Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Concentrating the Mind to Remove Hindrances

Todays journal entry is on Traditional Buddhist Meditation. The focus of this entry is on Concentrating the Mind. As written and taught in many of my classes throughout the years the importance of Meditation and connecting to tradition cannot be underestimated. Qigong is a modern adaptation to selections of the Taoist and Buddhist Tradition. Its not for everyone, but one cannot deny the depth of skills found within these practice systems. In Traditional Buddhist Meditation, the practice of concentrating the mind is known as Samatha (Serenity). Samatha removes the Five Hindrances (Nãvaraõa) and prepares the mind for Wisdom (Vipassanà) meditation. The Five Hindrances are attachment to sensual desire, ill-will, inactivity or sleepiness, anxiety or restlessness, and doubt. Our mind is accustomed to drifting from object to object in the outside world. Concentrating the mind and bringing it inward does require effort, but the mind cannot be forced. Therefore, the Buddha taught various concentration methods/skills.

Concentration Methods/Skills

Within Traditional Buddhist Spiritual Traditions, it is taught that the Buddha taught "forty concentration" skills for meditation; for calming the mind. They are the ten recollections (Anussati), ten meditations on impurities (Asubha), ten complete objects (Kasiõa), four immaterial absorptions (Aråpajhàna), four divine abidings (Brahmavihàra), one perception (âhàre patikålasaññà) or contemplation of the impurity of material food, and one defining contemplation  (Vavatthàna) on the Four Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air).

The Ten Anussati or recollections are: 

(1) Buddhà-nussati or recollection of the virtues of the Buddha
(2) Dhammà-nussati or recollection of the virtues of the Dhamma
(3) Sanghà-nussati or recollection of the virtues of the Sangha
(4) Sãlà-nussati or recollection of the duties of morality
(5) Càgà-nussati or recollection of generosity
(6) Devatà-nussati or recollection of celestial beings
(7) Mara-õassati or recollection of death
(8) Kàya-gatàsati or mindfulness of the body
(9) ânàpànasati or mindfulness of breathing
(10) Upasamà-nussati or recollection of Nibbàna or peace.

The ten impurities or kinds of foulness (Asubha) are:

 (1) The bloated
 (2) The livid
 (3) The festering
 (4) The cut-up
 (5) The gnawed
 (6) The scattered
 (7) The hacked and scattered
 (8) The bleeding
(9) The worm-infested
(10) A skeleton

The ten Kasiõa or complete objects are:
(1) Earth
(2) Water
(3) Fire
(4) Wind
(5) Space (âkàsa)
(6) Light (âloka-kasiõa)
(7-10) the four colors or Vaõõa-kasiõa (blue, yellow, red, and white)

The four divine abodes or Brahmavihàra are loving kindness (Mettà), compassion (Karuõà), sympathetic joy (Mudità), and equanimity (Upekkhà).

A student of Buddhist Meditation teachings can select any one or combination of these forty meditation subjects, according to ones own character. For example, Kasiõa concentration is very suitable for those with sensual desire, restlessness of mind, or inclination toward anger, hatred or ill will.

For those whose habits areintellectual thought, devotion or delusion, mindfulness of breathing (ânàpànasati) and recollection of Buddha’s virtues (Buddhà-nussati) are most suitable.


  •  The forty are listed in the Visuddhi-magga. Some teachers maintain that only 38 were specified by the historical Buddha and that two were added later. If you would like a copy of this work, its a nice large ebook written through the Theravada Council ~  email me at Taozahnchi@gmail.com
  • This short journal entry is based on teachings from Theravada; which uses original Pali terms and concepts of Traditional Buddhism. They are shared teachings even in Mahayana with minor differences and dialects. All the credit goes to my teachers and Mentors for allowing me access to their Notebooks and personal teachings.   
For further Study on Buddhist Meditation below are very excellent self guides if one cannot find a teacher, community or temple.

Zen is for Everyone by Su Lao Shr (Michael Saso)
The Essential of Buddhist Meditation by Bhikshu Dharmamitra (book I)
The Six Dharma Gates to the Sublime by Bhikshu Dharmamitra (book II)
The Sweet Dews of Chan by Ajari Chen Kuan


Saturday, October 18, 2014

 Practice is Key in Anything!

Recently I certified a student in one of the traditions I teach; it was a real joy since the student earned every inch of it from practice, hard work, and personal study. They took regular group classes along with private sessions and attended weekend study workshop's throughout the last 15 months. I never look to "mission-size" what I teach for the public, but every now and then you find students that hold potential for the better good of the community. So I pour my experience into them and hope for the best they will last the long training ride! Then wha-la you have a new member of the tradition that can spread the tradition for the betterment of people seeking health salvation.   

 We live in age where people pay a fee to learn a traditions and sometimes expect instant results. It does not work that way in these traditions. The price you pay no matter what the price is providing you access to apprentice in the teachers life traditions and approach. What is most worthwhile and meaningful cannot be accomplished in a weekend or a few months.  True achievement is accomplished through years of dedicated practice and study, under the guidance of a teacher who also practices daily and studies and has achieved through many years of dedication and discipline the true essence of their given Art.

In Qigong Practice, the practice reveals it's knowledge over time through a process of energy enlightenment. Different levels of this knowledge come through when the person's mind, spirit and body are ready. Study is also important to gain insight into the vast knowledge available, through different master teachers,  who through the process have received energy knowledge, evolved it and offered their unique insight into the understanding of energy healing for the self and others. This rich knowledge has been contributed to over 1000's of years by the many teachers and masters of the past.

Wisdom here is that focusing on the discipline of practice, internalize the instruction that is given verbally in class.  Over time as the person attends classes and practices at home, they will learn more and more about the particular set/tradition being offered in the class.The classes are offered this way to encourage the discipline of practice and reveal the benefits of studying heart-to-heart with a teacher and also the benefits of practicing in a group. Once the student has shown dedication and genuine desire to learn by attending classes and practicing daily, they may, if they so desire after one year be introduced to higher instruction.

Those advanced students who have shown dedication and discipline of practice may through an agreement between teacher and student receive certification as a qi gong instructor.

The Certificate is only as good as the practitioner makes it; having credentials does not give a sense to stop learning pondering and trying to refine what they know. The best Sages I have known in life are the ones who don't stand on their "Scholarly Title and affiliations" but know the practice from living the tradition. As the old saying goes "You cannot cook anything from talk"; and "words and thoughts will pull you further away from the Tao".  The overall thought here today is focus on practice, because without it you cannot experience anything that all the great sages have recorded. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Meditation Notes

For all who seek to understand reality or the true meaning of life as well as those who seek inner purification. Wisdom and Virtue develop hand-in-hand this is in essence the teaching of Centering Meditation Tradition. As a student progresses beyond the distortions of the passions, insight sharpens and understanding deepens.
Meditation does not require blind faith.

 You do not have to believe in the practice systems or Asia to benefit from it. It is a method for training the mind to become concentrated and aware, focused inward at the center of the body. With practice, you will encounter new experiences for yourself and will develop confidence. The Taoist & Buddhist Centering Tradition for the most part share similar aspects approach to meditation. I say don't be close minded use the best of both worlds, everyone can for sure try and be less wrong from previous times in their practice. The more open we are the richer the comparative traditions can develop.

 Some give affinity to certain historical teachers ones does not really know for sure. Its ones of these things in Asia that has always existed and always will.  Whatever the school of choice, technique leads the practitioner directly along the path to enlightenment and emancipation by combining concentration and insight meditation skills.  It is thus, extremely focused and effective. Meditation begins with turning the powers of observation and awareness inward. We are accustomed to perceiving the outside world, but introspection requires special effort. Often times today we are drowning  in technology and science; and we have prided ourselves on “objectivity” while remaining largely unaware of inner biases. Traditional scientific objectivity required isolation from the object observed. Since quantum mechanics was introduced, science has recognized that we are part of the world we perceive and what we see depends on how we look at it. Meditation is like polishing a lens to enable us to see more clearly. Skill in meditation develops the ability to perceive experience directly without the distortions implicit in conceptualization.

 Many of us turn to meditation because of health reasons or dissatisfaction with life. This is the universally experienced sadness / suffering / tension on which Orthodox Buddhism base the Four Noble Truths. 

But, this motivation to ease tensions or cope with anxieties is only a starting point. Many meditation techniques will provide relief on this worldly level, but the beauty of "Centering Meditation Traditions" is that it leads directly upwards from this point to more and more refined, purer and purer levels of awareness. The effectiveness of  Centering Meditation approach derives from focusing attention at the center of the body and combining three meditation techniques simultaneously. Some people often debate the efficacy of concentration versus insight.

The Centering Tradition employs elements of both. Higher and higher levels of concentration enable personal insight to progress from a more worldly view to Right Understanding and ultimately to supra-mundane Right Wisdom.

To close this entry I would recommend anyone interested in Meditation to find a teacher or a group that understands the centering tradition and begin to practice with them. There is nothing like hands on experience to where you can interact with a real teacher or group of like minded practitioners. More to continue in thew future.

Gary W Abersold