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Buddhist Meditation Systematic and Practical - 7

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Chapter VII


A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi C. M. CHEN



Chapter VII


The 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.

Mr. 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 Association in London . Mr. Chen unrolled them, approved their workmanship, and then reverently raised them to his forehead.

Shortly 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.

Following 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.

"She," 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."

The 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).

Here 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.

"Today," 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.

A. Homage

The neophyte 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.

Some 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

Some reasons are given here why we should honor the deities and ask them to help us:

a. Before 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.

c. The 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.

In the 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."

That night 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.

When first 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.

The next 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 trouble."

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.

There is 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 another friend.

The candles 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.

My friend, 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 doctrines.

Now, my 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.

Later, when 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.

"Then 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.

For three 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.

This was 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 bad karma?

B. Re-appraisal of Christianity

The purpose 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 meditator.

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.

Saying 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:

1. Jehovah 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.

5. Jesus' 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.

Bhante 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."

7. I 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 Testament.

(A voice (the writer's) said, "Well, you know, Mr. Chen, that is rather a lot!" Not noticing this comment, Mr. Chen went on:)

Also, the 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.

We also 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?

"If my servant is here, he will bring whatever you need; if he is not, then a boy can get it equally well."

(This 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.)

Although 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.

In China, 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.

C. Why samatha Should Be Practiced before samapatti

The reasons 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.

2. Before 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 with samapatti.

4. Every 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."

This saying 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 mindfulnesses."

7. According 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.

8. According to the three knowledges, the first, morality, is preparatory to the second. dhyana, which is the samatha-training; the third, prajna, is produced from samapatti.

9. According to the doctrine of "entity and function," first one must attain the static entity of samatha.

10. Before 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 realization.

11. Even 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.

Expanding 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?

This is 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.

Mr. Chen got up and after searching in his notebook, handed a chart to the writer, which is reproduced below:

Chapter Preparation in each Chapter

Biography A personal example of preparation

I The preparation of Buddhist knowledge in the West

II The mistakes occurring from lack of preparation, and the real purpose of meditation, to develop right desire for it

III The perspective of ideal meditation and the aim of preparation as mentioned in the definitions

IV The common preparations; at least to know them, if not to accomplish them

V The advantages of preparation and the importance of meditation

VI All the meditations in the whole system; how the former meditations are the preparation for the latter ones

E. Some Conditions of Mental Preparation

In the Yogacarya-bhumi Sastra, nine foregoing conditions and four arisings of mind are given as preparatory to samatha attainment.

1. The Nine Prayogas

a. The 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

c. Of 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.

d. Of 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.

f. Of 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:

a. The 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.

c. The resolve to make the mind easy and comfortable, full of tranquility (prasrabdhi) and free from all oppression. To attain this, all gross discriminations should be renounced.

d. The 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, A, 4).

l. The Five Benefits of Full Lotus Sitting

The venerable Tsong-khapa said that there are five benefits from the practice of lotus sitting:

a. If this posture is practiced, then one easily gains the tranquility necessary for samatha.

b. This 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 sitting method.

d. When 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

2. Exercises to Facilitate Lotus Sitting

"We 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."

First 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 leg:

a. Standing 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 practiced.

b. The same position but circling the leg from the knee.

The 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.

c. Again 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.

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.

Mr. 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.

e. Getting 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.

These are some exercises which, when practiced regularly and with patience, will ensure eventual easy sitting in the lotus posture.

Before the 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).

Always keep 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 the young.

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).

Finally on this subject, Mr. Chen added:

Of course, 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 given here:

1. The Nine Steps

a. Inward 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).

b. Continuously abiding: to be able to make the mind continually abide on the inward sight (2nd condition).

c. Well abiding: if any thought falls away from the inward sight, to be able to re-apply it (3rd condition).

d. Abiding near the good: all the outward thoughts have turned inward (3rd condition).

e. Overwhelming: the outward thoughts have been overwhelmed by the inward sight (4th condition).

f. Silence: the mind is peaceful and kept silent (4th condition).

g. Deep silence: the sleepy mind and the distracted mind are overwhelmed by the deep silence (5th condition).

h. 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 condition).

i. Equal abiding: the mind itself abides everywhere continually and equally without any forceful compulsion (6th condition).

2. The Six Conditions

If one performs the nine steps, then one must have the six conditions applying to them.

a. The hearing instruction: without this, one cannot practice.

b. Right thinking: all thinking returns to the object of concentration.

c. The condition of remembrance.

d. Rightly recognizing.

e. Diligence.

f. The force of habitual practice.

Hence, in 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.

For inward 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

Some books 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 Practice

Both samatha and samapatti are twofold and arranged in this order:

a. samapatti of samatha

two b. samatha of samatha

become c. samapatti of samapatti

twofold d. 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."

By distinguishing these four we shall not confuse an intellectual concentration for true understanding, which can only arise from developed samatha.

I. Mistakes in Practice and their Cures

For the 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 Defects

a. Laziness

b. Forgetting the instruction

c. Lethargy

d. Excitement when the mind is lifted up

e. Negligence in not acting at the proper time

f. Too much zeal or enthusiasm

2. The Eight Cures

Next is given the list of eight cures for them. The cures for laziness are:

a. Faith

b. Maintaining the desire for Enlightenment (If you understand fully the importance of meditation, you will always pursue it.)

c. Diligence

d. Comfortably abiding; not giving pain to yourself by extreme asceticism. With these four medicines we shall not be lazy.

For forgetfulness:

e. The medicine of mindfulness

For sleepiness and excitability:

f. Right recognition (Awake quickly to the trouble and cure it. Think upon painful things and see that there is no time to waste.)

To cure negligence:

g. Right 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 asleep.)

As cure for over-zealousness:

h. 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.

In 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.

3. Avoiding extremes

Some further experiences of mine may guide readers about extremes to be avoided. They are:


Conditions Leading to Sleepy Mind

Conditions Leading to Disturbed Mind


too much

too little


earth-element (potato, bread, etc.)

fire-element (chili and pungent food)


too much meat

only vegetables



coffee, tea






strong sun

Season (Chinese)

spring, autumn

summer, winter


weak or darkness

very strong


too many

too few


green, blue, black

red, orange, yellow



open wide


only through left nostril

only through right nostril










Mental poison


greed, hatred




One should 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.

Besides 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).

As these "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 distraction

Distraction 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 chief.

Confucius 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 one point.

===ii. External distractions.=== To avoid these, see Chapter IV on preparation and note the advice given there for choosing a silent place for retreat.

===iii. Internal distractions.=== For disturbing feelings from within the body, employ two weapons of renunciation: impermanence and impurity.

===iv. Egoistic distractions.=== Distractions caused by ideas of "I" and mine" should be overcome by meditation on sunyata.

v. Confusion 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 Dhyanas

A 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.

In Buddhist 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.

2. Inwardly 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 in meditation.

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.

K. 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

a. Roughly 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.

b. Subtly abiding. The body and mind become very pure and empty.

c. The samatha of the Desire Realm. Even though the meditator feels pure and light and can prolong samatha, still he experiences body and mind.

d. 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

With constant 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:

a. Eight internal touches

i. inner bodily movements

ii. irritation

iii. buoyancy

iv. heaviness

v. cold

vi. heat

vii. roughness

viii. smoothness

These arise because of the change in the body from the gross world of desire to the subtle one of form.

b. The Ten Merits

Every one of these sensations is accompanied by ten merits:

i. feeling empty

ii. brightness

iii. steadfastness

iv. wisdom

v. virtuous

vi. pliancy

vii. gross pleasure

viii. subtle joy

ix. liberation

x. insight

I have 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).

3. The Eighteen Conditions

In the Abhidharmakosa there are listed eighteen conditions (dhyananga). In the first dhyana five occur:

a. Awakeness

b. Investigation

c. Pleasure

d. Enjoyment

e. Quiescence

In the second dhyana

four branches are found, after eliminating the first two in the last list:

f. Pure faith

g. Pleasure

h. Enjoyment

i. Quiescence

(Experience 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 concentration.)

In the third dhyana

one gets rid of pleasure. Following five characterize this state:

j. Equanimity

k. Mindfulness

l. Wisdom

m. Joy

n. Quiescence

The fourth dhyana

Attainment of this depends on the renunciation of joy; there still remain another four factors:

o. No pain or pleasure

p. Equanimity

q. Mindfulness

r. Heart, essence (this is meant in the samatha sense, not in philosophic way).

The 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 very important.

a. Bodily 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.

b. Mental 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.

Mr. 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 Sutta:

"Five 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.

After acquiring a good foundation with samatha, follow the meditations of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana in future chapters. And that is all.

Thus 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.


The 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.