Guarding the Mind
- Dear Venerable Monks,
I have heard some meditation teachers say that he who meditates
should guard the mind, encouraging wholesome thoughts and
discouraging unwholesome thoughts. But I have heard others say that
he who meditates should merely note the thought forms that arise,
without ascribing to the thoughts judgments of wholesomeness or
unwholesomeness. Is one of these more beneficial than the other? Or
do they describe different methods of meditation that might
individually be beneficial in different circumstances? Please
clarify, if possible, what I ought to be doing as I endeavour to
learn proper meditation practice.
- One should use whatever method is effective to remove defilements and
keep the mind wholesome. The Sabbäsava Sutta, the second discourse in
the Majjhimanikäya, explains seven ways to overcome defilements
(äsava). Äsava means all defilements like sensual attachment,
attachment to views, attachment to existence, and ignorance.
1. Dassanä = by insight. A wise person does not pay attention to
things that are harmful, and follows only what is beneficial. Does one
prefer to read Dhamma books and ask questions on Buddhist forums, or
would one rather watch television in one's spare time?
2. Samvarä = by restraint. A mindful person guards the senses and the
mind to prevent contact with objects that might stir up defilements.
3. Patisevanä = by use. One makes use of the necessary supports for
life, avoiding excess, but knowing what one needs for health and
well-being. One can meditate in a busy place if one must, but it is
better to visit a monastery, forest, or meditation centre. When sick,
one should take medicine or suitable food to ensure a speedy recovery.
4. Adhiv?sanä = by endurance. One practises patience and tolerance
when obliged to come into contact with unpleasant objects, foolish
5. Parivajjanä = by avoiding. If possible, one avoids physical and
moral dangers by not not going to unsuitable places and by not
associating with foolish people.
6. Vinodanä = by suppressing. When defilements arise, one controls or
suppresses them, mindful of the danger of giving in to them.
7. Bhävanä = by developing. One cultivates morality, concentration,
wisdom, and other good qualities such as the five controlling
faculties or the seven factors of enlightenment. A well-developed mind
is invulnerable to attack.