The meditation on Saturday (this one) was as simple as they come. But, that’s the point, isn’t it. Whether from Patanjali or Buddha Shakyamuni or all the lineages that derive from them, the instructions in all levels of meditation are fundamentally the same: still the patterning of consciousness so that Awareness can experience itself as IT IS. Along the way of incremental stilling, insights are possible. Due to that, two aspects of awareness can be experienced, known, and – in time – combined. They are tranquility (neutrality) and sharp unrelenting clarity. Both are attributes of awareness: common daily cognitive, analytical awareness and intuitive expansive awareness.
Every meditator who has repeatedly sat has experienced that which is innate: peace, harmonious presence, detachment and altitude, simplicity and simple Being. Each meditator will experience these (and more qualities) uniquely yet the experience(s) are universal. Why? Because Awareness is Awareness, universally shared and participated in by all beings. Just as everyone experiences water as moist or wet, those who practice withdrawal (pratyahara) from external stimuli with consistency, provide opportunities to themselves to experience Awareness as it is. Patanjali’s beginning sutras 2-4 state: “Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness. Then, pure awareness can abide in its very nature. Otherwise, awareness takes itself to be the patterns of consciousness.” (Yoga in this context means meditative concentration.)
Buddha Shakyamuni explains what is possible when the mind is focused correctly. “I focused my mind correctly …” as a result “vision arose; knowledge, apprehension, understanding, and realization arose.”* To focus the mind correctly is to first focus it at all! Classically, this is pratyahara (right withdrawal). The mind stills when it is “focused correctly”; that is so no matter what is the cause or object of focus – listening fully to someone, practicing an instrument, gardening, or various spiritual practices. A stilled, or quietened mind – one that is not bent on its own rotary motion – also begins to experience its innate light. Light is clear, light is bright, light is translucent, light sharp and provides intensification of focus. Using classical words, Shamatha has fostered Vipashyana.
Why do we care, if we do? Because these two are the manifest expression of foundational and pervasive qualities of Awareness-Being. Being and shamatha are experientially related. Awareness and vipashyana are experientially related. And, since Awareness-Being is a set of words trying to convey something that is beyond all words and conceptual frames, then shamatha and vipashyana are mechanisms that inculcate that which is beyond conceptual frames of reference within the practitioner. As Buddha said, “vision arose; knowledge, apprehension, understanding, and realization arose.” About what? About anything and everything for him. The same is possible for anyone who focuses the mind correctly.
- from the Dharmachakra Sutra