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Four Qualities of Meditation

Before we retired for lunch, Rinpoche explained about the four qualities of meditation and asked us to meditate while being aware of these qualities. They are (1) calmness, (2) clearness or clarity, (3) one-pointedness, and (4) without distraction. He related some interesting characteristics or anecdotes of each as follows:

Calmness is the ability to keep the mind calm and peaceful. This is facilitated by having the right posture. Rinpoche talked about many kinds of postures which support good meditation. For example, the meditator sits cross-legged with (1) straight spine, (2) mouth slightly open, (3) eyes open (but not seeing anything in particular), (4) tongue touching palate, (5) chin tugged in, (6) thumbs touching little fingers pressing on vein, (7) the mudra in (6) placed around the waist. This is called “The Seven Posture of Vairocana,” which requires great effort. He said this posture is torturing in the first week, okay in the second week and blissful in the third week. Having good posture enhances calmness of mind.

Clarity is sometimes called mindfulness. He said he preferred the former because the latter connotes a too active mind. Clearness doesn’t require any working. It’s naturally clear.

One-pointedness is the ability to concentrate on something in meditation. Once one of his western students complained that one-pointedness was difficult to develop. So he asked him to look at his girl friend’s picture and meditate on her. Having done that, he found one-pointedness easy to do. The point is we can use anything as a support of visualization to practice this quality. The key is it has to be something we are familiar with, be it computer, Buddha’s photo, or even a breath.

Without distraction is the ability to meditate without being disturbed by other causes. There are two kind of distractions which are compared to “robber” and “thief”. The first one attacks us abruptly. When we are suddenly disturbed, we lose meditation. The second one does the work gradually, like a thief stealthily comes. They are like big current and small current which interrupt the flow of mediation. If we do not have this quality, we can’t meditate well.

He stressed the importance of not expecting or doubting these qualities to happen while we are meditating. We are just relaxed and are aware of these qualities. It’s important to learn how to meditate correctly; otherwise, we just waste our time.

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