The art of contemplation (dhyana)

Earlier today I (Haasje-reinen) attended a class on analytical geometry.  We reviewed and worked with the formulas for a parabola, ellipse, cone and circle.   This was a new area of mathematics being taught for the first time at my University, by the Frenchman Rene Descartes. 

Although Descartes was originally from France, since he has spent so much time here in the Netherlands (1640 AD) many students and faculty considered him to be Dutch.  But since he still liked to be addressed as Monsieur, he appearently did retain and cherish his French heritage.

By some stroke of luck Rene Descartes was also my teacher in the philosophical sciences.  But this is where I seem to part ways with him on some issues.  Not that I thought his edict

“I think, therefore I am,”

to be false, but in my own life I knew that it was true – only up to a certain point.

In the afternoon after finishing my breathing and self introspection exercises, I focus more on the contemplative aspects of the existence/life question.  I am certainly no mental giant, but the simple silence that I experience in meditation showed me a truer interpretation of that phrase. 

When I close my eyes and meditate I notice a strong underlying field of silence.  It seems to have a presence and existence of its own.  It’s in my conscious awareness, sometimes even outside of meditation, and seems to serve as a background for my daily activities in life.  I can identify with it.  Somehow happiness occurs with the experience, along with a sense of timelessness.

I have concluded that my identity as a thinker, as someone having thoughts with a body and mind, does validate my existence in time/space.  However, that seems to be transitory and swept away by the higher reality of pure silence.  That’s where my true identity and existence lies.  All else is a facade.  “I think, therefore I am,” is only a partial truth, valid only within a time/space frame of reference.

Vipassana Pagoda

Haasje-reinen was practicing a form of Vipassana meditation (insight/contemplation) without ever having been trained, or knowing that there was such a thing.  He was just an inquisitive soul searching for answers and found satisfaction in what he discovered and practiced.

Vipassana is the Theravada Buddhist meditation practice of insight and introspection.  Through self observation the student learns to observe and witness the different aspects of play – within body, mind and environment. 

When mindfulness is achieved a person is capable of watching what is happening with their body, emotions, and mind without reacting.

We can all understand the basic principles of this practice.  For example, while sitting quietly in a chair and resting, place your attention upon your abdomen.  Notice that when you breathe it rises up and falls back down.  Make a mental note of rising for the upward movement, and falling for the downward movement.  You are just observing what is happening at the moment.   

But while you are observing the movement of your abdomen and taking note, other mental activities may also be taking place.  Thoughts, intentions, ideas, moods, imaginings and other occurrences may come to attention.  So make a mental note of each of these.

If you simply think of something, mentally note thinking.  If you reflect, note reflecting.  If you intend to do something, note intending.  When the mind wanders from the object of meditation which is the rising and falling of the abdomen, mentally note, wondering.  Should you imagine you are going to a certain place, note going.

Vipassana mindfulness can continue outside of meditation even during activity.

When you are walking, note walking.
When you stop walking, note stopping.
When you grab a cup of tea, note grabbing.
When the cup touches the lips, note touching.
When you swallow, note swallowing.
When you bring down the hand, note bringing.
When the hand touches the side of the body, note touching.
If you intend to turn around, note intending.
When you walk forward, note walking.

The intent of this practice is observation of the truth within, from moment to moment.  It develops the faculty of awareness – your mindfulness.  Said to remove unwholesome qualities of the mind, the basic nature of a pure mind is enhanced. Even as the movement of body and mind continue; you become identified with the underlying silent stable unmoving eternal witness (the Self) of all events. 


Here are some other important principles of Vipassana:

The Seven Stages of Purification (satta visuddhi) – The path of practice leading to the attainment of Nibbana (non-attachment):

1. Purification of Virtue (sila-visuddhi)
2. Purification of Mind (citta-visuddhi)
3. Purification of View (ditthi-visuddhi)
4. Purification by Overcoming Doubt (kankhavitarana-visuddhi)
5. Purification by Knowledge and Vision of What is Path and Not-Path (maggamaggananadassana-visuddhi)
6. Purification by Knowledge and Vision of the Way (patipadananadassana-visuddhi)
7. Purification by Knowledge and Vision (nanadassana-visuddhi)


The Eighteen Principal Insights, (from the Visuddhimagga, XX, 90):

1. The contemplation of impermanence (annicca-nupassana); abandons the perception of permanence.
2. The contemplation of suffering (dukkha-nupassana); abandons the perception of pleasure.
3. The contemplation of non-self (anatta-nupassana); abandons the perception of self.
4. The contemplation of disenchantment (nibbida-nupassana); abandons delight.
5. The contemplation of fading away (viraga-nupassana); abandons lust.
6. The contemplation of cessation (nirodha-nupassana); abandons originating.
7. The contemplation of relinquishment (patinissagga-nupassana); abandons grasping.
8. The contemplation of destruction (khaya-nupassana): abandons the perception of compactness.
9. The contemplation of passing away (vaya-nupassana); abandons the accumulation (of kamma).
10. The contemplation of change (viparinama-nupassana); abandons the perception of stability.
11. The contemplation of the sign less (animitta-nupassana); abandons the sign.  
12. The contemplation of the desire less (appanihita-nupassana); abandons desire.
13. The contemplation of void ness (sunnatat-nupassana); abandons adherence (to the notion of self).
14. The higher wisdom of insight into phenomena (adhipanna-nupassana); abandons adherence due to grasping at a core.
15. Correct knowledge and vision (yathabhuta-nanadassana); abandons adherence due to confusion.
16. The contemplation of danger (adinava-nupassana); abandons adherence due to attachment.
17. The contemplation of reflection (patisankha-nupassana); abandons non-reflection.
18. The contemplation of turning away (vivatta-nupassana); abandons adherence due to bondage.


The six obstacles to be overcome (paripantha):

1. The mind hankering after the past, overcome by distraction
2. The mind yearning for the future, overcome by hopes and longings
3. The inert mind, overcome by lethargy
4. The over anxious mind, overcome by restlessness
5. The over inclined mind, overcome by lust
6. The disinclined mind, overcome by ill will


The breadth of Contemplative Meditation practices is broad and deep.   Here is a brief list:

Practices involving stillness:
centering prayer
affirmations prayer
insight meditation
sitting meditation
quieting and clearing the mind
breathing as in Taijiquan and Qigong
meditating with Mandalas 
guided imagery
Koan contemplation

Practices involving standing still:
Zhan Zhuang
Yi Chuan
Zhan Zhuang (Standing Like a Tree)

Practices in walking:
labyrinth walking
Kinhin (Japanese Zen), Bagua Qigong (Chinese Circle Walking), Kaihogyo
Buddhist Insight Meditation (Vipasanna), Mindfulness Meditation While Walking
Cankama (Sanskrit, India), Rlung-Sgom (Tibet)

Practices involving motion:
martial arts
Qi gong
T’ai chi chuan
Sufi dancing
walking meditation
contemplative movement
drumming, drum circles, sacred drum, Shamanic Drumming
Qigong (Chi Kung, Daoyin, Yangshengong)

Practices involving creative artwork:
brush work
sand Mandala
stone sculptures

Practices involving spiritual path support:
mindfulness practices of verse/hymn
bearing witness

Practices that uplift the human spirit:
contemplative music
metta/loving-kindness meditation
council circle

Practices involving ritual:
vision quest
sweat lodge
building an altar or sacred space
ceremonies/rituals based in a cultural or religious tradition

Meditation of Buddha

We have learned that “truths” represent laws of nature functioning at various levels of creation.  And different levels have different laws.

Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and gravity hold up as true at the macro level of the universe.  We use them successfully in our daily lives, and also to get men to the moon.  However, Einstein’s theory of General and Special Relativity are needed to explain gravitational lensing, time dilation, and other phenomenon at the super dense and micro (Quantum Mechanical) level of the universe.  

The Superstring theory postulates that our universe consists of 10 or more dimensions, an additional six beyond space (length/width/height) and time, that we are already familiar with. 

So it makes sense that Haasje-reinen concluded that the phrase, “I think, therefore I am,” is true ONLY with respect to the realm of time and space, where the ego exists.

Our view of the universe has changed radically over the past 15 years.  Scientists now tell us that our universe consists of:

Percent Constituent of the Universe
5% Normal matter – electron, proton, neutrons and known sub-atomic particles
23% Dark matter – a completely new type of matter.  It doesn’t interact with light and we can’t see it directly, but its presence is revealed via its gravitational effects on the things that we can see.  This may be a whole new arena of undiscovered particles.
72% Dark energy – an unknown substance that is fueling the accelerated expansion of the universe.  At 72% it’s the main constituent of our universe.

New laws of nature are yet to be discovered.

Life changes with every beat of the heart, and bat of the eye.  Dew on the morning grass is the promise of a new day.  Although a shadow and seemingly insurmountable challenge may cast upon us, established in silence we transcend the field of problems.  Dark clouds turn asunder and give way to sunshine.    

Sitting tranquil, immersed in the blossoming of thought, our contemplative practice opens new horizons to view.  Deeper understanding, more subtle meanings, and new insights propel us forward.  Our inner secret garden, a paradise of timeless wonder and bliss, spills out into the world.  Sharing thought and love we move forward, hand in hand with our fellow man.     

Close the eyes, observe and rise above the functioning of the ephemeral world.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 11th, 2011 at 8:43 pm and is filed under Knowledge. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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