(1’)) Intention and the way it stops laxity and excitement
Asanga’s Compendium of Knowledge:
What is intention? It is the mental activity of applying your mind, having the function of drawing your mind to virtue, nonvirtue, or the ethically neutral.
This is how you should understand it. For example, iron filings are compelled to move under the influence of a magnet. Similarly, the mental process of intention moves and stimulates your mind toward virtue, nonvirtue, or the ethically neutral. So it here refers to an intention that applies your mind to the elimination of laxity or excitement when one of them occurs.
Question: After you have thus aroused your mind to eliminate laxity and excitement, how do you stop laxity and excitement?
Reply: Mental laxity involves a very excessive inward withdrawal, leading to a slippage in the way you apprehend the object of meditation; so you should direct your mind to delightful things that cause it to expand outward. This should be something like a very beautiful image of the Buddha, not something delightful that gives rise to afflictions. Or bring to mind an image of light, such as sunlight. When this clears away laxity, immediately tighten the way you apprehend the object and sustain that in meditation. As Kamalasila’s first Stages of Meditation explains:
How? When you are overcome with lethargy and sleepiness, when there is a lack of clarity in your apprehension of the object of meditation and your mind has become lax, then meditate on the idea of light or bring to mind the most delightful things, such as the qualities of the Buddha. Dispel laxity in this way and firmly hold on to the object of meditation.
In this situation, do not meditate on a disenchanting object because disenchantment causes your mind to withdraw inward.
When you expand your mind by using discerning wisdom to analyze an object of your choice, this also stops laxity. Aryasura’s Compendium of the Perfections says:
When slack, your mind is stimulated and inspired
By virtue of the energy of striving for insight.
Thus laxity, or slackness, is as follows. The state of mind the two terms describe is called “laxity” because there is a decline in the way you apprehend the object of meditation. It is called “slackness” because there is an excessive withdrawal inward. You counteract it by stimulating the way you apprehend the object and by making the object of meditation extensive, so as to expand your mind. Bhavaviveka’s Heart of the Middle Way states:
In the case of slackness, expand your mind
By meditating on an extensive object.
Further, in the case of slackness, inspire yourself
By observing the benefits of joyous perseverance.
Also, Santideva’s Compendium of Trainings states: “If your mind becomes slack, inspire yourself by cultivating delight.” The great scholars and adepts are in agreement on this matter.
So here is the most important remedy for stopping laxity: When you reflect on the good qualities of such things as the three jewels, the benefits of the spirit of enlightenment, and the great significance of attaining leisure, it should have a bracing effect on your mind, just as cold water is thrown in the face of a sleeping person. This depends on your having had experience with discerning analytical meditation on these beneficial topics.
If you cultivate a remedy for being accustomed to the underlying causes of laxity—namely, lethargy, sleepiness, and something that induces these two wherein your mind takes on a gloomy aspect—then laxity resulting from these causes will not arise or, if it has arisen, will stop. In this regard, Asanga’s Sravaka Levels suggests such activities as going for a walk; holding an image of brightness in your mind and familiarizing yourself with it repeatedly; pursuing any of the six recollections—the Buddha, the teaching, the community, ethical discipline, generosity, and the deities; stimulating your mind by means of other inspiring objects of meditation; orally reciting teachings that discuss the faults of lethargy and sleepiness; gazing in different directions and at the moon and stars; and washing your face with water.
Also, if laxity is very slight and occurs only infrequently, tighten up your apprehension of the object and continue meditating; but if laxity is dense and seems to occur repeatedly, suspend your cultivation of concentration, clear away laxity using any of those remedies, and then resume your meditation.
Whether your object of meditation entails directing your mind inward or outward, if the object is unclear and you have the sense of darkness—slight or dense—descending on your mind, then it will be hard to cut through laxity if you continue to meditate without eliminating it. Therefore, as a remedy for that, repeatedly meditate on the appearance of light. Asanga’s Sravaka Levels states:
Cultivate serenity and insight correctly, with a mind that is bright and radiant, a mind of clear light, free of gloom. On the way to serenity and insight, meditate on a sense of brightness in this way. If you do, then even if at the outset your interest in an object of meditation is dull and brightness is fading, the cause and condition of having accustomed yourself to that meditation will clarify your interest in the object of meditation and lead to great brightness. If there is clarity and great brightness at the outset, clarity and brightness will later become still more vast.
So since he says you should cultivate brightness even when the object of meditation is clear from the beginning, this is all the more true when it is unclear. Asanga’s Sravaka Levels also describes how to hold the sign of brightness in meditation:
Hold in meditation the sign of brightness from the light of an oil- lamp, the light of a bonfire, or the orb of the sun.
Meditate on the sign of brightness not only while cultivating concentration, but on other occasions as well.
Lamrim Chenmo Pg62LL13-Pg65L04