Only doing concentration 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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Ben
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by Ben » Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:13 pm

As Tilt has said - the danger is that you could end up down the garden path. It's very easy to get confused. Especially these days with ready access to legions of well meaning people who will give you all manner of conflicting advice and the proclivity among many western Buddhists who feel that their own experience (perception and prejudices) are the ultimate arbiters of what is right/authentic/true.
Even very experienced practitioners are prone to being led astray by their meditative experiences.
I understand that a residential retreat may be hard to get into, but the benefits of attending should make it worthwhile. And after having done a retreat, stick with that approach and apply it in daily life for a while.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Opanayiko
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by Opanayiko » Wed Feb 11, 2015 5:22 am

Digity wrote:concentration meditation.
Do you see a problem with this approach?
Hello Friend,

Ben's advice is spot on. However, I also see an opportunity to help you. Respectfully, try to reconceptualize the term "concentration meditation" as a practice from your vocabulary. Please do not misunderstand me as proclaiming what is right or wrong. Simply passing on experience from a similar perspective as your aspirations. Instead of "concentration meditation" try "unbroken mindfulness" or just "Samatha". It is much closer to the spirit of the Tathagata's instructions on SammaSamadhi. Ie "...having gone to the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty place, sits down cross-legged and keeps his body erect; lets go of grief or covetousness for the world and establishes mindfulness on the meditation object..."

The Blessed One said ‘Mindfulness is always necessary in any meditation subject.’ Why? Because it is a refuge and protection for the meditating mind. Mindfulness is a refuge, because it helps the mind arrive at special and high states, it has never reached or known before. Without mindfulness the mind is incapable of attaining any special and extraordinary states. Mindfulness protects the mind, and keeps the object of meditation from being lost.

"Concentration meditation" can be a misleading concept when one takes up this practice singly, because as Samadhi develops one must balance the five controlling faculties so as to not be lead astray by one's experiences. The concept of "concentration only" limits the citta to only the surface of what Samadhi entails. (Bhavanga vs. Jhana)

Ajahn Brahm's advice is also useful. Instead of Concentration meditation, he terms it Letting go meditation.

Depending on ones aspirations, once you develop Samatha to the ability of entering the Jhana at will, you will realize its limitations and then it will be the beginning of Vipassana. Samatha is the light charging the batteries of your flashlight. The strength of your batteries dictates how bright you dispel darkness and the duration. This is the great benefit of Samatha.

Finally, in my experience, Metta Bhavana is a good way to calm the mind before Samatha.

May you find True Happiness

:meditate:
:anjali: Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammā Saṁbuddhassa :anjali:

By oneself is evil done,
by oneself defiled,
by oneself it’s left undone,
by self alone one purified.
Purity, impurity on oneself depend,
no one can purify another.
-Dp 165

jnak
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by jnak » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:11 am

You've gotten some good advice here and I'll only chime in as my situation is similar to Digity's. That is that I live a long distance from any meditation teacher. That and the fact that the time away from family and work responsibilities make me reluctant to take an extended retreat mean that I've had to develop my practice largely on my own for the past six years. This is a less than ideal situation, but if I wait to practice until conditions are ideal I may be waiting many lifetimes. If Digity is determined to go it alone, here are my suggestions:

Read widely enough to get the flavor of different teachers and traditions, then pick one and stick with it. For me that was the Thai Forest tradition and Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

If possible, meet your chosen teacher at the earliest possible date. Meet the people that surround him or her. If you don't feel confidence in them, keep looking.

Read everything you can find written by your chosen teacher or within your chosen tradition.

Listen to recorded dhamma talks by your chosen teacher. It's the next best thing to being there.

Make friends with the suttas. You won't find a better guide to your practice and I think they become more accessible as your practice improves.

Make strong efforts daily with regard sila and keeping the five precepts. I don't think you can make progress in your meditation without this.

Practice cultivating metta whenever you feel the need. You may find it enjoyable!

Practice generosity, particularly to your parents and the sangha.

To the extent possible, watch your mind in everything.

Don't get locked into a "five-year plan". If your practice is successful, things will probably look different in time from how they appear now.

All problems in your practice are subject to analysis and correction. Whether you have face-time with a teacher or not, you are the only one capable of making that analysis and correction.

I hope that is helpful. If not, no one is much out of pocket. :)
"...I'm not much of an expert when it comes to the texts. I've simply learned a few parts, and put them into practice." Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

dhammarelax
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by dhammarelax » Wed Feb 11, 2015 12:26 pm

befriend wrote:atleast ask a teacher before doing this, email someone from spirit rock or IMS or a monastery. i did alot of metta which is a concentration practice for 5 or more days a few hours a day. the day i stopped doing metta, my mind was flooded with craving i felt like a heroin addict. because concentration stills the mind and stills the defilements it suppresses the defilements then when you stop practicing concentration they all flood back with more intensity, its pretty scarey.
Hi

My experience has been similar to what befriend describes, after a long period of successful "one pointed" concentration when this is lost the defilements flood in, spectacularly fierce, however I found the solution in Bhante Vimalaramsis approach, so the advise of finding a teacher is a good one, although is good to have a local teacher I find that is ok to read and listen to dhamma talks as long as you commit to follow just one teachers approach, I tried to combine teachers and that delayed my progress.

Teachings that helped me eliminate the problems that I had when practicing only concentration are:

a) Hindrances are your friends they show you your attachments
b) Insight and concentration are yoked together, if one pulls too hard you go in circles
c) Craving manifests as tension in body and mind so when you lose your concentration you have to relax before you come back

Smile all the time
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

Digity
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by Digity » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:08 pm

I had an interesting experience of strong piti a while back while doing some concentration meditation. Ever since then I feel like I've become a bit fixated on developing my concentration. However, since that happened my concentration hasn't been that good, because I try to repeat the experience and I'm all caught up in desire, etc.

I think that's why I've become a bit narrow in my focus on concentration. I'm starting to get the sense that it's probably not a good idea to put all my eggs in that basket and have a more balanced practice.

culaavuso
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by culaavuso » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:31 pm

Digity wrote:I had an interesting experience of strong piti a while back while doing some concentration meditation. Ever since then I feel like I've become a bit fixated on developing my concentration. However, since that happened my concentration hasn't been that good, because I try to repeat the experience and I'm all caught up in desire, etc.

I think that's why I've become a bit narrow in my focus on concentration. I'm starting to get the sense that it's probably not a good idea to put all my eggs in that basket and have a more balanced practice.
[url=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html]Keeping the Breath in Mind: and Lessons in Samadhi[/url] by Ven. Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo wrote: This is why we have to develop all three parts of the path — virtue, concentration, and discernment — if we want to be complete in our practice of the religion. Otherwise, how can we say that we know the four Noble Truths? — because the path, to qualify as the Noble Path, has to be composed of virtue, concentration, and discernment. If we don't develop it within ourselves, we can't know it. And if we don't know, how can we let go?

Most of us, by and large, like getting results but don't like laying the groundwork. We may want nothing but goodness and purity, but if we haven't completed the groundwork, we'll have to keep on being poor. Like people who are fond of money but not of work: How can they be good, solid citizens? When they feel the pinch of poverty, they'll turn to corruption and crime. In the same way, if we aim at results in the field of the religion but don't like doing the work, we'll have to continue being poor. And as long as our hearts are poor, we're bound to go searching for goodness in other areas — greed, gain, status, pleasure, and praise, the baits of the world — even though we know better. This is because we don't truly know, which means simply that we aren't true in what we do.

The truth of the path is always true: Virtue is something true, concentration is true, discernment is true, release is true. But if we aren't true, we won't meet with anything true. If we aren't true in practicing virtue, concentration, and discernment, we'll end up only with things that are fake and imitation. And when we make use of things fake and imitation, we're headed for trouble. So we have to be true in our hearts. When our hearts are true, we'll come to savor the taste of the Dhamma, a taste surpassing all the tastes of the world.
...
Rapture and pleasure are the results. The factors of the first jhana thus come down simply to two sorts: causes and results.

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Mkoll
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Re: Only doing concentration meditation

Post by Mkoll » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:45 pm

Digity wrote:I think that's why I've become a bit narrow in my focus on concentration. I'm starting to get the sense that it's probably not a good idea to put all my eggs in that basket and have a more balanced practice.
Indeed, remember Ven. Soṇa.
AN 6.55 wrote:I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha, on Vulture Peak Mountain. And on that occasion Ven. Sona was staying near Rajagaha in the Cool Wood. Then, as Ven. Sona was meditating in seclusion [after doing walking meditation until the skin of his soles was split & bleeding], this train of thought arose in his awareness: "Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations through lack of clinging/sustenance. Now, my family has enough wealth that it would be possible to enjoy wealth & make merit. What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?"

Then the Blessed One, as soon as he perceived with his awareness the train of thought in Ven. Sona's awareness — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from Vulture Peak Mountain, appeared in the Cool Wood right in front of Ven. Sona, and sat down on a prepared seat. Ven. Sona, after bowing down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, "Just now, as you were meditating in seclusion, didn't this train of thought appear to your awareness: 'Of the Blessed One's disciples who have aroused their persistence, I am one, but my mind is not released from the fermentations... What if I were to disavow the training, return to the lower life, enjoy wealth, & make merit?'"

"Yes, lord."

"Now what do you think, Sona. Before, when you were a house-dweller, were you skilled at playing the vina?"

"Yes, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too taut, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were too loose, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"No, lord."

"And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned[1] to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?"

"Yes, lord."

"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme."

"Yes, lord," Ven. Sona answered the Blessed One. Then, having given this exhortation to Ven. Sona, the Blessed One — as a strong man might stretch out his bent arm or bend his outstretched arm — disappeared from the Cool Wood and appeared on Vulture Peak Mountain.

So after that, Ven. Sona determined the right pitch for his persistence, attuned the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there picked up his theme. Dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus Ven. Sona became another one of the arahants.

[...]
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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