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Starting Out Small - A Collection of Talks for Beginning Meditators
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Translated from the Thai by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Three Principles

July 6, 1956

In brief, there are three principles that are really basic to meditation:

1) The right intention: You have to make up your mind that you're going to let go of all thoughts and preoccupations dealing with the world. You aren't going to keep them to think about. Every thought and concept dealing with the past or future is an affair of the world, and not of the Dhamma. Make up your mind that you're going to do one thing right now: the work of the religion, and nothing else. In other words, you're going to work on the immediate present. This is called the right intention.

2) The right object: This means the right theme or focal point for the mind. The theme here is dhatuvavatthana, or resolution into the properties, one of the themes in taking the body as a frame of reference (kayanupassana-satipatthana). In short, we're going to look at the four properties that make up the body: the properties of earth, water, wind, and fire. The earth property covers the hard parts of the body, such as the bones. The water property covers the liquid parts, such as urine, saliva, blood, and pus. The fire property covers the heat and warmth in the body. The wind property covers the feelings of energy that flow in the body, such as the breath. Of all these properties, the most important one is the wind property, or the breath. If other parts of the body get damaged -- say, if our eyes go blind, our ears go deaf, our arms and legs get broken -- it can still survive. But if it doesn't have any breath, it can't last. It'll have to die. So the breath is an important object because it forms a basis for our awareness.

3) The right quality: This means the feelings of comfort or discomfort that arise in the body. When you take care of the in-and-out breath so that it flows freely through the various parts of the body, it'll give rise to results. Take good note of whether the results that the body and mind reap from the breath are good or bad. Does the body feel open and at ease, or does it feel tight and constricted? Does the mind feel calm, quiet, and pleasant, or is it irritable, distracted, and chaotic? If the body and mind feel at ease, that counts as good results. If the opposite is true, then that counts as bad results. So you have to gain a sense of how to adjust the breath so that it becomes comfortable.

As for the right qualities of the mind, those are mindfulness and alertness.

Try to keep following these three basic principles every time you practice concentration. Only then will you get results that are full and correct.

As for the rewards of concentration, there are lots of them. They arise in line with the power of the mind of the person meditating, as I'll explain at a later date.



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