Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stages of meditation


Stages of meditation

It is known that the restless mind cannot immediately enter into a state of thoughtlessness.  That is why meditation is practised in stages.  A 2005 paper “Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness” by Antoine Lutz and his colleagues contains a very succinct description of this graded process accompanied by a concise table, which we highlight in this post.   
The following table is from page 40 of the paper.
Stages of meditation table: From the paper "Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness" by Antoine Lutz, John Dunne, Richard Davidson
In their paper, Lutz et al. describe the four stages in the Buddhist practice of Open presence or Rig-pa Chôg-zhag.   
Stage 1: One strengthens the vacillating mind by building  concentration on some chosen external object  (e.g. candle, sky, etc) for long periods of time until the mind is unperturbed by external distractions, the recall of past events, and thoughts about the future.
Stage 2: One then employs techniques that cultivate an awareness of subjectivity in a manner that de-emphasizes the object.  One observes the mind and the senses while they are contemplating the external object.  In doing so, one gains phenomenal access to the reflexive awareness that is immutable (i.e. the Spirit or soul within).
Stage 3: One then de-emphasizes subjectivity as well, so as to further enhance that access to reflexivity.  At this point, one has developed the strength to stand back and reject the thoughts as they seek to enter the mind.
Stage 4: Finally, as the consciousness recedes inward, one loses awareness of subjectivity as well.  One becomes fixed in the bliss of the Presence within.
This is a quick summary from pages 39-45 of the paper, which is worth reading.  Click hereto read the full paper.
These gradations mentioned above have been described in an earlier post -see Types of Meditation.
These steps are analogous to the five stages of Samadhi described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (SavitarkaSavicharaSanandaSasmitaAsamprajnata).
Stage 1 – Savitarka(gross): Fix the mind on the external object without wavering.
Stage 2 – Savichara(subtle): Become aware of the mind and sense instruments which are involved in the cognition of the external object.
Stage 3 – Sananda(bliss): Let the attention recede from the instruments of cognition, and dwell on the ocean of bliss within.
Stage 4 – Sasmita (I-ness) : Deeper still, focus on the greater individuality within.
Stage 5 – Asamprajnata (objectless): In this stage, one goes beyond all supports and dwells on the Self itself.
Details of the above stages can be read at http://www.swamij.com/five-stages-meditation.htm

See also

  1. Meditation
  2. Subtle forms of the ego – (transcending suffocation)
  3. Jnana Yoga : the ego blocks that have to be dissolved
  4. Developing discernment on which actions are spiritual
  5. Stabilizing the body before meditation
  6. Transcending the work-leisure cycle
  7. Aspects of Karma Yoga
  8. The transmutation of sexual energy
  9. Sublimation of the sexual urge through Yoga
  10. How to awaken the soul (psychic being)
  11. Towards more conscious sleep and dreams

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