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By Lama Yeshe
Meditation is very simple. When hearing about meditation for the first time, you might think, “That must be very special; meditation couldn’t be for me but only for special people.” This just creates a gap between you and meditation.
Actually, watching television, which we all do, is a bit like meditating. When you watch television, you watch what’s happening on the screen; when you meditate, you watch what’s happening on the inner screen of your mind – where you can see all your good qualities, but all your inner garbage as well. That’s why meditation is simple.
The difference, however, is that through meditation you learn about the nature of your mind rather than the sense world of desire and attachment. Why is this important? We think that worldly things are very useful, but the enjoyment they bring is minimal and transient. Meditation, on the other hand, has so much more to offer – joy, understanding, higher communication and control. Control here does not mean that you are controlled by somebody else but rather by your own understanding knowledge-wisdom, which is a totally peaceful and joyful experience. Thus, meditation is very useful.
Also, if you exaggerate the value of external objects, thinking that they are the most important things in life, you ignore your inner beauty and internal joyful energy; if you look only outside of yourself, you neglect your most precious human qualities – your intellect and your potential to communicate in higher ways. Thus, meditation shows you clean clear which objects of attachment confuse you and with which kinds of mind you relate to them.
Furthermore, meditation is a very quick method of discovering the nature of reality. It’s just like a computer. Computers can check many things extremely quickly, put them together and all of a sudden, pow! – we’re on the moon. Similarly, meditation can quickly make things clean clear, but we don’t have to go to the trouble of learning by trial and error through laboratory experiments. Many people seem to think that making mistakes is a very important part of learning. My point of view is that this is a misconception. “To learn the reality of misery, you have miserable experiences” – I say that this is not so. Through meditation we can learn things clean clear, without having to experience them.
Thus, meditation does not mean the study of Buddhism philosophy and doctrine. It is learning about our own nature: what we are and how we exist. …
Mandala Publications has just released the April-June 2014 print and online issue of the magazine. Both versions offer a resource guide from FPMT Education Services including several resources available to help one set up, or enrich, a daily Buddhist practice.
Included you will find information on, Advice and Practices from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Preliminary Practices, Essential Daily Practice Materials, and other links to helpful resources and materials.
Past editions of the FPMT International Office e-news are always available to enjoy.
Success in daily meditation and the attainment of inner happiness is often difficult to achieve, even for those who have meditated for a long time. Fedor Stracke presents some ideas on how one can have greater success in one’s meditation practice by adopting a few simple principles, together with an analysis of some of the common traps one can fall into.
Mind is a Creature of Habit
The first principle to learn is that the mind is a creature of habit. In its bare nature, the mind is neutral and can be trained in anything. That means that it can definitely be trained in single-pointed abiding. Because the mind is a creature of habit, once it has taken on a habit, this pattern will arise effortlessly and can be difficult to eliminate. That is why, as a beginner, it is good to adopt the second principle of quality over quantity. From the very beginning, one should take care that the mind is focused with clarity in a complete yet gentle manner on an internal virtuous object, and not worry too much about the length of the session.
It is a common trap to think along the lines of, “If I meditate, it has to be at least a 45-minute session every day,” and then if one is not able to sustain this on a daily basis, one ends up not meditating at all. Since there won’t be any results from a meditation that is never done, no matter how lofty one’s intentions, it is better to meditate daily, even just for five or ten minutes. The mind will soon be able to abide on the object for longer periods of time naturally, if one practices sincerely and correctly.
Here are a few simple points to consider in relation to place, posture, object, and mind …
By Yangsi Rinpoche
In order to have a faultless practice of calm abiding, we need to develop very strong concentration supported by very strong mindfulness and wisdom. Wisdom in this case refers to the function of mind called introspection, which acts as a kind of security guard for the mind – watching for faults or weaknesses that may arise in our concentration. We should train in the mindfulness possessing three qualities. Our mindfulness must be able to remember the aspect of our object of concentration. It must have the ability to hold that aspect, and it must not be distracted by other objects.
You should seek to develop a concentration that is stable and lasting. In order to be able to bring this about, mindfulness is very important. Of course, even in terms of our ordinary perception, every primary mind is accompanied by five determining factors, one of which is mindfulness.
Although this kind of mindfulness does fulfill the function of helping you to hold the object that you are perceiving, it is not stable or continuous, and cannot hold the mind on its object for an indefinite amount of time. Ordinarily, when the primary mind changes its object from one thing to another, that mindfulness changes its object as well. In the practice of concentration meditation, we must strive to develop a more developed type of mindfulness that can fulfill the function of remaining focused on the object of concentration for a long period of time.
Two type of happiness
There are two types of happiness, mental happiness and outer happiness. Outer happiness comes about through meeting with the external object, and is transitory. Mental happiness comes about through meditation and positive thought, is stable and does not turn into suffering.
It is a common experience that one does not experience happiness if one is not mentally happy, even if there is an apparent abundance of outer happiness. Mental happiness and suffering are stronger than outer happiness or suffering. If one is mentally unhappy, then even one’s favorite food loses its flavor, but if one is truly happy in one’s mind, then one will not be affected by outer problems.
Outer happiness depends on outer causes and conditions, and inner happiness depends on inner causes and conditions – positive mental states and merits.
… Not every thought is bad
Lama Yeshe once said that the point of meditation is not to induce a coma.
Real meditation has nothing to do with inducing unclear and dull states of mind removed from reality, or with the notion that if one would just stop thinking, all problems would be solved.
In fact one is greatly warned of the dangers of these ideas. Actual meditation emphasises the importance of clear and intelligent mental states, because it is only with such a mind that one can perceive the nature of reality. There are two forms of meditation: single-pointed and analytical. …
Lama Zopa Rinpoche talked with Ven. Birgit Lobsang Drime.
Ven. Birgit: Lama Zopa Rinpoche inquired about the meditation component of the Basic Program which we had conducted in Italy at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa over the last two and a half years. I told him we had done meditations daily, either on a general topic like bodhichitta or love and compassion, mostly though on the topic we were currently studying. This was easy when we studied the lam rim and lojong, but could be quite challenging when we studied tenets or long. How do you meditate on the definition of a Vaibhashika? Or on the seven types of cognition? However, the students were very kind and accepting and we would always come up with something worthwhile. At first, the meditations were guided by the teaching assistant, and later on by the students themselves before each of the afternoon review classes. Actually, when the students guided the sessions – usually after initial hesitation – they became the most interesting, heart-warming and rewarding meditations.
… Lama Zopa Rinpoche: ”These meditation components are so beneficial, so essential for subduing one’s mind. The Tibetan monasteries don’t do much meditation, they don’t retreat, they just debate. Of course this becomes meditation too, but it must subdue the mind. All the studies, all the big subjects, are just for subduing the mind. Basically, in the Tibetan monasteries it would depend on how a teacher presents the topic. Whether he only emphasizes the studies, or whether he makes the students implement the studies in order to subdue their mind; if it is only to defeat others in debate, if the motivation is only that, then the students will carry out only that.
“Of course it depends also on the student’s own karma, but mainly it depends on the teacher. Whether he encourages only studies, or whether he encourages using the studies for the sake of subduing delusions. Sometimes, if a student has a lot of merit, she will use the studies as laid down in the lam rim, i.e. in order to subdue the mind.” …
FPMT News Around the World
It’s no surprise that meditation continues to draw the media’s attention. More and more, its positive effects on the mind and body are being documented by scientists and its techniques are being taught in clinical settings. A 2007 national survey in the United States found that “9.4 percent of respondents (representing more than 20 million people) had used meditation in the past 12 months – compared with 7.6 percent of respondents (representing more than 15 million people) in a similar survey conducted in 2002.” In fact, U.S. National Institute of Health has a dedicated webpage on meditation’s health benefits, which include helping with anxiety, pain, depression, stress, insomnia and coping with chronic illness. All signs indicate this interest will only continue to grow. The inaugural International Symposia for Contemplative Studies recently brought together more than 700 neuroscientists, educators, and contemplative scholars from around the world to share cutting-edge research on the nature and workings of the human mind. We can sincerely rejoice in the benefits that people throughout the world may experience from this increased interest in and use of meditative techniques.
But for students of Mahayana Buddhism, a meditation practice has benefits beyond improved health (which is still important). Developing the ability to calm the mind facilitates one’s ability to progress towards enlightenment, when one can be of most benefit. Fortunately, FPMT offers many resources online to support the development of this kind of meditation practice. Discovering Buddhism’s Module 2 “How to Meditate” is available free of charge on the Online Learning Center as well as instruction on shiné or calm abiding meditation. In addition, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive offers many teachings from Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and other qualified teachers on meditation. These resources are freely available to you to deepen your Mahayana meditation practice and to share with others who might want to take the altruistic path of Dharma.
With 160 centers, projects, and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
By Ven. Chönyi Taylor
There’s the story of the fisherman hanging on to his capsized boat and asking God for help. He turns away a surfer on his board, a jet ski, another boat and even a helicopter saying, “No, God will save me!” After many hours, the fisherman, feeling destitute, pleads to God, “Where are you?” Eventually God looks down from the clouds and says, “I sent you a surfer, a jet skier, a boat and even a helicopter. What else do you expect me to do?” (more…)
PRACTICING DHARMA IN DAILY LIFE
By Pam Cayton
There are countless meditation possibilities to do with children. However, one needs to consider the child’s age and interest. These meditation practices below have been practiced at Tara Redwood School, but can be adapted to various settings and for all age groups.
In more recent years, mindfulness practices have become very popular and have now entered into mainstream society in the fields of health care, business, and more recently, schools. Research validates what practitioners for hundreds of years have found, that is, meditation benefits the body and mind.
Tara Redwood School teaches several different levels and types of meditation. In general, they can be divided into three main categories:
- Centering (i.e., focus on the breath)
- Reflection (i.e., analytical thinking)
This article will focus on the first kind of meditation, the category we call Centering. The sound of the gong signals that it is time to center. We at Tara Redwood School begin classes each day by gathering in a circle. At the beginning of the day, a child whose turn it is that day, chooses a Morning Intention. The child makes up her own intention or may choose the intention from helpful emotion cards or stones with words written on them. The intention card is placed on the altar or it may be written on a sentence strip and hung on the wall as a reminder throughout the day.
Alternatively, the class uses a sand mandala that is the symbolic representation of the classroom and the intention can be written down and placed in a bowl in the mandala’s center. Each of the children in the class may then take a colored stone and state what way they can make that wish come true throughout the day and then place it in the bowl. When everyone has placed their “wishing stone” in the bowl, it is placed in a prominent place as a reminder of what everyone is creating together.
The teacher rings the gong periodically throughout the day. Every time the gong sounds, the children stop what they are doing, stretch their hands up above their heads as they breath in and bring their hands back down to their heart level as they breath out. They then focus on their breath coming and going for three cycles and remember their morning intention. The gong used in this way regulates the energy and sets the rhythm for the day. The children are naturally practicing the art of centering and regulating their energy. It takes time to accustom the children to the practice and it is an excellent training for the teacher as well: the class and the teacher are all practicing self-regulation together.
A practice we have done with children ages 5 to 10 is an adaptation from a Thich Nhat Hahn practice. Each child is given a blue square of felt and a white square of felt. They are given 3 to 10 white beans or stones. (It is important to consider the simplicity of materials so as not to draw the focus away from the breath.)
These are placed on the white felt in front of them. When the gong is rung, children close their eyes and focus on their inhalation and exhalation. At the completion of one cycle, they move one bean from the white square to the blue square. White beans begin on the white felt because, just as is with our breath, we don’t really take notice it is there until we focus on it. However, it becomes very noticeable with attention, just like the white beans on the blue square.
Once the children are able to focus their attention for 3 to 10 breaths, depending on how many they started using, they can continue to add a bean a day. This becomes a wonderful way for the children to practice and continue to extend their concentration. Children can make little purses or containers for keeping their beans and felt together. This adds a special element of care and respect to the materials and practice.
We recommend helping your child create a little shrine or altar. At Tara Redwood School, we call this the Peace Place. The bean purse can be kept there as well as a little gong and various other items that symbolize peace for the child. The child can use this space as their own precious place to have some time alone, center, contemplate, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions or simply find solace in silence.
Pam Cayton has worked since 1989 to create, implement and research strategies for awakening compassion, wisdom and social responsibility in the minds and hearts of children. Her projects include Tara Redwood School, a school for young children in California, and Creating Compassionate Cultures, an organization dedicated to providing trainings and materials to support holistic education for children based off of Essential Education principles.
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