Continuous practice is the circle of the way. This being so, continuous practice is unstained, not forced by you or others. The power of continuous practice confirms you as well as others. It means your practice affects the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions. Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so.
(‘The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master’, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt- Shobogenzo Gyoji)
I’ve been sitting a lot with the controlling faculties of the four initial meditative states, as described in the Pali Canon sermon volumes.
Let me clarify what I mean by “a meditative state”. Here’s a description I made in Letting Go of Action of how a meditative or “hypnogogic” state is induced:
A hypnogogic state occurs naturally as the stretch and activity generated through the sense of location in the occurrence of awareness relaxes in the movement of breath.
This is an everyday occurrence, and I would agree with the view ascribed to the therapist Milton Erickson that “these states are so common and familiar that most people do not consciously recognize them as hypnotic phenomena” (Wikipedia for Milton Erickson).
Now, as to the controlling faculties, Gautama spoke of the cessation of a particular “controlling faculty” in each of the first four meditative states. In the first state, “the controlling faculty of discomfort, which has arisen, ceases without remainder.” Similarly, in the second state, “the controlling faculty of unhappiness” ceases; in the third, “the controlling faculty of ease” ceases; and in the fourth, “the controlling faculty of happiness, which has arisen, ceases without remainder.”
Gautama does say that there is a happiness in all the meditative states, and he even describes to his followers what they should say if adherents of other religious orders should question them on the matter:
(The Tathagatha does) not lay down that it is only a pleasant feeling that belongs to happiness; for, your reverences, the Tathagatha lays down that whenever, wherever, whatever happiness is found it belongs to happiness.
(MN I 4 , Pali Text Society II pg 69)
To my mind, the controlling faculty of ease Gautama speaks of is the familiarity of ease in stretch; the cessation of the controlling faculty of ease is the familiarity of stretch past the point of ease (but without strain); the controlling faculty of happiness is the familiarity of happiness in the distinction of the senses, including the sense of mind; and the cessation of the controlling faculty of happiness is the familiarity of the distinction of the senses past the happiness that is “only a pleasant feeling”.
I would have to say that elements of all the meditative states are present as “the stretch and activity generated through the sense of location… relaxes in the movement of breath”– which relaxation happens all the time!
“Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so.”