Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

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Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby samtheman » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:50 pm

Hello everyone,

I have been wondering is meditation the only way to reach englightenment. I mean in buddhist stories, sometimes people instantly get enlightened after hearing one talk from buddha, also I remember a story where buddha told a monk to keep washing some dirty cloth, and when doing it repeatedly he came to realization how everything is impermanent and reached englightenment. As a lay man I mean for me breath mediatation is incredibly boring (I'm not questioning its validy it simply is not working for me). Also I think in life if you want to succeed and reach any goal in life, you need to have a proper technique in place to reach it. Also to reach that goal, you need enjoy what you are doing. I mean like everyone I'm good at certain stuff in life, and I have seen those are all stuff I enjoy so I don't hesitate to practice the skills required for them. For example I'm at a campus right now, and when I get in and really study, I'm naturally only concentrating on my study material, and I'm not thinking of anything else. So for me this is like a meditative state but unlike breath mediation I really like doing this. Besides unlike breath mediation, the time spend on the task is not wasted, because more studying means I would be able to get a better job and when I'm become stable I would be able to help the less fortunate. So what I'm saying is if I continue to study like this (I just took study as an example, for a person who is in someother field this could be whatever their designated skill) and do good deeds in life and stay true to the 5 precepts would that be enough to reach englightenment, may be not in this life but atleast in future lives somepoint. Thank you!!
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:47 pm

The way to enlightenment is the Noble Eightfold Path, of which meditation is a part.

If you don't enjoy breath meditation, have you tried walking meditation at all?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Digity » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:54 pm

Is meditation the only way to reach enlightenment? Last time I checked it's an eightfold path. There's eight key aspects that need to be developed to reach enlightenment, not just one.

When I first started out with breath meditation I hated it. I really found it difficult and got no pleasure from it at all. My breathing felt so rough and uncomfortable...it was torturous sitting through it. I gave up repeatedly. Although, at some point I just got fed up with myself and decided I was going to stick to the practice no matter and just work with the breath. Now I'm at a point where I have sessions where the breath is very calm and cool. I also don't find it nearly as boring...if anything, when things really calm down it's very refreshing and you almost don't want to get up. So, you think you know what breath meditation is like, but you don't. You're just at the beginning. Even with my experience I'm very much a beginner. I only have a few months of consistent practice under my belt. You need to let it develop. You need to work through the rough patches. I still struggle with these "rough" sittings, but I know with time I'll get through it.

The other big issue with your thinking is that you're bringing too much of a worldly attitude to the Buddhist path. The approach to the path isn't the same approach you might take to studying, where you constantly push yourself and strive for progress. This can be a hindrance on the path...you often have to step back and just observe and not get entangled in striving for something. Remember, Buddhism goes against the stream...against the grain. You need to bring that attitude to the practice. It's hard and something I'm working on too, because we have this "striving" attitude very much engrained in our minds. It's hard to let go of that...but it's part of the training.
Samsara sucks.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:52 pm

You might want to add some paragraph breaks to make your post easier to follow. :)

Meditation is an essential part of the Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Right thought, right view, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration are all factors of the path. Right action right speech, right livelihood, form the moral foundation to develop mental purity.

In the Buddha's time, many individuals who met him had previously practised meditation to a high degree. Venerable Kondaññā, for example, had been striving as an ascetic along with the Bodhisatta for six years, and was present at the Bodhisatta's birth, when he was an astrologer who predicted his Enlightenment.

Others, like Anāthapiṇḍika or King Bimbisāra, who realised the truth on merely listening to the teachings, had developed mindfulness and wisdom to a high degree in previous lives.

In this current era, long after the Buddha passed away, it is believed that there are no such individuals remaining. If we had such good past kamma like Anāthapindika, we would have met the Buddha at that time. If we did meet him, we obviously failed to “get the message” properly, as we have been reborn again in this human existence — we are not in the celestial realms with Anāthapindika and Visākhā.

So, everyone born these days need to practise meditation. Not just occasionally, and half-heartedly, but regularly, intensively, and with an ardent desire to gain insight leading to enlightenment. The kind of meditation practised today by most Buddhist is mere imitation of the real thing. Sitting for fifteen minutes, then changing your position, or just falling asleep on the meditation cushion will never reach the higher stages of insight in a million years.

Even to attain the lower stages of insight such as knowledge by comprehension, requires ardent, and continuous meditation without a break for several days. A really gifted individual might gain enlightenment within seven months or even seven days (as promised in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta). Most will not reach it even in seven years or seventy years — they just don't practise hard enough, or they have some moral defects or they may hold wrong views, or they may not have a skilled meditation teacher.

As to practising meditation being of no benefit, that depends on how you measure profit. For one with worldly aims, meditation is largely a waste of time, except that it helps them to concentrate or to remove stress, so that they can do better work and so earn more money, gain awards, etc.

One who wants to gain enlightenment is not interested in worldly aims. If they accrue as a side-effect, then they can help others by using their wealth or fame, but that is not their aim. Renunciation of worldly aims is an aspect of right thought. Worldly aims are to be understood as a distraction from the path.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby rohana » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:23 pm

In the Satipaṭṭāna Sutta, the Buddha points out the development of mindfulness as 'ēkāyano maggō' which is translated as "the direct path", or "the only path", though I think it can be read as "the surest path" also. If the hindrances are reduced, then for example, reading/contemplating a Sutta or the Abhidhamma (or similar material) might possibly be able to give results, but they're not 'sure-fire' methods like the formal practice of Satipaṭṭāna.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Gena1480 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:32 pm

if you like to study
study the four noble truth
study the depending origination
when studying the dhamma you will develop other factors
these factor will lead you to meditation
some people meditate and that leads them to study suttas
some people study sutta and that leads them to meditation.
if you like to study that mean you like to understand things
that means you take delight in intellect consciousness
if you see that some disciples of the Buddha reach enlightenment by understanding inconsistency or any other way of enlightenment (study these ways)
make a list of all ways that can lead to enlightenment.
study all disciple of the Buddha and how they reach enlightenment
this practice is called recollecting the Sangha
when studying reflect on your studying.
study about sila
study about concentration
study why the middle path
study about discernment
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby rohana » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:54 pm

Further, there is this story:

    It is said that when the dispensation of the Kassapa Buddha was declining, seven monks who were saddened by this decided to strive for nibbāna, and they climbed onto a tall rock, then threw away the ladder, and started to meditate. One of them became an Arahant that night. The next one became an Anāgāmī the second day. The remaining five did not attain āriya results and starved to death on that rock as puthajjanas. These five were reborn in a heavenly realm, and continued to die and reappear in various heavens until the arrival of Gōtama Buddha, where they were reborn as humans. One of them was King Pukkusāti. Venerable Kumāra Kassapa was another. Venerable Dabba Mallaputta was another. Sabhiya Paribbājaka was yet another. The remaining one was Bāhiya.

I'm not sure what exactly the source of this story is, but I think it is from a commentary. The gist of it is that the people who managed to gain quick results upon hearing the Dhamma had, in their previous lives tried strenuously in the cultivation of insight.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby manas » Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:13 pm

samtheman wrote:Hello everyone,

I have been wondering is meditation the only way to reach englightenment.


Bhikkhu Pesala really answered the question of why in the Buddha's time, some were able to just hear a single Dhamma talk by the Buddha himself and awaken on the spot. We who do not have this opportunity must make quite a bit of effort, striving to uncover, comprehend and practise all eight components of the Noble Eightfold Path. If just meditation were enough, it would have been called the 'Noble Onefold Path', but meditation alone, if without virtue and all the other factors, won't bring us to enlightenment, as I understand it.

Having said that, don't feel intimidated by the eight factors. Over time, they make more and more sense, and begin to feel natural, like it's 'just how one ought to live one's life'. Yes there is a lot to learn and practise if it's enlightenment we want, but even just practicing a little Dhamma is better than none at all, and even practicing moderately is better than just a little. Find the level you can manage without losing heart; however much you can do will be for your benefit both in the here-and-now, and for the future.

:anjali:
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:49 pm

rohana wrote:I'm not sure what exactly the source of this story is, but I think it is from a commentary. The gist of it is that the people who managed to gain quick results upon hearing the Dhamma had, in their previous lives tried strenuously in the cultivation of insight.

You can find the story in the Mahasi Sayādaw's Discourse on the Vammika Sutta. The Vammika Sutta was taught by the Buddha to Kumāra Kassapa, who was one of those seven bhikkhus during the time of the Buddha Kassapa.

This is from the Dictionary of Pali Proper Names in the entry about Kumāra Kassapa:
When the teachings of Kassapa Buddha were being forgotten, he, together with six others, entered the Order and lived a life of rigorous asceticism on the summit of a mountain. (Ap.ii.473f; the details of this story are given in DhA.ii.210-12; among Kassapa’s companions were also Pukkusāti, Dārucīriya, Dabba Mallaputta and Sabhiya; see also UdA.80f).

It is noteworthy that of these seven bhikkhus who strove with a real "Do or Die" attitude to achieve the goal, during the declining phase of the Buddha Kasspa's teachings, only two attained the stage of Noble Ones. Five died while striving. However, these strenuous efforts served them well during the time of the Buddha Gotama — Bāhiya Dṝucīriya being singled out by the Buddha as the one who gained Arahantship faster than anyone else.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby rohana » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:47 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
rohana wrote:I'm not sure what exactly the source of this story is, but I think it is from a commentary. The gist of it is that the people who managed to gain quick results upon hearing the Dhamma had, in their previous lives tried strenuously in the cultivation of insight.

You can find the story in the Mahasi Sayādaw's Discourse on the Vammika Sutta. The Vammika Sutta was taught by the Buddha to Kumāra Kassapa, who was one of those seven bhikkhus during the time of the Buddha Kassapa.


Thank you Venerable Pesala. Many Sinhalese books on Buddhism have this problem that they will often give all sorts of interesting little tidbits, but won't tell you where they're from.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:47 pm

Perhaps its just skilful means to make the reader curious, so that they try to find out more.

The Vammika Sutta is a prime example of this technique. The deity who was a colleague of Kumāra Kassapa in his previous life, came and told him the riddle. After learning it and puzzling over it, he had to go and seek out the Buddha to find out the hidden meaning.

The Buddha used that method in other places too, such as the Dhammapada:

Having slain mother and father¹ and two warrior kings,
and having destroyed a country together with its chancellor,
a Saint goes ungrieving . Dhp.294

Having slain mother and father and two brahmin kings,
and having destroyed the perilous path,
a Saint goes ungrieving. Dhp.295
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby SarathW » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:33 pm

Hi Samath
I do not think I can add any more to Bhikkhu Pesala’s answer.

However it appears to me that you have a temperament of an intellect. Buddha’s teaching can be equate to a hologram. So in theory, if you can master one aspect of Dhamma you will realise Nirvana. Buddha taught his Dhamma to people based on their temperaments.
Final requisite for attaining Nirvana is to develop wisdom (Panna). That is seen the things as they are. (i.e impermanence, unsatisfactoryness, no soul)
Perhaps you can do this while washing dirty cloths or studying.
I try to practice mindfulness while I am driving to work.

I am not an Arahant yet, unfortunately!
:)
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby pegembara » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:22 pm

Five Occasions to Attain Ariyahood

1.Listening to the Dhamma: it brings joy, especially if one has an affinity for the Dhamma. This will naturally calm the mind and make it peaceful and tranquil. A tranquil mind easily becomes concentrated. With a concentrated mind, insight will arise.

2.Teaching the Dhamma: To teach the Dhamma, one needs to understand and reflect on the Dhamma. From here, joy also arises which will lead successively to tranquility, concentration and insight.

3.Repeating Dhamma: Although not common nowadays, it was quite common during the Buddha's time when books did not exist. At that time, the Dhamma was preserved and passed on to the next generation by people who memorised them through regular recitation. If monks are going to pass on the Dhamma, they have to be very familiar with the Dhamma. Thus, monks spent a lot of time reciting the Dhamma.

4.Reflecting on the Dhamma: This involves contemplating, thinking and pondering on the Dhamma in its various aspects, validity and relevance to our daily lives. In this way, insight will arise through the same sequence of events.

5.During Meditation: According to the Suttas, this involves reflecting on the concentration sign (samadhi nimitta), which is rightly grasped and penetrated. The same sequence of joy, tranquility, concentration and insight follows.

Anguttara Nikaya Sutta 5.3.26

http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha163.htm
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby marc108 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:01 am

For sure meditation is necessary on the 8 fold path for the development of Samma Samadhi . There are so many other topics of meditation to use if you dont like breath meditation, experiment and find whats right for you. If you need resources just say so.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby makarasilapin » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:14 pm

rohana wrote:Further, there is this story:

    It is said that when the dispensation of the Kassapa Buddha was declining, seven monks who were saddened by this decided to strive for nibbāna, and they climbed onto a tall rock, then threw away the ladder, and started to meditate. One of them became an Arahant that night. The next one became an Anāgāmī the second day. The remaining five did not attain āriya results and starved to death on that rock as puthajjanas. These five were reborn in a heavenly realm, and continued to die and reappear in various heavens until the arrival of Gōtama Buddha, where they were reborn as humans. One of them was King Pukkusāti. Venerable Kumāra Kassapa was another. Venerable Dabba Mallaputta was another. Sabhiya Paribbājaka was yet another. The remaining one was Bāhiya.

I'm not sure what exactly the source of this story is, but I think it is from a commentary. The gist of it is that the people who managed to gain quick results upon hearing the Dhamma had, in their previous lives tried strenuously in the cultivation of insight.


awesome. thanks for the post!
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby alan... » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:10 am

this is a HUGE debate. the suttas teach that it is the only way... kind of. the buddha said one must meditate. but there are suttas where he says the methods within can get one to nibbana and makes no mention of meditation, examples are satipatthana sutta (non-jhana meditation anyway) and metta sutta among others. some say this just means he was speaking on them in addition to the prerequisites of meditation and other things not mentioned in the specific suttas in question while assuming the listeners knew about these things already, others say it means one can use these methods alone.

personally i see that the eightfold path includes step eight: samma ditthi which is translated usually as "right concentration" if you look into suttas on "right concentration" it's usually defined as "jhana" meditation. so for my money, yes one must meditate.

some would say that one must master meditation and this is the ONLY way to reach nibbana, go through the 8 jhanas, and then jhana 9 is nibbana, you win, good job. nibbana is at the top of the meditation ladder and no where else.

but there is hope for people who do not fully master meditation in the suttas mentioned above and others, even if you believe that jhana (minimum of at least the first jhana according to the suttas) is a requirement to reach nibbana. this i like since i'm no expert and have no teacher. one could practice jhana the best they can, never reach the super high stages but still reach nibbana either then and there or while doing metta or satipatthana or another practice. so you still fulfill the eighth step in the path, but you reach nibbana using the first jhana or another method and not necessarily while sitting on the cushion after mastering all stages of jhana.

so my opinion is that you must meditate as a prerequisite to nibbana, but you don't have to master all the way to the 9th jhana or anything to reach it. the first jhana is relatively (relative to the 9th jhana anyhow) easy to attain. finding out what "attaining" it really is as far as defining it amongst the myriad definitions and views is another story...

but then again, what do i know? check the suttas for yourself and see what they say to you personally once you have all the facts and differing opinions and you understand the reasoning behind the different ideas. dig deep! for all you know i'm just a gorilla who learned to type! or just a stack of cups, heck anyone could be inanimate on here and just fooling people into thinking they're people Image, hence the importance of checking the suttas, they have all the answers.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby taintless » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:29 pm

Pretty much every answer here is good.

The way to Awakening is the Noble Eightfold Path.

In modern terms:

1) Correct perspective.
2) Correct intention.
3) Clean up your speech.
4) Clean up your actions.
5) Clean up your livelihood.
6) Exert effort to both maintain good qualities and give rise to new ones, while expelling bad qualities and making sure no new bad ones arise.
7) Be vigilant, constant and mindful.
8) Concentrate.
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby reflection » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:06 pm

Hi,

All answers are nice, but something that I dare to add. Please forgive me for being bald, but it may help you.

If you don't like your meditation and it is not working, you are probably not doing it right, or your basis is insufficient. The Buddha said the path is happy in the beginning, middle and end. And he said the results of meditation are a 'pleasant abiding'. So if this is not happening, it may indicate you are not well enough established on the path. Perhaps your morality is lacking, or your sense restraint needs work. It could be those things that hold back your meditation. Or perhaps your meditation instructions were not correct? I can only guess here. But the path itself is made to lessening our suffering, so increasing our happiness, especially in meditation.

Sure, it's not easy all the time. Sometimes it is a struggle. But even then meditation can provide more peace and happiness. If you compare the beginning of the sitting with the end and you practiced correctly, no matter how much of a struggle it was, almost all of the time, you'll find peace will have increased.

Also, yes, in a sense the path is a waste of time, because you'll get nothing out of it. It's about letting go without expecting something in return. Letting go those burdens of having to achieve anything or having to become anything. This is how meditation is totally unlike anything else. Not comparable to other sorts of concentration. The translation 'concentration' is one I am not too fond of, anyway.

With metta,
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby Sadge » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:25 am

I have no idea.

I do know that understanding about the 4 noble truths can be gained outside of meditation, for example when I was reading about impermanence (for like the 10th time) I finally 'got it' (I didn't/don't 100% get it) but it was like a lightning bolt in the brain, a bit like 'of course! Why would there be conviction that the mind is connected to a body that is connected to the me-ness, why is there belief that things are permanent? That's clearly not right! Everything is transient and there is no me'. I often have unskillful thoughts when I forget this, but I reckon it must count for something!?
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Re: Is meditation the only way to reach englightenment?

Postby samtheman » Fri May 03, 2013 2:44 pm

Thanks everyone for their wonderful replies :smile: I respect them all. I still need a bit of time, to grasp the ideas here and give a proper reply. I'll do soon.
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