Advice for Western Practitioners
His Holiness Sakya Trizin was interviewed on the subject of meditation practice by James Cane-Carrasco during his recent visit to Minneapolis.
James Cane-Carrasco: In the morning, having set up the altar, and sat down to practice, what is the first thing we should place our mind on, and why?
His Holiness Sakya Trizin: In order to direct your mind to the absolute Dharma path, it is very important to first reflect on the difficulties of obtaining the precious human life; and also on how precious it really is. After that, reflect on impermanence and death; that the precious human life is not permanent; that it will end; and that there’s no fixed lifespan – many external and internal conditions can shorten our lives. Following this, reflect on cause and effect; that the life we now experience is the product of our own virtuous and non-virtuous deeds committed in the past. Lastly, reflect on the sufferings of samsara. By reflecting on these four subjects, the practice we do will become real Dharma, not superficial – real Dharma that will directly tame our minds. Then you begin [your practice] with taking refuge – taking refuge in the Triple Gem is retreating from the wrong path, to the right path. Then generate the mind of enlightenment to switch from the lower path to the higher path. So if you begin your recitations, or meditation, with these then it will be very good.
JCC: In daily meditation, when should we focus on discursive meditation (analytical meditation); and when should we practice non-discursive meditation?
HHST: I think it’s not so much a matter of when to do, and of what time we should do it; I think it purely depends on the individual. Two kinds of practitioners are described on the path; for the intelligent practitioner who follows with reason, analytical meditation is far more effective. And for practitioners who follow with faith, non-discursive meditation is more effective. It is therefore according to the individual’s need that one should do meditation.
JCC: In analytical meditation, after we meditate on a topic and develop a certain experience, we then place our minds non-discursively on that generated experience. How do we deal with our tendency to get lost in the distractions that come up – for example external sounds, internal sensations, or arising thoughts?
HHST: Continuously doing the meditation will keep away distractions. After you become more used to meditation, then you can do longer sessions. And with longer sessions, the level of meditation will be much improved. …