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Question:

Ektaji, in Anapana meditation, when I observe my breath after few minutes of unknown thoughts appear then I am gone (unaware about anything) then again I realize I have to be aware of the breath then again the same thing happens. This way I’m not able to be aware of the breath for more than 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I also feel that I should do complete silence meditation. Please guide me on what to do. Which meditation should I follow?

 

Answer:

There are two types of breath meditation:

The first type of Breath Meditation – Manipulating the breath:

  • Giving an unnatural rhythm to the breath to help the mind stay on the breath continuously is the first kind.
  • This relaxes the mind as it is forced to stay away from the activity of thinking.
  • But as soon as you move away from the ‘breath manipulation’, the mind comes back with all its cravings and aversions. This makes the effect of manipulated breath temporary.
  • This is good at a beginner level so that one learns to close his eyes and sit for a while without sleeping. E.g. All kinds of Pranayama, breath techniques, prana techniques fall into this category.
  • Experts use this type of breath manipulation when the mind is highly stressed so as to calm it down temporarily at a superficial level so it becomes easy to move onto the higher level of meditations described below.

 

The second type of Breath Meditation – Observing reality as it is without seeking to change it, starting with breath as the initial step:

  • Simply observing/witnessing reality without reacting to it, is the basic foundation of the second kind of breath meditation.
  • All REAL SILENT [No sound] meditations have just one goal – to help you practice ‘Being with the reality of the moment AS IT IS’. Not as you want the reality to be. Not as you want the reality to ‘not be’, but just as it is right now.
  • Anapana meditation where you practice to witness the NATURAL [not manipulated] breath without getting involved as the Fake I/Separate Self / Body-mind-Ego as taught by the Buddha falls in this category.
  • This is mostly an Advanced level meditation where the meditator has become comfortable with closing his eyes and sitting still for some time.
  • It is for someone looking for something higher than superficially calming the mind; it is for the one who has developed the thirst to find out the ‘REALITY of life and is seeking to discover what/who am I.

If observing the NATURAL breath is the initial level of witnessing, then what are the other levels? 

  • Anapana, witnessing the natural breath meditation, is just the initial step on the path of non-reaction / pure witnessing.
  • Satipatthana/Vipassana, witnessing the natural sensations arising in the body, is the second step.
  • Jhanas, witnessing the 8 levels of the mind, along with the 9th level of no-mind, is the third step.
  • Metta, witnessing the levels of outward radiating energy, in 4 different flavors, is the fourth step.
  • Shunyata, witnessing the witness, is the final step.

Buddha led the practitioner methodically, step by step, from one level to the next, so that he/she experientially reaches the witness and gains the ability to remain established there. These 5 Samadhi levels can be learned in the Buddha retreats [email – buddharetreatlevel1@gmail.com].

 

Why is WITNESSING REALITY the highest kind of Meditation?

  • Because of the false idea that ‘I am the doer’, we fail to recognize our true selves.
  • When one realizes by self-experience that there is no doing, it is all a happening, the ‘I’ starts to weaken and crumble.
  • When this crumbling ‘I’ becomes evident, one develops the thirst to know oneself / find oneself, the question arises, ‘Who am I?’
  • When one starts searching through the process of pure witnessing, it becomes apparent that:
    • I am the witness of the breath, I am not the breath [via Anapana].
    • I am the witness of the body, I am not the body [via Satipatthana/Vipassana].
    • I am the witness of the mind, I am not the mind [via Jhanas].
    • I am the witness of the energy, I am not the energy [via Metta].
    • There is only a witnessing emptiness, there is no ‘I’ [via Shunyata].
  • Gradually, the highest truth unfolds and reveals the truth of existence. At this stage, Buddha & Advaita shake hands with each other. I call this the Buddadvaita stage. You reach home. Of course, there is much more unfolding of insights that keep happening here but once you reach here, there is no going back.

 

What will be the obstacles in the meditation of ‘Witnessing/Observing Reality’?

The Ego, of course!

  • When you provide the Ego with a task to do, even just rhythmically manipulating the breath, or chanting a mantra, the Ego strengthens its belief of being the doer.
  • But when you are practicing to NOT DO ANYTHING [Witnessing] then the Ego is weakened.

The Ego struggles with not doing something, not being someone…it will definitely distract you with thoughts.

  • Take this opportunity to move to the next level of the meditation of witnessing the arising & passing away of thoughts without reacting to them.

The Ego will bring up memories linked with emotion to distract you even further.

  • Take this opportunity to move to a higher level of observing the arising and passing away of the emotions.

The Ego does not have many weapons. It does finally give up the battle and let you BE. This is when you reach the highest milestone of Anapana. You experience being the witness purely, without an interruption.

Practice Anapana – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv_MjdEJ18o

 

Why meditate if I understand the witness consciousness through the knowledge of Advaita?

The path of Advaita directly takes you through these steps in one single shloka, helping you get there through reasoning, mulling, assimilating by experiencing. This works for Shravakas [those who experience it immediately by mere listening].

 

Buddha’s path of meditation is for the one who needs:

  • just a tad bit more conviction after he listens to Advaita
  • a little more Nidhidhyasa [long hours of meditation in order to expel doubts]
  • to prove it to himself that ‘I am not the doer’.
  • to build a foundation on experiencing as he cannot build his foundation on faith/belief or intellectual reasoning.

Even Ramakrishna said, “Shamadhi naa hole thik thik hoye na” – Unless you experience samadhi, you won’t have a firm conviction about it.

 

The best way could be to follow both, Buddha as well as Advaita, who knows Buddhadvaita could be your way? [P.S. hopefully it is clear that there is no existing path called Buddhadvaita :)]

Any path you choose, I am right by your side!

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