Meditation in Practice
Actors on a Stage
Advice to a Meditator
The Five Hindrances
The Art of Relaxing
The Fairest Girl
Meditation in Practice
It is only when we sit down for meditation that we can analyse ourselves seriously without pretence. Then the concept of a self or ego disappears. We see only a conflux of mind and body void of any permanent entity, any core or an indestructible ego. Looked at from this point of view, we are neither oriental nor occidental, neither man nor woman.
Life is just a process that goes beyond the boundaries of caste, colour, creed, race and space.
So try to be straight, transparently straight with yourself, your feelings and thoughts. Try to see yourself as you really are and not as you appear to be. This cannot be done unless you are sincere and have confidence in yourself. Open-mindedness or free inquiry is a necessity in the Buddhist system of meditation. Without it the beginner cannot lay the foundation on which the superstructure has to be built. And as truth is a personal and individual concern, neither information nor instruction can inspire a meditator unless he is trained in the methods of self-inquiry.
Meditation, therefore, is vital because it is through meditation that the secrets of the mind can be unlocked.
The discourse on mindfulness prescribes the technique for mental culture. It shows us how to get beyond the intellect to the actual experience of life itself, to discover the deeper universal maladies of the human mind and to work for its deliverance -- supreme security from bondage.
Now let us proceed with the discussion of the contemplation of the body (kayanupassana), especially the method known as anapanasati or mindfulness of in-breathing and out-breathing. This is a well-known meditation liked and practised by many the world over, a universally applicable method for concentrating and calming the mind. It was used by the Bodhisatta, Siddhattha Gotama, when striving for enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and the Buddha himself was emphatic on the importance of practising it. This meditation is described as peaceful, sublime, unadulterated, happy living (santo ceva panito ca asecanako ca sukho ca viharo)  . It must, however, be noted that anapanasati is not a "breathing exercise" for physical vigour and is not similar to pranayama taught in Hindu yoga systems.
The type of place recommended for this meditation is a forest, the foot of a tree, or a lonely place either under the open sky or in some other suitable place. Find a quiet place, if possible away from the din and bustle, clash and clang of busy life. Your own bedroom or your "shrine room," if you are fortunate to have one, may be a more private place for you.
For this meditation one needs the sitting posture. Sit erect with legs crossed, but not stiff and rigid; be mindful and alert. You may sometimes feel uncomfortable if the legs are interlocked, or if sitting on the hard floor interferes with your concentration. Then you can adopt a posture that does not bring discomfort. You may sit on a chair with a straight back, but for this particular meditation, unlike the others, the body (spinal column) and head should be erect, balanced and upright. You should sit comfortably but without leaning or lying back, otherwise you may become sleepy. Hands may be relaxed on the lap, or the right palm may placed on the left, palm facing up. Eyes may be half-closed, or shut, without strain, lips should be closed, the tongue touching the upper palate. All these indicate that a person bent on this meditation should also have his body collected, which is an asset to his mental concentration and mindfulness.
Keep the body as motionless as possible, the mind alert and keenly observant. Body and mind alike must be as well strung as a bow, and as well-tuned as a lyre. Meditation is really a practical occupation. Just as the tortoise shelters its limbs under its shell, so should the meditator guard his five sense organs and overcome the sex impulse with mindfulness. He should preserve all his energy to gain mental development. Try to do your meditation regularly. If possible, at the same time, every day; for these psychological factors make for the success of the meditation.
The in-breathing and out-breathing, we know, is automatic. Normally no one tries to breathe consciously, or mindfully but when practising breathing meditation it is essential to breathe mindfully and to be aware of the breath. The normal flow of breath should be noticed, observed. Breathing calms down the body and prepares it for deep meditation. What is aimed at is the power of concentration. Psychologists have recognized the value and importance of mindful breathing as tending to ease the tension of body and mind. This meditation is, therefore, a really practical occupation, therapeutic in the best sense of the word. It is not for mere intellectual understanding but to liberate oneself from mental defilements and to attain purity and peace of mind.
In this breathing meditation, the most important thing is to be mindful of the breathing. It is essential to be mindful, to be aware (sati), and attentive and observant (anupassana) in all the four types of meditation on mindfulness. Relax utterly, leave the world of stress when you sit down for meditation. When you do the first three in-breathings, imagine that you are taking in all that is good and pure in the environment, in the cosmos. When you do the first three out-breathings imagine that you are putting out all the "toxic" thoughts in you, all that is bad and ugly. That is how you should get into the meditative frame of mind.
Actors on a Stage
Now start your meditation on mindfulness of in and-out-breathing (anapanasati). Your breathing should be very natural and effortless. Breathe calmly. There should not be any effort to control the breath. Merely allow the breath to ebb and flow freely in its own natural rhythm under the light of full awareness.
The meditator breathes in and breathes out mindfully with full awareness. He is mindful of the breath and not of himself. His one and only aim is to focus the mind on the breath to the exclusion of all other thoughts and to fix the mind there; for if what is in the marginal zone breaks in upon the focal zone, he will find it difficult to concentrate, he becomes discursive. It may be helpful for a beginner to make note of "in" and "out," when doing the breathing meditation. If you experience difficulty in keeping your attention on the breath, count "one" for inspiration, "two" for expiration: register "one" at the end of one inspiration, "two" at the end of an expiration and so forth. Do not count to less than five or more than ten since your attention might divert from breaths to counts. Give up counting when concentration can be focused on breath alone.
When you practise mindfulness on in-breathing and out-breathing, fix your attention at the point where the moving air strokes the nostrils or the upper lip. Note your breath as it goes in and out, but do not follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air. There should not be any holding or stopping of your breath. It should be quite natural without any effort or force on your part. Keep your focus at the nose breath. At times the breath may become so fine that you can hardly catch it. You may no longer notice the breath, but that must not be taken to mean that your mind is blank. This is just impossible; for you cannot think of a mind void of thoughts. When you cannot notice the breath you are aware of this, and that certainly is not a blank mind. You will become aware of the breath again.
Whenever your mind wanders to other thoughts, be aware of them, but do not get involved in them emotionally or intellectually; do not comment, condemn, evaluate or appraise them, but bring your attention back to the natural rhythm of your breathing. Your mind may be over-whelmed by evil and unwholesome thoughts. This is to be expected. It is in meditation that you understand how your mind works. Become aware of both the good and evil, the ugly and beautiful, the wholesome and unwholesome thoughts. Do not become elated with your good thoughts and depressed with the bad. These thoughts come, and they go like actors on a stage. When you hear sounds, become aware of them and bring your attention back to your breath. The same with regard to smell, taste (which you may get mentally), touch, pain, pleasure and so forth. Observe the thoughts in a calm detached way. Mindfulness means observing whatever happens inside oneself, whatever one does, not judging it as good or bad, but just watching with naked awareness. It is really using full concentration on whatever one is doing or experiencing.
You may also get mental images produced by memory or imagination, such as light, colour, figures, etc. Do not be deceived by them thinking that this is a mental development. Far from it, they are hindrances that retard progress. Become aware of these images without getting mentally involved in them; bring your attention to your breath. One needs much patience and effort to get away from these by-products and to get busy with the real task of practising concentration. How strong and stupendous should the mental effort and patience be to bring about mental purity and perfection through calm and insight (samatha-vipassana)? Only a genuine meditator knows this.
It is natural for the worldling to entertain evil and wrong thoughts. "Lust penetrates an undeveloped mind, as rain an ill-thatched house"  . Man's passions are disturbing. This lust, when obstructed by some cause, is transformed into anger. One, therefore, should try to develop and unfold good and wholesome thoughts, the infinite possibilities that are latent in human nature. To do this, one
needs training in calmness (samadhi-sikkha). It is through gradual training that one can check the mind and rule it (cittam vasam vattati), and not become a slave to mind (cittassa vasena vattati)  . With such training in mind-culture, one can free oneself from the influence of sense-objects.
Since wordly progress, gain and profit, depend largely on your own efforts, surely you should strive even harder to train your mind and so develop the best that is in you. As mental training requires great effort and personal integrity, strive on now. "Do not let your days pass away like the shadow of a cloud which leaves behind it no trace for remembrance."
Advice to a Meditator
The Buddhist Canon is full of reference to this meditation on in-and-out-breathing (anapanasati) and it is no wonder that the Buddha, when exhorting the novice Rahula, gave detailed instruction on its practice. Let us turn again to Discourse 62 of the Majjhima Nikaya, Maha Rahulovada Sutta:
"A disciple, Rahula, having gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to a lonely quiet place, sits down, cross-legged, keeping the body erect and mindfulness alert. Mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out; when breathing in a long breath, he knows 'I breathe in a long breath'; when breathing out a long breath, he knows 'I breathe out a long breath'; when breathing in a short breath, he knows 'I breathe in a short breath'; when breathing out a short breath; he knows 'I breathe out a short breath'; 'mindful of the entire process,  I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself 'Mindful of the entire process, I shall breathe out, thus he trains himself.'
" 'Calming the entire process, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself, 'calming the entire process I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Experiencing rapture, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing rapture, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Experiencing bliss, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing bliss I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Experiencing the mental activity (feeling and perception), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing the mental formations, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Calming the mental activity, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'calming the mental formations, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Experiencing the highly concentrated (jhanic) mind I shall breath in,' thus he trains himself; 'experiencing the highly concentrated (jhanic) mind, I shall breath out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Exceedingly gladdening the mind (by samatha, calming, as well as by vipassana, insight), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'exceedingly gladdening the mind, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Thoroughtly establishing the mind (on the breath), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'thoroughly establishing the mind I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Liberating the mind (from the nivaramas, or hindrances), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'liberating the mind I shall breath out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Contemplating impermanence (in body, feeling, perception, volitional formations, consciousness), I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating impermanence I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Contemplating detachment, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating detachment I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Contemplating cessation I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating cessation I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
" 'Contemplating abandonment, I shall breathe in,' thus he trains himself; 'contemplating abandonment, I shall breathe out,' thus he trains himself.
"Mindfulness on in-and-out-breathing, Rahula, thus developed and frequently practised is productive of much fruit, of much advantage. When, Rahula, in-and-out-breathing with mindfulness is thus developed and frequently practised, even the last in-breaths and the out-breaths are known (clear) as they cease, not unknown." 
There are those who say that this type of meditation is purposeless and stupid. Well, let them say what they will. Let philosophers philosophise, orators go on with their oratory; you go your way practising mindfulness. Even the Buddha was attacked by his contemporaries for leading the life "far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife." Thus in Digha Nikaya, we find these aspersions cast at the Buddha by the wanderer Nigrodha: "The Samana Gotama's insight is ruined by his habit of seclusion. He is not at home in conducting an assembly. He is not ready in conversation. He is occupied only with the fringes of things. Even as a one-eyed cow that avoids contact and follows only the outskirts, so is the Samana Gotama." 
The Buddha really did not spend all his time in solitude. He walked the highways and by-ways of
The Five Hindrances
As you proceed developing this mindfulness by degrees, your mind will get fully concentrated on the breath. You will notice that there is only a breath and the mind noticing it and nothing behind it -- no self or any permanent ego entity or anything of that nature. The breath and you are not two things, only a process, a mere rise and fall of the breath like the waves of the sea. In the highest sense there is a meditation, but no meditator. If you can come to that level of understanding, then your concentration is very high and with this comes rapturous joy, calm and peace of mind, and this will be a tremendous experience for you, a kind of experience you have never had before.
This may be only for a short while, and your mind may again become discursive. It may wander and you may find it diffcult to concentrate. You may feel lazy or sleepy, bored or restless, and get fed up with your meditation. It does not matter, that is how the human mind works. Now you know the behaviour of your mind through self- experience and not through books or hearsay. You should whip up enthusiasm, marshal energy and onward ever bravely press forgetting yourself. One day, you may even attain jhanic experience or meditative absorption by casting out the hindrances. This concentration, this calming meditation (samatha-bhavana) is essential for right unders-tanding, penetration and insight (vipassana), to the attainment of complete mental health -- Nibbana.
There are many obstacles that confront a meditator, but there are five hindrances in particular that obstruct concentration and the path to deliverance. They are called hindrances (nivaramani)  because they completely close in, cut off and obstruct. They close the door to deliverance. What are the five? Sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, sceptical doubt.
A mind that is obsessed by such detrimental forces cannot concentrate successfully on any object of wholesome nature. Without right effort the five hindrances to mental progress cannot be overcome. The function of right effort is fourfold: to prevent, abandon, develop, and maintain. Right effort is the persevering endeavour (a) to prevent the arising of evil unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen in the mind; (b) to discard such evil thoughts already arisen; (c) to produce wholesome thoughts not yet arisen; and (d) to promote and maintain the good thoughts already present. 
The unwholesome thoughts referred to here are the three root causes of all evil, namely: thoughts of greed (lust), hatred, and delusion (ignorance). All other defilements rally round these root causes, while wholesome thoughts are their opposites.
The four right efforts are the requisites for concentration. Right effort functions together and simultaneously with the other two factors of the group, namely: right mindfulness and right concentration. Right effort removes the evil and unhealthy thoughts that act as a barrier to the calm of absorption and promotes and maintains the healthy mental factors that aid the development of concentration. When the meditator's mind slackens, it is time for him to summon courage, whip up effort and overcome indolence. Obduracy of mind and of mental factors is a dangerous enemy to meditation, for when a man's mind is inert, slackness arises. This leads to greater slackness which produces sullen indifference.
Mind culture through such great efforts is not something that can be gained overnight. It needs time and regular practice of mental exercises. An athlete or body-builder does not stop training after a day or two, but goes on with his program. Regular exercises, without unnecessary strain, are the key to physical fitness. If he practises only by fits and starts, he will never be a good athlete. When training the mind, the same golden rule has to be applied -- regular work and perseverence.
One need not struggle with evil thoughts when doing mental exercises. It should all be natural. If we try to fight with thoughts we shall not succeed. Instead we should note and watch our thoughts as they rise, and try to ease the tension. The technique is like that of swimming. If you do not move your limbs, you will sink; if you whirl about, you will also sink. Again, it is like trying to fall asleep -- if you struggle with the thought of sleep, you will never fall off; it will only be a mental torment to you. You must not make any effort to sleep. It must come naturally, and you should only relax the tense muscles. So this is, shall we say, an effortless effort to stay vigilant and be aware in the present.
Again self-torment is one of the two extremes (the other is self-indulgence) that the Buddha wants the meditator to avoid as profitless, and not leading to calm and enlightenment  . It is useless to torture the body (as is still done by Indian ascetics) in order to stop the arising of evil thoughts; for such torments often end in aversion and frustration. When the mind is frustrated, callous indif-ference to meditation follows. All our mental exercises should be natural and performed with awareness. "Zeal without prudence is like running in the night."
As the Buddha points out, extremes should be avoided everywhere by those who wish to gain deliverance of mind through enlightenment. They should keep to the Middle Path. In the practice of right effort, too, one has to follow the same median way.
A horseman, for instance, watches the speed of his mount and whenever it goes faster than he wants, he reins it back. On the other hand, whenever the horse shows signs of slowing down, he spurs it on and thus keeps to an even speed. Even so should one cultivate right effort, neither overdoing it, lest one be flurried, nor becoming slack lest one become slothful. Like the horseman one should always be prudent in one's effort.
When the strings of the lute are overstrung, or too slack, it is not in tune and not playable. If, on the other hand, the strings are neither overstrung nor too slack, but keyed to the middle pitch, then it is in tune and playable. Even so, effort when too strenuous leads to flurry, and when too slack to indolence.  Understanding the balancing of the five faculties -- faith, effort, mindfulness, concentra-tion and wisdom (saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi, and panna) -- one should grasp at the aim by uniformity of effort.
In this context it must also be noted that in the Buddhist texts the word mindfulness (sati) is often used with another word of equal significance, "clear comprehen-sion" (sampajanna). The compound word "sati-sampajanna" occurs frequently in the discourses. Mindfulness and clear comprehension are co-operative. It is clear comprehension of one's activities and bodily movements.
The meditator who is mindful of his bodily activities becomes aware of his postures: when going (walking), standing, sitting or lying down, he is aware of the postures. All his bodily activities he does with mindfulness:
"In walking to and fro, in looking ahead and in looking aside, he applies clear comprehension (sampajana-kari hoti); in bending and stretching he applies clear comprehension; in wearing clothes, in eating, drinking, chewing, savouring, in answering the calls of nature, he applies clear comprehension; walking, standing, sitting, lying down (sutte), in keeping awake (jagarite), speaking, and being silent, he applies clear comprehension." "Sutte"-- as a posture -- implies "in lying down" but strictly rendered it would mean "in sleeping" or "in falling asleep." A meditator lies down with his mind on the kammatthana, subject of meditation, and thus falls asleep undeluded.
"Jagarite": in waking, or in keeping awake. In waking up, the application of mindfulness would mean taking up the kammatthana, immediately, even before one opens up one's eyes. The term can also apply to such situations as (i) keeping awake mindfully (not allowing sleep to overcome one) when one is intent on meditating in the sleeping posture (due to illness or other physical disabilities), and (ii) on sleepless nights when one vainly struggles to "catch" elusive sleep, mindfulness and clear comprehension would help one to accept the situation with calmness and understand the cause of insomnia. In that very calmness and understanding, perhaps, sleep will come on its own.
In the widest sense the words "sutte" and "jagarite" (in sleeping and in keeping awake) go beyond the question of postures since one can be sleeping on a seat or while standing. In the highest sense one sleeps when one is under the sway of kilesas or defilements.  Likewise the word "jagarite" in its widest application, embraces that salutary wakefulness which characterises vigilance (appamada). As the Buddha says:"The defilements disappear (are destroyed) of those who are ever vigilant, who train themselves day and night (ahorattanusikkhitam) who are wholly intent on Nibbana." 
Thus in all activities, the meditator should be mindful and wide awake. Hear these words of the Buddha: "Mindfulness, 0 monks, I declare, is essential in all things everywhere."  "It is as salt to curry."  Further says the Buddha: "Mindfulness, verily, brings great profit. 
One has to understand the question of mindfulness and clear comprehension in a wider sense. Of course the fourfold effort already mentioned is a good safeguard. Mindfulness has to be spread over all situations at the outset so that its calmness helps one to take stock of a situation wisely. But (as an aspect of the Middle Path itself) upon occasion one has to exert the fourfold effort, even the vigorous type as given in Vitakkasanthana Sutta,  that is, when bare awareness is in itself insufficient.
The suttas tell us the interesting story of the Thera Maha Phussa. Practising mindfulness he was always watching his thoughts. If while walking an evil thought were to occupy his mind, he would stop and would not proceed until the evil thought had been got rid of. People who noticed this used to wonder whether he had lost his way, or lost something on the way. Later, through constant practice of mindfulness and clear comprehension, he achieved his wish, attained purity of mind, and became an Arahat, a man without taints. This indicates that the ancients were aware of their thoughts not only when seated in a given posture at a particular time for meditation, but always.
The Art of Relaxing
If you do your sitting meditation for a considerable time, you may need to ease your aching limbs. Then you can start your walking meditation. Walk slowly, mindful of the movements. Now you need not think of the breath but become aware of the walk. If your mind wanders, give attention to your walking without getting involved in other thoughts. If you stop, turn or look round, be mindful and apply clear comprehension. When your foot touches the ground, you get a sensation; become aware of it. Walking also is an exercise in mindfulness.
When we are following a meditation course, let us try to be mindful always, everywhere when sitting, standing, walking, working, eating, and so forth, let us be mindful.
If your limbs get numbed while in meditation, rub and stretch them. You can also relax in a lying down position; this you may do at the end of a sitting meditation. Lie on your back on a flat surface, and try to avoid using a pillow or cushion under your head. Keep your legs stretched out slightly apart and arms loosely by your sides, keep your eyes shut. Do not go to deep thinking, but allow your mind to relax, and not wander. Relax each muscle, be completely relaxed for a few minutes. At times you may fall asleep for a couple of minutes! At the end of the relaxation you get up feeling fit. This type of relaxation you could do, not only during meditation hours, but at any time you feel fatigued or when you have the inclination to relax.
The Fairest Girl
The practice of clear comprehension regarding the postures of the body helps us to remove discursive thoughts, improves our power of concentration and develops awareness and heedfulness.
The Buddha gives a very striking parable to emphasize the importance of developing mindfulness relating to body:
"Suppose, monks, a large crowd gathers together crying: 'Oh, the fairest girl, a country beauty!' Then, monks, that most beautiful girl, expert in dancing and singing, displays all her charms, and still a large crowd flocks together crying, 'Oh, the fairest girl is dancing, she is singing. Then comes a man fond of his life, not fond of death, in love with pleasure and not with pain, and they say unto him: 'Look here, my man! Here is a bowl brimful of oil. You should carry it between the multitude and the fairest girl. Right on your heels comes a man with uplifted sword. If you were to spill a drop, off goes your head!'
"Now what do you think, monks? Would that man, not paying serious attention to that bowl of oil, give his mind to things outside and become careless?"
"Surely not, Venerable Sir."
"Well, monks, this is a parable I have made to make clear the meaning (what I have to say). This is the meaning of it: The bowl brimful of oil, monks, is a term for mindfulness relating to the body. Wherefore, monks, thus must you train yourselves: 'Mindfulness relating to the body shall be cultivated by us, shall be made much of, made a vehicle (of expression), established, made effective. It shall be increased and well applied.'
"Thus, monks, must you train yourselves. 
The section on body contemplation (kayanupassana) includes not only anapanasati (i.e. only the first tetrad of its sixteen steps), but also other types such as the reflection on the repulsiveness of the body (asubha).
 Samyutta Nikaya, v. 321
 Dhammapada, v.13
 Majjhima Nikaya 32/ I. 214
 Sabba-kaya. Literally, "The whole (breath) body". According to the Visuddhimagga, "kaya" here does not mean the physical body, but the whole mass of in-breathing and out-breathing.
 Tepi viditva nirujjhanti no avidita'ti. Commentary to the discourse.
 Dialogue of the Buddha, Part III, p. 35
 For details see Addendum IV.
 See Addendum III.
 Vinaya Pitaka I, 10; Samyutta Nikaya v. 420.
 See Addendum V for an interesting story of a meditator.
 See Jagara Sutta, Devata Samyutta, 1, 6.
 Dhammapada, v .226.
 Samyutta, v. 115.
 Satipatthana Commentary.
 Anguttara Nikaya i, 3.
 See Addendum VI
 Samyutta Nikaya v. 170.