Eastern Meditation and Concentration
Access concentration was so named by the Elders because in it we develop enough steadiness of heart and mind to give us meditative entry to the higher realms. From access concentration we can then expand the self, level by level, refining consciousness to attain the eight levels of absorption, oneness with extraordinary states of luminous consciousness. Expanding the self into refined realms of absorption allows us to enter visionary states, including the six realms of existence, states of celestial lights and feelings, and rarefied states of consciousness even beyond these.
Path to Enlightenment
Noblification (Finding Virtue), bare attention, concentration, and insights are the necessary ingredients of achieving enlightenment in eastern meditation. Remember the example of learning to bike? Meditation and achieving access concentration is very similar to learning how to bike. When we initially attain access concentration, we may feel shaky. We may feel strongly focused but, like a novice bicycle rider, still be occasionally unsteady and distracted by things in the background. Through continued repetition and patience we can gain balance in this state. Through repeated surrender to this experience, we can learn how to nurture and sustain a focused level of concentrated attention that effect extraordinary states of luminous consciousness.
Our body experiences a rapture that fills every cell. An enormous sense of peace and well-being arises, and an oceanic sense of wholeness and rest can envelop our consciousness.
The influence of Fear
We discussed the left side of illustration as a vicious circle. To be able to dislodge the left side, we need a little more analysis. Fear is an important part of the left side. Whenever we feel about a negative impact or the influence of negativity, fear is aroused inside our consciousness. This is the same as the voice of blame or judgment or even fear.
Will I fail?
Will I make a fool of myself?
Fear could be the very essence of being on the left side. The main essence of the fear itself is the separation and isolation. Separation from what?
If you notice separation and isolation are the true opposite of unification and unification is the highest form of achievements we are promoting here.
So could it be true that the concept of separation is the main cause of all problems? But separation from what? This is the question one can argue for months? Separation of body and mind? Separation from God? Separation from each other? Separation from who and what?
Based on the analysis above we can show you several concepts that can melt the left side of our main illustration. You must also be aware that keeping fear suppressed is the most damage you can do to your consciousness.
Separation of body and mind? Unification of mind and body, state of perfect mental and physical equilibrium, inner harmony, that will lead to self-realization
We spoke of unification theory. The fact that any type of unification effect Flow. The most interesting type I believe is unification of mind and body which is the goal of eastern meditation techniques.
Why to achieve it? Here is what Dr. Bhante H. Gunaratana in his excellent book called “Mindfulness in Plain English” says:
…..We can truly understand the meaning of the famous metaphor of the blind man who has a healthy body and the disabled person who has good eyes. Both of them, alone, are limited. But when the disabled person climbs on the shoulders of the blind man, together they can travel and achieve their goals easily. The mind and body are like this. The body alone can do nothing for itself; it is like a log unable to move or do anything by itself except to become subject to impermanence, decay, and death. The mind can do nothing without the support of the body. When we mindfully watch both body and mind, we can see how many wonderful things they do together.
What does it really achieve? When the unification of body and mind is achieved the feelings are very strong. Mind can almost achieve anything. Your mind can imagine riding the winds, being anywhere on the moon, or anywhere in the vast infinite space…. However, the body can not. What if you could unify the body with the mind? If so, then the body can also feel whatever the mind is feeling or imagining. This is the essence of achieving unification of the body and mind through meditation. Notice below the recounts of unification of body and mind according to Leo Shang (in white).
The Zen Master, Professor D. T. Suzuki was once asked how it feels to have attained satori, the Zen experience of “awakening,” he answered, “Just like ordinary everyday experience, except about two inches off the ground!” Thus when asked to explain the art of riding on the wind, Lieh-tzu gave the following account of his training under his master Lao Shang:
After I had served him … for the space of three years, my mind did not venture to reflect on right and wrong, my lips did not venture to speak of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my master bestowed one glance upon me-and that was all. At the end of five years a change had taken place; my mind was reflecting on right and wrong, and my lips were speaking of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my master relaxed his countenance and smiled.
At the end of seven years, there was another change. I let my mind reflect on what it would, but it no longer occupied itself with right and wrong. I let my lips utter whatsoever they pleased, but they no longer spoke of profit and loss. Then, at last, my master led me in to sit on the mat beside him.
At the end of nine years, my mind gave free rein to its reflections, my mouth free passage to its speech. Of right and wrong, profit and loss, I had no knowledge, either as touching myself or others. . . Internal and external were blended into unity. After that, there was no distinction between eye and ear, ear and nose, nose and mouth: all were the same. My mind was frozen, my body in dissolution, my flesh and bones all melted together. I was wholly unconscious of what my body was resting on, or what was under my feet. I was born this way and that on the wind, like dry chaff or leaves falling from a tree. In fact, I knew not whether the wind was riding on me or I on the wind.
According to Zen Master Chuang-tzu:
The baby looks at things all day without winking; that is because his eyes are not focussed on any particular object. He goes without knowing where he is going, and stops without knowing what he is doing. He merges himself with the surroundings and moves along with it. These are the principles of mental hygiene.
If you regulate your body and unify your attention, the harmony of heaven will come upon you. If you integrate your awareness, and unify your thoughts, spirit will make its abode with you. Te (virtue) will clothe you, and the Tao will shelter you. Your eyes will be like those of a new-born calf, which seeks not the wherefore.
Here I like to ad one more great saying from Confucian principle: “it is man who makes truth great, not truth which makes man great.”
But what is really achieved?
Dr. Bhante H. Gunaratana in his excellent book called “Mindfulness in Plain English” says:
Mindfulness alone has the power to reveal the deepest level of reality available to human observation. At this level of inspection, one sees the following: (a) all conditioned things are inherently transitory; (b) every worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfying; and (c) there are really no entities that are unchanging or permanent, only processes.
Mindfulness works like an electron microscope. That is, it operates on so fine a level that one can actually directly perceive those realities that are at best theoretical constructs to the conscious thought process. Mindfulness actually sees the impermanent character of every perception. It sees the transitory and passing nature of everything that is perceived. It also sees the inherently unsatisfactory nature of all conditioned things. It sees that there is no point grabbing onto any of these passing shows; peace and happiness cannot be found that way. And finally, mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way that we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging Flow of experience, and then conceptualized them as separate, enduring entities. Mindfulness actually sees these things. It does not think about them, it sees them directly.
Philip Kapleau in his excellent book called The Three Pillars of ZEN says:
With body and mind consolidated, focused, and energized, the emotions respond with increased sensitivity and purity, and volition exerts itself with greater strength of purpose. No longer are we dominated by intellect at the expense of feeling, nor driven by the emotions unchecked by reason or will. Eventually zazen leads to a transformation of personality and character. Dryness, rigidity, and self-centeredness give way to Flowing warmth, resiliency, and compassion, while self-indulgence and fear are transmuted into self-mastery and courage.
The aims of zazen are three: (1) development of the power of concentration (joriki), (2) satori-awakening (kensho-godo), and (3) actualization of the Supreme Way in our daily lives (mujodo no taigeh). These three form an inseparable unity, but for purposes of discussion I am obliged to deal with them individually.
Joriki, the first of these, is the power or strength which arises when the mind has been unified and brought to one-pointedness in Zazen concentration. This is more than the ability to concentrate in the usual sense of the word. It is a dynamic power which, once mobilized, enables us even in the most sudden and unexpected situations to act instantly, without pausing to collect our wits, and in a manner wholly appropriate to the circumstances (Mindfulness according to Dr. Langer). Those who have developed joriki are no longer slaves to their passions. More fully in command of both themselves and the circumstances of their lives, such people are able to move with real freedom and equanimity. The cultivation of certain supranormal powers is also made possible by joriki, as is the state in which the mind becomes clear, still water. (p.54)