Please understand as well that the way of Buddhism is not a hard and fast system. The recommendations coming directly from the Buddha are the best because he took the nature of human beings into account. But they are not set in stone. The whole of Buddhism is a method. You can adapt the method to your own needs. You needn’t practice exactly according to what the books say. Being a method, the Buddha’s teaching is not itself an absolute truth. It is true as far as the world goes, but absolute truth is something utterly beyond.
To begin with, you must start off by using the regular methods, because you don’t yet know. But once you’ve become used to the regular methods, then you can start searching about a bit more. You eventually find out what works and you use it. You must always test new methods by the results they give. Do the results lead to more calm, more understanding? Or do they lead to less calm and less understanding? If the methods lead to more calm and greater understanding, they are probably worth pursuing.
Experiment for yourself to find out the best practice for you. That’s the way of kammaṭṭhāna. The word kammaṭṭhāna means “basis of action” or “field of action.” The field of action is the whole of what we do in the scope of meditation practice. In practicing kammaṭṭhāna, the idea is to be innovative. You have to think for yourself quite a lot. You must search for and find your own methods. When you come up against a problem in your meditation, you should work out the best way to overcome that problem. Often, people who practice kammaṭṭhāna have their own unique meditation methods which are quite different from those other people use. You must learn to find tricks that help you to overcome the problems you encounter in the practice. Then you can work out the answers for yourself.
The defilements of the mind do not behave in a predictable and orderly fashion. Instead, they create havoc in your thoughts and emotions and in the process cause numerous problems. Because of that, there are times when you have to use morality to overcome a problem, times when you have to use samādhi and times when you have to use wisdom. Normally, it’s recommended that samādhi be practiced first to control the mind before developing wisdom. But when a problem arises where it’s appropriate to employ wisdom first, then that’s the right choice for that situation and you should use it.
This reflection by Ajaan Pannavaddho is from the book, Uncommon Wisdom, pp. 142-143.