Should I even be meditating yet?

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egon
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Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by egon » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:11 pm

Hello all, and thanks in advance for reading and providing your perspective.

I spoke to a Theravada lay-practitioner recently who gave me some advisement and recommended that I check out Access to Insight's Dhamma/Gradual Training info. In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.

The 4 noble truths and noble eightfold path speak to me in a profound way. Fixing my sila is one of my life goals, and investigating Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy is my first real proactive effort towards it. However, I admit that I'm disappointed that, per what I've learned recently, the Buddha considered it the first step.

Me: I recognize and acknowledge that my unethical behavior is a part of the suffering I and the people around me experience.
The Buddha: Great! Now stop.
Me: OK... any advice?
The Buddha: You know those things that you're doing that are causing suffering?
Me: Yes.
The Buddha: Don't do them anymore, then get back to me.

Any thoughts?

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Sam Vara
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:46 pm

ScottPen wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:11 pm
Hello all, and thanks in advance for reading and providing your perspective.

I spoke to a Theravada lay-practitioner recently who gave me some advisement and recommended that I check out Access to Insight's Dhamma/Gradual Training info. In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.

The 4 noble truths and noble eightfold path speak to me in a profound way. Fixing my sila is one of my life goals, and investigating Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy is my first real proactive effort towards it. However, I admit that I'm disappointed that, per what I've learned recently, the Buddha considered it the first step.

Me: I recognize and acknowledge that my unethical behavior is a part of the suffering I and the people around me experience.
The Buddha: Great! Now stop.
Me: OK... any advice?
The Buddha: You know those things that you're doing that are causing suffering?
Me: Yes.
The Buddha: Don't do them anymore, then get back to me.

Any thoughts?
Hi, and welcome to Dhamma Wheel!

It's a good question you pose. Some people here on DW take the opposite view from mine, so I hope they also show up so you can get a balanced perspective on this.

Personally, I started meditating before I took sila seriously. And even before that, I was interested in trying to figure out some of the teachings on wisdom, so I was getting it completely round the wrong way in terms of the "Gradual Training"! For a lot of people, the progress that they make in meditation is important as it shows them that they can change their world; that their actions are important and do have a positive effect on how they experience things. This personal verification is useful for people who are interested in mental states, and who perhaps associate virtue and ethical behaviour with other people being preachy and condemnatory. They have difficulty in perceiving how restraint and self-control could ever be useful, and so gaining results in meditation - and realising that meditation is essentially an exercise in mental restraint and self control - is a good way in to the teachings for them.

There is also the question of when one who strictly follows the Gradual Teaching would be ready for meditation. Sila doesn't, for most people, get to be perfect. So in your imaginary dialogue above, at what point would they "get back to the Buddha"?

Further, there may be no samadhi before sila, but would you rule out the desirability of an enhanced level of mental clarity or calmness, which develops alongside one's ethical training? My teacher often said to me that most people need meditation in order to stabilise their thinking and cut down on the amount of suffering they experience.

Unless there are unpleasant side-effects from meditating, I wouldn't delay. It's reasonable to expect that the highest meditative attainments will not be available to those whose morality is less than perfect, but I don't think it would do any harm.

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egon
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by egon » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:13 pm

Thanks Sam, I appreciate your input.

I've been doing anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes of breath-awareness meditation almost daily for about 6 weeks. I focus on my breath, sometimes counting sometimes not... when I notice that I've followed a thought pattern away from my breath I go back. I've also practiced guided metta meditations a few times after a recent traumatic event that was too invasive for my breath meditation. I was surprised at how cathartic that was, and I've gotten back to my daily practice.

Essentially, my short term goal is to insert thoughtful consideration into the space which lies between stimulus and response. I really hope a meditation practice can help.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Jun 01, 2018 5:17 pm

Sounds all good to me, and I wish you every success with it. :anjali:

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Dhammarakkhito
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:09 pm

firstly, that is not a real quote spoken by the buddha
but you have to start with right view or else you could be meditating wrong https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dha ... index.html it's like firing an arrow; if your aim is wrong, you won't hit the target
you can spend time contemplating the four frames of reference https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... ipatthana/
you don't need perfect sīla but it will only help.

mindfulness of in and out breathing https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... /index.htm
mettā https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .amar.html
basic generosity goes a long way, and if you have a monastic community, give them alms as much as possible
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... suttam.htm
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

the suttas say more than what they have been purported to say. read them, re-read them, keep them in mind, they give precise instructions regarding the disentanglement of your own entanglement. cherish them and use them as your guide
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by santa100 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:19 pm

ScottPen wrote:In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.
The perfection of sila leads the attainment of samadhi (ie. the 4 form jhanas and the 4 formless attainments), but the process to get there require a parallel cultivation of all 3: sila, samadhi, and panna. That's why in the 8NP, the 2 branches of panna are placed first. Ven. Bodhi mentioned this in his Noble Eightfold Path:
Perplexity sometimes arises over an apparent inconsistency in the arrangement of the path factors and the threefold training. Wisdom — which includes right view and right intention — is the last stage in the threefold training, yet its factors are placed at the beginning of the path rather than at its end, as might be expected according to the canon of strict consistency. The sequence of the path factors, however, is not the result of a careless slip, but is determined by an important logistical consideration, namely, that right view and right intention of a preliminary type are called for at the outset as the spur for entering the threefold training. Right view provides the perspective for practice, right intention the sense of direction. But the two do not expire in this preparatory role. For when the mind has been refined by the training in moral discipline and concentration, it arrives at a superior right view and right intention, which now form the proper training in the higher wisdom.

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egon
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by egon » Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:51 pm

santa100 wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:19 pm
ScottPen wrote:In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.
The perfection of sila leads the attainment of samadhi (ie. the 4 form jhanas and the 4 formless attainments), but the process to get there require a parallel cultivation of all 3: sila, samadhi, and panna. That's why in the 8NP, the 2 branches of panna are placed first. Ven. Bodhi mentioned this in his Noble Eightfold Path:
Perplexity sometimes arises over an apparent inconsistency in the arrangement of the path factors and the threefold training. Wisdom — which includes right view and right intention — is the last stage in the threefold training, yet its factors are placed at the beginning of the path rather than at its end, as might be expected according to the canon of strict consistency. The sequence of the path factors, however, is not the result of a careless slip, but is determined by an important logistical consideration, namely, that right view and right intention of a preliminary type are called for at the outset as the spur for entering the threefold training. Right view provides the perspective for practice, right intention the sense of direction. But the two do not expire in this preparatory role. For when the mind has been refined by the training in moral discipline and concentration, it arrives at a superior right view and right intention, which now form the proper training in the higher wisdom.
Thanks, santa100 for that perspective and reference. The excerpt above and the preface of the referenced document make a lot of sense.

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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by paul » Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:55 pm

“In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.”

That is correct advice, the practice should be constructed from the beginning on the basis of diagnosis, beginning with whether anger or desire is the main opponent, then choosing a meditation subject accordingly:

“One who earnestly aspires to the unshakable deliverance of the mind should, therefore, select a definite "working-ground" of a direct and practical import: a kammatthana[1] in its widest sense, on which the structure of his entire life should be based. Holding fast to that "working-ground," never losing sight of it for long, even this alone will be a considerable and encouraging progress in the control and development of the mind, because in that way the directive and purposive energies of mind will be strengthened considerably. One who has chosen the conquest of the five hindrances for a "working-ground" should examine which of the five are strongest in one's personal case. Then one should carefully observe how, and on which occasions, they usually appear. One should further know the positive forces within one's own mind by which each of these hindrances can best be countered and, finally, conquered; and one should also examine one's life for any opportunity of developing these qualities which, in the following pages, have been indicated under the headings of the spiritual faculties (indriya), the factors of absorption (jhananga), and the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). In some cases, subjects of meditation have been added which will be helpful in overcoming the respective hindrances.”—-“The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest”, Nyanaponika.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... html#intro

atharva2k
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by atharva2k » Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:55 pm

Hello, I have often wondered this myself. Meditation was what introduced me to Buddhism in the first place, but I was finding no real progress even with a steady practice. Not only was my poor conduct wiping out any mental calm I had gathered, it made it much more difficult to settle my mind during sitting. If you think about it, what you do for 15-16 waking hours is going to have a much larger impact on your level of happiness than 1 hour of meditation, especially when you don't have much concentration yet and your conduct is really coarse. So I made the 5 precepts the foundation of my practice. Started reading alot of suttas, and really worked on eliminating harmful habits. This alone has made me much happier than just meditation. However, I still meditate for 1 hour a day, it's just not the sole star of the show yet.

2600htz
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by 2600htz » Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:32 pm

Hello ScottPen:

You received good advice.

This is just like everything else, if you want to play tennis without learning proper technique, you can do it, and you will learn a lot just by playing and personal experience, but eventually you will hit a ceiling with your progress. And thats where the disadvantage of not having the basics kicks in, because you start having doubt about what you are doing, and become frustrated, or pay attention and put your effort into secondary stuff. Eventually when decide to learn the proper way, you have to undo the months, years, or decades of having bad habits, and re-learn.

So yeah, get the basics right, but don´t forget the goal its to play.

Regards.

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egon
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by egon » Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:34 pm

paul wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:55 pm
“In a nutshell, he was advising me to avoid a meditation practice until I evaluate my ethical/moral virtue. No samadhi before sila.”

That is correct advice, the practice should be constructed from the beginning on the basis of diagnosis, beginning with whether anger or desire is the main opponent, then choosing a meditation subject accordingly:

“One who earnestly aspires to the unshakable deliverance of the mind should, therefore, select a definite "working-ground" of a direct and practical import: a kammatthana[1] in its widest sense, on which the structure of his entire life should be based. Holding fast to that "working-ground," never losing sight of it for long, even this alone will be a considerable and encouraging progress in the control and development of the mind, because in that way the directive and purposive energies of mind will be strengthened considerably. One who has chosen the conquest of the five hindrances for a "working-ground" should examine which of the five are strongest in one's personal case. Then one should carefully observe how, and on which occasions, they usually appear. One should further know the positive forces within one's own mind by which each of these hindrances can best be countered and, finally, conquered; and one should also examine one's life for any opportunity of developing these qualities which, in the following pages, have been indicated under the headings of the spiritual faculties (indriya), the factors of absorption (jhananga), and the factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga). In some cases, subjects of meditation have been added which will be helpful in overcoming the respective hindrances.”—-“The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest”, Nyanaponika.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... html#intro
Thanks paul, although I'm intellectually aware of the five hindrances I haven't given them much thought yet. I appreciate it.

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egon
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by egon » Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:46 pm

Dhammarakkhito wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:09 pm
firstly, that is not a real quote spoken by the buddha
but you have to start with right view or else you could be meditating wrong https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dha ... index.html it's like firing an arrow; if your aim is wrong, you won't hit the target
you can spend time contemplating the four frames of reference https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... ipatthana/
you don't need perfect sīla but it will only help.

mindfulness of in and out breathing https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... /index.htm
mettā https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .amar.html
basic generosity goes a long way, and if you have a monastic community, give them alms as much as possible
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/ ... suttam.htm
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

the suttas say more than what they have been purported to say. read them, re-read them, keep them in mind, they give precise instructions regarding the disentanglement of your own entanglement. cherish them and use them as your guide
Dhammarakkhito, I appreciate your advice. I have been reading and re-reading certain suttas, and I have recently gotten "The Noble Eightfold Path" by Ven. Bodhi and "Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization”, by Ven. Analayo to help me with deeper comprehension thereof.

I have to ask... what part of my original post could have possibly been construed as an actual quote from the Buddha? I went back and read it a few times and I really can't figure out which part of the post inspired you to say that.

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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by SarathW » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:30 pm

The way I understand the Noble Eightfold path can start in any limb you like.
But some problems.
Consider the fact that meditation was there before Buddha's time.
But they did not have the right view.
Some people developed great powers without Sila such as Devadatta.
But he ended up in a woeful state.
Meditation also a type of Sila depends on what you are meditating on.
Sila Samadhi and Panna have to be practiced in tandem to attain Nibbana.
They all depend on your objectives.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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robertk
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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by robertk » Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:23 am

if there are moments of understanding the present moment now , then you are already " meditating" in the Buddhist sense.
And if you decide to go and sit in a quiet place and focus on what you think is breath or some other object, then likely that will increase lobha and ditthi and reinforce the tendency of silabataparamasa.

This path of the Buddha's is subtle and not amenable to some technique- it is diametrically opposite to that.

here is a useful link
http://www.abhidhamma.org/be%20here%20now.htm

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Re: Should I even be meditating yet?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:22 am

Greetings,

Right View is the forerunner of the Noble Eightfold Path.

From Right View the other factors follow naturally, including those relating to sila (e.g. Right Action, Right Speech & Right Livelihood) and those relating to meditation (e.g. Right Mindfulness & Right Samadhi).

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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