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Lions Roar : July 2015
BEGINNER’S MIND I’m confused about all the different terms for Buddhist meditation, like shamatha, vipassana, zazen, vipashyana, mindfulness, awareness, calm abiding, insight, just sitting, etc. What’s what? There are nuances in the way different schools approach it, but basic Bud- dhist meditation comes down to two fundamental practices: concentration and insight. These are also called mindfulness and awareness. Most of the terms you mention are names for one or both of these practices. Buddhist practice always starts with meditations that calm and concentrate the mind, such as following the breath. That’s because an unstable mind that flits from thought to thought and perception to perception cannot take the crucial next step—insight, seeing deeply into the nature of reality. While many religions practice some form of concentration, insight is Buddhism’s unique specialty. With the stable, focused, and fully present mind you have developed in your mindfulness practice, you investigate the nature of reality. You may discover it is impermanent, has no solid self, and is marked by suffering. These are called the three marks of existence. You could also turn your focus on your mind itself, if we can find such a thing, and investigate its true nature. But it’s better not to think too much about what you might discover, because words, con- cepts, and hopes will only get in the way of direct experience. The journey of insight is a personal and individual one. We wish you great joy on yours. ILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS The eight worldly concerns classify the attachments and aversions that yoke us to samsara, the cycle of suf- fering. They are the four hopes and corresponding four fears, which we cycle through endlessly—until, that is, we discover enlightenment (which includes liberation from the eight worldly concerns). This list is from the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna, with comments by Bud- dhist teacher Judy Lief: 1. Happiness vs. 2. Suffering Once we have happiness, fear arises, for we are afraid to lose it. When suffering arises, no amount of wishful thinking makes it go away. The more we hope for it to be otherwise, the more pain we feel. 3. Fame vs. 4. Insignificance We are obsessed with fame and afraid of our own insignificance. When it dawns on us how hard we need to work to be seen as someone special, our fear of insignificance is only magnified. 5. Praise vs. 6. Blame We need to be pumped up constantly or we begin to have doubts about our worth. When we are not searching for praise, we are busy trying to cover up our mistakes so we don’t get caught. 7. Gain vs. 8. Loss Just as we are about to congratulate ourselves on our success, the bottom falls out. Over and over, things are hopeful one moment and the next they are not, and in either case we are anxious. RAYFENWICK SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 34