Summary thus far;
The Buddha rejected a proposition to attract more converts through public display of miracles. Then Buddha expounded the virtues that a respectable contemplatives ought to posses, by listing down non-virtuous conducts to avoid. From these passages, it is easy to infer that a noble contemplative seeks to create miracles of improvements in a man’s character through teaching the dharma and not encourage superstitious beliefs and practices.
Until here, one may mistaken that miracles and supernatural feats are absent in Buddhism or Buddha and His disciples were incapable of miracles.
This assumption is defeated because following the above passages, Buddha explained the method of attaining supernatural powess. Buddhisr supernatural powess is independent and not reliant on other supernatural beings. To achieve such feats, one needs to attain Jhana.
To obtain Jhana, our mind must be capable of concentration. To do that, we must be free from distractions. By guarding our senses, we will not be easily distracted by our daily encounters. We also need mindfulness and mental alertness to build up that concentration. By living contentedly, our mind will be easily contented and can settle easily.
Continuing with the scriptural passages,
Abandoning the Hindrances
“Endowed with this noble aggregate of virtue, this noble restraint over the sense faculties, this noble mindfulness and alertness, and this noble contentment, he seeks out a secluded dwelling: a forest, the shade of a tree, a mountain, a glen, a hillside cave, a charnel ground, a jungle grove, the open air, a heap of straw. After his meal, returning from his alms round, he sits down, crosses his legs, holds his body erect, and brings mindfulness to the fore.
“Abandoning covetousness with regard to the world, he dwells with an awareness devoid of covetousness. He cleanses his mind of covetousness. Abandoning ill will and anger, he dwells with an awareness devoid of ill will, sympathetic with the welfare of all living beings. He cleanses his mind of ill will and anger. Abandoning sloth & drowsiness, he dwells with an awareness devoid of sloth & drowsiness, mindful, alert, percipient of light. He cleanses his mind of sloth & drowsiness. Abandoning restlessness and anxiety, he dwells undisturbed, his mind inwardly stilled. He cleanses his mind of restlessness and anxiety. Abandoning uncertainty, he dwells having crossed over uncertainty, with no perplexity with regard to skillful mental qualities. He cleanses his mind of uncertainty.“Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta” (DN 11), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html .
If we have “wants” in our mind, thoughts of want (covetous thoughts) will distract us from attaining Jhana. Therefore, we practice letting go and non-attachment. Anger makes our mind irritable and that is counter productive to the type of still concentration that leads to Jhana.
Jhana is not a sleepful trance or a slothful stupor. The mind is bright and luminous and unlike sleep.
There are various meditation that help us build concentration. We can focus our mind on our breathe, or a mantra or an object. The techniques varies in different traditions. If we chant mantra, the important thing is to take the chanting inwards and do mental recitation once our mind has calmed down. In this manner, we let goof the various senses until we are left with mental recitation. That also will be dropped off. This is known as ‘letting go’ of dharma techniques. Some people mistaken this phrase to mean giving up ones practice.
A popular metaphor describe crossing a river on a boat. Once we reach the shore, we leave the boat behind. In jhana, once the mind is stilled and luminous. We do not need to grasp for our meditation topic.
Another metaphor describe our meditation technique as crutches. When our mind is unsteady, we need to rely on meditation aids. Once it reaches maturity, we can simply go into the jhana state as we wish. Just like moving our leg when it no long limps.
May all be well and happy.