How to easily attain some tranquility and insight.

I’ve practiced this style of study/meditation for many years and have found that it helps me retain information, calm my body/mind, and attain insight. For my internet Sangha, I share this description of a practice with the hope that some may find benefit.

Namo Buddha
Namo Dharma
Namo Sangha

Namo Infinite Light Buddha

~Nguyen Giac

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Contents

  1. Reading in Hot Water

    1. Benefits of Heat

    2. Watching Sense Doors

    3. Recollections

      • Dhamma
      • Sangha
  2. Bowing in Cold Water

    1. Benefits of Cold

    2. Watching Sense Doors

    3. Recollections

      • Buddha
      • Body
      • Breath


1. Reading in Hot Water

Choose a Sutra and take a bath. Make the water as hot as you can stand. Sitting up, drink as much hot water as you can while reading. When you are filled with water, lay on your back and keep reading until you can no longer stand the heat.

What are we doing?

  • We are going to generate tranquility.
  • We are going to check wrong-view with traditional exposition (we’re going to read Sutras).
  • We’re going to attain insight.

How?

We will fix our mind on the topic at hand, then we will seal the experience by generating infinite light and/or fixing our mind upon Buddha’s wonderful qualities. This concentration, samadhi, will ease our troubled minds and allow correct-views to break through and shine forth.

Who am I to tell you these things?

I am not anyone special. Don’t ‘believe’ me.

Ehipassiko:

“Come see.”

I’m just sharing a practice I have found benefit from, with the hope that my internet Sangha may also benefit.

  1. Benefits of Heat (my personal observations)

    • Relaxes body and mind.
    • While I’ve seen that there is debate about how much sweating contributes to the release of various toxins, I sure do feel lighter, more clear, and generally healthier after a hot sweaty bath.
    • I also use the heat to practice a sort of visualization.
      • I imagine the heat stirring up and spreading energy to the surface of my skin.
      • I imagine that the blood reaches those fine blood vessels in my fingers and toes that usually have trouble experiencing blood flow.
      • I get this general feeling that my ‘energy’ is stirred and spread. It’s difficult to explain.
  2. Watching Sense Doors (Ṣaḍāyatana)

    1. Intellect.

      • In this style of meditation, we are using a Sutra’s content– we focus our attention upon how the content influences our thinking. It is our single point of focus (this is concentration on an object). We keep our mind fixed upon the Sutra and don’t let it deviate from this concentrated state.
        • When data from the other sense streams (data from eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin– the five other sense vijnanas not including intellect) calls for attention, gently notice and ‘touch the bubble‘ (the bubble is the data knocking at the sense door).
        • Although there may be many of them, if we simply ‘touch’ the bubbles quickly and gently with awareness, and then remind ourselves “now I am reading this“, the distractions will fizzle out / the bubbles will pop.
    2. Body

      • Feel the heat.
      • Feel the sensation of relaxation of the various parts of your body.
      • While we do feel the heat, and benefit from the heat in various ways, the heat is not the focus of our practice. So, while we should have very warm water, it should not be so hot as to be very distracting.
    3. Eye

      • Visual data: the words on the pages.
      • Make sure there is adequate lighting.
      • Even though the visual data is closely related to what is happening in the intellect mind, because it is serving as the focal stimulus, we still avoid getting caught in the eye-vijnana.
      • If our attention falls too hard onto what we are seeing, we gently remind ourselves that the ideas the visual data is conveying is the object our attention.
    4. Ear

      • I usually run the fan in the bathroom. The white noise does something interesting to this sense door.
    5. Nose

      • It is nice to have a good smelling candle burning, perhaps some incense.
        • But, when your attention falls upon the good smell, you can simply remind yourself, “yum. good smell. I’m reading now.”
        • I think it’s just better to have a good smell enter awareness than a bad smell 😉
    6. Tongue

      • Taste doesn’t play a huge role in this context.
      • You may enjoy considering the flavorlessness and the heat of the water.
        • If that were to come to mind, you would then let that go and return to reading.
  3. Recollections

    1. Dhamma

      • You are reading Sutras, engaging the teachings of Buddha.

        Mahanama Sutta: To Mahanama (2)
        “There is the case where you recollect the Dhamma: ‘The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.’ At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Dhamma, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Dhamma. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.”Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of the Dhamma while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children.”

    2. Sangha

      • You are reading Sutras, engaging the teachings of Buddha as transmitted by the worthy.

        Mahanama Sutta: To Mahanama (2)
        “There is the case where you recollect the Sangha: ‘The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well… who have practiced straight-forwardly… who have practiced methodically… who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types [of noble disciples] when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.’ At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Sangha, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Sangha. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.”Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of the Sangha while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children.”

2. Bowing in Cold Water

After you have reached the limit of your tolerance for sustained heat, set down your book and turn your body around. Make your bath water water cold. Begin prostrations. We are going to begin practicing Recollection of Buddha. This is called “Buddhanusmrti“.

Basic practice:
When you are upright, on your knees, breathe in. Then, bow — submerge your head and upper body, and exhale underwater until you can exhale no more. While you are under the water, totally relax your body. “Surrender”. “Let Go”. Call forth an image of Buddha or call forth the visual experience of infinitely bright light. Keep this object alive in the mind. Return to the upright position, bring your hands together in front of your heart, breathe in, and then submerge you face and upper body again. Repeat until you are done.

Now you are practicing mindfulness of the breath alternating with mindfulness of Buddha, but this a bit different than I have seen explained in some suttas because we are *controlling* the breath instead of simply watching it. We are controlling the breath and fixing our mind on Buddha.

We are watching the breath, but it is synchronized with our prostrations (so that we don’t drown). While we watch the breath, but at the same time, we are also recognizing the infinite light of infinite Buddhas. Exhaling underwater helps us to remember that we are exhaling– we can’t inhale underwater! So that synchronization of bowing and breathing helps keep us grounded to this present moment. Grounded in this present moment, we keep attention on the qualities of Buddha and/or infinite light.

So, over time, our body temperature decreases and concentration on the breath increases– the perception of light grows stronger and a deep tranquility is experienced which generates insight. Yet,we may also see that this tranquility generated by the power of concentration burns away our wrong views and allows insight to shine. They are one thing– Tranquility (śamatha) and Insight (vipassanā) are one thing which is experienced as / conceived to be separate things.

  1. Watching Sense Doors

    1. Eye

      • You may notice light when above water and notice the obstruction of vision when your eyes are closed underwater.
        • Don’t fixate on any visual stimuli. Gently remind yourself of
    2. Ear

      • Notice the unobstructed sound when above water and notice how the quality of sound changes when your head is submerged.
    3. Nose and Tongue

      • Notice the smells / tastes above water, then the lack of smell / taste when submerged.
    4. Skin / Muscles

      • Notice and correct your posture while upright. Hold your hands together in front of your heart. While submerged, notice your muscles relax and feel the cold water pulling out energy from your body (I visualize that the heat energy being sucked from my body contains all the ‘bad vibes’ from recent memory).
    5. Mind / Intellect

      • Our mind/focus is on Buddha, the body or the breath, but we also watch the sense doors.
        • Whenever data from any of the sense minds calls for attention, we gently notice, the ‘bubble pops’, and we return to recollection.
  2. Recollections

    1. Buddha
      • As described in the Suttas, and mentioned above.
    2. Body
      • Mindfulness of Body
        Now, how is mindfulness immersed in the body developed, how is it pursued, so as to be of great fruit & great benefit?

        “There is the case where a monk — having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building — sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

        “Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’ And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

        “Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns, ‘I am walking.’ When standing, he discerns, ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, he discerns, ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, he discerns, ‘I am lying down.’ Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it… This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

    3. Breath
      • Mindfulness of Breathing.
      • “Endowed with five qualities, a monk pursuing mindfulness of in-&-out breathing will in no long time penetrate the Unprovoked (release). Which five?

        “He is a person who imposes only a little (on others): one of few duties & projects, easy to support, easily contented with the requisites of life.

        “He is a person who eats only a little food, committed to not indulging his stomach.

        “He is a person of only a little sloth, committed to wakefulness.

        “He is a person of much learning, who has retained what he heard, has stored what he has heard. Whatever teachings are admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end, that — in their meaning & expression — proclaim the holy life that is entirely complete & pure: those he has listened to often, retained, discussed, accumulated, examined with his mind, and well-penetrated in terms of his views… He gets to hear at will, easily & without difficulty, talk that is truly sobering & conducive to the opening of awareness: talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release… He lives in the wilderness, in an isolated dwelling place.

        “He reflects on the mind as it is released [see step 12 in the sixteen steps described in §30].

        “Endowed with these five qualities, a monk pursuing mindfulness of in-&-out breathing will in no long time penetrate the Unprovoked.”

        — AN 5.96-98

Conclusion

I have shared this simple practice, yet I recognize that there is much room for improvement. I am no ‘master’.

Although I am not perfect, I do see the value of, and want to encourage my internet friends to begin integrating intense study with intense practice.

I have noticed that some people on the internet shun those who study because they prefer meditation. Or, they shun those who prefer meditation because they are proud academics/philosophers. Personally, I think both of these have failed.

It’s all good tho.  As my friend and teacher Thich Minh Huu would say, “It’s okay, they’ll get it next time”.  No judgement. Just discernment.

May all beings be happy!

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