Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
March 19 1991
We are talking about meditation and the development of a meditative concentration. I talked about the different styles of concentration that can be developed.
Now I want to move into objects of concentration to help you work at developing a stronger concentration yourselves. There are many benefits from developing concentration. You become focused and non distracted and by that the mind becomes stronger, clear, less confused, clear emotional feeling about yourself, your activities will be more powerful.
In the teachings on concentration, they do talk about objects of concentration related to personality. There are different objects which are beneficial for people with different temperaments. You should become conscious in this sense, delusion which is more active in you than other delusions. Take the three principle delusions, anger, attachment, ignorance. They distort reality and are based on superficial things and therefore make us suffer. So we do need to be free of them to attain a more equal state of being.
In analyzing yourself, you will find there is a particular delusion which is more predominant than other ones. Aversion. There are many minor branches such as being suspicious, fearful, paranoid, ill will, anger, a sense of aversion generated. They are all based on fear, apprehension. The meditations appropriate for aversion are love and compassion. There are many ways to work with this. One, you can recognize the equanimity of self and others and so your meditative object would be to go through a process of realizing just as I do not like pain, so too others do not like pain. With that, you less4n the sense of separation of self and others and therefore the cause of aversion will be less dominant in oneself. The objective is temporal. It is not a positive solution but is effective if you find that you are constantly caught up in aversion. If you feel apprehensive about other people, nervous with other people, ill will towards other people, those sorts of emotions.
Another way to work with it is to use the mother meditation. How her love is beyond the scope of comprehension. And by becoming conscious of this, your love grows and you want to give love back.
The second object which can be used to develop concentration which is beneficial to lessen a delusion which becomes rampant in your day to day activities is grasping attachment. The easiest way to make an opponent to that is to meditate on impermanence. Such as, you are only the keeper of another person's property. Take my watch. I am very attached to it, keep it in a special box, and so on. All I am doing is keeping it in good condition for the next person in line when I die. This concept can take the wind out of your sails if you live in that mind set. So you lessen your attachment and grasping to objects by realizing impermanence. The benefit of that sort of concentration is that you will lessen your clinging to objects around you.
Another object is the body, its feeding, grooming, clothing and so on. Some suffer from personal vanity. If that was something which you thought crippled your existence in the sense you are continuously caught in body vanity, jealousy about someone else's shoes, for example. In that regards you would meditate on impermanence, personal impermanence and impermanence of the item and such. So you lessen your attachment.
Third object of attachment is people. There is sexual attachment and attraction. This applies for monks and nuns, but I think it applies too for people with seedy minds! If you appraise others on their physical attributes, there is a delusion there if it becomes a problem. If you are engrossed in those thoughts, you would meditate on what is called the gross elements of the body.
We are talking about concentration, so we should move back to the central theme. You want to develop concentration, but your mind is captivated with delusion. Let's say you want to meditate. And when you sit down to meditate, you have problems. You are always thinking about your money. That is a big problem. You want to meditate but you are always thinking about money, land values, investment, and so on. This thought could be going on in your mind. So when you sit to meditate, maybe you meditate for a minute, and then suddenly your off wheeling and dealing land deals, interest, and such things like that. So you have a problem. You cannot concentrate. So that is where these objects are good. They assist you in releasing your mind from the principle distractions which prevent your development.
So if sexuality is a problem, like when you sit down to meditate and your mind immediately goes off into a sexual fantasy, you would meditate on the unpleasant objects of the human body. We all have a large amount of excrement in our body. And this is a valid meditative object. So you become more conscious of the fact of mucus in the nose, excrement in the stomach and bowels. In the book called the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, it says when you kiss someone you have passion for, you will drink the water of their mouth! But if they were to spit it on the table, you would think it terribly gross! See how funny our mind is? So if you have these problems, you meditate on things like that. Your mind then starts to back off. And that is the objective of that style of concentration, so you are not as fascinated with members of the opposite sex. You start to make your mind more subdued.
One saint in India said that whenever he became attracted to a member of the opposite sex, he would look at their feet. Everyone's feet is ugly, bent toes and so on. So immediate when he saw their feet, everyone in India had bare feet, his attraction would diminish. So with this problem to the development of concentration, the mind would meditate on the gross elements of the body, things which we would think quite unpleasant to relate to. So how could we have passion if we looked at it in another light.
Another problem is our mind which is not very intelligent. I tend to think this is not a problem for North Americans. The reason being, in India or Tibet, Buddhism or spiritual environment was the principle way one became educated unless one had enough money to hire a personal tutor. Schools were not easily available. Thus, people's mental faculties were not sharpened. Math, English, grammar, Social Studies, even subjects we get up to grade six, in the third world they did not have availability to. So in the texts on meditation, it is said if the mind is very slow or thick or tuned, there are a series of meditations you would do such as the development on the interdependent links and such. I will not explain them further because of the fact that we all have public education here. So we do have some mental faculty of a fairly developed nature and do not need to be concerned with that as an object.
Another object is giving too discursive a mind. If your mind is very flighty into uncontrolled series of thoughts and you cannot sit and be peaceful, for example when I was in India in several retreats I tried to do, to counter balance that I would, to see where I stood personally on that ground, I would go to a place where there was a beautiful view. But I thought, if I can't sit on this stone and be completely relaxed and enjoy the environment without having to be continuously stimulated with some series of thoughts, then I have something wrong with me. If you can't just be at a place of great physical beauty, then where are you? All of you philosophize about is completely gone. You cannot be. If you can't sit for twenty minutes and not let the world invade you, you can chastise yourself, give your self a rough time. Am I so scattered and impulsive I cannot enjoy the environment? It would be very nice to cultivate what is called a tranquil awareness. It does not require a lot of mental stimulation or analysis. So that can be developed very easily with awareness of the breathing. Therefore the fourth object to cultivate in trying to develop concentration is to just focus on your breathing. And whether this is as the breath passing through the nose, or movement in the abdomen, of just inhalation and exhalation.
The principle objective of no matter what you are doing is to bring your mind to the point where it is powerfully concentrated or focused where the focus is not distracted, where you can allow yourself to settle, and in settling, there is a mind which is focused. Thoughts or things do not enter into and distract that. That is the objective.
So now I think you have a better grasp. Initially when I began to talk about objects, you might have thought that as silly. But when you sit to meditate, you do find that there are more thoughts about business, about people and what is happening, internal gossip. The mind is not focusing. It is distracted. Therefore you have attachment. Attachment to areas of these things. And so you should cultivate an awareness of impermanence to balance yourself.
There are actually specific meditation techniques for different delusions. So utilizing awareness of impermanence to help you focus will do two things. First, you are developing focused concentration. Secondly you are helping in a secondary sense to lessen that delusion which has maybe been dominant in your mind for a long time. We go through phases at different times and have different delusions. So we can sort of change. At different times of your life I think a particular thing or delusion is more predominant or more important than others, more distracting. So in your meditation time you can utilize a specific object which develops two benefits, develops concentration and lessens a specific delusion which causes distraction and suffering in your life.
For this evenings meditation, I would like you to spend some time thinking about what type of thoughts do you delve into into your daily activities. And think of the times you have sat down to meditate, either here or at home, what has been the main distraction. Find the difference between your meditation here and that of home where different relationships such as with your spouse or children and so on are present. Or distractions such as work, money, ambitions and such. If it is more predominant at home, you have to then find what area you delve into. Is it attachment? Or areas of anger? Anyhow, you try to find a concentration object which helps you stop making that rut more imprinted in your mind.
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