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Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra – Part 4c (part 4 )

37 Limbs of Enlightenment – 4 bases of miraculous Power

Continuing from previous post.

RECAP

The 37 limbs of enlightenment is hidden in the Amitabha Sutra. Out of the 37, we have explored the following and understand the correct approach to practices.

4 mindfulness (四念处) – Being mindful that (1) Our physical body is impure and repulsive – let go of attachment to our physical body (2) All sensations leads to sufferings – let go of sensations (3) Mind is impermanent – let go of mental fermentation (4) there is no “I” – let go of delusion [Develop right understanding and views / wisdom]

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 [Develop merits in action, speech and thoughts]

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 [Develop concentration]

Out of the 4 bases of miraculous power, we have completed the 1st of the 4 bases of miraculous power (Jhana / Samadhi). Developing Jhana / Samadhi is important because they make our mind conducive for wisdom. To develop Jhana, one must be enthusiastic about it. In another word, we must have the desire for it. That desire or enthusiasm is the 1st base for developing Jhana.

To a beginner, Jhana is unimaginable and many deem it daunting . Some may even be discouraged or disheartened by their failure to still their mind. In Pureland practice, we talk about undistracted chanting of Amitabha’s name. That “undistractedness” leads back to Jhana. Therefore, focused mind without discursive thoughts (一心不乱) and Jhana or Samadhi is the same thing. But somehow, it sounds less daunting than Jhana / Samadhi.

Along this line of reasoning, it is safe to conclude that chanting Amitabha ‘s name requires focused concentration too. Therefore, it is incorrect for us to chant and let our mind wander all over the place. That means, it is also inappropriate for us to chant and imagine / fantasize about pure land or how Amitabha looks like.

Continuing from where we left off;

The 2nd base for developing Jhana/ focused mind without discursive thoughts (一心不乱) is persistency. Initially, it seems impossible to stop our mind from wandering. But we know what we need to achieve. Thus we persistently instruct our mind to focus and stop wandering. This persistency is the 2nd base for developing Jhana. We become better at it after much practices.

Similarly, our persistency

  1. Mustn’t be overly sluggish /slack
  2. Mustn’t be overly active (agitated)
  3. Mustn’t be inwardly constricted
  4. Mustn’t be outwardly scattered
  5. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
  6. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
  7. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night.
  8. Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered

In short, our persistency or effort need to be balanced. Otherwise, we become unbalanced.


Next, the 3rd base for developing Jhana is our state of mind (Aka. our mental health.) To take care of our mental health, we need to manage our mind and what goes on inside it. Are we filled with hatred or desire? Are we lazy or impatient? Are we attached to Samsara? Are we worrisome? and etc….

There are various mind training methods in Buddhism that make our mind conducive for “letting go” and entering stillness. One of the famous Theravada practice is the 4 immeasurable thoughts. By embracing thoughts of loving kindness, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity; one’s mind become conducive for spiritual advancement.

Similarly, the 4 mindfulness found at the beginning of the 37 limbs of enlightenment also make our mind conducive.

However, this must also be done in a balanced manner. For example, if contemplation of the 4 mindfulness leads to sadness or depression, then it isn’t correctly done. Or if compassionate thoughts leads to constant worrying for others, then it becomes detrimental. It is all about keeping everything in a balanced perspective.

Therefore, the 8 principle guidelines are equally applicable to the 3 base.

Similarly, our mental health or mind

  1. Mustn’t be overly sluggish /slack
  2. Mustn’t be overly active (agitated)
  3. Mustn’t be inwardly constricted
  4. Mustn’t be outwardly scattered
  5. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
  6. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
  7. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night.
  8. Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered

Next, is the 4th base of miraculous power. (contemplation/investigation). To manage our mind or mental health, we need to be aware of what is going on inside and then determine if they are good or bad for our enlightenment.

and again, this has to be done in a balanced manner. Thus the 8 guiding principles.

  1. Mustn’t be overly sluggish /slack
  2. Mustn’t be overly active (agitated)
  3. Mustn’t be inwardly constricted
  4. Mustn’t be outwardly scattered
  5. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the front and back
  6. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for the top and bottom
  7. Mindfulness of subject must be equal for day and night.
  8. Awareness of subject must be open and unhampered

This conclude the 4 bases of Jhana/Samadhi/ focused mind without discursive thoughts.

Apparently, having a balance mind is crucial for our practice and success. Remember, the middle path.

In pureland practice, we chant Amitabha’s name to still our mind from discursive thoughts. We develop a balanced perspective about life and death. We put in effort but does not grow bitter about it. Nor do we become impatient with life or with people. In short, we do not chant without a purpose.

Although, we desire rebirth in Amitabha’s pureland, we do not ignore our current heart and mind. We are watchful of our thoughts and mind. Thus, the 37 limbs of enlightenment are applicable to our practice.

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.

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