Thursday, September 2, 2010

To Each His or Her Own Meditation, . . . and Teacher.

Concentration or Insight Meditation? Which One is Right for You? Which Teacher Can Best Help You?

(cross-posted with Elephant Journal)

Whether to engage in concentration versus insight practice, is a huge topic for meditators. It seems that every teacher has a different answer. One teacher instructed me to focus on insight. Another one was adamant that I should develop concentration first . . . Who to believe? What to do?

U Pandita favors starting with concentration practice,
Concentration is the proximate cause for the unfolding of wisdom. This fact is very important. Once the mind is quiet and still, there is space for wisdom to arise. There can be comprehension of the true nature of mind and matter. Perhaps there will be an intuitive insight into how mind and matter can be differentiated, and how they are related by cause and effect. Step by step, wisdom will penetrate into more and more profound levels of truth. One will see clearly the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and absence of self; and finally insight is gained into the cessation of suffering. 
U Tejaniya emphasizes wisdom over concentration,
In reality, if there is awareness, wisdom will arise. However, if the awareness is too focused, then wisdom does not have a chance to arise. That is why you should not force, focus, control, or restrict the mind. Have no expectations about your meditation. Do not be discontented with your meditation. Be aware of all that is happening, all that is passing away. Do not try to make anything disappear. Do not forget . . . Please do not choose objects. All objects are dhamma nature, dhamma phenomena. You cannot hold onto any object with lobha. Do not perceive object or experience as good or bad. No object or experience is better than any other. Objects are just that: objects. They are to be known—that is all. 
Ajahn Chah recognizes two different types of persons - one is naturally inclined towards concentration practice, the other towards insight,
Some people have insight and are strong in wisdom but do not have much sam¯adhi. When they sit in meditation they aren’t very peaceful. They tend to think a lot, contemplating this and that, until eventually they contemplate happiness and suffering and see the truth of them. Some incline more towards this than sama¯dhi. Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying, enlightenment of the Dhamma can take place. Through seeing, through relinquishing, they attain peace. They attain peace through knowing the truth, through going beyond doubt, because they have seen it for themselves. Other people have only little wisdom but their sama¯dhi is very strong. They can enter very deep sam¯adhi quickly, but not having much wisdom, they cannot catch their defilements, they don’t know them. They can’t solve their problems. But regardless of whichever approach we use, we must do away with wrong thinking, leaving only right view. We must get rid of confusion, leaving only peace. Either way we end up at the same place. There are these two sides to practice, but these two things, calm and insight, go together. We can’t do away with either of them. They must go together.
Three great teachers. Three different takes . . .

I found the best answer here :):
"Monks, these four types of individuals are to be found existing in the world. Which four?
"There is the case of the individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquillity of awareness. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. And then there is the case of the individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
"The individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: 'How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
"As for the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquillity of awareness, he should approach an individual who has attained internal tranquillity of awareness... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
"As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.
"As for the individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, his duty is to make an effort in establishing ('tuning') those very same skillful qualities to a higher degree for the ending of the (mental) fermentations.
"These are four types of individuals to be found existing in the world."
~ The Buddha: Anguttara Nikaya AN 4:94  ~
Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Looking at my own practice, I would place myself in the second category. While wisdom and insight come relatively easy to me, deep calm or concentration are another matter. This is due to my anxious nature, a trait that I inherited from my mother. I wonder, is U Tejaniya the right teacher for me right now? I have been planning a trip to see him at his monastery in Burma, early next year. Now, I am not so sure. That I feel great affinity for his teachings, is more a reflection of my own tendencies towards insight. It may be that someone like U Pandita, although more challenging, is exactly what I need at this point.

Which one of those four persons are you? How should it inform your meditation practice, and your choice of a teacher?

6 comments:

  1. I was under U Pandita's guidance for 3 months from my 5 months intensive Retreat in Panditarama, Bago,in 2002-2003.

    It is very important to have continuity of awareness, not to let the thinking process of the mind interrupts them.

    The Teacher would know what is your weakness, and he would guide you to overcome them. Sometimes it maybe as simple as that my noting is not "razor sharp".

    As with very strong concentration/razor sharp noting, even a very strong pain would disappear at the very moment you direct your mind there.

    There's no place for delusion to take place when the flow of mindfulness is uninterrupted, and there's every possibility for enlightenment to take place.

    metta,

    hyronike

    ReplyDelete
  2. This one is interesting,

    Vipassana Knowledge and the Path to Nibbana
    http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/vipassana-knowledge-and-the-path-to-nibbana/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for your comment.

    It is interesting that mindfulness practice, like anything else is subject to the pendulums of popularity. Lately, U Tejaniya has been the rising star of Theravada Buddhism. That he is a gifted teacher, not doubt. I also attribute his popularity to his (relatively) young age, and also the sweetness of his message.

    U Pandita, to whom he is compared often, is on the other hand from the old school that emphasizes effort, discipline, and concentration.

    Both teachers, very gifted.

    As I have come to realize, finding one's teacher is a matter of realizing one's unique needs based on personality, and what stage one is along the path. It has nothing to do with going with the most popular teacher. It is also important to listen to oneself carefully, and to honor that inner wisdom.

    If U Pandita comes to Tathagata center next June, I would very much like to attend his one-month retreat there this time . . .

    With much metta, and deep bow to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh! thank you so much for the link, and also for allowing me to discover this fascinating blog.

    The challenge as I see it with such a chart as one shown in your post, is how to not get caught up in the greed of getting to the end goal of Nibhana. And this is where U Tejaniya's perspective becomes useful :)

    Such a paradox, isn't it? But then my sense of the path so far, is that it is all about paradox.

    ReplyDelete
  5. U Tejaniya's Teacher is Shwee Oo Min Sayadaw which is best friend of Sayadaw U Pandita, they both stay together practising under guidance from Mahasi Sayadaw.
    Shwee Oo Min Sayadaw gives more emphasize on Cittanupassana.
    I also believe that we will find the right Teacher at the right time.


    I also like the Theravadin's blog, very interesting.
    Craving for Nibbana, i know how it feels like, and how miserable it is ;)

    This has become my favorite Quote :
    "Simply razor-sharp noting to not-identify with anything whatsoever & to keep up the pressure in seeing the whole world crash & reappear."


    metta,


    hyronike

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for our conversation. What a great gift!

    In gratitude.

    ReplyDelete

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