'sabaijai', on 12 Aug 2010 - 19:24, said:
I think it's difficult to separate dhamma and meditation. First of all dhamma isn't 'knowledge.' It's the underlying reality - or the ultimate reality, if you prefer - for Buddhism. One also needs to define what is meant by 'meditation' in this context. Samatha? Satipatthanna vipassana? Very different, with different purposes. Samatha requires a certain stillness perhaps encouraged by formal meditation postures. Satipatthana vipassana does not require formal postures, once a certain stage has been reached.
Even then, as the Buddha himself is reported to have said, merely hearing dhamma is enough for some people. Dhamma precedes meditation, is explored through meditation, and is still there afterwards, once you see it.
In one sense the proportion of formal meditation in one's practice will necessarily vary from individual to individual depending on kamma and conditions. Nowhere in the Tipitaka, as far as I know, does it say that meditation (even satipatthana vipassana) is necessary *and* sufficient for path attainment. Dhamma study necessarily comes first, and is sometimes sufficient for some people.
The Sutta Pitaka contains more than 10,000 separate discourses. Only two suttas focus entirely on meditation, the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (Four Foundations of Mindfulness) and the Anapanasati Sutta (Mindfulness of Breathing). A search of Access to Insight's translations of the Suttas online for the word 'meditation' yields only 93 results, and aside from the aforementioned two suttas, most of the mentions occur in passing.
The rest of the 10,000 discourses are taken up with matters such as cultivating right view, cultivating loving kindness, how kamma works (one of which, the Devadaha Sutta, refutes the notion of burning away kamma through meditation), how to introduce the Buddha's teachings to others, how to decide which spiritual paths are worth following and how laypeople can live happy and fulfilling lives.
Most Theravada Buddhist monks and laypeople spend at most a small portion of the day in meditation. From time to time - especially in the early years of practice - they may do retreats of a few days, very rarely up to a month, but again, in relation to the calendar year, relatively less time is spent meditating than on other activities.
Once the four foundations of mindfulness have been established, 'meditation' (arising of sati) can occur anytime, any place and in any posture. As the dhamma seeds grow into thriving trees, so to speak, the need for formal meditation grows less and less.
It seems to me that formal meditation is a laboratory where dhamma can be tested (again, more for some people than for others). I've spent a lot of time perched on meditation cushions in temples, on retreats and at home. Speaking for myself, most of that time was wasted until I begin receiving very specific dhamma training from a couple of good teachers.
One thing I have noticed in myself and in others is that as long as you think you are doing something with meditation itself that will further the path, you will go nowhere. Only when dhamma is seen - and this can happen just as easily out of formal meditation as in it - is stream entry possible.
This is what I've been taught, and what experience has confirmed. YMMV.
ocky, I wish I were the kind of spiritual genius who could write something here in this box where you'd see exactly what is meant, but I'm afraid I am not of that caliber. I once firmly believed, like most Westerners, that meditation was the summum bonum of Buddhist practice. I now believe that it has its place among a lot of other supporting structures in 'the raft,' and that the practice involves your whole life, not just the parts where you're sitting cross-legged or walking back and forth slowly like a mental patient. But I'm a lousy teacherCan we explore your reply a little further?
I've very interested in learning and getting on the right path.
Was the specific dhamma training you received from good teachers universal to all & could you share these?
Could it be said that although 2 of 10,000 discourses relate to meditation, this doesn't necessarily diminish the importance of meditation but rather may indicate the subject can be captured in two suttas?
Are the four foundations of mindfulness captured through the practice of Mindfulness and the study of Dhamma?
Would you say that although merely hearing Dhamma is enough for some people, this is rare?
I personally find that regular sitting meditation calms me down to a point which enables me to more successfully focus on my mindfulness.
It also helps me overcome overreaction (auto response) in day to day life situations.
Meditation, as I've been taught, and I've experienced it, and more importantly as it appears to be taught in the Suttanta, is an adjunct to dhamma.
I'd say that hearing or reading the dhamma and getting it is worth more than a thousand hours of meditation, for almost any type of personality.
But a lot of people don't realise that until they've practised a lot of formal meditation. If you ask those who have had that kind of result, ie the arising of sati, I'll bet 9 out of 10 will admit the actual arising of sati did not occur while they were formally sittting/walking etc, but rather during some other activity.
It's easy to conclude that the arising wouldn't have occurred without the formal meditation. But it arose during moments of mindfulness of dhamma. It arises when you no longer separate your life into practice and non-pratice, when you carry the paramattha dhamma with you wherever you go. It comes when sati grasps the separate arising of nama and rupa.
Even for the slowest student, meditation is eventually no longer needed, as Buddha himself said in the famous discourse on abandoning the raft you built, once across the stream. A poster above claimed that enlightened beings and Buddhas continue to meditate. Well I've never met a Buddha so I can't comment, and I'm not sure I've ever met an enlightened being but the teachers I respect most spend a small proportion of their days in formal meditation, if at all. When they do practise formal sitting meditation it's when they're teaching beginners - perhaps to build confidence, serve as an example or 'read' the situation. Or they practice samatha to condition mental health and calmness. Mindfulness is something they practice in every waking moment, so there is absolutely no need to sit down and 'meditate' anymore.
Most Westerners who get into Buddhism initially focus on meditation and most seem to stay fcoussed on it until they quit meditating altogether, frustrated that they can't grasp dhamma.
As for the dhamma theory, it's all laid out in the Tipitaka. Google 'paramattha dhamma' and read and re-read everything you can find about it. Find a teacher and ask them about paramattha dhamma and listen to what they say. Or find somewhat like Khun Sujin who can actually take you on a dialectic tour through your own citta. A few sessions will give you enough to wrestle with for a very long time,
Meditation is a great laboratory and a great calmative. I still practise formal meditation and I still attend the occasional retreat. But it can be a bit like taking psychedelic drugs, ie disappointing when you 'come down.' It can be terrifying when insight actually arises and you realise your ego was behind the intention to meditate in the first place, not kusala citta. On the other hand f practised under the right conditions and perhaps with a very good teacher, nibbana is possible.
It isn't how much you meditate, it's how much you understand dhamma, that determines progress along the path. Meditating won't necessarily show you the way if you don't have a map. Your citta are like computer processes, as in the old saw 'garbage in, garbage out.'
Everyone must find the right balance for themselves.
We don't know how much of the meditation Buddha practised himself led to his enlightenment. He followed many practices that he abandoned along the way, including fasting and other severe austerities. What we do know, from the Tipitaka at least, is that after it became apparent to others that he was enlightened, and he was persuaded to teach how to reach that space, that the first thing out of his mouth wasn't 'Sit down and meditate, and you'll find out. Here's how.' The first thing he taught was straight dhamma, starting with one of the factors of existence and its cause, and the eight practises which together would do the job.