Meditation is a mental and spiritual discipline that teaches us to work with our minds and souls in a way so that we can see the true meaning of things that can not be easily seen. Meditation leads to tranquility and purification from negative states of our mind, which can guide people to reach nirvana, which is the total realization of our divine potential, also known as “enlightenment”. Attitude is the key part of meditation. If people have a positive attitude towards this technique, and they accept the purpose and reasons for meditation, that person will be more likely to have better results than people that show a negative attitude toward meditation and their conflicts in life. Narvin R. said:
If you have an attitude of wanting to achieve something, or change something within the mind, this will prevent meditation and result instead in mental conflict and tension. (Nairn, 47)
Meditation is being in a process of allowing your anxieties, fears, and anger to calm down so that one can order their own mind. The practice of this technique will lead to a state of serenity and peace in their lives. Not everyone is able to practice meditation correctly. Meditation can be compared to any sport, for example, basketball. Everyone can try to play this sport but only a few of people know the rules and the central dogma of the game. Others just play the game as they choose. This mistake will lead to a misinterpretation of the real purpose of meditation, and to a misunderstanding of its use in psychological terms; this could provoke psychosis (insanity). Meditation must be practiced with great discipline and awareness to obtain positive results, otherwise, it can cause problems in your psychological and spiritual well being.
Inner self-acceptance is the basis for inner harmony and peace. If it does not exist, there is going to be chaos and disorder in ourselves. That’s why meditation helps people to accept themselves, so they can live in peace. "Any attitude of wanting to change or manipulate the mind or enforce a different mind state contributes to non-acceptance and will lead to trouble.” (Nairn, 49). Another important part of mediation is love and compassion. Love and compassion make meditation possible, and these two capacities are developed through spiritual endeavors, “We manifest what we are.” (Nairn, 50). If during meditation harmony and peace is not obtained, it can turn to frustration, deception and anger, and of course, misinterpretation of the real meaning of meditation.
Meditation is, “A path that leads to our own depths, away from external superficiality to inner realization, and total fulfillment.” (Nairn, 55). Meditation liberates people from suffering in all its forms and manifestations. Meditation makes people be able to see things as they really are and not as they appear to be like.
Why meditate? Some experts such as Dr. Welwood, John, who was a therapist and clinical psychologist, argued that therapy and meditation can be complementary in medical treatment, even though sometimes those two terms are seen as opposite terms for many people. Many people deny themselves through mental discipline the ability to overcome fears, pain, anxiety, and to find answers, motivation, mindfulness, forgiveness, and of course, “enlightenment”. Only a few people who use this practice are in search of answers, therapy, true love, and simplicity in their lives: “Everyone wants happiness yet few of use seem to find it.” (McDonald, 1)
In modern societies almost everyone wants to find happiness and get rid of every sign of suffering. People try almost everything to find true happiness. Many people look for happiness in possessions such as cars, electronics, houses, etc.. Others find happiness in sports and being “social," but what is the real path to fulfillness? “We do not experience happiness with things outside ourselves.” (McDonald, 1). This does not mean to give up our possessions and friends, but instead, to look for a mental and spiritual discipline that helps us to find happiness such as meditation. Meditation does not help to solve and escape from suffering. Meditation only helps to see thing in a new, better way, or in a way that makes things easier and simpler. But is meditation safe and adequate for everyone?
In 1979 in Pune, India, a man who took a three-day Tibetan Buddhist meditation course in the mounts of Kathmandu killed himself just right after finishing his meditation training. When he came back to his meditation class he did not appeared to be distressed—something that is not common after this kinds of mental training. He climbed to the top of the Blue Diamond Hotel and leapt off. His guru (meditation teacher) tried to explain that that man had, “already reincarnated as a more enlightened soul" ( Bhagwan ). This is very controversial.
Should a person who just completed a meditation training kill himself? Could something be wrong in the way he interpreted his meditation training, or it was caused by a mental illness that he might have? Why would a disciplinary practice of the mind lead a man to kill himself? Was this training not appropriate for this man, or was he practicing his technique wrong? What else could be the cause of his suicide?
Meditation could be dangerous for some people. Since 1970, meditation has been used in the West as a way to reduce stress and bring relaxation, and even deal with depression. It has been implemented in classrooms, hospitals, and prisons in many parts of the world including the U.S., Australia, Canada, and England. Many people assume that meditation is good and secure for everyone, even though meditation is considered only for relaxation and relief stress. Many gurus in the East argue that people who start practicing meditation in the West may misuse it. Sir Dhammanada, a Buddhist monk in 2006 said, “No one can attain Nibbana (nirvana) or salvation without developing the mind trough meditation. Meditation is a gentle way of conquering the defilements which pollute the mind.” Also Dhammananda warned:
The practice of meditation has been abused by people. They want immediate and quick results, just as they expect quick returns for everything they do in daily life ... the mind must be brought under control in slow degrees and one should not try to reach for the higher states without proper training. We have heard of over-enthusiastic young men and women literally going out of their minds because they adopted the wrong attitudes towards meditation. (Garden, M.)
Dr. Lorin R., a meditation teacher, also arguments that the major problem in the West is that people interpret Buddhist and Hindu teachings in a different way than they do. The Dali Lama says:
Westerners who proceed too quickly to deep meditation should learn more about Eastern traditions and get better training than they usually do. Otherwise, certain physical or mental difficulties appear. (Garden, M.)
Many people think that meditation makes the mind go blank, or to stop thinking, but instead meditation is to concentrate on only one thought (problem) and search for solutions to gain a better understanding of the thought. Many people believe that meditation is to sit down and wait for “enlightenment” by itself, and this may cause frustration and confusion instead of leading to inner peace and relaxation.
The first thing a follower of this mental discipline must do is self-acceptance. Accepting feelings, thoughts, and the mind itself, will help you to reach inner mental peace. If self acceptance is not accomplished or changed, it is going to turn to self-rejection and rebellion against yourself. “This attitude will cause a build-up of tension and suppressed emotional energy, which well eventually burst upon conciseness and cause confusion.” (Nairn, 48).
Another problem that many followers of meditation found is unconditional love for themselves. If people do not have unconditional love for themselves, then they will not be able love others. Emotional conflict, confusion, and tension in our souls will be present in our daily world.
Tibetan monks refer to meditation as “gom," which can be translated as, “to become familiar.” Buddhist meditation involves making ourselves familiar with positive states such as love, compassion, serenity, and wisdom, so that these states become spontaneous and normal in our lives, and meditation becomes a way of life. There are many systems (techniques) of meditation, but according to Tibetan monks there are only two different categories of meditation: Stabilizing Meditation and Analytic Meditation.
This system of meditation is used to increase concentration and to attain calmness called “Shamata," which helps to maintain focus for long periods of time in a single object, in a peaceful and relaxed mode. Stabilizing meditation often use only a simple object to focus and meditate on. This could be the simplicity of our own breath, a concept, the nature of the wind and the natural world, or just an image without any disturbance. “And certainly, without concentration successful meditation is impossible” (McDonald, 9).
Stabilizing meditation is cataloged as one of the hardest techniques of meditation due because followers must keep their minds under total control during long periods of time. This consists of maintaining full attention to their sole object of focus. The benefits of this meditation, according to the followers of this systems, is that meditators can experience full understanding of their thoughts and ideas. As a result, they are more able to live in harmony with themselves and with the world that surrounds them.
This other system of meditation has for goal to develop a correct understanding of the real way of how thing are, and finally to reach “Vipashyana”, which helps followers to see the ultimate nature and origins of things. This meditation technique uses creative and intellectual thought, ideas and koans, which are fundamentally important for the purpose of analytic meditation in order to develop critical thinking. The objective of this meditation system is to gradually eliminate feelings, thoughts an emotions that bring unhappiness to humans, and replace them with positive and passive condition. This meditation system also has as a goal to treat psychological problems and it can be use as therapy. The problem that some follower find in this mental and spiritual practice is sometimes refer as “daydreaming” (McDonald, 11), that consist in a wrong interpretation and practice of this meditation technique.
From these two main categorizations of meditation many others systems and techniques derive from and each with different methods, purposes, and results, but all of them are base in harmony and peace.
Insight Meditation is one of the oldest systems of meditation and the majority of people who have practiced this kind of meditation concurred that is one of the best ways of meditation. This method was used first by the Buddha and it is often called “Vipasana”, it can be translated to “seeing things as they are”
Insight Meditation is the basic mind training known and teaches in all Buddhist schools and very popular among Western’s during the past 50 years. And it is being use as a safe path to change consciousness and allowing us to be free. This form of meditation has been use by many psychologists in the West to treat patients with chronic problems in both areas, spiritual and mental.
Insight Meditation is one of the simplest systems of meditation. And is one of the safest if it is correctly practiced. If this system of meditation is not correctly used and apply it can lead to confusion, and subversive due to that this system of meditation takes one into some areas of the mind that are quite complex. Insight Meditation is based in bare attention to all things we are doing. Even when we think “we are doing nothing” (Nairn, 60). This meditation system requires to be “psychologically present” (Nairn, 60) and with focused in whatever happens around us. Observing and analysing everything in a simple way, so simple that:
“When we are practising it, we cannot actually believe that anything valid is happening” (Nairn, 50)
The position is fundamentally important in this form of meditation, one must ensure to sit comfortably and ensure that nothing disturbs the concentration.
Transcendental meditation compares our minds to be like the ocean because at the top of the ocean the water is active with waves created by the wind and at the bottom is silent and passive. The surface of the mind is active and the conscious mind is working silent and passive creating the thoughts and ideas that after they are going to rise to the active surface of the mind. The main principle of transcendental meditation is that they compare the mind as an immense ocean where the though are created at the bottom of the ocean and arise as a bubble and as they arise they get bigger and bigger until they are perceived as a bubble at the surface of the ocean.
“This source of thought thus comes within the scope of the conscious mind”. (Morris, 32).
For this system of meditation karma is the foundation of it. The people who practice this system of meditation try to seek and find answers base on the karma, for example:
“Karma of the past life is responsible for the mind’s identity in the present life; the level of evolution gained by the mind in the past life gives it its status in the present life and, based on the Karma of the past life, the mind starts in the present life.” (Morris, 20)
The influence of karma acts directly in the existence of the human mind and its skills even though karma is consider inert. Without the mind karma cannot be produced. One of the most popular koans in this system of meditation is “Whether karma has to exist first so that the mind may be.”(Willis, 19). This koan is often resolved by the expression “The mind is born of karma and creates karma and karma is born of the mind and creates mind.” (Willis, 19). And therefore it can only be said that karma is the cause of the mind and that the mind is its cause, and turns to an endless cycle.
Transcendental meditation’s followers selected and concentrate in only one thought (proper thought) and the roots and cause of that thought is searched and analyzed, until its subtlest state is experienced and transcended. This system of meditation is not equally experience for everyone, thus the experience is based in the selected thought. Sometimes the selected though, if it is trained appropriate, it is able to see things in a subtle state, even hear, touch and think things in a subtle stage. This training consists of transcendental meditation. “Thinking is the sublet state of speech.” (Willis, 20).The practice of this system of Meditation is automatic, and simple.
“Thus we find the practice of Transcendental Meditation is a pleasant practice for every mind. Whatever the state of evolution of the aspirant, whether or not he is emotionally developed or intellectually advanced, his mind, by its very tendency to go to a field of greater happiness, finds its way to transcend the subtlest state of thinking and arrive at the bliss of absolute Being. That is why the practice of Transcendental Meditation is not only simple, but also automatic. ( Morris, 33).
Egocentric fixation results in negative state. These negative states hide in our consciousness at different levels there for they may manifest permanently or occasionally. And when they manifest our souls, minds, and bodies suffer, such as depression and jealousy. Meditation reveals the state of egocentric fixation and freed people from suffering, because people are able to see more clearly their negative states.
In conclusion by ignoring our conflicts, problems and all our negative unacceptable thoughts and feelings, they will cause conflicts, chronic tension, stress, fears, neurosis, and physical illness, and eventually madness. And these negative states will stay until something appropriate is done such as an appropriate employ of meditation. They are the causes of suffering in humans in modern societies. That is why many Western people are searching for a mental and spiritual rest that relieves them from suffering.
“Meditation is not an activity of the body”
People who practice meditation learn to have fewer unrealistic expectations of themselves and other people, so that they do not get disappointed, and suffer. The awareness of how things are, combined with love and compassion for everyone is known as” Enlightenment” that is a result of Mahayana Buddhist practice.
Misunderstanding of meditation can lead to frustration, anxiety, deception, anger and insanity, that is why it is so important to interpret meditation in the right way to reach peace and harmony in both the soul and the mind. Also it is crucial to choose the adequate technique of meditation according to personal goals, lifestyle, and the most important the intellectual and spiritual aptitude.
Meditation does not help to solve or run away from problems instead it helps to see things as they really are. That helps to take the adequate solution to solve the problem. And not to hide it since it will just become worse if it is not managed in an appropriate way.
A misinterpretation of meditation can lead to many mistakes since many techniques of meditation stimulates parts of the brain that are very sensible and can be disturbed easily if meditation is not completely understood. Also the key part of succeed in meditation is self-acceptance. Accepting yourself just who you are, will help to reach your goals in no only meditation but in every aspect of your life. And if self-acceptance is not reached it will lead to self-rejection and low self-esteem. Also a key part of meditation is unconditional love, since unconditional love can lead you to live in peace with your soul and mind and the world that surrounds you.
Also taking in count that every technique of meditation can be safe for everyone if it is followed and practiced correctly the risks of be unsuccessful is low, since, the only risks in meditation are cause by misunderstandings, misinterpretations of the techniques, or mental illness.
Clint, Willis. Why Meditate? New York: Illumina, 2001. (pg., 19-21, 273-279, 329-331)
Garden, Mary. Can Meditation Be Bad for You? October 2007. Ebscohost. December 28, 2008. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=13&hid=9&sid=cc71a89e-7ec0-4122-aba42f41436c1eb8%40SRCSM1&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=rch&AN=26266524
Gravious, John. Meditate on It. October 21, 2005. Galegroup. December 14, http://find.galegroup.com/itx/retrieve.do?subjectParam=Locale%252528en%25252C%25252C%252529%25253AFQE%25253D%252528su%25252CNone%25252C10%252529Meditation%252524%257E%2529_1&contentSet=IAC-Documents&sort=DateDescend&tabID=T002&sgCurrentPosition=0&subjectAction=VIEW_TOPIC_TREE&prodId=EAIM&searchId=R4¤tPosition=7&userGroupName=ko_k12hs_d62&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&sgHitCountType=None&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28su%2CNone%2C12%29%22Meditation%22%3AAnd%3AFQE%3D%28TX%2CNone%2C3%29zen%24&inPS=true&searchType=SubjectGuideForm&displaySubject=&docId=A147067694&docType=IAC
McDonald, Kathleen. How to Meditate. Boston: Wisdom publications, 2006. (pg. 3-12, 24-26, 97-98, 147,)
Morris, Bevan. Science of Being and Art of Living. Transcendental meditation. New York: Penguins Group, 2001. (pg. 19-23 29-33)
Nairn, Rob. What is Meditation? Buddhism for Everyone. Boston: Shamghala, 1999. pg 47-60