English Translation 3.8.6
3.8.6 Proficiency in Maintaining proper Attention in a skillful Way1
… Thus, ‘in successive order’ means that from the very beginning of the study one’s attention should be focussed from part by part uninterruptedly, without any intervals.
Because if one would impart attention with intervals, it can be compared with an unskilled person who ascends a staircase with thirty-two steps but climbs it by stepping on every alternate stair only. Physically exhausted he would fall down without terminating the climb. Likewise (by giving attention with intervals) one gets exhausted in one’s mind and fails in one’s practise, as one does not achieve the gratification that one would by successful development.
(Even) ‘Following in successive order’ should then not be done ‘too rapidly.’
Because if one would impart attention too rapidly it can be compared with someone who was to enter on a journey of three yojanas (21 miles) without taking notice what correct path to take and what wrong path to avoid - even so one has walked this road fast and hastily a hundred times - one reaches the end of the road only by asking how one should go. Likewise (by giving attention too rapidly) one may accomplish one’s meditation but not with clarity and it does not trigger distinction. Therefore, one should not proceed with one’s attention too rapidly.
(Even) moving one’s attention not ‘too quickly’ should then likewise not be done ‘too slowly.’
Because if one would impart attention too slowly it can be compared with someone who plans to enter on a one-day-journey of three yojanas (21 miles) but during his way he loiters about at trees, mountains, lakes and such like and will not complete his journey in time. He would rather take two or three days before he accomplishes his journey. Likewise (by giving attention too slowly) one may not accomplish one’s aim of meditation nor attain any condition for distinction.
‘Warding off distraction’ means to reject (the tendency) of letting go of meditation - being affected by numerous external objects of the mind. Thus, distraction should be warded off.
Because if it (this tendency) doesn’t get rejected it can be compared with someone who enters upon a steep path that is just one foot wide and having entered upon this path by looking here and there may miss his step and fall down the precipice of a height of hundred men. Thus it is the same with outside distraction - awareness on meditation shrinks and gets lost. Therefor one should give attention by warding off distraction.
1. Manasikārakosallaṃ: manasikāra + kosallaṃ: attention + skill, proficiency