The Four Noble Truths
Part 5 - Aspects Of Meditation
This reflectiveness of mind or emotional balance is developed as a result of practising concentration and mindfulness meditation. For instance, you can experiment during a retreat and spend one hour doing samatha meditation where you are just concentrating your mind on one object, say the sensation of breathing. Keep bringing it into consciousness and sustain it so that it actually has a continuity of presence in the mind.
In this way, you are moving towards what is going on in your own body rather than being pulled out into objects of the senses. If you do not have any refuge within, then you are constantly going out, being absorbed into books, food and all sorts of distractions. But this endless movement of the mind is very exhausting. So instead, the practice becomes one of observing the breath — which means that you have to withdraw or not follow the tendency to find something outside of yourself You have to bring your attention to the breathing of your own body and concentrate the mind on that sensation. As you let go of gross form, you actually become that feeling, that very sign itself. Whatever you absorb into, you become that for a period of time. When you really concentrate, you have become that very tranquillised condition. You have become tranquil. This is what we call becoming. Samatha meditation is a becoming process.
But that tranquillity, if you investigate it, is not satisfactory tranquillity. There is something missing in it because it is dependent on a technique, on being attached and holding on, on something that still begins and ends. What you become, you can only become temporarily because becoming is a changing thing. It is not a permanent condition. So whatever you become, you will unbecome. It is not ultimate reality. No matter how high you might go in concentration, it will always be an unsatisfactory condition. Samatha meditation takes you to some very high and radiant experiences in your mind — but they all end.
Then, if you practise vipassana meditation for another hour by just being mindful and letting go of everything and accepting the uncertainty, the silence and the cessation of conditions, the result is that you will feel peaceful rather than tranquil. And that peacefulness is a perfect peacefulness. It is complete. It is not the tranquillity from samatha, which has something imperfect or unsatisfactory about it even at its best. The realisation of cessation, as you develop that and understand that more and more, brings you true peacefulness, non attachment, Nibbana.
Thus samatha and vipassana are the two divisions in meditation. One is developing concentrated states of mind on refined objects in which your consciousness becomes refined through that concentration. But being terribly refined, having a great intellect and a taste for great beauty, makes anything coarse unbearable because of the attachment to what is refined. People who have devoted their lives to refinement only find life terribly frustrating and frightening when they can no longer maintain such high standards.
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