By Thich Nhat Hanh
might well ask: Is relaxation then the only goal of meditation? In fact
the goal of meditation goes much deeper than that. While relaxation is
the necessary point of departure, once one has realised relaxation, it
is possible to realise a tranquil heart and clear mind. To realise a
tranquil heart and clear mind is to have gone far along the path of
We should remember that the mindfulness of one’s
breath is a wondrous method at all times. It isn’t only a method for
beginners. In the third century, Zen Master Tang Höi wrote in his
commentary on the Anapanasati Sutta: “The mindfulness of one’s breath is Buddha’s great vehicle to save all beings caught in the cycle of birth and death.” Measuring, following and taking hold of the breath are the wondrous methods to take hold of your own mind.
course, to take hold of our minds and calm our thoughts, we must also
practise mindfulness of our feelings and perceptions. To take hold of
your mind, you must practise mindfulness of the mind. You must know how
to observe and recognise the presence of every feeling and thought which
arises in you. Zen Master Thuong Chieu, near the end of the Ly dynasty,
wrote: “If the practitioner knows his own mind clearly he will obtain
results with little effort. But if he does not know anything about his
own mind, all of his effort will be wasted.” If you want to know your
own mind, there is only one way: to observe and recognise everything
about it. This must be done at all times, during your day to day life no
less than during the hour of meditation.
various feelings and thoughts may arise. If we do not practise
mindfulness of the breath, these thoughts will soon lure us away from
mindfulness. But the breath isn’t simply a means by which to chase away
such thoughts and feelings. Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and
mind and to open the gate to wisdom. When a feeling or thought arises,
one’s intention should not be to chase it away, even if by continuing to
concentrate on the breath the feeling or thought passes naturally from
the mind. The intention isn’t to chase it away, hate it, worry about it
or be frightened by it. So what exactly should one be doing concerning
such thoughts and feelings? Simply acknowledge their presence. For
example, when a feeling of sadness arises, immediately recognise it: “A
feeling of sadness has just arisen in me.” If the feeling of sadness
continues, continue to recognise “A feeling of sadness is still in me.”
If, for example, a thought like ’It’s late but the neighbours are sure
making a lot of racket,’ appears, recognise that this thought has
appeared. If the thought continues to exist, continue to recognise it.
If a different feeling or thought arises, recognise it in like manner.
The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without
recognising it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every
face that passes through the front corridor.
If there are no
feelings or thoughts present, then recognise that there are no feelings
of thoughts present. Practising like this is to be mindful of one’s
feelings and thoughts. By practising in this way, you will soon arrive
at taking hold of your mind. One can join the method of mindfulness of
the breath with the mindfulness of feelings and thoughts.
Source: BPS, Sri Lanka, Wheel 234, 'The Miracle of Being Awake' (excerpt).
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