Thursday, 30 October 2014

"The Practice at the Beginning"

The following narrative continues the story of a Mexican meditator who has been in Burma for many years. This is the third entry, and the beginning post can be found here.

"Before arriving in Myanmar, I completed a three-month retreat in Thailand where I learned about the four Application of Mindfulness. The reason why I chose to come to Myanmar was mainly for safety, and not because of any particular teacher in the country. I did not know anything about the teachers here, actually. Since the very beginning when I became introduced to Buddhism, I was told that I first need to find a good teacher. I was told that I should not follow a monk or nun just because they wear different clothes. What is important is the quality of mind that the person has, but the form of the person does not matter. If he is a monk, nun, layperson or even a person from another tradition, it does not matter, because what is important is the knowledge that the person has. It is important to make sure that the qualities of the teacher are of a very high standard, because you will develop as the teacher is. So it is important to make sure you become like someone that you find inspiring! For that reason, the first months I spent at Shew Oo Min I was testing the teacher, to see how skilful he was, how kind, how he was communicating with the students and how well he was answering the questions.

Moreover, my teachers in the past told me to focus mainly on a primary object. Normally the breath is a perfect object in order to gain some stability of mind, and they were very interested in helping their students to practice samathā. That was one point that was a bit confusing for me. Since long ago I listened to many dhamma talks where they explained the benefits of samathā, and now, the new teacher at Shwe Oo Min was mentioning that samathā was not needed for the practice! That was confusing. I did not know if I believed him or not… His instructions were not very clear to me at first. The way he was explaining, the method that he was teaching did not seem so well structured compared with what I was used to. I felt like he already knew a lot of the practice and because of that, he was taking for granted many small explanation about the practice that perhaps could be useful for beginners.

I read the books they gave me in the monastery many times to make sure I was understanding correctly the practice. But my progress was very slow. I had a lot of doubts about what the teacher was saying. However, I continued to follow his instructions. One thing is that I found it very suitable to allow the mind to choose any object. That helped me not to use much energy, because the mind was doing it anyway. At the beginning most of the time what the mind was choosing happened to be the sensations in the body. I remember I used to have a lot of pain in the head because of the heat. So that was my primary object as well as the breath. It took me a while to stop following the breath because I used to be very confident when I was following it. For me the instructions were not fully clear and I was constantly confused about how to practice."

Read the next entry here.

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