Grandmaster JinBodhi On…The Basics of The Meditation of Purity
Excerpted from Grandmaster JinBodhi’s Illuminating Body and Mind
Let’s consider The Meditation of Purity and the theories behind the guided visualization techniques of this static Bodhi Meditation practice.
Human existence is complicated. Things are complex from the moment we leave the womb and whether we understand what’s going on around us or not, our brains are constantly engaged. As such, we quickly grow tired whenever an extra mental task is added to the basic requirements of living. When we’re fatigued, our basic ability to function decreases, leading to illness. Sitting meditation is a way to bring all the activity of the mind into a state of pure tranquility. The Meditation of Purity is a meditative health practice offering mental and physical wellness by enhancing our connection with a higher state. Additionally, this connection allows us to develop wisdom and, eventually, enlightenment.
Mind Is Not Easy to Harness
Is it really possible to stop thinking?
With this healthful objective identified, it is then a matter of leading the mind to utter tranquility – a mental “purity.” Ancient meditation masters experimented with techniques and formulated many paths to attain that state, but the general end result can be summed up with this advice: “Sit and don’t think.” Common sense, perhaps, but how realistic is this? From the instant of birth, the brain leaps into action and never stops processing, absorbing and working throughout its lifetime. Suddenly, we tell this lively and habitually busy organ to stop? Sit motionless? Do nothing? Often, there is no precedent for this, so the brain doesn’t know how to respond. This can create frustration in new meditators, who think: “Control my thoughts? Stop them?”
Before a few moments of meditation have passed, their minds have already wandered without them even being aware that it happened! This is because the subconscious mind becomes involved. And, quite unlike the conscious control we can exert over a hand to still it for a few minutes, mastering the subconscious is much more elusive.
Someone very wise came up with the concept of “fighting like with like, poison with poison.” In our context that makes sense. It simply isn’t realistic to expect a person to stop thinking or not desire a mate. Both behaviors are natural manifestations of being alive, so they lie beyond our ability to bar them by ordinary means.
Why not go with the flow? Not to be carried away in a deluge, but rather by progressing in a directed and intentional manner. After all, the “purity” that I’ve been referencing is a state in which the mind’s thoughts are not chaotic and random, but rather focused and beneficial. That’s the purity to aim for and the reasoning behind The Meditation of Purity’s methodology.
The majority of meditation instructors tell their students, “Come to study and you will be empty.” Well, for most people that’s actually impossible.
Guided Visualization Leads to Purity
What does meditative “calm to the point of emptiness” mean?
Instead of emptiness, I suggest that people harness the mind’s natural overactive tendencies, and offer productive guidance in constructive thinking (aligned with true reality). This guidance comes in the form of beneficial visualization.
Rather than instructing students to eradicate all thoughts outright, I guide them to focus their thinking in a healthful direction that leads away from pain and illness. This path – these visualizations – leads to the purity of meditative emptiness. If this state is attained while the connection between mind and body is total, then the benefits will be phenomenal. So we start with a quieting and focusing of the mind, for it’s only with tranquility that determined effort can be fully applied to the visualizations. As the concentration and calm of the mind deepen, we gradually attain purity. This whole process can be called meditation, as can the state of purity that is achieved.
It’s not a matter of religion, but of meditation, as philosophical Buddhist theory is entirely derived from self-cultivation practices. Self-cultivation leads to the preservation of health and the development of wisdom. The very reason Buddhist dharma can also be called Tao (the Way) is because this dharma is a conduit to true, unimpeded understanding of the nature of self and seeing the broader world with this understanding.
The Meditation of Purity is an example of “fighting like with like, poison with poison” as applied to meditation. It channels chaotic thought into a single, highly beneficial stream. It is possible to do the same with destructive thinking. However, stopping thought outright ranges from being extremely difficult to absolutely impossible to achieve. That is why The Meditation of Purity is so valuable.
Cultivate Purity in Your Daily Life
How do we maintain a relaxed attitude?
The Meditation of Purity is a simple and easily acquired practice that guides practitioners into a state of pure tranquility. You only need to prepare a little before settling into your meditation. Relax your whole body first, so that you are carrying no detectable stress or worry in your muscles, face or posture. Say to yourself, “Now I will meditate and even if the sky should fall to the earth, I will pay it no mind.”
It’s an important attitude. Nowadays, we live with a lot of pretty amazing communication technology – land lines, cell phones, computers, email. In fact, a lot of teenagers are singularly focused on being in communication with their peers. They roll out of bed and check their email before they even go to the bathroom. There’s an anxiety in them and they’re desperate to know if anyone wanted to contact them overnight. They have their cell phone going 24/7, driven by that sense of desperation.
Sometimes I wonder if the world blew up, would their last thought be, “How will people get hold of me?”
This obsession comes from a place of unnamed fear and it prevents full relaxation. Even when it’s time to lie down and go to sleep, that fear is there. It’s almost like there’s a connection linking the whole body to an email address or the vibrations of a cell phone. That’s why it’s always best to turn off every phone in the house before bedtime. Otherwise, at a certain level most people will never be at rest.
So how do we find real peace now?
What we call “cultivating purity” first requires the relaxation of the physical body and the application of an indomitable state of mind. So turn off all your devices and lock them away. Forbid them from having the slightest power over you. Put on some loose, comfortable clothing and settle in a spot that is conducive to calm. If you sit in meditation like that for half an hour every day, it will be of enormous benefit to your health and your life in general.
When should we meditate?
There are many other factors that influence health, but half an hour of deep relaxation daily really can make a difference, especially if it’s done in the morning.
Meditation in the evening is good, too, just different. I was taught meditation at night and that is often when I do it.
For people who have regular nine-to-five jobs, pre-sleep meditation is valuable. But the morning option is one to consider seriously. How our mornings go often determines the rest of the day, so if you start your day from a place of tranquil happiness, the rest of the day will follow suit. The aftereffects of good meditation may help you avoid errors in action or speech during your workday. It allows everything to run more smoothly. This is one of the miraculous aspects of self-cultivation practice.
Meditation at night positively affects the following day. Regardless of time, it helps build a productive blueprint in the mind. This blueprint is a plan for the day. It’s the mind saying, “Look, I’ve just experienced feelings of compassion, openness, peace, joy, sacredness, fortune, inspiration and a bit of enlightenment, so that’s what I’m going to carry into the rest of my world.”
To see real results, move to deep relaxation and toward progressively greater compassion. The importance of practicing consistently is crucial.
Unless it’s absolutely impossible to do because of an unusually busy day, practice meditation daily. Your normal routine should include meditation. Don’t worry if the time is short. Just do it every day and you will start seeing results quickly. Someone who works out regularly will be more fit than someone who doesn’t. Constancy, rather than infrequent excess, is essential.
Transcend Religion and Culture
Is The Meditation of Purity a Buddhist practice?
The method that I teach is designed to be the most convenient and the best at getting you started on your path. You’ve likely noticed that it isn’t the same as meditative experiences described by other sources. That’s because I’ve removed the purely religious elements from the meditation to make it as accessible as possible. What a person does or doesn’t believe in shouldn’t be permitted to hold him or her back. Just practice and the results will come. The true essence of meditation study is to take practitioners beyond sociocultural conditioning and give them sight that transcends external form and name. A sight that allows them to overcome limitations formerly set by deceptive trappings, such as clothes and concerns about image and reputation.
Surpass the concepts of religion, culture, gender and every theory that you knew regarding national boundaries, ethnicity, race and language, and leave them all behind. They are forms without substance. Let go of your illusions.
In fact, just advising you to surpass those things may seem like a bit of a leap beyond the norm. Some of you who came here expecting Buddhism are probably asking yourselves, “What kind of teachings are these? This flies in the face of centuries of tradition. It’s not Buddhism! Even the meditations are different.” And you’re right!
Where cultural Buddhism does one thing, I have done another, because I’m teaching people to wake themselves up. I’m setting them on that path, not training them to become “Chinese Buddhists” as defined by a specific culture. These teachings are new, but their base – their root – is derived from a deep wisdom regarding the self and the working ways of reality.
By following this path, growth will happen and learning will occur. And even the smallest growth of this kind accomplishes wonders.