Five Dharma‧2

法雲雜誌第十一期

Five Dharma

Qualities that a Meditator Should Possess‧2

Ven. Miu King

The following is a brief summary of five qualities, stressed for cultivators resolved on meditation studies:

1.)Listening:

A meditator should willingly listen to Dharma. By applying the teachings through self-introspection, right mindfulness is developed. The mind becomes purified.

2.)Renunciation:

By being widely learned on the proper teachings, wisdom shines forth with clarity and purity. The shortcomings of worldly affairs becomes apparent; their detriments revealed, the mundane will no longer hold any allure.

3.)Motivation:

Admiration for the True Path will be generated. The state of Nirvana will be regarded as a safe haven, filled with supreme meritorious virtues. One will be motivated to strive for such a state.

4.)Wariness:

The meditator becomes mindful. Until Attainment is reached, one easily slips into sufferings of the lower realms. Impure thoughts, unwholesome actions committed doubtlessly will bring such fate.

5.)Diligence:

Extinguishing defilements and attesting to purity, one shuns from laziness and laxness. Diligently one cultivates samadhi and vipassana. Thus, the mind becomes bright, tranquil, concentrated and unconfused. In accordance with Dharma, progressively one enters the path of awakening.


3.)Motivation:

Admiration for the True Path will be generated. The state of Nirvana will be regarded as a safe haven, filled with supreme meritorious virtues. One will be motivated to strive for such a state.

Previously we discussed renunciation, the letting go of troublesome concerns and mundane affairs. Here, "motivation" refers to seeking or pursuing something. What should we seek? "Admiration for the True Path." We should generate joy for the practice and desire for Attainment. What is the way of truth? It is perfecting our vows 1 , concentration, and wisdom. When we finally reach Nirvana, it "will be regarded as a safe haven"— a place free from the worries of aging, sickness, and death. So the True Path is the seed and Nirvana the fruit. A desire to practice will lead us to the result, which is the safety of Nirvana. Nirvana is the Ultimate Truth, where all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhants abide. No longer will there be distress, suffering, or confusion. It is the absolute shelter of serenity, happiness, and harmony-forever existent, never destroyed. Motivation and willingness to practice arise in us to attain Nirvana.

The ordained aspire to the joys of Nirvana. With its great liberating radiance, it is a state that surpasses all else in this world. It is complete, "filled with supreme meritorious virtues." A myriad of virtues like The Three Brightness, The Six Extrasensory Perceptions, The Eight Liberations, The Ten Powers, The Four Fearlessness, The Eighteen Unshared Dharma, and The Unsurpassed Bodhichitta are embodied. This is why "one will be motivated to strive for such a state." With sincerity we need to develop such a desire, such a resolve. After a few years of study we must not be a captive of status and recognition by forgetting the urgency of practice. Never let this happen!

4.)Wariness:

The meditator becomes mindful. Until Nirvana is reached, one easily slips into the suffering of the lower realms. Impure thoughts, unwholesome actions committed doubtlessly will bring such fate.

The fourth is wariness. We should be " mindful ", be cautious since we have yet to reach liberation.

We cannot speak of reaching the State of Non-Arising, Non-Cessation of All Thoughts, or even Stream Entry 2 yet as we cannot even focus in our meditation. We cannot concentrate when we are supposed to; we cannot practice insight when we are supposed to. We harbor various impure, wandering thoughts. We may even do wrongful actions. In this manner, "one easily slips into the sufferings of the lower realms." Today we may have a human form but the doors of the three lower realms are always open. We may fall at any moment. Once we reach Stream Entry we will never regress to the lower realms. At this stage, right mindfulness has strength. If a tiny affliction arises, right mindfulness can immediately take effect, subduing the hindrance and re-establishing a pure state. People who are not pursuing Attainment or who do not usually meditate have a harder time detecting afflictions. We do not recognize greed, hostility, ignorance or conceit when they appear. If we cannot identify the problems how can we expect to be freed from them? When meditation has no strength and the force of the affliction is great, the dangers of falling into the lower realms become imminent. A weak force cannot overtake a strong one. Therefore, warn yourself:"if I do not attain sagehood or; if I cannot tame my afflictions; if I cannot purify my actions, speech, and thoughts; then the endless sufferings of the three lower realms will certainly follow. Only when I have cut away all afflictions and attained Nirvana, will I be in a place without fear."

That is the reason we need to cultivate both samatha and vipassana at all times. Both are needed to completely break afflictions. Some people only practice concentration. Although they have not reached the State of Delightful Quietude, 3 they do have some good experiences like relaxed feeling. So they want to practice only samatha, not vipassana. At best, this method suppresses the afflictions, keeps them still.
But this cannot eliminate them or lead you to Nirvana. You cannot reside in a place of safety unless you were to practice both samatha and vipassana. Then afflictions will be completely uprooted. You can reach Ultimate Truth, never to fear again.

Most people have difficulty practicing vipassana, but that can be solved. The first solution is to repent more. The Great Compassionate Repentance Ceremony, for instance, can free us from many hindrances. The second solution has already been discussed: keeping occupied with cleaning chores will help. By tending to the Sangha preparing meals or serving food, you will gain virtuous merits. 4 Because of your effort, the members of the Sangha replenish their bodies. They will have the energy to practice and if they succeed then you will share in the positive karma. In your practice, your chances of success will also increase. The Venerable Suddhipanthaka for example, had a very bad
memory. He would remember the last part of a teaching and forget the first. When he finally got the first part, he would forget the last part again. Even though he had practiced for a long time, it was as if he never did. Then the Buddha said to him, "When the members of the Sangha come in, there will be mud on their shoes. Go and help wipe
the shoes for them." Venerable Suddhipanthaka did this and absolved many of his negative karma. When the Buddha taught him again, giving him a simple verse to learn, he was awakened and became an Arhant.

If you volunteer to take care of elderly monks or nuns, you will also rid karmic hindrances. Do not detest them and say, "Don't live with us, you're a burden! " You may be young and strong now but everyone ages sooner or later. Have compassion. Do things that will eliminate obstacles to your practice. If a fellow student falls ill, look after him; this will also help your practice. It is not right to ignore the sick. Monastic should take care of each other. When we practice, we will have hindrances. Virtuous merits help rid them and you will see the result in your meditation. One less good deed done is one less merit. If you accumulated enough blessings in your previous lives to sustain you through this life, not acquiring merits will not hurt your practice. This is rare though; most of us lack merits.

Again:"The meditator becomes mindful. Until Nirvana is reached, one easily slips into the suffering of the lower realms. Impure thoughts, unwholesome actions committed doubtlessly will bring such fate." Constantly remind yourself of this. Be apprehensive, become diligent in the practice. When we finally break free of suffering, we reach Nirvana where all fear ceases and we can let go of wariness. We do not need to wait until Nirvana, the initial stage of Non-Arising, Non-Cessation of All Thoughts will suffice. At that point, right mindfulness has the strength to subdue afflictions, which gives the effect of being in serenity.

5.)Diligence:

Attesting to purity and extinguishing defilements, one shuns from laziness and laxness. Diligently one cultivates samatha and vipassana. Thus, one's mind becomes bright, tranquil, concentrated and unconfused. In accordance with Dharma, 5 progressively one enters the path of awakening.

"Diligence" means to be vigorous, industrious. With wariness we become fearful of falling into the three lower realms and undergoing suffering. We then become diligent, applying effort to the practice without slacking. "Attesting to purity" is someone who succeeded in perfecting vows, concentration and wisdom. "Extinguishing defilements" is someone who can use meditation to rid the mind of all the various defilements, such as greed, hostility and ignorance. To achieve this requires courageous and vigorous effort, with neither "laziness" nor "laxness." The most difficult concentration state to obtain is in the beginning, the level where the Realm of Desire is active. The concentration in the Realm of Desire contains nine stages of mind development. Amongst the nine: Mental Placement, Continuous Placement, Patched Placement, Close Placement and Taming are the hardest to achieve. Even when we reached the next four higher levels (Pacification, Complete Pacification, One-Pointed Attention and Balanced Placement), although a bit easier than the former, the effort involved is considered difficult. There will be good and bad moments, times of progress then times of regression. After this, Virtual Samadhi (the state just prior to the First Level of Samadhi), and all levels following, the practice becomes steadier and less strenuous. The power of concentration at that point is strong. Right mindfulness also has potency. Meditative absorption manifests as soon as effort is applied. The mind will remain clear and calm. You can practice concentration at will; practice insight at will. By that time, there will be experiences of Delightful Quietude. You will have strong stamina. Diligence will no longer be a problem; you will no longer be lazy or slothful.

When we first study in a Buddhist institute, we depend on a teacher to explain the material. Regardless of how we try on our own, we will not be proficient. However if we are patient and continuously study eventually understanding will become simple. Then we will not need a teacher; we will be able to learn on our own. The difficulties will become fewer and questions will be easily resolved. Learning will become less of a burden. The same is true for meditation. Whether you are laity or a monastic, the beginning is difficult. After Virtual Samadhi is experienced, the mind will be easy to tame. Thus, "one diligently cultivates samatha and vipassana" in order to perfect merits and eliminate delusions. So don't be lazy! Get up in the mornings to meditate. After breakfast, after lunch, all through the day and at bedtime practice deeply. Keep the mind calm, clear, focused.

"Samatha" means to still. When the mind is clear and calm, without being sluggish or scattered, then the mind is still. "Clear" means not to be sluggish, without torpor;"calm" means not to be scattered. Racing thoughts, unfocused thoughts, wandering thoughts—either pleasant or unpleasant, or anything which unsettles and muddles the mind are not calm states. Stop all these activities. Bring the mind to an inner tranquility. As in "The Verse of the Red Cliff Front " by Su Tung P'o, "as the light breeze gently passes, the water ripples un-aroused." If you are always practicing, then the winds of your aimless thoughts will be light. Your mind will be calmed and unmoved even if you have strong winds and big waves. An example for those who are not practicing: you are healthy and fit and you wake up after a good night's rest; you may experience a little calm and clarity when all the rambling thoughts are un-aroused, resting. Then you go to work; you think about many things. The mind again becomes active, scattered. But if you practice frequently, calm clarity can be experienced throughout the day, not only in those brief-waking moments. Stilled meditation has this benefit.

"Vipassana" means insightful contemplation. We practice contemplation to give strength against incorrect views. What is incorrect? Not understanding principle truths is misguided and incorrect. Contemplation about impermanence, suffering, defilements of the body, No-Self, Ultimate Emptiness, Mere-Consciousness, the Dharmakaya, or Reality of the Three Principles will reinforce proper understanding. This method transforms the ordinary mind to the holy. Some people practice mindfulness of the Buddha's name and seem successful. However, when something unexpected happens, they are unable to continue. Why? Because the mind becomes disoriented and cannot keep reciting. If stilling and contemplative meditation is practiced, one is in harmony with the teachings and "In accordance with Dharma progressively one enters the path of awakening." Samatha will lead the mind to clarity and tranquility, ridding scattered-ness; while vipassana will keep the mind steady with proper reasoning, ridding incorrect views.

"In accordance with Dharma," as explained in 'The Samdhinirmocana Sutra'(Discriminating Yogacara Chapter), means Learned Wisdom. 6 When you can read the teachings on your own; listen to the teachings of a Dharma teacher; understand the definition of Ultimate Truth; and use the words for insightful contemplation then that is being "in accordance." If there is no understanding of Ultimate Truth, no insightful contemplations, then one cannot be in accord with Dharma.

After a period of intense contemplation, impressions of Ultimate Truth will appear. Thus "progressively" means when mind and wisdom harmonizes, when there is no more regression. For instance, when confronted with good or bad circumstances, you remain unaffected and continue towards the Ultimate Truth. The proper mindfulness has strength. This is "progressively." If you are un-skilled and have not contemplated deeply, the mind is easily swayed. If greed or hostility appears, the truth is immediately lost; there is no progress. Learned Wisdom fits this example. However if you can engage in proper mindfulness at all times and not be influenced by life's illusions or predicaments, then that means your Reflective Wisdom has strength. At that stage, whatever situation arises, you will never lose your direction. Progressively you continue towards the Ultimate Truth and you will naturally conform with samadhi.

"Enters the path of awakening," means Practiced Wisdom, which is sharper edged. Once samatha is successful, you are in meditative absorption while contemplating. 7 It then becomes possible to be awakened, entering the Ultimate Truth. Entry has two types: true entrance and resembling entrance. True entrance is a transcendental state. Resembling entrance, although still considered a humanly state, comes very close to sagehood.

At "the path of awakening," one must achieve at least Virtual Samadhi. The next levels are The Four Levels of Samadhi in the Form Realm. Using the meditative absorptions of those levels to contemplate the Ultimate Truth leads to entrance along the path of awakening. Although one has yet to attain sage hood, any of these states make it possible to be with the Bodhisattvas. If you want to see Bodhisattva Manjusrior Samantabhadra, contemplate in meditative absorption, then he will appear. He will appear in a transformation body, which is different from a wood carved or a clay image seen by most. On the other hand, if something in the Yogacarabhumi Shastra perplexes you, you can enter samadhi at any time. You can go to Tushita Heaven's inner court to ask Maitreya Buddha to answer your question. You can even pray to Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara when you come across difficulties. He will help resolve issues for you. These are wonderful advantages at this point of practice. These benefits derive from diligent practice of stilling and contemplative meditation.

In summary, a novice committed to the study of stilling and contemplative meditation, should be attentive to five qualities: listening, renunciation, motivation, wariness, and diligence. In the beginning, practice may be difficult, but if we earnestly incorporate these qualities, practice will become easier in time. Described here are some glorious insights that await you. Your efforts will not be in vain.


1 Vows in regards to sila or precepts of ordained sramanera, sramanerika, siksamanas, bhiksus and bhiksunis.

2 First of three Attainments before becoming an Arhant.

3 A state where mind and body feels calm, light, agile, peace and delightful joy; piti.

4 Positive karma accumulated by completing virtuous thoughts or actions.

5 In accordance with Dharma, in harmony, in agreement with the teachings.

6 Wisdom comes in three ways: one must first be exposed to the teachings and perceive it. Through hearing, reading, and learning about it , wisdom is gained. This is called Learned Wisdom. After being exposed to the Dharma, one needs to contemplate and reflect on its meaning. Reflective Wisdom then is achieved. Then if one can further understanding while being in a state of samadhi, then wisdom gained through this method is called Practiced Wisdom. One does not need to realize Ultimate Truth in order to achieve Practiced Wisdom.

7 Meaning that samatha is used to carry out contemplative meditation. Stilling meditation and contemplative meditation are no longer separate processes.