Questions and Answers to check your understanding of the Right Effort stage
1. What is the stage of Meditation in which you make much effort to mediate but not yet achieved any results?
A: The Right Effort Stage, which is the 6th Stage in the Noble Eightfold Path.
2. How many steps are there in the Right Effort Stage?
A: The Right Effort consists of 3 steps:
– First is to apply the right method
– Second is the appearance of the Awareness state.
– Third is the Competition between Awareness and Thoughts.
3. What are the right methods in Buddhist Meditation?
A: The right methods consist of:
– Sitting in the lotus position in a deserted place.
– Body-Awareness Meditation (Body-Scanning Meditation): fully aware and mindful of the whole body, including its sensation, feelings, and movements. Remain and dwelling your consciousness and attention in the body. Never let the attention and focus stray out of the skin and the body.
– Contemplate the impermanence of one’s own body: from being young and healthy to being old, dead, and then decay into nothing.
– Breath Awareness: Discerning breaths without deliberately and forcefully controlling the breaths. When the breath is long or short, practitioners calmly know whether it is long or short, without interfering or controlling. After mastering this skill, ones can start to gently adjust their breaths to help them calm their minds.
– Combining the techniques simultaneously: Discern the breaths while still paying attention to the whole body and its sensation. Discern the breaths while contemplating the impermanence of the body.
4. What are the three foundations of meditation?
A: There are Good Karma, Morality, and Body’s Vital Energy through the practice of Qigong.
5. What are the three virtues that we need to remind ourselves to have before every meditation session?
A: When we start a meditation session, we have to get ourselves to have the three virtues: to have absolute reverence for Buddha, infinite love for all sentient beings, and endless humility. These three things help us nurture our virtue and create good karma.
6. What is the meaning and purpose of the verse recited before our meditation session?
A: the purpose of the Sutra for Entering Meditation is to remind us to always remember and head towards the goal of achieving Selflessness (Attana).
* Sutra for Entering Meditation:
May Buddha help me,
To always remember and comprehend,
That this body is not me nor my possession
The mind is not me nor my possession
Nothing in life is me nor my possession
For every breath – in and out,
Only endless reverence for the Buddha
(Only endless loving-kindness for all sentient beings)
Homage to the Sakya Muni Buddha.
7. What is the meaning and purpose of the verse recited after our meditation session?
A: The purpose of the Sutra for Exiting Meditation is to remind us to always contemplate and reflect on the impermanence of our own bodies on a daily basis.
* Sutra for Exiting Meditation.
May Buddha help me,
Always remember the impermanent nature of my body
Either I’m awake or asleep
Either daytime or nighttime
Whenever I’m standing or walking
Whenever I’m sitting down or lying in bed
Either I am working or relaxing
Always remember that my body is impermanent
Whenever I’m speaking or listening
Either I’m alone or with others
Reading books or watching movies
Always remember that my body is impermanent
Whenever I’m eating or drinking
Going to bathroom or taking showers
Getting dressed or putting on shoes
Never forget that my body is impermanent
Whenever I’m practicing meditation
Especially in a deep state of concentration
May I continue to cultivate my mindfulness
By contemplating the impermanence of my body
May all sentient beings in the whole universe
Always understand that the body is only impermanent
Thus, may we all be diligent in cultivating Dharma
And be free from all traces of ego and ignorance
As time goes by, may we all attain absolute enlightenment
Homage to Sakya Muni Buddha.
8. Why does one who has achieved the Awareness state but not yet the Right Mindfulness stage?
A: The main difference between achieving the Awareness state and the Right Mindfulness stage is that in Awareness state, our thoughts are still competing with our Awareness to be a master of our minds. In Right Mindfulness Stage, the Awareness officially becomes a master of our mind. We can think of Awareness as a baby that will eventually develop into an “adult” which is Right Mindfulness stage. Thus, the Awareness state needs to be nurtured and cultivated by the right methods and especially the sufficient amount of Good Karma.
9. What are the good karmas that help to support one’s meditation?
A: To build good karma that supports meditation, ones much do endless good deeds, from helping others in need, doing charity work, teaching others to morality, support other fellow meditators, and most importantly – paying endless veneration to the Buddha. Only by worshiping and paying endless veneration to Buddha, that we have a seed of Sainthood and Enlightenment one day.
10. Why do thoughts become rivals to our Awareness when we meditate in the beginning?
A: First of all, it is because at the beginning, our Awareness state is still very weak and fragile; thus, thoughts could easily bully and attack that Awareness state to still be a master of the mind. Secondly, it is also because of our unwholesome karma and a stubborn habit of letting thoughts being our master that accumulated through many previous lives.
11. How to use our thoughts as a measurement for our Awareness state?
A: When our Awareness is weak, we only recognize our thoughts after thoughts have already arisen. When our Awareness is stronger, we can recognize the appearance of our thoughts from the start to end. When our Awareness is strong enough, we recognize our thoughts the moment they just arise and are able to terminate them right then and there.
12. How to apply a breathing pattern of Yin-Yang Qigong into Breath-Awareness Meditation?
A: The breathing pattern of Yin-Yang Qigong is to inhaling by nose lightly and gently and then exhaling five times longer than inhaling by mouth. The core principle of this exercise is to not trying to inhale a lot and to exhale 5 times longer than inhaling.
When applying this technique to meditation, we have to inhale and exhale both by nose, not mouth. First, we inhale slightly and shortly. Do not try to breathe in a lot. Then, we keep the intake air inside our body for a little bit. Lastly, we exhale only 3 times longer than inhaling.
13. Why should we not deliberately discard and eliminate our thoughts?
A: First of all, it will put a lot of stress and strains in our mind. More importantly, it will trigger our Ego to awaken and stronger. The will to do anything, even to eliminate or discard your thoughts in meditation, is a resource provided by your Ego. “I want to do this. I want to do that.” There is an “I” in all of that statements and activities; it is a trace of our Ego. When you use that “will” to do something, you are using your ego. Thus, in meditation, you simply discern your body, your breath, and acknowledge thoughts when they arise. There is not a clearly a “you” that really want to do something. Thus, it is a gentle and subtle way to deal with thoughts that will not only calm your mind but also not trigger your Ego to awake.
14. What are hallucinations?
A: When the mind is calm and still, hallucination will easily appear. Practitioners will experience different kinds of hallucinations. Some might feel their bodies are light like clouds, some might feel that their bodies become bigger or smaller, some might feel that there are lights and halo around them. Some might hear a tiny sound or realize something that is far away. Please understand that those hallucinations though can be miraculous and appealing, are NOT real and can potentially be harmful to your meditation. In this case, practitioners just need to ignore that hallucination and only pay attention to their methods in body and breath awareness.
15. What should practitioners do on a daily basis to nurturing their awareness?
A: On a daily basis, we try not to let our attention and awareness getting out of all body. Throughout the day, when you are not meditating, though it is impossible for you to discern your breaths, you still can cultivate your Awareness by simply and gently paying attention to your body and being aware of your body, its sensation, and movement.
Furthermore, in everyday life, we must continue to nurture our virtue and morality by not doing anything wrong or harmful to others and by always trying to do a lot of good deeds that bring happiness and benefits to others. In addition, we also remind ourselves to be humble, to be respectful to everyone, and always silently hope and pray for everyone will become enlightened and achieve Absolute liberation one day.
We wish all Vietnamese people will become experts in meditation to cultivate and introduce them to the world.