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Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?

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Once I heard someone say that we should pick one concentration object only and stick to it, because if one for example does nostril concentration for some time then drops that and goes to abdomen concentration instead then one would have to start over from square 1. In my experience that's not the case. At the beginning of summer 2014 I did general breath awareness, then from the end of summer through autumn I did scanning stuff and then this winter I went over to traditional nostril anapana which I still do. So I've tried a few different concentration objects, a few months with each one and concentration has slowly improved, with carry over from one object to the other.

Is this your experience, that concentrating at one thing, improves concentration at other things too? Do you think my concentration would have improved faster if I had stuck with one object all the time? If so, how much difference would it have made?

And btw, do you agree that concentration practice with other objects than metta itself makes it easier to develop metta?

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/20/15 4:48 AM as a reply to Pål.
howdy Pal,
its difficult to answer because if one changes the object (which i have done throughout my carreer) its difficult to have an opinion about NOT choosing that route: staying with one object throughout one's carreer.  the only way would be a statistical analysis IMO.

to the second part of your question there is the theorhetical / dogmatic answer that some would put forward that concentration states alone are enough to lead you to the ultimate conclusion that bodhicitta is the unavoidable truth and would therefore be an inevitable outcome of any deep practice.  i think that notion is debunked dogmatically in buddhism by differenciating between vipassana and shamata.

for my money, there is a reason that there IS a metta practice.  it is qualitatively different than the general shamata or vipasssana practice in that it does an "end around" and attempts to enrich those enlightened qualities directly as opposed to letting those qualities emerge as an out come or byproduct of a more generalized approach.

my take is that, at certain times in our development, metta practice is a directed practice to counterbalance some of the sharp corners that a purely technical practice can encourage and leads to a balancing of wisdom and compassion. this keeps up on the middle way.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/20/15 11:30 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
The reason I'm asking the second question is that I've read a sutta (Sankhita sutta) where the Buddha recommends that one starts with learning to enter the four jhanas focusing on the brahma viharas and only then one takes up Satipatthana and learns to enter the four jhanas through focusing on body, vedanas, mind and dhammas. But the noble eightfold path as it is described in numerous suttas seems to be accomplishable without any metta for anyone aside from one self. Maybe metta just makes the process faster. The reason I don't do metta in my formal practice other than a short affirmation at the beginning of a sit is that I can't decide which set of instructions to use and that most instructions (other than those in the suttas, which are pretty unclear) are so complicated. Seems like it would take a while to actually make it a concentration practice, while with anapana, the breath is already there to experience so I can start right away. 

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/20/15 1:16 PM as a reply to Pål.
I just posted something about life force continuation and I think that applies here. The problem with concentration is that the object itself is constantly evolving. So even if we reach something that feels like the pinaccle of nirvana, this too will change and that will effect our concentration. I feel like I have a lot more to learn personally from this area, and I think that any form of concentration will do, depending on the circumstances...

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/20/15 5:29 PM as a reply to Pål.
I don't think choosing different objects will really change anything.  If you notice your conce tration improving, you'll notice it has a lot more to do with not indulging in other mental noise than it even does with paying attention to the object.  A concentrated mind is just still - it doesn't really matter what it's still on.

There are different ways of meditating, though, and these will lead to different "mind releases" as the Buddha calls them. For example, metta or the other BVs lead to the immesurable mind-release. Concentration on nothingness leads to the signless mind-release. Concentration on the emptiness of self in all observable phenomena leads to the emptiness mind-release. The Buddha points to the unprovoked mind-release (a mind without desire, aversion, or obscuration) as the final goal, so the other mind-releases will lead there when used with right effort.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/21/15 8:01 AM as a reply to Pål.
I think that metta practice is just a good idea in general. Every night when on retreat at MCMB we would chant the long-version of metta practice after a long day of vipassana.

As fluency with one object grows and we get jhanas from it, it is easier to get jhanas off of other objects, as the jhana wiring is reinforced and we discover how to call them up and how attention and the like feel in those states.

When doing kasina practice and skill improves, it becomes easier and easier to convert the kasina to other kasinas. As mastery progresses, you can start to get color control, such that you can shift the colors to some other shade relatively easily and finally with great control. I was playing around with all sorts of fun combinations and subtleties, such as visualizing a blue dragon breathing red fire, then green fire, then golden fire, then white fire, then violet fire, etc. or making one half of my visual field green and the other half golden and subtly adjusting the shades of each until they went together just right, sort of playing an interior designer but really interior.

Further, as one gains the higher stages of the color kasina practice and things become 3D, the limited space kasina becomes easier.

Thus, the concentration practices do begin to make others easier in general.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/22/15 6:03 AM as a reply to Pål.
Thanks for the many good points here.

Some ideas I just posted elsewhere (in Metta - infusing tension withlight & compassion http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5681286#_19_message_5684498 adds further information, perspective.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/22/15 8:17 AM as a reply to Pål.
Google "right attitude for meditation U Tejaniya .pdf"

In response to the OP Pal saying: " I've tried a few different concentration objects, a few months with each one and concentration has slowly improved, with carry over from one object to the other. "

Point 22 from U Tejaniya "The object of attention is not really important; the observing mind that is working in the background to be aware is of real importance. If the observing is done with the right attitude, any object is the right object".

Sorry but having problems to create links with android.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/22/15 11:45 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Is this your experience, that concentrating at one thing, improves concentration at other things too?

It can, yes. And rightfully it should. That is the whole point about developing one's ability of concentration. To be able to hold the mind on an object (or mental subject) long enough to gain insight about that object.

Pål:
Do you think my concentration would have improved faster if I had stuck with one object all the time? If so, how much difference would it have made?

There is no "one size fits all" answer to this. It all depends upon the individual and what works well for him or her.

What I can say is that for myself, once I became clear about the purpose for developing concentration in the first place, I realized (had insight) that what was important was first to be able to calm and quiet the mind so that insightful thought or realization has a vacuum into which to unfold. Without a quiet mind, the mind is always being distracted from the purpose at hand, which is to realize the truth about the Dhamma that Gotama taught. Things like the four noble truths, the three characteristics of existence as they apply to phenomena we encounter on a moment to moment basis, the significance of being able to recognize the play of the five aggregates within our perception of phenomena in order to distinguish what is real from what is unreal or simply imagined or conditioned in our thinking and perception, and how this all comes together within Gotama's greatest insight: the teaching of paticca-samuppada or the dependent co-arising of phenomena within the mind and how that can affect one's perception of reality.

Having insight into every moment of your conscious perception (a practice Gotama called sati or mindfulness) allows you to begin to make changes to your mental conditioning such that you begin to eliminate false perceptions or mental defilements like greed, hatred, and delusion. If you can see the dependent co-arising of hatred, for instance, as it arises in the mind in response to a triggering event, then you can eliminate it much easier being able to see how it was nurtured and arose than if you were not aware of these mental mechanisms playing with the mind.

This is what the practice of satipatthana is all about: watching the effects of physicality on the body (rupa) and how we perceive (and sometimes react to) what is going on in the body; the affect of feeling (vedana) on how we perceive phenomenological events and how these can trigger conditioned mental defilements; the effect of one's mental state of mind or mind states(citta) and how it interacts with our perception of reality with regard to lust, anger and delusion; and how we perceive and deal with other phenomena (or dhammas) like the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six sense spheres, and the seven awakening factors (mindfulness or sati, investigation or dhammavicaya, energy or viriya, joy or piti, tranquility or passaddhi, concentration or samadhi, and finally equanimity or upekkha).

While it can seem like a tall order of which to become aware, once you begin to have some insight into one or the other of these phenomena, the rest begin to open up and become visible. That is, if you're able to pay attention to the insights which are occurring in the mind. And that ability begins with being able to quiet the mind (to quiet the mental distractions, the monkey mind, if you will) so that you can recognized these insights as they occur within the silence of a well controlled and disciplined mind.

Pål:
The reason I'm asking the second question is that I've read a sutta (Sankhita sutta) where the Buddha recommends that one starts with learning to enter the four jhanas focusing on the brahma viharas and only then one takes up Satipatthana and learns to enter the four jhanas through focusing on body, vedanas, mind and dhammas. But the noble eightfold path as it is described in numerous suttas seems to be accomplishable without any metta for anyone aside from one self. Maybe metta just makes the process faster.

Such recommendations in the suttas can change from individual to individual depending on how the instructor is able to gauge the success or failure of the student to perform the recommended instruction. This is why it is helpful to be under the tutelege of someone with experience who is able to make these determinations in real time in order to help enhance the student's learning experience. Sometimes these recommendations work for some people, and sometimes they do not. The bottomline is: You just have to experiment to see what works for YOU! Everyone is different, and possess different abilities.

Pål:
Seems like it would take a while to actually make it [that is, metta practice] a concentration practice, while with anapana, the breath is already there to experience so I can start right away.

There, you see. You make my point! Very insightful of you. Do whatever works best for you and stick with it.

In conjunction with this, what others have pointed out backs up the impressions I've mentioned here:

Not Tao:
I don't think choosing different objects will really change anything. If you notice your concentration improving, you'll notice it has a lot more to do with not indulging in other mental noise than it even does with paying attention to the object. A concentrated mind is just still - it doesn't really matter what it's still on.


Daniel M. Ingram:
As fluency with one object grows and we get jhanas from it, it is easier to get jhanas off of other objects, as the jhana wiring is reinforced and we discover how to call them up and how attention and the like feel in those states.


Piers M:
Point 22 from U Tejaniya "The object of attention is not really important; the observing mind that is working in the background to be aware is of real importance. If the observing is done with the right attitude, any object is the right object".

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/26/15 4:32 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thank you guys! I'm going to try to revive this thread now, the reason I haven't anwered is actually partially that I've had to think a lot abour what you've written.

it makes a lot of sense to me that in order to let go of the five hindrances and thus enter jhana any concentration on any object neutral enough not to evoke attraction or averaion should be enough. This could say a lot about what is meant with "sabba kaya" (here we go again emoticon ). If my it is the still awareness rather than the object that induces jhana then I see no reason to focus on the whole physical body or "all bodies" (entire physical+mental+air body) in particular, although there would be no problem with doing so. Rather I think that sabba kaya should be translated as whole body/process (of breathing), like Ajahn Brahm translates it. This is how I practice now, anyway.

What are your thoughts on this?

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/27/15 10:58 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:

If my it is the still awareness rather than the object that induces jhana then I see no reason to focus on the whole physical body or "all bodies" (entire physical+mental+air body) in particular, although there would be no problem with doing so.

Rather I think that sabba kaya should be translated as whole body/process (of breathing), like Ajahn Brahm translates it. This is how I practice now, anyway.

What are your thoughts on this?

Yes. That is exactly how I used it. Works just fine. While not straining awareness to be conscious of the whole body. Focusing attention on the body of the breath, I learned, helped to facilitate easy entery into dhyana.  And once you know what that feels like and how you accomplished it, you should be able to replicate it time and time again with ease! emoticon

But really, it all comes down to what works best for the individual practitioner. Thanissaro likes to teach it as focusing on the whole body because that's how he was taught, while for myself and Ajahn Brahm, we find that focusing on the three phases of the breath-body can work equally as well. So, take your pick and happy meditating.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/27/15 10:20 PM as a reply to Ian And.
If it doesn't matter how an instruction, which completely changes the practice if you change the translation, is translated, then why would the Buddha have given it in the first place? Why is it in the suttas, why doesn't the first tetrad just say "establish your attention at the breath"? 

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
2/28/15 11:41 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
If it doesn't matter how an instruction, which completely changes the practice if you change the translation, is translated, then why would the Buddha have given it in the first place? Why is it in the suttas, why doesn't the first tetrad just say "establish your attention at the breath"? 


I've already answered this question. You just are not hearing itl

You are asking too many irrelevant questions. And drawing unnecessary conclusions without fully understanding the context.

The context is: what works for you, personally. That is the only context you should be looking at.

The suttas are not only an authentic source of information and instruction, but the use of language to communicate that which is mutable (liable to change) is a dead communication devise that can be easily misunderstood by those who read the instructions. Once a person has experience with these matters, their intuition tells them what is true.

Try a method. If it works for you, stick with it. If not, then try another. One size does not fit all! Gotama understood this. The fact that he understood this comes through in the suttas if you read enough of them in context.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
3/1/15 11:58 AM as a reply to Ian And.
I've probably said it before, but "what works" is pretty unclear, and I figure it must be so for experienced meditators too. What works must be synonymous to what developes the bojjhangas, right? That is still very unclear. Take Piti for example. According to Thanissaro there is Piti when a pleasant sensation spreads accross the body. According to Brahm it's completely beyond the senses and there is no experience of the body when it is occuring as an enlightenment factor. Or so I've understood it. This shows that it's pretty hard to know for sure what works and that changes in practice style that comes from the different interpretations of parts of the meditation instructions in the suttas can give very different results. 

Btw, another reason I like the "whole process" translation of sabba kaya is that it opens up for many different styles if practice.

RE: Anapana improves kasina improves metta improves x etc?
Answer
3/1/15 3:09 PM as a reply to Pål.
Thank you and thanks to the monastics, I'm going to sign up today emoticon

edit: the last thing that still makes me hesitate is that they ask for my complete name. Not that I don't want then to know, but I don't want people googeling me to think I'm buddhist, partly because of proffesional reasons actually.  

I read another thread there about Goenka though and it seems that Ajahn Brahmali doesn't know very much about that tradition. But maybe some other monastics around do. Some other members writing on the thread did but they didn't seem to know anything about samadhi.