The Origin of Meditation: Making Bonds with the Universe

I’ve just published an article in Meditationmag.com: http://meditationmag.com/buddhism/origin-meditation-making-bonds-universe/

Please visit this wonderful magazine. Kevin Ellerton, the editor, is doing such a great job in spreading the magic of meditation. Meditation is the greatest resource foreach of us in the secular and plural age!

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The Buddha, founder of Buddhism, 2600 years ago made it clear that we should create and maintain bonds with the Universe even though we have been born into human life. This was a common notion in ancient India before his time.

The Universe encompasses everything that exists, according to our current understanding: spacetime, forms of energy and the physical laws that relate them, history, philosophy, mathematics and logic. Buddhists refer to the Universe, both visible and invisible phenomena, as the Dharma.

The Cathars (medieval Christian mystics pronounced heretics by the Church of Rome and exterminated) also were constantly connected to the spiritual or invisible world although they strived to liberate all beings from the physical world of suffering. They regarded death, the ending of human life, as a simple veil that could be easily removed.

The halo (a circle of light around the head of a holy being depicted in Christianity) and the aureole (a circle of light around the head and/or body of a deity in Buddhism), were and still are used as reminders of the spiritual origin of all things appearing in the visible world of form. In both systems of living out the lessons and struggles of human life (Christianity) or samsara (- the world of human suffering-Buddhism), we aspire to make the transition back into the spiritual, formless world, and if possible, to take all living beings with us.

The Cathars, who were vegetarians apart from eating fish occasionally, prescribed the endura, a form of ritual suicide brought about by refraining from taking any food or water as death approached, preceded by the administering of the consolamentum, a special cleansing meditation or blessing. In Buddhism, diet is always key as it is important to allow the subtle inner winds (vayu in Sanskrit) to blow naturally through the channels of the body. The body and mind are unable to function at subtle levels if these winds are not balanced.

So, in both schools, the awareness of what substances from the Earth we put inside our bodies is central to the way we use them. These rules about living allow us to connect with mystical knowledge so as to be able to be a channel for such universal energy. They provide an opportunity for us to fine-tune ourselves in order to receive the countless messages and signs from invisible sources surrounding us.

 

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The mystical has always drawn me personally since being a young child. I could never accept that worldly achievements were the pinnacle of all existence. I was certain there was much more to it than that. Of course, children are usually not yet conditioned as adults are: they are pure and still close to the universe before their intellectual capacities develop.

My dream of being touched by the mystical came steadily true through the Buddhist pathway and gnostic traditions such as Catharism and also Sufism (mystical/Esoteric Islam). In Japan, I am presently involved with the Nirvana Teachings of Shinnyo-en, Esoteric (transmitted orally from Master to pupil) Shingon Buddhism. These are the very last teachings the Buddha gave on his deathbed when he revealed a new aspect of the teachings just before he died which took his disciples and followers by storm.

He announced that every single being, regardless of spiritual training, gender, or any other classifications, is endowed with Buddha Nature, the seed for enlightenment (perfection). If we live life in a sincere way putting others before ourselves, the rain of Dharma will water that seed and it will ripen in time.

This changed the direction of Buddhism forever because everyone universally had the potential for enlightenment in their own lifetime, not only those who gave up their everyday lives as householders to become monks. The best place to become enlightened is in everyday life, here-and-now.

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In Esoteric Buddhism, the mandala is the traditional way of mapping out the Dharma lineage which is passed down through the ages from the original Buddha Shākamuni, about 2600 years ago. The mandala represents the whole Universe and if you are correctly connected to that lineage known as the Dharma Stream, there is nothing and no-one outside you, no ‘us’ and ‘them!’ You are actually positioned in the dead centre of the universe.

Buddhists strive to release themselves from attachment to objects and people because attachment means separation – it requires the attached and the attacher. Once we are truly one with the Universe and all sentient beings, then we have realized ‘emptiness’ and the native silence and stillness of the heart. All our worldly desires are extinguished and it is said that we have crossed the great Ocean of Nirvana to the other shore.

In Japan, there is a strong tradition of mountain ascetics – those who deprive themselves of luxuries and comforts in order to quieten their egos, shugendo in Japanese. Yamabushi (Jpn: one who ‘likes mountains’) follow a special doctrine combining Esoteric Buddhism, Taoism and Shinto.

These practitioners are usually solitary and today mostly lay (non-monastic). Emphasis is placed on physical feats of endurance in the open air where the trainees live in the untouched forests of rural Japan. Their goal is to be touched by supernatural powers and the universe through such practices.

 

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Yamabushi (photograph deliberately blurred for privacy) can often be seen engaged in waterfall training – standing under waterfalls in freezing winter, ridding themselves of their ego so that they can receive the esoteric messages. My own masters did this practice regularly, as did many other key teachers in Shingon Buddhism.

The Cathars also had a strong reverence for and involvement with nature and the Universe. The sacred caves of Sabarthes in Languedoc, south-eastern France, are known as the ‘doors to Catharism.’ Part of initiation as a Parfait (a Cathar Perfect) was to climb a steep path leading up to these caves (a practice common also in shugendo) to the Cave of Bethlehem.

There were four important elements inside the caves:

1. a square niche in the wall which could have conceivably contained a mandala or manual of some kind;

2. a rough granite altar;

3. a pentagram carved into the wall, possibly symbolising the 5 elements of the universe (a common symbol in Esoteric Buddhism);

4. the telluric currents emitted from the rock walls and cave floor.

The atmosphere in these caves fills one with awe. I was particularly sensitive while inside and after visiting had a series of dreams in which Cathars appeared as Buddhist monks. There are so many similarities.

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As mentioned, Buddhists work to achieve emptiness and liberation from all attachments. If you step out of the enclosure of your mind, the view of the world you construct with your intellect, then you step into the Buddhafield or mandala where you are protected and qualified to receive the wisdom of the Dharma stream orally. At this moment, you become united with the Universe. This is reality. You can take refuge in this powerful mandala whilst struggling in samsara to liberate all sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment with you.

Although many different spiritual traditions employ meditation in their training, it could be said that the notion of making ‘bonds with the universe’ began with the young Buddha’s first experience of meditation. Prince Siddhārtha was 7 years of age and already showing promise in his studies to succeed his father and become King of the Sākya clan. One day, he accompanied his father and entourage to an agricultural festival dedicated to the Earth deity.

While there, the young prince noticed a small bird pecking at a worm that had been turned up by a plough. He felt such compassion for the worm that he was inspired to sit in a nearby grove under a jambu (rose apple) tree and soon shifted into an advanced meditative state.

The sun was high in the sky, but the shade provided by the surrounding trees stood still, keeping the young child cool and sheltered from the hot sun. This first meditation inspired by nature demonstrated the highest respect and reverence for the treasures of the universe.

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In my own meditations which bring together many coloured threads, I often use the image that everything inside me, beneath the thin membrane of my skin, can amalgamate with everything outside. That my heart can beat in unison with all the hearts in the universe and that I can breathe as one with all beings in the universe. It is easy to transcend the thin membrane of skin and realize deeply that this is all that makes me a physical individual being, able to act in the world, fulfilling my own unique mission.

The Universe is the Spiritual Source. The Moon and Sun are our protectors. We climb the mountains, flow into the oceans down wide rivers, and swing from stars and planets. It is only the mundane mind that hems us into its synthetic reality, imprisoning us away from the natural glory of the great Universe.

 

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images courtesy of Linden Thorp and megapixyl.com

 

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Linden Thorp is a teacher/author (both non-fiction/fiction)/editor (academic/general/religious) living and working in Japan. She is an ordained Japanese Esoteric Buddhist priest (Shinnyo-en), Alexander Teacher, Sound/Music Creativity Therapist, Meditation facilitator, Indigenous Peoples’ Advocate and is involved in the Cathar revival. Her mission is world peace and harmony. Her religious pathway has been from Christianity, through Hinduism, Islam, Sufism, Humanism, Catharism, to schools of Hinayana, Vājiriyana, and Mahayāna Buddhism, and so to Oneness and Self-Realization.

Atisha and the 7 mind trainings: try it for yourself.

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Atisha, Indian in origin, spent his whole life spiritually liberating Tibet.  It could be said that he founded Tibetan Buddhism which it is estimated has about 350 million adherents today – about 6% of the world population.  He is highly unusual in that he had not one but three highly realized masters – Dharmakirti, Dharmarakshita, and Yogin Maitreya.

One of his most precious teachings is the ‘Seven Points of Mind Training.’  These are merely fingers pointing to the moon – the fingers are not the moon –  so once you have opened yourself to these very practical ways of liberating your spirit from the prison of your mind, please forget about them.  They will work their way into your unconscious mind and assist you in singing your own song and dancing your own dance. In other words, once absorbed they will polish your true nature, your Buddha Nature until it shines out into the universe. The mind creates all of our miseries in human life, so by following this formula you can become free of it.

It is important to say at the outset that this article represents my response to Atisha’s wisdom.  I am simply a valley echoing it into your heart.  I am simply an objective messenger passing the wisdom on.

1 : Learn the Preliminaries:

a) Truth is being – we are already immersed in it.  Humans are truth.

b) Mind is a Barrier – the perpetual film playing out in the world distracts us from what we actually are.

c) No-mind is the door.  Atisha called this Bodhicitta (to be explained later) – by putting aside the mechanism of your mind, you will attain the unattainable. 

2 : Think that all Phenomena are like Dreams

The seer is never seen, the experiencer never experienced, the witness never witnessed because we are always looking outwards.  What truth can there be in a dream?

3 : Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness

We were not born and we will not die. We are pure energy. We are pure awareness. We can use this awareness as a crystal mirror.

4 : Let the Remedy Itself Go Free on Its Own

It is our habit to cling to what cures us, but for what reason.  Once your are cured be in full health. You can forget the remedy and be grateful in every moment of your perfect existence.

5 : Settle in the Nature of Basic Cognition, the Essence

Do nothing. Relax into your True Nature, your Buddha moments. There is nothing to do.

6 : Between Sessions consider Phenomena as Phantoms

If you have to move away from your meditation, your True Nature, remember that you are walking into a dream and participating in it with phantoms.

7 : Train in Joining, Sending and Taking Together; Do this by Riding the Breath: Three Poisons = Three Bases of Virtue

Breathing is being so breathe each borrowed breath carefully.  First, breathe in the suffering, ignorance and darkness of all humanity. Hold them in your heart to transform them with compassion.  Then breathe out the pure joy contributing it to the whole of existence.

We can convert the 3 poisons – greed, hatred and ignorance – into the 3 virtues by overcoming Aversion, Attachment and Indifference. The 3 poisons will be converted into 3 nectars with this simple technique. This is No-Mind – Bodhicitta – the Mahayana ideal of liberating all beings.

 

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The above is not philosophy or religion, but sheer science.  So, experiment. Try it for yourself.  In this way, you can experience your True Nature. At first, you may only get a passing glimpse, a faint scent of something.  This is the energy of your true beauty and fragrance. The fragrance of your unique Truth

I will focus on each of the 7 stages in the Soul Management daily meditation over the next 7 days if you would like to join me.

 

images courtesy of megapixyl.com

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Cunda: the Beginnings of Lay Buddhism

Article published in Ancient History Encyclopedia  – http://www.ancient.eu

by
published on 01 December 2016

The frail Buddha Shakyamuni, known as Gautama Buddha and the Historical Buddha, had reached the end of his physical life and long teaching career. He and his close disciples decided on his final resting place under the twin sala trees in Kushinagar, the republic of Malla in North Eastern Ancient India. There he lay on his side surrounded by many dignitaries and enlightened monks who had gathered to say farewell to him, (c. 563 or 480 BCE). Among them, there was a deeply devoted lay follower named Cunda (Chunda). He was the son of a blacksmith from the nearby area of Kushinagara castle who had come of his own accord to pay his respects to the great Buddha, bringing with him 15 of his friends.

To show his devotion, Chunda had discarded his daily work clothes and put on a simple robe, bearing his right shoulder in the traditional way of monastics. He knelt on his right knee and bowed at the feet of the Buddha. He then made a speech confidently and sincerely which was to change the future course of Buddhism.

 

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As all those attending had done, Chunda implored the Buddha to accept the simple customary offerings of homemade food he and his friends had brought. All the distinguished members of the congregation had already offered luxurious gifts of precious commodities like livestock and gold, but the Buddha had refused to accept everything until this point. Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, Chunda’s modest offerings were accepted and he proceeded to eloquently express his deep sadness of himself and his 15 friends at the prospect of losing the Buddha. He hoped that the simple food would prepare him for entering Parinirvana, the highest state of the ceasing of all craving, and that all sentient beings would not suffer from spiritual poverty after his decease.

In ancient India, and to a certain extent there today, the rigid caste system rejected people such as Chunda because he did not fit into any of the four main castes: He was not a clergyman or scholar, not of the nobility or a warrior, not a merchant or farmer, or a general labourer or servant. But he had confidence that all humans, despite their caste imposed at birth, were equal, and that when the Buddha left them, they would all be equally spiritually destitute. He said:

O World Honoured One! My situation is like that of anyone among the four castes who, because of poverty, has to leave his country to find work and then buy domesticated cattle and fertile fields. After removing the stones and weeds and tilling his land, he has only to wait for the rain to fall from the sky.  (Chapter 2, Mahaparinirvana Sutra)

His words displayed great wisdom despite his lack of formal education or spiritual training. He knew that all living beings needed simply the rain of the Dharma to make them spiritually fertile, and that the Buddha, the truly awakened one, the Tathagata, could bring such rain into the human world of suffering (samsara). The Buddha was delighted and immediately conferred eternal life and connected him to the ever-presence ( Skt.; dharmakaya).  In other words, he was enlightened on the spot.

 

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Cunda Preparing the Last Meal for the Buddha

During his ministry the Buddha had insisted that his disciples should leave their ordinary life and become monastic practitioners, learning strict moral discipline (Vinaya) and upholding monastic rules. The assembled disciples who had reached the pinnacle of all spiritual training were looking on as Chunda, a lay person and an ‘untouchable’ – a person outside the caste system – became immediately enlightened with no training and therefore supposedly little virtue. Chunda became the exception that was to be a crucial part of the Buddha’s last will and testament as he moved back to the spiritual source.

THE UNPRECEDENTED ENLIGHTENING OF CHUNDA, A LAY PERSON AND HOUSEHOLDER, WAS TO OPEN THE PATH FOR ALL BEINGS, NO MATTER WHAT THEIR CASTE.

There were two ways in which this moment in the history of Buddhism brought fundamental changes to the aspirations of Buddhists. Firstly, this unprecedented enlightening of Chunda, a lay person and householder was to open the path for all beings, no matter what their caste, whether lay or clerical, to aspire to reach Nirvana (or enlightenment). It is easy to imagine just how radically this changed the course of Mahayana Buddhism because now anyone could become enlightened and many lay Buddhist orders emerged later.

Secondly, Chunda became enlightened within his own lifetime as a relatively young man. He did not have to work hard to accrue merit and virtue in order to become enlightened in a future lifetime, which was the prevailing Brahmin belief at the time. The Buddha’s acceptance of humble Chunda’s offerings was symbolic of the fact that all sentient beings are endowed with Buddha Nature, and that when the rain of Dharma waters the seeds of Buddha Nature, they will ripen, cutting away all negative karma and human suffering.  By bringing so many of his friends in a sincere gesture of reverence to the Buddha and by having the confidence to make his offering in front of all the dignitaries and esteemed disciples, he had exhibited the spirit of a Buddha, without training or privilege.

In appreciation of the Buddha’s acceptance of his humble offerings, Chunda said,

It is hard to be born a human being, and harder still to encounter a Buddha. It would be like a blind sea turtle encountering a floating log with a hole in it and poking its head through. (The Great Parinirvana Sutra)

This comment prompted the Buddha to leave his final instructions before shifting into Parinirvana. His final teachings known as the Dharmakaya focused on impermanence and detachment followed.  He left them in place of his physical body, assuring the grieving congregation that he would always be with them embodied in the last teachings and that these final teachings would exist for all eternity because they were indestructible.

 

Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha

Chunda is also reputed to have described the rareness of meeting a Buddha in the Sala grove as follows:

An udambara (a flower said to bloom once every 3000 years) can rarely be seen, and so is it to encounter a Buddha…who can nurture the faith of all sentient beings and…extinguish the suffering of death and rebirth. (The Heart, Diamond and the Lotus Sutra)

A recent sculpture of Chunda in the Sala Grove with his 15 friends executed by a modern Japanese sculptor is an inspiration for Japanese Buddhists of Shinnyo Buddhism whose principal belief is that all beings are capable of polishing their Buddha Nature and reaching Nirvana.

Chunda’s deep humility and sincere heart radiated out beyond that of the advanced practitioners and enlightened who had perhaps become arrogant or complacent. This indicates that practising as a true Buddhist of the heart is not about worldly success and reputation, but about humility, sincerity, and simple but total belief in the power of loving goodness and pure faith in the world. The character of Chunda marks the beginning not only of lay Buddhism but also a prevailing feature of the Mahayanas of Buddhism (2nd century CE onwards), the Bodhisattva who achieves enlightenment for the sake of all other beings and vows to postpone his own enlightenment until universal enlightenment is reached.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Nirvanasutra.net
  • Anonymous, Mahapariniravan Sutra
  • Anonymous, The Heart, Diamond and the Lotus Sutra (Lepine Publishing, 2009)
  • Asvaghosatr – Suzuki T., The Awakening of Faith (Dover, 1900)
  • Kato, Tamura, Miyasaka (trans.), The Threefold Lotus Sutra. (Kosei Publishing, Tokyo, 1975)
  • Page, T., Buddha-Self: The Secret Teachings of the Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. (Nirvana Publications, London, 2003)
  • Patton, C., The Great Parinirvana Sutra (Abuddhistlibrary.com)
  • Williams, P., Mahãyãna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations (Routledge, 1989)
  • Yamamoto K. (trans.), Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra (3 volumes) (Nirvana Publications, London, 1973)
  • Yamamoto, K., Mahayanaism: A Critical Exposition of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. (Karinbunko, 1975)

Article 8: The importance of meditation

 

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In today’s stressed and frantic world, meditation is often practiced to release the mind from its never-ending dialogue and its tendencies towards negative and narrow views. This kind of meditation is often silent, sometimes guided with visualizations, and may focus on no particular religious object. It has a secular form, used to promote a serene mind amidst the adversity of Samsara. But what is the origin of meditation? Here is a brief history to show that most religious/mystical traditions have developed techniques to subdue the noise of the intellectual mind, and to connect with the mystical. It is useful also to look at the approach to life of indigenous peoples, as they use many mental techniques for understanding the invisible world and connecting with the Universe.

Dhyana

In antiquity, traditions of meditation called Dhyana (mind calming) existed in 1500 B.C.E. in ancient India. The Hindu Rishi, or seers, learned to hold themselves in a state of constant readiness to receive inspired words, which appeared in visions or from other dimensions. Thus, they had found a way of reaching into their vast unconscious minds via concentration, cutting themselves off from usual distractions of the mind in everyday life. They were connected strongly to their personal divinity, the divinity we all have which in turn connects us with the universe. In modern life, we are mostly distracted, so few of us can reach easily into the unconscious mind and access the clairvoyant skills of seeing beyond the conceptions of time and space. Techniques of deep concentration existed in ancient China, but to date, the Buddha was perhaps the first ‘seer’ to mention meditative techniques in detail. (see Pali Canon-1st century BCE).

In these pre-historic times, a need to be liberated from suffering, to be lifted away from the mundane, arose even when the gods walked among men and karmic debts were few. There were four stages involved to reach liberation: moral discipline; contemplative concentration; knowledge; and finally liberation. The Vimalakirti Sutra is perhaps the best-known Buddhist scripture devoted to the subject of meditation. Vimalakirti sutra

Ancient India was not the only centre of this practice which seemed to meet a deep need in people. In Greece, ‘spiritual exercises’ were championed by Plotinus on Mount Athos; in ancient Israel, meditation and reflection were central to studying the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach; and along the Silk Roads, as Buddhism was transmitted, meditation was adopted enthusiastically in China to later become the basis of the Zen tradition.

In the Middle Ages, in the 8th century, Dosho brought Buddhism from China to Japan, and created the first Meditation Hall in Nara. Then Dogen established the Zazen style of meditation in 1227. In Eurasia, Jewish traditions utilized Kabbalistic prayers and insight techniques, while the Sufis (Islāmic mystics) began breathing control and the repetition of Holy Words in 11th century. Orthodox Eastern Christian traditions perfected sitting postures for meditation, but in general, Christianity did not wholly adopt meditative techniques. They favoured reflection on Holy Texts. The Lectio Divina consisted of 4 stages: lection, meditation, oratio, Doshocontemplatio. In 16th century however, Ignatitius Loyala and St Teresa of Avila did reach states of ecstasy as a result of meditation or single-pointed concentration. From 18th century onwards, Buddhism became a subject of philosophical interest and Yoga traditions, and Transcendental Meditation became highly acclaimed.

From the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Milarepa (1040-1123) is inspiring on the subject of meditation. He was born into a rich family, but his greedy aunts and uncles schemed and took everything away from his parents. As a result of their poverty, his mother begged Milarepa to learn black magic and put a curse on them, bringing about the death of several people. Milarepa, understanding well the laws of karma, was terrified of the consequences of his evil deeds, so searched frantically for a spiritual teacher to help him. He found Marpa, who instructed him to live in a cave and practice solitary meditation, and as a result, he attained full enlightenment in his lifetime, which was a rarity in Tibet at the time. Here is an excerpt from his view on meditation.

‘Look up into the sky, and practise meditation free from fringe and center. Milarepa

Look up at the sun and moon, and practise meditation free from bright and dim.

Look over the mountains, and practise meditation free from departing and changing.

Look down at the lake, and practise meditation free from waves.

Look here at your mind, and practice meditation free from discursive thought.’

(Religious Biography of the Master Milarepa, pp 49)

When looking at the history of this type of life practice, we can see that humans desired to be close to the beings of higher consciousness, perhaps regretting their departing from the suffering world. These beings embodied the singular truth of existence, beyond duality and the petty concerns of the self. They had risen above the consequences and concept-bound games of acting as a human being in the world, to become the formless embodiment of Truth, the Great Truth of the universe. So-called mortals, those trapped in samsara, wished to emulate them and so be liberated from the steady encroachment of the ordinary mind.

Buddha's first meditationOne day 2600 years ago, the Buddha in the human form of the young Prince Siddhartha, accompanied his father King Shuddhodana to an agricultural festival to celebrate an Earth deity. It was Spring and a golden plough turned the earth ready for planting seeds. It was at this time that he noticed a small bird pecking at a worm turned up by the plough, and he felt pain in his heart that most living creatures kill each other to feed. On feeling this sadness, he promptly left public view to hide in a secluded grove. It was here that he entered into a deep meditative state, and attained the fourth dhyana, which allowed him to see everything objectively with equanimity. It is said that during this time, although the shadows were shifting as the sun sank in the sky, the tree he sheltered under continued to shade him to keep him cool. His father praised him saying that his countenance was like a flaming torch on a mountain summit in a dark night.

During the Buddha Shyakamuni’s ministry, meditation was an essential element taught to his disciples. He warned that it was totally ineffectual if practiced in a self-serving way. In other words, it must be a state of total mindfulness, of pure faith, fully concerned with the well-being of others, of protecting the Dharma, and being able to perceive one’s own Buddha Nature and that of others (see article 2 ‘Buddha Nature’ at http://wp.me/p3O6mn-bx). He also indicated that if we are truly practicing for the sake of others, then meditation is not a self-conscious state but completely without form. We are not aware of either what it is to be meditating, or what the outcome of the meditation may be. Another way of looking at this is that the greatest form of meditation will only come about if we pursue it with no notion of acquiring anything; and this is what separates it away from prayer in which we supplicate or beg or earnestly request something. True meditation is completely empty (see article 3 ‘Emptiness’ at: http://wp.me/p3O6mn-ck).emptiness

Detailed instructions on correct meditation were given by the Buddha to his half-brother, Nanda. This is the final metaphor he uses:

‘When one washes dirt from gold, one first gets rid of the largest pieces of dirt, and then the smaller ones, and having cleaned it one is left with pieces of pure gold. In the same way, in order to attain liberation, one should discipline the mind, first washing away the coarser faults, and then the smaller ones, until one is left with pure pieces of dharma.’ (Saundarananda chs. 14, 15)

When he was a weak old man, as he delivered his final instructions from his deathbed, which later took the written form of the mighty Mahaparinirvana Sutra, he proclaimed that it was impossible to understand correctly what happens in everyday life without entering into a meditative state. Without meditation, it was probable that we would become deluded, uttering the wrong words, going down the wrong path of faith, and would be unlikely to receive enough merit meditation then wisdomand blessings to reach enlightenment.

‘First there is meditation; and then there is wisdom.’

In the tradition of Shinnyo Buddhism, my Master, Shinjo Ito, interpreted the final teachings on meditation given from the Sala Grove in a unique way once they became the central scripture of the teachings. The Buddha gives many allusions to the power of meditation to take us to enlightenment, and as mentioned earlier, it should not be self-conscious if it truly is a meditative state. Thus, our sangha has been taught to meditate without ceasing, not only in serene sitting posture; this is the interpretation of mindfulness. Here are the eight comparisons Buddha makes:

First, the eradication of invasive weeds, is most effective if the gardener works methodically, removing all the roots of the weeds. So, with mindfulnessmindfulness at every moment of our lives out in worldly life, we can develop wisdom, and when every weed, every shortcoming or delusion is removed, we will become enlightened.

Taking a deep-rooted tree out of the ground is more easily accomplished if the ground around the roots is first shaken loose. We must undermine our doubts and delusions through meditation; and then pull out the tree with our wisdom.

When washing a dirty cloth, we should first wash it in detergent (ash water at the Buddha’s time), then rinse it with clear water to thoroughly cleanse it. Meditation is the cleaning agent, and pure water the wisdom.

When trying to understand a text, first we must read it and recite it so that its meaning can be understood. Meditation is the reading several times and the reading aloud; wisdom is the understanding and overall meaning the words convey.

armour of meditationIf a warrior wishes to defeat his enemy, first he must fit himself out with armour and then defend himself with weapons. Meditation is the fitting of armour; wisdom is engaging with the enemy. Thus meditation is a protection.

A skilled metal worker first makes his metal molten in a pot on the fire, then he uses tongs to stir and shape the object he is making. Meditation is the melting or reduction of everything; wisdom the reshaping.

Next, the Buddha says,

‘O good disciples! An untarnished mirror clearly reflects one’s face and body. The same applies to meditation and wisdom of Bodhisattvas. (see previous article ‘Bodhisattvas’:http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r).’ Meditation is looking into the mirror; wisdom is being able to see the blemishes and change them.

Finally, farmers plough the ground and then plant the seeds, as students first learn from their teacher and then study more deeply the ploughingmeaning of what they have been taught. Meditation is receiving the teachings; the wisdom is the meaning.

So, meditation is not only the stillness and silence of sitting. We can meditate in every moment of our life using the tools of mindfulness and reflection, and such application in normal daily life, is a speedy way to reach Nirvana, the state of true emptiness. In the Shinnyo tradition we are greatly helped in cleansing our Buddha Nature through the power of sesshin, which means in Japanese ‘to touch upon the essence.’ We practice two types of sesshin (meditation): structured or formal sesshin, and unstructured or informal sesshin.

In structured sesshin, a spiritual guide (reinosha) gives Holy meditationpersonal spiritual words which are then reflected on and put into practice. This is made possible through the Shinnyo spiritual faculty and the essence of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Unstructured sesshin is the application of this holy guidance in daily life, combined with the aspiration for enlightenment and awakening to insights or messages which surround us, thanks to the Dharma Protectors and the ever-presence of Buddha and our gurus from the spiritual world.

These are the final instructions the Buddha gave on holy meditation. Practising in this way in every moment of life is a pursuit of great joy. We can take a complete rebirth of the heart and realize how flexible our minds are, and how thinking is just one small part of the mental continuum. Indigenous peoples often live in this state not limited by concepts, and as a result, they are not separate in anyway from the Universe. In my experience, they remain close to their divine origins. They are above all ‘spirit made human,’ and aspiring constantly to live in harmony with nature, as the gods of antiquity did.

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Article 9: Becoming the Body of the Teachings.