Secrets To Meditation
Qualities Arising From Buddhist Meditative Practice : buddhist meditation
Published on March 25, 2013 – 5:09 am

The goal of Buddhism is to decrease and eventually free the mind of attachment, which is the direct cause of dukkha, or suffering. Dukkha is an inherent component of samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth. This freedom from attachment is therefore the antithesis to samsara, known as nirvana. Nirvana is a “blowing out” of the three fires, each of which represents a specific class of attachment. The method of achieving the cessation of dukkha is prescribed by the Buddha in his fourth Noble Truth, which is the Noble Eightfold Path. Within this octangular obligation eight practices are situated in three divisions, called prajna, sila, and samadhi, or wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration, respectively. Prajna and samadhi are directly related to meditative practice.

Two principal psychological qualities are said to emerge from the proper practice of Buddhist meditation: samatha and vipassana. Samatha is a “calm abiding” or “remaining in rest.” Vipassana is a “discerning sight,” “introspection,” or as most commonly translated, “insight.” Both qualities arise from meditative practice and have also influenced styles of meditation, designed to target the appearance of the sought-after qualities. Samatha meditation seeks to compose and steady the mind using objects of concentration as a central point of focus, such as a mantra, the breath, or a visualization. Vipassana meditation strives to enable one to identify skandhas, or the five aggregates of experience, through contemplation and self-observation exercises. The enhancement of sustained attention is achieved through samatha meditation, resulting in samadhi. Insight into the true nature of experience is a result of vipassana meditation, and from it grows prajna.

In rudimentary language, samatha meditation calms the mind and vipassana meditation helps determine why the mind wasn’t calm from the beginning.

The primary aim of samatha meditation is to establish the mind in the tranquility of one-pointedness (and ultimately, no-mindedness, or nirvana). However, the immediate aspiration is the suppression of the five hindrances which impede progress with concentration. The five hindrances include sensual desire, anger, sloth, restlessness, and doubt. Sensual desire is a craving for pleasure within the six senses. Anger is an aggressive malice directed outward or inward with the intention to manipulate experience. Sloth represents any action performed without mindfulness or concentration. Restlessness is usually a worry interfering with the ability to calm the thoughts. Doubt is a deficiency of conviction in the dharma. The conquering of the five hindrances establishes the mind in the first jhana, one of nine distinguished meditative states.

A jhana is a dual (and further, non-dual) absorption with the object of attention, upon which a full concentration allows a gaining of insight as it eventually falls away and the meditator observes his own flux of experience. The first four levels of attainment are termed the rupajhanas, or material jhanas. The first jhana begins with the suppression of the five hindrances and the emergence of the five absorption factors. The first is applied thought, which directs the mind to the object of concentration. The second is sustained thought, which keeps the mind focused upon the chosen object. Third, a joyous rapture is manifested as one approaches the fourth absorption factor, bliss. Bliss is sukkha, the opposite of dukkha. Lastly, a unification with the concentration object is achieved (one-pointedness). The growth of these factors in the first jhana reduces the mind to only the most subtle movements concerning the right intentions of meditative pursuit. In the second jhana, the first two absorption factors are eliminated as the mind completely situates itself in a calm abiding. The mediator experiences an absence of doubt as a complete confidence pervades. In the third jhana the meditator acquires a more fully blissful experience as the joyous rapture is terminated. The fourth jhana exchanges sukkha for equanimity, leaving only pure consciousness. One-pointedness is now secured.

Once one-pointed, the mind is capable of vipassana meditation, the consequence of which is the culmination of prajna and jnana, or knowledge. Prajna is the wisdom of attaining right view and right thought or intention, which are the first two spokes of the Noble Eightfold Path. Right view is a proper understanding of the five aggregates of experience. These five aggregates explain experience without summoning a concept such as a soul. Right view of the aggregates leads one to the revelation of anatman, or the non-self, insinuating the lack of permanent individual existence. This impermanence is anicca. A proper mental grasp of the aggregates leads to a comprehension of dukkha, which arises from clinging to the aggregates. Thus insight leads to prajna, which leads to jnana, or knowledge, specifically of the three marks of existence, anatman, anicca, and dukkha, all of which imply sunyata, or the voidness of reality. Things in reality are void of individual enduring existence as explained in the idea of dependent arising, which elucidates the interconnectivity of all things.

The fifth through eighth levels of concentration represent levels of attainment beyond the material jhanas, exploring the insights of sunyata and beyond. These are the arupajhanas (immaterial jhanas), and are, sequentially, the formless dimensions of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception. In the fifth jhana, the meditator finds the personal limits of the body dissolving and expanding to the furthest reaches. Next, the mind fills this enlarged sense to become cosmically conscious, or all-perceiving. If further stillness is attained, all is abandoned as the meditator enters an experiential realm of nothingness, or non-perception. In the eighth and final arupajhana, zero mental activity remains yet a pure sense of being is obtained. This is neither perception nor non-perception, but consciousness without an object. Or, finally, no-mind.

Through this high level of samatha, combined with vipassana, a ninth jhana is possible. There is a complete cessation of feeling, without even a sense of being. The ninth jhana is totally un-conscious, or non-sentient. There has been a dissolution of the body, space, the mind, and all other forms of delusion, together known as ignorance. There has been a complete cessation of the cravings commonly called greed. The inverse attachments, or aversions, have disappeared, removing anger altogether. Ignorance, greed, and anger are the three fires which bind beings in samsara. As the “blowing out” and extinguishing of the three fires is performed, a flash of nirvana occurs. Nirvana is beyond perception, non-perception, both, and neither. It is a total transcendence of samsara.

The meditator is now free. What remains is a choice. Choose the moment to take mahasamadhi and achieve parinirvana, or continue within samsara, compassionately practicing the paramitas, or perfections, of the bodhisattva for the sake of others, until all sentient beings obtain moksha, the liberation from the chains of samsara. Although, from the perspective of the dharmakaya, the choice contains no meaning or relevance, since samsara is nirvana, and nirvana is samsara.


For more information on buddhist meditation, such as the buddhahood, please visit Jared B. Hobbs at his blog Meditations and become a Scholar of Consciousness!


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