by Dr Padmaka Silva – Compiled with instructions by Ven Nawalapitiye Ariyawansa Thero
Suppose you are practising the Metta meditation. Don’t go to the meditation state at once. Now we are thinking of doing a difficult action. When thinking of doing something difficult what have we got to do to make it successful? The mind must like to do it because it is done with the mind. We must make the mind agree to do it. If there is no agreement it cannot be done. What have we got to make the mind like it?
We must think of the good aspect of it. That is a strategy. Before commencing the practising of Metta Bhavana think “I must practise meditating on Metta. It is something explained to us by Lord Buddha. This meditation gives rise to a lot of merit. The merit is enormous. When I remain with a mind like this it is good for me. Good for others also. It is a good thing to remain with a mind of Metta towards all. If I live with a mind of spreading friendliness my mind gets one pointed. Concentration arises.
That will exist for my benefit. It will help me to attain Nibbana. Therefore I must live with a mind of Metta. I must live after generating the mind of Metta. I must practice that mind of Metta”. After that slowly get on to focusing attention relevant to Metta Bhavana. Now we have generated mindfulness, we are remaining in that mindfulness, we have generated a liking for meditation and slowly commence practicing the relevant meditation. Then we get the opportunity to practice that meditation successfully.
Having commenced in this manner we do not perform the entire meditation at one stretch. Suppose the meditation is for half an hour. It may not be possible to do it for half an hour at one stretch. Therefore we practice little by little.
We practice by meditating for a short while. After practicing for a short while we get away from that meditation. How do we get away? By stopping attention for it. Think “I am waking up from my concentration”. When you say you are waking up from the concentration it does not mean that there is a concentration. We are just practising.
Concentration means one pointedness of the mind. It is the one pointedness of a wholesome mind. We are now practising it. We are practising to achieve concentration. We are also practising waking up from concentration. We are doing it from the beginning. Do not check whether there is concentration or not. We are practising it from the beginning. We then leave out the attention on the meditation and think “I am waking up from concentration”. The mind then returns to the normal state.
We can then open our eyes and wake up from meditation. Before waking up we can think “I did something mentioned by the Buddha. I practised something preached by the Buddha. It is good for me. It is of benefit to me. I accumulated merit. It is good for others also. I did something good. I got used to doing something good”. That means we thought of the good aspect before meditating and also after meditating. Then we appreciate what we have done. There is no disappointment about it. Try to practice in that manner.
As time goes on we can gradually increase the time taken for meditating. Many people at the commencement of meditating think “Today I will develop concentration. Today I will carry on for one hour”. That is how we commence. But leave alone one hour we cannot carry on even for half an hour or sometimes even for five minutes. Sometimes we would have fallen asleep. But how was it commenced? “Today I will attain concentration. Today I will stay on for one hour”. That is how we think. But it is not possible to conclude in the way it was started. Then what happens? They think “Oh shameful. Today it was a failure. It is a great misfortune. I do not have merit. Those chaps are doing well. It is not working for me. There is no use. The entire half an hour was wasted”. Does it happen that way? It does.
Now see. Irrespective of whether it is half an hour or five minutes we practiced a good thing. After that, were we happy about it? No. We start insulting what we did. We think “Shameful. What did I do today? Useless. The entire half hour was wasted. It is not going to work for me”. When we think this way we are not satisfied with what we did. If a person is not satisfied with what he has done will he be happy? No. As such he will not be able to attain concentration. He is not satisfied with what he has done. He is not even satisfied with himself. Happiness does not get generated in him. He cannot reach a concentration. After some time he thinks “This does not work for me. It does not develop in me. I do not have enough merit”. His mind gets covered with such thoughts. Because he is not satisfied with what he did. He cannot reach the Dhamma.
Suppose we were sleeping during the entire five minutes. Even then think “I tried to practice something preached by the Buddha. It is a gain for me. It is a gain for the others too! I will be able to practice this someday or other. My effort was not wasted. I thought of doing something preached by Lord Buddha. I commenced doing it with a wholesome intention. This will not be of unfavourable consequences”. Then you become satisfied with what you have done. You become satisfied with yourself also. Your mind becomes delighted. You think “I did something good. I did something good for me. My activity is of benefit to others also”. You are delighted with what you did. The point is not whether what was done is successful or not. What matters is whether you could be delighted with what was done.
Physical and mental pains
Many people are concerned as to whether what was done is successful or not. They do not consider whether they could be satisfied with it. They do not develop a satisfaction from it. If what was done is to be really successful they should be clever enough to develop some satisfaction from what was done. Some people are impressed by meaningless things. They are not impressed by meaningful things. This is the nature of the ordinary man. Suppose we go on a picnic. We exert ourselves. Spend money. Get tired. We develop physical and mental pains. But we come back and enjoy thinking about what we did. Such a situation exists in the ordinary world.
They enjoy doing meaningless things. Enjoy thinking of them. But they do not enjoy practicing what thee Buddha preached them to do. They are not happy after practicing such things. In my opinion that is the major obstacle in the way to our progress. The biggest hindrance preventing us from developing Dhamma and meditation is our not being satisfied with what we perform. Not being happy about what we do. We seek results. We commence with a lot of expectations. That means we start with desire. Start with covetousness. Finish with sorrow. It is mentioned in Dhamma that one should commence after getting rid of Abhijja Domanassa (covetousness and sorrow). We must meditate after leaving them out. But what we in fact do is retaining and developing them. Along with the commencement of meditation we develop Abhijja. Having finished we develop sorrow.
We cannot even get near a meditation leave aside developing a meditation. What is being done is something that shouldn’t be done. I hope you have understood.
Therefore at the commencement of meditation give up all unnecessary expectations. You must think “I must practice something useful. I must practice this meditation”. Having thought so think of its beneficial effects. Thereafter your mind will like it. The mind will like that merit. Then meditate for a short while and get practice. After that the mind starts liking it. When it is done little by little the mind likes it. After finishing recollect what you did thinking that “A good thing has been done”. It may or may not be successful. Never mind. The success or failure is not dependent on whether it was successful on that particular occasion. Success or failure depends on whether you were satisfied or not about what was done by you. Even if what was done was successful at that time it becomes unsuccessful if one was not satisfied at that time. If one was satisfied about it at that time even though the activity was a failure it will be helpful for success in future. Why? You are doing something good. You are practising something preached by the Buddha. Is it not correct?
When we practice in that manner it becomes possible to increase the duration little by little. Then day by day moment by moment we become satisfied with what we do. We become delighted. Then we practice meditation from morning till night. We are pleased with what we practiced. He thinks “I am practicing what Lord Buddha has preached. I am attempting to practice. It is good for me. Good for others. It results in benefit for me. It causes benefit to my mind. I am practising something that improves the mind”. When one thinks in that manner he becomes pleased with what he has done. He is with an awakened mind. He proceeds towards progress day by day.
This is the manner to progress when practicing meditation. Therefore without an idea of what we are doing or how it is done, don’t jump on the bandwagon and start racing. That is meaningless. The objective starts receding from us. We approach something meaningless. Therefore in order not to leave room for us to become unsuccessful you must think in the way I have explained. If you practice in that manner you will be able to make a success of this opportunity that has come our way. Therefore we bless everyone to be bestowed with the fortune, energy and ability to practice listening to Dhamma, Dhamma discussions, Samatha and Vipassana in order to relate to their lives the Dhamma preached by the Buddha.
This article has been taken from DailyNews online edition.