Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Kare
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Kare »

Peter wrote:Nathan, I'm not sure what you are arguing about. Ajahn Brahm teaches breath meditation and jhana meditation. He simply teaches these as steps that are built upon present moment meditation. Different people will like different approaches to meditation. I do not see any need to criticize one or extol the other. If you want to focus on whatever arises in the present moment as a build up to focusing on breath later, that is fine. If you want to focus on breath now then that is fine too.
Well said. There is a passage in Patisambhidamagga (Yuganaddhakatha) and in the Anguttara (Yuganaddhasutta), which emphasizes this point. Here Ananda says that all those who have become arahants, have followed one of these four paths: 1) First samatha, then vipassana, 2) First vipassana, then samatha, 3) Samatha and vipassana in equal balance, or 4) a more intellectual approach.

Here is Thanissaro Bhikkhus translation (I'm not quite happy with it, but it should do for now):

On one occasion Ven. Ananda was staying in Kosambi, at Ghosita's monastery. There he addressed the monks, "Friends!"

"Yes, friend," the monks responded.

Ven. Ananda said: "Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?

"There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquillity. As he develops insight preceded by tranquillity, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity preceded by insight. As he develops tranquillity preceded by insight, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquillity in tandem with insight. As he develops tranquillity in tandem with insight, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Then there is the case where a monk's mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma [Comm: the corruptions of insight] well under control. [Kåre: This is not correct. The Pali does not start with 'control'. It starts with the restlessness concerning the Dhamma, and then the restlessness subsides. This makes for a more natural development.] There comes a time when his mind grows steady inwardly, settles down, and becomes unified & concentrated. In him the path is born. He follows that path, develops it, pursues it. As he follows the path, developing it & pursuing it — his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.

"Whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of these four paths."

And here is the Pali:

Evaṃ me sutaṃ – ekaṃ samayaṃ āyasmā ānando kosambiyaṃ viharati ghositārāme. Tatra kho āyasmā ānando bhikkhū āmantesi – ‘‘āvuso bhikkhavo’’ti. ‘‘Āvuso’’ti kho te bhikkhū āyasmato ānandassa paccassosuṃ. Āyasmā ānando etadavoca –

‘‘Yo hi koci, āvuso, bhikkhu vā bhikkhunī vā mama santike arahattapattaṃ [arahattaṃ (syā.), arahattapattiṃ a. ni. 4.170] byākaroti, sabbaso catūhi maggehi etesaṃ vā aññatarena. Katamehi catūhi?

‘‘Idhāvuso, bhikkhu samathapubbaṅgamaṃ vipassanaṃ bhāveti. Tassa samathapubbaṅgamaṃ vipassanaṃ bhāvayato maggo sañjāyati. So taṃ maggaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti [bahuliṃ karoti (ka.) a. ni. 4.170 passitabbā]. Tassa taṃ maggaṃ āsevato bhāvayato bahulīkaroto saññojanāni pahīyanti, anusayā byantīhonti.

‘‘Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu vipassanāpubbaṅgamaṃ samathaṃ bhāveti. Tassa vipassanāpubbaṅgamaṃ samathaṃ bhāvayato maggo sañjāyati. So taṃ maggaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti. Tassa taṃ maggaṃ āsevato bhāvayato bahulīkaroto saññojanāni pahīyanti, anusayā byantīhonti.

‘‘Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhu samathavipassanaṃ yuganaddhaṃ [yuganandhaṃ (ka. sī. aṭṭha.)] bhāveti. Tassa samathavipassanaṃ yuganaddhaṃ bhāvayato maggo sañjāyati. So taṃ maggaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti. Tassa taṃ maggaṃ āsevato bhāvayato bahulīkaroto saññojanāni pahīyanti, anusayā byantīhonti.

‘‘Puna caparaṃ, āvuso, bhikkhuno dhammuddhaccaviggahitaṃ mānasaṃ hoti. So, āvuso, samayo yaṃ taṃ cittaṃ ajjhattameva [ajjhattaññeva (syā. ka.)] santiṭṭhati sannisīdati ekodi hoti samādhiyati. Tassa maggo sañjāyati. So taṃ maggaṃ āsevati bhāveti bahulīkaroti. Tassa taṃ maggaṃ āsevato bhāvayato bahulīkaroto saññojanāni pahīyanti, anusayā byantīhonti.

‘‘Yo hi koci, āvuso, bhikkhu vā bhikkhunī vā mama santike arahattapattaṃ byākaroti, sabbaso imehi catūhi maggehi, etesaṃ vā aññatarenā’’ti.

So you can become an arahant no matter if you start with samatha, vipassana, both together or an intellectual approach.
Mettāya,
Kåre

nathan
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by nathan »

It's clear to me that when studying the dhamma the mind that sees it as well becomes less restless. Being more intellectual usually stirs up the restlessness. It is best to keep meditation free of conceptualizing to develop that same freedom from restlessness to simply look. Then study can be matched to what that clear awareness of the body mind and senses is when it is free from all of the diversity. Later on meditation can adopt kinds of sophistication and complexity. Until the mindful attention is somewhat steady and wieldly it's difficult to compare dhamma study to what one can expect to find in the body and mind under the conditions.

I'm trying to offer an attitude of simplicity that can be effective for someone who is starting to meditate. A way out of the diversity of questions in the absence of experience. The posting appears to indicate that simplifying the effort so that they can begin to look and see better could be beneficial. That's all I'm trying to suggest. Build a foundation for practice. Nothing fancy. Walk before running. It's impossible to overdo that kind of effort, it satisfies all four ways of working with the path and still remains a simple technique. It's not really any different than the approach Ajahn Brahm is taking. A slightly different strategy.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi Nathan, etc,

I've spent a little bit of time with Ajahn Brahm over a weekend, and in my view his instruction is very straightforward and pretty much what Nathan advocates.

I recommended to listen to his guided meditations but perhaps freki missed the point:
freki wrote:I listened to one of these but it was not very good, mostly silence, hardly any instructions. Maybe I chose unlucky.
Of course there are hardly any instructions. The instructions are simple. Sit, listen to the instructions, and do what he says.
As Nathan says, there is no need for complex instructions.

Generally the instructions will be something like:
... Close your eyes.
... Forget about the past, forget about the future. Now is the only time you've got. ...
... a few other comments spread over 5 or 10 minutes ...
... Bring your attention to the breath. ....
... 15 to 20 minutes...
... take a look at how your mind feels ...
...Ding...

Repeat for a few months...

Metta
Mike

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kc2dpt
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by kc2dpt »

I think it's natural at the beginning to have lots of questions. I think the difficult part is coming to grips with the fact that having these questions answered right away is not necessary. In many cases it's not even helpful.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by rowyourboat »

Hi Peter,

I'm sorry if my post offended you or anyone else here. I was just stating my observation- as I have a tendency to fall into this trap myself and have to hold back and be patient and let people develop at their own pace. This observation is also partly based on a conversation I had with Ajhan Brahm when I was giving him a lift in the middle of the night in London. He agreed that it can be difficult for a beginner to do the silence of the mind bit etc right at the start. Maybe he has altered his teaching or wanted to present it in a certain for the purposes of the book, or was too tired that day to discuss it further- I don't know. Incidentally we also discussed absorbing into specific jhana factors that day. But I am all for diversity of teachers as we can all learn from the output of different minds who are at a stage that they can lead us on a bit further. At the end of the day, in the absence of a buddha, it is a group effort.

with metta :smile:
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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kc2dpt
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by kc2dpt »

rowyourboat wrote:This observation is also partly based on a conversation I had with Ajhan Brahm when I was giving him a lift in the middle of the night in London. He agreed that it can be difficult for a beginner to do the silence of the mind bit etc right at the start.
Perhaps that's why he doesn't teach it as step 1 but rather as step 2. ;)
But I am all for diversity of teachers as we can all learn from the output of different minds who are at a stage that they can lead us on a bit further. At the end of the day, in the absence of a buddha, it is a group effort.
Perhaps so. :group:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Jhana4 »

I've read Ajahn Brahm's "Basic Method of Meditation" as a booklet years ago and rediscovered it a few months back. I also bought a copy of his book "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond".

Having tried similar exercises to Ajahn Brahm's as a beginner and now having about 5 years of meditation under my belt I agree with the view that simply being aware of the present moment is not a good fit for someone completely unfamiliar with meditation. That opinion and the opinion that Ajahn Brahm may be telling people to use methods he did not as a beginner use seems reasonable to me. He may be trying to innovate -- a good thing. I'm a bit of an Ajahn Brahm fan. I was not offended by those opinions and I did not see those opinions as being potentially offensive..

I think people on this board sometimes have a tendency to identity with and attach to their views. I see heated conversations erupt over small things. I don't mean this as an insult in any way, but I think people on this board could benefit by looking at their ego issues with their opinions. No offense or disrespect meant.

Anyway, since I have been getting into Ajahn Brahm I have found the writings by people who posted to this thread to be very useful. I wanted to say thanks.

I know about his weekly Dhamma talks, but I could not find a link for his old Friday night meditation sessions mentioned at the start of this thread. Dhammaloka has since redone their web site since this thread was originally made.

Does anyone know if those recordings of his meditation instructions are still available?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Jhana4 wrote: I know about his weekly Dhamma talks, but I could not find a link for his old Friday night meditation sessions mentioned at the start of this thread. Dhammaloka has since redone their web site since this thread was originally made.

Does anyone know if those recordings of his meditation instructions are still available?
They seem to be here: http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/downloads/ ... ation.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
Mike

Jhana4
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Jhana4 »

Thanks!
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Alex123
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Alex123 »

I find Ajahn Brahm to be very inspiring. I have his two books on meditation, and have read certain parts many times.

I did try his method for a couple of years. I mostly do (or attempt to) his method or something similar (almost always Anapanasati or some form of it). However, it seems to be suited only for some types of people. However, even after ~5 years of regular meditation, I still can't cut out thoughts... I am stuck even at his 1st stage (present moment awareness) and cannot master it...I did what he said in his books. Didn't work. I don't feel like a failure about that because I've read that even great Masters (Ajahn Chan, Ajahn Maha Boowa) had bad periods of meditation and were shedding tears. If they struggled in their almost perfect environment as monks, then no surprise about me.

I do think that AB sets standards too high, beyond ability of 99.999% people today and some monks even in Buddha's time. Ajahn Brahm does have some questionable implications in his teachings.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Jhana4 »

I haven't read his book yet.

I wonder if he simply made an error in not writing that perfection isn't necessary. That you can still have a few thoughts here and there, but can still consider yourself as having mastered the first stage well enough to move on.

I read his "Basic Method" in "pamphlet" ( electronic copy) and gave it a few short tries. I feel like the way some people have to struggle not to control their breathing I have to struggle not to silence my thoughts. I can do it so it feels calm and gentle, but I am not sure it is what my brain would have done otherwise. I wonder if he want a natural emptying out or something that is a little bit directed.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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bodom
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by bodom »

Alex123 wrote: still can't cut out thoughts...
This is the problem. Don't wish to be free from thoughts. Thoughts will only come to a stop in the deepest levels of concentration. You only need to be aware of the rise and fall of thoughts. Not eliminate them. In this way they will come to rest by themselves.
Q: I still have very many thoughts. My mind wanders a lot even though I am trying to be mindful.

Answer: Don't worry about this. Try to keep your mind in the present. Whatever there is that arises in the mind, just watch it. Let go of it. Don't even wish to be rid of thoughts. Then the mind will reach its natural state. No discriminating between good and bad, hot and cold, fast and slow. No me and no you, no self at all. Just what there is. When you walk on alms-round, no need to do anything special. Simply walk and see what there is. No need to cling to isolation or seclusion. Wherever you are, know yourself by being natural and watching. If doubts arise, watch them come and go. It's very simple. Hold on to nothing. It is as though you are walking down a road. Periodically you will run into obstacles. When you meet defilements, just see them and just overcome them by letting go of them. don't think about the obstacles you have passed already. Don't worry about those you have not yet seen. Stick to the present. Don't be concerned about the length of the road or about the destination. Everything is changing. Whatever you pass, do not cling to it. Eventually the mind will reach its natural balance where practice is automatic. All things will come and go of themselves.
http://www.buddhanet.net/bodhiny2.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Alex123
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Alex123 »

Hello Jhana4, Bodom,
Jhana4 wrote:I haven't read his book yet.
I wonder if he simply made an error in not writing that perfection isn't necessary. That you can still have a few thoughts here and there, but can still consider yourself as having mastered the first stage well enough to move on.
Maybe. But in any case, I do notice that I have thoughts every 1-10 seconds. I guess I am one of those types.
I feel like the way some people have to struggle not to control their breathing I have to struggle not to silence my thoughts. I can do it so it feels calm and gentle, but I am not sure it is what my brain would have done otherwise. I wonder if he want a natural emptying out or something that is a little bit directed.
I've tried various things. For example. Often in the morning, I don't even have a thought "Now I will meditate, I will do this or that. I will strive.". Regular practice at about the same time has helped that. Often I simply close my and let things happen without trying to stop or encourage anything. Just observe. I don't do anything, I just sit. I forget what meditation is all about, and the very word "meditation". I forget about progress, measuring this or that. I don't sometimes counteract various worldly fantasies to run riot. Just observe.

What has happened was:
a) Either thoughts continued, and agitation simply kicks me out.
and/or
b) I start to get drowsy, get some visions, and then am knocked out of the state.

I also tried to set "gatekeeper"... Not too often, and not too few... As if one could control thoughts like that...

I do find that mind naturally settles at observing the breath with no effort. When you watch the present moment, the breath does happen there. But the thoughts... too much of them. Even if I don't do anything and forget about "meditating".
Last edited by Alex123 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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bodom
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by bodom »

Hi Alex

Maybe take to heart this advice from Ajahn Dune Atulo:
46. When the mind resists growing still

In practicing concentration, there's no way everyone will get results at the same speed. Some people get fast results, others get slow results. There are even those who never seem to gain a taste of stillness at all. Still, they shouldn't get discouraged. The act of making an effort in the area of the heart is, in itself, a higher form of merit and skill than the act of giving gifts or observing the precepts. A large number of Luang Pu's students would ask him, "I've been trying to practice concentration for a long time, but my mind has never been still. It keeps wandering off outside. Is there another way I might be able to practice?"

Luang Pu would sometimes recommend this other method:

"When the mind isn't still, you can at least make sure it doesn't wander off far. Use your mindfulness to stay mindful solely of the body. Look to see it as inconstant, stressful, and not-self. Develop the perception of its being unattractive, with nothing of any substance to it at all. When the mind sees clearly in this way, it will give rise to a sense of dismay, disenchantment, and dispassion. This, too, can cut through the clinging-aggregates."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasaka Keep Nanayon

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Alex123
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Re: Brahm's Basic Method of Meditation

Post by Alex123 »

Hello Bodom,

thank you for your wonderful quotes. Often, I wonder if I do it correctly or am suitable at this time for that kind of practice. From one point of view I don't want to quit too early before it gives results (who knows, this moment was restless, the next may be peaceful). From another point of view I don't want to be hitting uselessly the same impassable wall when there is another method, an actual door to walk through.


Inspiring quote:
Twenty five years since my going forth, and no peace of awareness — not a finger-snap's worth — attained. Having gained no oneness of mind, I was wracked with lust. Wailing, with my arms upheld, I ran amok from my dwelling — "Or... or shall I take the knife? What's the use of life to me? If I were to renounce the training, what sort of death would I have?" So, taking a razor, I sat down on a bed. And there was the razor, placed ready to cut my own vein, when apt attention arose in me, the drawbacks appeared, disenchantment stood at an even keel: With that, my heart was released. See the Dhamma's true rightness! The three knowledges have been attained; the Awakened One's bidding, done.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;



With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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