We understand that meditation is a method of calming our mind, defusing wandering thoughts, and moving toward a stage of complete thoughtlessness. From this stage, the practitioner will then proceed to eliminate their ignorance and ego in order to accomplish the final goal of spiritual enlightenment as Buddha taught. Of course, the path of enlightenment can never be completed within several lifetimes. It takes hundreds or even thousands of lifetimes for a person to reach the end of this path.
First and foremost, meditation helps to reduce the amount of wandering thoughts in our mind. This is extremely beneficial for our health and our quality of life. Once our mind is less distracted by our wandering thoughts, we can become more focused and studious. It’s not easy to stay focused. We must meditate to get rid of the unwanted thoughts then we can increase attention span.
Concentrating our mind is a complex process which undergoes various stages, methods, and requires an extremely high level of accuracy. And especially, there must be a clear distinction between the roots (the foundation) and the crown (end goal). We have to apply meditative techniques in a way that the root always receives priority. To achieve a sustainable outcome, meditation practitioners should never pursue the crown and forget the roots.
– The first distinction between the root and the crown is that the absolute respect towards Buddha is the root and the enlightened sainthood is the crown. Those who only focus on pursuing the enlightened sainthood and putting aside their absolute respect towards Buddha are forgetting the root and chasing the crown. These people will surely achieve no positive outcome in their spiritual cultivation.
Meditation practitioners have to cultivate the everlasting respect towards Buddha without caring about the enlightened sainthood. Once we give absolute respect to Buddha, anytime within this life or another, enlightened sainthood will come to us. There are many ways to cultivate our respect towards Buddha. The simplest method is to pay homage to Buddha every day.
– The second distinction between the root and the crown is that having a compassionate heart with unconditional love is the root and the cultivated wisdom is the crown. On the path of cultivation, our inner world keeps changing in an extremely complex way. Numerous moral faults and hurdles will appear to hinder us in various ways. If practitioners don’t have sufficient wisdom to overcome every single obstacle, they will be demotivated and fail. That doesn’t mean that to have wisdom practitioners have to keep seeking various ways to get it but rather they should maintain the root, i.e., nourishing the boundless love to all beings. We have to remind ourselves of the wish that all beings will practice spiritual cultivation for achieving enlightenment. When practicing meditation, we have to deliberately spread unconditional love everywhere and to all beings.
– The third distinction between the root and the crown is that modesty and non-disclosure are the roots and spiritual improvement is the crown. It is not accurate to say that as long as we practice cultivating there will be spiritual improvement. It still depends on our modesty. Once we allow any secret pride (in terms of religious achievements and being proud of ourselves) to exist in our mind, the further we will fall back and even become insane. Therefore, we should never be in a hurry seeking constant meditative achievements. Rather, we should be modest and continue with non-disclosure as a Root by giving respect to everyone and reminding ourselves that we are nothing more than a piece of dust.
– The fourth distinction between the root and the crown is that a merit created by doing good deeds is the root and a favourable condition or a mind which is easy to be mastered is the crown. Don’t ever think that just because we are intelligent that we can cleverly stay focused with less effort. This is not true at all. All of the favourable conditions and outcomes in meditation come from our merits, not intelligence. The more we manage to serve and convert others, the easier it is for us to master our mind. Those who bury themselves in solitude will achieve nothing more than an absolute loss. When making good karma, we have to live with a thoughtful mind. We will then concentrate our mind during meditation much easier.
– The fifth distinction between the root and crown is that being mindful of the whole body is the root and to make unwanted thoughts reduce and gradually disappear is the crown. When being mindful of the whole body, we will no longer supply energy to wandering thoughts. In contrast, if we put our attention on the head to fight away these distractions, we will also supply energy for them to keep coming back.
Being mindful of the whole body includes mainly focusing on the lower part of the abdomen and the chest. Later, we will become more aware of the whole body. If we are focusing our attention on our back, we should only be mindful from the waist to the lower part. Concentrating on the back from the waist up to the head is prohibited. This is because you will become greatly distracted by the random thoughts that come up. Being mindful of the whole body is the Root and reducing wandering thoughts to enter a state of serenity is the crown. Don’t ever give up on the root to pursue the crown.
– The sixth distinction between the root and the crown is to get your breathing down to a gentle, slow and little breath is the Root whereas the awareness of the whole body is the crown. If we gently and slowly inhale with a little amount of air, the awareness of the whole body will increase. If we stay mindful of our entire body, unwanted thoughts will not linger. Once unwanted thoughts are reduced, we are mindful in meditation and daily activities. Until our minds can enter into the Right Mindfulness stage, it will not be automatically mindful.
In the beginning, we practice the basic breath, i.e. knowing, but not controlling the breath. It takes several years to practice to become acquainted with the breath. Then, after being familiar and mastering the natural breath, we begin to control the rate of our breathing and keep it down to a slower pace. Furthermore, we also have to gently inhale and exhale rather than harsh breathing. Also exhale and inhale little breaths rather than long ones. All three steps must be done at the same time. Once we become mindful of our body, wandering thoughts will reduce.
When our mind is tranquil, we will enter a stage of complete emptiness and mindfulness. Please, never focus on the tranquil state of mind because that is the crown. Please continue to be mindful of your entire body. We keep reminding ourselves that this body is impermanent and at the same time we must also be mindful of our gentle, slow, and little breathing. When our mind is tranquil, it is very easy for it to be in a bad mindset. We are more prone to becoming conceited and prideful which, is extremely dangerous.
Even when our mind is tranquil, it still hasn’t entered the Right Mindfulness. Even when it has entered the Right Mindfulness, it still hasn’t been completely freed of wandering thoughts. And even when the wandering thoughts have completely been eliminated, our mind is not surely entering the state of ecstasy. Even when the mind has entered the state of ecstasy, it does not surely attain selflessness. The path is still very long ahead.
The issue that is most concerning is that we will admire the tranquil state and consider it as a Super-ego. If so, it will take us back to the Changed Dhamma time. We must come back to the target which is the selflessness of the Right Dhamma time.