Jomo and the Tale of the Six Buckets

First Installment 2-7-13

Jomo decided he wanted to study meditation. So he went to speak with one of the monks who lived in a hut in the hills above the village fields.

Upon reaching one of the elders he asked, “Please sir, would you be kind enough to give me some instruction in the basics of meditation?”

The Elder replied: “Jomo I have not known your family well, but I know you are already familiar with the basics of meditation.  The first step is to set aside a place in your home that is your place to meditate.  If you want, you can decorate this area with some painting or statue that evokes for you a quiet and reflective mood. Then sit quietly either cross legged or in a chair with your back up right in silence and stillness for 20 or 30 minutes at the beginning of the day and in the early evening.

The Elder continued, “Many of the monks and nuns prefer to use a sacred word that they repeat over and over again as they seek to quiet the mind. Others prefer to use the breath as it passes in and out of the nose. In either case,when the mind wanders very gently bring your attention back to the breath of sacred word. What is most important is to bring the attention back to the breath without any condemnation or self-reproach.

These are the basics of sitting practice. But there is something else I suggest.

Please find 6 buckets in your father’s barn and bring them up here to the hills and stay in one of the empty huts for a day or two when you have the time to do so.

In the first bucket place every teaching of spirituality that you are sure is completely true.

In the second bucket place every teaching of spirituality that you are not sure is true but which you think may be true and which you are willing to study further.

In the third bucket place whatever you feel are your most important doubts and unanswered questions about spirituality or philosophy.

In the fourth bucket place every teaching of spirituality you have said you believe but which upon closer scrutiny you realize you either do not really understand or feel it may not actually be true.

In the fifth bucket place every teaching you really do not understand at all and cannot see any way to ever find out if it is true or false.

In the sixth bucket place every teaching which you feel is just plain wrong even if many other people tell you forcefully that it is true.

Once you have sorted these different teachings out and placed them in the different buckets this is what I suggest that you do. Spend as much time as you wish reflecting on the teachings or doubts in the first three buckets. Then take the other three buckets and empty them out and set them aside. You can always fill them again later if you feel it is important to do so.

With that the Elder smiled and Jomo did as well for he understood clearly what the Elder had said.

Taking the time to understand what beliefs you are sure are true and what are your most significant unanswered questions is an important discernment to make as you begin serious studies and meditation practice.

For the beliefs we hold to be most true shape the nature and tone of our approach to silent meditation.

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