6

I've been reading books written by, or associated with Alan Wallace, that describe a period of time that is new to me - Ghatika (24 minute period).

A session of twenty-four minutes is a good starting interval; for most people, it is neither too short nor too long ... and this is the session duration that the eighth-century Indian Buddhist contemplative Kamalashila recommended for begining meditators. (Minding Closely: The Four Applications of Mindfulness By B. Alan Wallace p.33)

Wallace goes on to claim that in the Vajrayana tradition a Ghatika is also considered an ideal meditation time because it is the time it takes for the subtle energies to do a full body circuit. Longer duration sits will of course be multiples of a Ghatika.

Some poking around on the internet reveals it is a Vedic measure of time - Vedic calculations of time and creation and was measured using a Ghatika Yantra, an ancient Indian water clock. I can find no reference to meditation apart from Alan Wallace references. Can anyone else perhaps shed more light on this?

  • 1
    This would certainly be true for the meditator that has advanced beyond the initial hurdles and can meditate for 20 minute periods. I have noticed from the past that when I did 20+ minute meditation session I have gained much more powerful progress, felt on a physical, energetic level as well as increased awareness... All because I remember my tantra teacher saying that we have to do more than 20 minutes, preferably 40 minutes, to gain any progress.. I gotta get back on this habit! my meditations are much too short these days. – Ahmed Aug 23 '15 at 20:54
  • Ahmed ... Wallace does emphasize quality over quantity though :) – Devindra Aug 25 '15 at 19:59
3

You find references in:

  1. Tsongkhapa's Middle-Length Lam Rim
  2. Kamalshila's Stages of Meditation
  3. The Abhidharma.

Je Tsongkhapa. Middle-Length Lam Rim:

Indicating the length of sessions

Is there an established length of meditation sessions, specified in terms of “The mind is tied to the object and placed for just this long?” The major texts such as Śrāvaka Levels do not seem to clearly uphold an established length. However, in Stages of Meditation III it says:

Like that, gradually, you should sit for twenty-four minutes, one and a half hours, three hours, or as long as you can.

Apparently this was set forth in the context of the established length of meditation sessions for special insight meditation after calm abiding has already been accomplished, but in the context of initially practicing calm abiding it is evidently similar.

In the Lam Rim bring ba, Philip Quarcoo's footnotes specify:

Twenty-four minutes is one chu tshod, a unit based on traditional Indian time measurement and used in the Abhidharma. It is equivalent to one out of 60 parts of a day

One and a half hours, in Tibetan thun phyed, literally “half a night watch.”

Three hours, in Tibetan thun gcig, literally “one night watch”—common measure for a full meditation session.

  • 1
    Very interesting about the one and a half hour increment. In Zen, the tradition is to sit the time it takes for a stick of incense to burn down. That comes to about 45 minutes. We usually light two - one after the other - which tada! comes to about one and a half hours. :-) – user698 Dec 9 '15 at 17:37
1

I don't think I would claim that 24-minute increments are 'ideal', but they've worked in my experience. Perhaps this is simply because I feel tremendous confidence and respect toward Alan Wallace, and am used to working with 24-minute increments in following his instructions.

I encourage you to experiment (perhaps taking the gathika as a working hypothesis) and find out what works for your mindstream in light of your aspirations and the specific forms of meditation you wish to pursue. There are many variables to explore!

Finally, here's some interesting food for thought, which I think highlights how the appropriate length of a meditation period corresponds to the condition of one's mind, and requires introspective assessment of one's own meditative experience. Padmasambhava has been quoted as saying:

It is better to persevere with meditation at short intervals, than to meditate for a long period of time without any results.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche explains in the context of teaching shamatha:

When one meditates, do it for a short time; but do it again and again and again. The whole point is to develop a habit of meditation. If one meditates at first for too long, the mind just becomes more and more agitated and difficult to control. If one meditates for a short time and renews the session many times, then each time the mind will be fresh and clear and able to settle down more easily. So meditate again and again until the habit of meditation grows stronger.

  • Thanks Alan ... have been using Insight Timer on Android. Those 24min increments are proving to be quite useful for my practice as well - especially when you set the app to sound the bell every Ghatika :) Each cycle definitely has a distinct character for me. – Devindra Aug 25 '15 at 20:03
  • That's a great idea, Devindra! Will incorporate that into my practice. – Alan W Aug 26 '15 at 20:56
0

Most teachers I have heard and read seems to think a Ghatika is ideal. Then a little break and back to it. At least unless you are advanced.

But it should also be noticed that AW says it's vitally important to stay fresh while meditating. And be inspired, so that you want to go back to the cushion again.

Here is a nice schedule based on Ghatikas.

0

You will find the history of Ghatika here: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Hindu_Chronology

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.