A small note of caution is necessary here. Two practices exist for when you become aware of an object. You do so by either using words or not using them. Not using words means not causing the faculty of language to be brought into play; so it is more accurate to describe becoming aware of something without using words as turning the mind to it, or directing the attention to it. In this connection, it was Buddhist scholars who asserted that one could perceive something without using words.
There is a large discrepancy here with the Vaisheshika and Nyanya schools of Hinduism, which understood cognition to always be accompanied by the language faculty. At any rate, all objects are perceived by being registered through the five sense organs. Ultimately all the sense functions registered by the physical body are the objects of meditation, and if we are able to direct the mind, a mysterious condition comes into being within it, where judgment, comprehension, and discrimination do not arise, yet an awareness of seeing and hearing exists.
This is to enter the mental state known as "nondiscriminating. Now we are rid of all self-centered thoughts, and an attitude of compassion and loving-kindness toward others arises naturally. The "mindfulness" that so many people associate with Buddhist meditation these days is actually an expression of this.
As it happens, words are usually at work in our daily lives, and even when we are being mindful, words intervene. In fact, at such times we become aware of how we are judging, comprehending, and discriminating things.
For example, if we have pain we are aware of "pain," and if we itch we are aware of "itch. That is to say, by making the feelings that arise in our daily lives the objects of our attention, we are enabled to remove ourselves, little by little, from the domination of the emotions.
This also means temporarily stopping the mind from judging, comprehending, and discerning. In the Arrow Sutra, Shakyamuni speaks of being struck painfully by two arrows. The first arrow refers to the painful experiences we encounter in the course of our lives, while the second represents our reaction to them. It is possible to avoid the second arrow. In other words, if we hear something unpleasant, we might limit ourselves to understanding it without allowing it to make us feel unpleasant.
Or if we see something beautiful, we might merely accept its beauty without yearning to possess it. This is clearly a position from which we can rid ourselves of anxiety and suffering. Strictly speaking, the practice had the intention of overcoming both pain and pleasure. Actually, conditioning the mind that way is not easy.
They state only that this practice enables people to endure them. This is indicative of the profundity of Buddhism, based on reality and a deep insight into the human mind. I would now like to turn from Theravada meditation to look at how meditation is practiced in Mahayana Buddhism. The optimum materials for understanding Mahayana meditation are early-period sutras known from ancient times, the so-called contemplation sutras and meditation sutras.
The contemplation sutras include the Samadhi Sea Sutra Ch. I do not believe that the fundamental principles of meditation in Mahayana Buddhism differ from those in Theravada. So does this mean there are absolutely no features unique to meditation in Mahayana? As far as choosing an object for meditation and directing the attention toward it, there is absolutely no difference between Theravada and Mahayana.
However, from the standpoint of the objects of meditation, it is clear that new developments were introduced. Breathing techniques to exercise qi life force, energy existed in East Asia before the introduction of Buddhism and added new elements to Buddhist practices. I would therefore like to survey Mahayana meditation from two standpoints: the development of objects of meditation and the addition of new elements belonging to the East Asian world.
I will first consider the evolution of objects of meditation following the advent of Mahayana Buddhism. The first of the "ten reflections" anussati listed there is that of the Buddha, the object being specifically mindfulness of his virtues through his ten epithets.
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The meditator recollected and affirmed these, but however deep his reflection, it never took form as the figure of the Buddha. In Mahayana, however, the form of the Buddha itself became an object of meditation. There was a great leap here from recollecting the specific words that are the ten epithets of the Buddha to contemplating the form of the Buddha itself in the mind. This means that the figure of the Buddha came to be used as an object to direct the mind.
The object of meditation has thus changed from words to a specific representation. It probably originated around the first century BCE in Central Asia and was the first to teach that the Buddha manifests himself in the minds of practitioners using the distinguishing features of the Buddha's form as an object of meditation. In other words, practitioners are to hold a concrete figure of the Buddha in mind. Stimulated by this interest in a concrete form of the Buddha, it was only to be expected that this form would develop into a produced physical object.
This is considered to be a factor in the origin of Buddha images, though asking which came first is rather like asking whether the chicken came before the egg. Nevertheless, research into art history suggests that Buddha images were first produced around the first century CE, which means that the period when distinguishing features of the Buddha's physical body were used as objects of meditation predated it. The practice of using the form of the Buddha as an object of meditation gradually spread eastward.
New sutras appeared at this time that use not just the form of the Buddha but also depictions of the Pure Land where the Buddha resides. This sutra introduces sixteen visualizations as objects of meditation: the sun, water, the ground of the Pure Land, the jeweled trees of the Pure Land, and so on.
It is a method to focus the mind by holding objects clearly in the mind. We must be careful here. One of the changes that occurred in Buddhism when it was transmitted to China was the introduction of reciting the name of a buddha over and over again Jpn.
While Huiyuan , of Donglin Temple on Mount Lu, is thought to have been the first exponent of Pure Land teachings in China, it was Shandao who popularized them, and nembutsu practice is generally thought to have begun with him. Whatever the exact story, it was at this time that there appeared the practice of reciting the Buddha's name and keeping the form of the Buddha in the mind.
I believe, therefore, that reciting the name of a buddha and affirming it in the mind may be called a form of this recollection of peace. Since this is, of course, included in the category of samatha, reciting the nembutsu can also be regarded likewise.
THE TWO TRADITIONS OF MEDITATION IN ANCIENT INDIA
However, we must not forget the manner in which those good words were recited. It is thought that in East Asia they were recited slowly in a relatively quiet voice. I believe there is a special characteristic at work here. The mind becomes excited if, when the same phrase is repeated over and over, the tempo rises and the chanting gets louder. The slow recitation was probably employed to prevent this. There already existed in China an interest in the human body, linked with medical ideas and Daoism, and the body was believed to possess qi life force.
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It reveals an awareness of breath moving up and down through the body. Qi is what moves up and down through the body, and breathing is the intermediary that consolidates it. To be more precise, when we draw a breath, there is a sensation of something coming up from below, and when we exhale there is a sensation of something going downward. Qi, then, was something that was recognized as being tied to breathing.
An analysis is offered also of the non-Buddhist especially Jaina and early Hindu practices and beliefs as they are described in the non-Buddhist literature of the time. Passages in the Buddhist canon which emphasize the distinctions between Buddhism and other religious currents are also taken into consideration.
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An analysis is offered also of the non-Buddhist especially Jaina and early Hindu practices and beliefs as they are described in the non-Buddhist literature of the time. Passages in the Buddhist canon which emphasize the distinctions between Buddhism and other religious currents are also taken into consideration. Notify me when it's available:.
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