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Yoga Practice

It appears that all the four forms of samadhi that we have just now described were in existence even long before Buddha. This fact with many other points of resemblance which we have noticed before would offer strong ground for inferring that Buddha might have derived a large part of the groundwork of his philosophy, theoretical as well as practical, from the Yoga doctrines which were then only in a floating condition. It has often been maintained that Buddha was much indebted to Sankhya philosophy, but if that is true to any extent, nowhere does this indebtedness come out in so remarkable a manner as in Yoga ethics and practice, fields of enquiry which Yoga can particularly claim as its own as apart from Sankhya.

Thus to give a brief account of Buddhist dhyana after Anesaki and Takakusu, we find that dhyana is divided into four degrees. Even the first and the lowest of the four dhyanas corresponds in its quality to a state higher than the sixth of the eight constituents of Yoganga. To reach the first dhyana several preliminary practices are needed. These correspond to the first five constituents of Yoga. First of all one has to keep the precepts and rules (shila) laid down by the Buddha (yama of the Yogangas); secondly to keep one's body and mind pure and serene, living in solitary retirement away from the people in a forest or a cave and sitting cross legged always thinking on an object. A novice should as a preparatory measure practice the meditation on love and compassion (mettakarunabhavana) in which he is to regard all sentient beings as his brothers, desiring their happiness and welfare as all the good that he would seek for himself. A novice who needs concentration of attention should practice at first the method of counting the number of his inspirations and expirations. A novice whose impure desire is too hard to be suppressed, should meditate on the impurity and impermanence of the human body. Childers thus explains the four states with reference to the process of meditation: He concentrates his mind upon a single thought. Gradually his soul becomes filled with a supernatural serenity, while his mind still reasons upon and investigates the subject chosen for contemplation: this is the first jhana called vitakka. Still fixing his thoughts upon the same subject, he then frees his mind from reasoning and investigation, while the ecstasy and serenity remain, and this is the second jhana vicara; next his thoughts still fixed as before, he divests himself of ecstasy and attains the third jhana sukham, which is a state of tranquil serenity. Lastly he passes to the fourth jhana, in which the mind exalted and purified is indifferent to all emotions alike of pleasure and pain called upekkha. The ideal of early Buddhism thus being the equilibrium of morals (shila), meditation, dhyana, and knowledge, prajna, is quite in harmony with the Yoga teaching.

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