Over the last two weeks, through mind watching, we have been looking at the five constants, the mental objects that are always present in the mind. Contact, feeling, interpretation, will and attention. Then we looked at Karma and its relation to these five constants.
This establishes the field for our practice, but this is not going to be enough to establish a deep and progressive meditation practice. For this, we need something else.
So I’m going to introduce here another list. We call these the intensifiers. They intensify our practice. The writers of the Abhidarma were extremely interested in those mental states that helped our meditation. Helped to deepen it. Hence the term intensifiers. In Pali they are known as the viniyata caitta dharma. Or the the object-determining mental faculties.
Note that these intensifiers could be applied to many other practices. Such as Yoga and Tai Chi for example.
- Emotional involvement. This is the starting point. If we don’t have this, we are not going to have a sustained practice. We need to find a fascination in our practice. We need to dive in with our heart. To really go deeper, we need an emotional engagement with the object of our meditation, e.g. the breath. We need to develop a real fascination with the details of the sensations we find in the breath. So we need to focus those last two constant faculties of will and attention to go in deep and find real interest and enjoyment in what we see there. This becomes self perpetuating. When we first come to meditation, we are generally in a place where our approach to life is quite course and we spent a lot of time looking for gratification of the senses. As we developed in our meditation our appreciation goes deeper and we start to see the beauty in things more clearly. Including our meditation subject, the breath.
- Emotional engagement will take us to the subject, but it won’t keep us there! To stay with the practice we need resolve. Resolve has two side. Conviction and commitment. We first need to be very clear why we are doing this, and then we need to stick at. Strong conviction only arises when we overcome doubt. Or to put it another way, if you have doubt, you don’t have conviction. Have a look at your relationship with meditation and consider where you may have doubt. It WILL be there at some level. See it and figure out why it’s there. Then explore whether the doubt has any integrity in it or is it artificial. With meditation, we have 2500 years of experienced meditations who have all found it to be deeply beneficial. So I guarantee that if you investigate your doubts, you will discover that they are wrong. And when you uncover them in this way, they will evaporate and you will have conviction. The commitment then flows quite easily as long as you remember what you have discovered.
- We can see this as long term resolve. We have now got our meditation off on track and we have commitment and resolve there. But we need to keep that going! So we need to be attentive and make sure the resolve and the emotional engagement remain. We need to make sure our meditation doesn’t become dry. Definitely this is where Sangha helps. Our friends studying with us help to keep us engaged because we can discuss our learnings and difficulties together. Also, what really helps here is to pay attention when we aren’t on our cushion. At this stage we need to bring a mindful approach into our daily lives. This way we don’t allow non-dharmic influences gain the upper hand of emotional engagement. To really start to make progress, our whole life needs to be dharma focused. In simple terms, stay in touch with the breath as often as you can! Then it turns in to habit.
- Our practice starts to deepen and we begin to find out meditation effortless because the 3 previous layers start to pay off. However, to reach this point we must look at our lifestyle outside of our practice. To reach absorption we must start to involve the dharmic practice right through our lives. If we try to have our life separated from our daily practice we will not progress fully into absorption. We can reach it, but we won’t truly be able to sink into it because there will be parts of our life that pull us back from it. Once we reach absorption we will find that sustaining our meditation practice will become very easy.
- Wisdom and Insight. (Prjna)This section is for you to write. This is the fruits of your labour. This is not academic wisdom (i.e. knowledge). It is seeing and understanding the world and life exactly as it is, without the veil of our own mind sitting in front. Deep meditation leads us to here. We may well see snippets of insight along the way, but the depths of absorption give us a depth of clarity we haven’t had before.