The purpose of meditation (of developing concentration—samādhi) is to foster tranquillity and calm—to not be agitated by unpleasant sense impressions. Also important is the intention to escape from the ‘states of woe’ (apāya-bhūmi): to not be born as a hell-being, a ghost, a demon (asura), or an animal. If one must be reborn then one should aim to be reborn as a human being with the following qualities:
- To have a fair physical appearance; to not be oppressed by illness; to not die prematurely.
- To be well-endowed with wealth; to not lose one’s wealth to fire, thieves, floods, or tempests.
- To have dependents who are obedient and not stubborn, who would otherwise create hardship and cause one to lose one’s wealth and reputation.
- To have pleasing speech; to give satisfaction to others through one’s speech.
- To not have nervous system disorders: excessive headaches, mental disorders, or dementia.
The advantageous and desirable mind state generated by meditation is ease—an absence of stress. An easeful, peaceful mind state is not a state of extinction in which one is not aware of anything. It is an ordinary mind state—there still exists ordinary feelings and sensations.
To begin meditation is easy; it does not require a lot of ceremony. One may wish to pay respects to a Buddha image with candles and incense. One can wear whatever clothing is convenient—one need not dress in white clothes, because what one wears is not important. The importance rests with the mind—to manage or govern the mind in a satisfactory way.
If one meditates at home, one can sit in whatever way is comfortable: cross-legged, with legs folded back to one side, or in a chair. If one prefers to walk, stand, or lie down, that is also acceptable.
After one has payed respects to the Buddha image, one begins to focus on the in and out breathing. To focus here means to be aware of the in-breath and to be aware of the out-breath. One can even take note of whether the in- and out-breath is shallow or long. A moment of awareness of the breathing, when the mind is not engaged with any intruding thoughts, is already concentration. To sustain a focused awareness on the breathing during which time other sense impressions, especially thoughts, do not interfere—however long or short this focus may be—is already called samādhi.
Generally in meditation people use a mantra or accompanying word or phrase. On this matter of a mantra, I don’t set down any restrictions, because people have different dispositions. Some people like to use a short phrase, others prefer a long phrase—whatever is agreeable is okay. I suggest the simple mantra of ‘Buddho.’ It is a short and simple mantra suitable to beginning practitioners. It is powerful and auspicious because it is the name of the Buddha. In the story of the deity Maṭṭhakuṇḍalī, the Buddha said that the simple recollection of the Buddha’s name can lead to rebirth in heaven—it is not necessary to chant the names of hundreds or thousands of Buddhas.
Ajahn Reusee Ling Dam (‘The Black Monkey Sage’)—Phra Rājabrahmayāna