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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 TBA-IMG Meditation Audio Schedule


Audio files from Dharma Talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu of Metta Forest Monastery


Group Title: Description [Date]
M1 Clear Sense of Priority: why practicing is important [12/19/2009],
M2 How to Save the World: karma, you are responsible for your actions, you are in charge [1/2/2010],
M2a A Small Steady Flame: patience with your effort, protecting your small spark [1/16/2010],
M3 Samsara: going around and around,
M4 Fires of the Mind: reasons extinguish the fires [1/30/2010],
M5 What we Noticed: [2/6/2010],
M6 Life in the Buddha's Hospital: discover your course cure [2/13/2010],
M7 Appropriate Attention: [2/20/2010],
M8 Luminous Mind: train your mind, catching greed, anger and delusion, [2/27/2010],
MA Taking Your Own Medicine: using meditation in daily life [2/27/2010]
S0M Food for the Mind: building strength, nourishing your mind, [3/6/2010]
S1a The Steadiness of Your Gaze: keep your mind where it is, [3/13/2010]
S1b Watching Over Time: building up skills,
S1c Wheel of Dharma: keep your focus forget about everything else,
S2 Elemental Energy: breath and energy, sensitivity to the breath
S3 A Pervasive Wellbeing: single pointedness & full body awareness
S4 The Best Work Around (Willingness to train the Mind): the way out
S5 Meditation not Mechanical:
S5 The Knife of Discernment: experimenting with your breath, making the mind strong
xP1 Progress & Regress (the mind training itself is also the mind needed to be trained): what do you do when things goes really wrong, never give up
xP2 Contentment: sharpening the skill,
xP3 Clearing a Space: our mind is chaos, be ready, use your discernment
xP4 Encourage Yourself : bring your mind to th e present moment
xP5 The Fool & the Wise Person: be someone who knows the difference
xP6 Strong & Heedful: conviction, persistent, effort, mindfulness
overcoming craving, heedfulness is deathlessness

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Schedule (every Sunday)

Meditation group meets every Sunday starting at 7:00am in the Kwan Yin Hall at Jade Buddha Temple. This group is design primarily for everyone (beginners) who have been wanting to have a regular and stronger practice, so years of experience is not necessary. If are experienced, we genuine feel that you will find that your meditation deeper and richer.

As a Member of the group, everyone is committed to, in order to help nurture the habit of regular and deeper practice.:
- Sunday group meditation,
- 2 personal daily practices.

Contact us: questions and comments.

Six month report to Venerable Hung-I

Dear Venerable Hung-I,

We are happy to report to you that the TBA IMG has successfully completed the first six month class and the group has decided to continue with a minor changes. We are requesting your continuous guidance and support.

The changes include moving the day of meditation from Sunday to Saturday. One of the reasons to change to Saturday is so that we can have longer practices. We also would like to request to schedule Dharma sessions with you as your schedule permits. In our new 3 hours session, we have added a 5-10 minuted Dharma talk at the beginning. The place of practice will be at the Bodhi School Auditorium Grand Hall (still be in the Quan Yin Hall and move to the conference room when it is not available).

For the past six months we have consistently 10 and sometimes up to 20 people attending the groups practice. We renewing our a new six months commitment and plan to add a new one, which is to explain to 5 people what insight meditation is and keep doing it until one come to the group.

With Upaya,
Josten & Ken

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Six Months is Over: Momment of Truth?

By the time the 6 months commitment is over each yogi would have logged in 366 hours, 183 days or 26 weeks of meditation. Most important may be not how much but how much each has learned. Completing the course show fortitude and persistence that will benefit your path in a long run. Congratulations!!!!

Couple of notes for this post. In November 22nd, 2009, we will have another longer sitting. Do mark your calendar. The second matter is a group decision on future plan for the group. Many have expressed interests in continuing the group sitting. We will meet and discuss at the end of Nov 22nd sessions.

=================================================================================
Highly recommended Book on Insight Meditation ...
Title: "Tree of Wisdom, The River of No Return" by Venerable Sujiva. Click here to download the book
Source: http://www.sukhihotu.com/index.php.

Quot on mindfulness "... good states of mind described could easily come under three categories- clarity, peacefulness and softness." Described in detail on page 36 and most beneficial for yogi in all all situation especially during long retreat.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Report from a Practicing Member

Personally, I have received many benefits from our group practice, especially from the interviews with Venerable Dr. Dhammapiya Sayadaw. Please see my report card below from last weeks interview on 9-20. I wrote this to show my appreciation.

Background
Meditation is normally called a skill of mental training, but the ultimate truth is that Vipassana meditation is in reality a process of processes. All things are manifested in a process of phenomena in constant change. All things--including the act of observation in daily life or in meditation, the observing mind and the object--are in a process of flow from the direct experience of practice, flowing in the flow and with the flow. As Sayadaw Shaw O Min states in his booklet, Right Attitude in Meditation, "...The object is not important. The mind that is working in the background-working to be aware, i.e., the observing mind- is more important..."

In a slow process of mental training, to shift attention from the observed object to the observing mind (or noting mind), I have been struggling, and have slowly built up the skill of using the observing mind to watch itself as the object. Venerable Dr. Dhammapiya Sayadaw pointed out to me from my first telephone interview that the key in practice is to work on awareness, that the function of mind is to know what is happening as it is, in this very moment, here and now. This is easier said than done. In the real world of practice, mindfulness is the cause, and awareness develops as the end result, or as an effect from practicing the skill of mindfulness. I had to understand that by working continually on mindfulness that awareness would fall into place naturally.

Interview Report @ 9-20
The interview only lasted 3 minutes, the shortest one in my history of IMG practice. In the past few weeks of practice, I have been struggling and stumbling in cultivating awareness. I kept wondering how to be aware, and how to know this mental activity from its' invisible, intangible nature. The problem lies in fine tuning the skill of mindfulness, learning to balance it so as not to overshoot or minimize my effort, until it becomes a natural flow. One day, a thought came to me. I realized that in the real world, mental and physical events happen all of the time, and have always existed. In my past practice, I always wondered how I could be aware of the physical process of events in flow all of the time, but not be aware of the mental process? Suddenly, I understood that awareness has been “there” all the time--built up from past practice--but it wasn't sharp enough, so that I was missing the mental events most of the time. From that point on, I came to understand that in my life experiences and discoveries, that there are different modes of the thinking process at different levels – one on the surface and the other in the undercurrents. The mind reacts in a chain reaction to the objects in meditation, and to the external world via the six senses-- like how unpleasant feelings from not accepting what is happening becomes an agitated mind, which in turn generates more thinking and judgment and more agitation...and on and on and on... never stopping. In the inner world, the mind is always busy.

Today's report @ 9-24
This morning in my regular daily practice at home, I had my first experience of being aware of new thoughts that popped up. When I paid attention and watched what was happening to these incipient thoughts, the thoughts arose and then just went away, disappearing naturally, just like nipping hindrances and defilements in the bud. What an insightful experience from the practice of Vipassana meditation!

Friday, September 25, 2009

November 7-Day Insight Meditation Retreat


Stilling the Restless Mind- a 7 day Insight Meditation retreat lead by Venerable Seelananda. This will be held in a idelsitic location- the American Bodhi Center. The retreat date is from November 26th, 2009 to December 2nd, 2009.



The American Bodhi Center is dotted with rolling hills and brooks and is full of geographical variety. It serves as a cultural, educational, and altruistic activity center for Buddhism. The Bodhi Center has a grand meditation hall and comfortable living quarters for meditators. Surrounded by quiet forest (see video and phots) accommodating either individual or groups retreat.

To register please call 979-921-6969 or download for retreat information, registration and consent forms.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WEEK 13: End of the First Half

IMG Notes for August 30, 2009

The IMG extended five hour session began at 7:00 A.M. with a 20 minute audio dharma talk given by Thanissaro Bhikku. The subject of the talk, Befriending The Breath, was an insightful discussion on the importance of learning to be 'friends' with the breath. We all know the paths that some of our 'old friends' can lead us down--those old friends being the unskilful states of mind. Developing a new friendship with the breath can lead us to new friends, and new, skillful states of mind. These skillful states bring us true peace and happiness, but in order to achieve this, we must spend more time with the breath, and develop a lasting friendship with it. We must learn to ignore the call of our old friends while we are cultivating a relationship with our breath. Choosing and developing a friendship with our breath will yield the best friendship that we can ever have.

Group discussion began about 11:00 A.M., and the main subject of interest centered around how to use meditation and mindfulness to deal with the difficult challenges that we all must face in life. It was the general consensus of the group that the effort to meditate is a worthy goal, because in time, the benefits of a solid practice helps us to handle the tough circumstances we sometimes find ourselves confronting.

An announcement was made regarding the group's two week long retreat. The date is set for November 25th through December 9th, 2009. Bhante Seelananda will preside as our teacher for the retreat. So far, four people have committed to attend. In addition, Ken made an announcement that the weekly telephone interviews with Sayadaw Dhammapiya will be suspended for the next two weeks. The group will only have about three more opportunities to interview with Sayadaw before our six months are complete.

Monday, August 24, 2009

WEEK 12: Confidence and Effort (2 of the 5 Controlling Faculties of Success)

IMG Notes from August 23, 2009
We are halfway through our sessions, and questions often come up during our practice.
1. Has the effort been worth it so far?
2. Why are we not enlightened yet?
3. Will we be enlightened by the end of our six months together?
4. If not, will we continue?

The demands of raising children, managing our careers, and interacting with our spouses can indeed place significant strain on our practice time and practice attitude. We must have faith and confidence in the knowledge that our efforts are worth it, even if at times it doesn't seem to be. Sometimes, it is not until we face a major life altering experience that we begin to see the benefits of our practice reveal itself. Josten shared his recent experience with illness, a hospital stay, and his personal revelation regarding the value of his practice. Even though he experienced severe pain and discomfort, he realized that his practice sustained him, and made his ordeal easier to bear.

Are you ready to face life changing challenges? If so, be determined and work hard ("... Sharpening the Controlling Faculties" by Sayadaw U Pandita) Make meditation your first priority!

!!!!! ------------------------------------------------- !!!!!
Sunday, (August 30th) we will have a half day retreat, starting from 7:00 A.M. to noon. This will include 2 walking and sitting meditations, and end with dharma discussions. We have the full use of the Kwan Yin Hall due to the fact that the EDG will be meeting at the Bodhi Center in Hempstead, TX.

Get a head start and listen to the meditation teachings from Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
- Why train the mind (15 min)
- Befriend Breathing (20 min)
- Importance of Being Focused (15 min)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Week 10: Meditation Q&A by Ven. Hung-I

IMG Notes from Aug. 7, 2009
A. After walking and sitting meditation, Rev. Hung-I joined our group for a half hour discussion. Ken informed the group that Josten is not feeling well. (Get better, Josten!) The Reverend praised the group for its commitment, and he understood the determination that goes into making the decision to continue practice. He was also happy to see us using the temple.
B. For discussion, three questions were offered to the Reverend.

Question 1. What is mindfulness?
The Reverend touched on several points regarding the nature of mindfulness. The key points were that we all have some level of mindfulness, but most of the time we do not use it in the right way. There must be Right Mindfulness. Right Mindfulness leads to Right Concentration; Right Concentration leads to Right Contemplation.
Question 2. What is the value of Walking Meditation?
The main points given on this question were that sitting and walking meditation complement each other. Walking meditation helps us to bring concentration and mindfulness into our daily lives and activities.
Question 3. What are some suggestions to deal with conflicts and obstacles to practice time?
The Reverend empathized with this issue, and spoke of his own challenges to practice. He suggested that one must find a good, strong motive for practicing, and then use that motive to make a vow to keep practicing. Sometimes, you may not be able to practice for as long as you wish, but even short practices are worthwhile when time becomes an issue.

Ken Pao's Dharma Talk 8/16/2009 at 10AM

Dear Dharma friends,
We would like to invite you to join our Dharma talk by Ken Pao on Sunday Aug. 16th.
Ken has been studying Buddhism since 1993. He has deep understanding of Buddha’s teaching from both Mahayana and Theravada traditions and has also practiced “Emptiness Meditation”, “Zen meditation”, and “Insight meditation”. Ken is currently leading the Insight Meditation Group and the “Middle-Way” Discourse Study Group in the temple.
Ken’s Dharma talk will touch upon the following topics:
1. How practical is the Buddha’s teaching for the lay person?
2. According to the Theravada tradition, what is the most important stage in the enlightened
path?
3. Can the precepts, concentration, and wisdom be accomplished in one single practice?

Hope to see you this Sunday!
Meditation, Kwan Yin Hall, 9:00 – 10:00 AMDharma talk, Kwan Yin Hall, 10:15 – 11:15 AM

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Week 7: 2 Key Ingredients to Your Success

What is important to physicists is also important to meditators. When physicists were asked what is important for them when they approach problems in physics, they cited two factors:

--First, there must be confidence that the problem itself is worthy of their effort and investigation. The problem is VERY important.
--Second, there must be confidence that there is a solution to the problem--that it can be overcome.

These two factors relate directly to our meditation practice. First, we must have confidence that the challenge of daily, committed practice is worthy of our effort and investigation. Once we discover that meditation requires daily practice, it is too easy to say, "Oh, meditation is good, but I do not have the time."

Secondly, we must have the confidence that we can overcome the problems that confront us as we strive to maintain our daily practice. Once we begin to practice and we begin to realize how little we know, we may begin to doubt or rethink our effort and say,"This is too much..this takes too long."

Thanissaro Bikkhua gives an enlightening dharma discussion on this subject. To hear the entire talk, follow this link, The Physicist's Approach, by Thanissaro Bikkhua (07/19/2004).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week 6: First discussion session ...

We had a wonderful open discussion on this 6th week of IMG. There were ideas and questions which will help our practice. The plan is to take up the topics every 2 weeks, so we can benefit from comprehending them. Eventually, we may only need to have this once a month, and dedicate the rest of the time to the practice.

Questions---
- Does meditation cause you to be lazy
- Does meditation cause you to have more dreams
- Does the practice of meditation make you more intuitive?
- Does the practice of meditation make you more aware of the spirit world?
- What should one focus on because of different teachers techniques
... breath
... counting breath
... abdomen (Mahashi)
... body sensation (Geonka)
- What is the right insight meditation technique to use?
- How does Metta Meditation relate to Insight Meditation?
...How does one send loving-kindness, good will, etc., to others?

Quote of the week:
Sayadaw Shew O Min "The object is not important The mind that is working in the background –working to be aware i.e. the observing mind is more important If the observing (mind) is done with the right attitude the object will be the right object"
~~~~~~... more on "RIGHT ATTITUDE" ...~~~~~~

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Interview July 12, 2009

Instruction:
1. Call from home at individual’s own signed-up time. Teacher: Venerable Dr. Dhammapiya Sayadaw and phone number is (510)795-0405.
2. When connected, please do identify yourselves that you are from the Jade Buddha Temple in Houston, Texas and would like to have an interview with Sayadaw Dhammapiya. This is because many times, someone else might answer the phone instead of Sayadaw himself.
3. Do keep your interview within ten minutes.
4. Read and get familiar with "How to interview with a teacher?” and “Meditation Instructions – Sayadaw U Pandita” from the web site click here. This will help the interviewees tremendously.
5. Please do call the Sayadaw. He will lead us into “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. Experienced meditators and beginners will all benefit from the interviews.

Interview Schedule:
=========================================
Sunday Interviews:
Kenan 7:00 PM
Kumala 7:10 PM
Maya 7:20 PM
Raytano 7:30 PM
Gary 7:40 PM
Christine 7:50 PM
Vivian 8:00 PM
Patricia 8:10 PM
Josten 8:20 PM
______________________________________
Steven Christopher 9:30 PM
Ann 9:40 PM
Jennifer 9:50 PM
Judy 10:00 PM
Oliver 10:10 PM
______________________________________________

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 5 Notes: Choices in Life

Delayed Gratification
Means giving up short term desires for a long term happiness. One of the central ideas for the group is to practice meditation in order to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves for long lasting happiness.

In a dharma talk, 'The Three Characteristics', by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, the teacher tells this story to show a clear example of delayed gratification:
"...When a little girl's mother died, her father promised not to take another wife. The little girl was very happy with her father's decision. But when her father brought with him a new wife after his business travels, the little girl was very sad. The new stepmother understood this, and wanted to help the little girl.
So she asked to play a game of chess with the little girl. During the game, the stepmother explained to her, 'In order to get what you want in life, you look for the important thing and give up the other.' The little girl wasn't paying attention to what her new stepmother was saying, but she did notice that her stepmother was losing her game pieces, and thought to herself that her stepmother was not a very good chess player. It wasn't until the little girl was eventually checkmated by her stepmother that she realized that this wise lady was showing her how to win by losing."

(To hear the complete dharma talk, click here: )

Monday, June 29, 2009

Week 4 Notes: Importance of Meditating with a Group

Meditating with a few friends at regular times can be of great benefit towards constancy of practice and development of wisdom. The solitary meditator eventually faces diminishing will-power, as there's often something else to do that seems more important (or more interesting) than watching the breath. Regular group meditation with an agreed-upon time keeps the participants going, regardless of their flux of moods. (The investigation of these shifts of disposition often yields important insights, but on our own we can find it difficult to persevere with them.) As well as seeing the personal benefits, you can reflect that your efforts are helping others to keep practicing.

... click here for the full article- "Introduction To Insight Meditation" by Amaravati Buddhist Centre, U.K. (1988)... or for other related audio programs. Thanks to Patricia Pellicciotti who sent us this material.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interview- will start July 11th, 2009.


Instruction:

1. Call from home at individual’s own signed-up time.
Teacher: Venerable Dr. Dhammapiya Sayadaw (aka. Sayadaw Dhammapiya) (Phone number not yet available. Please check back here later.)
2. When connected, please do identify yourselves that you are from the Jade Buddha Temple in Houston, Texas and would like to have an interview with Sayadaw Dhammapiya.
This is because many times, someone else might answer the phone instead of Sayadaw himself.
3. Do keep your interview within ten minutes.
4. Please do read and get familiar with "How to interview with a teacher?” and “Meditation Instructions – Sayadaw U Pandita” from the web site click here. This will help the interviewees tremendously.
5. Please do call the Sayadaw.
He will lead us into “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. Experienced meditators and beginners will all benefit from the interviews.

___________________________________________________________
The Opening Passages from the Mahasatipatthana Sutta

"This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for reaching the Noble Path, for the realization of Nibbana, namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

"Herein monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"He dwells contemplating the feeling in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"He dwells contemplating the consciousness in the consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"He dwells contemplating the dhamma in the dhammas, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world."
___________________________________________________________

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Right Attitude to Meditation

Click to read the entire book.




"Syadaw Shwe Oo Min, is a well known meditation teacher in Vipassana over Burma and 1 of 4 great disciples of Syadaw Mahasi. ... The cited materials in IMG blog about mindfulness are excellent and outstanding in understanding about what is Sati. But they are short on how to transpire the know-how into practicing the skill of mental training. As old saying, it is easier to say than done. The attached booklet will fill up the gap between know-how and practice perfectly and squarely.

As Dr. G put a remark in his book – Mindfulness in Plain English, it will take years of practice and experience for yogi starting to appreciate what is all about mindfulness. That is exactly what I have been through, a waking up call in the journey of new discovery." submitted by Oliver Chang.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Week 2 Notes: June 15, 2009. (22 weeks to go ...)

Tips to "structuring your daily practices": where, when and how long by Bhante Gunaratana.

"... length of time (we suggest at least 20 minutes) is not as important as the regularity ... meditate regularly." ... read more ...
____________________________________________________________
Two Thoughts About Life
1. Setting Priorities ... How long do we have left to live?
What will we do if we ONLY have 22 minutes left to live. We seldom think about this even though we know that this life will end. May be it is time to figure out what is it that is most important in life.!!!

2. Simple Story of Life
Chapter 1:
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.
I am lost. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out!
Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again!
I can’t believe I am in the same place! But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out!
Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there.
I still fall in! It is a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately!
Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter 5:
I walk down a different street!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What is Mindfulness (正念)?

Mindfulness (正念) Defined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (谭尼沙罗尊者)- ".. to keep the breath in mind. Keep remembering the breath each time you breathe in, each time you breathe out."
Click here to read the entire article ...

____________________________________________________________

“正念”- (Mindfulness in Chinese)
“正念是以一种特定的方式来觉察,即有意识地觉察(On Purpose)、活在当下(In the Present Moment)及不做判断(Nonjudgementally)”
Click here to read the entire article ...

____________________________________________________________

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana - "Mindfulness is mirror-thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases."
Click here to read the entire article ...

===========================================================

Monday, June 8, 2009

Week 1 Notes: June 8, 2009.

We have good start (6/7/2009), keeping daily practice will help maintain your momentum.

The following articles are will help support your meditation.
1. Creativity by Ven Thanissaro shows us how to practice consistently. (http://www.watmetta.org/
).

"curious, inquisitive side of your mind is what’s going to lead to discernment. ... you can make a game out of learning how to bring the mind to settle down, then once the mind is settled down it’ll naturally want to understand this, understand that, understand the processes of what you’re doing. That’s insight."

Get the entire article-
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Meditations2/041004%20M2%20Creativity%20&%20Play.pdf

2. Approaching a “good friend" is what Ken mentioned of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Article (read pg82-83) - Anapanasati: Mindfulness of Breathing

Good Webs site- http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/

Friday, April 24, 2009

Partial Extract from
"In This Very Life
The Liberation Teachings of the Buddha"

By
Sayadaw U Pandita

MEDITATION INSTRUCTIONS

The Buddha suggested that either a forest place under a tree or any other very quiet place is best for meditation. He said the meditator should sit quietly and peacefully with legs crossed. If sitting with crossed legs proves to be too difficult other sitting postures may be used. For those with back trouble a chair is quite acceptable. It is true that to achieve peace of mind, we must make sure our body is at peace. So it is important to choose a position that will be comfortable for a long period of time.
Sit with your back erect, at a right angle to the ground, but not too stiff. The eason for sitting straight is not difficult to see. An arched or crooked back will soon bring pain. Furthermore, the physical effort to remain upright without additional support energizes the meditation practice.
Close your eyes. Now place your attention at the belly, at the abdomen. Breathe normally, not forcing your breathing, neither slowing it down nor hastening it, just a natural breath. You will become aware of certain sensations as you breathe in and the abdomen rises, as you breathe out and the abdomen falls. Now sharpen your aim and make sure that the mind is attentive to the entirety of each process. Be aware from the very beginning of all sensations involved in the rising. Maintain a steady attention through the middle and the end of the rising. Then be aware of the sensations of the falling movement of the abdomen from the beginning, through the middle, and to the very end of the falling.
Although we describe the rising and falling as having a beginning, a middle, and an end, this is only in order to show that your awareness should be continuous and thorough. We do not intend you to break these processes into three segments. You should try to be aware of each of these movements from beginning to end as one complete process, as a whole. Do not peer at the sensations with an over-focused mind, specifically looking to discover how the abdominal movement begins or ends.
In this meditation it is very important to have both effort and precise aim, so that the mind meets the sensation directly and powerfully. One helpful aid to precision and accuracy is to make a soft mental note of the object of awareness, naming the sensation by saying the word gently and silently in the mind, like "rising, rising...falling, falling."
Returning from Wandering

There will be moments when the mind wanders off. You will start to think of something. At this time, watch the mind! Be aware that you are thinking. To clarify this to yourself, note the thought silently with the verbal label "thinking, thinking," and come back to the rising and falling.
The same practice should be used for objects of awareness that arise at any of what are called the six sense doors: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Despite making an effort to do so, no one can remain perfectly focused on the rising and falling of the abdomen forever. Other objects inevitably arise and become predominant. Thus, the sphere of meditation encompasses all of our experiences: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations in the body, and mental objects such as visions in the imagination or emotions. When any of these objects arise you should focus direct awareness on them, and use a gentle verbal label "spoken" in the mind.
During a sitting meditation, if another object impinges strongly on the awareness so as to draw it away from the rising and falling of the abdomen, this object must be clearly noted. For example, if a loud sound arises during your meditation, consciously direct your attention toward that sound as soon as it arises. Be aware of the sound as a direct experience, and also identify it succinctly with the soft, internal verbal label "hearing, hearing." When the sound fades and is no longer predominant, come back to the rising and falling. This is the basic principle to follow in sitting meditation.
In making the verbal label, there is no need for complex language. One simple word is best. For the eye, ear, and tongue doors we simply say, "Seeing, seeing... Hearing, hearing... Tasting, tasting." For sensations in the body we may choose a slightly more descriptive term like warmth, pressure, hardness, or motion. Mental objects appear to present a bewildering diversity, but actually they fall into just a few clear categories such as thinking, imagining, remembering, planning, and visualizing. But remember that in using the labeling technique, your goal is not to gain verbal skills. Labeling technique helps us to perceive clearly the actual qualities of our experience, without getting immersed in the content. It develops mental power and focus. In meditation we seek a deep, clear, precise awareness of the mind and body. This direct awareness shows us the truth about our lives, the actual nature of mental and physical processes.
Meditation need not come to an end after an hour of sitting. It can be carried out continuously through the day. When you get up from sitting, you must note carefully — beginning with the intention to open the eyes. "Intending, intending... Opening, opening." Experience the mental event of intending, and feel the sensations of opening the eyes. Continue to note carefully and precisely, with full observing power, through the whole transition of postures until the moment you have stood up, and when you begin to walk. Throughout the day you should also be aware of, and mentally note, all other activities, such as stretching, bending your arm, taking a spoon, puffing on clothes, brushing your teeth, closing the door, opening the door, closing your eyelids, eating, and so forth. All of these activities should be noted with careful awareness and a soft mental label.
Apart from the hours of sound sleep, you should try to maintain continuous mindfulness throughout your waking hours. Actually this is not a heavy task; it is just sitting and walking and simply observing whatever occurs.

WALKING MEDITATION

During a retreat it is usual to alternate periods of sitting meditation with periods of formal walking meditation of about the same duration, one after another throughout the day. One hour is a standard period, but forty-five minutes can also be used. For formal walking, retreatants choose a lane of about twenty steps in length and walk slowly back and forth along it.
In daily life, walking meditation can also be very helpful. A short period - say ten minutes - of formal walking meditation before sitting serves to focus the mind. Beyond this advantage, the awareness developed in walking meditation is useful to all of us as we move our bodies from place to place in the course of a normal day.
Walking meditation develops balance and accuracy of awareness as well as durability of concentration. One can observe very profound aspects of the Dhamma while walking, and even get enlightened! In fact a yogi who does not do walking meditation before sitting is like a car with a rundown battery. He or she will have a difficult time starting the engine of mindfulness when sitting.
Walking meditation consists of paying attention to the walking process. If you are moving fairly rapidly, make a mental note of the movement of the legs, "Left, right, left right" and use your awareness to follow the actual sensations throughout the leg area. If you are moving more slowly, note the lifting, moving and placing of each foot. In each case you must try to keep your mind on just the sensations of walking. Notice what processes occur when you stop at the end of the lane, when you stand still, when you turn and begin walking again. Do not watch your feet unless this becomes necessary due to some obstacle on the ground; it is unhelpful to hold the image of a foot in your mind while you are trying to be aware of sensations. You want to focus on the sensations themselves, and these are not visual. For many people it is a fascinating discovery when they are able to have a pure, bare perception of physical objects such as lightness, tingling, cold, and warmth.
Usually we divide walking into three distinct movements: lifting, moving and placing the foot. To support a precise awareness, we separate the movements clearly, making a soft mental label at the beginning of each movement, and making sure that our awareness follows it clearly and powerfully until it ends. One minor but important point is to begin noting the placing movement at the instant that the foot begins to move downward.

A New World in Sensations

Let us consider lifting. We know its conventional name, but in meditation it is important to penetrate behind that conventional concept and to understand the true nature of the whole process of lifting, beginning with the intention to lift and continuing through the actual process, which involves many sensations.
Our effort to be aware of lifting the foot must neither overshoot the sensation nor weakly fall short of this target. Precise and accurate mental aim helps balance our effort. When our effort is balanced and our aim is precise, mindfulness will firmly establish itself on the object of awareness. It is only in the presence of these three factors - effort, accuracy and mindfulness - that concentration develops. Concentration, of course, is collectedness of mind, one-pointedness. Its characteristic is to keep consciousness from becoming diffuse or dispersed.
As we get closer and closer to this lifting process, we will see that it is like a line of ants crawling across the road. From afar the line may appear to be static, but from closer up it begins to shimmer and vibrate. And from even closer the line breaks up into individual ants, and we see that our notion of a line was just an illusion. We now accurately perceive the line of ants as one ant after another ant, after another ant. Exactly like this, when we look accurately at the lifting process from beginning to end, the mental factor or quality of consciousness called "insight" comes nearer to the object of observation. The nearer insight comes, the clearer the true nature of the lifting process can be seen. It is an amazing fact about the human mind that when insight arises and deepens through vipassana or insight, meditation practice, particular aspects of the truth about existence tend to be revealed in a definite order. This order is known as the progress of insight.
The first insight which meditators commonly experience is to begin to comprehend - not intellectually or by reasoning, but quite intuitively - that the lifting process is composed of distinct mental and material phenomena occurring together, as a pair. The physical sensations, which are material, are linked with, but different from, the awareness, which is mental. We begin to see a whole succession of mental events and physical sensations, and to appreciate the conditionality that relates mind and matter. We see with the greatest freshness and immediacy that mind causes matter - as when our intention to lift the foot initiates the physical sensations of movement, and we see that matter causes mind - as when a physical sensation of strong heat generates a wish to move our walking meditation into a shady spot. The insight into cause and effect can take a great variety of forms; but when it arises, our life seem far more simple to us than ever before. Our life is no more than a chain of mental and physical causes and effects. This is the second insight in the classical progress of insight.
As we develop concentration we see even more deeply that these phenomena of the lifting process are impermanent, impersonal, appearing and disappearing one by one at fantastic speed. This is the next level of insight, the next aspect of existence that concentrated awareness becomes capable of seeing directly. There is no one behind what is happening; the phenomena arise and pass away as an empty process, according to the law of cause and effect. This illusion of movement and solidity is like a movie. To ordinary perception it seems full of characters and objects, all the semblances of a world. But if we slow the movie down we will see that it is actually composed of separate, static frames of film.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to Interview with a Teacher?

The Interview

by Sayadaw U Pandita “In This Very Life”, Chapter 1.
The Interview Process

The interview process is quite simple. You should be able to communicate the essence of your practice in about ten minutes. Consider that you are reporting on your research into yourself, which is what vipassana actually is. Try to adhere to the standards used in the scientific world brevity, accuracy and precision.

First, report how many hours of sitting you did and how many of walking in the most recent twenty-four-hour period. If you are quite truthful and honest about this, it will show the sincerity of your practice.

Next, describe your sitting practice. It is not necessary to describe each sitting in detail. If sittings are similar, you may combine their traits together in a general report. Try using details from the clearest sitting or sittings. Begin your description with the primary object of meditation, the rise and fall of the abdomen. After this you may add other objects that arose at any of the six sense doors.

After describing the sitting, go into your walking practice. Here you must only describe experiences directly connected with your walking movements -- do not include a range of objects as you might in reporting a sitting. If you use the three-part method of lifting, moving and placing in your walking meditation try to include each segment and the experiences you had with it.

What Occurred, How You Noted It, What Happened to It

For all of these objects, indeed with any object of meditation, please report your experience in three phases.

One, you identify what occurred. Two, you report how you noted it. And three, you describe what you saw, or felt, or understood, that is, what happened when you noted it.

Let us take as an example the primary object, the rising and falling movement of the abdomen.

The first thing to do is to identify the occurrence of the rising process, "Rising occurred"

The second phase is to note it, give it a silent verbal label, "I noted it as 'rising.'

The third phase is to describe what happened to the rising

"As I noted 'rising,' this is what I experienced, the different sensations. I felt This was the behavior of the sensations at that time"

Then you continue the interview by using the same three-phase description for the falling process and the other objects that arise during sitting. You mention the object's occurrence, describe how you noted it, and relate your subsequent experiences until the object disappears or your attention moves elsewhere.

As you can see, this style of reporting is a guide for how awareness should be functioning in actual vipassana meditation. For this reason, meditation interviews are helpful for an additional reason beyond the chance to receive a teacher's guidance. Yogis often find that being required to produce a report of this kind has a galvanizing effect on their meditation practice, for it asks them to focus on their experiences as clearly as they possibly can.

Awareness, Accuracy, Perseverance

It is not enough to look at the object indifferently, haphazardly or in an unmindful, automatic way. This is not a practice where you mindlessly recite some mental formula. You must look at the object with full commitment, with all of your heart. Directing your whole attention toward the object, as accurately as possible, you keep your attention there so that you can penetrate into the object's true nature.

Despite our best efforts, the mind may not always be so well-behaved as to remain with our abdomen. It wanders off. At this point a new object, the wandering mind, has arisen. How do we handle this? We become aware of the wandering. This is the first phase. Now the second phase we label it as "wandering, wandering" How soon after its arising were we aware of the wandering? One second, two minutes, half an hour? And what happens after we label it? Does the wandering mind disappear instantly? Does the mind just keep on wandering? Or do the thoughts reduce in intensity and eventually disappear? Does a new object arise before we have seen the disappearance of the old one? If you cannot note the wandering mind at all, you should tell the teacher about this, too.

If the wandering mind disappears, you come back to the rising and falling. You should make a point to describe whether you are able to come back to it. In your reports it is good, also, to say how long the mind usually remained with the rising and falling movements before a new object arose.

Pains and aches, unpleasant sensations, are sure to arise after some time of sitting. Say an itch suddenly appears -- a new object. You label it as "itching" Does the itch get worse or remain the same? Does it change or disappear? Do new objects arise, such as a wish to scratch? All this should be described as precisely as possible. It is the same with visions and sights, sounds and tastes, heat and cold. tightness, vibrations, tinglings, the unending procession of objects of consciousness. No matter what the object, you only have to apply the same three-step principle to it.

All of this process is done as a silent investigation, coming very close to our experience -- not asking ourselves a lot of questions and getting lost in thought. What is important to the teacher is whether you could be aware of whatever object has arisen, whether you had the accuracy of mind to be mindful of it, and the perseverance to observe it fully. Be honest with your teacher. If you are unable to find the object, or note it, or experience anything at all after making a mental label, it may not always mean that you are practicing poorly! A clear and precise report enables the teacher to assess your practice, then point out mistakes or make corrections to put you back on the right path. May you benefit from these interview instructions. May a teacher someday help you help yourself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Common concerns with Mahasi method

There are two questions or doubts commonly associated with Mahasi method: 1. Observing abdomen, 2. Using labeling.

The following three quotes are the explanations for observing abdomen and using labeling.
1) "Satipatthana Vipassana" by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw:
Rising-Falling
A simpler and easier form of the exercise for a beginner is this: With every breath there occurs in the abdomen a rising-falling movement. A beginner should start with the exercise of noting this movement. This rising-falling movement is easy to observe because it is coarse and therefore more suitable for the beginner. As in schools where simple lessons are easy to learn, so also is the practice of vipassana meditation. A beginner will find it easier to develop concentration and knowledge with a simple and easy exercise. ---

Outline of Basic Exercises
When contemplating rising and falling, the disciple should keep his mind on the abdomen. He will then come to know the upward movement or expansion of the abdomen on breathing in, and the downward movement or contraction on breathing out. A mental note should be made as "rising" for the upward movement and "falling" for the downward movement. If these movements are not clearly noticed by simply fixing the mind on them, one or both hands should be placed on the abdomen.

2) "The Four Foundations of Mindfulness: A Summary" by Venerable sayadaw U Silananda:
You know the four foundations of mindfulness, four kinds of setting up of mindfulness. There are four because there are four kinds of objects.

The first one is body. Sometimes body does not mean the whole physical body, but a group of some material properties. Breathing is also called the body. Different parts of the body are also called the body. By the word "body" we must understand anything that is associated with the body.


3) "In This Very Life" by Sayadaw U Pandita---"Mediation Instruction" in chapter one:
In this meditation it is very important to have both effort and precise aim, so that the mind meets the sensation directly and powerfully. One helpful aid to precision and accuracy is to make a soft mental note of the object of awareness, naming the sensation by saying the word gently and silently in the mind, like "rising, rising...falling, falling."

As explained above, the reason to use abdomen is because it is easier to observe and it is also a part of “body”, which is within the context of “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. And, the reason to use labeling is to have precise aim at the object observed in order to develop sharp mindfulness, which is needed to penetrate the object/phenomenon observed in order to see the true nature of all phenomena.

The labeling itself will naturally drop off, not intended by the practitioner, as the mindfulness gaining its strength.

However, if the yogi is using breathing, also known as “body” (quote 2), instead of abdomen as the primary object, he/she could ask the Sayadaw for advice during the interview.