The Nine Mental Abiding 調心 禪定九次第
Lineage of mediators saw the same unfolding process: nine ways that the mind can be true to its inherent stability, clarity and strength. In their descriptions of nine stages of training the mind through the practice of shamatha (meditation, or “peaceful abiding,” they left us sign-posts of that process. It is necessary for development of superior wisdom and compassion.
First four stages—–placement, continual placement, repeated placement, close placement. (Developing stability)
Stages five and six are taming and pacifying. (To developing clarity)
The last three stages—(seven, eight, and nine) thoroughly pacifying, one-pointed and equanimity (building strength)
- Placement of the mind: occurs when the practitioner is able to place his attention on the object of meditation, but is unable to maintain that attention for very long. Distractions, dullness of mind and other hindrances are common.
- Continuous attention 🙂 occurs when the practitioner experiences moments of continuous attention on the object before becoming distracted. this is when you can maintain your attention on the meditation object for about a minute.
- Repeated attention: is when the practitioner’s attention is fixed on the object for most of the practice session and she or he is able to immediately realize when she or he has lost his mental hold on the object and is able to restore that attention quickly. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche suggests that being able to maintain attention for 108 breaths is a good benchmark for when we have reached this stage.
- Close attention: occurs when the practitioner is able to maintain his attention throughout the entire meditation session (an hour or more) without losing their mental hold on the meditation object at all. In this stage the practitioner achieves the power of mindfulness. Nevertheless, this stage still contains subtle forms of excitation and dullness or laxity.
- Tamed attention: by this stage the practitioner achieves deep tranquility of mind, but must be watchful for subtle forms of laxity or dullness, peaceful states of mind which can be confused for calm abiding. By focusing on the future benefits of gaining Shamatha, the practitioner can uplift his mind and become more focused and clear.
- Pacified attention: is the stage during which subtle mental dullness or laxity is no longer a great difficulty, but now the practitioner is prone to subtle excitements which arise at the periphery of meditative attention. This stage is usually achieved only after thousands of hours of rigorous training.
- Fully pacified attention: although the practitioner may still experience of subtle excitement or dullness, they are rare and he can easily recognize and pacify them.
- Single-pointed attention: in this stage the practitioner can reach high levels of concentration with only a slight effort and without being interrupted even by subtle laxity or excitement during the entire meditation session.
- Attentional Balance: the meditator now effortlessly reaches absorbed concentration and can maintain it for about four hours without any single interruption.