Buddhist Meditation
Systematic and Practical

CW35
Chapter VIII
THE FIVE FUNDAMENTAL MEDITATIONS TO CURE THE FIVE POISONS

A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi
C. M. CHEN

Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO

First Published in 1967


HOMAGE TO JE TSONG-KHAPA, THE FOUR AGAMAS

AND THE FIVE HUNDRED ARHATS

 

Chapter VIII

 

THE FIVE FUNDAMENTAL MEDITATIONS TO CURE THE FIVE POISONS

 

As a symbol of today's talk, Mr. Chen produced a small carved ivory skull. The empty eye-sockets stared, the toothy jaws grinned and the interlocking bones of the skull were accurately reproduced. It was a work of art which concerns us very personally. "We shall talk on this today," said our host. "The artist was Mongolian and has died; nobody can do work like that now." Mr. Chen disappeared into his shrine and returned with two further examples of the ivory artist's work. One was a globe of the world on the outside; when it was opened, it revealed the Buddhist deity Sri Devi carved in minute detail. The lotus base to the little globe had upon its bottom a crossed vajra. The other was a free-standing representation of Vajrasattva executed with the greatest care and artistry.

 

With the skull resting on the table, Mr. Chen then produced some refreshments of unusual variety and quantity. The skull looked on. Bhante remarked that it was evidently going to be a long chapter requiring much sustenance. Mr. Chen, sitting very erect upon his stool, concentrated a moment and then uttered the homage which heads this chapter. To explain it he said.

 

A. The Triple Dedication

 

The Venerable Tsong-khapa lived at a very recent date (1357-1419) and of all the great and learned Tibetan Gurus, he is the latest; all the others, such as Guru Rinpoche, Marpa, and Milarepa, lived before him. From so short a time past his grace still remains with us, both as a scholar and as a practitioner of Dharma. He vigorously promoted the Hinayana and in his Lam Rim the divisions are made according to that vehicle's teachings. It is very rare, in such a late time, to find a teacher who stresses the necessity of practicing the Hinayana doctrines. In China, the tendency has long been quite opposite to this and many false gurus have openly rebuked the Hinayana (setting themselves up, of course, as Bodhisattvas). Even scholars have adversely criticized the Lesser Vehicle, and since the Song Dynasty its teachings have been largely neglected. But Tsong-khapa has lived much later still and yet preached these teachings. In recent times, few follow these doctrines, but there would have been no one at all heeding the Hinayana without the efforts of this great and saintly teacher, whom we therefore salute with humility and gratitude.

 

Why do we make obeisance to the Four Agamas? These are the Buddha's personal teachings. While they teach mainly the Hinayana doctrines, they are also the basis for all the schools of every vehicle. These extensive and important scriptures have been completely translated into Chinese and also into English, for in your country, England, the Pali Text Society has long been established. This is a good foundation for all Buddhist endeavors in the West. Besides this, we must recognize that the aims of all Hinayana meditation are based on these sutras. We should revere these personal teachings of the Buddha by practice of their good advice.

 

The five hundred Arhats attending the first Buddhist Council at Rajagrha were the guardians of the Enlightened One's personal teachings. Due to their great care and devotion, we have these records preserved. We should, from gratitude, make our deep obeisance to these ancient worthy ones; they are, as it were, our "schoolmates," for we have the same Teacher, Sakyamuni, and they all attained wonderful powers before they died. They are indeed a good example of the arya Sangha which we should make all efforts to follow.

 

Why do we honor them in this order? We see Tsong-khapa as not only a scholar and disciplinarian, but also as a great Tantric guru. In the esoteric tradition of Tantra, the exoteric instruction of the Four Reliances (see Ch. VI, B, 1, a, ii) is reversed: to place reliance upon a person (the guru) but not upon principles (abstract formulation in books, etc.). As all our meditations in the system of three-in-one aim at the Tantra, so we honor Tsong-khapa as a Tantric guru. In revering the other two, we proceed according to the exoteric tradition: principle first and person after. Thus, we should honor the sutras and then the Arhats. Even the Arhats would not wish to be honored otherwise.

 

B. Differences between Samatha and Samapatti

 

I should call the reader's attention to the third chapter, where we have already defined Buddhist meditation: "It is the use of concentrated force (samatha, discussed in the last chapter) to investigate Buddhist philosophic truth and transform it from abstract perception into concrete inner realization." Now we turn to this latter stage, concerned with the actual methods of practice of these samapatti meditations in the Hinayana.

 

Differences (between samatha and samapatti) are:

 

1. By its own nature, samatha allows no discrimination, does not permit investigation, and possesses no initial or sustained thought (vitarka or vicara); but in samapatti, quite the opposite is true, and the two kinds of thought are fully utilized. One uses the concentrated force of samatha to investigate and train the mind in correct discrimination. The fundamental difference, shown in these contrasting definitions, is mentioned at length in the Samdhinirmocana Sutra.

 

2. Samatha can repress the sorrows so that they are no longer active, hiding them but not eradicating them. With samapatti it is possible to do more, to dig out the sorrows and uproot them. This is the destruction of klesavarana.

 

3. Samatha is both preparation and potentiality for the vitarka-vicara of right thought. Samapatti uses this potential force to search out the truth and thereby get rid of Jneyavarana.

 

4. Samatha is the foundation for truth to appear, for the calm mind opens spaces where the truth may appear; but without samapatti it will not be recognized. Samapatti will cause truth to appear directly as essence, quality, and function (deha, guna, kriya). When in practice of samatha the disturbed mind stops, then only entity remains, though it must be identified by samapatti. One cannot perceive these three aspects by samatha, whereas through samapatti it is possible.

 

Bhante pointed out that these three correspond to the "that," "what," and "how" of any object examined methodically.

 

5. With samatha one can get the first five super-normal powers (abhijna) but using samapatti the sixth also becomes attainable.

 

Even though these are distinct parts of the meditation process, still they mutually help each other. Without samatha good samapatti cannot occur; without samapatti one's samatha cannot be enlarged in length and depth.

 

Therefore, as a foundation, samatha is important, but for the final goal, samapatti is essential. For those going along this way, it should be noted carefully that all stages of the Bodhisattva path also depend on these two.

 

C. Why Hinayana Meditations Must be Practiced before the Mahayana

 

1. Historical Role of the Hinayana

 

There is good advice for us in the history of China where, from the Han to the Tang dynasties, both the Lesser and the Greater Vehicles were followed. As a result there were many sages at this time, some of them even Arhats. In their biographies we read that at death the bodies of these noble ones revealed certain signs identifying their attainment. If they had attained Arhatship then the index finger of the right hand turned up and backwards; anagamin (non-returner) attainment was indicated by the middle finger similarly turning, and so on for the sakrdagamin (once-returner) (ring finger) and srotaapanna (stream-enterer) (little finger). Such records indicate that the Hinayana was at this time very alive and vigorous.

 

Many monks following the Mahayana have taken up Hinayana meditation practices though they keep a Mahayanic mental attitude. Also in the Mahayana sutras, many Arhats have been mentioned and their attainments praised. In addition, many patriarchs of the Chan School were Arhats both in outlook and in name while keeping in their hearts the Mahayana attitude (exemplified by the 60 Arhats who were sent forth by Lord Buddha to preach). So we should not think of these two yanas as mutually exclusive, nor begin our practice with the second one, the Mahayana.

 

Since the Song Dynasty, however, monks and laymen of all schools pretend to be Bodhisattvas and rebuke the Hinayana. Even though they do not go as far as saying that the Hinayana is not the Buddha's teaching, still they over-emphasize the Great Way and blame the followers of the other too much (for "selfishness," "ignorance," etc.). These "bodhisattvas," because of their wrong emphasis, spend most of their time running around doing good deeds for others. All the time they gather merits for their "perfections" and have little or no time left for meditation.

 

They wish to benefit others but neglect their own spiritual cultivation and, as a result, ultimately cannot benefit others.

 

I am indeed sorry that I was born so late in the history of the Dharma. How difficult it is these days to find those who will welcome and practice the Hinayana. People only wish for something easy nowadays; they do not want to hear about renunciation and morality, and this is indeed sad.

 

Mr. Chen spoke about this with very great feeling, even in tears.

 

With my own blood and tears, in every one of my works, I have stressed the importance of the Hinayana. I have done everything to promote its practice.

 

With deep feeling which communicated itself to the two bhiksus present, the yogi cried out:

 

If there is no Hinayana, the foundation of the whole Dharma has gone, and there is no basis for meditation. If there is no Hinayana meditation, then there is no progress through the other yanas. Without this progress, there can be no final realization.

 

Said the yogi, wiping his eyes:

 

But there are many people these days who like Tantra or Chan (Zen) and play at practicing them without so much as a glance at the basis of these practices. Delusion leads them to neglect the very foundation of their meditations.

 

Tantra and Chan are like the top of a tall building; to attempt to build only the top without even cutting the turf for the foundations is foolishness indeed. Such are the actions of these "experts" in Chan and Tantra.

 

2. The Contemporary Need for Hinayana

 

Hinayana is very good for the present day when many pursue the illness of desires. Because of the development of science, it is easy today for people to fulfill their desires and to be lured on to desire more and more. In general, most people are overly influenced by their surroundings, which these days are often designed to stimulate desire. Because not everyone can get what he wants, evil actions are committed and merit is lost to gain a desired end. From day to day merit decreases and misconduct increases as desires multiply.

 

Hinayana, which insistently emphasizes renunciation of desires, is an excellent medicine for this disease of desire. There are many good people in this world who think that the medicine lies in other bottles. They propose to dose the world with tonics labeled "Democracy," political"-isms," "Coexistence," "Cooperation," etc. None of these are worth the name of medicine and none can achieve the cures they advertise. Each power-group proposes its own cure, but all put forward economic policies as cure-alls. They all aim at materialism; they all work for mammonism. The titles of the principal works of Adams and Marx are surely significant: The Wealth of Nations and Das Capital. They both propose economies based on a similar attitude toward money, which is regarded not only as necessary but as a means of satisfying desire. This is not the way to save the people. Why do not people learn from the evidence before their own eyes? To take but a small section of American statistics: after the Second World War finished, in 1947, the overall figures for the eight major types of crimes were:

 

1947 -- 1,560,000

1950 -- 1,790,000

1958 -- 1,796,000

 

Furthermore, in the State of New York only, the total number of documented offences was 780,000, and of them:

 

354 were murder;

1100 were rape;

6000 were robbery.

 

Disturbance among youth is reflected in the low standards of sexual morality and the rises in violent adolescent crime. In Boston during 1940, 450 cases were recorded but by 1957 this had more than doubled: 1030 cases.

 

Diseases which spread through the widespread looseness of sexual relationships have greatly increased, and in 1958 there were 200,000 reported cases.

 

Orphanages and foundling hospitals full of unwanted or illegitimate children are tragic comments on the inability of many human beings to restrain themselves.

 

The only cure for all this is to reduce the power of desire, and an effective way of doing this is through the teachings of the Hinayana. When the house is on fire it is of no use trying to save it with more fire; only water will extinguish it. Similarly, the way out of the tangle of desires is not to make them stronger by repeatedly indulging in them, but to weaken them through morality and renunciation, which are emphasized in Hinayana instructions.

 

Here I should like to give you a list of practices representing a way of life so different from that conceived by most Westerners that a greater contrast could hardly be found.

 

 

Ascetic Practices (dhutas)

Modern Western Life

Eating only begged food

Meals prepared by culinary artists, such as experts in French and Chinese cuisine

An early morning beverage, with only one meal taken before noon

Three or four meals and light refreshments in between: food derived from animal, vegetable, and mineral sources with hormones, vitamins, iron, etc.

Taking no food between these and at other times

Picnics, snacks, airplane meals, and now even special meals taken in space

Only taking a limited amount

Taking animals' lives for food, even cooking animals alive, and generally over-eating

Wearing robes sown from cast-off rags and corpse-wrappings

Costly clothes of silk and wool in the latest fashion

Possessing only three robes

Wardrobes full of clothes of the greatest variety, using furs and skins, even for covering the floor

Dwelling alone in a cave, forest, or any solitary place

Living with family and friends, surrounded with a well-built house full of comfortable furniture

Dwelling among tombs

Living surrounded by every luxury, with gardens and pools

Living at the base of a tree

Living in a pleasant cottage with all comforts

Living in the open air without protection from the elements

Staying in the highest buildings, with climate controlled by central heating and air conditioning

Sleeping wherever a place is offered, not for the sake of comfort

Availing oneself of the numerous and comfortable luxury hotels

Living in a dwelling with space only for sitting; not lying down to sleep

Not satisfied even with the whole earth, so going to the moon; relaxing on luxurious beds with spring mattresses

 

 

The differences between the ancient Buddhist tradition of a mindful and helpful asceticism adopted voluntarily by some bhiksus and bhiksunis, and people of the present day wallowing in every possible pleasure are surely plain enough. The former desired, by means of these restraints (severe ascetic practices were not permitted by the Buddha), to decrease and help check desires, while the latter do not even know that their sorrows originate in desire, let alone having the thought of checking it. To save such deluded people, there is the doctrine of the Hinayana.

 

For Westerners, this is hard to accept. I have written many, many letters to my Western Buddhist friends praising the benefits of renunciation. In reply, my friends complain how difficult this is for them and then point out that I am from the Orient where, they say, people possess few things and can easily renounce them in accordance with the existing traditions. However, I must emphasize once again that renunciation is the beginning of the Dharma and people have to adapt themselves to the Dharma if they would truly benefit.

 

"What follows you must write and have it printed in block capitals," said Mr. Chen.

 

WE SHOULD LEAD THE PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT COU***IES TO FOLLOW THE DHARMA, BUT WE SHOULD NOT CHANGE THE DHARMA TO SUIT THE PEOPLE. The Dharma cannot be fitted to people's desires and notions; it is the people who have to change. This is the importance of Hinayana renunciation. (Note: This is not a contradiction of the principle of skillful means exercised by the Bodhisattva, since the unbending attitude here applies to the primary stages of training in the Hinayana, while the Bodhisattva's skill is of the Mahayana, a subsequent stage of practice.)

 

Friends write to me: "Oh, you are like a sage of the classical times; you resemble the ancient worthies in your strong will to renounce, but what of us, how can we do all this?"

 

Said Mr. Chen with great emotion:

 

It is better to have one true Buddhist than to have all the world adopt a false Buddhism. At least one should save oneself first; how else can one save others? First one should form a good character by one's own development, and then try to aid other beings. We should remember the great example of Milarepa: he renounced completely, and lived a life practicing the dhutas (though he was not a bhiksu), and as a result of his determination and strong effort, he came to the experience of the Great Perfection. For Buddhists, quality comes first, not quantity.

 

This contrasts with the usual Christian attitude. Christians boast that so many millions have been converted to their religion, yet all those millions are not worth anything beside one hair upon the body of a saint of such greatness as Francis of Assisi.

 

The work of a sincere Buddhist is to lead the people to prepare themselves, to practice the Hinayana and then direct them to the Great and Diamond Ways. If they do not follow this, the Dharma cannot be made into a sweet confection just for them and their tastes. Some religions care only for numbers of members but pay no attention to their spiritual quality; this is not good.

 

"There is a ray of hope in England," added Mr. Chen, brightening considerably. "The long-established Pali Text Society has done excellent work in making the fundamentals of Buddhadharma well known." The writer commented that the P.T.S. ought to present the yogi with a complete set of their works, as he values them so much and praises them so often. Smiling, the yogi continued: "Today I have had good news from the Buddhist Society in London—a letter from their good Secretary telling me of a Buddhist Summer School and of another week devoted to meditation practice, organized by the Sangha Association. It is good, very good," approved Mr. Chen.

 

D. Why We Discuss Only These Five Meditations

 

Mention has already been made (Ch. III) of the twelve dhyanas described very often in Hinayana texts. Why are these not included here? The first group of these, the four rupa-dhyanas, were a subject of the last chapter. The four arupa-dhyanas are also not specifically Hinayana but, as with the first group, are the common attainment of Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Before one hears the preaching of the Buddha and comes to know the Four Noble Truths, one may practice these concentrations, though they will have but limited value. After one hears the Hinayana teachings and obtains as a result right view, then there will be no questions in the mind about the whereabouts of consciousness or the infinity of space. The practice of the Hinayana concentrations leads one to go beyond them, for the result of such practice is the ninth stage (Arhatship), not merely the eighth (the realm of neither perception nor non-perception, the highest arupa-dhyana). This attainment lies outside the subject of the present chapter so we must move on.

 

What of the four boundless minds? These are infinite in the sense of mathematical quantity but their practice only increases merits (and results in birth in one of the heavens); it is not concerned with salvation. The character of these four is very good but we shall have a chance to talk about similar qualities in the six paramitas and in the Tantras (though in different contexts) so we have left them here.

 

E. Why do we not discuss "pure Dhyana"?

 

Having talked in the last section on "fundamental taste Dhyanas," we may proceed to explain those called "pure." These have been included in the second division of meditations called "Worldly States of Dhyana" (See Ch. III). The nine contemplations of Impurity, which are both Hinayana and outward in object, are included in the Beyond the World division there, called "investigating dhyana." Everything we talk about will include these others.

 

F. A Note on the Five Dull Drivers

 

These are very common, and are also known as the five sorrows or the five poisons. Many of the readers of this book will have plenty to do in making the basic renunciations and purifications of the Hinayana, so our account of the obstacles and the meditations to overcome them, as taught in that Vehicle, should be particularly complete.

 

A division of the "dull drivers" into two is made: the first fourlust, anger, ignorance, and prideand the last, doubt.

 

The first four occur since one is perplexed by misdeeds and the many phenomena of the world. Why are they called "dull" drivers? Their nature is comparatively duller than the five sharp drivers (see Ch. IX). The latter pertain to thought or view and are active since they bring about the dull drivers, which are more passive insofar as they concern conduct which one is promoted to commit. Almost every philosophy, except that of the materialists, endorses the idea that "from thought comes conduct."

 

As to the last of the five, doubt, this concerns the Four Noble Truths. Perplexity arising from this is certainly mental but is not of the same type as that found among the sharp drivers. This is a hazy, uncertain, wandering doubt, so mixed with delusion that even the fundamental truth of the unsatisfactory nature of all the worlds is not apparent. This is quite different from the sharp doubts such as on the doctrines of karma or conditioned co-production.

 

The meaning of these five can even be found in common books, so it should not be necessary to go into details here. But what should be known is the distinction of names in this group. When they are known as "the five poisons or sorrows," they are in the position of consequence; that is, past karma bearing fruit in the present. When called "the five drivers," however, they are considered in the position of causethe impulses arising in the present which will come to fruit in the future. Our meditation lays most stress on the drivers of the present; for depending on the extent of their control now, their arising in the future may be limited. If we make no attempt now to control lust, anger, ignorance, pride, and doubt, they will continue to rampage in the future as they have in the past infinity of lives.

 

G. The Five Meditations Themselves and How They help Achieve a Settled Mind

 

Mr. Chen took the little skull and set it on the ground between our chairs. "With its aid we may understand the necessary stages of concentration," he said.

 

Every one of these five meditations may be divided under eight headings.

 

1. The Meditation on Impurity

 

First we should mention again our fourfold samatha and samapatti (see Ch. VII) with reference to our present subject.

 

First comes the samapatti of samatha, in which one repeatedly concentrates upon one point. In this way one gets the mind to the ninth stage of samatha (see last chapter) and then begins the samapatti of impurity.

 

The samatha of samatha is when one has attained good concentrationthe latter is the ordinary name only.

 

Third, samapatti of samapatti. The latter is samapatti itself such as thinking upon the truth of impurity. The former is some method of samapatti used as a cure, such as right mindfulness or right recognition, to correct the true samapatti when it goes astray.

 

Last is samatha of samapatti. The former is the firm concentration attained during the exercise of the samapatti, the latter is samapatti itself.

 

If, during this meditation, your mind strays and does not tend to remain concentrated on the subject of impurity, then the medicine for this is right recognition, so that the samatha may be quickly recovered. If the mind still continues to concentrate on the subject but not so strongly, and develops drowsiness, then with right recognition raise up the mind.

 

The meditation on impurity is always accompanied by the perception of pain and impermanence (duhkha and anitya) and it is therefore easy to become sleepy. Any samapatti upon a subject arousing feelings of dislike will tend to throw up this obstacle. We should consider: Today is quickly passing and no one knows when death will come. Think upon death thus, and fear it; you then have no time to sleep. This is a good cure.

 

a. Having considered these preliminaries, we should now proceed with our pattern of eight sections, the first of which is the self-nature of the meditation on impurity.

 

Samapatti in this meditation uses the various stages of decomposition of the body listed in Buddhist meditation manuals. The Sanskrit list has the following: vyadhmataka (tumefaction): vinilaka (bluish color); vipadumaka (decay); vilohitaka (bloody); vipuyaka (discharging pus from rotten flesh); vikhaditaka (devoured by birds and beasts); viksiptaka (dismembered); asthi (only bones), and vidagdhaka (rotted to powdered bones).

 

By scholars of the Buddhist tradition, these nine stages have been aligned with six renunciations. The qualities to be renounced and the meditations to accomplish this are:

 

i. Meditate on death. When one thinks of this, desires for a fine manner and flowery speech are abandoned.

 

Said Mr. Chen, getting up, "One of my patrons was so proud." And he imitated this gentleman's imperial manner of walking. Laughing about this while at the same time quite serious about the importance of these meditations, he continued: "Yes, consider a corpse, it has neither a delicate manner nor fine words."

 

ii. Meditate on a discolored corpse (vinilaka), bluish and blotchy in color. Which desire is thereby abandoned? Desires for a fine complexion and beautiful color.

 

iii. Meditate with the three kinds of corpses to destroy the desires for a nice face and a shapely figure. For this meditate on a corpse swollen (vyadhmataka), decayed (vipadumaka), and bitten by animals (vikhaditaka).

 

iv. Meditate with a corpse messy with blood and with one discharging pus to renounce the desires of sensual love and sexual attraction.

 

v. Meditate on bones and powdered bones to give up all attachment to smoothness, fineness, and subtlety in the human body.

 

vi. A total meditation on all nine stages causes one to renounce the desire for a human form and the imagined desirability of it.

 

One should, if possible, have an actual corpse or skeleton for one's practice. Although such may be difficult to obtain now, the best results are certainly got with bodily remains, but concentration upon a picture will also be fruitful.

 

At a subsequent meeting, Mr. Chen showed the writer a photograph of a learned Chinese upasaka standing beside a skeleton and other human remains which he used in his practice.

 

What is the object of our meditation upon impurity as a whole? To counteract the poison of greed or lust (lobha, raga).

 

b. The second of the eight headings for our subject is its common nature. We must think of impermanence to which all are subjected; all beings experience death. Even the great Arhats could not escape from it, so what of us?

 

c. Its karmic quality. Meditation on impurity leads to a revulsion toward the things desired by ordinary people and therefore decreases the unskillful or "black" karma of desire. Detachment leads to the performance of more and more "white" actions.

 

d. Time. In the past, the Enlightened Ones and their noble followers have passed away in countless numbers. In the present, neighbors, parents, childrenthe young as well as the old, all are dying; in the future the same process will continue. This is our meditation with reference to the three times.

 

e. Reason of condition or correspondence. Because we meditate upon impurity, we shall not pursue the ordinary desires of human beings, but if we do not so meditate, then we shall be lured by the "beauties" perceived by the senses.

 

f. Reason of function. If one meditates upon this subject and succeeds, then greed is destroyed.

 

g. Reason of practical realization. Here we should consider the spiritual qualities taught in the Yogacara. (Ch. III, E. 2.) The first is the direct quality of the Buddha's instructions upon this subject. Secondly, one meditates upon the common man's thought of the body's beauty, and compares that with the body's underlying impuritythis is the comparative quality. Thirdly, one will realize the impurity and impermanence doctrines at the moment of the immediate insight when one sees what states this body has been in through many conditions. When this is seen, greed is cut off.

 

h. Reason of Bhutatathata. Whether we do or do not meditate on impurity, its Dharma-nature is void. We should not discriminate too much, for purity and impurity are both sunyata and the Dharma-nature is inconceivable.

 

This scheme of eight sections we shall now apply to each of the other four meditations.

 

2. The Merciful Meditation (maitri, karuna). This should be practiced to cure the sorrow of hate.

 

a. The self-nature of this meditation is to have equal mercy upon the three kinds of beings: one's friends, one's enemies, and those neither friend nor foe. Here the meditator meditates on giving them all pleasure and happiness.

 

b. The common nature of this meditation is that all beings have pain, so why should we increase it? Every man and woman, every sentient being everywhere, may at some time have been our father or mother; should we not therefore give them something to make them happy?

 

The relative positions of being among the hurt, or being a hurter, change constantly. Realizing this, we are stupid to think of hurting others, let alone actually doing so.

 

With this meditation strengthened we are truly able to give happiness to all beings.

 

c. Karmic quality. If we do not hate other beings, no harm is done either to them or to ourselves in retribution. This is "white" karma. Hating and harming only produce "black" results, and for such deeds we may fall into the hell states.

 

d. Time. How many beings in the past have already died without my having given them mercy? I must make the best use of the present to do this, making them all joyful. Thus I must continue into the future; in this way the meditator should think.

 

e. Correspondence. Neither subject nor object nor the happiness given by the practice of this meditation has any intrinsic self-natureall are interdependent.

 

f. According to function. If I practice the merciful mind, then the poison of hate will be eliminated.

 

g. Under practical realization we consider:

 

i. The quality of the Buddha's instruction: the merciful mind was taught by him, so we should base all our life on this.

 

ii. Comparative quality: realizing by repeated practice that there is in the absolute sense no friend and no foe.

 

iii. The direct quality of realization of merciful mind happens when one becomes like the Buddhas who possess the mind of great mercy (mahakaruna).

 

h. The reason of Bhutatathata. When realization is greatly advanced, one meditates upon the Dharma's nature of sunyata, in which neither friend nor enemy can be distinguished. With such an attainment the great mercy is just dependent on truth.

 

3. The Meditation on Dependent Origination or Conditioned Co-production (pratitya-samutpada). The sorrow of ignorance is combated by these meditations.

 

a. All the twelve spokes of this wheel of samsaraignorance, karmic formation, consciousness, name and form, six sense bases, contact, feeling, craving, grasping, becoming, rebirth, and old age and deathare impermanent. This is their self-nature.

 

b. Common to all of them is the fact that they are fetters, which keep people in subjection. They are opposed to freedom; if a person does not know their void nature but clings to them as though they were real, then he will suffer very much.

 

c. Karma. Without meditating upon dependent origination we do not know why we have come into samsara and have then no ability to escape, so we continue performing "black" karma. Meditating upon this wheel of twelve factors we gain knowledge of how to free ourselves from them. This is "white" karma.

 

d. Time. In the scheme of the twelve, three times are distinguished together with their effects: of the past upon the present, and of that in turn upon the future. Not knowing how this conditioning (but not predestination) works, ignorant people are trapped within the continuous flow of these times and actions.

 

e. Conditioned nature. Cause, effect, action, feelingall these conditions are interdependent and produce among them duhkha, suffering.

 

f. The function here is to destroy ignorance, and this is achieved by the practice of these meditations.

 

g. Practical realization:

 

i. This twelve-linked wheel is the main instruction of pratyekabuddhas. This is its instructional quality.

 

ii. The twelve conditions and the way they interact in the evolution of evil and the collecting of merit is the comparative quality.

 

iii. The direct quality of realization: if accomplished, then one gains the stage of pratyekabuddha; but if this is united with realization of mahasunyata, then one attains to the first level of the Bodhisattva path.

 

h. By reason of bhutatathata: because all beings are dependently originated and have no abiding self, therefore bhutatathata will be attained, since it too has no self.

 

4. The Meditation on the Discrimination of the Six Elements. As a cure for haughtiness, pride, conceit, or egocentricity, sorrows known by many names, this meditation is recommended.

 

a. Its self-nature is according to the individual natures of the elements: thus the earth-element possesses the nature of solidity, water of cohesion, fire of heat, air of motion, space of nothingness, and consciousness of knowing.

 

b. Our entire body is made up of these elements and everything else in the universe is formed from them. They are common to all phenomena, in none of which is a self to be found.

 

c. Karma. If one resolves the body into these elements one finds only qualities; without a self, how can pride arise? Absence of pride results in "white" karma, for one has become simple and humble. Without this meditation, one has thoughts such as: "I am very high, learned, and clever"this is pride, "black" karma.

 

d. Time. In the past only six elements came into the mother's womb, in the present the six elements continue; after death the six elements in the body will dissolve into Dharmadhatu.

 

e. Just as wood, plaster and glass by their correct arrangement make up a house, so the conditioned combination of the six interdependent elements results in a person.

 

f. If one can attain this meditation then self-pride will be destroyedthis is the function.

 

g. Practical realization:

 

i. The Buddha taught us to be humblethis is the instruction quality.

 

ii. If we compare a humble person with a proud one, the former benefits more from instruction than the latterthis is the comparative quality.

 

iii. When we have attained to the absence of pride and exhibit sameness of response toward everyone we meet, this shows the direct quality of our realization.

 

h. For the reason of bhutatathata: everything is gathered from elements devoid of self; in the Dharma-nature there is no self, so bhutatathata appears.

 

5. The Meditation on mindfulness of breathing. This is the cure for many doubts and distractions.

 

a. Inhalations and exhalations must be perceived properly as they truly are, whether long or short, gross or subtle. This is the meditation's self-nature.

 

b. Whether long or short, all breaths are impermanent, for if one breath goes out and another does not come in, then death takes place (unless one can stop the breath in samadhi). It is common for all life to depend on breath.

 

c. Karma. If one does not concentrate on breathing, then there are no reins to the mind. The distracted mind develops doubts, which result in actions of an evil nature, or "black" karma. When the breath is attended to, it becomes regular and subtle and the mind likewise is calmed: thus distractions, doubts and unskillful actions are banished and only "white" karma is committed.

 

d. Time can be measured not according to a clock but by the breath. Thus there are many time and breath doctrines in the Vajrayana and many sages who have been able to control time through their control of breath.

 

Mr. Chen illustrated this with a story:

 

The Siddha Virupa had such great powers. He had long practiced and perfected control of breathing. Coming one day without any money to a wine shop, he ordered drink after drink, until the shopkeeper grew impatient to see his money and demanded that he pay. Virupa answered that he would pay when the sun passed the angle of the glass he held in his hand. Meanwhile, he instructed the man to give him a continuous supply of drinks. For seven days the sun did not set, standing still in the heavens, unable to pass the angle of Virupa's glass. The king of that region was naturally most surprised and took counsel on what he should do. He was advised to see whether there were any specially saintly men in the locality. Search was made, and Virupa found, still drinking. The king paid his bill for him and after that the sun was at last able to set.

 

Mr. Chen briefly explained:

 

If the breath in the right yogic nerve channel(of which the sun is a symbol) is kept pressed down, then the suspended state produced in the yogi's body is reflected in corresponding events in the exterior world. Hence the sun was unable to set.

 

"This little story," said Mr. Chen smiling, "is just to enliven the discourse amid so many lists. It illustrates very nicely the dependence of the three times on the breath."

 

e. Function. If we meditate and count the number of the inhalations, then this prolongs life. We know thus that life depends on the breath, recognize the doctrine of impermanence, and so cut off doubts and distractions.

 

f. No person breathes: the breath just comes in and goes out without any real selfit is dependent on the conditions for life.

 

g. Practical realization:

 

i. As we have said, our life depends on breath, for if only one breath does not come in, then death occurs. It is the quality of the Buddha's personal instruction that the length of one's life is really the duration of one breath.

 

ii. By knowing the breath as long or short, whether going in or coming out, we gain the comparative quality.

 

iii. When one's breath stops and this corresponds to samatha, we may attain a deep samadhi of truththis is the direct quality.

 

h. Bhutatathata. Inhaling and exhaling, abiding and stoppingall are sunyata. Inhalation is bhutatathata and exhalation is bhutatathata; starting and stopping, all are Dharma-nature. If we follow this practice, then we too realize this nature.

 

H. Should All Five Meditations Be Practiced?

 

The question is whether they should be individually chosen according to one's own preferences or predominant sorrow.

 

Among the five sorrows, one may be especially strong in an individual, since everyone is not the same. These five practices should be varied according to the disease to be cured, and any predominant illness should be treated with a greater dose of the appropriate meditation. However, it is not wise to practice only one and to leave all the others, as an unbalanced character will result from such one-sided spiritual growth.

 

1. A Program for Practice of These Meditations

 

I have made a complete day-to-day program of six sittings for a hermit, and hope it may be of practical value to those devoting themselves full-time to meditation.

 

a. Early Morning Session: one sitting

Meditation: mindfulness of breathing

 

Why practice this in the morning? It is then when our energies are strong and these make for a distracted mind. Or, after having just awakened, a person may not be fully awake, which can cause sloth and torpor. This meditation helps overcome both these conditions. Also, the air in the early morning is very fresh and good, so that concentration on the breath is particularly beneficial. Its nature is such that it is easily related to both the important aspects of meditation development: both to the accumulation of merits (punya-sambhava) and to knowledge of voidness (jnana-sambhava).

 

Before Noon: first sitting.

Meditation: The merciful mindfor the development of merits.

Second sitting.

Meditation: The resolution of the elementsfor knowledge of voidness.

 

Afternoon: first sitting.

Meditation: the impurity of the bodyrelated to merits.

 

Between the hours of one and three, the lustful mind is strong, as the energy currents in the body are flowing downwards. The meditator should attend carefully to this practice during these hours in order that no downward flow of semen results.

 

Second sitting.

Meditation: Dependent Originationto penetrate voidness.

 

Night: One sitting.

Meditation: Again, mindfulness of breathing, as this is good for attaining samatha, for developing samapatti, and for aiding the meditator to get a good rest.

 

These instructions are for the person in whom the five poisons are about equal. Persons with pronounced greed or hatred should adapt this plan to their own needs.

 

"However," continued the yogi, "I do not agree with the six types of character taught by some Hinayana teachers (but not in the sutras). I have tried to find these in myself without conclusive success. Much easier to distinguish, it seems to me, is a scheme of four character types:

 

1. Quick-tempered (the breathing meditation is very beneficial);

2. Slow-tempered (impurity meditations are needed to counteract the greed and attachment) ;

3. Wise (the merciful mind should be practiced for proper balance) ; and

4. Merciful (the elements-meditation for wisdom)."

 

Finally, a word for those who cannot become full-time yogis. If one is only able to practice once a day, that should be in the early morning. Get out of bed, make sure that you are properly awake, and then sit down to meditate right after your worship. If it is possible to practice twice a day, then the early evening (dusk) is also a very good time.

 

Which meditations should such a person practice? He or she should practice in turn all five of those prescribed here, one on each day; on the two remaining days of the week, one should take up the meditations particularly useful against his or her strongest poisons.

 

I. The Exact Realization of These Meditations

 

In order to show precisely the different degrees of realization, each meditation is divided into three classes:

 

1. Impurity

 

a. Highest: In any attractive man or woman, the meditator can immediately see impurity and is not even aware of the slightest degree of beauty. He or she has this ability while going about in the world, not only during the time of meditation.

 

b. Middle: The meditator can only see impurity in samapatti but not when he has stopped his investigation.

 

c. Lowest: Impurity is only sometimes seen in a dream.

 

2. Merciful Mind

 

a. If one's mercy corresponds to sunyata, this is the highest degree of realization.

 

b. If one can cause some happiness for enemies, this is the middle degree.

 

c. If one is only able to reduce anger somewhat, this is the lowest degree.

 

3. Resolution of the Elements

 

a. When one has attained to perception of the egolessness of dharmas, this is the highest level.

 

b. When one sees the natural order of five elements in the body and identifies the elements as earth, water, fire, air, and space, such attainment is middling.

 

c. When there is only ability to harmonize fire and water elements for the prevention of sickness, this is the lowest attainment.

 

4. Dependent Origination

 

a. The highest: realization of the egolessness of the person.

 

b. Middle: realization of the appearance of the consciousness by the meditative force.

 

c. Lowest: the realization demolishing the false view of "my body" (satkayadrsti).

 

5. Breathing

 

a. When the out-breath stops and does not return, and also the movement of the inner energy is stilled, the highest level is attained.

 

b. When breath is stopped, but not the inner energy movements, this is the middle level.

 

c. When neither is stopped, but their number is counted slowly, regularly, and perfectly, the lowest level is reached.

 

It should by now not be necessary to say that all the various realizations given here come about only through personal practice. All these degrees of attainment are arranged according to my experience and are not cited from any sutra or sastra.

 

Originally, Mr. Chen had planned to include the subject matter of this chapter and that of the next together, but had changed his mind so that they might be expanded. Hence he said: "As to the question of how to meditate on the four mindfulnesses and with them make the transition from Hinayana to Mahayana, this is best left until our next talk."

 

There on the table lay the little skull: a reminder for us. We should not forget.

 

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