Ancient Pali texts liken the taming of the mind in meditation to the real-life taming of an elephant.
WHERE TO START? Beginning and novice meditators often pose this question as they try to begin a regular meditation practice. The answer is both simple and complex—begin with the breath. In this excerpt from “Mindfulness in Plain English” (Wisdom Books), Bhante Henepola Gunaratana talks about the seemingly mundane breath as the starting point to a lifetime practice of vipassana---or insight---meditation in the Buddhist tradition. “Bhante G,” as he is known, is the founder and head of the Bhavana Society monastic/meditation center in Hampshire County, West Virginia, near High View, and is an internationally known meditation teacher. This excerpt reprinted with the author’s permission.
By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
THE MEDITATION WE TEACH
is called Insight Meditation... The variety of possible objects of
meditation is nearly unlimited, and human beings have used an enormous
number down through the ages... The method we are explaining here,
however, is considered the most traditional and is probably what Gotama
Buddha taught his students. The Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha’s original
discourse on mindfulness, specifically says that one must begin by
focusing the attention on the breathing and then go on to note all other
physical and mental phenomenon which arise.
In fact there are meditations of that nature. They
are sometimes referred to as unstructured meditation and they are quite
difficult. The mind is tricky. Thought is an inherently complicated
procedure. By that we mean we become trapped, wrapped up, and stuck in the
thought chain. One thought leads to another which leads to another, and
another, and another, and so on. Fifteen minutes later we suddenly wake up
and realize we spent that whole time stuck in a daydream or sexual fantasy
or a set of worries about our bills or whatever.
PAGE 2: Microscopic concentration...