(b’)) Eliminating flawed methods
There are misconceptions to dispel, such as the following.
Wrong position: If you set your consciousness at a high level as you have explained above and then tightly stabilize it without discursiveness, there will indeed not be even the slightest fault of laxity. However, since this increases excitement, you will see that you cannot prolong stability, and your elevated consciousness is brought down. As you will see that relaxing a well-tightened mind quickly leads to stability, this technique is a great personal instruction.
Reply: With a sense of assurance, these words proclaim in a loud voice, “Good relaxation is good meditation.” Yet, they fail to differentiate laxity and meditation. Thus, as explained above, flawless concentration must have two features; the firm stability of non-discursive attention does not alone suffice.
Wrong position: At that time, laxity is when your mind darkens and becomes clouded; without this, your mind has a limpid clarity, so your concentration is flawless.
Reply: As this statement does not differentiate lethargy and laxity, I will elaborate on them later.
Thus, if you use an intense cognition that is too tight, you may have clarity, but excitement will predominate so that it will be hard to develop stability. If you sustain your meditation after becoming greatly relaxed, then you may have stability, but laxity will predominate so that there is no vivid intensity. It is very hard to find the right balance of tension so as to be neither too taut nor too relaxed, and for this reason it is hard to develop a concentration free from laxity and excitement. With this in mind, the master Candragomin stated in his Praise of Confession:
If I use exertion, excitement arises;
If I abandon it, slackness ensues;
It is hard to find the right balance in this—
What should I do with my troubled mind?
The meaning of this is as follows: “Use exertion” means your mind is too tight; when you do this, excitement arises. When you let the tightness go and relax too much, you produce slackness, with your attention remaining inward. So it is difficult to find the proper balance for an even state of mind, free from laxity and excitement. Again, Buddhasanti’s Commentary on the “Praise of Confession” says:
“Exertion” here refers to tightly focusing your mind on virtue with clear enthusiasm.
After you see the problem of incipient excitement, you abandon your exertion; that is, you give up your effort. Thereupon, your attention becomes slack.
Candragomin’s Praise of Confession also states:
If I strain to engage the object, excitement occurs;
If I relax, slackness develops.
It is hard to find a practice midway between these two—
What should I do with my troubled mind?
Buddhasanti’s commentary on this is clear:
If you strain for a tight focus on the object and exert yourself, your mind becomes excited and distracted, and you thereby destroy your concentration. Therefore, you are not attaining mental stability through exertion. This is problematic, so in order to avoid it you relax your mind, which has been straining to engage the object, and give up your exertion. Then faults such as forgetting the object of meditation lead to slackness and laxity.
Therefore, Candragomin says “it is hard to find” a concentration that is the right balance or midway practice free from the two extremes of laxity and excitement. If getting quite relaxed were adequate, there would not be any problem at all. Since the text says that this leads to laxity, it is obviously improper to use this method to achieve concentration.
It is not enough to have the clarity which is simply the limpid quality of a very relaxed mind; there also must be a degree of tightness in the way you apprehend the object. In his discussion of the method used in the first two of the nine mental states, the noble Asanga says:
For stabilizing and properly stabilizing your mind on this object, there is the attention of tight focus.
Also, Kamalasila’s first Stages of Meditation says:
After you clear away laxity, firmly hold just the object of meditation.
And Kamalasila’s second Stages of Meditation states:
Then, after you have quelled laxity, by all means make it so that your mind very clearly sees just the object of meditation.
When Kamalasila says “your mind very clearly sees,” he does not mean only that the object is clear; he means that your mind’s way of apprehending the object is clear and firm.
The above-mentioned way of maintaining mindfulness is extremely important. Without knowing it your meditation will show a great number of faults, such as slipping into great forgetfulness commensurate with the amount of your meditation or dulling the wisdom that differentiates phenomena. Nevertheless you mistakenly presume that you have a solid concentration.
Lamrim Chenmo Pg50LL02-Pg53L06