Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
April 2 1991
To continue with the teachings on concentration. In doing that, I introduced first with how to deal with the mind, and how to deal with the mind in regards to focusing on objects, three types of objects, a simple object which required no elaboration, an object which required some thought and then focusing of the effect of the thought, and finally where there was a need to more deeply appraise a situation or particular experience that needs to be generated such as altruistic love and then focusing on that. Those are more or less three levels of concentration. Last time I talked again about concentration and how to help you gain some experience in working with it. This evening , I would like to continue that and tell you what happens when you start to develop concentration and the various things you will have to go through.
We have to look at the mind, when you are developing concentration, is growing stronger. I talked about the sense organs and consciousness, and when you develop concentration, you are trying to focus on the sixth sense, the mind sense and mind consciousness. If you are using a visual object, it is more obvious that you are working with mind consciousness, but if you use for example, the breath, it still is mind consciousness, but you are typing mind together with a sense door, such as sensation of air flowing through the nostrils. So you are limiting yourself to mind conscious and the sense consciousness as in sensation of breath rising and falling. You would end up going into a deeper concentration where one would be able to leave the breath and then focus on an awareness which was stimulated by the sensation but then did not require the stimulation again.
In the development of deeper concentration, there is what is termed the nine levels of concentration, each is categorized. I think they start off with placement where the mind is paced on the object but there is no real strength there. Then there is patch like placement where the mind is placed on the object and there is more strength but it is considered patchy because the concentration is there, then gone, then back. By that is meant, as you sit and concentrate, your concentration goes, something distracts you, and the object completely disappears and the mind goes somewhere else. But you can quickly bring it back. That is termed patch like.
But as you grow beyond that, and it is with determination, you keep tightening the mind or focusing the mind on your concentration, the actual distractions get worse. You will be concentrating very clearly and a thought will arise. In that thought you will literally ago fully into it. And if you are fully concentrated, it will almost be dream, and you will be in this other world, then suddenly you will come back, and actually you have lost twenty minutes. It happens like that. And maybe it is not twenty minutes, but you have completely lost the object of your concentration with no awareness that it was there what so ever. And that is considered, well, goo because one's concentration is growing, but you have a greater obstacle to overcome. When the distraction or mental wandering arises, it is so intensive it completely engulfs your mind in whatever it is. Normally it is thoughts, you think of someone or something, and your mind goes into that totally with all the emotions whatsoever is being generated. It is very powerful but also a total distraction to the actual development of concentration. It requires that you martial your forces quite strongly and again bring your mind to the concentration. With that two things will happen. You will have the object focused, but it is termed as like an under current. The analogy used is like ice n a river. The object appears very solidly there, but there is an under current of other thoughts. This means you have gotten to fairly stable concentration and you might be able to focus for five minutes. But there is maybe a dialogue going on in the background in your mind. Or thoughts. Or dream images going on. But they are going on. They are not affecting concentration. It could be a sensation or an image, whatever you seem to be focused on. In that you have a harder thing to work with. The mind is focused well enough that you think you are concentrating quite well, but you have an under current like the flow of a river under a jacket of ice on top. And that requires for remedy, to make the concentration brighter, more sharp. And in the concentration texts, they say that when you become more concentrated, you can get terrific detail in concentration vision. For example, if you were focused on the Buddha in the space before you, with concentration becoming that powerful, l you can almost see the individual eyebrows and eyelashes, or very fine detail. For example, if part of the object were to be brocade, and the pattern were simple, you could get terrific detail in the brocade. The mind is getting very sharp.
So when you are starting to develop good concentration on the objects place, but you are getting background dialogue going on and you cannot seem to kick it, they say you increase clarity of vision. In doing that, it takes the energy out of those things. Because the details, in being very fine, are also a cause of bliss, and so you are starting to generate an inner experience of bliss as you develop that.
From that point they say concentration becomes more stable and then you have more refined states to correct. In the texts they are enumerated in detail. But we can work equally well with the concentration of the flow of the air. And in that case maybe you would have is even realizing thought moments of consciousness in awareness or something. It would be similar in the minuteness or power of each moment of consciousness, develops a terrific vitality. It gives a lot of energy to your mind as you develop this concentration. So there is great bliss being generated in the mind.
Essentially, as you progress, the cumulating experiences of powerful and deep concentration termed shenay or clam abiding, is termed samadhi in the sanscrit texts. Actually the mind remains perfectly focused. Initially there is ecstasy in the mind. But that, it means the mind has a terrific sense of bliss and yet is serene. Not like that you become excited. It is a sense of serenity with a sense of unbelievable leisure. And yet it is relaxing to your being. That is the mind only.
From there, there has to be a secondary reflex from the body. The body starts to generate pliancy, which is also bliss. This means the body can maintain posture indefinitely. There is no fatigue in the body any more. The mind is cultivated the elements of the physical body to the point where extreme physical a bliss arises. And it says with the unification of mental and physical ecstasy or bliss in concentration, then you have conquered your mind. And at that point, the great teachers of the past, they say if you sat down to concentrate on one subject, twenty four hours would not be a fatiguing thing. And you wouldn't require food any more. You would just go and work at it. And at the end of that time you would not feel exhausted. You would feel quite good about what you have done. So the body maintains a terrific balance between energy and yet maintaining a high sense of personal well being.
Gompopa, Milarepa's student developed this calm abiding. In doing that he said he would go seven days without eating and feel complete equanimity. He could meditate on one thing for thirty six hours, then circumambulate a temple, carry on discourses with some monks, and go back to meditating and never feel fatigue in his body. He felt his body very light, pliable, and no sense of physical malady. And his mind was always very pristine and clear. He still ate, but the need for food and such very greatly diminished.
There are many other saints who gained such power and had similar stories of what is termed physical and mental pliancy of one's being. That is said to be the cumulating stage of samadhi, and there has to be those two facets. If you only get mental pliancy which is a terrific pliancy in the mind, and yet stability within that, then that is not considered full samadhi because the body has to be cultivated as well.
There are some texts available which talk of this in detail, but I do not think this is practical for most of us other than interesting reading. Coming back to some details, there are two principle things which happen when you try to concentrate. One is, we find ourselves sleepy. Because we have been busy in the day, in the evening when we start to relax, the relaxation is over powering and you start to go to sleep. You have to have a certain amount of relaxation when you meditate or you will find that you will go to sleep.
So when we meditate we have to consider two things. One is we go to sleep, or secondly, we will completely wander into other thought patterns and have nothing to do with concentration. The two techniques to work with those two problems, is one, don't meditate when you are tired, there is not much benefit in it. But if you are marginally tired, try to cultivate a clarity of mind in focusing on the object. And when you find your mind gets sleepy, inspire the mind. And do it by thinking of people who have meditated well that you know and are inspired you so so you become enthusiastic. Or that you take a subject which you consider stimulating for your mind, such a particular issue which is happening personally for you, you might find you can draw energy from that to stimulate yourself. Main point, is you should utilize your mind to give yourself stimulation. When you find yourself quite stimulated, then concentrate. So you generate interest in your mind which allows you to maintain concentration.
When your mind is really scattered, you should try to deflate your mind and make yourself depressed, because in that you bring your mind back and it does not wander off into different realms. You could think about death and impermanence, that you are wasting this perfect opportunity, things like that. In that way you make yourself depressed. You can even think of how neurotic you still are, and how you still make trouble for everyone around you, things like that. Make yourself depressed. In that way the mind comes back inside and then concentration becomes more easy.
The main benefit in the development of concentration is to utilize that in integrating your life. If you develop good concentration, you can gain more mental power in your mind. Then you can use that to take particular things which for you are meaningful and try to make them more solidly consciously part of yourself. The key term is to make it a more conscious aspect for yourself.
It is the key in being able to integrate your practice. To be more consciously aware of what you are doing, how you are affecting the words that come out of you, the types of feelings you have on that side of yourself. If you want to have a successful practice, conscious awareness is the important thing. And to develop concentration is the asset of that. The asset which gives you that. When you are consciously meditating. And as I say, it helps your practice be successful because you can take the principles or things which are meaningful for you and you take the power of your mind to make those real for you for integrating things.
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