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http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index.php?showtopic=51045&view=findpost&p=700615

Hi Everett22;

I understand that generally the advice here is to simply continue meditating and if possible to seek out a knowledgeable and accomplished teacher. It is good advice. It is most important not to disturb your progress by now adding expectations of big things to come or a sense of satisfaction such as is typical of completing some kind of work. Those kinds of attitudes will impair your motivation and energy to continue. Now, how to proceed?

From what you have described it appears that you are well aware of how pleasant it is to be single minded and how free the sense of spaciousness is and so now you do have that to continue to draw your attention. Because you are having good success with concentration, I suggest you should continue to develop and establish that concentration. When it becomes like any other tool, like a shovel or a broom which you can easily locate and pick up and put to work, then your concentration is very mature and very useful.

It is then important to understand how to usefully and most beneficially employ that full concentration, how to direct the single mindedness and clarity. Using the breath as your object you have made your attention singular and this naturally becomes pleasant. When the breath slips away there is simply the joy and peace or simply the peace of that single minded attention. What you then describe appears to be the directing of that single minded attention upon mind itself. This is what occurs in shifting from form jhana to formless jhana. This is why the formless jhana are sometimes considered variants of the fourth jhana. There is a difference however. In a concentration with form the singleness of attention was still related to form, a singular relation and therefore simply the forms of body and mind conditions at complete stillness and peace, single minded and sustained attention to that peaceful stillness of form.

It is natural then for you, at some point as you emerge into thought again to reflect and consider, "is this single minded equanimity not then simply the quality of mind when there is no diversity of forms such as sense impressions, body contacts or feelings and thought impressions?" Curious about this you then direct your concentrated mind towards it's own qualities and as you do this, returning to single minded attending and also turning entirely away from even the single and peaceful form of body and mind at complete ease, you become aware of the quality of mind when it is entirely free of objects of body and mind. Here then, even the great calm and ease of having reduced body and mind impressions to one unhindered calmness is gone and there is attention only to the remaining qualities of mind. It is still fully peaceful but without a form to attend to it is spacious and unhindered, vast.

The first thing you will likely note about the qualities of mind when these alone are present is precisely what you go on to describe, the spaciousness of mind. Mind free of form is endlessly vast, like space and non-local like space, everywhere and nowhere like space, capable of touching anything but reduced to only mind qualities free of objects it is touching nothing and so it is emptied of all objects which ordinarily it contacts, one after the next. It is that contact with objects which obscures the spaciousness of mind and the sense of openness and freedom of mind within that endless spaciousness.

You can move through that space and yet it is all the same and there is no sense of motion, you can examine all of that space and it is all empty of anything that you commonly consider a part of yourself. This is because you have turned away from all of those things that you typically consider a part of yourself, the sense impressions, the feelings in the body, the thoughts in the mind and so on. When you return again to any of that the space is gone again, it is again obscured by whatever mind makes contact with. Whatever mind makes contact with will then make an impression on that space just like a photograph is the impression of light on light sensitive material. So too, mind is sensitive to all that it comes into contact with, it can make an impression of that contact and it can "recall" those impressions.

Your mind when brought to this degree of concentration is fully ready to employ in insight work and I will touch on this but I highly suggest that you also go on to read some good instructions for how to fully practice insight meditation. Read a few books about this practice until you have a good understanding of how to approach it. One of my favorites is:
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/Progress/progress.html

After you have completed the work of bringing the mind to single minded calm and progressed in that as far as you like for the time, take a similar amount of time to then do some insight work. You have forged a great tool, your concentration, and it would be a shame to waste it now that it is fully available to you. It would be like having a great stallion, strong, fit and ready to run but then never letting it out of the barn.

Essentially, in insight work that single minded attention is then returned to the body and the mind and all of those forms, those many arrangements of conditions, are examined again, either in a progressive way by directing attention upon one part of your body or mind after another or by simply relaxing into the ordinary flow of impressions and singly examining these impressions as they come and go, in sequence, one after the next. Now that you have freed the mind from reacting to those forms and getting further involved in them you are at liberty to examine those forms with a particular attitude of simple examination or while sort of bearing in mind the ongoing question, "are these forms which arise and disappear temporary, insubstantial and empty?" That is to say do all of these things have the three marks of conditionality or the Tilakkhana; anicca (impermanence), dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and anatta (not self).

You have two things to use as a reference now in this regards. You are aware of the mind entirely apart from these things, the mind calm and at ease, free of these things. So you are aware of how pleasant that is compared to any of these things. Also you can see that these things that arise and pass are not needed by the mind but that mind is simply involved with these things because of long and intimate familiarity. So through steady and focused examination you can begin to both quickly identify anything that the mind contacts and to determine that it has the same characteristics that all of these things contacted by mind consistently have. The objects contacted by the mind are connected with and then mind lets go again and so they are impermanent. They will not persist indefinitely, no matter how long you hold to one of them, no matter how pleasant or desirable an object it is and so they are unsatisfying, they will not abide, and finally, the mind does not need these things and is not dependent upon them so these things are not you, not yours to keep, not self. You will see that this applies to all that the mind can touch.

When you are then again doing your concentration work, the practice of insight, the attitude of investigation you develop in that way can be brought into harmony with the single minded concentration practice as well.

Isn't it interesting how very vast and spacious mind appears when it is entirely freed from all dependence on form for a time? Isn't this pleasant by comparison? And yet, consider how easily this is undone. As soon as an object is again taken up all of this peace and freedom is lost again. It is as if that great endless space has fallen down a hole. All of that! And with a single touch it has vanished into a sense impression or a thought or a feeling and that is all that is present. So the mind qualities, even pure mind qualities without objects, have that same conditionality, that purity is dependent on things being 'arranged just so' for a time. The single minded calm can be achieved and sustained and then in time it too will pass. So even the mind qualities themselves are Tilankkhana, are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not me or mine.

When mind is fully concentrated in this way and free of form it can still be further examined in reflection upon that impression. Your insight practice will aid in this examination of mind qualities and assist in the further refinement of your concentration. When mind is free of form and spacious and you are slipping out of that pleasant abiding and into reflective thought upon this again, consider next how it is that mind can know this quality of spaciousness, turn your whole attention to that question. In this way, when mind becomes single, free of form and focused on how it is that it is aware of that spaciousness, it will then abandon the spaciousness and look to the awareness of the spaciousness instead. When this occurs, this concentration will be a single minded attention to the vastness and unhindered quality of awareness. This is what has been called the formless attending to the infinite consciousness of mind without object, even without the spaciousness quality. There is still a sense of vastness but it is again slightly more subtle, it does not have the spacial dimension directly, rather it has a knowingness which is as vast but even more empty and calm. One more conditional quality of mind has been removed because it has been noted that the spaciousness is, but that the spaciousness is not necessary for mind to be concentrated and to know the peace and freedom of that concentration.

When you are comfortable with practicing concentration in this way, when you again return from that concentration to reflecting upon it you will note that concentration without the spaciousness is vast but that it has no objects within that vastness and so there is no need for mind to be so extensive and so vast because it is not reaching for anything within that vastness, not even the sense of vastness and unhindered expansiveness. Reflecting upon it in this way you can then abandon the vast consciousness and abide simply in a concentration upon nothing. This is the formless concentration upon nothing. The attention here is to the absence of objects which is also a quality or in a very subtle sense an object. Because you will reflect that this is but a small thing to note and easy to abandon you will then be able to abide in a concentration which is consciousness without object, without expansive spaciousness, without expansive consciousness, and without even nothing as object -simple knowing without any known whatsoever.

The only knowing left then is the presence of knowing and even the potential to know something, another mind quality or object or the absence of these is abandoned. This is as concentrated as the mind can become. This complete and most pure simplicity will pass as soon as it contacts another object; either one of the qualities of mind that you have now known and examined or a thought object contacted in the realm of mind by the knowing mind in it's vast capacity to know, or a sense object contacted in the realm of form within the vast capacity of the spaciousness of the mind in contact with the body. The knowing alone, reduced simply to knowing without a known is usually called non-percipience or neither perception nor non-perception because it is an abiding presence of the quality of mind to know, purified of all other qualities and characteristics and all negations of all other qualities and characteristics that this single quality of knowing might relate with and reflect upon.

When you are comfortable with that concentration you may again reflect upon it when you resume thinking and consider, "why even maintain a capacity to know another mind quality or other conditional characteristic when all of these have been abandoned? Why then even maintain knowing the absence of these characteristics and qualities?" It will be natural to question what point there might be in the capacity to know, of remaining in even so pure a state, when there is nothing to know within that state. It is a very pure mind, but it is entirely empty of all other qualities and negations of qualities and it is also present because of conditions, the disengagement with all those other qualities of mind and conditional characteristics of form, and these conditions will inevitably resume again. You may ask, "would it not be even more pleasant to abandon even this quality of knowing which is completely pure of what is knowable?"

When the mind abandons this knowing quality, the last quality of conditional relations and conditional dependencies it will be at complete peace, it will have arrived at full stillness and you will know the highest concentration, a concentration without even a single quality of mind concentration, the highest bliss, the highest freedom. With each characteristic and quality that has been abandoned through concentration there has been a greater calm and a greater wakefulness. When form became one attention there was great joy and peace. Then there was only peace with that simplicity of form. Then there was no need for concern with form and with only mental qualities remaining and single minded concentration it was possible to continue to find greater freedom from the diversity until four qualities were reduced to one and finally none.

Just as every reduction to greater subtlety of calm and single minded attention has been an increase in peacefulness and freedom from conditions and qualities so too the completion of that direction of your effort will prove to lead to the most superior state, a state entirely free from all conditions and all qualities of relating to or knowing those conditions.

However, despite the fact that you will be entirely aware of the superiority of the complete absence of all conditions you will soon discover that you have no choice but to return to the diversity and multiplicity of conditions which arise and pass from day to day. Knowing how superior a state free of conditions is, you will naturally be wondering, "why do I bother to return to conditions at all?" You will know what freedom from conditions is like but you will not know how to maintain a freedom from conditions. So it is that again the concentration must be put to work investigating the conditions.

Because the mind is strong and flexible and established in single minded attention it is now most well suited to examine conditions one after another very directly. It is possible to restrain the mind from simply wandering aimlessly in conditions and it is possible to restrain the mind from getting more deeply involved in conditions. These are all only conditions, the mind now knows this, and it is not so fooled by the diverse and multiple display of ever changing conditions. It is now possible to examine the conditions and discover what it is about your own attitudes, the qualities of mind together with feelings and thoughts known to mind, which bind you to dependence upon those conditions. As you investigate this and form an ever more full understanding you will eventually make full your understanding about all of these conditions and you will know that your desire for these conditions is the cause for more conditions to arise. The more that you examine, the more disillusioned you will become with all of the conditions, one after the next, until you can entirely take them or leave them. You will decreasingly be interested in pulling at or pushing at conditions and they will simply arise, persist and pass away and you will sort of shrug them off as mere conditions which have no hold. Known and understood conditions will no longer move the mind.

When you have entirely exhausted this hold that conditions have upon you, then you will be fully free; fully free from conditions, fully understanding of conditions and the master of conditions. Nothing can then further prevent your easily abiding in the highest peace of complete freedom from conditions. At this point you will have completed the work of concentration, completed the work of insight and understanding, won your freedom, laid down the burden of conditions and the burden of working to free yourself from conditions, you will be at complete peace with the presence of any and all things and you will be at complete peace with the complete absence of any and all things and you will understand what is what. You will be fully awake.

upekkha
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