Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Padme » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:33 pm

I don't know if this is a dumb question or not. I just downloaded a TON of mp3 files (A Systematic Study of the
Majjhima Nikāya - “Exploring the Word of the Buddha” - Taught by Bhikkhu Bodhi). There's a LOT of hours to listen to, I haven't even started it yet. I was putting some thought into how to go about listening to all this, in a structured way, so I don't listen sporadically (I need routine and discipline). I thought of things like listening for one hour (or one talk) before bed each night. I also thought of playing a session at a time on my computer as I do other things on the computer, listening to it in the background. But I'm afraid I'll miss some of it if I'm not paying attention.

Then it occurred to me to set aside an hour, or one session of the talks, at a time and sit meditation style at my alter. Typical meditation scenario, lights out, candles, incense, on my zafu, just sitting quietly and listening to the talks.

Would this still be considered meditating? Or would it simply be listening to a talk in my meditation spot, and if so is that okay or should my alter be reserved for meditation only? Any pros or cons to listening to the talks this way? Or any other ideas on when and how to listen without being too distracted? I want to be attentive, but not so comfortable that I fall asleep and miss it. I have a lot of difficulties with discipline and structure, so I'm just trying to come up with a creative way to listen to the talks and enjoy them enough where I will make it a routine.

Any input would be great. Thanks! :namaste:
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Adamantine » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:54 pm

If you want to devote an hour a day, I would do it in the morning when the mind and body are fresh, not before bed when you're already tired. Also, I'd suggest meditating before you listen, not while you listen-- do a good session of shamatha meditation, this can only help your concentration, and clear the mind of distraction. Then listen to the talk, get comfortable and have a cup of tea along with you, etc. Listen as if the teacher was there with you, with the same respect and attentiveness... but also relax enough so it's still enjoyable.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Caz » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:22 pm

Word of advise if you go to a meditation class dont sit there listening to it with your eyes closed, Ive seen a few whom do that its fairly funny from the back to see them drop off and then reawake...Listening to Dharma talk isnt an appropriate time to close the eyes and sit, Its time to listen intently.
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Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Padme » Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:38 pm

Caz: No, I don't close my eyes when I've been to dharma talks and didn't mean to imply that here. I simply meant dedicate a space; my alter area perhaps, sit on my cushion, with the right atmosphere, like they DO at dharma talks. I never mentioned closing my eyes, that would be rude. I just meant sit quietly and respectfully at my alter, listening. :smile:

Adamantine: Good advice, thank you. It's funny how you said "listen as though the teacher were there with me", that put it in a different perspective for me, thank you. I guess I must be visually oriented, because I would never dream of working at my computer and listening to a teacher in the background if he were actually HERE! LOL. Although now that I'm typing this, and actually visualizing listening, I think that may be why I subconsciously thought of doing this at my alter. I don't think it was so much wanting to "meditate" while listening, as much as it was me wanting to create a conducive atmosphere for proper listening. If I am out in my living room watching my cat jump on the furniture, or tending to the fire, etc., I think I would be distracted. So it was a good visual for me to think about listening to these talks in a spot where I am in a closed room, with my alter and dedicated space. Does that make sense?

So having said that, is there any bad etiquette to listening to these talks while sitting on my cushion at my alter? NOT meditating, as you said Adamantine, but perhaps meditate first as you suggested, but then remain in that spot to listen to the talks, say, with a cup of tea as you said? I guess my mind must wander, because I just feel the need to be in a dedicated space in order to pay full attention. I feel peaceful and serene at my alter, and it's the one room that I can close off and really relax, while also focusing, if that makes sense.

Thanks for the input, it really helped give me clarity as to my own question! :thumbsup:

PS: By the way, I am a massive night owl. I am at my best late at night; in the morning hours I am sluggish and not very attentive. That's why I'm thinking doing this in the evenings would be better for me, that is actually when I'm at my best.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Caz » Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:48 am

Caz: No, I don't close my eyes when I've been to dharma talks and didn't mean to imply that here. I simply meant dedicate a space; my alter area perhaps, sit on my cushion, with the right atmosphere, like they DO at dharma talks. I never mentioned closing my eyes, that would be rude. I just meant sit quietly and respectfully at my alter, listening. :smile:



Sure good Idea your personal alter is a good place to listen to Dharm talks, If you have the time before listening to them as well it is always good to do some preparatory prayers to get into the right frame of mind :namaste:
Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby LastLegend » Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:22 pm

If you listen without distraction from thoughts, it is meditation.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Paul » Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:12 pm

Buddhist teachings often separate things into the sequence of hearing, contemplation and then meditation.

I think it would be best to listen to a talk, mull it over until you are clear on the instructions in it and then meditate however you've been taught.

All will exercise mindfulness, but when it comes to meditation then by that time you will know exactly what to do.

Caz wrote:Word of advise if you go to a meditation class dont sit there listening to it with your eyes closed, Ive seen a few whom do that its fairly funny from the back to see them drop off and then reawake...Listening to Dharma talk isnt an appropriate time to close the eyes and sit, Its time to listen intently.
:smile:


I've seen this and it's pretty daft.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Karma Yeshe » Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:10 pm

I think that it is a very good idea to be in a meditative state while listening to teachings. what I find to be very helpful is to do some basic focus on the breath before the teaching starts and then contemplation Meditation during the Teaching itself.

Reciteing the Refuge Prayer at the start and the Dedication of Merit after the Teaching are also skillful means to benifit from the expeareance.

Hope this Helps.

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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Apr 21, 2011 6:07 pm

As Karma Yeshe said, refuge and dedication before and after are good ideas.
When you listen to a teaching, be still, focused and sharp. If you try to "meditate" while listening, your mind may become a little numb. I would say it's better if you meditate after the teaching, not during the teaching. Listening without distractions is good practice. Be mindful, be present, when you listen (I think this is what Karma Yeshe means by contemplative meditation during the teaching, no?). Then you can think about what you have heard for while. That's the usual meaning of contemplation, thinking analytically about the teachings.
I don't know what sort of meditation are you doing now, but perhaps it would be best to practice after the teaching. Probably your mind is calm and it's easier. As a side note, sometimes it is also good to meditate when we are not calm, to catch our mind "in the act" and seeing precisely how's our mental scenario when we are agitated. But it takes a little practice to endure a session when we are truly agitated (usually thoughts carry us away), so it's best if we also do it when we are calm to make some progress. :smile:
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Kyosan » Thu Apr 21, 2011 6:17 pm

LastLegend wrote:If you listen without distraction from thoughts, it is meditation.

I agree. I think that's the best thing to do. There are many situations where you need to concentrate on what you are doing in the world. Driving is another good example. In situations like that you can meditate by being mindfull.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:57 pm

I only say that it's better to do it after because while learning we are bound to deal with concepts, follow ideas, rationalize, use discrimination, judgment and all that.
While learning we need a little more than simply being mindful or just paying bare attention. We are obliged to think, even to follow streams of thought.
There are a few helpful guidelines regarding the attitude one should adopt when listening to teachings, for instance, the "three defects of the pot" which are not being like the pot upside down (not paying attention to what one learns), not being the pot with a hole (not remembering the teachings) and not being a poisoned pot (basically having a wrong motivation or under the influence of the five mental poisons). We should also avoid the six stains and so on.
So we shouldn't have the teachings as a sort of "background sound" even when we do other meritorious things. It creates a bad habit.
Being mindful and able to think while listening is good policy. Be mindful, think about what you are learning and remember what you have learned. Just being mindful falls short. Get my point? When meditating properly, you shouldn't follow any thoughts, block any thoughts and so on. They are like clouds passing in the sky, leaving no trace, or waves rising and falling in the ocean. When hearing teachings, you must follow thoughts and be discriminative, establish relations and so on. This is why there are three wisdoms, the wisdom of hearing, the wisdom of contemplation and the wisdom of meditation. If meditation was all there was to it, we would only have one wisdom. When one is very accomplished, one always remains in meditation, meaning one never get's distracted. Not my case for sure. :smile:
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Kyosan » Fri Apr 22, 2011 2:17 am

When I said being mindful, I meant listening to the talk without thinking about your girl friend or the movie you watched last night; things like that. But, of course, part of listening is understanding and thinking about what is said.
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Re: Meditating While Listening To Dharma Talks?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 22, 2011 4:09 am

Kyosan wrote:When I said being mindful, I meant listening to the talk without thinking about your girl friend or the movie you watched last night; things like that. But, of course, part of listening is understanding and thinking about what is said.
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