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I am not clear about one important phase of the Buddha's life: when he was a wandering aspirant, after leaving his two earlier teachers of yoga. There is not much reliable information available about how the Buddha conducted his practices of meditation and thought control.

The best I know is some fragment of a text wherein the Buddha talks about how he sought to control his thoughts by jamming his tongue to the roof of his mouth. At best, that description sounds like a struggle, not a practice or a method. Is there any sermon where he talks about his struggle? Or a sutra which gives an account of his efforts?

Can you throw some light? Thank you.

  • I also remember vaguely such a sutta, where he talks about a method of meditation with the element to do something like this with the tongue, but I don't remember which sutta this was. I think he refers to some esoteric meditation-style which was somehow common between the sameras/ascets and has to do with intensifying the energy-flow in connex with breath (reminds me a bit of the "dynamic meditation" of the Osho's) He said in the sutta, that even this method did not lead anywhere, as far as I remember... – Gottfried Helms Jul 29 '16 at 20:52
  • The german version gives something in DN 1, 1.4 the term "oben anschlagen". In the comment below it is written "oben Anschlagen = 'uddham aghatanam' ist eine Redewendung und bedeutet so viel wie sexuelle Energie in geistige Energie umwandeln, die im Sex gebundene Energie nach oben in den Kopf zu bringen." But I didn't see a related construct in the accesstoinsight-vers of that sutta, hmmm - See palikanon.com/digha/d01_4.htm the (*3)-remark. Surely it is not the place to conclude that this was a method he tried after he left his second teacher. Don't know from where I took that idea – Gottfried Helms Jul 29 '16 at 21:03
  • In the Pali-version palikanon.com/pali/digha_mula/digha01.htm at paragraph 75 there occurs the term uddhamaghatanam so perhaps this is only left out in the english version (perhaps regarded as uninteresting) or translated to a different word. – Gottfried Helms Jul 29 '16 at 21:16
  • The tongue is mentioned as part of one of the meditation techniques in the Vitakkasanthana Sutta (MN 20). – ChrisW Jul 29 '16 at 22:57
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The Buddha talks about this in MN 36: Maha-Saccaka Sutta. It's quite a long and detailed passage, in which he describes how he went to different teachers who taught him the Jhanas and starved his body to the extreme. His story sums up the extreme ways of practicing, that one should avoid using The Middle Path: First living in sensual indulgence & luxury while growing up in a powerful family, then leaving this live behind and almost starving himself to death.

"I thought: 'Whatever brahmans or contemplatives in the past have felt painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None have been greater than this. Whatever brahmans or contemplatives in the future will feel painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None will be greater than this. Whatever brahmans or contemplatives in the present are feeling painful, racking, piercing feelings due to their striving, this is the utmost. None is greater than this. But with this racking practice of austerities I haven't attained any superior human state, any distinction in knowledge or vision worthy of the noble ones. Could there be another path to Awakening?'

  • thank you. the middle path indeed is the best contribution of Buddha to spirituality. – koolananda Jul 30 '16 at 13:28
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MN 12 also gives an account:

  1. "Sariputta, I recall having lived a holy life possessing four factors. I have practiced asceticism — the extreme of asceticism; I have practiced coarseness — the extreme of coarseness; I have practiced scrupulousness — the extreme of scrupulousness; I have practiced seclusion — the extreme of seclusion.[17]

  2. "Such was my asceticism, Sariputta, that I went naked, rejecting conventions, licking my hands, not coming when asked, not stopping when asked; I did not accept food brought or food specially made or an invitation to a meal; I received nothing from a pot, from a bowl, across a threshold, across a stick, across a pestle, from two eating together, from a pregnant woman, from a woman giving suck, from a woman lying with a man, from where food was advertised to be distributed, from where a dog was waiting, from where flies were buzzing; I accepted no fish or meat, I drank no liquor, wine or fermented brew. I kept to one house, to one morsel; I kept to two [78] houses, to two morsels;... I kept to seven houses, to seven morsels. I lived on one saucerful a day, on two saucerfuls a day... on seven saucerfuls a day; I took food once a day, once every two days... once every seven days, and so on up to once every fortnight; I dwelt pursuing the practice of taking food at stated intervals. I was an eater of greens or millet or wild rice or hide-parings or moss or ricebran or rice-scum or sesamum flour or grass or cowdung. I lived on forest roots and fruits, I fed on fallen fruits. I clothed myself in hemp, in hemp-mixed cloth, in shrouds, in refuse rags, in tree bark, in antelope hide, in strips of antelope hide, in kusa-grass fabric, in bark fabric, in wood-shavings fabric, in head-hair wool, in animal wool, in owls' wings. I was one who pulled out hair and beard, pursuing the practice of pulling out hair and beard. I was one who stood continuously, rejecting seats. I was one who squatted continuously, devoted to maintaining the squatting position. I was one who used a mattress of spikes; I made a mattress of spikes my bed. I dwelt pursuing the practice of bathing in water three times daily including the evening. Thus in such a variety of ways I dwelt pursuing the practice of tormenting and mortifying the body. Such was my asceticism.

  3. "Such was my coarseness, Sariputta, that just as the bole of a tinduka tree, accumulating over the years, cakes and flakes off, so too, dust and dirt, accumulating over the years, caked off my body and flaked off. It never occurred to me: 'Oh, let me rub this dust and dirt off with my hand, or let another rub this dust and dirt off with his hand' — it never occurred to me thus. Such was my coarseness.

  4. "Such was my scrupulousness, Sariputta, that I was always mindful in stepping forwards and stepping backwards. I was full of pity even for (the beings in) a drop of water thus: 'Let me not hurt the tiny creatures in the crevices of the ground.' Such was my scrupulousness.

  5. "Such was my seclusion, Sariputta, that [79] I would plunge into some forest and dwell there. And when I saw a cowherd or a shepherd or someone gathering grass or sticks, or a woodsman, I would flee from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock. Why was that? So that they should not see me or I see them. Just as a forest-bred deer, on seeing human beings, flees from grove to grove, from thicket to thicket, from hollow to hollow, from hillock to hillock, so too, when I saw a cowherd or a shepherd... Such was my seclusion.

  6. "I would go on all fours to the cow-pens when the cattle had gone out and the cowherd had left them, and I would feed on the dung of the young suckling calves. As long as my own excrement and urine lasted, I fed on my own excrement and urine. Such was my great distortion in feeding.

  7. "I would plunge into some awe-inspiring grove and dwell there — a grove so awe-inspiring that normally it would make a man's hair stand up if he were not free from lust. When those cold wintry nights came during the 'eight-days interval of frost,' I would dwell by night in the open and by day in the grove.[18] In the last month of the hot season I would dwell by day in the open and by night in the grove. And there came to me spontaneously this stanza never heard before:

Chilled by night and scorched by day, Alone in awe-inspiring groves, Naked, no fire to sit beside, The sage yet pursues his quest. 51. "I would make my bed in a charnel ground with the bones of the dead for a pillow. And cowherd boys came up and spat on me, urinated on me, threw dirt at me, and poked sticks into my ears. Yet I do not recall that I ever aroused an evil mind (of hate) against them. Such was my abiding in equanimity. [80]

  1. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmans whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through food.'[19] They say: 'Let us live on kola-fruits,' and they eat kola-fruits, they eat kola-fruit powder, they drink kola-fruit water, and they make many kinds of kola-fruit concoctions. Now I recall having eaten a single kola-fruit a day. Sariputta, you may think that the kola-fruit was bigger at that time, yet you should not regard it so: the kola-fruit was then at most the same size as now. Through feeding on a single kola-fruit a day, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed segments of vine stems or bamboo stems. Because of eating so little my backside became like a camel's hoof. Because of eating so little the projections on my spine stood forth like corded beads. Because of eating so little my ribs jutted out as gaunt as the crazy rafters of an old roofless barn. Because of eating so little the gleam of my eyes sank far down in their sockets, looking like a gleam of water which has sunk far down in a deep well. Because of eating so little my scalp shriveled and withered as a green bitter gourd shrivels and withers in the wind and sun. Because of eating so little my belly skin adhered to my backbone; thus if I touched my belly skin I encountered my backbone, and if I touched my backbone I encountered my belly skin. Because of eating so little, if I tried to ease my body by rubbing my limbs with my hands, the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

53-55. "Sariputta, there are certain recluses and brahmans whose doctrine and view is this: 'Purification comes about through food.' They say: 'Let us live on beans'... 'Let us live on sesamum'... 'Let us live on rice,' and they eat rice, they eat rice powder, [81] they drink rice water, and they make various kinds of rice concoctions. Now I recall having eaten a single rice grain a day. Sariputta, you may think that the rice grain was bigger at that time, yet you should not regard it so: the rice grain was then at most the same size as now. Through feeding on a single rice grain a day, my body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little... the hair, rotted at its roots, fell from my body as I rubbed.

  1. "Yet, Sariputta, by such conduct, by such practice, by such performance of austerities, I did not attain any superhuman states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones. Why was that? Because I did not attain that noble wisdom which when attained is noble and emancipating and leads the one who practices in accordance with it to the complete destruction of suffering.
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Please read the Anupada Sutra

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.111.than.html

From what I have gathered over the years, before the lion of the Shakya clan (Buddha Shakyamuni) was enlightened, he had found teachers to teach him various methods and practices, and he would master all of them.

He found that his most advanced teacher of the period taught him all the way to the state of neither perception nor non-perception which he figured out to be "pretty cool but really only puts the cosmos matrix on pause and is not taking me all the way to liberation"

So I think if you go through the jhanas, those were basically the states he was able to master, and if you can practice them (and use them as a ladder) you can eventually tap into the Sublime Holy state of Emptiness, which transcends all the jhanas.

Blessings and stillness be with you

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The Buddha practised extreme fasting, mental concentration, breath control, wilderness retreats, and living in cemeteries (he says somewhere that he used a pile of human bones for a pillow). I have theorized that one might describe the types of asceticism in which the Buddha engaged as proto-Shaivite, the earliest text of which is approximately dated to the parinibbana of the Buddha (but the actual traditions encoded in texts are invariably older).

  • This answer also says there's a Jain influence. – ChrisW Jul 29 '16 at 16:22
  • Thank you. There are some definite yogic methods that the Buddha used. Back then, the Buddha didn't worry too much about theory - he just focused on practice. – koolananda Jul 30 '16 at 13:30
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    I disagree. Forty volumes of theoretical material in the Pali Canon would say otherwise. Buddhism is a philosophy above all. The cultivation of wisdom is the essential salvific activity. Meditation is a support. – user4970 Aug 2 '16 at 14:18

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