This is Part IV and Finale of "The Practice of Meditation", covering
the last three topics:
- The Progress of States in Meditation
- The Functions of Meditation
- The Effects and Benefits of Meditation
10. THE PROGRESS OF STATES IN MEDITATION
Meditation means silent contemplation, that is, when you stop the
flow of your thoughts, you can then start to observe. If you can
control your mind by stopping your thoughts, you should start to
There are three stages in the process, that is reflection with
investigation, no reflection but with investigation, no reflection
and no investigation. In terms of the feeling and perception, there are
also four grades and they constitute what is known as the Four Dhyanas.
In the initial stage, you contemplate on the sphere of observation in a
coarse manner. You have a rough understanding of all things and you
begin to contemplate on that premise. This is "reflection with investigation".
You will begin to experience a sense of comfort in both body and
mind and this represents your riddance of the more coarse form of delusions.
It is equivalent to the first state of dhyana where "joy arise out
of departure from delusions".
Later on, you begin to contemplate on the meaning of all the dharma
that you have already understood, hoping to seek the way out,
and there you turn from the coarse to the more refined
contemplation, and this is "no reflection but with investigation".
When you turn from the more refined to the attainment of the formlessness,
then this is "no reflection and no investigation".
You will experience a markedly significant sense of comfort and ease
in body and mind. It is equivalent to the second state of dhyana
where "joy arise out of deep meditation".
One step further, you do not contemplate individually on everything
but rather cluster them in groups. You observe that they are directional,
that is, they lead to specific targets, e.g., Real Suchness, Bodhi, Nirvana,
etc. This may be termed the observation of a general picture of
conditioning causes. You will experience a dwindled sense of comfort
being replaced by a feeling of freedom from delusions and total
sovereignty of the mind. It is equivalent to the third state of
dhyana where the "exquisite pleasures arise out of departure form joy".
Lastly, when you expand the sphere of observation of a general picture
of conditioning causes, you contemplate on the teachings and the
written word of countless Buddhas, and you are not attached to any form
of existence or the voidness thereof. In your feelings, you do not distinguish
between joy and pleasure. It is equivalent to the fourth state of dhyana
where purity prevails over the forfeiture of any thought form.
11. THE FUNCTIONS OF MEDITATION
The functions of practicing meditation are threefold:
- To practice "stopping", focus on non-discriminative images.
- To practice "observing", focus on discriminative images.
- To practice "stopping" and "observing" simultaneously by focusing
on marginal images and conditions leading to ultimate attainment.
To Practice "Stopping"
To hear the doctrines expounded in the Tripitaka and practice accordingly.
When seated in a solitary place try to control your mind from within
and when the mind is settled, there will arise "non-discriminative images",
and you will not infer or react when confronted with any circumstance.
To Practice "Observing"
When the mind is at rest or in a state of stillness, or before it has
reached that stage, try to contemplate on the doctrines that you have
heard or read in six aspects:
- For speech and the written word, seek their "meaning".
- For the object of observation, find out whether it is
inside or outside your mind, an internal or external business, and
contemplate on the "business".
- For discriminative images or similar images contemplate on their "forms".
- For good or evil karma, merit or demerit, contemplate on its "category".
- For the past present or the future, contemplate on its "time".
- For the secular or the transcendent, the body or its function, the
form or its theory, contemplate on its "theory". Give rise to
discriminative images until the delusions are destroyed.
To Practice "Stopping" and "Observing" Simultaneously
When both "stopping" and "observing" are practiced to perfection
(resulting in the ninth stage of staying the mind and operating
naturally and focusing on pure dharma), you understand that
everything is but a reflection of the mind and you attain the
transcendent view of all discriminative and non-discriminative images.
You then achieve the harmony between all active and passive phenomena.
You will realize the resembling picture of the sphere of your
observation when you close your eyes just like what you perceive
when you open your eyes. This is called "marginal images and conditions".
After going through the above-mentioned three kinds of images, you
now see everything without obstruction. After you get rid of the
heavy bondage of life and death, you further get rid of the
bondage of knowledge . You surpass the limits of the images and train
your mind in such a way that you can attain complete abandonment of
everything and gain an inward freedom of the mind, which is termed
"ultimate attainment". You then obtain four kinds of benefits: complete
departure from all evil, deep fondness of all good karma, the mind
staying where it should stay, and do whatever should be done.
12. THE EFFECTS AND BENEFITS OF MEDITATION
If you have practiced "stopping" and "observing" simultaneously to perfection,
and can operate freely at will, you will reap the four kinds of benefits
as mentioned above. The benefits to be derived can be divided into
- The joy of Samadhi at the secular level - Although you have not
yet departed from the Three Realms, you can already keep your
delusions at bay by practicing the five meditations and the fourfold
stage of mindfulness, thereby realizing the joys of samadhi. If
living in the secular world you observe and understand to a point
of no reflection and no investigation, then even though you live in
the Desire Realm, you already possess the Four Dhyanas of the Form Realm.
By abandoning both suffering and happiness you obtain the thought of purity.
- The emancipation from the life-and-death cycle - If you practice
meditation focused on emancipation, and observe the sixteen aspects of
the Four Noble Truths, you know the fruits of suffering in the secular
world and you therefore cut off at the root of suffering and
practice the way of salvation and eventually attain nirvana.
- The culmination of blessedness and wisdom - If you practice the
Bodhisattva way, you understand the consciousness only teachings, and
you practice meditation accordingly and know that all phenomena are the
work of the mind. In this way, you break away from attachment to an
ego and you realize that all dharma have their dependent originating causes.
You are thus not afraid of the suffering of samsara and you do not
enter into nirvana. Instead, motivated by your vows of great pity,
you enter samsara to transform other beings and practice the six paramitas
while still retaining the thought of purity until you attain Buddhahood.
The first chapter of the text entitled "The Intention to Practice
Meditation" is meant to relieve you of the heavy bondage of
delusions. It also connects some of the mistaken views you might have
on the external circumstances. If you practice meditation according
to the stages as set out in the foregoing, you will certainly satisfy