Buddhist Meditation

Buddhist Meditation

by Edward Conze

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As prayer is to the Christian life, so meditation is the very heart of Buddhist life. This introduction explains the meaning and purpose of meditation. Its series of devotional exercises include instructions on maintaining mental and physical awareness during meditation, with advice on postures, breathing, repudiation of the sensory world, and more.

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ISBN-13: 9780486166759
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 09/06/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 681 KB

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Buddhist Meditation


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-16675-9




a. The Recollection of the Buddha

(The formula): The Yogin who is endowed with trusting faith, and who wants to develop the recollection of the Buddha should, in a suitable dwelling place, in solitude and seclusion, recall the virtues of the Buddha, the Lord, as follows: 'This Lord is truly the Arahat, fully enlightened, perfect in his knowledge and conduct, well-gone, world-knower, supreme, leader of men to be tamed, teacher of gods and men, the Buddha, the Lord.'

(The 10 points of the formula): 1. (a) Because he is at a great distance (ara-ka) from the defilements, stands quite far away from them, has, by means of the path, destroyed the defilements together with their residues,—therefore he is an Arahat, on account of this distance. (b) And since by that path he has slain (hata) the foes (ari) i.e., the defilements, he is an Arahat on account of his having slain the foes. (c) And since the Lord knows conditioned co-production in all respects, he cognizes its constituents as they really are, turns away from them, detaches and frees himself from them, and he has broken (hata), destroyed and demolished the spokes (ara) of this wheel of Samsara. In this sense also is he called an Ara-hat. (d) And he is an Arahat because he is worthy (arahati) of the highest gifts; for he is worthy to receive the robe and the other requisites, as well as special worship. (e) And finally he is unlike certain fools in this world who imagine that they are wise, and who, afraid of a bad reputation, do evil in secret; therefore he is also an Arahat on account of the absence of secret (raha) evildoing.

2. He is the Fully Enlightened (sammasambuddho) because he has understood (buddhatta) all dharmas correctly (samma) and by himself (samam).

'What should be known, that I have known;
What should developed be, I have developed;
What should forsaken be, that I forsook.
Hence, Brahmin, am I Buddha,—One Awake'

(Sn 558).

3. He is perfect in his knowledge, and conduct: Here 'knowledge' refers to either the three, or the eight, kinds of knowledge. 'Conduct' comprises these 15 dharmas: (1) moral restraint, (2) guarding the doors of the senses, (3) moderation in eating, (4) cultivation of vigilance, (5)—(11) the seven good dharmas, and (12)—(15) the four formless trances. These 15 dharmas are called 'conduct,' because by them the holy disciple conducts himself, or moves in the direction of the Deathless. And here the perfection of the Lord's knowledge brings about his omniscience, and his perfection of conduct his great compassion. Through his omniscience he has understood what is, and what is not, salutary to all beings: with his great compassion he wards off that which is not salutary, and joins them to what is salutary. Just so someone perfect in knowledge and conduct would act.

4 (a). 'Gone' (gata) can refer to his 'journey' (gamana), which, in the case of the Lord, is auspicious, quite pure and faultless. And what is that journey? The holy path. By that journey he has gone without hesitation to the place of Safety,—therefore, from his auspicious journey he is called the 'Well-Gone.' (b) Or he has gone to the exquisite place, the deathless Nirvana; he then is 'Well-Gone' in the sense that he has gone to the place where all is well. (c) Or he has gone rightly, without again going back to the defilements which he has forsaken on this or that path (i.e., that of a Stream-winner, etc.). Or he has 'gone rightly,' from the time that he fell at the feet of Dipankara to the time when he sat on the terrace of enlightenment; during all that time he has worked for the weal and happiness of the entire world by his right progress, which consisted in the fulfilment of the thirty perfections; and he kept out of the way of the extremes, rejecting the doctrine of eternity as well as that of annihilation, and avoiding both sense-pleasures and self-torment.

5. He is the world-knower, because he has known the world in all respects. For the Lord has known, understood, and penetrated the world in every way,—its ownbeing, its origination, its cessation, and the expedient which leads to its cessation.

6. He is supreme, because no one is superior to him, or more distinguished in virtues than he is.

7. Leader of men to be tamed: He leads men who can be tamed. He 'tames' means that he disciplines them.

8. Teacher of Gods and men: He instructs others, each one according to his worth, in the ultimate truths regarding this life and the next one.

9 (a). He is the Buddha because, whatever there may be that is cognizable, all that he has known (buddhatta) through the cognition which constitutes his final deliverance. (b) Or, because he himself has understood (bujjhi) the four Truths, and caused other beings to understand (bodhesi) them.

10. Lord (Bhagavat), finally, is a term which denotes respect and reverence for him who, through the distinction of his virtues, is the highest among all beings.

(The results): The heart of him who recalls the virtues of the Buddha, by way of recollecting that for such and such reasons the Lord is an Arahat, Fully Enlightened, and so on, 'is not obsessed by greed, hatred or delusion, and his mind becomes quite straight with reference to the Tathagata' (A iii 285). When, in the absence of obsession with greed, etc., the hindrances are impeded, and the mind has become straight by facing towards the subject of meditation, then (1) applied and (2) discursive thinking can turn towards the Buddha's virtues. Thinking is repeatedly applied to them, the practitioner discourses to himself about them, and as a result (3) rapturous zest arises in him. After he has felt rapturous zest, (4) the tranquillity which is based on it makes the cares of body and mind subside. When his cares subside, (5) a feeling of happiness, both mental and physical, arises in him. Happy, with the virtues of the Buddha for his object, he concentrates his mind. In this way the (five) Jhana-limbs arise in due order in one single moment. But because of the profundity of the Buddha's virtues, and the effort required to keep in mind virtues of so great a variety and manifoldness, the trance does not reach full ecstasy, but only access.

And the monk who is devoted to this recollection of the Buddha is respectful and reverent to the Teacher; reaches an abundance of faith, mindfulness, wisdom and merit; is always full of zest and joy; overcomes fear and dread; is able to bear pain; obtains a sense of intimacy with the Teacher; and his body which has embodied this recollection of the Buddha is, like a shrine, worthy of worship; his mind steers in the direction of Buddhahood; when he is confronted with reprehensible situations, a sense of shame and a dread of blame are set up in him, as though he saw the Teacher before him. Even if he does not penetrate any further, he is at least bound for a happy rebirth.

b. The Recollection of the Dharma

(The formula): If he wants in addition to develop the recollection of the Dharma, he should, in solitude and seclusion, recall its virtues as follows: 'Well taught has the Lord the Dharma, it is verifiable, not a matter of time, inviting all to come and see, leading to Nirvana, to be known by the wise, each one for himself.' This (formula) refers partly to the Dharma in the sense of Scripture, and partly to the ninefold supramundane Dharma (comprising the 4 paths, the 4 fruits, and Nirvana). For the term 'well-taught' refers also to the Dharma in the sense of Scripture, but the other expressions only to the supramundane Dharma.

(The 6 points of the formula): I. The Dharma, in the sense of Scripture, is well taught because (a) it is lovely in the beginning, middle and end, and (b) because, true in its meaning, and true in the letter, it reveals the holy life completely fulfilled and in its entirety. (c) Or, it is 'well taught' because it is essentially free from perversion. The teachings of non-Buddhists are essentially subject to perversion: dharmas they describe as obstacles actually are no obstacles, and those they describe as conducive to salvation actually are not conducive to salvation: hence these dharmas are badly taught. The essential substance of the Lord's Dharma is not similarly subject to perversion, because when some dharmas are called obstacles, and others conducive to salvation, there is in actual fact no transgression of the actuality of the dharmas so described.

(d) The supramundane Dharma, moreover, is well taught, because it consists in the annunciation of a progressive path which conforms to Nirvana, and of a Nirvana which conforms to the progressive path. As it has been said: 'Well has the Lord pointed out to his Disciples the progressive path which leads to Nirvana. For Nirvana and the Path flow together, just as the waters of the Ganges flow together with those of the Jumna, and unite with them' (D ii 223).

2. Verifiable—(a) as to the holy path, it can be seen by the holy disciple himself as soon as he has effected in his own continuity the absence of greed, etc. (b) Or, as to the ninefold supramundane Dharma,—one who has attained it, he himself can see it by means of a cognitive and reflective contemplation, and does not need to go by a belief in others.

3. Not a matter of time,—it does not take any time to yield its fruit. It is so called because it does not yield its fruit after say five or seven days have passed, but immediately after it has manifested itself.

4. Inviting all to come and see,—because it is capable of inviting to 'come and see this Dharma !' And how is it capable of doing so? Because it actually exists, and because it is perfectly pure. This ninefold supramundane Dharma actually exists in its own-being, and it is perfectly pure like the full moon in a cloudless sky, or like a genuine precious stone placed on a pale woollen cloth.

5. Leading to Nirvana,—the holy Path leads to Nirvana. In its turn the Dharma which consists of Nirvana as the fruit is fit to lead up to that which should be realized.

6. To be known by the wise, each one for himself,—all the wise, i.e., those of great intellectual capacity, and so on, should understand, each one for himself, that 'I have developed the Path, attained the fruit, realized cessation.' For it is not through the master's developing of the Path that the pupil's defilements are forsaken; nor does he live in peace because the master has achieved the fruit; nor does he realize Nirvana because the master has done so. Therefore one should not look upon this Dharma as if it were a diadem on someone else's head. But it is precisely in his own mind, so it is said, that the wise must see and experience it. And this lies beyond the reach of fools.

c. The Recollection of the Samgha

If he wants to develop the recollection of the Samgha, he should, in solitude and seclusion, recall the virtues of the Samgha as follows: '(I) Well-behaved is the Community of the Lord's disciples, straight is their behaviour, proper and correct. (II) The four pairs of men, the eight persons, —these are the Community of the Lord's disciples. (III) Worthy they are of offerings, worthy of hospitality, worthy of gifts, worthy of respectful salutation, they, the world's peerless field of merit.'

I. Here well-behaved means that they (the saints) are on the right path of progress, the path which does not lead backwards but forwards, which presents nothing hostile, and which conforms to the Dharma.... And because this path of right progress is straight, not crooked, not curved, not bent, because it is also called the noble 'proper norm,' and as befitting is considered as correct, therefore one also says that the holy Samgha (of the saints) who behave in such a way is 'straight in behaviour, proper and correct.'

Moreover, they are (Ia) well-behaved because they progress in the well-taught Dharma-Vinaya according to the instructions given therein, and because they progress on a path which is the only sure one. (Ib) Their behaviour is straight because, avoiding the two extremes, they progress on the middle way, and because they strive to forsake faults in acts of body, speech and mind that are crooked, curved and bent. (Ic) Nirvana being the proper norm, the Samgha's behaviour is proper because the saints progress towards that as their goal. (Id) They are correct (samici) because they progress in such a way that they become worthy of the services which juniors render to seniors.

II. The four pairs of men: there are four pairs of men in the sense that those established in the first Path and in the first Fruit count as one pair, and so for the other three Paths. The eight persons,—when they are considered as individuals, there is one on the first Path and one at the first Fruit, and so we get eight. A 'person' here means 'one who can be disciplined.' ...

III. The world's peerless field of merit,—a quite incomparable piece of ground on which the merit of all the world can grow. Just as the piece of ground where a king's or minister's rice or barley are growing is called the king's ricefield or the king's barley-field, just so the Samgha is the piece of ground on which the merits of all the world can grow. For it is thanks to the Samgha that there is the growth of the merits of the world which are conducive to so manifold and so various benefits and happiness.


(When he is bothered by anger or hatred, the disciple) should contemplate the virtues of the Teacher's former conduct. And this is the manner in which he should contemplate it: Listen, you recluse, is it not a fact that your Teacher, before his full enlightenment, when he was still a Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta) who had not yet won full enlightenment, while he was, during four incalculable periods and one hundred thousand (smaller) periods fulfilling the Perfections, on many occasions showed no anger for his enemies, even though they were intent on killing him? For instance:

(a) In the birth story of Silava he did not allow his ministers even to touch a weapon, when they arose to ward off the rival king who had seized a large portion of the kingdom, having been brought in by a bad minister who had misconducted himself with his own queen. And further on, when he was buried up to the neck, together with a thousand of his followers in a charnelfield, he felt not even the slightest anger in his mind. When the jackals came along to devour the dead bodies, he exerted his manly strength to remove the earth, and thus saved his life. With the help of a Yaksha he then climbed into his own bedroom, and when he saw his enemy lying on the royal bed, he did not become furious, but placed him into the position of a friend, and made a sworn pact with him.

(b) In the birth story of Khantivadi the wandering ascetic was asked by the foolish king of Kasi what doctrine he preached. When he replied, 'I am a teacher of forbearance,' he was cruelly flogged with spiked whips and his hands and feet were cut off. And yet he did not show the slightest anger.

(c) It is perhaps not so wonderful that an aged monk should behave in such a way. But in the birth story of Cula-Dhammapala the same is reported of an infant. 'Dhammapala's arms, perfumed with sandalwood oil, are being cut off, though he is heir to the kingdom. My breath, O king, is about to cease!' So lamented his mother, when his father, king Mahapatapa, had both his hands and feet lopped off, as if they were bamboo-shoots. Not content with that, he also ordered his head to be cut off. Dhammapala then said to himself: 'Now is the time to restrain thy heart. May thy heart become evenminded towards these four,—the father who has ordered my decapitation, the men who will carry it out, my weeping mother and myself.' Firmly abiding in his undertaking, Dhammapala did not show the slightest trace of anger.

(d) It is perhaps not so wonderful that as a human being he should behave in such a way. But even as an animal, when he was the elephant Chaddanta, his mind felt no anger for the hunter who brought him misfortune when he pierced his navel with a poisoned arrow. As it has been said: 'Afflicted with a huge arrow the elephant addressed, without anger in his mind, the hunter, and said: For what object, for what reason, my dear friend, do you kill me? And who was it that instigated you?' When the hunter replied that he had been sent by the queen of Kasi for his tusks, Chaddanta, in order to meet her wishes, broke off his own tusks, which were beautiful and lovely, resplendent with the emanation of rays in the six colours, and gave them away.


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