Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Discouraged Meditator And The Buddha

A Discouraged Meditator And The Buddha Image
Easing into meditation like an ecstatic whirling dervish (Susykeys/Flickr.com)

A DEVA named Kamada had been trying to follow the Buddha's teachings but found the task too demanding.

He was dispirited, even a little depressed, as human meditators sometimes feel when no apparent "progress" can be seen in our practice and we begin losing sight of the long-term perspective.

Discouraged, Kamada complained to the Buddha about how difficult it is to practice the DHARMA.

The Buddha, taking a positive approach, did not coddle or comfort the "deva." Instead, he praised recluses who leave the household life to work steadfastly towards the goal of happiness and a final end of all suffering:

"O Kamada, they do even what is difficult to do,

The trainees who are well composed in virtue,

Steadfast in their hearts.

For one who has entered the wandering life,

There comes contentment that brings happiness.

Kamada remained disconsolate insisting on the difficulties:

"Blessed One, it is hard to win this serene contentment!"The Buddha emphasized that some beings do it, explaining that they are those "who love to achieve the mastery of the heart, whose minds both day and night, love to meditate."

But many people meditate without becoming enlightened or even coming close to enlightenment.

It is not meditation itself that frees hearts and minds from obstructions. It is meditation on the universal characteristics of change, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness that leads to the ultimate contentment. Practicing to know-and-see these three universal characteristics leads to detachment from worldly concerns.

Kamada continued to complain, stressing that it is hard to compose the mind.

The Buddha gently agreed that the task of balancing the mind -- as opposed to either straining it or slacking off -- is not easy and added:

"Yet that which is hard to compose, they compose it." And calming their restless minds, they attain the stages of enlightenment, realization, and awakening.

Still the "deva" Kamada complained: "The path is impassable and uneven, Blessed One!" It was as if he were craving some magic to make everything easy.

"Buddhas", unlike magicians, teach in a different way. They point, show, instruct, and rouse listeners to make effort. Happiness is not the goal; happiness is the way! Passing through successive stages of bliss (JHANA), one enters upon the path of insight ("vipassana").

No happiness along the way can match nirvana. But we ourselves -- whether we are light beings or fortunate humans -- must put forth the energy to practice the path. Liberation takes consistent, persistent, diligent effort: not straining, not slacking, but always balancing.

The light being Kamada complained some more because training the mind seemed like an endless task. And the Buddha continued to encourage him:

"Though the path is impassable and uneven,

The noble ones walk along it, Kamada.

The ignoble fall head first,

Fall down on the uneven path.

But the path of the noble ones is even,

For the noble are even amidst the uneven
" (KS I, 68-69; SN 2:6).


* Stages of Meditation

The stages of meditation outlined apply to all methods -- breathing, visualization, single image focus, mantra... Meditation is the cornerstone to building a happier, healthier you.

by Wisdom Quarterly and Susan Elbaum Jootla

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