A Six Step Method For Mind Training

Source: Frans Stiene and Master Chih I (538-598) - Fourth Patriarch of the T'ien T'ai School

This six step method of mind training makes use of the breath.

Breath is the source of life. When breathing stops the body is just a lifeless object and, because the nervous system no longer works, the mind just vanishes. So we see that life is preserved by breath which links body with mind and ensures their existence. Although you can't see it, air moves in and out of your nostrils when you breath. So there is body and mind with breath linking and uniting them.

There are three practices in moving from the mundane to the sublime and the 'main practice' is essential for changing mental gear. Stopping (Chih or Samatha) gives the first hint that there is sunshine behind the clouds of illusion and Contemplating (Kuan or Vipasyana) is the technique that opens the doors to clear perception.

* Preliminary practice

- count the breaths

- follow the breaths

* Main practice

- stop following the breaths

- contemplate the breaths

* Concluding practice

- realise that breath and breather are inseparable

- realise pure being

Count the breaths

Having regulated your breath so that it is neither tight nor loose, count slowly from one to ten for either in breaths or out breaths. Fix your attention on the counting so that your mind does not wander. If you notice that your mind has gone somewhere else and you have lost the count, go back to one and begin again. With practice you will get good at this counting procedure. Your breathing will become so fine that it is almost uncountable.

Follow the breaths

Stop counting the breaths but focus your mind on following them in and out. In this way your mind and your breathing will become mutually dependent. As your mind becomes more peaceful you will notice the lengths of your breaths and you will feel as if they pass through all the pores of your body. Your intellect is now quiet and still.

Stop following the breaths

Stop putting attention on the breathing and instead intentionally (yet unintentionally) fix your mind on the tip of your nose . While doing this you will suddenly notice that your body and mind seem to vanish and you will be in a state if stillness.

Contemplate the breaths

Although this state of stillness is very pleasant the next task is to turn the mind back on itself. The in and out breaths will now appear to be like wind in the void and to have no reality of their own. With practice there will be a clear feeling that the breath enters and leaves the body through all its pores.

Realise that breath and breather are inseparable

There will still be an impression of a subjective mind which contemplates the objective breath. These are viewed as two parts of a duality and the absolute state of the fundamental mind has not therefore been reached. The 'subjective knower' follows 'the breath' as it rises and as it falls. But 'rise' and 'fall' are fundamentally illusory and unreal: like 'waves' that rise from 'water', they only appear to exist. The mind that rises and falls is not the true, underlying, uncreated self-mind. The self-mind is beyond 'is' and is therefore void. There is no subjective mind that contemplates and no object to be contemplated. Knowledge and its object vanish.

Realise pure being

There will still be an idea of no knowledge and no object. This is removed when the mind becomes pure and clean through not discriminating.

The mind becomes still like calm water and contains no discriminating (unreal) thoughts. The return of the false to the real is like waves subsiding to reveal the water.

Source: Frans Stiene and the ultimate source is The Six Profound Dharma Doors (Lu Miao Fa Meng) of Chih I but as this contains much abstruse jargon Yin Shih Tsu paraphrased it in Chapter 6 of his Experimental Meditation for the Promotion of Health. This is quoted in Charles Luk's (Lu K'uan Yu) (1964) The Secrets of Chinese Meditation; Rider; ISBN 0 09 155091 2 and the above version is based loosely on that translation.