Different Meditation techniques

Lately I was in a Sri Lankan meditation centre which follows some technique of ‘noting’ everything during meditation perhaps Burmese tradition? I didn’t find these things in Suttas or am I wrong ?
And I was not much encouraged to develop deep stillness in meditation but rather label things continuously arising in mind, I haven’t done this practice before but rather learned mostly by Ajahn Brahm meditation books and talks and don’t know if Buddha advocated such practices?

And sharing this brilliant article by Aj Bramali
http://cms.bodhinyana.org.au/2016/02/satipaṭṭhana-and-samadhi-by-ajahn-brahmali/

1 Like

Hi Shivam

It is stated in Maha-satipatthana Sutta [DN22]

"Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’

"Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns, ‘I am walking.’ When standing, he discerns, ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, he discerns, ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, he discerns, ‘I am lying down.’ Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it.

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or focused externally… unsustained by anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself.

sounds like Vipassana meditation, which is kind of mainstream :slightly_smiling:
although i didn’t read Visuddhimagga, i think this is where this technique originates

according to the Satipatthana sutta (MN 10, DN 22) it seems phenomena don’t have to be verbally labelled (if this what’s meant by ‘noting’), as is customary for Vipassana meditation method, but only discerned

translating some suttas i noticed that in Pali such a concept as complex and compound sentence isn’t very developed and because of that direct speech is employed to connect clauses which are expression of verbal and mental phenomena: speech, thought, knowledge, hopes, memories, to the effect that instead of “he discerns, THAT he is breathing in long” the authors word the idea as “he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’” which to us gives an impression that a meditator should mentally verbalize their experience and not simply acknowledge it. (sorry, quite a primitive articulation)

that said, verbalization is still helpful in gaining better concentration at the beginning

1 Like

Hi Shivam

Are you saying noting verbally? No, you don’t have to. If you want to develop concentration, Sila (Morality) should be filled first.

Ajahn Brahmali’s article is also stated as well.

In the threefold division of the Buddhist Path, into sīla (virtue), samādhi, and paññā (wisdom), satipaṭṭhāna is classified under samādhi, not under paññā:

1 Like

Yes, for me it sounds much like S.N. Goenka’s method.

Techniques will vary over time, at this point in history the ‘noting’ way is becoming more and more popular.

If you look into Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu’s system, this is the way he does it, which is the way his teacher Ajaan Tong Sirimangalo teaches it too.

At first I was not very happy with it as it required for me to be in a more ‘thinking’ mode than in a ‘meditation’ mode, at least that is how I felt, but with time I grew to like it.

And yes, I eventually let go of the actual use of the word and I now ‘notice’ more than verbally label them.

I always recommend for each person to try different styles hopefully with the help of a teacher and let the teacher guide them. The Buddha was very ‘loose’ in his instructions, maybe because of this reason, because each person will learn different from the next and there is no ‘one size fits all’ in this.

4 Likes

As others have said, this is a very common method (“Mahasi approach”). It is taught by Mahasi Sayadaw’s meditation centres in Burma, and his students such as U Pandita and Chanmayay Sayadaw. The approach became very popular in Sri Lanka (probably in the 50’s and 60’s) and Thailand in the 80s.

It is the basis for much (but not all) of what is marketed as secular “Vipassana” or “Insight Meditation” in the West. The U Ba Khin/Goenka approach is another Burmese approach. That is rather different.

Other teachers, such as Ajahns Brahm, Sujato, Pa Auk Sayadaw, etc, teach a more absorbed samadhi approach.

There are a huge variety of meditation approaches in Asia. Only a few have become popular in the West.

To get some idea of the variety, I recommend James Baraz’s has a series of talks that are based on Jack Kornfield’s book Living Dharma (formerly LIving Budddhist Masters):
http://www.amazon.com/Living-Dharma-Teachings-Meditation-Instructions/dp/1590308328

The book covers 12 modern meditation teachers from Burma and Thailand (most of whom are not longer living, hence the title change…),
In his talks: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/86/?search=buddhist+master+series, Baraz adds some of his own experience with these teachers, as do some of the audience. He also gives some short guided meditations on each approach.

These talks (or the book) are worthwhile in dispelling the notion that there are only one or two “normal” meditation practices. Here we have Sunlun Sayadaw’s heavy breathing (and heroic sitting), Ajahn Naeb’s attention to postures as a route to understanding dukkha, and teachers who focus on body, feelings, mind, etc…

And though he’s not in Kornfield’s book, a later talk from Baraz on U Tejaniya http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/86/?search=tejaniya is in the same vein.

As far as what is “best”, I agree with Patrick Kearney, whose retreat talks Audio | Dharma Salon usually contain something also these lines:

So when we talk about method we are talking about the systematic training of attention. If I’m going to pay attention I have to have some method. And ther are multiple methods available. We quickly worked out five just for looking to see who is in the room. [This refers to an earlier discussion of possible ways of scanning the room.]

And these are the various meditation techniques in the spiritual supermarket. And I think it’s important to understand that there isn’t one true technique, any more than there is any such thing as the one true washing powder. It doesn’t exist, but the marketeers will tell you that only one washes whiter than white, and you get exactly the same phenonenon in the spiritual world: “Oh yes, meditation is very good for you but only this one will get you enlightened.”

As meditators it is important to understand that this is completely nonsense [Patrick, being Australian, uses stronger language…]. The job of the pracitioner is not to discover the one true technique. It’s your job to discover the method that works best for you. And it’s not necessarily the method that works best for the teacher. What the teacher is teaching is usually what worked for him or her. But it’s not necessarily what works for you.

8 Likes

2 thumbs up for that.

1 Like

Perhaps, but this needs some important provisos. First, this does not mean that any method that gives you some positive results is ok. Believing in God might make you feel better, at least for a while, but in the long run it will let you down. From a Dhamma point of view, the eightfold path works for everyone, at least if you apply it correctly. And the eightfold path is best expressed by the Buddha himself in the earliest Buddhist texts. So if you want something that will work for you in the long run and that will give the results promised by the Buddha, then it is essential to follow the earliest teachings as closely as possible.

Second, how do we decide what works? This is actually explained by the Buddha in a number of places (e.g. MN17 and MN114). If what you do leads to a decline in unwholesome qualities and an increase in wholesome qualities, then it works. Again, this needs to be true in the long term.

Moreover, the Buddha gives fairly clear teachings on how to overcome various problems, such as anger and desire. Sometimes we just need to apply these teachings consistently for a long period of time to get real results. Consistency and perseverance normally pays off. The “whatever works” idea may perhaps be taken to imply that frequently changing methods and shopping around in the spiritual marketplace is always a good idea.

10 Likes

Bhante, thank you very much for your comments, I agree completely.

In my country people is fairly new to trying new things and religions and I feel that in general we are in the ‘feels good’ face and not in the ‘this is actually working’ face. As you point out, this should be based on wholesome qualities, not just short term ‘feel good’ perceptions.

I recently started a meditation group and the people who are coming are mostly the ones who like to try new things, Buddhist meditation is really new in here, and they are nice people who are looking for something that actually works, but people who have been raised in a world of nice appropriate words and rituals that will sell better than techniques that focus on a real path. I know it because it happened to me too, I had to look for a path beyond that superficial stage and settle with something that was sometimes more boring, but that seemed to have a better future in terms of personal growth.

I honestly appreciate your words because they help me focus on my personal journey and with this meditation group. I will look into those suttas too.

Best regards,
Felipe

2 Likes

Hi Bante,

Of course this is wise advice. However, one has to consider the context of Patrick’s comment. He was, of course, talking about reputable Buddhist practices, and the suttas (and, therefore, modern teachers) do provide a variety of approaches.

Regarding the question:

I suggest reading AN4.41 and AN4.94, which describes different modes of development.

Fair enough. But my comments are valid also for “reputable Buddhist practices.” Even with the suttas some degree of caution is required, since not everything is likely to be the word of the Buddha.

Ok, but in both these cases samatha forms part of the practice. It is still encouraged.

2 Likes

Hi Bhante,

No, but there are, of course, a variety of opinions about which are and are not, and which additions (every teacher makes additions, noone just reads out a few suttas and tells their students to get on with it… ) are consistent with the suttas.

I’ve not had experience with any teachers who actively discourage the development of samatha, though perhaps there are some. But different teachers do suggest developing different aspects in different orders, which seems consistent with AN4.94.

how then one is to distinguish which is the Word and which isn’t? is this even possible or practicable? :slightly_smiling:

Yes, it is possible, at least to some degree. The most obvious suttas that are not the word of the Buddha are those that are specifically said to be spoken by others. Then there are suttas where the events are said to happened after the Buddha’s passing away, such as the Bakkula Sutta, MN124 (Ven. Analayo has a nice study of this sutta, which you can find here). Then you have the narrative aspects of every sutta, which obviously was added some time after the sutta was spoken, the traditional account being that it was added at the first council. Then there are suttas that have a varying number of literary indication that they are late. A good example of this is the Anupada Sutta, MN111, which Bhante Sujato and I studied in The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts. A number of suttas suffer from similar problems as MN111, such as MN117, which has also been studied by Ven. Analayo, see The Dawn of the Abhidhamma. In general there is a lack of good research in this area, and so what I have mentioned here is likely to be just the tip of an iceberg.

Ven. Nyanaponika, one of the best known Western Buddhist scholar monks of the 20th century, is supposed to have said that in reading the suttas one should rely on the vast amount of material that is repeated numerous times throughout the suttas, instead of relying on spurious readings or curious deviations from the norm. Too many sutta discussions are based on unusual passages that often allow a number of different interpretations. Ven. Nyanaponika said that such passages should be interpreted in line with the more mainstream teachings. I regard this as very good advice.

But the main thing is to enjoy reading them!

10 Likes

Yes, this is an important point. Every sutta reading is really just the latest commentary on that sutta. Such commentaries are sometimes very useful, but for anyone who is a really serious student of the Dhamma, nothing can compare with reading the original text.

3 Likes

OK, you refer to it as the Word of the Buddha by convention actually meaning the earliest literary stratum, because whether the ideas in question do originate with the historical Buddha Gotama i think is impossible to establish, so in the aspect of authenticity it’s probably the degree of likelihood of stemming from the historical figure which texts differ in

I think we can say that the main ideas of early Buddhism with high probability stem from the historical Buddha. You may enjoy this.

2 Likes

In a wonderful talk at Insight Meditation Center, the venerable Bhikkhu Analayo goes into great depth exploring the origins and impacts of three major teachers of modern Buddhist meditation. In the very beginning he directly addresses the practice of “noting” as taught by Mahasi Sayasdaw. There is lots of group interaction, questions and of course Bhikkhu Analayo’s penetrating and clear presentation of the Buddha’s teachings with respect to three modern traditions. I highly recommend listening to this talk and following along with the provided PDF notes.

Here is the link:

4 Likes

i actually read your work, and i don’t dispute the contention of the EBT corpus being authentic, but i don’t remember that it addressed the question of the link between the person and the ideas attributed to him, was i being inattentive?