Mindfulness vs Analysis

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby thoth » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:30 pm

Hi Guys,

I had a thought some time ago that seems worth discussing...

Cultivating mindfulness or zen-like awareness of the moment is all very good, but is mindfulness alone really practical in a civilized society?

I will explain what I mean here. Suppose the activity of the mind is like the ripples on the surface of a pond, tossed about by the winds of mental karma; meditation can help purify this karma, help one see what is in the pond without distortion - but what then?

Just seeing is not good enough - you have to apply reason at some point if you want to understand a thing - whatever the object of meditation.

I get the impression that mindfulness and the more discursive faculties are somewhat in opposition... they conflict, and yet one cannot exist without the other.

What is the official Buddhist take on this?

Thanks.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Jinzang » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:30 am

How mindfulness is combined with analysis differs from tradition to tradition. Generally speaking though, you need strong shamatha meditation before starting analysis. Prematurely engaging in analysis will not lead to success. Since most people have not mastered shamatha, that is where the emphasis should be. It also bears saying that one doesn't analyze the mind the way one analyzes an external object, because you can't stand apart from your mind to look at it.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby thoth » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:32 pm

Jinzang wrote:It also bears saying that one doesn't analyze the mind the way one analyzes an external object, because you can't stand apart from your mind to look at it.


Thanks for your response - well answered! :smile:

On a separate, but related note, I am trying to compare different forms of meditation; so the question is this:

How does meditation on an object (or idea) compare with meditation on the nature of one's self?

Isn't there a danger that too much introspective meditation can actually stimulate more ego thoughts? (often when you meditate on an object you can 'forget yourself' and build up an enriched consciousness - but directing the focus inward, and it gets very easy to become hung up on whatever happens to be floating around mentally..)

Thanks.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Jinzang » Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:44 am

It's possible to obsess on a subject when you are meditating, especially if it's an intense retreat. Usually, though, these obsessions build up to a point and then deflate. Our minds are very unstable, we laugh one minute and cry the next. Meditation really doesn't change that. Generally when one has meditated for a while, one develops a degree of detachment from one's thoughts and emotions. You've become familar with them and it's like, "There I go again."

Theorizing what meditation might be like doesn't work very well. There are too many suppositions one has about what the mind is like and how it works that are actually false. Meditation needs to be practiced, not thought about.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:20 am

thoth wrote:How does meditation on an object (or idea) compare with meditation on the nature of one's self?
Both are meditations on an object, which, in effect are meditations on an idea. If you take an (apparently) external object as a focus for your meditation what you are actually doing is meditating on your perception of the object. Perception, according to the Abhidharma, is essentially a mental process of the projection of meaning. In our current ignorant state of being we rarely actually perceive the object itself directly, the perception is almost always mediated by mind.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:11 am

thoth wrote:Cultivating mindfulness or zen-like awareness of the moment is all very good, but is mindfulness alone really practical in a civilized society?


I notice in this question the assumption that mindfulness is something that can be 'cultivated'. What do you suppose it is? I don't think mindfulness is anything particulalry special. It is being aware of what you're doing and thinking. Zen is nothing special. When tired, sleep, when hungry, eat. 'But how is this different to the ordinary folk?' 'Their minds are full of a thousand dreams and fantasies'.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Jnana » Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:55 am

thoth wrote:Cultivating mindfulness or zen-like awareness of the moment is all very good, but is mindfulness alone really practical in a civilized society?

Just to add to what has already been said, mindfulness is a mental factor that accompanies all sorts of conscious states. Mindfulness and attention can be further developed through mental training and meditation, but without some degree of mindfulness and memory even ordinary daily cognitive functioning would be impaired.

thoth wrote:Suppose the activity of the mind is like the ripples on the surface of a pond, tossed about by the winds of mental karma; meditation can help purify this karma, help one see what is in the pond without distortion - but what then?

Just seeing is not good enough - you have to apply reason at some point if you want to understand a thing - whatever the object of meditation.

I get the impression that mindfulness and the more discursive faculties are somewhat in opposition... they conflict, and yet one cannot exist without the other.

What is the official Buddhist take on this?

As already mentioned, explanations will differ from tradition to tradition. But generally speaking, we learn the dharma through a developmental process. This process proceeds from first hearing the dharma, which develops discernment derived from hearing (śrutamayī prajñā). Then we learn to reflect upon the teachings that we've heard, which develops discernment derived from reflection (cintāmayī prajñā). And then we learn to further develop discernment through meditation, which is discernment derived from meditative development (bhāvanāmayī prajñā).

In all of these stages mindfulness functions together with other mental factors such as directed thought (vitarka) and analysis (vicāra). In this way we gradually learn how to develop calm abiding (śamathabhāvanā) and clear seeing (vipaśyanābhāvanā), usually by alternating between the two, until the two are united together.

That's the general perspective of the gradual approach. There are also Buddhist traditions that emphasize a more direct and sudden approach, where one is introduced to or directed to recognize the nature of the mind directly, and then instructed on how to sustain that recognition through mindfulness. These traditions generally require direct communication and ongoing training with a teacher in the tradition.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby 5heaps » Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:37 pm

thoth wrote:Just seeing is not good enough - you have to apply reason at some point if you want to understand a thing - whatever the object of meditation.

I get the impression that mindfulness and the more discursive faculties are somewhat in opposition... they conflict, and yet one cannot exist without the other.

What is the official Buddhist take on this?

yes, many traditions first teach perfect concentration as a prelude to analysis.
for example if you want to observe the distant universe you must first fire the telescope into space so it is not obstructed by the light on earth. likewise in order to analyze properly one needs to fire their mind into unobstructed samadhi (perfect single-pointed concentration), otherwise the mind is much too disturbed by sensations, thoughts, and the simple incapacity to keep the mind on the object.

then, as a side not, perfect concentration just by itself solves all common mental disturbances. this is because when a mind is perfectly concentrated it is in control and cannot be captivated or interrupted as it were by mental disturbances, mental pain, mental stress. a person with perfect concentration in the dhyanas/jhanas is basically a superhuman or almost nonhuman. they may look like a human but their minds dont resemble ours at all. we depend on sense objects for happiness and to maintain our sanity, self-identity, etc. those meditators are completely different. because theyve succeed at mining the various levels of the mind. there are many debates about what the root of the mind is, and this is where buddhism really shines with its theory of emptiness.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby mandala » Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:52 pm

thoth wrote:Cultivating mindfulness or zen-like awareness of the moment is all very good, but is mindfulness alone really practical in a civilized society?


Well, as Lama Zopa reportedly said, "Even thieves need mindfulness"!

And of course, that's true... mindfulness has many applications but In the big scheme of things it isn't of itself a spiritual thing. It's what you do with it.
Mindfulness by itself does have quite a few benefits in society - it's techniques are widely used by therapists in treating mental health issues, for example.

For meditation, it's the necessary step to become acquainted with your mind/thoughts/feelings and have a calm and clear focus before engaging in analytical meditation.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby TaTa » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:38 pm

This brings up a question of mine.

Is analitcal meditation always considered discursive? I mean. We can analize our minds without asking questions in the form of internal talk. For example watching where thoughts arise from, stay and cease without asking " where do thoughts arise from". Is this discursive lagtong?
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:56 pm

TaTa wrote:Is analitcal meditation always considered discursive? I mean. We can analize our minds without asking questions in the form of internal talk. For example watching where thoughts arise from, stay and cease without asking " where do thoughts arise from". Is this discursive lagtong?

Again, explanations will vary somewhat from tradition to tradition. Analytical meditation (chegom) is generally considered to be conceptual, but vipaśyanā (lhaktong) can either be conceptual or nonconceptual. As long as one is investigating or looking for the characteristics of a particular phenomenon this is conceptual vipaśyanā -- regardless of whether or not discursive thought and analysis are present. When analysis progresses to where there is the recognition of emptiness, and śamatha and vipaśyanā are inseparably united, then this is nonconceptual vipaśyanā.

In Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen traditions the explanations and terms used can be somewhat different.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby TaTa » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:18 pm

Jnana wrote:
TaTa wrote:Is analitcal meditation always considered discursive? I mean. We can analize our minds without asking questions in the form of internal talk. For example watching where thoughts arise from, stay and cease without asking " where do thoughts arise from". Is this discursive lagtong?

Again, explanations will vary somewhat from tradition to tradition. Analytical meditation (chegom) is generally considered to be conceptual, but vipaśyanā (lhaktong) can either be conceptual or nonconceptual. As long as one is investigating or looking for the characteristics of a particular phenomenon this is conceptual vipaśyanā -- regardless of whether or not discursive thought and analysis are present. When analysis progresses to where there is the recognition of emptiness, and śamatha and vipaśyanā are inseparably united, then this is nonconceptual vipaśyanā.

In Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen traditions the explanations and terms used can be somewhat different.


Ok. So in mahamudra and Dzogchen vipasyana is always conceptual. The only non conceptual vipasyana is the "true" mahamudra and dozgchen meditations?. Did i get it right?
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:55 pm

TaTa wrote:Ok. So in mahamudra and Dzogchen vipasyana is always conceptual. The only non conceptual vipasyana is the "true" mahamudra and dozgchen meditations?. Did i get it right?

Close, but not quite. :) Vipaśyanā is not always conceptual. In Mahāmudrā, śamatha and vipaśyanā are considered to be innate to the nature of mind and therefore not merely a conceptual practice or meditation as such.

Analytical meditation includes looking for how the mind arises, abides, and ceases, etc. Subsequent to this, one engages in resting or placement meditation (jokgom) where one rests evenly after not finding anything to analyse further. Thus, analytical meditation includes conceptual analysis, and placement meditation includes nonconceptual resting. Tai Situ Rinpoche, Ground, Path, & Fruition:

    Vipashyana has two aspects: che gom, analytical meditation, and jog gom, placement meditation. Working things out intellectually and analytically is called che gom: gom means meditation and che means analysis, thinking things through.

    We also need to do jog gom, placement meditation. In placement meditation we do not analyse anything, we are just aware and rest in this awareness.

These two terms are sometimes expanded upon as the analytical meditation of scholars (paṇḍita) and the resting meditation of yogin mendicants (kusāli). The former is identified more with the gradual sūtrayāna approach, and the latter with direct vajrayāna approaches such as mahāmudrā. But this is also variable (e.g. sūtra mahāmudrā).
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Sara H » Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:52 am

Hi Thoth,

No, they don't oppose each other.
I have been an analyst my entire life, just naturally.
I am now going to college to do just that professionally.

It doesn't stand against each other.

The brain has a purpose and a job, just like our musscles do or our bones, or eyes, flesh, etc.

Being mindful of things that the analytical brain makes us aware of is very helpful.

In Gasshō,

Sara


BTW, if you are THE Thoth (the performer), we've met each other in real life in Mt. Shasta, through a mutual friend, David.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby TaTa » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:21 am

Jnana wrote:
TaTa wrote:Ok. So in mahamudra and Dzogchen vipasyana is always conceptual. The only non conceptual vipasyana is the "true" mahamudra and dozgchen meditations?. Did i get it right?

Close, but not quite. :) Vipaśyanā is not always conceptual. In Mahāmudrā, śamatha and vipaśyanā are considered to be innate to the nature of mind and therefore not merely a conceptual practice or meditation as such.

Analytical meditation includes looking for how the mind arises, abides, and ceases, etc. Subsequent to this, one engages in resting or placement meditation (jokgom) where one rests evenly after not finding anything to analyse further. Thus, analytical meditation includes conceptual analysis, and placement meditation includes nonconceptual resting. Tai Situ Rinpoche, Ground, Path, & Fruition:

    Vipashyana has two aspects: che gom, analytical meditation, and jog gom, placement meditation. Working things out intellectually and analytically is called che gom: gom means meditation and che means analysis, thinking things through.

    We also need to do jog gom, placement meditation. In placement meditation we do not analyse anything, we are just aware and rest in this awareness.

These two terms are sometimes expanded upon as the analytical meditation of scholars (paṇḍita) and the resting meditation of yogin mendicants (kusāli). The former is identified more with the gradual sūtrayāna approach, and the latter with direct vajrayāna approaches such as mahāmudrā. But this is also variable (e.g. sūtra mahāmudrā).


Thanks. Got it!
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby seeker242 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:50 am

thoth wrote:Hi Guys,

I had a thought some time ago that seems worth discussing...

Cultivating mindfulness or zen-like awareness of the moment is all very good, but is mindfulness alone really practical in a civilized society?.


It's much more practical than things like texting and driving. :smile: However, I have never heard of a Buddhist teacher, zen or otherwise, teach mindfulness alone.

I get the impression that mindfulness and the more discursive faculties are somewhat in opposition...


I don't think so as mindfulness does not mean "not thinking". It's quite possible to engage in mindful reasoning, mindful analysis, etc..

:namaste:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby Simon E. » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:06 pm

Precisely so.
Mindful reasoning and analysis are likely to be more effective than unmindful processes.
Mindfulness and cognitive processes are not an either/or.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby In the bone yard » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:32 pm

Mindfulness is Shamatha and Vipasyana is awareness.
You don't want to foster thought during meditation, so how could analysis or being analytical help your meditation?

Also the merit aspect is missing so important to start by refraining from the 10 acts.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby greentara » Mon May 06, 2013 1:58 pm

Ling You, a Chinese Sage warns us that false thinking is so deep rooted that it cannot be dissipated in an instant. For this reason expedient methods are used to strip the mind.
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Re: Mindfulness vs Analysis

Postby In the bone yard » Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:42 pm

Expedient methods of meditation, yes.
It's a good thing we have different schools for the different capacities and karmas of mind! :smile:
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