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I've been previously practicing meditation with the breathing, but for various reasons, among which my inability to latch on to the breath and my facility to focus upon outer objects, I want to engage in outer object-focused meditation. I'd like to know if anyone can explain the process by which to engage in these meditations, and explain the elements linked with focusing and analyzing the object. Thanks

  • How long have you been working with the breath? – user698 Nov 30 '16 at 15:58
  • Probably not long enough actually. I've never worked with the breath very long precisely because I felt it didn't work, and so my meditation practice was sporadic and with sessions at various times. You would recommend I stick with the breath for a long while despite my trouble with it? – Eggman Dec 1 '16 at 1:11
  • Absolutely. It's just like working out. You can't expect to bench press 300 lbs. if you only go to the gym once a week for five minutes. Consistency and repetition is the only way anything gets done. The mind is a muscle the same as anything else. – user698 Dec 1 '16 at 3:41
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I cannot answer your original question, however, I second the comments above: stick to the breaths.

I would recommend using Buddhadasa Bhikkhu interpretation of the scriptures for the 1st step of your meditation: learn the long breath by controlling the flow of air coming in and out of your lungs, this will relax your body and help you move to the next steps.

Much more details here:

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Breath watching has tremendous advantages over outer objects. First of all breath is joining point of mind-body and consciousness. No breath no life. More unruly breath is, more disturbed you are. Watching breath slows it down and bring about a balance much faster compared to other techniques. Secondly it is what Buddha taught. Ofcourse one can start with outer objects as is practiced in yoga or other spiritual sects. You can start with sound as is practiced in Nachiren Buddhist sect but I must warn you that it is not what Buddha prescribed. Buddha's techniques and teachings are far superior to any sect teachings or techniques. I recommend changing your lifestyle and even try Vipassna to increase ability to stay focussed.

  • "You can start with sound... but I must warn you that it is not what Buddha prescribed" this has to be disputed, though I don't know Nachiren Buddhist sect. Buddha didn't just teach "breathing meditation". In Surangama Sutra Buddha taught each of the 6 senses could be the door of enlightenment, and the 4 Great Elements: fire water wind earth, plus there are few more "doors" I have to check the Sutra. Eventually, Manjushri chose the "Auditory Perfection" (related to sound) which Avalokiteshvara practised as the best "door" to enter for beings living in this (our) world. – Mishu 米殊 Dec 5 '16 at 6:55
  • if buddha taught 6 senses can be the door to enlightenment then it is Tantra which was practised in India. If Buddha taught four elements can be used this is precisely what yogis and Ayurveda prescribes. That means Buddha teaching is essentially same as those practiced by Hindus. I am not an expert on Buddhism but looks like Tantra and Taoism is being mixed with Buddha's teaching. One can chant and listening to external sound or one can listen to inner sound. Every external sense organ has an internal representation. Buddha was never in favor of external doors as they tend to be ritualistic. – Shashank Khare Dec 5 '16 at 9:36
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABra%E1%B9%85gama_S%C5%ABtra this link says this sutra is dubious because it has chinese origin. I think you are talking about a certain flavor of Buddhism not Buddha. – Shashank Khare Dec 5 '16 at 9:38
  • Just to throw a monkey wretch in to that - the Buddha did teach the kasinas of which the elemental forms of fire, air, water, and earth all play a part. The senses also crop up in the Satipatthana Sutta. – user698 Dec 5 '16 at 20:05
  • [i]@Shashank: "this sutra is dubious because it has chinese origin."[i] I knew that the Surangama Sutra was being tipped by some "untrust/ fake sutra" because of many reasons one is the Chinese origin. There are many Buddhist sutras which only the Chinese versions were available since the teaching was gradually disappeared in India but flourishing in China, are these, because of the Chinese origin, all "fakes"? I chose not to go into the mess of debating archaeology/ forensic proof of authenticity of sutras, it's up to those who like to pick whatever they feel fit. – Mishu 米殊 Dec 6 '16 at 3:54
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Latching onto the breath is not exactly easy, even if the mind has non-distraction, i.e., is free from hindrances. This is because watching the breath with an ordinary mind causes the breath to calm so, very soon after, the breath is often too calm for the ordinary mind to discern or "latch onto".

Establishing the mind on an external object, such as the posture & parts of the body (arms, legs, hands, head, etc), can assist here because it can keep the mind both clear and, in particular, open.

In fact, in the Anapanasati Sutta, the instruction literally begins with the words: "the meditator sits with spine erect establishing/maintaining mindfulness in front of one's face".

In my experience, I have found that maintaining a clear & open mind ('externally') has resulted in infinitely better breath meditation (better than deliberately attempting to 'inwardly' watch the breath). The more I deliberately attempt to not watch the breath, the more clear the breath is in the mind. I play a game of 'reverse psychology' or 'play hard to get' with the breath.

Please remember, the ultimate training in Buddhism is abandoning craving therefore the less craving the better.

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Initially you will need vitakka and vicāra to sustain your attention. 1st bring your mind to the object, periodically assess if it is with the object and re establish your attention regardless you mind has wandered away or not.

Once you have established mindfulness of the object you can further analyse it. 1st a gross level and then at subtler levels. Initially you will feel just the contact and sensations. At a gross level you will see it starts and ends. Closer examination you will see it is made of smaller tingling sensations. This answer give the totality of the ways to analyse the object.

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