Monday, April 17, 2017

What is Buddhist MEDITATION for?

Francis Story (Anagarika Sugatananda), Buddhist Publication Society (Bodhi Leaves 15); Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero (eds.) Wisdom Quarterly
Meditation does a mind good. Just ask Alan Alda.

The mental exercise known as meditation is found in all religious systems.

Prayer is a form of discursive meditation, and in Hinduism the reciting of slokas and mantras is employed to tranquilize the mind to a state of receptivity.

In most of these systems the goal is identified with the particular psychic results that ensue, sometimes very quickly. And the visions that come in the semi-trance state, or the sounds that are heard, are considered to be the end-result of the exercise.

This is not the case in the forms of meditation practiced in Buddhism.

There is still comparatively little known about the mind, its functions and its powers, and it is difficult for most people to distinguish between self-hypnosis, the development of mediumistic states, and the real process of mental clarification and direct perception which is the object of Buddhist mental concentration.

The fact that mystics of every religion have induced on themselves states wherein they see visions and hear voices that are in accordance with their own religious beliefs indicates that their meditation has resulted only in bringing to the surface of the mind and objectifying the concepts already embedded in the deepest strata of their subconscious minds.

The Christian sees and converses with the saints of whom he already knows; the Hindu visualizes the gods of the Hindu pantheon, and so on. When Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the Bengali mystic, began to turn his thoughts towards Christianity, he saw visions of Jesus in his meditations, in place of his former eidetic images of the Hindu avatars.
The practiced hypnotic subject becomes more and more readily able to surrender himself to the suggestions made to him by the hypnotizer, and anyone who has studied this subject is bound to see a connection between the mental state of compliance he has reached and the facility with which the mystic can induce whatever kind of experiences he wills himself to undergo.

There is still another possibility latent in the practice of meditation; the development of mediumistic faculties by which the subject can actually see and hear beings on different planes of existence, the deva-lokas (divine-worlds) and the realm of the unhappy ghosts, for example. These worlds being nearest to our own are the more readily accessible, and this is the true explanation of the psychic phenomena of Western Spiritualism.
The object of Buddhist meditation, however, is none of these things.

Fat Peter Griffin finally takes up yoga...while driving for Uber ("Family Guy")
They arise as side-products, but not only are they not its goal, but they are hindrances which have to be overcome.

The Christian who has seen Jesus, or the Hindu who has conversed with Krishna may be quite satisfied that s/he has fulfilled the purpose of his religious life, but the Buddhist who sees a vision of the Buddha knows by that very fact that s/he has only succeeded in objectifying a mental concept, for the Buddha after his final nirvana is, in the Buddha's own words, no longer visible to devas or humans.
There is an essential difference, then, between Buddhist meditation and concentration and that practiced in other systems.

The Buddhist embarking on a course of meditation does well to recognize this difference and to establish in his own conscious mind a clear idea of what it is he is trying to do.

The root-cause of rebirth and suffering is ignorance (avijja, not-knowing) conjoined with and reacting upon craving (tanha, thirsting). These two causes form a vicious circle; on the one hand, concepts, the result of ignorance, and on the other hand, desire arising from concepts. The world of phenomena has no meaning beyond the meaning given to it by our own interpretation.
When that interpretation is conditioned by ignorance, we are subject to the state known as hallucination (vipallasa, or perversion).

Sañña-vipallasa, "hallucination of perception," citta-vipallasa, hallucination of consciousness, and ditthi-vipallasa, hallucination of views  cause us to regard that which is transitory (anicca) as permanent, that which is painful (dukkha) as a source of pleasure, and that which is unreal/impersonal (anatta), or literally without any self-existence, as being a real, self-existing entity.

Consequently, we place a false interpretation on all the sensory experiences we gain through the six channels of cognition, that is, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, sense of touch, and mind (cakkhu, sota, ghana, jivha, kaya, and mano -- as sense bases or ayatana). 

Physics, by showing that the realm of phenomena we know through these channels of cognition does not really correspond to the physical world known to science, has confirmed this Buddhist truth. We are deluded by our own senses. Pursuing what we imagine to be desirable, an object of pleasure, we are in reality only following a shadow, trying to grasp a mirage.

It is anicca, dukkha, anatta -- impermanent, unsatisfactory/associated with suffering, an impersonal/insubstantial.

Being so, it can only be the cause of impermanence, suffering, and insubstantiality, since like begets like; and we ourselves, who chase the illusion, are also impermanent, subject to suffering and without any persistent ego-principle. It is a case of a shadow pursuing a shadow.

The purpose of Buddhist meditation, therefore, is to gain more than an intellectual understanding of this truth, to liberate ourselves from the delusion and thereby put an end to both ignorance and craving.

If the meditation does not produce results tending to this consummation -- results which are observable in the character and the whole attitude to life -- it is clear that there is something wrong either with the system or with the method of employing it. It is not enough to see lights, to have visions or to experience ecstasy.

These phenomena are too common to be impressive to the Buddhist who really understands the purpose of Buddhist meditation. There are actual dangers in them which are apparent to one who is also a student of psychopathology. More

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