Meditation. How to start

Hello. Would you please direct me to any sutta that will be a good start to get to know more on meditation (topics I am interested in: how it works, what are the benefitis, what is gives, how to start as total beginner)?

I would really appreciate any help you can provide.

Kind regards
Gosia

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Hi Gosia,

In my opinion, a beginner should start from the beginning. And in EBTs the path begins not with meditation/stillness but with the causes and conditions for it to take place: right view, right thought/attitude, right speech, right choices/actions and right livelihood.

These five things should set the ground for right effort/endeavour to gain strength, which in turns will make one’s heart more and more open to right mindfulness which serves as the solid foundation for right stillness Buddhist meditation is all about.

Note as well that just like meditation is not the beginning of the path it is not as well it’s end. The right sort of stillness advocated by the Buddha in EBTs should lead to the gain of a profound knowledge and vision of the causes of suffering, which in turn would give a precise idea of what is to be let go for suffering to naturally cease.

All that said, meaningful EBTs I wish I had read back when I was a younger sort of beginner are: AN10.2 / AN11.2, MN117, MN118, MN139

Last but not least, mind that SuttaCentral’s Discuss & Discover focus is not exactly a space to discuss the practice of Buddhism:

Dear Gosia,
the different stages and aspects of meditation need to be practiced, and are attained in the context of a coherent holistic path, according to the Buddha’s teaching. A convenient and comprehensive scheme is the one of virtue (sīla), concentration or meditation (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā). So let me outline in more detail accordingly, though thereby I also refer to exegetical material, and not just sutta alone.

A discourse which illustrates the detailed and process-like nature of this path runs as follows:

Thus, Ānanda, (1)–(2) the purpose and benefit of wholesome virtuous behavior is non-regret; (3) the purpose and benefit of non-regret is joy; (4) the purpose and benefit of joy is rapture; (5) the purpose and benefit of rapture is tranquility; (6) the purpose and benefit of tranquility is pleasure; (7) the purpose and benefit of pleasure is concentration; (8) the purpose and benefit of concentration is the knowledge and vision of things as they really are; (9) the purpose and benefit of the knowledge and vision of things as they really are is disenchantment and dispassion; and (10) the purpose and benefit of disenchantment and dispassion is the knowledge and vision of liberation. Thus, Ānanda, wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. (AN X, 1)

This classification fits in with all other usual classifications of the path such as the seven factors of enlightenment (satta bojjhaṅgā) and the noble eight-fold (or ten-fold) path (ariya aṭthaṅgika magga). So it is of crucial importance to note that one cannot develop right Buddhist meditation apart from virtue. In what follows therefore a brief summary of what is the purity of virtue according to an ancient Buddhist manual, the visuddhi-magga, which here does not seem to contradict anything I know from the suttas.

Untornness, however, is accomplished by the complete non-breaking of the training precepts, by making amends for those broken for which amends should be made, by the absence of the seven bonds of sexuality, and, as well, by the non-arising of such evil things as anger, enmity, contempt, domineering, envy, avarice, deceit, fraud, obduracy, presumption, pride (conceit), haughtiness, conceit (vanity), and negligence (MN 7), and by the arising of such qualities as fewness of wishes, contentment, and effacement (MN 24).

Important to note that purity of virtue is not just merely keeping the precepts but also purified mental states can be classified under virtue. This is the kind of virtue which leads to samādhi. It is interesting to note also that this purity depends largely on qualities mentioned last in the foregoing quote, also seclusion (viveka is I think the Pāli word here) is part of the series actually.

So having purified yourself in virtue this way you may, in brief synopsis, attend to a meditation subject according to your inclination among the 38 (or 40), such as mindfulness of breathing (ven. Ñanamoli has written a comprehensive account on this subject: https://www.bps.lk/olib/bp/bp502s.pdf), loving-kindness meditation (Ñanaponika I would like to refer here to: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html) , color contemplation or meditation on the Buddha etc. These subjects can be classified also among the famous four foundations of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna). Also insight meditation (vipassanā), the intuitive and liberating grasp of the true nature of things is classified among these satipaṭṭhāna. The settled, continuous, knowing, wise application of these might be called successful meditation. This passage from the mahā­satipaṭṭhāna-sutta (DN 22) reflects this approach on the basis of the above mentioned accomplishment in virtue:

Here, monks, a monk dwells contemplating (the nature of) the body [mindfulness of breathing fits under this category among others] in the body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, after removing avarice and sorrow regarding the world. […] Here, monks, a monk who has gone to the wilderness, or has gone to the root of a tree, or has gone to an empty place, sits down. After folding his legs crosswise, setting his body straight, and establishing mindfulness at the front, being very mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out.

Ven. Anālayo has written a good book about satipaṭṭhāna, which can be downloaded and read here, free of charge: https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/pdf/5-personen/analayo/direct-path.pdf. For more see the visuddhi-magga.

Also Rupert Gethin tries to analyze in a nice paper the nature of meditation according to the pāli-nikāyas. Free access here: https://www.academia.edu/11728648/On_the_practice_of_Buddhist_meditation_according_to_the_Pali_Nikāyas_and_exegetical_sources

A good discussion on the term samādhi also here: https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=10150&start=20

Hope that helped at least a bit in further guiding.
Mettā

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As previous posts pointed out Sila is the starting point of meditation.
So I start observing / practicing five precepts first,

Hi, and welcome to our forum! I hope you find a friendly and welcoming space here. Here, have some cake! :cake:

The Buddha only wanted one thing: to help overcome suffering. So when meeting a new meditator for the first time, what I want to know is, how are you suffering? What is it that’s moved you to want to meditate? Is it stress, or loss, or confusion? Or maybe you’re just interested? If we have a little background, we’re in a much better position to help.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should only share what you feel comfortable with: I’m not trying to pry, just to understand.

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Digha Nikaya 22 - Mahasatipatthana Sutta

This sutta offers comprehensive practical instructions on the development of mindfulness in meditation. The Buddha describes how the development of continuous mindfulness of the four satipatthana (“foundations of mindfulness” or “frames of reference”) — mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mind-objects — can lead ultimately to full Awakening.

https://suttacentral.net/en/dn22

The Basic Method of Meditation | by Ajahn Brahm

The Basic Method of Meditation (book) | Buddhist Society of Western Australia

The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation

Audiobook - PDF

https://store.pariyatti.org/Art-of-Living-The--English-br-spanVipassanaspan_p_3196.html?redirect=1

:anjal:

Welcome! As Ajhan Sujato says it is important to know one’s motives for wanting to meditate. Typing it out or putting it on paper can be helpful. While it will help us respond much better it is also personal and this is a public forum- it might help you just to get some insight into your own mind and your perspective will be important. Having said that too much introspective isn’t absolutely necessary- feel free to just jump in! The details will emerge with time. I found Mindfulness in Plain English quite helpful:

With metta

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Dear All,

Thank you for all your replies.

I am so positively suprised by level of detailed replies you have provided.

Just to reply (with appologize for late reply) what is background of my question:

I live in Europe, Poland, and from time to time I practice yoga (mostly to reduce stress).

From time to time yoga center people organize additionaly meditation courses with help of invited traineers. I never have tried such approach but it was always my interest to know how that works and help in overall work life balance.

Appologize for what I will need to say but I am far though from relogious aspect of that area (for now) but as a start point I simply want to learn much more in the topic to understand first it real sources and then give it a try.

For the above mentioned topic I believe you have gave me wonderful directions to start with. Thank you for that.

I will familiarize step by step with your guidance and will come back in some time to share with you my feelings after read. Although it might take me some time to have a read (for me with day to day duties normally only weekends are the place for learning extension)

with regards
Gosia

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