FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: WHERE IS THE CENTER OF OUR BODY AND MIND?
A: In this meditation technique, the center of the body and mind is two finger widths above the level of the navel, inside the torso. The center of the mind is the awareness itself. We bring the awareness to the center of the body so that the mind and the body will be in balance. Through the point at the center of the body, we have found that there are numerous dimensions of the body and mind overlaid on top of each other so that all of them have a common center. We can think of this point as a doorway through which, with meditation, we can explore the multitudinous dimensions of ourselves, to find the true peace and happiness. By placing the body and mind together, so that they share the same center, we can create the highest degree of concentration in all dimensions of ourselves, and multiply peace and happiness without limit.
Q: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF "samma arahang", AND WHY REPEAT IT?
A: "Samma Arahang" are two terms derived from the Buddhist Pali tradition. "Samma" means right, proper. "Arahang" refers to purifying the mind and freeing yourself from suffering in life. It refers to the enlightenment, the highest goal of Buddhism. "Samma arahang" therefore refers to the right way of freeing oneself from the suffering in the mind. Samma arahang is repeated as a mantra to prevent the mind from wandering from one idea to another during meditation. Using the mantra, the mind can be trained to rest at the center of the body, because the sound of the words produces a slight vibration in the mind which helps the awareness to move in the direction of happiness and peace. You can use other words instead, but any such words should have positive associations and should not lead to passion, hatred or delusion. It should be repeated until the mind is calm and peaceful. After this stage, the sound of the mantra will fade away by itself, leaving just the crystal ball shining and still at the center of our body. Our reason for using the mantra is just as a technique for training the mind to rest at the center of the body, inside the crystal ball.
Q: WHY IS THE CRYSTAL BALL USED AS THE OBJECT OF MEDITATION IN THE MIDDLE WAY MEDITATION TECHNIQUE?
A: First of all, we don't need to use a crystal ball. Any object of meditation will do as long as you have a positive feeling towards it, or at least a neutral one. Also, the object of meditation should be chosen which does not increase the level of passion, hatred or delusion in your mind. Meditating upon the image of your husband or wife will not make for very good meditation because it will increase your level of passion and this will destroy any degree of calm which you had already attained.
By contrast, a flower is a good object of meditation, as is the moon or the sun, because for most people these things arouse a positive feeling. If you can think of nothing better, why not try visualizing the pillow which you use to sleep each night?
The important thing is to bring the object to rest at the center of the body, because this is where the most successful degree of concentration can be developed. You will find in the course of the practice that whatever object (parikamma-nimitta) you originally chose, it will transform and become clear as crystal, when concentration is maintained at the center of the body. This is a natural law of meditation. It is therefore recommended that everyone meditates upon a crystal ball at the center of the body. This is because when you imagine a crystal ball at the center of the body from the start you will not need to go through the process of the image transforming later on.
Secondly, across all cultures, the crystal ball is received with a positive, or at least a neutral feeling. In no culture do you find that the crystal ball has any associations which are unwholesome.
Thirdly, the crystal ball is bright, clear and pure. When the mind concentrates upon these qualities, it tends to become a mind of brightness, clarity and purity: the qualities of the mind which lead to success in meditation.
Q: WITH MEDITATION AREN'T WE SUPPOSED TO FREE OUR MIND OF ALL ATTACHMENT? WHY THEN DO WE ATTACH TO A CRYSTAL BALL?
A: Yes, we are supposed to free our mind of all attachment, but the word "non-attachment" can also be an attachment. If we have no specific object of concentration, we can no longer ascertain in our meditation whether we are attached to something or not. So, we concentrate on the crystal ball, which is an acquired attachment which we use as a "vehicle for crossing over". It carries our awareness to a higher state. It is like using a raft to get across a river. Once we have crossed the river, we no longer have to carry the raft. We use the crystal ball in the beginning just to make our mind clear and bright. The quality of the mind is uplifted. Once its purpose has been fulfilled, we don't continue with the crystal ball, but carry on with something else.
Q: WHEN I MEDITATE, I'M NOT SURE IF I'M FOCUSSING EXACTLY AT THE CENTER OF THE BODY, TWO FINGER BREADTHS ABOVE THE NAVEL OR NOT. HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN?
A: It is not necessary to be too exact when finding the point at the center of the body. If you like, you can imagine that the point at the center of your body is so enlarged that it fills your entire stomach. This way you can feel more certain that you’re at the right position. In actual fact, as soon as your mind comes to a standstill within this approximate area, it will automatically adjust to the exact point by itself.
Q: IS THE MIDDLE WAY MEDITATION COMPATIBLE WITH MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING?
A: Certainly! You can do this by placing your awareness at the center of your body. You can feel the full extent of the breath, from the beginning to the end. At the end of the breath you can find the center of the body, and you can feel how your breath reaches and "turns" there.
Q: DOES THE FOOD YOU EAT INFLUENCE MEDITATION?
A: Yes, the amount and quality of the food you eat both have an influence on meditation. To begin with, if you eat too much you will feel sleepy easily; however, if you don't consume enough food your health will be affected and you will feel continuously tired and weak. The quality of the food has an effect too. Substances like alcohol and non-medical drugs are addictive; they compromise one’s awareness and reduce the ability to meditate.
Spicy food may sometimes disturb you by irritating the digestive system, making you feel unwell and unfit for meditation. One should have a balanced diet which contains every type of nutrient known to nature. In this way, you will maintain a healthy body and live a healthy life so that you may attain the full potential of meditation.
Q: ARE THERE ANY PROHIBITIONS WHICH THE MEDITATOR SHOULD OBSERVE ?
A: There are no prohibitions, but there is a baseline of decency towards all sentient life, which all meditators should observe. They are called the "Five rules of training" or the "Five Precepts," and they are:
- To abstain from killing or taking the lives of any living creature
- To abstain from taking things without permission
- To abstain from all sexual misconduct in body, speech and mind.
- To abstain from false speech
- To abstain from using intoxicants.
Besides following these rules of training, you should be kind and ready to help others. This should be your baseline of normal behavior as a sentient human being. If you follow these natural norms of behavior, you will find that your meditation will improve.
Q: HOW DOES MEDITATION INCREASE ONE'S INTELLIGENCE?
A: It increases one’s intelligence by reducing the level of defilements in the mind. As an analogy - the nature of the mind is clear and bright but it has defilements in it which, like the mud and pollutants in clear water, make it cloudy and murky.
Meditation is a process which allows the impurities to settle out. Meditation precipitates the defilements of the mind, and allows the nature of the mind, which is bright and clear, to reveal itself. One of the natural qualities of the mind is 'intelligence', in the absence of a combination with anxiety, passion, enmity, folly or hatred. The natural mind is full of wisdom and compassion.
Q: CAN MEDITATION REPLACE SLEEP?
A: Meditation can help sleep to become more effective. It can help us to sleep deeper. In a very short period of time, one can refresh one’s awareness through meditation and allow us to make the most of our time of sleep. Together with meditation, sleep can be minimized; there are some rare cases of people who require no sleep at all, needing only meditation to keep their body and mind refreshed all the time. The Buddha himself spent two-three hours sleeping each night, whilst some of his disciples could spend a great deal of the night meditating without going to bed. In true meditation, the object of concentration is inside the body and the more you meditate, the more the self-awareness increases.
Q: I AM PHYSICALLY QUITE ILL. HOW CAN MEDITATION HELP?
A: As with any disease or illness, meditation can help you to get rid of stress. The doctor can be responsible for your disease, but there is no one who can be responsible for your mind other than yourself. No one else can take responsibility for this. This responsibility can be the motivating factor for you to meditate.