How important is technique?

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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Re: How important is technique?

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:15 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, I think we agree that, as Bhikku Pesala says, it would include the four areas, but not necessarily every possible detail.
retrofuturist wrote:To clarify, I'm not saying that everyone must practice all these contemplations... I'm putting forward an argument that the Buddha never encouraged us to close ourselves off to developing all the satipatthanas through adherence to some modern 'technique' developed millennia after his parinibbana.

I don't think the commentary to the sutta is from millennia after parinibbana...

The commentary to the sutta isn't (that's more like one millennium), but the concept of a 'technique' is a 20th century phenomenon. Well, according to Ven Sujato at least (skip to 1:53)...


Retro. :)
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Re: How important is technique?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings meindzai,

Well, you raise another interesting distinction... does a "technique" imply a particular posture?

I consider that I'm doing satipatthana as I type to you now. Right at this moment, the 3rd satipatthana on state of mind is predominant, but it could easily be (let me switch now to...) feeling or (let me switch now to...) bodily postures and fingers clacking on the keyboard.

Retro. :)

I see the body sections as a progression of the four anapana stages in the satipatthana sutta, moving that stage into daily life from formal practice. each section being relevant to a particular stage of anapana.

edited to be clearer.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How important is technique?

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:40 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings meindzai,

Well, you raise another interesting distinction... does a "technique" imply a particular posture?

Not really, though I think some techniques are more appropriate for certain postures.

I consider that I'm doing satipatthana as I type to you now. Right at this moment, the 3rd satipatthana on state of mind is predominant, but it could easily be (let me switch now to...) feeling or (let me switch now to...) bodily postures and fingers clacking on the keyboard.

But are you doing the corpse meditations, 32 parts of the body, etc.? I believe that certain meditations are clearly "sit down shut up and contemplate this" type meditations. It's not that you can't do them while engaging in other activities, I suppose, but it doesn't seem really appropriate to me to think about corpses when I am typing on the computer or having dinner.

Though you can practice the four foundations via mindfulness of breathing, as is described in the Anapanasati sutta. ... .than.html

"And how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as to bring the four frames of reference to their culmination?"

Which is why I consider Anapanasati more of a meditation Sutta, whereas the Satipatthana contains a myriad of meditation objects that can be chosen for any number of reasons.


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Re: How important is technique?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:31 pm

retrofuturist wrote:The commentary to the sutta isn't (that's more like one millennium),

Translated by Buddhagosa from much older material according to the tradition. But that's another story...
retrofuturist wrote:but the concept of a 'technique' is a 20th century phenomenon. Well, according to Ven Sujato at least (skip to 1:53)...

Well, if' you're going to bring in Ven Sujato, he famously dismisses much of the Satipatthana Sutta as later additions... ... 66&start=0
Even if one thinks that he goes rather too far to prove his point about concentration vs insight, it may not be wise to pin one's practise on one particular Sutta, when there are many related Suttas in the Cannon.

However, I think we agree that there are four foundations. The other Theravada (and other tradition) suttas do have the four foundations (e.g. see the Satipatthana-samyutta suttas, such as but not all the sub-categories.

Attempting to go back to the topic: In terms of "technique" I think most teachers would broadly agree with Ven Sujato. Certainly Patrick Kearny and others who teach teach in the Mahasi Style say basically the same thing: A relatively simple, standard technique is something that is not necessary when one has access to a personal teacher, who would help the student select meditation subjects etc, with relationships as described in the Visuddhimagga, for example.

On the other hand, this following-a-particular-approach thing works well in the sense that whatever comes up for me on retreats is clearly (from their comments and counter-questions) what my teachers have experienced, and are expecting, so it's straightforward for them to give advice.


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Re: How important is technique?

Postby shjohnk » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:26 am

meindzai wrote:
I don't mean to discourage anybody from whatever technique they are doing, but I myself am getting to a point where it seems like my mind is going to do it's thing, and the less I interfere the better. Insofar as the "effects" of my meditation, I generally notice that the only constant is really more=better. Meaning more time spent on the cushion and more consistency seem to be the key factors - not the technique.


This seems to be the case for me too. My mind is so inclined to wandering that if I start moving my attention around to different body parts, I lose my focus. Simple does it for me.

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Re: How important is technique?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:43 am

The is a sutta in the SN where Ven Anuruddha is asked (a few suttas on satipatthana by him in the satipatthana samyutta) how he differentiates between a sekha (trainee) and an asekha (arhanth). His definition is that the former has not practised all four foundations while the latter has. Also there is another sutta which gives a nice simile- the pile of sand standing in the middle of a cross road would be flattened well if chariots came from all four directions, rather than one direction, similarly ignorance would be well dispersed if all four foundations are practised. This is not to say that one method may not suffice for a particular individual. There is also another nice sutta- 'the cook'- The kings cook knows what kind of food the king likes and makes the particular dishes to make the king happy. Similarly the monk knows which satipattana is suitable for which time to give maximum benefit to the mind. I think it is also a matter of efficiency- using different methods skilfully may make you progress faster (nothing wrong with that IMO). There is a reason why an fully enlightened being with infinite knowledge did not come up with one method to suit them is impossible. If something doesn't work after giving it a good try, then there's no point flogging a dead horse. But if you are gaining and seeing progress when you look back every few months, then it is worthwhile continuing. I suppose knowing what you are trying to do, investigation,exploration, knowing where the mind should be headed, honesty with yourself, not clinging to methods/teacher, are all important if we are to 'save' ourselves.

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Re: How important is technique?

Postby Virgo » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:19 pm

As far as the quote in the Satipatthana Sutta about "practicing" all four foundations of mindfulness, all experienced phenomena are grouped into these four groups for sake of easy classification and expression, and all of these four "foundations" must be understood by panna. Obviously if panna only understands body,feeling, mind, but not mind objects then the understanding of conditioned phenomena is not clear enough and panna won't begin to develop on the penetrative level in any strong way. In truth the classification explains which dhammas are arising and falling and shows that one should be mindful of their nature. When one understands, the mental factor of panna can arise.


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Re: How important is technique?

Postby Virgo » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:51 pm

Of course if panna develops well in an individual that individual will see the not-self, impermanent, or unsatisfactory aspects of phenomena that arise from time to time naturally since the conditions are correct for it, ie. panna is developed within the citta and not-self, impermanent, unsatisfactory phenomena are arising based only on conditions. Because of this understanding the being will know that attachment and aversion are very dangerous because they force one to react to objects that are really beyond our control, not us, not belonging to us, and only bring us to misery, and so on. Seeing that disadvantage to attachment and aversion and understanding conditionality that being may think, "it would be beneficial if I meditated on the vileness of the body to dispel lust because attachment to this body comes up". The being feels this way because panna understands anicca, anatta, and dukkha from time to time and so it sees the great drawback in clinging or being averse to these objects. Understanding conditions, that being knows that it is wise to meditate on the loathsomeness of the body, for example, so there are less conditions for attachment to it to arise again in the future. Attachment arising less, in future lifetimes one will not be obsessed with sex as much, and not make as much mental, physical, and verbal unwholesome kammas because of it, and this is a good thing. This practice in itself will not remove lust -- only panna can do that, but it is still wise and the being feels naturally compelled to do so because his panna has already developed to a certain degree. At the same time, the being knows that although through methods like this, one can set things up so that there is less clinging and so forth, the conditions for panna penetrating the anatta aspect of dhammas is panna or wisdom on the level of understanding. Like corn growing in a field it cannot be rushed; once the seeds are sown one waits for the crop to grow without pulling on it to try and make it grow faster, which is impossible, likewise once the seeds of Right Understanding of sown, one allows panna to grow. In the meantime, if they being has accumulations and conditions to go and practice an object of samatha like the being above, one does. Instances of satipatthana can naturally arise, when the conditions are right, even as one meditates on a loathsome corpse of skeleton, and so on. In this way, one practices samatha because one has panna developed and one has accumulations for it.


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