Basic principles for meditation
Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso
Just keep on watching the object, let go of any
thoughts that come up in the mind without starting to
think about. As the meditation practice develops the
mind settles down. And concentration builds up on the
object without the mind starting to run after various
things that arise in the mind.
Excerpts from an inspirational discourse by Ven. Ajahn
Excerpts from an inspirational
discourse by Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso
the first step in meditation practice is to observe the
five precepts then keeping them for life!
The Five Precepts:
1. I will not kill (any living being/s)
2. I will not steal (or take what is not mine or is not
given to me)
3. I will not indulge in sexual misconduct
4. I will not lie (or indulge in false speech)
5. I will not indulge in intoxicating drinks or drugs
It is necessary to keep all five precepts. I remember in
Thailand that whilst some people keep both their palms
together when taking the five precepts, some people have
one or two fingers bent inside. I wanted to know why
this was. On enquiry I was told that they are not
keeping that no. of precepts on that day. Amusing isn’t
Keeping all the five precepts steadfastly and resolutely
will purify the mind. Purity of the mind is an essential
ingredient for success in meditation (that is why some
people say that though they meditate very hard they do
not see much development in their practice. This may be
because of not being firmly established in the five
precepts, as a basic principle to be fulfilled before
What is the value of the five precepts that the bhikkhu
gave you today? Is it Rs. 100,000? Is it Rs. 1m? What if
I gave you each Rs. 1m now? What would be your reaction?
Would you not take it happily? Very happy about having
got it? Would you not keep it safely in your purse or in
a place where you consider safe? Throughout this sermon
would you not several times ensure that it is still
there? That it is not lost? That it is safe, where you
kept it? and on taking it home, would you not keep it in
a much more safer place and make sure that it is not
accessible to anyone else? Would you not ensure that it
is very safe even when you are not there to take care of
it? that thieves cannot take it? Would you not safeguard
it most earnestly and diligently, so that you do not
lose it? I am sure that the answer to most of these
questions would be ‘yes’.
Well, I would like to tell you to treat the five
precepts , the same way as you would have taken the Rs.
1m that I would have given you. Remember that these five
precepts are of more value than Rs. 1m. Of far more
worth than a million, billion or yet a trillion US$ that
you may get!
By just keeping the five precepts you can get all the
wealth, prosperity, happiness and peace that you will
ever need. (so ensure from now itself that you will keep
the five precepts with utmost diligence and earnestness.
That you will safeguard it with your very life!)
Being firmly established in virtue (seela, i.e., the
five precepts), one has to go to a quiet location (where
there is no noise and distraction. It could be a room in
your own house at a time when everything is quiet) Sit
down in a comfortable position (it may be on the ground
or on a chair or on a stool; whatever that is
comfortable to you, to sit for a long period at a
stretch without feeling discomfort).
Your upper body posture has to be erect or you could
start to feel uncomfortable or sleepy as you go on) Then
you close your eyes, and become fully aware of the
environment around you (the sound or the silence), your
sitting posture, the sensations you feel in your body.
Then being aware thus you shift your attention to the
object (whatever it is) of Meditation (mental
Objects of Meditation
There are many objects of Meditation (contemplation).
What it is, is ‘not’ important. What is? important is
that you learn to let go of both the past and the
The past is gone. It is meaningless to try to hold on to
something that is no longer there.
The future is not here yet, therefore, there is no
meaning in trying to think about what is not present
yet. Trying to grasp at things that are not even there
yet is meaningless.
What is necessary is to be with the present moment
(moment to moment). Just being aware of the object (if
the object of meditation is the breath, then keeping
your attention only on the breath sensation at the tip
of the nose, as the breath goes in and out, nothing else
but bare attention to the sensation of the object).
Learn to let go of the past we well as the future, and
don’t get distracted by any sense phenomena but just
watch as they arise and pass away without getting
attached to them or angry with them, without condemning
Just keep on watching the object, let go of any thoughts
that come up in the mind without starting to think
As the meditation practice develops the mind settles
down. And concentration builds up on the object without
the mind starting to run after various things that arise
in the mind.
There comes a point when the meditation gets advanced
that you even lose consciousness of the breath. You stop
feeling anything. i.e., any sense phenomena do not
arise. As if the five senses have stopped operating. You
don’t see, hear, taste, smell or feel anything. This is
the point where the mind is totally absorbed, the point
where the mind can really ‘see’ the mind. At this point
the mind is ‘free’ from the body. i.e., you have given
up the body. As you go on, being aware, deeply conscious
of the moment, the thinking process slows down moment,
the thinking process slows down considerably and
‘thinking’ also stops. And then you experience the
happiness that comes from freeing the mind (from
everything, from the senses, the past, the future, from
thinking). It is a higher form of happiness than that
which you have ever experienced. Whilst you continue
meditating in this manner, you might begin to see a very
bright white light. So bright than any light you have
This then is your ‘mind’, in its original and most pure
form. This seeing of the white light is the time that
your mind sees itself. The mind seeing the mind.
However, it is very important not to get distracted with
this light, nor start meditating with a view to see the
The purpose of meditation is to understand and
experience ‘reality’ as it really is, i.e., to
experience the four noble truths which lead to
liberation from the suffering of existence.
The state where the mind is so settled as described
above is a state of dhyana or jhana (or mental
absorption). At the dhyanic level you experience a very
blissful state of happiness, one that you have never
experienced before in your normal life. It is one that
you will never forget. You cannot forget it. It is so
This forms the base from which you can take your mind
further and further upwards in the journey. Once you
experience the dhyanic happiness you do not want the ‘
happiness’ that lay life offers. For the happiness you
experience is by far the greatest state of happiness
that any of the other forms of happiness that you have
ever had, i.e., the ‘worldly happiness’ that you get
from having money, wealth, houses, cars, food, partners,
love, sex, etc. You would only want to develop on the
level you have reached. That is why some people (like
myself) want to ordain and become monks or nuns. you
know for sure that household happiness or the happiness
of lay life is actually fraught with suffering.
You know that the five senses do not give real
happiness. They only give a happiness that ends with
pain. You realise that seeing is suffering, hearing is
suffering, smelling is suffering, taste is suffering,
touch is suffering, even thinking is suffering.
The ‘bright light’ experience of some meditators is
similar to that what you experience at the time of
death. Some people who have had near death experiences
say that they have seen a very bright white light. This
is the energy source of the very pure mind that they
see. However, only meritorious people can see a pure
mind like this at the time of death.
If you are a meritorious person you cannot fear death.
You know for certain that you will get a good re-birth
if you are going to be re-born. Only people who have a
strong belief and conviction of Karma don’t fear death.
People who have not done much merit, and who do not keep
the precepts can fear death.
The Five Hindrances
1. Kamachchanda? Sense desires
2. Vyapada? Illwill
3. Theenamiddha? Sloth and torpor
4. Uddhachcha Kukkuchcha? Restlessness and worry
5. Vichikichcha? Skeptical Doubts
The five hindrances are the factors that can hinder or
obstruct the mind at any time. Out of the five
hindrances the two most prominent hindrances that
surface at the time of meditation are the first two.
i.e. sense desires and illwill (or anger/aversion).
You must be able to stay alert to these hindrances
arising at the time of meditation without getting
attached to sense desires or getting angry when illwill
arises. But just watch them with mindfulness and allow
it to pass. Just as you recognize it, it will get
weakened and pass away, when you stay mindful.
You must continue with your meditation without judging,
without condemning anything. You must give up your
opinions and just watch, just be conscious of the
moment. Paying bare attention to the object of
meditation and watching what arises and passes away in