Alone and Thinking, Meditation

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• Dear Neil,

[Like Jonothan, I hope you don’t mind if I reply on DSG to your further
reflections so others can read or join in if they like.]

You wrote (off-list):

“Thank you for your forwardings in the realm of Buddhism. Among other
things one reads about it is the seemingly overwhelming association with
meditation. I am alone, and so I think a lot.

Is such thinking thought of in Buddhism as meditation?. Or is meditation
conceived of as something on a different plane? Alone? With others? How
does it relate to “prayer” in the western faiths? All best wishes, as
always, to you and Jonathan, and let’s see if this goes through. Regards,
Neil.”
*****
S: Others may respond with different ideas.

There is a common Pali word we often us, bhavana, which is sometimes
translated as mental development and sometimes as meditation.

I consider that whenever there is a growth of wisdom, a growth of mental
development, that this is bhavana or meditation. It doesn’t matter whether
one is alone or standing on the M.T.R (the crowded subway in Hong Kong) –
there can be a growth of wisdom, a growth of understanding at any time.

I think it helps to reflect again and again that life only exists at this
moment. So whether we are alone or in a crowd, there’s no use thinking the
other situation would be better. In this sense, meditation is purely a
mental state, dependent of wise reflection, awareness of present realities
and not dependent on a particular time and place.

In a deeper sense we’re all alone all the time. We’re alone with the
experiences through the five senses now and alone in our world of
thinking…..usually quite lost in the latter! Being alone with these
present realities, we’re encouraged in Buddhism to be like an island, like
refuges to ourselves. Praying for assistance in this task is not the way
because only a growth in wisdom of the present mental and physical
phenomena can assist.

How does this sound to you? Thank you for you reflections. I’ve been
appreciating your correspondence with Jonothan too.

Fondest regards,

Sarah
========

• sarah abbott

Reply from Neil which I’m forwarding. Sarah
******
Dear Sarah…

Thank you, as always, for your response. The crux of it–
“Whenever there is a growth of wisdom, a growth of mental
development…that…is…meditation”– is trenchant and compatible with
experience.

Prayer– whatever that is– cannot, in my judgment, sensibly
be a supplication for supernatural or preternatural aid. It can be a
dialog with our inner self (“prayer cannot heal a broken arm, but it can
heal a broken heart”), and an island in our island. (The “island” analogy
is also useful.)

And yes, please feel free to share my thoughts with others. “May my
thoughts have wings”, as the words go some classical song.

My warmest wishes to you and Jonothan,

Neil.

—–Original Message—–
From: sarah abbott [mailto:sarahprocterabbott@…]
>There is a common Pali word we often us, bhavana, which is sometimes
translated as mental development and sometimes as meditation.

I consider that whenever there is a growth of wisdom, a growth of mental
development, that this is bhavana or meditation. It doesn’t matter whether
one is alone or standing on the M.T.R (the crowded subway in Hong Kong) –
there can be a growth of wisdom, a growth of understanding at any
time.

upasaka@aol.com

May 9, 2006
Hi, Sarah (and Neil) –

In a message dated 5/9/06 4:55:16 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
sarahprocterabbott@… writes:
> Reply from Neil which I’m forwarding. Sarah
> ******
> Dear Sarah…
>
> Thank you, as always, for your response. The crux of it–
> “Whenever there is a growth of wisdom, a growth of mental
> development…that…is…meditation”– is trenchant and compatible with
> experience.
>
=====================
It is an easy-to-remember and succinct statement, but not, IMO,
entirely accurate. When wheat or some other crop is to be planted, the soil is
cultivated. It is tilled, aerated, fertilized, and watered, and then, with
adequate sun and protection from marauders, it will produce the crop. The growing of
the wheat, or whatever the crop may be, is not the cultvation. It is the
result of the cultivation. Likewise, the growth of wisdom is not meditation, it is
the result of meditation (and its supports and other factors). With respect, a
smearing of the lines between means and ends isn’t helpful as I see it.
A side issue, providing some missing details: There are occasions at
which some of the crop may be folded back in to serve to further enrich the
soil. Likewise, wisdom, the product, is also used as support for meditation that
fosters the growth of further wisdom.

With metta,
Howard

/Thus is how ye shall see all this fleeting world: A star at dawn, a bubble
in a stream, a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, a flickering lamp, a
phantom, and a dream.
• Bhikkhu Samahita

Sarah wrote:
> In a deeper sense we’re all alone all the time. We’re alone with the
> experiences through the five senses now and alone in our world of thinking…

Sadhu! Well spoken!

Where-ever the being goes
right there starts and ends
his/her world…

=====================
H:> It is an easy-to-remember and succinct statement, but not, IMO,
entirely accurate.
….
S: I had mentioned bhaavanaa in this context and Nyantiloka gives this
definition in his dictionary:

“bhaavanaa: ‘mental development’ (lit. ‘calling into existence,
producing’) is what in English is generally but rather vaguely called
‘meditation’. One has to distinguish 2 kinds: development of tranquillity
(samatha-bhaavanaa), i.e concentration (samaadhi) and development of
insight (vipassanaa-bhaavanaa), i.e wisdom (pa~n~naa).”

S: In fact pa~n~naa is esential for any kind of bhaavanaa. Without
vipassanaa bhaavanaa, no development of the path.

>When wheat or some other crop is to be planted, the
> soil is
> cultivated. It is tilled, aerated, fertilized, and watered, and then,
> with
> adequate sun and protection from marauders, it will produce the crop.
> The growing of
> the wheat, or whatever the crop may be, is not the cultvation. It is the
>
> result of the cultivation. Likewise, the growth of wisdom is not
> meditation, it is
> the result of meditation (and its supports and other factors).
…..
S: In ‘The Simile of the Field’, SN42:7, the Buddha refers to the various
kinds of fields as an analogy for those who can benefit from hearing his
teachings. He gives the same excellent teachings to all, but like the
farmer who selects the most fertile field first, the Buddha selects the
most fertile audience first. The fertile audience are those that have
confidence and have taken refuge in the Triple Gem. The seed that is sown
is ‘the Dhamma that is good in the beginning, good in the Middle, and good
in the end,with right meaning and phrasing’; and ‘the holy life that is
perfectly complete and pure’.

Therfore, using your analogy, I take the cultivated soil to be the right
accumulations to be able to hear the teachings, the planting and
fertilizing to be the hearing of the teachings and the crop to be the
growth of wisdom as you say.
….
>With
> respect, a
> smearing of the lines between means and ends isn’t helpful as I see it.
….
S: I agree. No growth of wisdom or development of the path without the
‘fertile’ accumulations, encountering the teachings, listening and
considering them. All of this is expressed in the sutta.
….
> A side issue, providing some missing details: There are occasions
> at
> which some of the crop may be folded back in to serve to further enrich
> the
> soil. Likewise, wisdom, the product, is also used as support for
> meditation that
> fosters the growth of further wisdom.
….
S: A good further analogy. I’d put it a little different and say that
‘wisdom, the product, is also used as support for further listening,
considering, reflecting that fosters the growth of further wisdom or
bhaavanaa (mental development/meditation).

Metta,

Sarah
========

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