Meditation is not a fast process. It is important to continue to make patient efforts without desiring anything.
The Buddha once gave the example (in SN 22.101) of a carpenter who does not know, cannot perceive that the handle of his ax is wearing out day after day. He only knows that his ax is worn out when the handle breaks. Likewise, the meditation practitioner does not know which steps he takes on the path day after day. He only knows how many steps he has taken when he has finally reached the safe harbor, the liberating insight into the Dhamma.
The Buddha is clear about this, you cannot perceive the steps you take. You don’t know where you are on the road, and it doesn’t matter. Just practice patiently. If you simply continue to practice patiently, you will see the Dhamma sooner or later.
Time after time he indicates that it is not useful to be occupied with, think about and long for concentration and insight. Just practice samatha meditation on buddho patiently.
By practicing samatha meditation on buddho every day and integrating this more and more in your life, you slowly but surely develop your paramīs (mental qualities). The rest will go by itself.
Some systems (or teachers) promise enlightenment in one lifetime, promise to be faster, allow for a shortcut. Ahba always laughs a bit about these kinds of thoughts.
Shaking his head and with a smile he says that even the Buddha and all his disciples needed countless lives to develop their paramīs. The Buddha did not take a shortcut, his disciples did not take a shortcut. It is something of modern man to want everything fast, fast, fast.
When you build a house you start with the foundation, then the walls, then the roof. If you take it step by step, slowly but surely, the house will be finished sooner or later. Furniting it will then be very easy. What would happen if you skip the foundation because you want to be faster?
When you were just born, a little baby, you couldn’t do anything, you were completely dependent. A few years later you could talk and walk and eat rice. But you couldn’t cook rice yet. A few years later you could cook rice, but you had no idea where rice came from. A few years later you knew where rice comes from, how you grow it, how you prepare it.
It is the same when you patiently practice samatha meditation on buddho. If you continue to make patient efforts every day, you will take steps and develop your mind, slowly and sure. Your morality, concentration and wisdom will then grow automatically.
Maybe you are in kindergarten in this life. If you continue to practice, in your next life you might be in primary school, then high school, college, etc. Just as you go naturally from kindergarten to primary school and then to secondary school if you keep making an effort, you go forward if you keep practicing meditation patiently.
When you start with Buddhist meditation, everything seems to revolve around insight (vipassanā). By extension, you may have heard of the levels of insight as described, for example, in the Visuddhimagga. Reading this and letting it sink in is totally fine, but then let it go again.
Constantly occupying yourself with insight and levels of insight is nothing more than desire disguised in a different jacket and thus a new hindrance on the path.
If you start to relate the levels of insight to yourself, you run the risk of becoming entangled in pride (māna). You may think yourself more or less than you are.
You may think that the practice of morality and concentration is no longer necessary for you because you are already so advanced, after all you are a fast learner. Maybe that’s right, probably not.
If you have ever hiked in the mountains then you know that it is not possible to see the top from the valley. Every time you think you see the top, on arrival it turns out to be nothing more than the next small hill and the next top is visble just a bit higher up.
It is the same with insight. Assessing your own insight on a scale of which you cannot see the top is not possible.
The only one who can really appreciate your insight is a teacher who has gone through all the steps himself and also has such a high concentration that he (or she) can see your mind, your paramīs.
If you get caught up in judging your own insight and attach consequences to it, you may engage in forms of meditation for which your mind is not yet ready.
Your mind is not pure and concentrated enough to see the Dhamma. Talking about insight is easy, actually developing it is very difficult. Patience is difficult. Continuing to make efforts without desire for results is difficult. The Dhamma is much more subtle than you think.
The same applies to concentration. If you practice samatha meditation a little longer, you will experience that what you previously thought was concentration actually was not concentration at all. If you would have judged your level of concentration in advance, you would have been completely wrong.
In fact, the longer you practice, the more you become aware that there is a depth of concentration that you could not initially imagine because it is completely outside of your normal experience.
You then know from your own experience that the concentration and the associated morality, which the Buddha called the foundation for insight, are of a completely different magnitude than you would think by studying texts or listening to talks.
With samatha meditation on buddho you develop this morality and concentration. Because you essentially focus on the qualities of the Buddha, you develop many other positive qualities underwater as well.
Do not crave for concentration or insight, that is just new desire that is holding you back. Let that go.
If you practice patiently, you will certainly reap the benefits in this life. And in the next life you continue practicing as needed.
If you practice like this, it doesn’t matter if you will need one more life or 100 more lives. You are certaing that you are taking steps on the road and that’s enough.
Don’t worry about where you are, how far along you are, that’s not important. Just keep making patient efforts without desire.
Just patiently practice meditation on buddho and sooner or later you will understand the Dhamma yourself.
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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the wayBuddha, Dhp 276