PREPARATION FOR MEDITATION - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Monday, June 10, 2019



Preparation in Brief
If one wishes to undertake tranquility meditation to develop the right concentration (sammā-samādhi) one should establish oneself first in pure morality.
Then one should sever any of the ten impediments that one may have, and find a good teacher and friend (kalyānamitta) who can teach and direct a meditation subject which is suitable to one's temperament. After that one should find a suitable place for meditation and cut off the lesser impediments. One should not overlook any of the directions for development. This is in brief.

Preparation in Detail
(a) Cutting off Major Impediments
There are ten major impediments (Palibodha) which can obstruct the development of concentration. They must be cut off before one undertakes meditation.

1. Dwelling (Āvāsa)
          A single inner room or a single hut or a whole monastery is called a dwelling. It is an impediment only for someone whose mind is occupied with the activities going on in the building or who has many belongings stored up there.

2. Family (Kula)
          It means a family consisting of relatives or sup­porters. It is an impediment to one who is attached to the family members and lives in close association with them. If one minds only one's business without unnecessary dealings with others, even one's parents are no impedi­ment for one.

3. Gain (Lābha)
It means the four requisites. How are they an impediment? Wherever a well-known bhikkhu goes, people give him a large supply of requisites. With giving blessings to them and teaching them the Dhamma, he gets no chance to exercise meditation. From sunrise till the first watch of the night he never breaks his association with people.
Thus these requisites are an impediment for him. He should leave his group and wander by himself where he is not known. This is the way this impediment is sev­ered.

4. Class (Gaṇa)
Class is a group of students of Suttas or Abhidhamma. If one occupies oneself with teaching and instructing them, then one have, no chance to attend to meditation. "Thus that group is an impediment for that person. He should sever that impediment thus: if little remains to be taught, he should finish teaching that off and go to the forest.
If much still remains to be taught, he should re­quest another teacher to finish the teaching. If he cannot find any teacher, he should take leave of the class, saying "I have a task to see to, friends; go where it suits you", and he should do his own work.

5. Business (Kamma)
It means a new business matter such as a new build­ing work (navakamma). One who is engaged in this mat­ter must know what has been done, what has not been done, what material has or has not been acquired, who is going to do what, etc. So it is alwavs an impediment. It should be severed in the following way.
If little work remains, it should be completed. If much remains, it should be handed over to the community of bhikkhus or to bhikkhus who are entrusted with the community's affairs. If it is for himself, it should be handed over to those whom he entrusts with his own affairs. But if these are not available, he should relinquish it to the community and depart.

6. Travel (Journey)
          It means going on a journey. If one has to go some­where to attend to some duty or to act some requisite avail­able there and he cannot rest content without getting it, that will be an impediment. Even if he undertakes medita­tion without taking the travel, he will find it hard to get rid of the thoughts about the journey. So he should take the travel first and finish the business before he undertakes meditation.

7. Kinsfolk (Ñāti)
In a community of bhikkhus kinsfolk means teacher, preceptor, pupil, coresident and those with the same teacher or preceptor as oneself. In a household family kinsfolk means mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and so on.
When they are sick, one must attend to them; so they become an impediment. That impediment should be severed by nursing them till they are cured.

8. Illness (Affliction)
It means any kind of illness. When it actually in­flicts or tortures one, it becomes an impediment. It should be cured by taking medicine and proper treatment. But if it is not cured in a few days, one must admonish oneself thus. "I am not a slave or hireling of this body of mine, I have gone through endless agony far carrying this body through the beginningless round of rebirths", and attend to meditation.

9. Books (Scripture)
It means responsibility for studying or teaching the scriptures (pariyatti). It is an impediment only for one who is constantly busy with reading, studying, and reciting the scriptures, but not for others. One should keep away the books while one undertakes meditation.

10. Supernormal Powers (Abhiññā)
The supernomnal powers of an ordinary person are hard to maintain, and the slightest thing breaks them. How­ever, they are an impediment for insight but not for concentration, since they are obtained through concentration. So the supernormal powers are an impediment that should be servered by one who seeks insight.

(b) The Search for a Qualified Teacher
A qualified teacher here means a good friend who can give suitable meditation subjects.
Meditation subjects are of two kinds:
(1) Sabbatthaka Kammaṭṭhāna    - meditation subjects desirable in all matters, and
(2) Parihāriya Kammaṭṭhāna       - meditation subject to be meditated alwavs.
            A qualified teacher should know how to direct both these two kinds of meditation subjects.

Sabbatthaka Kammaṭṭhāna includes:­
(i) development of loving-kindness (mettā-bhāvanā)
(ii) recollection of the Buddha (Buddhānussati)
(iii) recollection of the sign of foulness (asubha ­bhāvanā)
(iv) recollection of death (maraṇānussati)
These four subjects of meditation are also known as the four Guardian Meditations. They should be under­taken first to protect oneself from all dangers.
Parihāriya kammaṭṭhāna is one of the forty medita­tion subjects that is suitable to a man's own temperament. It is 'special' (parihāriya) because it must be carried constantly about with him, that is, he must always meditate on it and because it is the approximate cause for each higher stage of development.
A good teacher and friend (kalyānamitta) should be able to teach the above two kinds of meditation. In ad­dition to that he must possess special qualities such as these:
"He is adorable, respectful and praise-worthy: he knows how to admonish others and he is ready to accept the admonishment of others; he utters profound speech and he does not urge without a reason". (A. iv, 32)
Because of the words beginning "Ananda, it is owing to my being a good friend to them that living beings subject to birth are freed from birth," (S.i, 88) it is only the Buddha who possesses all the qualities of the good friend. Since that is so, it is best to take a meditation sub­ject from him while he is alive.
But after his final attainment of Nibbāna, it is proper to take it from any one of the eighty great disciples still living. When they are no longer available, a person who wants to practise a particular meditation subject, should take it from an Arahant. who has, by means of that medita­tion subject, attained fourfold or fisefold jhāna, and has reached the destruction of cankers by undertaking insight ­meditation on the basis of jhāna-concentration.
But will an Arahant declare himself to be an Arahant? Why not? He will declare himself when he knows that his instructions will be carried out. Did not the Elder Assagutta spread out his leather mat in the air and sitting cross-legged on it explain a meditation subject to a bhikkhu who was starting his meditation subject, because he knew that bhikkhu would carry out his instructions.
          Now if someone with cankers destroyed is not available, then one should take a meditation subjiect from a Non-returner, a Once-returner, a Stream-enter, an ordinary man who has obtained jhāna, one who knows three pitakas, one who knows two pitakas, one who knows one pitaka, in descending order according to availability. If even one who knows one pitaka is not available, then it should be taken from one who is familiar with one collection (Nikāya) together with its commentary, and one who is himself conscientious.
Nowadays there are many meditation centres and many meditation teachers, usually teaching in the way they have learned from their immediate teachers. Whether these teachings are in accord with the Buddha's instructions or not can be checked with Tipiṭaka scriptures or with Visuddbimagga (the Path of Purification) which is an authentic compilation of the Buddha's instructions on Threefold Noble Training written by Venerable Bhadantācariya Buddhaghosa.
It is most convenient to learn meditation under the direct guidance of a qualified teacher who is a Good Friend as well as the giver of a meditation subject. The choice of a meditation subject to suit one's temperament has been described earlier.

(c) The Search for a Suitable Place for Meditation
A monastery which has any one of the following eighteen faults is unfavourable to the development of con­centration.

1. Large Monastery
          Many people with varying aims gather in a large monastery. They conflict with one another and neglect their duties such as sweeping the floors and setting out water for drinking and washing. If one does not attend to these duties, one would commit a wrong doing in the breach of duty. If one does it, one loses time. Also when one sits for meditation, one is distracted by the loud noises of novices and young bhikkhus.
However, one can live in a large monastery where everyone does his duties and there are no disturbances.

2. New Monastery
Here there is much new building activity. If one does not take part in it, one will be criticized. If, however, one is allowed to do ascetic's duties as much as one likes, one can live there.

3. Dilapidated Monastery
Here there is much that needs repair. If one does not repair even one's lodging, one will be criticized. If one sees to the repairs, one's meditation will suffer.

4. Monasterv near the Main Road
          Visitors keep arriving at night and day. One has to give up one's lodging to those who come late. So there is no opportunity to practise one's meditation. But one can live in such a monastery if there are no disturbances from visitors.

5. Monastery with Pond
            People come to fetch drinking water making much noise. The noise is serious disturbance to meditation. If there is no noise, one may live there.

6. Monastery with Edible Leaves
If one sits to meditate at a place where there are many sorts of edible leaves, then women vegetable-gath­erers will sing as they pick leaves nearby, disturbing one with sounds of the opposite sex.
7. A place with Flowering Shrubs
The same kind of danger exists at a place where there are many sorts of flowering shrubs in bloom.

8. Monastery with Fruit Trees
If there are many sorts of fruits such as mangoes, rose-apples and jack-fruits, people will ask for them. If one does not give them any, they get angry and abuse one. If one tries to stop them when one sees them taking fruits by force, they may quarrel with one.

9. Famous Monastery
If one lives in a monastey that is famous. People will come to pay homage to the bhikkhus living there, think­ing they are Arahants. This will cause inconveniences. But if it suits one, one can live there by night and go else­where by day.

10. Monastery near a Town or Village
Here objects of the opposite sex come into focus. Government servants may come and stay in the middle of the monastery.

11. Monastery with nearby Timber Trees
          People come to gather firewood, making a lot of noises. Some cut trees in the monastery to build houses with. If one tries to stop them, they will abuse and even try to evict one.

12. Monastery surrounded by Fields
            Farmers make a threshing floor in the middle of the monastery itself. They thresh corn and dry it there. They also sleep there causing great inconvenience.

13. Monastery with incompatible Persons
            Incompatible bhikkhus are mutually hostile and they often clash with one another. It is very difficult to live among them.

14. Monastery near a Water-port or Land-port
            People constantly arrive either by ship or by caravan. They crowd around in the monastery, asking for space and drinking water, thus causing great inconvenience.

15. Monastery near Border Countries
            People living in border areas usually have no trust in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. So it is hard to get the requisites.

16. Monastery near the Frontier of a Kingdom
            That place may be attacked by one king and then by the other king, thinking 'It does not submit to my rule.' A bhikkhu living there may be suspected for spying and consequently brought to ruin.

17. Unsuitable Monastery
          A monastery frequented by the opposite sex or haunted by non-human beings is unsuitable for practis­ing meditation.
18. Lack of Good Friends
          Where it is impossible to find a good friend as a teacher to teach and guide one how to carry out medita­tion, the lack of good friends there is a serious fault.

• A Suitable Monastery
A monastery endowed with the following five qualities is suitable for meditation.
1. It is not too far, not too near, and has a path for going to and coming from the village of alms resort.
2. It is little frequented by people with little sound by day, and at night it is quiet with no human voices.
3. It is free from insect-bites, and three is no con­tact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, burning sun, and creeping animals.
4. For one who lives there robes, alms-food, lodg­ing and medicines are easily available.
5. In that monastery there are elder bhikkhuswho are learned, well-versed in scriptures, observers of the Dhamma, observers of the Vinaya, and observers of the codes of moral principles and practice. When, from time to time one asks them questions, they reveal the unrevealed, explain the unexplained, and remove doubts about the many things that raise doubts.
A bhikkhu-yogi (meditator) should avoid a mon­astery unfavourable to the development of concentration and go to live in one that is favourable.
A lay-yogi should also choose a secluded quiet place where he is not disturbed by people for any reason, where food, lodging, and medical treatment are conveniently available, and where it is favourable to develop con­centration under the guidance of a qualified teacher who is a Good Friend as well as a giver of meditation subject.

(d) Cutting off Minor Impediments
A bhikkhu, living in a favourable monastery, should sever any minor impediments that he may still have.
1.    Long head-hair, nails, and beard should be cut.
2.    Mending and patching of old clothes should be done.
3.    Those old robes that are soiled should be dyed.
4.    If there is a stain on the bowl, the bowl should be baked.
5.    The room, the bed, the chair, etc., should be cleaned up. One's beddings and living places should be neatly kept.
A lay-yogi should also sever similar minor impedi­ments.

(e) Dedication to the Blessed One
A meditator should dedicate himself to the Blessed One in this way: "Blessed One, I relinquish this my per­son (or my body and mind) to you".
            There are many benefits for doing so, for without having thus dedicated himself when living in a remote abode, he might be unable to stand fast if a frightening object makes its appearance, and he might return to a vil­lage abode, become associated with laymen, take up im­proper search and come to ruin.
But when he has dedicated himself to the Buddha, no fear arises in him if a frightening object makes its ap­pearance; in fact only joy arises in him as he reflects: "Have you not wisely already dedicated yourself to the Enlightened One?"
Also when he encounters severe bodily pain, hard­ship, slow mental development, some disturbances and inconveniences, one can endure better by reasoning thus: "I have already relinquished this body and mind to the Bud­dha; they do not belong to me any more: so why should I worry about them?"

(f) Dedication to the Teacher
A yogi should dedicate himself to the teacher in this way: "Venerable sir, I relinquish this my person (or my body and mind) to you."
For one who has not dedicated himself thus be­comes unresponsive to correction, hard to speak to, and unamenable to advice. He may go where he likes without asking the teacher. Consequently the teacher does not help him with either material things such as robes or the Dhamma such as giving advice and training him in medi­tation books. Failing to get these two kinds of help (āmisa and dhamma), he finds no footing in the Dispensation, and he soon comes down to misconducting himself or to the lay state.
But if he has dedicated himself to the teacher, the teacher has the right to admonish him, and he is not unres­ponsive to correction, he does not go about as he likes, he is easy to speak to, and he lives in association with the teacher. He gets the twofold help from the teacher and attains growth, development and fulfilment in the Dispen­sation.

(g) Sincere Inclination and Sincere Resolution
A meditator should be endowed with six types of sincere, good inclination for it is one who is so inclined will arrive at one of the three kinds of enlightenment, that is, the path-wisdom of an Arahant (sāvaka-bodhi), the Path-wisdom of a Silent Buddha (Pacceka-bhodi), and the Path-wisdom of a fully-enlightened Buddha (sammāsam­bhodhi).
The six types of inclination are stated thus: "six kinds of inclination lead to the maturing of the enlighten­ment of those who are to be enlightened. With the inclination to non-greed, those who are to be enlightened see the fault in greed. With the inclination to non-hate, they see the fault in hate. With the inclination to non-delusion, they see the fault in delusion. With the inclination to re­nunciation, they see the fault in household life. With the inclination to seclusion, they see the fault in association with companions. With the inclination to emancipation from the round of rebirth (saṃsāra), they see the fault in all kinds of becoming and future existences."
A yogi should have sincerity of inclination in these six modes, because Stream-enterers, Once-returners, Non­returners, Arahants. Pacceka Buddhas, and Fully-Enlightened Ones, whether past, future or present, all arrive at the distinction peculiar to each by means of these same six types of inclination.
Moreover. a meditator should be whole-heartedly resolved on concentration, he should respect concentra­tion, and incline to concentration. He should be resolved on Nibbāna, he should respect Nibbāna, and incline to Nibbāna.
When the meditator has such sincere inclination and whole-hearted resolution, the teacher who can pene­trate his mind will know his temperament and give him a suitable meditation subject. If the teacher cannot penetrate his mind. he will ask the yogi relevant questions to find out his temperament and give a suitable meditation sub­ject.
1    "Visuddhi Magga" by Bhaddantācariya Buddha­ghosa, translated into Myanmar  by Ven. Nandamālā, Vol.I, pp. 171-237.
2    "The Path of Purifcation (Visuddhi Magga)" by Bhaddantācariya Buddhaghosa, translated by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, pp. 84-121.
3    "The Path of Purity (Visuddhi Magga)" by Bhaddantācariya Buddhaghosa, translated by Pe Maung Tin, pp. 97-137.

Review Questions
1.    What are the major impediments that obstruct meditation? How can they be cut off?
2.    What are sabbatthaka kammaṭṭhānas and parihāriya kammaṭṭhānas? How can one find a qualified teacher to teach them to one?
3.    How can one find a suitable place tor meditation?
4.    Which type of monastery is unsuitable and which suitable for meditation?
5.    How and why should one dedicate oneself (i) to the Blessed One. and (ii) to the teacher before one undertakes meditation?
6.    In what way should a meditator be endowed with (i) sincere inclination, and (ii) sincere resolution?
7.    What are the qualities of a good teacher? How can one find such a teacher?
8.    What will happen if we undertake meditation without first cutting off impediments?
9.    What are the benefits of dedicating oneself (i) to the Buddha, and (ii) to the teacher before one undertakes meditation?
10.  Comment on the statement: "Six kinds of inclination lead to the maturing of the enlightenment of those who are to be enlightened?

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