I want to learn to in a sense control my mind. By this i mean focus on the thoughts and mindsets that are beneficial. And not focus on the harmful, negative thoughts. I always believe that we are who we are base on are thought patterns and it will be very helpful to in to learn to focus on the thoughts and gain the traits you want and become the person you want. I am learninf jhana meditation. But is this a good fit for this?
That's a nice question.
My first thought if I may mention it is that "controlling the mind" might be an odd question. I think that the mind is a sense-organ (for ideas and feelings and so on), like the eye is a sense-organ for sights and visions. So "controlling the mind" is like "controlling the eye" or even harder. But it is a good question.
One thing it reminds me of is the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta (Instructions to Rahula ). It recommends that you consider whether each (bodily, verbal, and mental) action is beneficial and not harmful. It's relevant to your question because it entails focus on whether a mindset is beneficial.
You might also find it interesting to read the answers to this question about the difference between Pāramitāyāna and Tantrayāna -- that's from Tibetan Buddhism. I think that may be relevant to your question, in that one is about progressing from imperfection to perfection, and the other appears to be quite squarely "learn to focus on the thoughts and gain the traits you want and become the person you want" as you wrote in the OP.
I'm not sure about "jhana meditation". It's a (or 'the') central and orthodox meditation mentioned in the Pali suttas (whether we're able to practice it properly is another matter), so it's difficult to say "it's not suitable". But maybe it isn't "a good fit for this".
A different, traditional meditation which might be a better fit is Metta-Bhanava -- Metta and the Brahmaviharas. I say that's a better fit (for your question) because it's overtly "focus on the thoughts and mindsets that are beneficial", as you asked ("bhavana" meaning "development or cultivation").
Any thoughts, including negative thoughts, are triggered by some stimuli, and have a sensation associated with it.
The best would be to deal with them as per in the Suttas. Suttas like: "Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta", "Titth’ayatana Sutta", "Bahu,vedaniya Sutta", "Pañcak’aṇga Sutta", "Sal,āyatana Vibhanga Sutta", "Indriya Bhāvanā Sutta" mentions "18 mental explorations / examinations". This says, essentially, look at the 3 types of sensations (which are, "pleasant", "unpleasant", and "neutral") which comes through each sense door. This helps in prevent the arising of the unwholesome roots due to any stimulus from any sene door. You just have to be equanimous towards the sensation, knowing that they are:
- conditioned, and therefore subject to the 3 universal characteristics (or the Pacalā Sutta and Meghiya Sutta imply that it's enough to see impermanence, because if you see impermanence you see the other characteristics)1
- dependently arisen based on contact
- sustained by the nutriments, contact and mental activity
- conditioned by fabrications, of past and present (breath, volitional activity)
- tainted by ignorance
- etc. see Sammaditthi Sutta
... impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen, subject to destruction, subject to passing away, subject to fading away, subject to ending ...
... conditioned, gross, dependently arisen ...
... impermanent, conditioned, dependently arisen ...
You should not do any verbalisation, sub verbalisation, visualisation, etc. when doing the above as this will create verbal fabrications and hinder true and deep insight and cause undesirable results.
Needless to say to examine the mind you need some level of mastery over the mind, hence is a prerequisite before you practice the Vipassana technique above, since Panna is built on a strong foundation of Samadhi which in tern is build on Sila.
1 Aniccasaññino hi, Meghiya, anattasaññā saṇṭhāti, anattasaññī asmimānasamugghātaṃ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme nibbānaṃ.
In one, Meghiya, who perceives impermanence, the perception of selflessness is established. One who perceives what is selfless wins the uprooting of the pride of egotism in this very life, and thus realizes nibbāna.
Source: Vedanā in the Practice of Satipaṭṭhāna by VRI
To say “to control the mind” sounds a bit too aggressive. Mind is a delicate thing, and not easy to tame. Taming it is like catching a fish with bare hands. Compare it to a Fish in a river are slippery and fast moving. They are extremely difficult to catch with your hands, so you need to concentrate on one of them and use both hands to try to grab it. That is hard enough to do! Trying to aggressively control the mind is like wanting to try to catch two, one in each hand, as you are watching one, the other will dart away. You are likely then to catch neither.
Mind is one of the sense bases. So why not you try meditation on sense bases (Āyatana Bhāvanā) . You can develop the ability of practicing this meditation without letting your mind scatter on other objectives, while you are going somewhere, until you fall asleep, or while you are doing some work. But IMHO what is most important is the following five meditations.
In the Asavakkhaya Sutta, the Buddha explains, “Oh Bhikkhus. There are five activities which if practised, if practised extensively results in the wiping out of defilements”. What are those five activities? These are the same as explained in the Nibbida Sutta. They are Asubha Sanna (perceiving the impurity of the body), Ahare Patikkula Sanna (perceiving the impurity of material food), Sabba Loke Anabhirata Sanna (not taking delight in worlds), Sabba Sankharesu Anicca Sanna (impermanence of all aggregates), of Marana Sati (to be mindful of death).
In the Nibbida Sutta it was explained that if those five meditation activities were carried out dispassionateness invariably takes place. When one becomes dispassionate with understanding the next thing that happens is the loss of desire and the calming of the mind. With that calmed down mind it becomes possible to develop special wisdom. One who achieves these special wisdoms can develop the complete understanding of the Noble Truths. Such a person realises the Nibbana.
According Asavakkhaya Sutta it is explained that the individual who practises these five activities wipes out the Asavas (defilements rooted in us). If these Dhammas are accepted, if they are identified with a good understanding and confidence it will generate a sense of mastery over the mind.
Marana Sati is to be mindful of death. When you remind yourself that you don’t know how much time you’ve got, it should stir you to action—so that when the time comes, when you really do have to go, you’re ready, prepared. You’ve got the concentration, you’ve got the power of discernment, you’ve got the strength of mind to deal with whatever comes your way. For most people recollection of death is pretty disturbing and depressing, but it’s meant to be used in a way that’s inspiring, that helps us to follow the path beyond death to the deathless. Remind yourself that we’ve got this practice that allows us to prepare for death and transcend it.
The person who practises Ahare Patikkula Sanna reduces Rasa Tanha (craving for taste). The desire for taste gets diminished but the appetite for food does not diminish. Appetite remains. What gets diminished is Rasa Tanha. If a disgust for food is felt or if appetite gets reduced - if that happens it is due to practising the meditation in a wrong manner. The object is annihilation of Rasa Tanha. Reduction of craving for taste. It does not affect one’s appetite.
Asubha Sanna (perceiving the impurity of the body) too should be viewed like that of the above. Many people try to generate a disgust forcefully. That is wrong. Disgust is not a pleasure. It is a great sorrow. If one wants to develop disgust there is no need to practise Asubha. He can look at the toilet pit. To generate disgust in food there is no need to meditate. One can look at stale food. Disgust arises. That means the object of this meditation is not the generation of disgust.
Sabba Sankharesu Anicca Sanna (impermanence of all aggregates) Seeing that all things are perishable, and change every moment, we also begin to see that things have no substantial existence of their own. That in our persons and in the things around us, there is nothing like a self. So in this sense, impermanence is directly related to the third of the three characteristics, the characteristic of not-self. Understanding impermanence is a key to understanding not-self. Whatever is impermanent is suffering, and whatever is impermanent and suffering is also not-self.
Sabba Loke Anabhirata Sanna (not taking delight in worlds) - This meditation is practiced in order to train our mind to progressively diminish the liking for the entire world. When this meditation is practiced the liking for all worlds such as of humans, abodes of deities, Brahma worlds, Peta worlds starts to get diminished. As one develops loathsomeness towards eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, visual objects, sounds, odors, tastes, touch and mind objects the liking for all worlds starts to cease.
Mindfulness meditation is the hardest of them all, and the one that almost all of them gets wrong. Many pages of explanation will be needed to answer this. The problem is that in the present day there is nobody (that is found on the internet) to fully explain it. There is no written material in English that fully covers all aspects of it. Those who write have only a theoretical understanding of it, and what they write is incorrect.
The way I understand it is that the mind secretes thought in the same way your nose secretes mucus. The function of the mind is to bring us to an understanding of the Dharma, at the same time to help us navigate this plane that we find ourselves in.
The problem happens when the mind becomes the focus, rather than the “witness” of the mind, whom we truly are. This is why we are constantly trying to figure out what is wrong, and how to make it right. We are searching to understand the Dharma, or the way thing are, but we keep getting side tracked by the mundane, by focusing too closely on the road map, or things that we think will make us happy. We keep getting our priorities mixed up.
We need to understand the mind is called the “self” with a small ‘s’ or the ego. The mind is there, like an organic machine that we have been born with, belching out random thoughts. The flavor of the thoughts is the result of past associations, most of which you can’t remember. These thoughts are ways you have tried to go around the Dharma in the past rather than go through it. The Buddhists call it dependent origination, or karma. Every human being is seeking to understand the Dharma in their own way.
We have created time in this incarnation as the number of times the Earth revolves around the Sun. This is sort of a fabricated view of time to be able to get from A to B. In reality, time is immortal or eternal. Our limited “mind” cannot comprehend it, but when you truly turn inward, you can “sense” it as being this way.
Comparing a dogs mind and a humans mind, you can offer a dog an algebra problem. He may sniff the paper, but his mind is limited, so that he can never understand algebra. In the same way, our minds are limited also. We think we understand the complexities of existence, but in reality it is only our human ego. We only “think” of “things” using mechanical complexity. Thinking, reasoning, figuring, will not take you to the Dharma. Finding-understanding-realizing-becoming Dharma relies on trust and feeling, just being and experiencing. It’s counter intuitive to what we have been taught by human society.
This karma I spoke about earlier, being composed of past association, is where the thoughts come from. That is why one thought comes out of your mind rather than another, according to your karma. Place no importance on these thought-objects. Thought belongs to this plane, and will live a while, then pass away into nothingness like all other objects. Just observe the thought with your “real Self” and know it has no importance. You may have to observe many “like” thoughts emerging from the mind, depending on the strength of your past associations, but knowing the Truth, the Dharma, will cause them to cease eventually in “time.” In meditation it is an important practice to just see them, but not to act on them, which will create more of the same. Try not to follow any of them, be they wonderful or horrible. As far as thoughts go: they are all equal. Just let them go.
The saying goes something like: “We must meditate by the door, and eventually it will be opened for us.” Actually, we will let ourselves in, or have the realization that there really wasn’t a door! Even so we must wait, without expectation, fearlessly as “time” passes.
Thank you for hearing my words. You may be about to have a “great” understanding. Suddenly, the pieces will fit! You will hear all the rules, like the dog that will never understand algebra. The rules will also turn into nothingness in the end, scribbling on a paper, but study them you must. Study the road map, then when you believe you understand it, toss it out, or pass it on to someone who is seeking. You will walk in your human form, taking refuge in the Dharma, and you will “trust-know” that the mundane will pass. Eventually you will understand on a deep level that although bound in human form, you are already eternally all-things-good!
I advise you to look at "Mindfulness"
It's a very practical, down to earth, approach to meditation.
My reference book is in french, and I don't think it's been translated anywhere. It's was written by the psychiatrist Dr. Yasmine Lienard, and the title translated would be "For a Modern Wisdom, The Psychotherapies of 3rd Generation".
In French, "Pour une sagesse moderne, Les psychothérapies de 3e génération" - Dr. Yasmine Lienard. Edition Odile Jacob.
For a soft overview, you can check Eckhart's videos. But I have not viewed a lot of them. He is famous in the Mindfulness field. I often see/read some quotes of him.
In a nutshell, what I think about Mindfulness: It is the philosophy and (above all) the techniques of Buddhism and Zen meditation, deprived of any religious insight.
I think it is born from the desire to heal depression without medecine/drugs.