when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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reflection
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Post by reflection » Sat Jul 28, 2012 3:08 am

I am amongst those who thinks the anapanasati sutta suggests doing such contemplation after the calming stages of the meditation. This is understandable, because a calm mind sees deeper and is more willing to let go of attachments & wrong ideas. Also, it may have had experiences of things disappearing that never disappeared before, like the willpower. This you can not contemplate without such experiences. So it's not a pondering, it's more a reflection, a contemplation of "what happened?"

So, I do contemplation after meditation, when the hindrances are weakened and mindfulness and clear comprehension/seeing (sati sampajanna) are strong. I think this is also how the Satipatthana sutta starts:
Herein (in this teaching) a monk lives contemplating the body in the body,ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; etc.
In fact, this comtemplation and the resulting understanding will come naturally if meditation was really deep.
"For a person whose mind is concentrated, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I know & see things as they actually are.' It is in the nature of things that a person whose mind is concentrated knows & sees things as they actually are.
However, we also find sutta references wherein investigation comes before calm. So this can also work. Calming and contemplation work together in this way too. However, I personally find this only really works if I already had some understanding through the practice I described above. Those insights I had before, can be recalled and serve as a base for calming the mind. This is not really an active contemplation, because it is just a recollection followed by immediately result. It does sometimes not even need thoughts.

But of course, there needs to be the mindfulness (recollection) deep enough to remember. When we are totally lost in emotions, this recollection will not come up or not work. When you are angry and try to convince yourself this anger is 'not-self', is not always the most fruitful way. The first atempt I would do is to practice metta as suggested in the MN20 sutta. Similar for other hindrances.

This basically describes the practice I've always been doing where calming and contemplating work together. Take what's useful and leave the rest. Also know that you can't force the understanding of the characteristics upon yourself. Some aspects are really deeply hidden, hard to see. So start where you are at.

Also, try some approaches to see what works. This is another part of starting where you are at. At times our approach may change a little. Here is a video of another kind of contemplation by Ajahn Jayasaro:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqb7ZuMI8HY" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Dinsdale
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:52 pm

daverupa wrote:
santa100 wrote:This is why serenity and insight are both included in the training of anapanasati (first 3 tetrads for serenity and the 4th tetrad for insight)..
We can see each tetrad as comprising both approaches: the term "experiencing" suggests vipassana, while "calming" suggests samatha, a pattern which replicates in each of the first three tetrads. For the fourth, anicca can already be seen, which marks the practice of one who can enter and leave jhana at will; the fourth tetrad is making it ones object to let go. One or another tetrad is to be practiced; I do not think they are to be done stepwise, 1 through 16.
The commentaries don't seem to agree on this point. In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Post by daverupa » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:40 pm

porpoise wrote:In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?
I think it's a little different than that, since the satipatthana tetrads seem to overlap. It's a matter of one or another frame of reference, not four different things, sort of like this. (It is done as part of jhana, after the hindrances subside, imo.)
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Post by Dinsdale » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:19 am

daverupa wrote:
porpoise wrote:In practice would you choose to do say just the 3rd tetrad?
I think it's a little different than that, since the satipatthana tetrads seem to overlap. It's a matter of one or another frame of reference, not four different things, sort of like this. (It is done as part of jhana, after the hindrances subside, imo.)
Yes, the 4 frames are just different aspects of the whole, but I still think it can be confusing to conflate the 4 frames with the 4 tetrads. It looks to me like there is a progression of increasing subtlety through the tetrads - so for example experiencing the mind requires a finer degree of concentration than experiencing the ( breath ) body.
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daverupa
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Re: when do i contemplate the three characteristics?

Post by daverupa » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:47 am

Well, alas, the fact is that the tetrads of anapanasati are satipatthana - tetrad I: kaya, II: vedana, III: citta, IV: dhamma.

I know what you mean about the apparent progression, and I've framed my personal practice accordingly in the past, but:

Try seeing kaya in the first tetrad as referring to the six-sense body. For the second tetrad it is the same - all six senses - but vedana is the resolution level. Citta and dhamma, the third and fourth tetrads, are the same, though in their case the terms are complex due to chronological and cultural distance & thus take some time to grok and, I think, the fourth tetrad in particular refers to a skilled jhana practitioner's method. This may suggest a certain progression, such that one or another tetrad is appropriate and one should choose wisely (pick up the sign of the mind the way a chef picks up the sign of his master's preference, as it were).

Remember that the calming instruction in the first two tetrads occurs with reference to intention (sankharas) in that frame of reference (citta is similar, in that intention [cetana] calms as a result of the work with citta). As I see it, one isn't calming the thing framed (kaya, vedana, citta) so much as calming intention with respect to them. This is all to support and develop upekkha.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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