QUESTION: What is the difference between the natural breath that we KNOW but NOT run it, and the breath that we deliberately slowed it down?
ANSWER: The breath that we deliberately slowed down gently can help us to be aware of the whole body effectively. This can also make wandering thoughts disappear quickly. However, for novice practitioners of mediation, trying to slow the breath down will cause trouble immediately. Therefore, at the beginning, we have to get acquainted with the conscious breath by knowing but not running it. Gradually, we will be able to ‘catch’ the breath.
Many practitioners are afraid of breathing exercises because during the first few days of practice, they are excited to run the breath by taking long and deep breaths. However, it takes only 3 minutes for these practitioners to feel extremely uncomfortable and then stop practicing right away. We must be patient in only knowing, but not running our breath. We have to know the breathing in a way that we do not run it, so that we can gradually get familiar with our breathing (in spite of the fact that we are breathing for our entire life). However, with this kind of breath, our mindfulness is not strong enough to concentrate our mind deeply in meditation when breathing like this. Nevertheless, we cannot skip this stage. It may take us several years to finish this stage.
Once we become indeed familiar with our natural breath, we can try breathing gently and slowly. There is no need to take a long breath, short ones will work also. Trying to take long breaths will exhaust our heart immediately. In order to breathe in slowly and gently , we should practice the Am Duong Breath. By practicing this exercise, we become familiar with breathing slowly when exhaling. Once we can practice Am Duong Breath adequetly, our mind will eventually become tranquil. When we become acquainted with the breath of Am Duong Breath, we can run our breath slowly and gently. At that time, our meditation practice has already entered into a new stage.
QUESTION: Why do bad mindsets appear when our mind is tranquil?
ANSWER: If our mind automatically progressed in the right direction once it became tranquil, many practitioners of other religions would attain Arahantship easily. But the fact is not that good. It is complicated for us when our minds becomes tranquil because in the deeper layers of our mind still unconsciously thinks, creates new theories, and judges everything. Not only practitioners of other religions do this but also the practioners of Buddhism create many new theories when their mind becomes tranquil. That is why Buddhism turned into the Changed Dhamma Time. The Changed Dhamma Time was recognise following the Right Dhamma time. In the Right Dhamma Time, everybody abode by Buddha’s teachings exactly to move towards selflessness. They knew properly their level of meditation although their minds was tranquil. In the time of Buddha, when bhikkhus’ minds became tranquil, they did not create new theoretical arguments. They clearly knew where they were so as to keep cultivating themselves. After Buddha entered Nirvana then Arahats passed away too. No one kept the right to judge the spiritual level of the monks and laities. So monks have created new theories that were a little bit different from Buddha’s teachings. Those new theories were not assesed by an Arahat. Only those who followed Buddha’s teachings carefully heading to selflessness they know that they were only in the middle of the path. They know that the end goal was still very far.
Many zen masters who were born good at meditation could achieve some spiritual results quickly have taught their disciples with their own experiecnces. This guidence did not give the disciples a good achievement because their disciples did not have the same born skills of meditation. If we want to go back to the Right Dhamma Time we must realise the whole route of meditation. If we know the path entirely we will not misunderstand our position in the path. We will not think that we are in a high level. Although we get tranquil, the end goal is still very far ahead. Lacking of percieving the whole route of meditation makes us easily susceptible to bad mindsets. We will become concieted and proud. Then lose our good karma. Without good karma our mind will be in trouble and our future will be miserable. We must consistantly stay on the target of selflessness no matter how outcomes our mind may achieve, we must always be humble and cautious of our deep ego which is still hiding inside. Thanks to such caution we consider that we have not achieve any particular high sainthood. Therefore, we can continue to be modest and consistant in cultivation.
QUESTION: It is very hard for us to watch the breath and sense the whole body at the same time.
ANSWER: We should understand that the body is breathing. It is the body that is breathing, it isn’t me that is breathing, it isn’t me that transcended the body. There is no such a thing as me. There’s only this body which is breathing. The body is breathing.
QUESTION: Why can we not contemplate the state of tranquility in our mind? Why must we get back to stay in sense the whole entire body as usual meditation?
ANSWER: When the mind becomes tranquil, there comes a state of being completely empty, mindful, comfortable, miraculous, peaceful and joyful. However, it is just the crown, not the root. If we dwell on such a stage of being tranquility, empty, miraculous, peaceful and joyful, the inner vital energy stored at the root will run out. If the inner energy at the root runs out many diseases will appear. The brain will be damage. Even though the mind is tranquil, do not concern yourself with it. Keep being mindful of the entire body as you were in the beginning. Strive to secure the root carefully to enrich the inner vital energy for further improvements.
Most of the meditation practitioners who achieve some initial outcomes many suffer a failure next. The reason is that they contemplate and focus on the tranquility. Sooner or later pursuing the crown and forgetting the root will cause the mind to collaspe. Beside, dwelling in such tranquil state will bring about many proud concepts inside. Only if we continue to be mindful of the entire body and know that this body is short lived we can prevent that secretly proud concept.
QUESTION: What is the state of completely entering mindfulness?
ANSWER: If we apply the meditative techniques correctly, our mind will attain a little bit mindfulness. Such that helps us to be aware of wandering thoughts, stay mindful in everything, sense our body and mind, and keep the practice all the time. However, this little mindfulness is often interrupted by unwanted thoughts which strongly exist in our mind. Only when we have sufficient good karma, hard practice, and firm concentration, we will completely enter mindfulness. Since then wandering thoughts can not interrupt our awarness anymore. This is the state in which zen masters called spiritual awakening. The wandering can not interrupt anymore because the mindfulness can exist itself, because the practioner does not need to do anything to keep mindfulness so they think that mindfulness is immortal, everlasting, and extremely sublime. We should know that it is very hard to get backward from this stage. But actually it can. If the practioner is too prideful he will get backward from this stage. In this very life can become as normal as a beginner. If his pride is little he will also lose mindfulness in next life. Mindfulness is not absolute everlasting.
QUESTION: Why is that spiritual awakening so unstable?
ANSWER: Because we call it spiritual awakening and think that it is everlasting. Actually it is not real spiriutal awakening as Buddha taught. The end goal is still very far. In this mindfulness the wandering thoughts do not completely stop. Even if the wandering thoughts completely stop, practioner may not enter ecstasy. Even if the practioner enter ecstasy it is not sure that he eliminate ego and ignorance.