Monday, April 17, 2006

Meditation VERSUS Concentration?

I'm partial to agreeing with Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati:
Using mindfulness and concentration is not really a process of gluing together two systems. Because of various teaching lineages pulling them apart and creating the appearance of separateness, it can now seem that we are integrating two systems. It is only an appearance. Mindfulness and concentration have both been part of the same, one process of meditation for a very long time.
In Tibetan Buddhism, according to masters such as Deshung Rinpoche, there is a strict serial correlation between shamatha (calm abiding) and vipassana (insight): you master the nine stages of calm abiding before moving on to insight. Swami J's reasoning, by contrast, is that mindfulness alone results in "
the mind [being] trained to always have this surface level activity present". We use concentration when we reach a point of stillness in the mind in order to zero in on that stillness, and pierce the veil of ego to discover who we truly are.

I find Swami J's words more persuasive because they accord better with my meditative experience. Since I've been able to sit for progressively longer sessions ever since my recent plateau jump, I've noticed that at a certain point, perceptions and thoughts fall away; the stillness rises out of the noise like a lotus rising out of the mud, and I hone in on that and hold it for as long as my currently feeble powers of concentration will allow.

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