A note before you begin
What is Meditation?
Watching the Breath (Anapanasati)
The Mantra 'Buddho'
Effort and Relaxation
Walking Mindfully (Jongrom)
Mindfulness of the Ordinary
Listening to Thought
The Hindrances and their Cessation
Emptiness and Form
The Need for Wisdom in the World
The Refuges and Precepts
The aim of this book is to provide a clear instruction in and reflection on Buddhist meditation as taught by Ajahn Sumedho, a bhikkhu (monk) of the Theravadin tradition. The following chapters are edited from longer talks Ajahn Sumedho has given to meditators as a practical approach to the wisdom of Buddhism. This wisdom is otherwise known as Dhamma, or 'the way things are'.
You are invited to use this book as a step-by-step manual. The first chapter tries to make the practice of meditation clear in a general way and the subsequent sections can be taken one at a time and followed by a period of meditation. The third chapter is a reflection on the understanding that meditation develops. The book concludes with the means of taking the Refuges and Precepts which place the practice of meditation within the larger framework of mind-cultivation. These can be requested formally from ordained Buddhists (Sangha) or personally determined. They form the foundation of the means whereby spiritual values are brought into the world.
The first edition of this book (2,000 copies) was printed in 1985 -- for the opening of the Amaravati Buddhist Centre -- and stocks were quickly exhausted. People appreciated the book, and some asked to help sponsor a re-print; so we gave the manuscript a more thorough proof-reading than had been possible before, and added some design to improve the 'feel' of the book -- otherwise the text is the same. As this book is entirely produced by voluntary contributions and acts of service to the Dhamma, readers are asked to respect this offering and make it freely available.
May all beings realise Truth.
Amaravati Buddhist Centre
Most of these instructions can be carried out whether sitting, standing or walking. However, the technique of mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati) mentioned in the first few chapters is generally used with a sitting posture as it is improved by a still and settled physical state. For this state the emphasis is on sitting in such a way that the spine is erect, but not stressed, with the neck in line with the spine and the head balanced so that it does not droop forward. Many people find the cross-legged 'lotus' posture (sitting on a cushion or mat with one or both feet placed sole upward on the opposite thigh) an ideal balance of effort and stability -- after a few months of practice. It is good to train oneself towards this, gently, a little at a time. A straight-backed chair can be used if this posture is too difficult.
Having attained some physical balance and stability, the arms and face should be relaxed, with the hands resting, one in the palm of the other, in the lap. Allow the eyelids to close, relax the mind ... take up the meditation object.
'Jongrom' (a Thai word derived from cankama from Pali, the scriptural language) means pacing to and fro on a straight path. The path should be measured -- ideally twenty to thirty paces between two clearly recognisable objects, so that one is not having to count the steps. The hands should be lightly clasped in front of or behind the body with the arms relaxed. The gaze should be directed in an unfocussed way on the path about ten paces ahead -- not to observe anything, but to maintain the most comfortable angle for the neck. The walking then begins in a composed manner, and when one reaches the end of the path, one stands still for the period of a breath or two, mindfully turns around, and mindfully walks back again.
Mindfulness is the path to the deathless;
Heedlessness is the path to death;
The mindful do not die;
But the heedless are as if dead already.
Go to Investigation: What is Meditation?
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