37 Limbs of Enlightenment – 4 bases of miraculous Power
Continuing from previous post.
We are now at the 1st of 4 bases of miraculous power (Jhana / Samadhi). Each of this 4 mental positioning is further guided by 8 guidelines.
4 Bases of Miraculous Power (四如意足)
- Concentration build upon desire (desire for samandhi) / Spiritual enthusiasm
- Concentration based on persistence / Spiritual effort
- Concentration build upon intention / Spiritual thoughts
- Concentration of contemplation / Spiritual investigation
Desire for Jhana / spiritual accomplishment
According to the Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga sutta, our desire for spiritual accomplishments must be guided by the followings;
thinking, ‘This desire of mine will be (1) neither overly sluggish nor overly active, [Discussed in Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – Part 4c (part 1)
(2) neither inwardly constricted nor outwardly scattered.’ [Discussed in Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – Part 4c (part 2)
(3) He keeps perceiving what is in front & behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, what is behind is the same as what is in front. (4) What is below is the same as what is above, what is above is the same as what is below. (4) (He dwells) by night as by day, and by day as by night. (5) By means of an awareness thus open & unhampered, he develops a brightened mind.
- It mustn’t be overly sluggish
- It mustn’t be overly active (agitated)
- It mustn’t be inwardly constricted
- It mustn’t be outwardly scattered
- Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
- Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
- Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night.
- Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered
Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
And how does a monk dwell perceiving what is in front & behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front? There is the case where a monk’s perception of what is in front & behind is well in hand, well-attended to, well-considered, well-tuned [‘penetrated’] by means of discernment. This is how a monk keeps perceiving what is in front and behind so that what is in front is the same as what is behind, and what is behind is the same as what is in front.“
This paragraph refers to the practice of awareness of being. It shouldn’t be misinterpreted as developing an ability to perceive what is behind us. Because that will fall under extra-sensory perceptiveness; which can only be realized if we have attained Jhana.
Since this verse is still instructional, it refers to our state of awareness. For most of us, our sense of perception is skewed towards the front where our sense of sight, smell and taste is located. To develop according to this verse, we have to let go of our habitual “Self-awareness” positioning in our mind and develop a “centeredness”
In some meditation techniques, we are taught to center our awareness inside our body. For example, our solar-plexus in our body. But in this case, we need to develop an even awareness of front and back of our “sense of being”
By doing so, my personal experience is that the attachment to body drops a bit. Its like being aware that this body is just a “vehicle”?
When a practitioner is “lock-in” with their body, you can actually see their meditation posture tending towards the front. Especially when we practice breathing meditation and focus on our nose. We end up leaning forward?
Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
“And how does a monk dwell so that what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below? There is the case where a monk reflects on this very body, from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin, & full of various kinds of unclean things: ‘In this body there are head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine.’ This is how a monk dwells so that what is below is the same as what is above, and what is above is the same as what is below.”
This verse is quite straight-forward. Our awareness of body is to be even and based on reality. Such awareness is known as meditation on the ugliness of the body. We want to be conscious that our body is a functioning organism that is filled with impurities and filth.
Combining the above 2 awareness or mindfulness, we learn to perceive our physical body objectively. It can also be applied during practice of walking meditation or standing meditation. Such meditation cure us from fatigue caused by prolong sitting. During off session, such mindfulness also reduce our attachment. In this manner, we develop mental inclination towards attainment of Jhana/ Samadhi (入定）
Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night
“And how does a monk dwell by night as by day, and by day as by night? There is the case where a monk at night develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion by means of the same modes [permutations] & signs & themes that he uses by day, and by day he develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion by means of the same modes & signs & themes that he uses by night. This is how a monk dwells by night as by day, and by day as by night.
In short, our practice must be consistent without any difference between day and night. We shouldn’t allow our mind to slack.
When applied to reciting Amitabha, it means our recitation should be consistently applied for both day and night.
Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered
And how does a monk—by means of an awareness open & unhampered—develop a brightened mind? There is the case where a monk has the perception of light, the perception of daytime [at any hour of the day] well in hand & well-established. This is how a monk—by means of an awareness open & unhampered—develops a brightened mind.An Analysis of the Bases of Power
Iddhipāda-Vibhaṅga Sutta (SN 51:20) https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN51_20.html
The Buddhist Jhana/Samadhi is described as “Brightness”, “Open and unhampered” it is not constricted into a tiny space or “internal void” There is no darkness but a comfortable openness that is “Bright and spacious” And if you cross reference to the Kevatta Sutta where Buddha described the Jhana as being “enveloped” or “infused” with peaceful stillness; we catch a glimpse or can imagine how it is like.
So there is this contented awareness of “sense of being” that is still and quiet, bright and open…..
In a sense, we are focused on the subject and that one-pointed concentration leads to a “dropping off” or “letting go” that result in a bright spaciousness…
In Amitabha recitation, we are supposed to develop Samadhi too. (入定）
Since this 37 limbs of enlightenment is found hidden inside the Amitabha Sutra, we should realize that the Pureland practice is also based on mind training. We mustn’t mistaken Pureland practice to be something like a Christian devotional God-worshipping practice.
Up till here, we have explored the 1st base of miraculous power. That being, Concentration build upon desire / enthusiasm. Our enthusiasm to practice and attain jhana/ samadhi is a base for our success.
May all be well and happy.
For Reference (37 limbs of enlightenment)
4 mindfulness (四念处) – Being mindful that (1) Our physical body is impure and repulsive (2) All sensations leads to sufferings (3) Mind is impermanent (4) there is no “I”
4 right efforts (四正勤) – (1) cease all unwholesomeness (2) do not create new unwholesomeness (3) preserve and maintain existing wholesomeness (4) Create new wholesomeness
4 bases of miraculous power (四如意足) – (1) Concentration build upon desire (desire for samandhi) (2) Concentration based on persistence (3) Concentration build upon intention (4) Concentration of contemplation (Reference Link)
5 roots ( 五根) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding
5 powers (that arises from the 5 roots) – (1) Faith/conviction (2) Energy/persistence (3) Mindfulness (4) Stillness / jhanas (5) Wisdom/understanding
7 factors of Enlightenment (七菩提) – (1) Mindfulness (2) Investigation (3) Effort (4) rapture (5) Relaxation (6) Concentration, (7) Equanimity
8 fold path (八正道) – (1) Right Understanding (2) Right Intent (3) Right Speech (4) Right Action (5) Right Livelihood (6) Right Effort (7) Right Mindfulness (8) Right Concentration.