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Being acquainted with Buddhism (although in a pretty shallow and intellectual fashion) since a few years now, I've just realized that I had almost no experience in meditation at all. It was only recently that I started training on and studying about Samadhi, and all this time without a teacher or proper guidance, mainly because in my country Buddhism is still "in diapers".

As I'm more inclined to Theravāda teachings, I'd like to have some advice from more experienced theravadin meditators (i.e. from people whose main source of information are the Pali Suttas).

A few questions (all coming from almost complete ignorance, so excuse me if I using some words in an incorrect manner):

1) What is the best way, according to the suttas, to cultivate the mind in right attention and right samadhi?

2) Should "noting" meditation be used when doing samatha or jhāna meditation?

3) (For those of you acquainted with the works of Upasaka Culadasa) Is the guide offered in The Mind Illuminated compatible with other Theravāda teachers' guides, such as those from Venerables Thanissaro, Brahm , Yuttadhammo, Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, Analayo and Goenka? I just bought this book and I like to know what to keep and what to ignore from it.

4) How do the methods from the above mentioned teachers differ from one another? And are these differences reconcilable?

I would appreciate any advice or knowledge from you. Even if only one question of these can be answered, I'd be grateful.

Thanks for your time and patience!

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SO the summary is that you must not confuse the noble 8 fold path with the humanism pushed by puthujjanas, you must not let the mind be afflicted by the body, you must not be blind to the danger of sensuality, you must judge your thoughts and sanna and vedana all day long, you must become sensitive to the sankharas in order to destroy them. The hardest part is to be sensitive to the ''joy of renunciation'' and the samma smadhi will come by the usual formula:

''living thus heedfully, joy arises''

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn55/sn55.040.than.html

It is mano which has piti and the kaya has passambhati then sukhaṃ vediyati, and the citta has sukhha then samadhi.

Like any humanist, The puthujjana Upasaka Culadasa confuses being a humanist, having compassion, with the ''kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma''. That's a typical mistake created by puthujjanas who refuse the nekhamma part of samma sankappa, whereas not having nekhamma is just as detrimental as having ill-will. http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/05/an05-090.html

Those people cling to sensuality and their typical behavior is that they feel sad when they see puthujjanas not having stuff, so they say that they are good people, because ''they have compassion'' and because they give'' stuff to destitute puthujjanas, because when the destitute puthujjanas has stuff, this puthujjana is no longer sad. Of course, this behavior relies on craving, on kamma, on sankharas and jayati so it never ever ends the dukkha of the puthujjana who gives stuff nor the dukkha of the destitute puthujjana. This is explained here https://legacy.suttacentral.net/en/an7.52

The good thing about the doctrine created by the puthujjana Upasaka Culadasa is that even though you get wrong concentration by following his directions, you avoid one of the most moronic & toxic idea ever created by a puthujjana : to wit, mixing the dhamma with ''the dark night'' created the christian puthujjanas who develop the ''dry insight'' doctrine in the west, [christian puthujjanas who talk about the dhamma cling to their christian vocabulary]. Those people completely fail to understand that any insight into dukkha does not generate more dukkha. THis is because those puthujjanas are eager to declare themselves as ''having insights'', as ''reaching first path'', as ''cycling through insights'' and plenty of other toxic words expressing their toxic ideas.

Instead of talking about the various wrong samadhi invented by various puthujjanas, it is way better to focus on right sammadhi, or even better on rigth liberation. The difficulty with the right liberation is that The right liberation can be expressed by the vocabulary used for the wrong liberations. http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/pts/sn/04_salv/sn04.41.007.wood.pts.htm#p1 but like the buddha says, the best[=non-ambiguous] and unique way to speak of the right liberation is

Truly that unshaken heart's release is void of lust, void of hate, void of illusion.

For instance, there are plenty of wrong liberations and then puthujjanas wonder what is the difference between those wrong liberations and the right liberation:

"Housefather, this heart's release and this utterly unworldly[2] heart's release, and this heart's release that is by the void and that which is signless, - are these states diverse in spirit, diverse in letter, or are they the same both in spirit and in letter?"

"There is one view of the question,[3] sir, according to which these states are diverse both in spirit and in letter.

But there is another view, sir, according to which they are one and the same both in spirit and in letter.

Let's recall that the only goal of the dhamma is to end dukkha, and it turns out that ending dukkha is about viraga, nirodha, Paṭi­nissag­gā and ''the letting go'' that puthujjanas misuse and plenty of other words like extinction.

"Householder, through the destruction, fading away, cessation, giving up, and relinquishment of desire, lust, delight, craving, engagement and clinging, mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies towards the form element, the mind is said to be well liberated.

The buddha had plenty of wrong concentration before getting the right concentration, which are the jhanas, and then later on ''turning the citta'' to the famous 3 knowledges which are the insights into kamma, jayati and dukkha.

So like he said after remarking his failure to end dukkha, he started from scratch. For a puthujjana, starting from scratch means judging thoughts and sanna-vedana, because puthujjanas crave basing their life and actions on their thoughts and sanna-vedana. The biggest problem for puthujjanas is that they do not know what are meritorious thoughts and meritorious vedana-sanna, and the demeritorious thoughts and sanna-vedana.
SO starting from scratch means judging thoughts and sanna-vedana each hour of each day of each week of each month. That's really hard for most puthujjanas. THe citta who watches and judges thoughts and sanna-vedana has the samadhi called the sati sampajaanna http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/04/an04-041.html

Even though he claimed that nekhamma and metta are good, he still failed to get the citta into samadhi, precisely because he still lusted towards the opposite of those https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.041.than.html Failing to see the dangers of the aggregates is the way to never have the joy of the nekhamma, to have the mind afflicted by the aggregates, like the buddha explains to Nakulapita, in the Nakulapita Sutta

"And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

"He does not assume feeling to be the self...

"He does not assume perception to be the self...

"He does not assume fabrications to be the self...

"He does not assume consciousness to be the self, or the self as possessing consciousness, or consciousness as in the self, or the self as in consciousness. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am consciousness' or 'Consciousness is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his consciousness changes & alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change & alteration.

"This, householder, is how one is afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind."

It turns out that the good thoughts and sanna-devana are the thoughts of nekhamma and metta and the good sanna-vedana are whatever sanna-vedana there is in samma samadhi. When the citta is in samma samadhi, ''you make merit'', like puthujjanas say, and the ''contact'' generating the sanna-vedana are meritorious. [and then when there is a jayati, , it is in the higher realms and the contact is good]. The other way to make merit outside samadhi is explained here https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.057.than.html

Having right samadhi is good and since a puthujjana who trains to end dukkha has sati, this puthujjana has memorized that right samadhi is the way to slide towards nibanna, viraga, nirodha , Patinissagga, the ending of the sankharas, of the asavas, of whatever stems from ignorance. https://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/pts/sn/05_mv/sn05.53.001-012.wood.pts.htm

This is what sotapannas have to do to finish the path, because right samadhi means to see properly the dhammas [puthujjanas speculate on this by wondering whether dhammas here means ''phenomena or the teaching, but it is not important] accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.005.than.html

The Blessed One said: "Develop concentration, monks. A concentrated monk discerns in line with what has come into being. And what does he discern in line with what has come into being? The origination & disappearance of form. The origination & disappearance of feeling... perception... fabrications. The origination & disappearance of consciousness.

THe way for a sotapanna to reach anagamin is the first jhana

even so in the Ariyan disciple arises the flawless, taintless eye of wisdom,[12] and along with this arising three fetters are abandoned, to wit:

The view of the person-pack,[13] doubt-and-wavering and wrong handling of rite and ritual.

Nay more, he departs from two things, coveting and malevolence.

This disciple, aloof from sensual desires, aloof from unprofitable states, entering on the first musing, which is accompanied by thought directed and sustained, born of seclusion, zestful and easeful, dwells therein.

[222] At such time, monks, if the Ariyan disciple should make an end, there is no fetter bound by which he would come back again to this world.'[14]

Once you are good at getting the citta in samadhi, you can try anapanasati, because The result of anapanasati is always nibanna. In terms of sankharas, anapanasati means the destruction of sankharas, and reaching viraga and all that. Before destroying the sankharas, you need to tranquilize them and before tranquilizing the sankharas, you need to be sensitive to the sankharas. So it always goes like this **

be sensitive to sankharas --->calm the sankharas--> destroy the sankharas

**

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    This is a terrible answer, both in being inflammatory and incorrect in multiple instances – yuttadhammo Dec 27 '18 at 13:24
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    It's better to post "constructive criticism (that guides the author in improving the post)", or to post an answer of your own, if you can. – ChrisW Dec 27 '18 at 13:29
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    The author appears intent on a sectarian agenda, and the inaccuracies are many... Where to begin? – yuttadhammo Dec 27 '18 at 16:34
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    judge your thoughts and sanna and vedana I'm not sure how this can be seen as a valid description of Buddhist practice, judgment of sanna and vedana at least seems outright improper. the christian puthujjanas who develop the ''dry insight'' doctrine in the west this is a bizarre, inflammatory, and absolutely false claim. toxic words expressing their toxic ideas a strange way to characterize talk about Buddhist insights. meritorious vedana-sanna neither vedanā nor saññā are ethically charged states. – yuttadhammo Dec 29 '18 at 8:14
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    the ''contact'' generating the sanna-vedana are meritorious contact as well is not ethically charged. right samadhi means to see properly the dhammas it really doesn't. THe way for a sotapanna to reach anagamin is the first jhana it really isn't. The result of anapanasati is always nibanna another bizarre claim. anapanasati means the destruction of sankharas nope. It means mindfulness of breathing. it always goes like this: be sensitive to sankharas --->calm the sankharas--> destroy the sankharas maybe? Not all sankharas are to be destroyed, some like sati are to be cultivated. – yuttadhammo Dec 29 '18 at 8:22
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2) Should "noting" meditation be used when doing samatha or jhāna meditation?

Noting is for dealing with hindrances. Refer to MN 19 & MN 20. Nothing is not for samatha & jhana.

3) (For those of you acquainted with the works of Upasaka Culadasa) Is the guide offered in The Mind Illuminated

Upasaka Culadasa's book is realistic when applied to the typical Westerner that hubristically pursues Buddhist meditation however his book is certainly not explaining Anapanasati (MN 118) as found in the suttas. I browsed the book and the tenth stage described in the book is basically the state of mind required to start Anapanasati.

I imagine Upasaka Culadasa's book is quite popular because students that follow the book imagine they are actually practising a path.

compatible with other Theravāda teachers' guides, such as those from Venerables Thanissaro, Brahm , Yuttadhammo, Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, Analayo and Goenka?

There is really little point in comparing modern "teachers" to the suttas because the primary goal of modern teachers is not teaching the Dhamma of the suttas but is inventing meditation techniques that appeal to common people. Of the above teachers, I would say only Ajahn Brahm and Ajahn Chah teach meditation according to the suttas. The other "teachers" are just teaching mental exercises that keep people mentally pre-occupied.

I just bought this book and I like to know what to keep and what to ignore from it.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Culadasa's book for beginners to meditation; although it is often very confusing and needed an editor to make it more orderly & readable. However, the major problems of the book are:

  1. It does not describe Anapanasati as taught in MN 118.

  2. It assumptions are too simplistic.

  3. It jumps everywhere. For example, to following:

The defining challenge of this stage is finding a balance where there is neither gross distraction nor strong dullness. Subtler forms of distraction and dullness are tolerated and even useful at times. Another significant challenge is resisting the temptation to indulge in the powerful intellectual and emotional insights and visionary experiences that begin to arise at this stage. Invoking introspective awareness becomes a habit, and introspective awareness is what alerts the meditator to the presence of gross distraction and strong dullness. An increased vigorousness of intention to observe every detail of the meditation object raises the energy level of the mind to overcome strong dullness. Very closely observing the meditation object, but in a more relaxed way because by this time it has become quite familiar, overcomes gross distraction. The exercise of diligence overcomes the tendency to deviate from the practice.

The paragraph above contains a number of contradictions:

  1. "Dullness" is often caused by "increased vigorousness of intention to observe every detail of the meditation object" therefore the later is often not a solution to the former.

  2. "Vigorousness of intention" is the opposite of "in a more relaxed way".

The contradictions continue:

‘Striving for effortlessness’ is not a motivational type of activity, and it provides little basis for measurable progress and sense of satisfaction.



1) What is the best way, according to the suttas, to cultivate the mind in right attention and right samadhi?

The suttas say the best way is the noble eightfold path (Dhp 272), for which right view is the leader (MN 117). When right view (of the four noble truths) is the leader, this path makes the abandoning of craving (SN 56.11) or letting go (SN 48.10) the meditation object. The very end of MN 118 says right mindfulness relies on stopping craving (viraga & nirodha) and matures as letting go.

Upasaka Culadasa's book is realistic and prepares the reader for the hindances, including dullness. However, I did not read any compelling method for overcoming dullness & hindrances. The book appears to be: "Hang on for a bumpy ride and eventually it will miraculously work out".

The Buddhist path is basically one of learning to eradicate & abide free of defilements. A practitioner with the ability to abide free of defilements does not concern themselves with meditation techniques because the meditation objects (such as breathing, jhana, etc, arise automatically as objects of a pure consciousness).

  • Thank you for your detailed answer. Which book would you recommend (if possible, a book that follows the teachings of the suttas)? I read that in his book, Ajahn Brahm talks about nimitta. Is 'nimitta', as a meditation sign, taught in the EBTs? – Brian Díaz Flores Dec 27 '18 at 4:09
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    Sutta is about eradicating unwholesome states and abiding in wholesome states. 'Nimitta' is another object & special effect that automatically arises. The suttas don't mention the nimitta because it is related to ekkagatta (one pointedness). The reason Ajahn Brahm teaches according to sutta is because he emphasises "letting go" as the path. The suttas emphasise "letting go" ('vossagga') as the path & object. – Dhammadhatu Dec 27 '18 at 5:34
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Dec 29 '18 at 14:50

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