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Bhikkhu Bodhi—Four Protective Meditations—2016

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#1

A free 5-part series on the paritta (protective, safeguard) meditations. Tricycle has a subscription based course in which they describe these meditations in the following way.

From the wide range of meditation subjects found in the Buddha’s discourses, the ancient teachers of the Theravada tradition have selected four subjects and grouped them into a set known as “the four protective meditations”: recollection of the Buddha, the meditation on loving-kindness, contemplating the unattractive nature of the body, and mindfulness of death. The four are called “protective meditations” because each offers protection from a particular unwholesome tendency and reinforces a beneficial quality essential to the path. The four can be developed either as a preparation for a more intensive type of meditation or as independent subjects.

The protective meditations were included in an anthology called the Catubhāṇavārapāḷi (alt/pdf) that was originally made as a handbook for newly ordained monks. Since then, it has also become a “Buddhist bible” in some homes.


#2

Could these be considered basic to everyone’s practice?


#3

These meditations as a group relate particularly to beginners because they develop qualities essential to establishing a practice. Recollection of the Buddha develops the faculty of faith which is called the seed, and is the preliminary quality of practice, so this meditation is particularly applicable to beginners who have not yet experienced any tangible effect of practice. Then investigation is necessary so that faith is rooted in understanding. The five spiritual faculties, faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, should be in balance for a healthy practice. One of the most common causes of imbalance is an excess of concentration resulting in a deficit of wisdom.

One of the benefits of the recollection of death is to establish a sense of urgency in the practice, which is particularly applicable to beginners.

The recollection of the thirty two parts of the body and the brahma vihara of loving kindness are effective in countering the two most common hindrances, sensual desire and hatred.

Apart from their grouping as protective meditations, these four meditations are representative of a larger group of subsidiary themes which are used to steady or inspire the mind as a preliminary to meditation, according to the third foundation of mindfulness, where the mind can be “constricted” on the one hand, or “scattered” on the other (SN 47.10). For example the recollection of death can be used to inject a sense of urgency and awaken a listless mind, or the recollection of death or the thirty two parts of the body can be used to steady a mind subject to the agitation of sensual desire.