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PREPARING FOR MEDITATIVE SERENITY

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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(f) How to train in each

(i) How to train in meditative serenity

(a’) Relying on the preconditions for meditative serenity

(1’) Dwelling in an appropriate area

(2’) Having little desire

(3’) Being content


(4’) Completely giving up many activities

(5’) Pure ethical discipline

(6’) Completely getting rid of thoughts of desire, etc.


(b’) How to cultivate serenity on that basis

(1’)Preparation

(2’) Actual practice


(a’’) Meditative posture

(b’’) The meditative process


(1’’) How to develop flawless concentration


(a)) What to do prior to focusing the attention on an object of meditation

(b)) What to do while focusing on an object of meditation

(1))Identifying the object of meditation upon which your attention is set

(a’)) A general presentation of objects of meditation

(1’)) The objects of meditation themselves

(a’’)) Universal objects of meditation

(1’’)) Discursive images

(2’’)) Non-discursive images

(3’’)) The limits of existence

(4’’)) Achievement of your purpose

(b’’)) Objects of meditation for purifying your behavior

(1’’)) Ugliness


(2’’)) Love

(3’’)) Dependent-arising

(4’’)) Differentiation of constituents

(5’’)) Inhalation and exhalation

(c’’)) Objects of meditation for expertise

(1’’)) The aggregates

(2’’)) The constituents

(3’’)) The sources

(4’’)) Dependent-arising

(5’’)) What is and is not possible

(d’’)) Objects of meditation for purifying afflictions

(2’)) Who should meditate on which objects

(3’)) Synonyms of the object of meditation

(b’)) Identifying objects of meditation for this context


(f) How to train in each This has three sections

1. How to train in meditative serenity (Chapters 2-6)

2. How to train in insight (Chapters 7-26)

3. How to unite them (Chapter 26)


(i) How to train in meditative serenity


This section has three parts:


1. Relying on the preconditions for meditative serenity

2. How to cultivate serenity on that basis (Chapters 2-5)


3. The measure of successful cultivation of serenity (Chapters 5-6)


(a’) Relying on the preconditions for meditative serenity At the outset, the yogi should rely on the preconditions for serenity, which make it possible to achieve serenity quickly and comfortably. There are six:


(1’) Dwelling in an appropriate area The area should have five attributes:

(a) easy access, so that necessities such as food and clothing may be readily obtained;

(b) being a good place to live, where there are no wild beasts such as predators, no enemies, etc.;


(c) being on a good piece of ground, in that it does not breed sickness;

(d) offering good companionship insofar as your companions are ethically disciplined and likeminded; and

(e) being well-situated inasmuch as there are not many people about in the day and little noise at night. Maitreya’s Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras states:48 The intelligent practice in a place Which is accessible, is a good place to live, Offers good ground and good companions, And has the requisites for comfortable yogic practice.


(2’) Having little desire You do not strongly crave more or better robes, etc.


(3’) Being content You are always content to have even the poorest robes, etc.


(4’) Completely giving up many activities You give up base activities such as buying and selling; you also abandon excessive socializing with householders and renunciates, as well as pursuits such as medicine and astrology.


(5’) Pure ethical discipline You do not violate precepts, doing deeds that are wrong by nature or wrong by prohibition, either in the case of vows of individual liberation or in the case of bodhisattva vows. If you do violate them through carelessness, you restore them promptly with regret in accordance with the teaching.


(6’) Completely getting rid of thoughts of desire, etc. In the case of desires, contemplate their disadvantages in this lifetime, such as their leading to being killed or imprisoned, as well their disadvantages for the future, such as their leading to rebirth in miserable realms. [485] Alternatively, eliminate all thoughts of desire and such by meditating with the thought that “Everything in cyclic existence, pleasant or unpleasant, is ephemeral and

impermanent. Since it is certain that I will shortly be separated from all of these things, why should I crave them?” I have explained these points according to the purport of KamalaŸıla’s second Stages of Meditation; you should learn more about them from Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels. These six topics cover the key causes and conditions for newly developing good concentration, for


maintaining an existing concentration without deterioration, and for heightening your concentration. In particular, the most important ones are good ethical discipline, seeing desires as disadvantageous, and dwelling in an appropriate area. Geshe Drom-dön-ba (dGe-bshes ’Brom-ston-pa-rgyal-ba’i-’byung-

gnas) said: We think that the fault lies only in our personal instructions. As we then seek only personal instructions, we are unable to attain concentration. This is the result of not abiding under its conditions. The term “conditions” refers to the six explained above. Moreover, the first four

perfections serve as preconditions for the fifth, meditative stabilization. Kamalasıla’s first Stages of Meditation states:49 You quickly accomplish serenity when you disregard the desire for possessions and such, keep good ethical discipline, have a disposition to readily tolerate suffering, and

joyously persevere. That being the case, sources such as the SÒtra Unravelling the Intended Meaning teach that generosity and the other perfections are causes of the successively higher perfections. Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhi-patha-pradıpa) states:50 When you lack the elements of

serenity, Even if you meditate assiduously, You will not achieve concentration Even in thousands of years. [486] Therefore, it is very important for those who sincerely wish to achieve the concentrations of serenity and insight to work on the elements or preconditions for serenity, such as the thirteen which are set forth in Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels.51 (b’) How to cultivate serenity on that basis


This has two parts:


(1) preparation and

(2) actual practice.


(1’) Preparation Practice the six preparatory teachings explained above and especially cultivate the spirit of enlightenment for a long time; also, in support of that you should do the meditative practices that are shared with persons of small and medium capacities.52


(2’) Actual practice

This has two parts:


(1) meditative posture and

(2) the meditative process itself.


(a’’) Meditative posture KamalaŸıla’s second and third Stages of Meditation say53 that you should take up an eight-point posture on a very soft and comfortable seat:

(1) Cross your legs in the manner of the venerable Vairocana, using either the full-lotus posture or the half-lotus posture as appropriate. (2) Your eyes should be neither wide open nor too far closed, and they should be fixed on the tip of your nose.

(3) Sit with your awareness directed inward, keeping your body straight without leaning too far back or being bent too far forward.

(4) Keep your shoulders straight and even.


(5) Do not raise or lower your head nor turn it to one side; set it so that your nose and navel are aligned. (6) Set your teeth and lips in their usual, natural positions.


(7) Draw your tongue up close to your upper teeth.


(8) Your inhalation and exhalation should not be noisy, forced, or uneven; let it flow effortlessly, ever so gently, without any sense that you are moving it here or there. Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels gives five reasons for sitting as the Buddha taught, cross-legged on a seat, stool, or grass mat:54 (1) This posture

in which the body is pulled together well is conducive to the arising of pliancy, so you will develop pliancy very quickly. [487] (2) Sitting in this way makes it possible to maintain the posture for a long time; the posture does not lead to physical exhaustion.


(3) This posture is not common to non-Buddhists and our opponents.

(4) When others see you sitting in this posture, they are inspired.


(5) The Buddha and his disciples used this posture and bestowed it upon us. Asanga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels says that, in light of these reasons, you should sit cross-legged. It also says that you keep your body

straight so that lethargy and sleepiness will not occur. Thus, at the outset you have to meet these eight points of physical conduct, particularly the calming of breathing just as I have described above.


(b’’) The meditative process Broadly speaking, the “stages of the pathtradition indicates that you achieve serenity by means of the eight antidotes which eliminate the five faults listed in Maitreya’s Separation of the Middle from the Extremes (Madhy›nta-vibh›ga).55 Personal instructions passed


down from Geshe Lak-sor-wa (dGe-bshes Lag-sor-ba) explain that in addition to that you have to achieve serenity through the six powers, the four types of attention, and the nine mental states which Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels explains. The scholar Yön-den-drak (Yontan-grags) says:56 The methods of the nine

mental states are included in the four attentions, and the six faults and the eight applications which are their antidotes are the method [for achieving] all concentrations. This is agreed upon in all teachings about the techniques for meditative stabilization—including those in most sÒtras, Maitreya’s

Ornament for the Mah›y›na SÒtras and Separation of the Middle from the Extremes, Asaºga’s texts on the levels,57 and KamalaŸıla’s three Stages of Meditation. Those who first have the preconditions for concentration will definitely attain concentration if they use these methods to work at it.

Nowadays, supposedly profound oral traditions on meditative stabilization lack even the names of these techniques. [488] These texts do not indicate that you will achieve concentration without the preconditions for concentration and these techniques, even if you work at it for a long time. This is stated in


his text on the stages of the path; it speaks of reaching pure certainty about how the classic texts present the way to achieve concentration. In that regard, since the general way of teaching the stages of the paths of the three vehicles is demonstrated at length in the noble Asaºga’s five texts on the levels,58 the texts that teach these practices are very extensive. Among these five, one text gives a detailed explanation, while the others do not. Asaºga’s Compendium of Determinations (ViniŸcaya-sa˙graha˚ı) says that his ⁄r›vaka Levels should be used to understand serenity and insight, so it is the

⁄r›vaka Levels that is most extensive. Also, the venerable Maitreya discusses the methods of the nine mental states and the eight antidotes in his Ornament for the Mah›y›na SÒtras and Separation of the Middle from the Extremes. Following them, such learned Indian masters as Haribhadra, KamalaŸıla, and

Ratn›karaŸ›nti wrote much about the process of achieving concentration. On the general sense of concentration the tantras are very consistent with the explanations in these classic texts, except that they use different objects of meditation, such as divine bodies, drops, and syllables. In particular,

texts in the sÒtra class provide very extensive discussions of problems—such as the five faults of concentration—and ways of clearing them away. However, those who know how to practice on the basis of those classic texts alone are as rare as stars in the daytime. Those who


impose on those texts the stains of their defective understanding derive only a superficial comprehension and maintain that the instructions that reveal the quintessential meaning lie elsewhere. When the time comes for them to put into practice the process of achieving concentration which these texts

explain, they do not even research how to do it. [489] The personal instructions of this treatise stress only the practices from the beginning to the end which are derived from the classic texts. Therefore, herein I will explain the methods used to achieve concentration drawing on the classic texts. This

explanation of the meditative process has two sections:


1. How to develop flawless concentration (Chapters 2-4)


2. The stages in which the mental states are thereby developed (Chapter 5)


(1’’) How to develop flawless concentration


This has three parts:


1. What to do prior to focusing the attention on an object of meditation

2. What to do while focusing on an object of meditation (Chapters 2-3)

3. What to do after you focus on an object of meditation (Chapter 4)


(a)) What to do prior to focusing the attention on an object of meditation If you cannot stop the laziness of being disinclined to cultivate concentration and of enjoying things that are not conducive to it, from the outset you will not gain entry into concentration; even if you do attain it once, you will be

unable to sustain it, so it will quickly deteriorate. Therefore, it is most crucial to stop laziness in the beginning. When you attain pliancy in which your mind and body are full of delight and bliss, you will stop laziness inasmuch as you will be able to cultivate virtue all day and night without

weariness. To develop this pliancy, you must be able to have continuous enthusiasm for the concentration that causes pliancy. To develop this enthusiasm,

you need a continuous, intense yearning that is intent on concentration. As a cause for this yearning you need steadfast confidence in and fascination with the good qualities of concentration. So to start with, cultivate again and again a confidence that is aware of the good qualities of concentration. When you see


this process in practice, you will understand this most vital point with the clearest sense of certainty. Maitreya’s Separation of the Middle from the Extremes states:59 The basis and what is based upon it Are the cause and its result. Here, the “basis” is yearning, which is the basis of endeavor; “what is based upon it” is the endeavor or enthusiasm. The cause of yearning is confident faith in the good qualities of concentration. [490] The result of endeavor is pliancy. In this context, the good qualities of concentration are as follows: When you reach serenity, your mind is filled with delight and

your body filled with bliss, so you are happy in this lifetime. Also, since you have attained physical and mental pliancy, you can turn your attention to any virtuous object of meditation you choose. Since you have quelled uncontrolled distraction toward the wrong sort of objects, you are not constantly

involved in wrongdoing and any virtue you do is very powerful. Based on serenity, you can achieve good qualities such as the superknowledges and supernormal powers. In particular, it is on the basis of serenity that you develop the knowledge of insight that knows the real nature, whereby you can

quickly cut the root of cyclic existence. If you reflect on any of these good qualities, you will become aware of, and meditate upon, things that strengthen your inclination to cultivate concentration. When this inclination arises, you will be continually prompted from within to cultivate

concentration, so it will be easy to attain concentration. Also, since you will cultivate it repeatedly even after attaining it, you will be unlikely to lose it.


(b)) What to do while focusing on an object of meditation


This section has two parts:


1. Identifying the object of meditation upon which your attention is set

2. How to focus your mind on the object of meditation (Chapter 3)


(1)) Identifying the object of meditation upon which your attention is set


This has two parts:


1. A general presentation of objects of meditation

2. Identifying objects of meditation for this context


(a’)) A general presentation of objects of meditation This has three sections:


1. The objects of meditation themselves

2. Who should meditate on which objects

3. Synonyms of the object of meditation


(1’)) The objects of meditation themselves


The Bhagavan stated that yogis have four types of objects of meditation,


these being:


(1) universal objects of meditation,


(2) objects of meditation for purifying your behavior,


(3) objects of meditation for expertise, and


(4) objects of meditation for purifying afflictions.


(a’’)) Universal objects of meditation Universal objects of meditation are of four types: (a) discursive images,


(b) non-discursive images,

(c) the limits of existence, and

(d) achievement of your purpose.


[491] The two types of images (discursive and non-discursive) are posited in terms of the observer: the first is the object of insight, and the second is the object of meditative serenity. The image is not the actual

specifically characterized object upon which your mind is focused, but rather the appearance of that object’s aspect to your mind. When you carry out analysis while observing an object, then the image is discursive since analytical thinking is present. When you stabilize your mind without analysis while

observing an object, the image is said to be non-discursive since analytical thinking is absent. As for these images, what objects of meditation are they images of? They are the images, or aspects, of the five objects of meditation for purifying behavior, the five objects of meditation for expertise, and the

two objects of meditation for purifying afflictions. The limits of existence are posited with reference to the observed object. There are two: The limits of existence for the diversity of phenomena, which are expressed in the statement, “Just this is all there is; there is nothing more”; and the limits of

existence for the real nature, expressed in the statement, “This alone is how things exist; they do not exist in any other way.” In the case of the diversity of phenomena, this means that the five aggregates include all composite phenomena; the eighteen constituents and twelve sources include all

phenomena; and the four truths include everything there is to know; there is nothing else beyond this.60 In the case of the nature, this means that reason establishes the truth or reality of those objects of meditation.


Achievement of purpose is posited in terms of the result. With either serenity or insight you direct your attention to the images of those objects of meditation. Then you stabilize on them, become accustomed to them, and, by virtue of repeated practice, you become free from your dysfunctional tendencies, undergoing a fundamental transformation. [492]

(b’’)) Objects of meditation for purifying your behavior Objects of meditation for purifying behavior are objects that purify behavior in which attachment or the like [[[hatred]], delusion, pride, or discursiveness] is predominant. There are five such objects of meditation. Respectively they are: (a) ugliness,


(b) love,

(c) dependent-arising,

(d) differentiation of constituents, and


(e) inhalation and exhalation.


(a) Of these, the objects of meditation on ugliness consist of the thirty-six uglinesses pertaining to the body,61 such as head and body hair, and external uglinesses such as a corpse’s turning blue.62 When an aspect of impurity and ugliness arises in your mind, you keep your attention on it.

(b) Love involves focusing on friends, enemies, and persons toward whom you have neutral feelings, and having an attitude—at the level of meditative equipoise—of providing them with help and happiness. Keeping your attention on these objects of meditation with a loving attitude is called “meditation on love”; love refers both to the subjective attitude and to the object.


(c) Regarding the object of meditation on dependent-arising: All there is in the past, the present, and the future is dependent-arising in which effects that are mere phenomenal factors simply arise based on mere phenomenal factors. Apart from these, there is no performer of actions or experiencer of their effects. You focus your attention on this fact, and hold it there.


(d) As for the object of meditation on the differentiation of the constituents: You differentiate the factors of the six constituents—earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness. You focus your attention on them and hold it there.

(e) Regarding the object of meditation on inhalation and exhalation: You focus your attention without distraction by counting and watching the breath move in and out.


(c’’)) Objects of meditation for expertise


There are also five objects of meditation for expertise, namely expertise in


(a) the aggregates,

(b) the constituents,

(c) the sources,

(d) dependent-arising, and

(e) what is and is not possible.


(a) The aggregates are the five aggregates of form and the others [[[feeling]], discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness].


Expertise in these is knowing that, apart from these aggregates, the self and what pertains to the self do not exist.


(b) The constituents are the eye and the others of the eighteen constituents. Expertise in them is knowing the causal conditions by which those constituents arise from their own seeds. [493]

(c) The sources are the eye and the others of the twelve sources. Expertise in these is knowing that the six internal sources are the dominant conditions for the six consciousnesses, that the six external sources are the object-conditions, and that the mind which has just ceased is the immediately preceding condition.

(d) Dependent-arising is the twelve factors.63 Expertise in them is knowing that they are impermanent, suffering, and devoid of self.

(e) What is and is not possible refers to such things as it being possible for a pleasant fruition to arise from a virtuous action, but not possible for a pleasant fruition to arise from a non-virtuous action. Expertise in this is knowing that things are this way. This is a particular case of expertise in

dependent-arising; the difference is that you understand diverse causes.64 When you use these as objects of meditation for cultivating serenity, you keep your attention on just one of the perspectives in which the aggregates, etc. may be known.

(d’’)) Objects of meditation for purifying afflictions Purifying afflictions means either merely reducing the strength of the seeds of the afflictions or else utterly eradicating the seeds. In the former case, the objects of meditation are the comparative coarseness of each lower stage and comparative calmness of each higher stage, proceeding from the level of the desire realm up to the level of Nothingness.65 In the latter case, the objects of meditation are impermanence and the other of the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths.66 When you use these as objects of meditation for cultivating

serenity, you do not analyze, but instead keep your attention on any one cognition of an aspect of those objects that appears to it. KamalaŸıla’s second Stages of Meditation67 states that objects of meditation are three.


(1) After you have brought together everything that all twelve branches of scripture say about determining, settling into, and having settled into reality, you stabilize your mind upon it.


(2) You observe the aggregates, etc., which include phenomena to some extent.

(3) You stabilize your mind on the physical form of the Buddha, which you have seen and heard about.


How do you stabilize your mind on things such as the aggregates? [494] When you understand how all compositional things can be included within the five aggregates, you mentally collect them, gradually, into these five aggregates. Then you observe them and keep your attention on them. Just as discerning

wisdom develops when you cultivate differentiation, so when you cultivate collectedness you develop concentration wherein your attention is brought together on the object of meditation without moving toward other objects. This is a personal instruction of the knowledge tradition. Likewise, when you understand how all phenomena can be included within the constituents and sources, you mentally collect them into these categories and keep your attention

on this. Among these four types of objects of meditation, objects of meditation for purifying behavior, as explained, facilitate the stopping of attachment and such in those whose behavior is dominated by attachment and such. They are special objects of meditation because you may readily attain concentration based upon them. Objects of meditation for expertise are conducive to the development of the insight that knows emptiness inasmuch as they refute a

personal self that is not included among those phenomena. Therefore, they are excellent objects of meditation for cultivating serenity. Objects of meditation for dispelling afflictions serve as general antidotes to the afflictions, so they have great significance. The universal objects of meditation are not distinct from the aforementioned three.68 Therefore, since you must achieve concentration using an object of meditative serenity that has a

particular purpose, those who achieve concentration using things like pebbles and twigs for objects of meditation are clearly ignorant of the teachings on objects of concentration. There are those who suppose that if you focus on an object of meditation and keep your attention on it, this is an apprehension of signs. They claim that meditation on emptiness means just stabilizing your mind without any basis, without focusing on any object of meditation. This is

a total misunderstanding of how to meditate on emptiness. If you have no consciousness at that time, then neither will you have a concentration that cultivates emptiness. [495] On the other hand, if you have consciousness, then you are conscious of something, so you have to accept that there is an object of consciousness in terms of which consciousness is posited. If there is an object of consciousness, then precisely that is the object of meditation of that mind, because “object,” “object of meditation,”


and “object of consciousness” have the same meaning. In that case, they would have to accept that even their method of concentration would apprehend signs. Thus, their approach is not correct. Furthermore, whether something constitutes meditation on emptiness is determined by whether it is meditation founded

upon the view that knows the way things are; it is not determined by whether there is any conceptualization vis-à-vis the object. This will be demonstrated at length below.69 Even those who claim to stabilize their minds without an object of meditation must think first, “I will keep my attention such that it does not stray toward any object whatsoever,” and then keep their attention in that way. After they have focused like that on the mind itself as an object of meditation, they must be certain to fix on this object without straying in any way. Thus, their own experience contradicts their claim that they have no object of meditation. In this way, the classic texts on achieving concentration explain that there are many objects of meditation. The purposes of these meditative bases for stabilizing your mind are as explained above, so you should gain expertise in them. KamalaŸıla’s Stages of Meditation explains that

the object of meditation of serenity is indeterminate,70 and Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment says, “[It is] whatever object or objects of meditation that are appropriate.”71 These statements mean that you are not required to stick with one particular object of meditation; they do not show how to define the range of existing objects of meditation.

(2’)) Who should meditate on which objects As there are various kinds of people, from those with a preponderance of attachment to those with a preponderance of discursiveness, Asanga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels cites an answer to a question of Revata:72 Revata, if attachment uniquely dominates the behavior

of a monkyogi, a practitioner of yoga, then he focuses his mind on the object of meditation of ugliness. [496] If hatred dominates his behavior, he meditates on love; if ignorance dominates his behavior, then he meditates on the dependent-arising of this condition; if pride dominates his behavior, he

focuses his mind on the differentiation of the constituents.73 And: If discursiveness uniquely dominates his behavior, then he focuses his mind on an awareness of the exhalation and inhalation of the


breath. In this way, he focuses his mind on an appropriate object of meditation. Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels also states:74 In this regard, persons whose behavior is dominated by attachment, hatred, ignorance, pride, or discursiveness should, for a while at the outset, just purify those behaviors by contemplating objects of meditation for purifying behavior. After this they will see the stability of their minds, and they will ascertain only their

objects of meditation. So they should definitely persevere at using their objects of meditation. Thus, you certainly should work with these objects of meditation. If you are a person whose behavior is balanced, or one whose afflictions are slight, then it suffices to keep your attention on whichever of the aforementioned objects of meditation you like; it is not necessary to have a particular one. Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels states:75 Those whose behavior is

balanced should work at whichever object they like so as to attain just mental stability; this is not for the purpose of purifying behavior. Understand that the same applies to those with slight afflictions. Being dominated by desire—or another of those five afflictions— means that in a previous life you were fully involved in that affliction, became accustomed to it, and expressed it frequently, so that now even if there is a minor object of desire—or

another of the five— that affliction arises in a strong and long-lasting form. [497] Balanced behavior means that you were not fully involved in desire and the others in your previous lives, you did not become accustomed to them, and you did not express them frequently. Still, you have not recognized that they are faults and you have not suppressed them, so while desire and such are not predominant or of great duration, it is not as though they do not occur.

Having slight afflictions means that you were not fully involved and so on in desire—or another of those five—in your previous lives, and you do see their disadvantages, etc. Therefore, with respect to objects of desire and such that are major, many, or intense, your desire and such arise slowly, while for moderate or minor objects, these afflictions do not arise at all. Also, when desire or another of those five afflictions is predominant, you take a long time to realize stability; with balanced behavior, you do not take an excessively long time; with minor afflictions, you do so very quickly.


An answer to a question of Revata [as cited in the ⁄r›vaka Levels] also explains who works on objects of meditation for expertise:76 Revata, if a monk-yogi, a practitioner of yoga, is confused about the characteristic nature of all composite things, or confused about the thing called person, self, living being, life, that which is reborn, or the nourisher, he should focus his mind on the objects of meditation for expertise in the aggregates. If he is confused about causes, he should focus on the objects of meditation for expertise in the constituents. If he is confused about conditions, he should focus

on the objects of meditation for expertise in the sources. If he is confused about impermanence, suffering, and selflessness, he should focus on the objects of meditation for expertise in dependent-arising, and on what is and is not possible. As this states, you mainly use these five objects of meditation to stop confusion.77 Which persons should focus their minds on objects of meditation for dispelling afflictions is also stated in the same sÒtra [answering the questions of Revata]:78 If you wish to be free from the attachment of the desire realm, focus your mind on the coarseness of the desire realm and the calmness of the form realm; [498] if you wish to be free from the attachment of the form realm, focus your mind on the coarseness of the form realm and the calmness of the formless realm. If you wish to become disenchanted with all of the perishing aggregates, and wish to be free from them, then

focus your mind on the truth of suffering, the truth of origins, the truth of cessation, and the truth of the path. You can use these objects of meditation both for analytical meditation with insight and for stabilizing meditation with serenity, so they are not exclusively objects of meditation for serenity.

Still, since some serve as objects of meditation for newly achieving serenity and others are used for special purposes after attaining serenity, I have explained them here in the section on the objects of meditation of serenity.


(3’)) Synonyms of the object of meditation There are synonyms for the images or mental appearances of these objects of meditation explained above, these “points upon which the attention is kept,” or “meditative bases for concentration,” as stated in Asaºga’s ⁄r›vaka Levels:79

Also, that image is called “image”; it also is called “sign of concentration,” “object in the domain of concentration,” “technique of concentration,” “door to concentration,” “basis of attention,” “body of internal conceptualization,” and “appearing image.” Know these as synonyms of the image which accords with the object that is known.


(b’)) Identifying objects of meditation for this context Now, from among the many objects of meditation I have explained, on which object of meditation should you base yourself so as to achieve serenity? [499] As stated in the sÒtra passage cited above, there is no single, definite object; individuals

require their particular object of meditation. Specifically, if you are determined to achieve serenity at the least, and if your behavior is dominated by attachment or another affliction, then you need to use a certain type of object of meditation. For if you do not, then you may attain a concentration that


approximates serenity, but you will not attain actual serenity. It is said that even if you train with an object of meditation for purifying behavior, you will not achieve serenity unless you do so for a very long time, so how could you ever achieve it by rejecting objects of meditation for purifying

behavior? In particular, if you have a predominance of discursiveness, then you definitely have to meditate on the breath. If you are a person of balanced behavior or a person with slight afflictions, then, as explained before,80 make your meditative base whichever of the objects of meditation explained above

most appeals to you. Alternatively, KamalaŸıla’s middle and last Stages of Meditation follow the SÒtra on the Concentration Which Perceives the Buddha of the Present Face to Face (Pratyutpanna-buddha-sa˙mukh›vasthitasam›dhi-sÒtra) and the King of Concentrations SÒtra in stating that you achieve concentration

by focusing on the body of the Tathagata. Also, the master Bodhi Bhadra explains a multitude [of objects]: 81 Here, serenity is twofold: that attained by looking inward and that [based on] an object of meditation viewed outwardly. Of those, looking inward is twofold: focusing on the body and focusing on what

is based on the body. Of those, focusing on the body is threefold: focusing on the body itself in the aspect of a deity; focusing on ugliness, such as skeletons; and focusing on special insignia, such as a kha˛v›ºga.82 Focusing on what is based on the body is fivefold: focusing on the breath, focusing on subtle divine insignia, focusing on the


drops, focusing on the aspects of light rays, and focusing on delight and bliss. [500] Serenity based on an object of meditation viewed outwardly is twofold: special and common. Of those, the special is twofold: focusing on a deity’s body and focusing on a deity’s speech. Atisha’s commentary on his own Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhi-m›rga-pradıpa-pañjik›) also cites this passage. In this regard, to keep your attention on the physical form of

the Buddha is to recall the Buddha, so it gives rise to limitless merit. When your image of that body is clear and firm, then there is a special intensification of your meditative focus on the field in relation to which you amass merit through prostration, offering, aspirational prayer, etc., as

well as on the field in relation to which you purify obscurations through confession, restraint, etc. This kind of meditation serves many purposes. As stated earlier in the extract from the King of Concentrations SÒtra,83 it has advantages such as your not losing your mindfulness of the Buddha as you die.

And when you cultivate the mantra path, it heightens deity yoga, etc. The SÒtra on the Concentration Which Perceives the Buddha of the Present Face to Face gives a very clear and detailed treatment of these benefits, as well as the method for directing your mind toward the Buddha. Therefore, you should

definitely come to know them from there, as KamalaŸıla states in his last Stages of Meditation. Fearing verbosity, I do not write of them here. Consequently, it is skill in means when you seek an object of meditation by which you achieve concentration and also fulfill, along the way, some other special purpose. How do you use something like the bodily form of the Tath›gata as an object of meditation? KamalaŸıla’s last Stages of Meditation states:84 In that regard, practitioners should first fix their attention on whatever they may have seen and whatever they may have heard about the bodily

form of the Tath›gata, and then achieve serenity. The bodily form of the Tath›gata is a golden color like that of refined gold, adorned by the signs and exemplary features, dwells with its retinue, and effects the aims of living beings through various means. By continuously directing their minds toward it,

yogis develop a wish for its good qualities and quell laxity, excitement, and so forth. [501] They should continue meditative stabilization for as long as they can see it clearly, as though the Buddha was sitting in front of them.


The King of Concentrations SÒtra also says that you should use this kind of object of meditation:85 The glorious protector of the world With a body the color of gold— The bodhisattva whose mind engages this object Is said to be in equipoise. Of the two ways to do this, newly imagining the Buddha’s form and

visualizing the Buddha’s form as though actually present, the latter has a distinct advantage in developing faith and fits within the context of practices common to both sÒtra and tantra vehicles. Therefore, use a visualized image of the Buddha’s form as though it already actually exists. When you seek your

object of meditation, the basis upon which you first keep your attention, look for an excellent painting or sculpture of the Teacher’s body and view it again and again. Remembering its features, firmly familiarize yourself with the mental appearance of the object. Or, seek your object of meditation by

reflecting upon the meaning of the eloquent descriptions of the Buddha’s form which you have heard from your guru and make this image appear in your mind. Furthermore, do not let the object of meditation have the aspect of a painting or sculpture; rather, learn to have it appear in your mind with the aspect


of an actual buddha. Some set an image before them and immediately meditate on it while staring at it. The master Ye-shay-day’s (Ye-shes-sde) rejection of this practice is excellent. He says that concentration is not achieved in the sensory consciousnesses, but in the mental consciousness; thus, the actual

object of meditation of a concentration is the actual object of a mental consciousness. Therefore, you must keep your attention on this. He also states what I explained above,86 that you have to focus your mind on the appearance of the actual concept, or mental image, of the object of meditation.

Furthermore, there are both subtle and gross features of the Buddha’s bodily form. It is stated elsewhere that at first you focus on the gross features, and later, when these are solid, you must focus on the subtle. [502] As experience also shows that it is very easy to raise an appearance of the gross

features, you must develop your object of meditation in stages starting with the gross features. An especially important point is that, until you have accomplished satisfactory concentration as explained below, it is never appropriate for you to cultivate meditative concentration by shifting your focus to many different types of objects of meditation. For,


if you cultivate concentration by moving to many dissimilar objects of meditation, it will be a great impediment to achieving serenity. Thus, authoritative texts on achieving concentration, such as Asaºga’s texts on the levels and KamalaŸıla’s three Stages of Meditation, explain that when first achieving concentration, you do so in relation to a single object of meditation; they do not say that you shift among many objects of meditation. firyaŸÒra also

clearly states this [in his Compendium of the Perfections (P›ramit›-sam›sa)]:87 Solidify your mind’s reflection By being firm on one object of meditation; Letting it flow to many objects Leads to a mind disturbed by afflictions. He says this in the section on achieving meditative stabilization. Also, Atisha’s

Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment states:88 Settle your mind in virtue On any single object of meditation. He makes his point with the phrase “on any

single.” Thus, having first focused on one object of meditation and attained serenity, you may then focus on many objects of meditation. KamalaŸıla’s first Stages of Meditation states:89 Only when you have earned concentrated attention should you focus in detail on the particulars of objects, such as the

aggregates and constituents. It is in light of the particulars of yogismeditation on objects such as the eighteen emptinesses that the Buddha states in sÒtras such as the SÒtra Unravelling the Intended Meaning that there are many aspects of objects of meditation.90 Accordingly, the measure for having first

found the object of meditation upon which you keep your attention is as follows: Visualize several times in sequence the head, two arms, the rest of the

trunk of the body, and the two legs. [503] After that, if when you bring your attention to the body as a whole you can raise before your mind just half of the gross components, then—even without radiant clarity—you should be satisfied with just this and fix your attention upon it. Why? If, dissatisfied with

just that, you fail to fix your attention on it and want more clarity instead, then, as you visualize it again and again, the object of meditation will become a bit clearer but you will not obtain a stable concentration; in fact, you will prevent yourself from getting this. Even though the object of meditation is not very clear, if you keep your attention on


precisely this partial object of meditation, you will quickly obtain concentration. Since this then intensifies clarity, you will readily achieve clarity. This comes from the instructions of Ye-shay-day; it is of great importance. As for the manner in which the object of meditation appears, you can describe

two sets of four possibilities: for various types of persons, it is easy or difficult to have an image appear, and its appearance may be clear or unclear; moreover, both clear and unclear images may be either stable or unstable. However, as there is considerable variation, you cannot definitely determine what will occur. When you are practicing deity yoga in the mantra vehicle, you definitely have to establish a clear image of the deity. So until this arises,

you must use many methods for developing it. However, in this non-tantric context, if you have great difficulty in making an image of a deity appear, you may adopt any one of the objects of meditation presented above and keep your attention on it because the main purpose is simply to achieve a concentration of meditative serenity. Also, in this non-tantric context, if you practice by focusing on the body of a deity and you keep your attention there even though


the image is not appearing, then you will not achieve your desired aim. Thus, you have to keep your attention on an image that does appear. Keep your attention on the entirety of the body to the extent that it appears. If some parts of the body appear especially clearly, keep your attention on them. When they become unclear, return your attention to the entirety of the body. [504] At that time, there may be uncertainty as to color, as when you want to

meditate on gold, but red appears; or uncertainty as to shape, as when you want to meditate on a sitting shape, but a standing shape appears; or uncertainty as to number, as when you want to meditate on one thing, but two things appear; or uncertainty as to size, as when you want to meditate on a large body, but a tiny body appears. As it is utterly inappropriate to pursue such distortions, you must use only the original object of meditation, whatever it may be, as your object of meditation.



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