This book includes a complete set of teachings for developing and deepening meditation. Ajahn Brahm was born Peter Betts in London, 1951, abbot of the monastery in Australia. In this book he describes four initial stages of meditation, plus two more and the seventh stage is called Jhana. These steps will lead you to the happiest experience of your life, but they must be followed in order.
If you skip any of them, you will have to go back. Geshe Lobsang Jordhen, Losang Choephel Ganchenpa and Jeremy Russell In Stages of Meditation, the Dalai Lama explains the principles of meditation in a practice-oriented format, especially suitable for Westerners. Based on the central section of Kamalasila's Bhavanakrama, a translation of which is included, this is the Dalai Lama's most extensive commentary on this concise but important meditation manual. It is one of the Dalai Lama's favourite texts and he often takes the opportunity to teach on it to audiences around the world.
In his words, this text can be like a key that opens the door to all other important Buddhist scriptures. The five stages of meditation practice, from beginners to advanced. Let's explore some important points of meditation that can help you chart your path. And remember, rather than focusing on the stages of meditation, as Mahatma Gandhi said, the path is the goal.
Developing present moment awareness is an effective way to work with this critical inner voice. One of the essentials of meditation is to be aware of whatever arises in the mental stream and to learn to let it go, moment by moment, whether the mental activity is attractive or objectionable. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by what seems like a continuous stream of thoughts. In a technique that helps us to let go, we focus on noticing the space between two successive thoughts.
Paying attention to this silent pause, however tiny, fosters awareness. If we practice with diligence and purpose, over time our inner narrative will naturally relax and we can let go of negative inner chatter, one gap at a time. A key aspect of meditation is learning to fix one' s awareness on one thing. It can be the breath, a candle flame, a repeated word (chant or mantra), physical sensations or other focal points.
The breath is the most common and most practised object of meditation. By concentrating on one thing, it is easier to let go of distractions and embrace the present moment. It is comfortable for your mind to have an anchor like the breath to return to. Read more about breath mindfulness here.
Positive experiences that can accompany this balance of letting go and mindfulness include feelings of happiness, peace and calm. By focusing on an object of meditation, the mind can filter out the distractions that give rise to anxiety and stress and rediscover its natural spaciousness. By meditating, we become familiar with our mental patterns and psychological structure. We begin to notice all the spaces, or gaps, between inhalation and exhalation, between one thought and the next, between one state of mind and another.
Awareness of the gaps puts us in tune with impermanence and change, and we realise that we can let go of old views and outdated habits. We can truly transform the way we think and act. We can allow ourselves to be authentic and honest in how we look at ourselves, our perception of the world and, most importantly, our impact on others. This awakening of awareness brings joy and a powerful motivation to keep practising.
Read more about the benefits of mindfulness meditation here. When you have been practising meditation for a while, you naturally discover a potential for awareness that you didn't know was there. Your mind now settles with little effort; distractions have lost much of their power over you. If you are watching your breath, your mind happily follows your wonderful breathing.
If you are drinking tea, you are fully present while drinking tea. If you are driving a car, you are fully present at the wheel. Since the practice of meditation develops the most fundamental core of our being, it is essential to rely on clear, progressive and genuine meditation methods from authentic guides. To convey to you the full potential of genuine meditation, we have created the 9-level Mindworks Wellness Journey.
To progress, correctly determine your current stage, and work until you have mastered the skills of that stage before moving on to the next. Stages two and three are similar, but the mind's wandering gets shorter and shorter until it stops completely. The first milestone is continuous attention to the object of meditation, which is achieved at the end of stage three. Only when you have mastered the skills of a given Stage of meditation will you be able to master the next Stage.
These intentions will mature into the highly developed skills of steady attention and mindfulness as you progress through the later stages of meditation. Advancing from Stage Three to Stage Four can take a long time, but progressing from Stage Four to Stage Five is usually faster, and so on. You have mastered this Stage of meditation when the qualities of samatha persist for many hours after rising from the cushion. In this way, you earn each successive stage in meditation, rather than trying to steal the prize of each stage by an act of will.
You have completed the transition from being a skilled meditator to an adept meditator at this point in your journey through the stages of meditation. The length of the path between successive Stages indicates the relative time required to progress from one Stage to the next. In the fourth stage, the meditator is told to be aware of the whole breath in each moment and not to allow other things to intrude on this smooth and continuous awareness. The more clearly you understand the Stages of meditation, and why they occur in the order they do, the more quickly and pleasantly you will travel the path to happiness and freedom.
Even in this first stage there are many levels, but they all focus on developing calmness, concentration and self-awareness on an everyday level (for more on this stage, see my article "The First Task of Meditation"). By mastering Stages One to Three, you have acquired the basic first-level skills on the path to stable mindfulness. However, when you reach Stage Eight and your meditations become completely effortless, it will become clear to you.