solves a problem because the conditioning loop of the brain has been short-circuited.
Two Important Meditations
The following is a concise description of two Buddhist meditations which I used when I first started, to great effect. Perhaps you are already familiar with them, perhaps not, but in any case they are versions of the two original meditations of the Buddha which he particularly emphasized. One of course, is the Mindfulness of Breathing (the Anapanasati of Ven. Vimalaramsi’s Guide), and the other Loving Kindness, or Metta Bhavana. I am using here a shortened version of them from “meditation, The Buddhist Way of Tranquility and Insight” -published by Windhorse, 1992, ISBN 1 899579 05 2 ” by Kamalashila, a long-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order, the leader of which is Sangharakshita. For beginners I assume that they have some idea of how to sit comfortably for 15-20 minutes and suggest that they read the instructions through before commencing.
The Mindfulness of Breathing (pp 16)
Sit quietly for a few minutes before beginning to settle yourself.
(1) Feel the sensation of the breathing as it flows naturally in and out of the body. Just after each breath leaves the body, mark it with a (mental) count. Count ten breaths in this way, then start again at one.
After doing that for a short while (say four or five minutes), start counting each breath just before it enters the body, counting in the same way as before.
After a few minutes of stage 2 stop counting altogether, and simply experience the flow of the breathing.
Finally, direct your attention to the point where you almost feel the air making contact with your body (this will probably be in or around the nostrils or the upper lip, though the exact location does not matter). Choose any point that seems suitable, and let your attention stay with the subtle sensations made by the air stimulating that point.
The Mettá Bhávaná (pp25)
Concentrate your attention on yourself. Develop a response of friendliness and kindness towards yourself. Take time with this Then…
Call to mind a good friend. (avoid someone for whom you have parental or sexual feelings). The traditional practice is to choose someone of the same sex and about the same age as yourself. Generate strong feelings of friendliness towards them. Then…
Think of a ‘neutral’ person, i.e. someone for whom you have no personal likes or dislikes. Wish them happiness. Then…..
Turn your attention to a difficult person. Try to let go of your dis-ease with or dislike of them. Then…
Concentrate on all four people, and develop loving kindness, or mettá, towards all of them equally. Then allow the mettá to extend steadily outwards in ever increasing circles, eventually to include the whole world.
Finally, bring your attention gradually back to yourself and, in time, open your eyes.
I hope that these are useful. If you need any more guidance please get back to me or refer to Kamalashila’s comprehensive book.
Finally, as the Venerable U. Vimalaramsi tells us, Krishnamurti had enormously valuable insights into meditation. I would like to end this appreciation of both Ven. Vimalaramsi’s Guide and the Teachings of Steve Klick with this sublime description of Meditative Mind – Silent Mind.
“A meditative mind is silent. It is not the silence which thoughts can conceive of; it is not the silence of a still evening; it is the silence when thought with all its images, its words and perceptions have entirely ceased.”
May all beings experience these wonderful moments of the human spirit in tranquil wisdom as it connects with the cosmos of which it is a particle.
Charley Linden Thorp
9th March 2003