What is Meditation
Samudra Buddhist Centre, Buxton

INTRODUCTION

Buddha said that 'everything depends upon the mind.'

Experiences that we call happiness and suffering are states of mind. Therefore, the main causes of our happiness and suffering cannot be found outside the mind. Through meditation we can learn how to control our mind, increase our happiness, and reduce our suffering.

Although Buddha originally taught these meditation techniques 2,500 years ago, they remain to this day simple, practical and suitable for everyone.

Meditation classes look at ordinary, everyday topics. For example, how we get on with others, if we live stressful lives do we know how to cope, can we overcome our problems, etc? We hope to demonstrate that many problems are just difficult circumstances viewed with an unbalanced mind and that their solutions are to be found in controlling the mind through meditation rather than trying to change external conditions.

In ‘Understanding The Mind' Geshe-la writes:

‘In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress, but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness. There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it might be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the cause of happiness and the solution to our problems do not lie in knowledge and control of the external world. Happiness and suffering are states of mind and so their causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to he truly happy and free from suffering we must improve our understanding of the mind.'

It is because happiness and suffering depend upon the mind that if we want to avoid suffering and find true happiness we need to understand how the mind works and use that understanding to bring our mind under control. Only in this way can we begin to create inner peace, the actual source of our happiness, and thereby improve the quality of our life.



 

THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION

Extract from ‘The New Meditation Handbook':

The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. As mentioned earlier, if our mind is peaceful we shall be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we shall experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we shall find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we shall experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually we shall be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.

When our peace of mind is disturbed it is due to things that we call delusions such as anger and jealousy. The very opposite of a mind of anger is patience, so when we meditate on patience we are frequenting our mind with this virtue. Through constantly familiarising our mind with patience we can learn to overcome anger in all its many forms and, in this way, learn to reduce and eventually eradicate its disturbing effects. This is how we use meditation to promote peaceful states of mind.

To begin with we simply contemplate the disadvantages of disturbing minds such as anger and the advantages of virtuous minds such as patience. Eventually, having mixed these ideas with our own experiences, we come to a conclusion that arises in the form of a special feeling that seems to encapsulate our determination to practise virtue. This feeling is our object of meditation and when it arises we meditate on it for as long as we can with good concentration.

There are many ways to incorporate contemplation and meditation into our daily lives. To do this we don't always have to engage in formal meditation sessions. For example, when we are working, shopping, walking, driving, and so forth we can also be thinking of ways to overcome our problems and increase our inner peace. A simple daily activity such as cleaning can be transformed in this way into a powerful practice that will help us to purify negative minds:

In ‘Great Treasury of Merit' Geshe-la says:

‘If our room, our clothes, or our body are dirty we clean them straight away. In the same way, if our mind is unclean we should clean it immediately. Having a dirty room or dirty clothes will cause us only minor problems, but having an impure mind will cause great suffering in this and future lives.'

While we are cleaning we should regard all the dust and dirt as the filth of our own non-virtuous actions and delusions and think:

"This is the dirt of my ignorance, I am removing it. These are the stains of my destructive deeds, I am eliminating them."

If we have an especially strong emotional problem, such as strong desirous attachment, we can concentrate on it and clean vigorously, thinking:

"This is the grime of my attachment, I am extracting it from my mind"

The benefits of training in meditation are, through sincerely training in meditation on the teachings given in this course you will attain spiritual realisations, which lead you to permanent liberation from all the sufferings of this life and countless future lives. There is no greater meaning than this. Even temporarily, whenever you experience problems, unpleasant feelings, depression or unhappiness you can solve these problems immediately by transforming your mind into peace through your meditation practice. The benefits of meditation are immeasurable.


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