Rudiments of Mental Collectedness
His Holiness The Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, Somdej Phra Nyanasamvara
Three Trainings we find, Sila, good behavior, Samadhi, mental collectedness, and Panna, wisdom or the ability to know. In the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment we find Samma-Samadhi, right collectedness of mind as the concluding constituent, and in many other sets of teachings mental collectedness is also found. In Suttas or dialogues there are also savings of Lord Buddha which preach development of mental collectedness. For example, in a certain passage Lord Buddha said: "O monks, develop mental collectedness, for a man whose mind is collected and intent knows things as they really are." Thus mental collectedness is very important in the practice of Buddhist teachings. Mental collectedness, however, should be cultivated not only in religious matters but also in all general work. Collectedness of heart and mind is required in all kinds of work, in the general conduct of one's life as well as in carrying out religious observances. Quite a few people think that Samadhi, mental collectedness is only for religious endeavor, i.e. for those who wish to practice as monks, novices and the regular temple-goers. This understanding is incorrect, so the general meaning of Samadhi will be given here first.
By Samadhi, collectedness, evenness of awareness, is meant ordinarily the steady setting of the awareness on an object of attention. The setting of the mind in this manner is the ordinary meaning of Samadhi, which is required in all kinds of work to be done; in studying as well as working. To succeed in study one needs mental collectedness for reading, writing or listening to a lecture given by a teacher or a lecture. In other words, one should read, write, and listen attentively, with a collected and alert mind. This attention or ability to concentrate is a co-ordination of physical and mental activities. For example, in reading, the body must be ready to read. The book must be opened, the eyes must be on the letters and the mind must also read. It won’t do if the eye alone read but the mind does not. If the mind thinks about something else, the eyes that look at the letters will stay fixed. The eyes do not recognize the letters and do not get the message. It is necessary that the mind reads too. When the mind as well as the eyes read, then one gets the message from what one is reading. Understanding what one read can be called a sort of knowledge-knowledge arising form reading. When the mind and the eyes read in co-ordination, that is in a state of togetherness or collectedness, the reading will be fast, the message will be quickly understood and well-remembered. This reading mind is the mind in the state of ordinary mental collectedness, that is, the mind is not scattered and is set only on the reading. The same thing happen in writing, thinking about many other matters instead, one does not succeed in writing and one does not even from the letters well. The mind must write too, that is, it must pay attention to writing while the hand moves. It is the same with listening; while the ears listen the mind must listen too. If the mind does not listen one would not understand the sound that reaches the ears. So the mind must listen, and the mind will listen well only when it is collected and clear; it will listen attentively. Thus, it can be see that mental collectedness is needed in studying reading, writing, and listening. It is the same with working; mental collectedness is needed in doing physical work, also in speaking as well as in planning one's work. With mental togetherness one succeeds in doing one's work well. Looking at it this way we see that mental collectedness forms an essential basis for all kinds of work. This is the general use of mental collectedness which is needed in studying as well as in doing all other kinds of work.
Now we shall talk about the development of mental collectedness for in order to put one's mind in a state of mental orderliness one requires some practice or training. The ordinary mental collectedness which we all have to a certain degree is not comprehensive enough. The mental power is still weak, struggling and wavering; it can be easily swayed by the various thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind. These feelings are mental and perceived constantly through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the skin and the mind itself, namely through the six organs of sense. In this way sensual love, hatred and delusion take turns at occupying the mind. While the mind, which is already fickle, is being disturbed by the various feelings mentioned above, it is difficult to maintain mental collectedness in studying or in doing any work. It may be seen that sometimes one can hardly concentrate one's attention on reading, writing or on listening to a lecture because one's mind is dashing to various objects of attraction, repulsion and delusion and it becomes so disturbed that mental balance is not possible. This state of mental disturbance renders one unable to read, to write or to listen well and, as a result, the study suffers. It is the same with working: one cannot work well while one's mind is fretting under the power of the feelings and under the conditions arising from the feelings known as Kilesa or defilements, such as sensual love, hatred and delusion. The mind that has been trained to be collected tends to be like that. The integrity of such a mind cannot be very strong even while it is not disturbed by any attracting feeling. Consequently, it is advisable that one development mental collectedness.
There are two main objectives in the development of collectedness of mind: one is to neutralize or counterbalance the effect of the present arising of feelings and disturbances and the other is to develop more comprehensive mental collectedness so that disturbances do not arise in the future. Regarding the first objective, the feeling or the disturbance arising in the mind is sometimes the feeling of sensual love. As the feeling of this love distracts the mind and disturbs the mental evenness, one must learn to quieten one's mind in the face of sensual love which is detrimental to the study or the work to be done as well as to the keeping of oneself within the boundaries of the law and morality. This is one of the things taught by Lord Buddha: one must learn to have a controlled mind so that it will not be disturbed by attachment to any feelings. Sometimes anger arises in the mind, heating it up and agitating it. This feeling is also dangerous as it is detrimental to one's mental integration. Thus, one should learn to always be collected and to be able to quieten the mind in times of anger. Sometimes delusion comes up; this defilement may appear as dreamy drowsiness, as fretful irritability or as mental uncertainly. One should learn to develop mental collectedness and free one's mind from delusion.
Now we come to the principle of teaching mental development in Buddhism. During daily life, a way to bring more collectedness to the mind and to quieten the mind whine it comes under the power of sensual love, hatred or delusion mentioned previously is to change the feeling for the mind. As it is already know that the feeling of sensual love can give rise to loving fondness, the feeling should be replaced by a feeling free from sensual love. Sensual love may be may be replaced by loving kindness, Metta, which is pure love found among friends, relatives and among parents and their children. Delusion is to be replaced by a concrete thought or feeling free from delusion, or by keeping one's wits about oneself. The state of the mind depends on the king of thought or feeling on which the mind dwells. When the mind dwells upon sensual love, the feeling of love or fondness will arise. If the mind does not dwell on sensual love but on an opposite kind of thought, then equilibrium and tranquility will arise. Similarly, we feel angry because our mind dwells on an angry thought or feeling. When the mind changes its footing and dwells on an opposite thought or feeling, anger will subside. The same thing can be said of delusion: when the mind dwells on a foundation other than delusion, delusion then becomes ineffective. Lord Buddha pointed out various thoughts or feelings to set the mind on when the mind comes under the influence of certain feelings. With this knowledge and also some practice in mental collectedness, one should know how to calm the mind in times of disturbance and succeed in doing so. This is one of the objectives of mental development which deserves practice.
Secondly, one practices mental collectedness in order to augment and fortify one's mental power and ability. This is similar to taking physical exercise to increase physical strength. When one take physical exercise regularly ones' physical strength will become better. Similarly, mental wholeness will become greater with regular exercise of mental collectedness by employing one of the methods for increasing the establishment of mental collectedness. The stability of mental integration can be increased in this way, just as physical strength can be increased by taking physical exercise regularly. This is the training in mental collectedness.
Now in the same manner there are two ways in the development of mental collectedness. One of them is for the neutralization of the existing mental attachments or afflictions mentioned previously. Those who have had reasonable experience of mental collectedness should be able to discipline their mind well and will not succumb to the objects of thought arising from sensual love, hatred, and delusion. Those people will be able to calm down their minds and keep them safe. The mental objects and defilements will cause no harm to their study or work, nor to law and order or morality. Besides, mental collectedness is needed in carrying out any work to be done. To begin with, mental togetherness is needed in studying: it is also needed in reading, in writing and in listening. Mental integration gives one more capacity for study and work and this will enable one to study better and to work better. What has been said shows the general principles of the practice and use of mental collectedness, which include the general meaning of mental collectedness, its development, and its application?
Now, here is a brief description of meditation, that is, the way to develop mental collectedness. It is prescribed in the texts that for developing collectedness of mind one should seek a suitable place which is not subject to noise and disturbance. A quiet place in a forest, at the foot of a tree or in a quiet building is suitable for the purpose. The intention is to find any reasonably peaceful place. One should then go there and sit down with legs crossed, traditionally with the right foot on the left foot, hands are put on the lap; the right hand placed on the left hand. The body should be straight. One may, however, sit with one's legs folded to one side, etc. This is up to one's comfort and ease. One should then close the eyes and collect one's faculties together and be aware of the touching sensation of the breath. One can know whether the breathing is in or the breathing is out. If it should be asked where one should be aware of this breathing in and out, the answer would be that an easy spot where one can be aware of this is the outermost point of one's nostrils or the upper lip which the air touches on being breathed in. The inhaled air touches the outermost points of the nostrils and the upper lip while the abdomen expands, and the exhaled air touches at the same spots when the abdomen contracts. Easily feel the air which goes in from the tip of the nostrils to the abdomen which expands, and feel the air going out from the contracting abdomen to the end of the nostrils. First get to know the process of breathing in and out as described above. In breathing in the breath starts from the nostril cavities and goes to the swelling abdomen; and in breathing out the breath leaves the contracting abdomen and flows to the tip of the nose. This is known as the path of the wind (namely the breath). Now it is not necessary to follow the breath down to the abdomen; it is only necessary to rest one's attention upon the tip of the nose so that one knows if breathing is in or out. One should naturally collect one's mental awareness together and be conscious of the touching sensation of the breath. Initially, in developing this collected-awareness, counting may be used as an aid: thus, breathing in 1, breathing out 1; breathing in 2, breathing out 2; 3-3; 4-4; 5-5. Then back to 1 again, thus 1-1; 2-2; 3-3; 4-4; 5-5; 6-6. Back to 1 again, thus 1-1; 2-2; to 7-7. Back to 1 again, thus, 1-1; 2-2; to 8-8. Back to 1 again, thus 1-1; 2-2; to 9-9. Back to 1 again, thus 1-1; 2-2; to 10-10. Then back to the beginning and thus 1-1 to 5-5, and 1-1 to 6-6 etc. Repeat this counting several times until the mind is reasonably collected and the awareness is reasonably steady. After that is not necessary to count in pairs; count singly 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 etc. When the mind has becomes well-collected and the awareness is really even, one should stop counting and one can just be aware of the breath at the tip of nose or on the upper lip.
The counting method described above is the method taught by the teachers in the treatise of Visuddhi Magga (the Pat of Purity). Other ways of counting may be used, such as 1-1 up 10-10 and then come back to 1-1 again. One may count beyond 10-10, if one wishes. However, the teachers recommend counting up to 10-10 only because they think that counting to a much higher number than ten would require too much contrived attention from the mind. So they recommend counting with a limit that does not require too much effort in counting. Another method recommended by the teachers is to say to oneself "Bud" on breathing in, and "dho" on breathing out. Thus; Bud-dho, Bud-dho, etc. Dham-mo or Sangho may be used in the same way. When the mind has become collected, one stops saying to oneself Bud-dho etc., and one is aware of the air touching the tip of the nose or the upper lip. Practice this until the mind remains collected for a long while. What I have told you today is only the first steps of the drill. Let those interested in mental wholeness and mental purity (as well as success in study and work) put them into practice.
May all beings be free from enmity
May they be happy and free from fear.