Monday, April 3, 2017



The classical Buddhist text the Abhidhamma is probably the broadest and most detailed traditional psychology of states of consciousness.

The portion of the Abhidhamma was summarized by monk Buddhaghose in the text the Visudhimagga or “Path to Purification.”  Buddhaghosa exokains that the ultimate purification should be strictly understand as nibbana (Sanskrit nirvana) which is an altered state of consciousness. Preparation for meditation practice begins with sila (virtue or moral purity). Psychological purification means pairing away distracting thoughts.

Because a controlled mind is the goal of purity, restraint of the senses is part of purification.  The means for this is sati (mindfulness).  In mindfulness, control of the senses comes through cultivating the habit of simply noticing sensory perceptions, not allowing them to stimulate the mind into thought chains of reaction.

Purity is the psychological base for concentration.  The essence of concentration is non-distractedness.  Purification is pruning away all the distractions.  A meditator's work is to attain unification of mind, one-pointedness.

The goal in meditation is to focus the thought flow by fixing the mind on a single object whatever the topic is of the meditation. In more advanced states of concentration meditation, the mind is both directed towards the object and penetrates the object and it totally absorbed in it.  The mind sometimes achieves oneness with this object.

(1) Any fixed dwelliing place if its upkeep is the cause of worry
(2) Family, if their welfare causes concern
(3) Accruing gits or reputation that involves spending time with admirers
(4) A following of students or being busy with teaching
(5) Projects, having “something to do”
(6) Traveling about
(7) People dear to you whose needs demand attention
(8) Illness necessitating  undergoing treatment
(9) Theoretical studies unaccompanied by practice
(10) Supernormal psychic powers,  the practice of them becomes more interesting than meditation

There are 40 meditation subjects recommended by the Visudhimagga

Ten kasinas (colored wheels about a foot in circumference): earth, water, fire, air, dark blue, yellow, blood-red, white, light and bounded space

Ten asubhas (loathsome, decaying corpses): a bloated corpse, a gnawed corpse, a worm-infected corpse, etc. includes a skeleton

Ten reflections on the attributes of the Buddha, the Doctrine, the sangha, peace, one’s own purity, one’s own liberality, one’s own possessions of godly qualities or on the inevitability of death, contemplation on the 32 parts of the body or on in out breathing

Four Sublime States: loving-kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others and equanimity

The Visuddhimagga advises the student of meditation to pick his teacher according to the level of attainment in meditation, the most accomplished being the best teacher.  The responsibility for salvation is the student’s, not the teacher’s. The teacher is merely a “good friend” on the path.

Example Japanese Zenrin

If you wish to know the road up the mountain
You must ask the man who goes back and forth on it

In the early stages of meditation there exists a tension between concentration on the object of meditation and distracting thoughts.  The main distractions are: sensual desires, ill will, despair and anger, laziness and torpor, agitation and worry, and doubt and skepticism.

“The state of concentration is like a child not yet able to stand steady but always trying to do so.” P.11

Jhana is the moment in meditation which marks a total break with normal consciousness.  It is full absorption.

Rapture at the level of the first jhana is the initially pleasure and excitement of a getting a long-sought object.  Bliss is the enjoyment of that object.

Deeper Jhanas: one-pointedness becomes more and more intensified.  There are 5 jhanaas.  The grossness of the meditation subject limits the depth of jhana the meditator can reach through it. The simpler the subject the deeper the jhana. Advanced jhanas are referred to by some as “concentration games.”

Mindfulness means breaking through stereotyped perception. In mindfulness the meditator faces the bare facts of his experience.  He sees each event as occurring for the first time.  His mind is receptive and not reactive.  He has “the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at successive moments of perception.”

Powers of concentration help a practitioner with mindfulness.  It is preferable to do the jhana practices before moving  to mindfulness. But there is a technique called “Bare Insight” where a practiotioner starts with mindfulness without practice in concentration.

There are four focuses of mindfulness; on the body, on feelings, on the mind, on mind objects.
Insight Meditation

The practice of insight begins at the point when mindfulness continues without cessation. Awareness fixes on its object so that the contemplating mind and its object arise together in unbroken succession.
This point marks the beginning of a chain of insights-mind knowing itself-ending in the nirvanic state.

The first realization in insight is that the phenomena contemplated are distinct from mind contemplating them.

Also the faculty whereby the mind witnesses its own workings is different from the workings it witnesses.  The meditator knows awareness is distinct from the objects it takes, but this knowledge is not at the verbal level as it is expressed here. The meditator knows by direct experience. He understands but may not have the words to explain the understanding.

Later, there is a direct experience of anatta or “not self” “The meditator sees his past and future life as merely a conditioned cause-effect process.  He no longer doubts whether the “I” really exists,  he knows that “I am” to be a misconception.”

Just as when the parts are set together
There arises the word “chariot”
So does the notions of being
When the aggregates are present

The meditator sees his or her whole field of awareness in continual flux. He knows the truth of impermanence “anicca”

The Ten Corruptions of Insight
(Pseudonirvana – these may occur with the new clarity of the meditator)
(1) The vision of brilliant light or luminous form
(2) Rapturous feelings
(3) Tranquility
(4) Devotional feelings
(5) Vigor
(6) Sublime happiness
(7) Quick and clear perception
(8) Strong mindfulness
(9) Equanimity
(10) Subtle attachment

The meditator is usually elated with the 10 signs and may think he has attained enlightenment and finished in the task of meditating.  The great danger is “mistaking what is not the Path for the Path”, or faltering in further pursuit of insight because of his attachment to these phenomena.  These are just experiences along the way they are not the final destination.  The meditator’s next step is to turn the focus of insight on them and his own attachment to them.

Comes from negative prefix  “nir” and “vana” to burn.  “In nirvana, desire attachment and self-interest are burned out…. With the meditator’s realization of nirvana, aspects of his ego and his normal consciousness are abandoned never to arise again”

“The number of times the meditator enters the nirvanic state determines his level of mastery, that is his ability to attain nirvana wheneber, wherever, as soon as, and for as long as he wants.”

The first level of deliverance is Sotapanna – Stream enterer – The stream that is entered is that leading to the total loss of selfish ego, the cessation of all strivings to become.

When a meditators insight fully matures, he overcomes all remaining fetters to liberation.  He is now an arahant, an “awakened being” or saint.  Arahant means “one who is worthy.”

“. . . by immediate knowledge that when one’s heart was cleansed of the defilements of the ordinary ego-centered impulses and desires, nothing was left there to claim itself as ego-residuum.” – D.T. Suzuki (1958, p.293)

“More simply, after the meditator has let go of his selfish ego to become an arahant, he finds he has no “self” left. – p, 35

There is a state little known in the west called nirodh (cessation) “In nirvana, there is the cessation of consciousness in nirodh, bodily processes become quiescent.  This absolute cessation of consciousness is extremely difficult to attain.  Nirodh is accessible only to a nonreturner or an arahant….”



- Bhakti or devotion to a divine beings, is the most popular form of worship in contemporary world religions
- Bhakti is the strongest school of religion practiced in Hinduism
- The essence of Bhakti is making the object of devotion one’s cental thought
- The devotee may choose any deity or divine being as his devotional object or “ishta”
- His practice is to keep the thought of ishta foremost in his mind at all times
- Besides kirtan there are 3 levels of  japa (repetition of the name): spoken, silent verbalization and mental
- The mala is a common technical aid to japa
- The devotee is encouraged to keep to satsang (community of like minded people on the same path
- Sankara (the founder of Advait Hinduism) noted that Bhakti ends in the quest for the self which is a major difference  from Buddhism which seeks to dissolve the self and Hindu paths  which aim at uniting the seeker with the higher self
- In Bhakti, what begins in an external evocation of love becomes in the end an internal absorption in which the devotee in Samadhi delights uninterruptedly in “pure self”
- At the ultimate point in the bhakti path one perceives the sacred within the secular, everything is sacred because it bespeaks the beloved.  The devotee need no longer observe any special forms or symbols for worship. He worships in his heart, the world having become his altar.


- Kabbalah are the hidden teachings on Judaism
- Observe workings of Yesod
- Seeks Tifferent, the levels of awareness
- Tree of Life is the best known Kabbalist

- Meditation for one hour is better than ritual worship for one year
- Zikr is main Sufi meditation
- The sufi is he who keeps his heart pure
- Remberance of God through repeated his name purifies the seeker’s mind and opens his heart to Him
- Fana – pure gift of grace in which the zakir is lost in truth
- Fana means passing away in God
- Be present in every breath
- Sufi must be a Muslim par excellence

- TM is classic Hindu mantra meditation
- The mantras are not just TM mantras but are standard Sanskrit mantras
- The TM may evolve into a state called “unity”
- Advanced TM practitioners develop the ability to levitate


- The text closest to the Visudhimagga is the Yoga Sutras
- Every modern Hindu meditation system acknowledges the Yoga Sutras as one source of the method
- The combination of dharana, dhyana and Samadhi is a state called samyama
- Nirvikalpa is the deepest Samadhi
- When one evolves from nirvikalpa, “he is devoid of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, he loos on the body as a mere shadow, an outer sheath encasing the soul.   He does not dwell on the past, takes no thought for the future, and looks with indifference on the present.  He surveys by the everything in the world with an eye of equality; he is no longer touch by the infinite variety of phenomenon, he no longer reacts pleasure and pain.  He remains unmoved where he – that is to say, his body- is worshipped by the good or tormented by the wicked; for he realizes that is the one Brahman that manifests itself through everything.”
- Sahaj Samadhi “a state of full wakefulness where there is no ebb and flow, no waxing or waning, only the steadiness of true perception
- For one who dwells in sahaj there is no ego and no others.


- There is a huge amount of spiritual energy at the base of the spine
- When kundalini focuses on a chakra it activates characteristic energies of this chakra
- Tantra is unique for the number of techniques it offers for transcending sense consciousness ie: mantra, mandala, yantra, concentration on shabd, super subtle inner sounds,  pranayama and asanas, concentration on the play of forces in the chakrpath as, maithuna (arousal of Shakti), controlled ritual intercourse
- Maithuna is one of the 5  actions generally prohibited  to Hindu Yogis but used by Tantrics
- Left handed path
- Meditation is central to all Tantric practices  the raising of Kundalini means Samadhi

- Mahayana Buddhists don’t gain enlightenment just for themselves but for the salvation of all sentient beings
- Ways to reach the triple refuge is – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
- 1st precept is sila (vows of upright behavior)
- 2nd precept is Samadhi (one pointed concentration on one object)
- Sunyata – emptiness of phenomenal world
- Vipassana is the means for the break through
- By means of Vipassana with Sunyata as the focus the meditator disgards his ego beliefs, finally teaching “the goal that leads to destruction of all moral and mental defilements.”

- From Pali word Jhana and Sanskrit Dhyana
- Extensive scriptural studies are discouraged
- Zen Koan is a puzzle  utterly impervious to solution by reason
- Satori – experiences of Jhana, paths to insight
- Final stage of Zen is no mind


- Way of the shy man
- People are asleep living a life of automatic responses to stimuli
- Suffering gives us an urge toward freedom
- Begin with self-observation
- Self-remembering (like mindfulness) – focusing on  aspects of everyday behavior
- A liberated person is no longer concerned with his own personal welfare but is committed to the salvation of all creatures

- His view of the human predicament is close to Buddhism
- The mind and the world are in everlasting flux
- Impermanence is the only fact
- The “me” is a mass of contradictions, desires, pursuits, fulfillments and frustrations with both sorrow and joy
- One cause of sorrow is the difference between “what is” and “what should be”
- He urges putting aside all techniques and traditions
- Choiceless awareness is experiencing what is without naming
- Constantly watching one’s awareness
- Self-acknowledgement is careful attention – attention without the word, the name
- A state of aloneness without loneliness

-  In most meditation paths the monastery or ashram is the ideal spot for meditation, the role of the renunciant the highest calling, and the scripture the highest teaching
- Retraining attention crosses over many meditation systems
- Insight Techniques (Zazen and Choiceless Awareness)
- Concentration – mind focused on a fixed mental object, Mindfulness – mind observes itself, Integrated – Both techniques are combined
- In concentration the meditator’s attentional strategy is to fix his focus on a single precept and constantly bring back his attention

- Many meditation school the importance of retraining attention

- Different names describe the same experience: jhana, samyana, Samadhi, fana, Daat, turiya, great fixation, and transcendental consciousness.

- shaktipatdisksha is the transference of altered meditative state from teacher to student through look or touch

- Nibbana/Nirvana is only possible when the meditator has developed the 7 factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, wisdom, energy, rapture, calm, concentration and equanimity.

“In the mid-1970s ‘quality of life’ survey of Americans was, “Have you ever had the the feeling of being very close to a powerful spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?’  Forty percent replied that it had happened at least once, twenty percent said that it had happened several times; and five percent reported that it happened often.  Almost all the people confessed they had never spoken to anyone-therapist, minister, priest, or rabbi-about their experiences. ‘They would think I am crazy” was the reason.  Such experiences do not fit in with the Western worldview or religious worldview  let alone the psychological worldview.  As a nation of closet ‘mystics,’ our theories of human possibility are, as a whole, very limited.  We have a collective blindspot.

- Our culture favors the waking state
- We are not as sophisticated as it has to do with altered state consciousness
- Cultures we consider primitive are much more sophisticated in educating people in altered state consciousness

- Maslow’s Self-actualized person fits with the idea of the arahat
- Freud’s description of the analyst sounds like a mindfulness meditator he calls it “ever hovering attention”
- Carl Jung encourages people to study yoga and learn a lot but don’t try to apply it. He suggests Europeans need to find their own path
- Alan Watts says the ways of Eastern liberation are comparable to Jung’s – Individuation, Maslow’s – Self-Actualization, and  Allport’s – Functional Anatomy.

a) Merging of action and awareness in sustained concentration on the task at hand
b) Focusing  of attention in a pure involvement without concern for outcome
c) Self-forgetfulness with heightened awareness of the activity
d) Skills adequate to meet the environmental demand
e) Clarity regarding situational cues in appropriate response

- Flow occurs when there is an optimal fit between capability and the demands of the moment

- Meditate on the Breath
- Mantra
- Mindful Breathing
- Mindful Eating
- Mindful Walking

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