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I listen to a very low background score on a meditation app called Calm while meditating. It's mostly non-obstructive and really helps me get into the space of calm.

Where I live, silence of the outer world is hard to come by and I mostly use the music just to combat that.

Should I not be listening to music while meditating? Does the Buddha have any words in this regard?

  • Metta & Chai to all, Kalpesh
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  • No, you should not listen to music. The Buddha states that you must be secluded from sensuality. "There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities—enters & remains in the first jhāna... " - Excerpt from SN 45:8 – Sāvaka Kovida Aug 30 '20 at 11:47
  • it seems to have been effective for the Asker, according to the information provided in the question, and would seem to be less noticeable than, eg, viewing stage productions & singing & dancing, especially if the musical material has become very familiar after having been heard many times – M H Aug 31 '20 at 6:21
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Listening to music, among other liminally conscious activities, like scribbling or tapping a pencil while listening to a lecture in class, are ways of distracting one’s attention from other more disturbing phenomena such as street noise, but the goal of meditation is to focus the mind, not distract it. I suggest that buying some industrial grade earplugs (not the foam kind) would be more beneficial to your practice than listening to music.

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    Nice answer; also, if could explain why consider focus would be considered the goal of contemplation. Thank you. – M H Aug 31 '20 at 6:28
  • In the beginning, an untrained mind is like a wild stallion—it must be broken before it can be trained. – StillJustJames Aug 31 '20 at 6:55
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    Why is it an interesting point of view? The most widely heard excuse for not meditating is “I can’t sit still,” followed by “My mind is always occupied with too many things.” The modern word “multitasking” has been repurposed to put a positive spin to the state of mind formerly called “distracted,” but it’s still just a state in which attention is jumping around like a wild stallion. That is why I say to beginning meditators that they need to learn to focus their mind. They can’t undertake any kind of inquiry if they can’t focus on the process. Meditating with a support has that goal. ☺️ – StillJustJames Aug 31 '20 at 8:22
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    Thank you for expanding the question 🙏🏼 – StillJustJames Aug 31 '20 at 9:45
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    it must be broken I know that's just using a simile, but I know a literal horse-trainer who thinks that doctrine/method/assumption is wrong -- saying that horses should be understood and not intimidated, that if you learn (to speak) their body-language they will begin to follow/approach you in the lunging ring (when you turn your back on them). After they do that then you can gradually begin to do things, gently, like introduce a neck-rope, a saddle-blanket, a halter, a saddle. – ChrisW Aug 31 '20 at 11:13
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The buddha said that sound is a thorn for mediation https://suttacentral.net/an10.72/en/sujato

More generally, the idea that right meditation is the focus on object of the senses is from the commentators from their lack of yoniso manasikara, ie ''right thinking''. and their ideas taken from the hindus that mantras, the sound Om and so on, can get you into right concentration. When theyadmit that, they say that focusing on the objects of the senses is just the temporary training to get good at concentration , and then the next step is to get into meditation through non nimittas (ie images).

yoniso manasikara is the way to get into right samadhi, ie doing all the 7 things listed before right samadhi in the 8 fold path. Puthujjanas crave sense objects too much for that so they made up the idea they can get enlightened by focusing on them.

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Meditating with music is inadvisable:

AN8.41:8.1: ‘As long as they live, the perfected ones give up dancing, singing, music, and seeing shows; and beautifying and adorning themselves with garlands, fragrance, and makeup.

However, if the mind needs a focus, it may be helpful to consider the third opportunity for freedom:

AN5.26:4.1: Furthermore, it may be that neither the Teacher nor … the mendicant teaches Dhamma. But the mendicant recites the teaching in detail as they learned and memorized it. That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma, no matter how they recite it in detail as they learned and memorized it. Feeling inspired, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. This is the third opportunity for freedom. …

And how does one recite the teaching? Well, an easy way to do that is to simply listen to a sutta repeatedly until it flows off the tongue on its own. Sutta recordings can be found on the internet. For example, voice.suttacentral.net has 4000 suttas in various languages (Pali, English, etc.).

Ultimately, one should ideally be content simply focusing on the breath.

MN10:4.2: It’s when a mendicant—gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut—sits down cross-legged, with their body straight, and focuses their mindfulness right there. Just mindful, they breathe in. Mindful, they breathe out.

In the above, "right there" is an instruction to be aware of what is happening at that moment without any grasping attachment. The breath is observed right there in the moment, in the body as it enters and exits. More detailed instruction is found in studying MN10. However, in general, using music to mask agitation is inadvisable. Rather, attend to the breath and the mind will necessarily relax from agitation. The "music" of the breath itself should suffice.

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    Nice answer; also, if could amplify the intended literal meanings of the words of the MN10.1.1 quote provided above would be appreciated; a mendicant, wilderness, tree root, empty hut, focuses, mindfulness, right[where [?]], mindful, just breathe in, & just breath out; re posture, & the overall suggestion seems quite clear; Thank you. – M H Aug 31 '20 at 6:57
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    Thank you. Added clarification "right there". – OyaMist Aug 31 '20 at 11:27
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    Excellent; Thank you :) – M H Aug 31 '20 at 12:57
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From what I have learned , I think you should meditate alone at secluded places. Buddha has repeatedly said employ “empty” huts to meditate ... you should avoid the noise of city and music for better meditation.

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  • How would one do that if one wants to practise every day and live in a home in a city? :) – Kalpesh Mange Sep 1 '20 at 15:06
  • @KalpeshMange Serious Monks do it that way. For householder I think it would be wise to remember 4 Nobel Truths at all times, in success in failure , while mourning while celebrating. The truths will automatically develop deep compassion in you for fellow beings... – SacrificialEquation Sep 1 '20 at 15:33
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I’d suggest you to meditate in a quiet environment. It’s more relaxing for the ears, and then the mind. It also enables you to face yourself in silence and might help you realize the emptiness of things...

If you really want to have some chilling music in the background to help you relax at the beginning of your meditation it’s not bad per se but don’t become dependent on that and remember that doing it in silence might prove more effective and train you to be more comfortable in your ability to face the daily grind on your own...

After all, learning to be in tune with oneself also takes time and practice :)

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  • How would one do that if one wants to practise every day and live in a home in a city that's noisy? :) – Kalpesh Mange Sep 1 '20 at 15:07
  • It’s all about personal choices. You may try and succeed. Try before anything else though. It may also be that you can’t have your cake and eat it... So Choose your direction accordingly and pick what is most important for you. After all, men are not trees. ;) Good luck on your personal journey :) – Mat Sep 1 '20 at 16:02
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- Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammā-sambuddhassa -

A monk endowed with these five qualities is incapable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He cannot withstand (the impact of) sights, he cannot withstand sounds... aromas... tastes... tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five qualities is not capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.

A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration. Which five? He can withstand (the impact of) sights... sounds... aromas... tastes... tactile sensations. A monk endowed with these five qualities is capable of entering & remaining in right concentration.

— AN 5.113

[Not given for stacks, exchange, other worldbinding trades, but for release from this wheel]

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