Systematic and Practical
SAMATHA MUST BE PRACTICED TO OBTAIN THE RESULT OF SAMAPATTI
A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi
C. M. CHEN
Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO
First Published in 1967
AND TO ALL
GODS AND SPIRITS
BE PRACTICED TO OBTAIN THE RESULT OF SAMAPATTI
writer arrived early and walked up and down in the sun for a little pacing the
small court set into the hillside at the back of the Hermitage. On the open
ground behind this, Mr. Chen has on many occasions performed the Buddhist
fire-sacrifice at the request of patrons and upon each Christmas tide. Today
the yogi had not yet left his meditations. After a short while looking through
Mr. Chen's hack window the writer saw he was now out of meditation so went and
tapped on the door.
Chen, after his greeting asked about the scroll the writer carried. I replied
that I had bought two colored prints, one of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) and
the other of Je Rinpoche (Tsongkhapa), to send to the new shrine of the Sangha
Mr. Chen unrolled them, approved their workmanship, and then reverently raised
them to his forehead.
after Bhante arrived and we began the usual preliminary questions. A tap at the
door announced a voluble Chinese lady. After a brief talk with our host he
handed her the Thai stamps given by the writer, for she was, it appeared, the
mother of the young collector. Before she could depart, Mr. Chen insisted with
much laughter and many a bow that she also takes some Tibetan bread from his
shrine. This she refused, and only after a pantomime, in which Mr. Chen ran out
of the room, would she accept.
this episode, talk turned to the recent visit with Mr. Chen of two Buddhists,
one a bhiksu and the other a bhiksuni (nun). Mr. Chen had seen the nun lean
back in her seat and look into his shrine room. He therefore invited her to see
it, upon which the bhiksu also got up and accompanied them.
said Mr. Chen referring to the Ani-la (Tibetan for nun,) "has learned some
Chod, (the offering of the body to all beings: a good practice to get merits)
so she understood something of my shrine. However, the bhiksu was Hinayana, and
did not understand much."
writer added that the bhiksu was puzzled by the fierce Buddha-forms and also
did not understand their meaning when he called them the "double
figures"(of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas with their consorts).
is a case in practice illustrating the repeated message of this book, the
necessity of advancing step by step. A learned Theravada bhiksu, who did not
know the Mahayana or the Vajrayana was suddenly confronted with art works of
these latter two traditions and, being unprepared, was unable to grasp the
meaning of what he saw.
said Mr. Chen, "we come to the body of this book, or at least," he
added looking downwards, "to its feet. This body, beginning at the feet,
is a talk on samatha, the principal and most necessary practice of the
neophyte. We should first, however, say something on the dedication.
in his practice should be well-protected by gods and from this come two
benefits: he easily gets rid of obstacles, and is thus aided to the quick
attainment of samatha. We should, then, revere all the gods and ask them for
their help and protection.
We must know
clearly the distinct difference between paying homage to the gods and taking
refuge, which should not be confused.
Our refuge is
only in Lord Buddha and the Three Gems.
Buddhists even mistake their own religion as atheistic and say that there is no
need to pay attention to the gods. This is a wrong view.
l. Why We Pay
Homage to the Gods
are given here why we should honor the deities and ask them to help us:
their final attainment, all the Buddhas obtain the help of the gods to subdue
demons. In this way, Gautama won Anuttara-Samyak-Samhodhi under the Bodhi tree
at Bodhi Gaya.
b. The Buddha
taught his disciples six subjects of mindfulness, the last one of which is the
mindfulness of the gods (devanusmrti). One should remember the gods and then
they will certainly help.
neophyte is weak in spiritual attainment and needs help from the gods. Even the
small divinities of earth should be received; then it will be easy for one to
obtain the siddhi (power) of samatha.
d. Every temple
and monastery, whether of the exoteric or esoteric school (in Tibet and China),
has outside its doors the images of the Four Great Kings as protectors. Even my
small hermitage has their shrine by my door. I always give them incense and a
candle as an offering.
Avatamsaka Sutra the Buddha is surrounded by an assembly of human and nonhuman
beings, the latter including many gods and godlings. Even small ones of earth,
trees, and forest are assembled to protect the Buddha.
Now, if the
Buddha were on earth and preaching in the West, surely Jehovah would come to
guard him. On this subject, there is a personal story.
Before I came
to this hermitage, it contained a small Christian chapel, from which the
crucifix even now remains. I still keep this image and make offerings to it.
At one time
the landlord, a Christian and elder in a church, asked me for an increase in
rent. I had just been here one year then and as the Tibet trade was very good,
many people were staying in the town and wanting rooms. The landlord told me
that already the tenants on the ground floor were paying more, so why shouldn't
I who had the top floor? I pointed out to him that the rent was fixed by a
three-year agreement and the amount for this time had already been settled.
Although it was not yet the time to ask, he came and troubled me again and again,
and each time I refused.
At last, I
prayed one night to his God, saying, "This follower of yours is pestering
me and not doing right. As you are a righteous God, please tell him what to do."
the landlord could not sleep, tossing and turning until the early morning.
Then, about four o'clock, he attained a little trance state in which a divine
voice clearly spoke these words to him: "You should go to the Lama and
pray with him."
He came to me
as soon as he could, telling me what had happened. Full of joy that his God had
spoken to him, he asked me with tears whether he could pray with me. "Certainly,"
I replied, "yes, here is a crucifix and here is my Bible." I
remembered the passage saying, "To love money is the root of all
evil," and quoted this to him. After that, he was full of gratitude and
told me to pay him whatever I wanted. However, I promised that at the end of
the original agreement, I would give him an extra 5 rupees per month, and after
three more years, he should have another five. I kept this agreement in spite
of the slump in rents following the collapse of the Tibet trade and even now,
from thankfulness to this God, I pay a higher sum than my neighbors.
This is my
experience with the Christian God, and there is another story about Hinduism.
came to India, I could only get a pass for a short period, which was very
troublesome. Despite this, I managed to stay for 100 days of meditation at
Rajagrha. During this time I did not speak to anyone nor leave my room except
to fetch food and go each day to bathe in the warm springs nearby. Near these
springs was a Hindu monastery, but I never went there.
On the third
day of my meditation, a divinity with a peculiar face came into my
dream-meditation. It was as though a line ran down the middle of his face and
body giving him a two-sided appearance. He was rough and pushed against me, at
which I meditated upon sunyata and he vanished.
morning I thought, "He may come again tonight and cause more trouble. What
can I do?" Having an idea that he might be connected with the Hindu
monastery, I took some food and incense and went to that shrine. Then I saw
that the god worshipped there was my visitor. "Oh, it is you," I said,
"I am a Buddhist and stay in the Buddha's monastery; I did not know that
you were here. Please come to see me again, but do not give me any
He came the
next night and I was awake in my dream. This time, however, his face was
kindly, not rough as before. So I asked him, "What is the relation between
Buddhism and Hinduism?" "Brothership," he replied. "No,
no," I said, "You have not yet learned the Buddha's central idea.
Please, you must stay with me so that when I practice meditation you may learn
many things." He agreed to this and I never had any more difficulty while
I was at Rajagrha.
another story about when I came to Kalimpong. As soon as I arrived, I asked,
"Is there a Chinese Buddhist temple here?" Finding that a small one
was established in the compound of the Gelugpa monastery, I went and found a
statue of the red-faced protector long familiar to me, Guan Gong, worshipped in
Tibet as Gesar. Having made my offerings to him, I then found a Hindu temple
quite nearby and made my puja to the Krishna image within it. Thus both deities
became my protectors and I have had no trouble since I came here.
Of the many
stories connected with Guan Gong, Mr. Chen then related one to show that
deity's power as a Dharma protector, following this with the experience of
for the shrine in China are not made of white wax, but are red and made from
the fat of ox-bones. Mice often come to nibble at these during the night.
A Chan master
noticed this and told Guan Gong, who was a protector at the temple, that he was
not much use when even the candles of his own shrine were being eaten.
"You, a protector, cannot even keep mice away," accused the master.
During the night, a mouse came and while it was eating the candle, it fell down
upon him and the little creature died. The next morning when the Chan master
saw the dead mouse, he scolded the god, saying: "You are not merciful; I
did not tell you to kill the mice, only to drive them away!" The following
day, the statue of the god was standing outside the temple door, facing
inwards. "Oh," said the master, "you have little faith; you can
come back now." This the god duly did, moving his form back to his place
in the temple.
the Venerable Xing Zhong, gave up a good government post and became a monk, but
although he followed a Chinese guru, he never received training in the exoteric
venerable friend had not heard the stories of the power of Guan Gong, as not
everyone in China worships him. Coming to a Chinese patron's house, he saw the
god's image on the shrine, placed with the Buddhas. Telling the people of the
house that this was wrong, he broke the image, trampling it under his feet,
proclaiming the uselessness of worshipping such a god.
my friend came to India, again he saw an image of Guan Gong in a Chinese
shrine, but this time he dared not destroy it, as many people were there.
However, he complained to me about it, saying that the people were not real
Buddhists, and that the image should be removed.
tell me truly," I said, "have you destroyed other figures of this
protector?" He told me. At this I warned him: "You are in danger."
"You should now confess this misdeed before the Buddha and this
Dharma-protector." Although he knew me well and had some regard for my
advice, on this occasion he did not take it.
months he meditated here and after this decided to go to Bodhi Gaya to practice
there also. He wanted to take over the monastery there, as only an ignorant
monk was in possession at that time. He would have to travel, then, both to
Bodhi Gaya and to see the Chinese professor who was the patron in charge of
appointing guardians to these temples.
I warned him
not to go, saying to him, "Five days after you arrive at Bodhi Gaya you
will get very bad trouble." He did not fear, saying, "I have nothing
to worry about. I will go to Bodhi Gaya; that is a very holy place." He
did not listen to me and went on. On his return journey, the fifth day after
the day of his arrival at Bodhi Gaya, he was standing near the door of his
overcrowded train. Falling down to the ground, he was killed by the train.
caused by the evil karma of destroying the Guan Gong image. Should we not
respect the gods so that they help us, rather than offend them and thus produce
of our book is mainly to guide Western readers and, in that part of the world,
religious power lies with the Christian and Jewish God, Jehovah. We should not
hurt him in any way for he may certainly prove helpful to the Western Buddhist
In my opinion,
the Buddhists of the West should re-estimate the value of Christianity, from
its being an independent religion, to a dependent doctrine of ''heaven-and-man
yana" as a foundation of Buddhism.
this to the listener and writer: "Well, you may not agree with this, but
first please hear what I have to say as the subject is a long one," Mr.
Chen then proceeded to give some principles of his re-evaluation:
would surely be a protector of the Buddha. As we have noted, in the Avatamsaka
Sutra, Lord Buddha said that many gods assembled to protect him, even minor
deities, so why should not the Christian God do likewise?
2. Jesus is a
good example of one who helps others, having some characteristics of a
Bodhisattva—perhaps one early in his career.
3. Jesus has
said that he comes to take away the sins of the world, that is, those relating
to "heaven-and-man yana." This he can surely do if he is worshipped.
But he cannot take away the effects of unwholesome actions committed by men
against the Buddha and his Holy Dharma. Christ cannot help here.
4. The last
five of the Ten Commandments are almost the same in words as the five silas in
Buddhism, though the meaning of the latter are deeper since the explanations
given are altogether most thorough (therefore, detailed accounts of the ethical
commandments should be obtained from Buddhists). These Commandments of Jehovah
are a good foundation for the Hinayana precepts.
saying: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," (Mat. l9:l9) is a
good foundation for the Mahayana.
6. The Fire
Sacrifice of the Old Testament should be revived by the Christian West. It is a
good foundation for the Vajrayana.
interjected, "Not using animal flesh!" "No, of course not,"
Mr. Chen agreed, "but rather according to Buddhist principles, where
sacrifice to the fire has a profound meaning. The offerings of precious things
and indeed the whole sacrifice must be performed in a state of samadhi or it
will not be effective."
certainly hold that God has great merit (to have attained to that position by
much wholesome action in a previous birth); but of course I do not regard him
as a creator, or as a being with the power of either creation or destruction.
8. The Bible
should be revised, leaving out all the violent and evil things in the Old
voice (the writer's) said, "Well, you know, Mr. Chen, that is rather a
lot!" Not noticing this comment, Mr. Chen went on:)
fourfold repetition of Jesus' story in the New Testament is unnecessary.
9. We do
believe that if a Buddhist meditator appreciates this God and asks Him for
help, he would get it, as in the story I have just told.
believe that the Holy Lady and the Saints may answer our prayers. We do not
regard them as refuges, but they may give help. In the East, Buddhist
Protectors render help, so why not Christian deities?
my servant is here, he will bring whatever you need; if he is not, then a boy
can get it equally well."
was said as a small, cherubic boy, one of the local crowd of youngsters,
regarded us steadily, peering over the window-sill, hoping, no doubt, for a
small errand and a spare coin or two.)
either servant or boy, Dharma-protector or Jehovah, may help in worldly matters
and towards gaining heavenly rest, still Buddhists must understand clearly that
they can do no more and that the true "Salvation"—delivery from
samsara by the final attainment of Nirvana—is quite different and beyond their
power to bestow, since they have not realized it themselves. (See Appendix I,
Part One, A, 7.)
This book is
primarily intended for Western readers, who when they turn to Buddhism, are
often prejudiced against Jehovah. There is, of course, in his teachings nothing
concerning final liberation, nothing that can uproot our fundamental sorrows,
but God can help us as a heaven-and-man yana.
many Confucians have gained faith in the Buddha and taken the Buddhist refuges,
but still keep some of the rules of fine ethical conduct laid down by the
ancient Chinese teacher. This shows a just appreciation of Confucius's good
teaching, which does not relate to ultimate salvation. Western Buddhists should
treat the Bible and its teachings in a similar way.
samatha Should Be Practiced before samapatti
are as follows:
1. Before one
gains the force of samatha, one cannot attain samapatti, according to the
Samdhinirmocana Sutra: "If you do not attain ease and lightness, then you
cannot receive the mystic samapatti.
samatha attainment, one's mind may fix upon some concentrated truth, but even
so, it will not be possible to maintain or actualize it. When samapatti is not
sustained by the force of samatha, it is neither true samapatti, nor is it of
much use in meditation.
3. If one
attains samatha, then wisdom is increased, and one can penetrate into the truth
thought before the attainment of samatha is an act of the six consciousnesses
and thus is tainted with the false views of past lives and avidya (ignorance);
that is samsara. Once samatha is attained, the force of it may be used to
meditate on the truth, so that with avidya cut off, one's whole system of
thought is correctly oriented and turned towards Full Enlightenment.
5. A human
being's unwholesome thoughts have accumulated over the ages, so that bad habits
have been formed: this is because one's thoughts are not centered upon
Buddhadharma (see Ch. II, B, 1). It is hardly possible to use a mind like this
to think about the truth; before this must come the attainment of samatha.
Buddhists well know that past karma causes habits, and would generally agree
with the old adage: "Sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a
character; sow a character, reap a destiny."
just describes nicely (though fatalistically) the character of a human being
who does not possess the central thought of Buddhism. One must first get rid of
the human thoughts (of greed, hatred, and delusion) and through the force of
samatha, purify the mind. We may adapt the above saying to Buddhism: "Sow
samatha, reap samapatti; sow samapatti, reap samapanna; sow samapanna, reap
samadhi." In this way we gain Full Enlightenment.
6. Of the three
wisdoms (hearing, thinking, and practicing), samapatti pertains to the last. If
one does not practice samatha to make a foundation for samapatti, but yet tries
thinking on the truth, then this will only be the wisdom of thinking. It is
written in the (Abhidharmakosa Sastra): "Based on the full and perfect
victorious attainment of samatha, you may practice the samapatti of the four
to the six Paramitas and their sequence, the fifth is dhyana and the sixth,
wisdom. Samatha belongs to dhyana and samapatti is the cause of wisdom.
Therefore, first practice the dhyanas and then gain wisdom. Without the first,
one cannot get the second.
to the three knowledges, the first, morality, is preparatory to the second.
dhyana, which is the samatha-training; the third, prajna, is produced from
to the doctrine of "entity and function," first one must attain the
static entity of samatha.
attainment of samatha, one's right view is only of recognition (see Ch. III, E,
3.), but after the samatha force is experienced, one will be able to get the
third insight, that of feeling, and from this the fourth insight, inner
though Chan is not common meditation and needs neither samatha nor samapatti,
yet all the patriarchs have used the phrase, "You should attain a time of
great spiritual death" before you can do anything else, and this
corresponds to samatha.
12. The Mahaparinirvana
Sutra says: "The reason why a Bodhisattva of the Mahayana receives Full
Enlightenment after a longer time than the Hinayana Arhat, is because his
samatha is not so well developed." We do not follow the Arhat ideal but in
our talk about meditation must certainly know the great importance of samatha.
upon this, Mr. Chen said further:
There are two
kinds of Bodhisattvas, one with more wisdom, and one with more compassion. The
latter pay more attention to the first four Paramitas, doing many deeds for
sentient beings' benefit, and therefore lack wisdom. With a Wisdom-Bodhisattva
(who has concentrated particularly upon the last two paramitas),
birth-and-death may be cut off at the first Bodhisattva stage, while the other
must wait until he reaches the Eighth Stage for wisdom strong enough to
accomplish this. Thus we see clearly how much difference there is between one
who attains samatha and one who does not. In the Buddhas' sutras and in the
Patriarchs' sastras we see in many places a lack of clarity and established
sequence among these steps to meditation. For example, the Buddha preached 25
permutations of dhyana, samatha, and samapatti in the Sutra of Perfect
Enlightenment. Why did he do this? Why are the factors not in order?
because he was addressing great Bodhisattvas who could understand and profit
from these various "wheel-turnings," but our book is for neophytes
who require a settled sequence for their undeveloped understanding.
To give an
example from the Patriarchs' teachings: in Tian Tai, there are four books in
which different arrangements of the stages of meditation-practice are given.
Since there is a lack of certainty in this system, few have gained Full
Enlightenment by following it. The order in which one factor follows from
another has not been emphasized, and even among the line of Tian Tai gurus,
admittedly very learned, there have been but few enlightened ones. In the
biography of the lineage which gives the lives of the first nine Patriarchs, it
is recorded that many of them said before they died: "I am sorry, my
attainment is limited. I have led the monks so early and there has been so much
to do in the monastery that I regret my meditation is not deeper." Even Zhi
Yi, the virtual founder of Tian Tai, repeated Amitabha's name when he died,
evidently hoping for a better rebirth.
In this age,
many people seem to be wise, but they have distracted minds; thus it is more
essential than ever for them to see the import of samatha.
D. Summary of
Preparations given in Previous Chapters
I would like
to offer to readers a list of the various stages of preparations occurring in
the chapters leading up to this one on samatha practice.
Chen got up and after searching in his notebook, handed a chart to the writer,
which is reproduced below:
in each Chapter
Biography A personal
example of preparation
preparation of Buddhist knowledge in the West
mistakes occurring from lack of preparation, and the real purpose of
meditation, to develop right desire for it
perspective of ideal meditation and the aim of preparation as mentioned in the
common preparations; at least to know them, if not to accomplish them
advantages of preparation and the importance of meditation
the meditations in the whole system; how the former meditations are the
preparation for the latter ones
E. Some Conditions
of Mental Preparation
Yogacarya-bhumi Sastra, nine foregoing conditions and four arisings of mind are
given as preparatory to samatha attainment.
1. The Nine
Prayoga of correspondence between one's temperament and the type of practice.
This means you should know yourself very well: a lustful person should take up
the practices on impurity of the body, while one with a hateful character must
practice loving kindness and compassion.
b. Of habit:
samatha must be practiced regularly.
readiness: one should not linger over outward and distracting activities.
Whatever good works are to be done, one should finish them as quickly as
possible and go back to the samatha practice.
noninversion: everything should be accomplished in accordance with the Dharma
and with the proper respect given to the guru.
e. Of proper
time: whichever hindrances arise, know what is the right cure for each of them
and apply these medicines as necessary; always act at the right time.
recognition: one must know when to enter samatha, how long to stay in, and when
to come out. All this must be done at the proper time and by the right method,
thus giving a perfect control of these states.
g. Of not
being easily satisfied: it is necessary to be diligent and so make progress.
One should not think of a little progress as a perfect attainment.
h. Of not
throwing away the yoke: this means the mind must not be left to wander toward
sense-objects and thus forget samatha.
i. Of the
main practice of samatha.
2. Now we
come to the Four Arisings of Resolve:
resolve of training the mind. This means that one should renounce the attached,
worldly mind, training it to desire only samatha.
b. The resolve
to comfort the heart with the delights of the Dharma.
resolve to make the mind easy and comfortable, full of tranquility (prasrabdhi)
and free from all oppression. To attain this, all gross discriminations should
resolve to obtain perfect view. Think of this long and deeply. Remember that it
is only by the practice of samatha that wisdom can arise.
All the above
sections and their factors deal with samatha and its relation to the psyche.
Now we shall consider the physical conditions of samatha.
F. The Physical
Foundations of Samatha
In our second
chapter, the seven conditions of right sitting may be referred to here (Ch. II,
l. The Five
Benefits of Full Lotus Sitting
Tsong-khapa said that there are five benefits from the practice of lotus
a. If this
posture is practiced, then one easily gains the tranquility necessary for
posture may eventually be held for a long time without strain or pain.
c. On the
third point, we must disagree from our learned author, for he states that the
lotus position is different from sitting postures adopted by non-Buddhists. In
Tibet presumably this was correct (for it may have been unknown to followers of
the Bon-po, the ancient religion of Tibet), but Tsong-khapa certainly never
visited India where he might have seen plenty of non-Buddhists using this
people see you seated thus, they will be inspired, and then they will have
confidence in you, listen to your teachings, and so become your disciples.
e. The lotus
position is advised by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
to Facilitate Lotus Sitting
should," said the yogi rising from his seat, "now give some practical
instructions." To the writer he said, "You must describe my actions
in your own words."
a Tibetan rug was spread over the concrete floor and upon this Mr. Chen stood
barefoot to show some exercises for loosening up the joints and muscles in the
erect and balanced upon one leg with the other knee bent and the leg held in
front, rotate the foot from the ankle (keeping the rest of the leg still).
Rotate in both directions and change from one leg to the other. Stiffness of
the ankles and pain in the muscles there will be lessened, if this exercise is
b. The same
position but circling the leg from the knee.
writer noticed that Mr. Chen's knee joints were remarkably free and, as he
swung the lower half of his leg around, that he moved it in a much wider circle
than would be possible with most people.
standing on the leg, this time revolve the leg from the thigh. Thus the three
joints of the leg one after the other have been exercised—and flexibility of
all of them is essential for comfortable lotus sitting.
down cross-legged on the carpet, the yogi next demonstrated a method to loosen
the muscles behind the knee:
d. Take one
foot by the ankle, holding it from underneath with the opposite hand. Place the
other hand on the knee of the same leg. Raise the ankle with the first hand and
press down upon the knee with the second. Then release the foot so that it
strikes the ground.
Chen did this with alternate feet so that our floor (and no doubt downstairs'
ceiling) shook. The value of a thick rug will be appreciated in this exercise
unless bruised ankles are desired.
up, bend down with knees straight and touch the toes. At least the knuckles of
the hand must touch the ground, better still the complete palm.
f. For the
next exercise, Mr. Chen produced a wooden stool and a large bucket of water
full almost to the brim, which he placed in front of the stool. Standing upon
it, Mr. Chen bent forward from the thighs and placed over the back of his head
a broad strap attached to the bucket handle. Then with hands clasped together
at his waist, he raised the bucket of water without even a tremor of muscular
effort; nor did the water spill. This Mr. Chen did several times. Obviously he
was exceptionally fit. All the muscles in one's back are well exercised in this
way, especially those at the base of the spine.
some exercises which, when practiced regularly and with patience, will ensure eventual
easy sitting in the lotus posture.
full lotus becomes possible, on every occasion when you have the chance,
practice sitting in the half lotus (one foot raised upon the opposite thigh and
the other tucked underneath).
the legs warm and wrap many clothes around them. This is essential in cool
climates where the legs and feet may become cold because the blood cannot pass
easily through the crossed limbs. If the legs do get cold, one will suffer much
pain and trouble, and this is difficult to cure. By keeping them warm, there
will be no pain and one may then sit for a long time.
If a person
practices with diligence and patience, then there is no limit to the age at
which he may attain the full lotus though, of course, it is usually easier for
I myself only
started at the age of 28 and became perfect in the posture very slowly, over
many months, at first experiencing much pain. Even now, my walk is a little
abnormal due to this sitting.
If with all
energy and patience, a meditator finds that he cannot do it, then in whatever
cross-legged position he or she may adopt, the feet should be clenched, with
the toes drawn together underneath the feet and the muscles of the sole
somewhat tense. In walking, too, this is a good practice for yogis, as it leads
to a conservation of inner energies. This "pigeon-toes" walk
certainly requires mindfulness to maintain, but results in upward-flowing
energies not being dissipated, as occurs with the usual flat-footed walk.
Sitting with the feet curled up in this way will then ensure that energy
currents in the body flow upward (as the full lotus automatically causes them
to do, since the feet there naturally assume an upward and slightly curled position
like two small wings).
this subject, Mr. Chen added:
for those who can do this posture easily and comfortably (such as my wife, who
is thin and can cross her legs without the help of hands), there is no need to
practice these exercises.
G. Nine Steps
and Six Conditions for Samatha: We had already seen the list which Mr. Chen
produced, taken from one of his unpublished books. This helpful series of
steps, which we believe to be unknown as such in the Theravada tradition, is
1. The Nine
abiding: to be able to draw back the mind from outward, evil thoughts and
settle it well on the inward sight (1st condition given below).
Continuously abiding: to be able to make the mind continually abide on the
inward sight (2nd condition).
abiding: if any thought falls away from the inward sight, to be able to
re-apply it (3rd condition).
near the good: all the outward thoughts have turned inward (3rd condition).
Overwhelming: the outward thoughts have been overwhelmed by the inward sight
the mind is peaceful and kept silent (4th condition).
silence: the sleepy mind and the distracted mind are overwhelmed by the deep
silence (5th condition).
One-pointed attention: the mind can concentrate only on one point; that is, the
inward sight, without moving even a little or ceasing for a short time (5th
abiding: the mind itself abides everywhere continually and equally without any
forceful compulsion (6th condition).
2. The Six
performs the nine steps, then one must have the six conditions applying to them.
hearing instruction: without this, one cannot practice.
thinking: all thinking returns to the object of concentration.
condition of remembrance.
f. The force
of habitual practice.
addition, one should choose an object of concentration suitable in color to
one's character. For a person with a distracted mind, an object, (stone,
painted surface, etc.), circular in shape and deep of color (blue, black, etc.)
should be taken. For the person inclined to sleepiness, the concentration
object should be light, such as white or yellow. Such are the directions given
for developing the samatha based on outward objects.
samatha development, any point centered in the body may be used, particularly
the area between the eyes, the heart region, or the navel. If one is sleepy,
one should choose a higher point, but if the obstacle is disturbance, a lower
one is best. One's concentration point should not always be changed but should
be varied according to circumstances. If it is fixed in the quiet mind, it should
be kept as long as possible.
H. To Clarify
Samatha from Samapatti
actually confuse these two, while the numerous explanations given in different
treatises may confuse the readers. Therefore we should have a clear
explanation. The one offered here is my own and not to be found elsewhere.
1. Order of
and samapatti are twofold and arranged in this order:
a. samapatti of samatha
samatha of samatha
samapatti of samapatti
samatha of samapatti
What do these
mean? At the beginning of practice one chooses a point on which to focus, but
that is not true samapatti, as one does it only for samatha. This kind of
abiding on a point only belongs to the realm of one-pointed thinking. The
second stage is reached when one has already attained samatha: it equates with
steps g, h, and i. above. The third is explained thus: When one is meditating
on the truth and finds the mind wandering off among unsuitable objects, then
one develops another samapatti to correct the first one. The fourth is the real
samapatti. After samatha is produced, samapatti arises from it. This
researching leads to truth itself, with steadfast understanding.
If the mind
contemplates some image or stone, this is the samapatti of investigation (a),
and this should not be confused with the final stage, here called "the
samapatti of truth."
distinguishing these four we shall not confuse an intellectual concentration
for true understanding, which can only arise from developed samatha.
in Practice and their Cures
practice of samatha there are six mistakes and eight cures listed by Venerable
Bodhisattva Maitreya in his treatise, the Sastra of the Center and
Circumference (Madhyanta-Vibhaga-Sastra). The six defects described are:
1. The Six
when the mind is lifted up
in not acting at the proper time
f. Too much
zeal or enthusiasm
2. The Eight
Next is given
the list of eight cures for them. The cures for laziness are:
Maintaining the desire for Enlightenment (If you understand fully the
importance of meditation, you will always pursue it.)
Comfortably abiding; not giving pain to yourself by extreme asceticism. With
these four medicines we shall not be lazy.
medicine of mindfulness
sleepiness and excitability:
recognition (Awake quickly to the trouble and cure it. Think upon painful
things and see that there is no time to waste.)
thinking (Think of what may result from apathy or negligence; one must think in
this way or obstacles will overcome one, then one will not act, and will fall
As cure for
Renunciation of likes and dislikes (this leads one to equanimity).
Here I offer
you some personal knowledge: the most troublesome of these defects are the
third and fourth. They vex the meditator, first one, and then the other; when
one has stopped the other begins.
Tsong-khapa's gNags-rim, his work on Tantra, even here he has mentioned these
particular faults together with their cures. I object to this. These are
beginners' states, but the Tantras are not for beginners. By the time one is
fit to practice their teachings these hindrances should have been overcome. As
we should expect, in the ''Great Stages of the Path" by the same author,
much space is rightly given to these two, but we feel they should not appear as
important in a major Tantric work.
I just say to
meditators: If you follow the sequence found in this work, then these two
defects will be conquered. Knowing that even followers of Mahayana and
Vajrayana still experience these states, we can realize the importance of
samatha practice. I have practiced samatha for many years. In particular, I
paid much attention to these two hindrances so as to rid myself of them.
experiences of mine may guide readers about extremes to be avoided. They are:
Conditions Leading to Sleepy Mind
Conditions Leading to Disturbed Mind
earth-element (potato, bread, etc.)
fire-element (chili and pungent food)
too much meat
weak or darkness
green, blue, black
red, orange, yellow
only through left nostril
only through right nostril
know all these conditions and always take the middle course of action, avoiding
the extremes. This is cure by prevention. These conditions should be identified
the moment they appear and very thoroughly attended to, just as a person knows
to wear light clothing in hot weather.
varying the place of concentration according to one's mental state. it is well
to remember that to bend the neck slightly forward will lead to a greater
upward flow of energy, thus counteracting sleepiness. Leaning the spine (still
straight) a little backwards reduces the energy and may tame the restless mind.
As to the eyes, open them widely if drowsiness comes; for disturbance, it is
best to have them half-closed (See App. I, Part Two, C, 4).
"terrible two," drowsiness and distraction, give such great trouble,
especially to the beginner, a few words more on them may not be amiss.
Samatha is a
little close to sleepiness; actually, just before sleep overcomes the mind,
good samatha can be obtained, though few people know how to experience this.
Either they drop off to sleep or are disturbed by the demon of distraction.
a. Causes of
is the destroyer of samatha, and has five origins:
i. The five
senses themselves not abiding in their own nature, as when the eye is allowed
to roam here and there. The same applies to the other senses, but the eye is
said: "To see others' minds, see others' eyes." They are a good
indication of the mental state. The senses should all be kept concentrated upon
distractions. To avoid these, see Chapter IV on preparation and note the advice
given there for choosing a silent place for retreat.
distractions. For disturbing feelings from within the body, employ two weapons
of renunciation: impermanence and impurity.
distractions. Distractions caused by ideas of "I" and mine"
should be overcome by meditation on sunyata.
arising regarding the different yanas of Buddhism and their respective
teachings. The cure is to know clearly a systematic and practical approach to
all aspects of Dharma, such as is found in this book.
If these five
have gone, then there will be good samatha.
J. The Eight
supplementary note on one of the Tian Tai lists may be added here. The eight
dhyanas are also known as "liberations" or "places of
victory." As they concern only samatha, it is appropriate to include them
in this chapter.
teaching, there are four meditational levels of subtle form (rupa-dhyana): from
the fourth, four spheres of formless meditation are derived (arupa-dhyana). The
eighth level is a state of complete cessation (samjna-vedayita-nirodha).
l. Because of
the imaginations of the mind, the body seems a very pleasant thing, so one is
attached to it. Concentrating on the body, think how it will become all
discolored and decayed. Renouncing gross bodily form and being liberated from
it, one attains the first rupa-dhyana.
there is no form but even in the second rupa-dhyana there is still a subtle
mind of lust arising on imaginings and subtle perceptions. Renounce these; do
not let them arise.
3. The first
two dhyanas are samapatti on impermanence and impurity. Now one renounces the
former meditations and concentrates on purity of the eight kinds of light seen
4. Then one
is no longer attached either to the physical body or to subtle imaginings about
it. One sees the purity of the body and in this state, called the "witness
of purity," one attains to the fourth rupa-dhyana.
5. 6, 7.
These are the first three of the arupa-dhyanas which may only be developed
after the dhyanas of form have been perfected. In these states, one renounces
the limitations of space, consciousness and limited "things," and
attains the state of neither perception nor non-perception.
8. This is
the great dhyana, in which both feeling and perception totally cease. This
attainment, very difficult for most, is the last worldly condition, and one who
has achieved it is on the brink of the transcendental. From this, the meditator
develops profound insight and may then become an Arhat.
Realization of Samatha
Here we shall
outline the four rupa-dhyanas and the eighteen conditions which are the mental
factors characterizing these states of concentration.
1. The four
steps leading up to the first dhyana
abiding. At this stage of samatha attainment, the meditator can only abide for
a short time and roughly, his mind some times wandering from the concentration.
abiding. The body and mind become very pure and empty.
samatha of the Desire Realm. Even though the meditator feels pure and light and
can prolong samatha, still he experiences body and mind.
Not-yet-reached samatha. The body becomes like the sky, as inside one does not
see the body and outside one sees nothing. Still, the practitioner has some
natural obstacles, so that the first dhyana cannot yet be attained. There is no
body and no mind, but this is not true sunyata. It is only the experience of
akasa, as the samapatti of sunyata has not yet been practiced.
2. The Eight
Touches and the Ten Merits
samatha practice, will come after some time the ability to perceive the eight
internal touches, accompanied by the ten merits. This state is the complete
first dhyana, concentration. These Eight are accompanied by Ten, as below:
inner bodily movements
because of the change in the body from the gross world of desire to the subtle
one of form.
b. The Ten
Every one of
these sensations is accompanied by ten merits:
decided for myself how the eight touches are connected with the various elements:
movement and buoyancy are the wind-element; coldness and smoothness, the
water-element; the earth-element is found in heaviness and roughness; while the
element fire is irritation and heat. Their determination is important in
meditations' analyzing them (See Ch. VII, I, 3).
Abhidharma-kosa there are listed eighteen conditions (dhyananga). In the first
dhyana five occur:
In the second
dhyana, four branches are found, after eliminating the first two in the last
f. Pure faith
of the touches and merits does not occur again because one now has already
attained the Form World, the change here being only one of the increased
In the third
dhyana, one gets rid of pleasure. Following five characterize this state:
dhyana. Attainment of this depends on the renunciation of joy; there still
remain another four factors:
o. No pain or
essence (this is meant in the samatha sense, not in philosophic way).
experience of these states and their various factors is common to all religions
as well as to Buddhism.
Among all the
results of realizing the dhyanas, bodily repose and quiet mind (prasrabdhi) are
repose and light mind. Our body may become extremely heavy with the weight of
accumulated sorrow. With diligent concentration, this sorrow can be suppressed;
after the force of samatha is experienced, these sorrows cannot arise. When one
has attained bodily prasrabdhi, the body feels light and relaxed and whatever one
does is accomplished gracefully and easily.
prasrabdhi. The mind easily contacts with goodness and is seldom overcome by
evil. It becomes easy to have right thoughts and to reject unwholesome ones. Samapatti
then becomes possible.
c. One will
feel some inward wind on the top of the head and a sense of ease and comfort.
At first the head seems very heavy and compressed, as though it might break. In
spite of this, one feels at ease. Afterwards, only light, smooth and comfortable
sensations are experienced.
d. A light
and reposeful wind in all parts of the body, pervading everywhere. This is the
real sign of samatha. Until this is gained, one cannot practice samapatti.
Chen then took up the Digha Nikaya translation of the Dasuttara Suttana.
"After the series of four stages just given," Mr. Chen continued,
"the meditator will get these five." He pointed to a paragraph in the
Factors of Perfect Concentration: the suffusion of rapture, the suffusion of
easeful bliss, the suffusion of telepathic consciousness, the suffusion of
light, and images of retrospective thought."
The use of
the last factor leads to the development of samapatti. At this time access will
also occur to the first five supernormal powers.
acquiring a good foundation with samatha, follow the meditations of the
Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana in future chapters. And that is all.
ended the chapter on samatha and though it was late, the writer felt refreshed.
A quiet and reflective walk back along deserted roads to our silent vihara
appropriately brought the day to an end.
gods, it seems, approve of this chapter's dedication. On another visit to the
yogi to clarify some points, he told the writer that in his meditation he had
seen this book completed, of good size, and lying on his doorside shrine to the
Four Great Kings. The very next day the Chinese lady mentioned at this
chapter's beginning unexpectedly called to raise a fund to provide incense and
oil for the little Chinese temple, the protector of which is Guan Gong, whose
story is also related here. This occurred although the good lady had not heard
either before or after of our work on this book.
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