Fixing the mind in meditation.. A tremendously important part of all Buddhist philosophy is the stress it places on meditation as the way to salvation. In the west we have access to so many different systems that it can be very confusing to know where to start. We not only have all the many Buddhist forms available to us but there are the systems to be found in yoga, Hinduism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, Taoism, New Age etc. etc. This is not a bad thing. The Tibetan Buddhists themselves have thousands of meditation techniques. Each has a different objective and different styles suit different types of personality. But from a Buddhist perspective the ultimate goal of all meditation is to travel beyond the 'I' into the great immensity called Nirvana. To practice even a little meditation can bring great benefit to you. From a practical standpoint you will gain greater vitality, mental alertness and health but most importantly you will gain the inner treasure of peace. This in turn will inevitably improve your relations with others, hopefully increase your compassion and make you a better and more stable person. On a more subtle level you are making tremendous progress spiritually and may bring yourself great merit that will serve you well in future lives. And your progress will become even more advanced when you perceive meditation not as a means of self gain but as something that is of benefit to all beings. When meditation becomes a form of service for the sake of all beings then you have put your foot on the Bodhisattva's road. A Tibetan Buddhist respects the various meditation techniques of the different systems within and outside their own tradition. As with most meditation practices, the Tibetans advise that it is best to practice meditation in a quiet place during the morning when the mind is very clear and alert. The meditation experiment that follows is a traditional and wide- spread Tibetan technique used to fix the concentration. Although it is in itself very simple, some Tibetan adepts used variations on this method to develop the most advanced systems. 1) First you must make yourself comfortable. Sit on a chair or on the floor if you can. Arrange your legs in the most comfortable position and make your backbone as straight as an arrow. Place your hands in the meditive equipoise at about 2" below the navel. Place the left hand on the bottom and the right on top with your thumbs touching to form a triangle. Your hands are now in the gesture of meditation. The nerve channel associated with the mind of Enlightenment (Bodhichitta) passes through the thumbs. Thus, joining of the two thumbs in this gesture is of auspicious significance for the future development of the mind of Enlightenment. Furthermore this placement of the hands has connection with the place inside the body where inner heat is generated. 2) Now bend the neck down slightly. Let the top of the tongue touch the roof of the mouth near the top of the teeth. In some Tibetan practices the eyes are focused on the tip of the nose but for this exercise let the eyes gaze gently downwards. Gaze without straining toward the floor in front of you. Do not open the eyes wide, rather let the lids relax. Occasionally they may close of their own accord. Do not worry about this, once your mental equilibrium is steady the eyes will fix naturally into the gaze. Become aware of how your mind is becoming quiet and how your breathing is slowing down. 3) Now you will shift the attention away from the mind and meditate on an object of observation. In Tibetan meditative techniques these can be external or internal. Something with spiritual significance or symbolism can be used in this technique. You can choose any item you wish - such as flower, a cross or perhaps the face of a great spiritual teacher. For this exercise we'll imagine a statue of the Buddha. Visualise that it is about four feet in front of you at the same height as the eyebrows. It is about 2" high and is radiating light. As well as using your visual imagination also conceive of it as being heavy; this will help you to fix the attention further. The heaviness is said to prevent over excitement and the brilliance of the light will prevent laxity. You have two objectives: a) make the object of observation clear and b) make it steady. 4) Observe your thoughts and impressions. Are the things you see with your eyes bothering you? If they are then close the eyes and observe what you see. If you see a reddish appearance when the eyes are closed,
then you are too involved in eye consciousness. Try to withdraw the attention from the eye to the mental consciousness. Your attention should be entirely concentrated on the Buddha that you are visualising. 5) The steadiness of your observation of your Buddha will fluctuate depending upon the excitability of your thoughts. To stop this scattering, withdraw the mind even more within so that the intensity of your thinking begins to lower. To help this process it is advised that should briefly think about something sombre. These weighty thoughts will slow down the heightened mode of appreciation of the Buddha image you are visualising. This will increase the stability of your mental inner observation. 6) To get the balance right, you must also develop clarity. The biggest enemy of this is laxity which can lead to lethargy and the complete loss of the mental image. This is caused by an over-withdrawal of the mind. To stop this, you must raise the mode of appreciation. It is the opposite of what you did in order to get stability of the observation. This time you should think of something that makes you feel joyous or exhilarated, such as looking at a beautiful scene from the mountain tops. This will lift the mind and heighten its mode of appreciation. You must judge the appropriate times when you need to increase your clarity or stability of your mental picture. Notice how by controlling your sombre and joyous thoughts you affect the mental picture that you are creating. 7) Now inspect the mental image of the Buddha that you have created in your mind's eye. Observe it from all angles; from above, from the corners. Is it both clear and stable? Observing the mental image in this way is called 'introspection' by the Tibetan Buddhists. By learning to do this and control the steadiness and clarity of the mental picture, you are, at the same time, controlling the mind. When you develop mindfulness, you can catch laxity and excitement of thoughts before they arise and even control the arising of these thoughts. The above technique is the classic way a Tibetan monk will sustain meditation using an external object of meditation. In a similar way the meditator can look at the mind itself. The consciousness will become empty like clear water. It is then at the very heart of observation itself.