How to Do Analytical Meditation

The Method

We often do "analytical meditation" in daily life.

  • Example: We're attached to someone, we assert, "She's wonderful," then we think of reasons to prove that.
    • All the reasons strengthen our feeling that she's wonderful; thus, our attachment grows and we think we have to be with her in order to be happy.
    • If somebody else disagrees, we don't listen because we are completely convinced.
    • Analytical meditation is like this.
  • We can do the same with "analytical meditation" about anger, about grief, etc.
    • This is how "analytical meditation" reinforces our disturbing attitudes.

We can use the same technique to reflect on Dharma topics for the purpose of increasing our constructive attitudes.

  • We repeatedly contemplate a particular topic and the reasons used to prove its various points.
  • We use whatever reasons and examples we can to make the meditation topic clear and convincing, and keep the topic in mind without forgetting it.
  • As we do so, we'll experience the conclusion more and more strongly.
  • Then we hold this experience in our mind single-pointedly; this is a sign that our analytical meditation is yielding results.

Example: Meditation on Impermanence and Death

  • Go through the three root points and the nine subsidiary points one at a time.
  • Think about each point in depth, relate it to examples from our own life, use reasons, and apply it to our own experience.
  • As a result of meditating on the first root point, the feeling dawns in our mind that it's really important to practice Dharma.
  • At this point, stop analyzing and focus on that feeling as much as possible. This has a transformative effect on our mind.
  • Then go on to meditate on the second root point.

What If It's "Not Working"?

Analytical meditation is not simply intellectualizing.

  • By examining the steps of the path closely, with reasons and examples, and by applying it to our own lives, very strong experiences can arise that transform our mind.

If despite continuous meditation, no positive changes are noted, there is a danger of becoming immune to Dharma.

  • Temporarily stop analytical meditation.
  • Focus on practices that purify karmic obscurations and accumulate positive potential for a week or two.
    • These practices are important to prepare our mind for analytical meditation.
    • Our mind is like a field in which realizations grow from the seeds of listening to teachings.
    • For a seed to grow, the earth needs to be free from adverse conditions and to have conducive conditions (e.g., water, fertilizer, sunshine).
    • Purifying negativities in our mind is like ridding the soil from adversities; creating positive potential is like adding water, nutrients, and sunshine.
    • Now the seeds of realizations can gradually sprout and grow.
  • Guru yoga practices and making prayers of request to the Three Jewels are also helpful.
  • Then we can resume analytical meditation.

Glance Meditation or Analytical Meditation?

Glance meditation is sufficient for the first three sections in the Gradual Path (explaining the author's greatness, explaining the teaching's greatness, and the way to teach and listen to the teaching).

Analytical meditation is done on the topics in the fourth section ("The way to lead the disciple to enlightenment through the actual lamrim teachings"), starting from "how to rely on a spiritual guide."

  • Through analytical meditation, we gain certainty about each topic.
    • To gain certainty means to realize with a valid mind, and within the different types of valid mind, this refers to valid inference.
    • Inference is much firmer than belief; it is an irrefutable understanding reached through sound reasoning.
  • When we do analytical meditation on a topic, we reflect on the various points, making an effort to understand the reasons, the quotations, and their applications to our life.
    • We check to what extent our life experiences confirm the points in the lamrim.
    • We contemplate how to use the teachings to deal with situations and difficulties we encounter in our life.
  • When analytical meditation leads us to develop positive thoughts, feelings, and outlooks, this is called "experience requiring effort."
    • The experience is heartfelt, but at this stage, it fades when we stop thinking about the reasons.
    • To make it firm, we need to habituate ourselves to the experience that was generated with effort.
    • Eventually, it will become effortless, i.e., whenever we think of the topic, the experience will arise without doing analysis; this is called "effortless experience."
    • So the sequence is this:
      • Do glance meditation to become familiar with the general layout of a topic.
      • Do analytical meditation (i.e., apply effort) to generate the experience of it.
      • The experience eventually becomes effortless, because our mind has become so familiar with the topic.

The Order of Topics

In general, we should meditate on the steps of the Gradual Path in the order presented.

  • When we've gained deep experience or realization of one step, go on to the next.
  • Continue to do glance meditation on the previous steps to keep our experience of them vibrant.

Why should we do the analytical meditations in order?

  • If we neglect the meditations at the beginning of the path and skip ahead to love, compassion, and bodhicitta, we can't generate valid and firm realizations.
  • If we only do glance meditation and not analytical meditation, the realizations will not come; analytical meditation lets us get familiar enough with a topic until a stable experience arises.

Relying on a Spiritual Mentor

The topic of relying on a spiritual mentor is an exception.

  • Because the topic is difficult and takes a lot of time to realize, we make it our main meditation while also doing analytical meditation on the topics that follow.
  • We're advised to carry out several series of meditations on several points along the path concurrently.
    • This is like planting several seeds at once, thus having several trees blossom simultaneously.

Meditation Sessions

Within one meditation session, people who have received teachings on all the topics of the Gradual Path can proceed in various ways:

  • Do glance meditation on the entire path, then do analytical meditation on one topic.
  • Do analytical meditation on one topic, then do glance meditation on the other topics.
  • Do glance meditation up to the topic that we have reached in our analytical meditation, do the analytical meditation, then complete the glance meditation on the remaining steps.

Types of Meditation

There are two basic types of meditation:

  • Stabilizing meditation to develop single-pointed concentration
  • Analytical or checking meditation to develop deep understanding of the topics

Until one attains higher levels of the path, these two are done alternately.

  • When, through analytical meditation, we gain some understanding of a topic, then we focus on that understanding with stabilizing meditation.
  • By eliminating distractions, stabilizing meditation lets us habituate to the understanding we've generated through analytical meditation.

Have Some Flexibility According to Your Needs

Though we keep all this general advice in mind, it is important that we make sure that our meditation suits our mind.

  • If we feel comfortable doing analytical meditation on the various topics in a progressive way, we should go ahead with it.
  • If not, we should meditate on whatever topic we like.
  • If at some point, we can't get into analytical meditation, we can do prostrations, chant mantra, deity visualization, or recite prayers instead.

See also Analytical Meditation.

The Diagram

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