Sunday, October 27, 2019

Elements of Good Meditation: Alertness

The mindfulness and alertness you cultivate during the meditation stays with you long after you’ve gotten up and resumed your daily activities. 

If mindfulness is the watch guard at the palace door then alertness is the police at the city gates. It is on patrol to see if there’s anything suspicious going on anywhere in the kingdom. It arrests any bad elements before they can reach and harm the royalty.

When you continue to practice correctly, there comes a time when you are able to detect the emergence of the thought even before mindfulness has to guard it from interfering with your meditation.

When you naturally develop an all pervading mindfulness because alertness is doing its job, the effort in meditation disappears. This is the stage when meditation stops being an act. It becomes your second nature. And after a while, it becomes your state of mind.

Yogic texts, notably Buddhist sutras, give a wonderful name to alertness. They call it saṃprajñā. It means a state of even awareness. Saṃyutta Nikāya defines alertness as knowing both events in the mind and activities of the body as they are happening:

And how is a monk alert? 
There is the case where feelings are known to the monk as they arise, known as become established, known as they subside. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they become established, known as they subside. Perceptions are known to him as they arise, known as they become established, known as they subside. This is how a monk is alert. 

And how is a monk alert? 
When going forward & returning, he makes himself alert; when looking toward & looking away… when bending & extending his limbs… when carrying his outer cloak, his upper robe, and his bowl. when eating, drinking, chewing, and savouring… when urinating and defecating… when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and remaining silent, he makes himself alert. This is how a monk is alert.

It is pertinent to add here that alertness not only allows you to detect and check the flow of thoughts, but also all other flaws including, but not limited to, emotions, dullness, restlessness, loss of clarity, random images and sleepiness.

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