The Buddha’s Meditation. ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein

Via elephant journal
on Jul 1, 2011
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Photo: Huiping Ho

A puzzled man asked the Buddha: I have heard that some monks meditate with expectations, others meditate with no expectations, and yet others are indifferent to the result. What is the best?

The Buddha answered: Whether they meditate with or without expectations, if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any fruit from their meditation.

Think about it. Suppose a man wants to have some oil and he puts sand into a bowl and then sprinkles it with salt. However much he presses it, he will not get oil, for that is not the method.

Another man is in need of milk.  He starts pulling the horns of a young cow. Whether he has any expectations or not, he will not get any milk out of the horn, for that’s not the method.  Or if a man fills a jar with water and churns it in order to get butter, he will be left only with water.

It’s like filling a bowl with oil seeds and pressing them or milking a cow by pulling the udder or filling a jar with cream and churning it.  It’s the right method. ~ Majjhima Nikaya


What kind of meditation did the Buddha teach?

Truthfully speaking, no one clearly knows; however, we have a few good hints about the nature of the practice he might have taught from some of the Buddhist scriptures. From the above scripture, it is clear Buddha felt that unless one was using a correct method, one could not expect to gain Nirvana—the fully awakened state of absolute freedom and enlightenment.

Buddha also spoke of two qualities that he thought were fundamental to the fully-awakened state: Tranquility and Insight.

Two things will lead you to supreme understanding. What are those two?

Tranquility and Insight.

Photo: Kim

If you develop tranquility, what benefit can you expect?  Your mind will develop.

The benefit of a developed mind is that you are no longer a slave to your impulses.

If you develop insight, what benefit will it bring? You will find wisdom.

And the point of developing wisdom is that it brings you freedom from the blindness of ignorance.

A mind held bound by unconsidered impulse and ignorance can never develop true understanding. But by way of tranquility and insight the mind will find freedom.~ Anguttara Nikaya

It is interesting that the two most popular forms of Buddhist meditation that are taught today are called Samatha and Vipassana.

Samatha meditation is based on the intention and persistent effort on the part of the meditator to concentrate the mind on some specific object of meditation: the goal being to develop the ability of the mind to concentrate because when the mind is in a highly concentrated state, it is known to be tranquil and such a mind, it is thought, would make deep insight possible.

Since Buddha explained that only the right method would bring the fruit, it would be valuable to explore whether Samatha meditation, as it’s understood and practiced today, is the right method to bring tranquility to the mind. The term Samatha actually means calmness or tranquility: an integrated state where the mind is not in any way excited or active. It is directly related to the term Samadhi, the state in which the mind is completely settled and unwavering and is effortlessly held in a fully concentrated state.

What creates this tranquil state of mind? In its fully developed state, tranquility is produced by the unbounded peace, freedom and wakefulness that are experienced in the unconditioned, infinite state of Nirvana. It is the total freedom and absolute happiness of Nirvana that automatically and spontaneously absorbs and concentrates the mind.

Meditate, and in your wisdom realize Nirvana, the highest happiness. ~ Dhammapada

The misunderstanding regarding Samatha meditation, as it is understood and practiced today, is simply that the mind does not need to be trained to gain the ability to concentrate through the application of strenuous concentration practices.

Photo: Michael Day

The mind will automatically and spontaneously achieve this highly tranquil and concentrated state simply by the meditator knowing the technique of how to allow the mind to be effortlessly drawn in to the Bliss of Nirvana.

It is a common experience that the mind will naturally stay concentrated on anything that provides it with peace and contentment; this is an inherent capacity of the mind, so no training or practices of concentration are required.

It is the fulfillment naturally produced by of the state of Nirvana that concentrates the mind and this happens without any effort on the part of the meditator if he or she is using a right method of meditation.

Through the regular and effortless practice of a right method, the vital quality of tranquility will become stabilized in the life of the meditator and, as Buddha said, one will then no longer be a slave to one’s impulses.

In addition, because it is the natural tendency of the mind to move on to a field of stable peace and contentment in a spontaneous manner, the individual’s effort to try to control the mind to remain only on one limited object of attention, as is done with Samatha meditation today, actually obstructs the mind from rushing on to the ever-constant infinity and happiness it so much needs and desires.

However, it is not Samatha meditation that is the most popular type of Buddhist meditation; the most widely used form today is Vipassana or Mindfulness meditation. Vipassana is also referred to as Insight meditation, because through its practice one is supposed to develop penetrating insight into the true nature of reality. Buddha explained that through Vipassana, which literally means through insight, one should gain the wisdom that brings you freedom from the blindness of ignorance.

These days, Vipassana/Mindfulness meditation is practiced by the practitioner having the intention to be an impartial observer of some natural process occurring within his or her body, mind or emotions. For example, one is asked to just observe or be mindful of the rising and falling of the abdomen during the process of breathing, or to just impartially observe the incoming and outgoing of the breath itself.

Another popular form of this meditation is to mindfully observe the body in the natural act of walking or during the process of standing up or sitting down. The key element is to try to be continuously aware of whatever process is taking place without in any way interfering with or reacting to, either positively or negatively, the process that is occurring in the moment.

The idea is to try to be fully aware of the raw experience that is always happening and transforming by noting and letting go of each arising and subsiding sensation. This practice is supposed to bring one deep insight, perfect wisdom, into the ultimate reality of the true nature of existence in both its conditioned and unconditioned states.

Photo: Bruce

Unfortunately, this attempt to develop and obtain Insight through the practice of trying to be an impartial observer is not a right method. The reason for this is that the impartial observer, which alone is capable of right mindfulness and genuine Insight, is the fully-awakened state of Nirvana Itself.

The true impartial observer is never the attention or mind that is attempting to watch a process. The reason for this is that this very attempt is a part of the process itself; it is not outside the process.

In stark contrast to this, the genuine impartial observer is completely outside any and every process of the rising and falling of any conditioned state of existence; it is completely beyond the mind and any human intention or effort to observe anything.

Buddha asked the question: ‘What is right mindfulness?’ And, he answered in the following way:

When going, the monk knows ‘I am going’, or, when standing, he knows ‘I am standing’, or, when lying down, he knows ‘I am lying down’. Or in whatever position his body is placed, he is aware of it….Whether he goes, stands or sits, sleeps or is awake, speaks or is silent, he is acting with full attention. ~ Digha Nikaya

In this above quote, it is vital to note that Mindfulness should be present even when one is sleeping. In other words, the process of sleep should be able to be witnessed or observed as it is naturally occurring.

At first glance, the impartial observation of sleep would seem to be impossible because if one is asleep how could one observe anything? The key to understanding this is that it is not the mind that is observing; in the state of sleep, the mind is sleeping and is not aware of the sleeping process or anything else.

However, it is possible for the Absolute state of consciousness, the state of Nirvana, to impartially witness the sleeping process. It is the unconditioned, transcendental, Absolute state of consciousness that is the true impartial observer of all the ever-changing values of the conditioned aspects of life, including the mind and its intentions.

It is this supreme value of life alone that is capable of being impartial because only It is without any lack and nothing can be subtracted or added to Its eternal status. Consequently, it is only the Absolute existence of the fully-awakened state that is capable of totally penetrating into the true nature of life and gaining the supreme Insight lived, embodied and expressed by a Buddha.

How then can one develop true Insight, Perfect Wisdom, into the ultimate reality of life?  If the human attempt to be an impartial observer of natural processes is not the appropriate method, what would be the right method? It is clear that the right method would need to result in the cultivation and integration of the transcendental state of Absolute Wakefulness, the state of Nirvana.  The BuddhistShurangama Sutra offers the following deep insight:


Through which sense organ should I cultivate? You ask. Don’t be nervous. It is the very organ of the ear which Gwan Yin Bodhisattva used that is best for you.

Gwan Yin Bodhisattva perfected his cultivation through the organ of the ear, and Ananda will follow him in cultivating the same method. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of former times have left us such a wonderful Dharma-door that we should also follow the method of cultivating the organ of the ear to perfect penetration. This is the easiest method.

The method suggested in the Shurangama Sutra is referred to as the easiest method because it involves the simple and effortless act of allowing one’s attention to be with a sound in order to achieve perfect penetration. Perfect penetration means that one has been able to penetrate beyond all the temporal, ever-changing values of all the conditioned states of existence and become at one with the Absolute, unconditioned, eternal, never born and never dying peace and fulfillment, which is the infinite all-knowing state of Nirvana, the end of all suffering.

But, how should one be with a sound? What is the right method? The Shurangama Sutra offers further explanation in the following verses:

Ananda, and everyone in the great assembly,
Turn around your mechanism for hearing.
Return the hearing to hear your own nature
The nature will become the supreme Way.
That is what perfect penetration really means.
That is the gateway entered by Buddhas as many as dust motes.
That is the one path leading to Nirvana.
Tathagatas of the past perfected this method.
Bodhisattvas now merge with this total brightness.
People of the future who study and practice
Will also rely on this Dharma. ~ Shurangama Sutra

Photo: Johan Lange

One is instructed to turn around your mechanism for hearing. What does this mean? Usually, one hears a sound when one is speaking or hearing someone else speak, or hears a sound produced by something in the environment—a bird, thunder, the rushing of a river, anything.

Our mind is usually outwardly directed into the environment. However, with a right method of meditation, one can learn how to effortlessly use a sound to follow it in the inward direction to its ultimate source.

The right method here is in knowing how to spontaneously appreciate a sound in the inward direction within the mind.

It seems that this was a technique of meditation taught by the Buddha when he would give specific mantras or sounds (a mantra is a specific sound used during meditation) to his disciples.

The following sutra illustrates this point:

‘There’s no need for you to give up’, said the Buddha. ‘You should not abandon your search for liberation just because you seem to yourself to be thick witted. You can drop all philosophy you’ve been given and repeat a mantra instead—one that I will now give you’. ~ Majjhima Nikaya

The sound of the mantra is innocently and effortlessly experienced in its increasingly subtle values until the sound fades away completely and the meditator is left in the completely calm yet full awakened state of Samadhi. This natural process is what is referred to in the above verses quoted from the Shurangama Sutra: Return the hearing to hear your own nature; the nature will become the supreme Way. That is what perfect penetration really means.

It is clear from these verses that the process that resulted in supreme insight or perfect penetration was a process that was conducted by nature itself: nature will become the supreme Way. It was not a process conducted by individual control or efforts to concentrate, or to try to be an impartial observer.

In our time, one natural process of turning around the “mechanism for hearing” is known as the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM). It is an effortless practice that does not require belief in any doctrine or the following of any particular way of life. People of all religions practice it, as do people of no religion. Its practical benefits have been scientifically researched and documented for 40 years and it has been taught world- wide to over 6 million people of every race and culture.

In addition, this technique does not involve any form of concentration, contemplation, or any controlled effort on the part of the mind, intellect or emotions to distance oneself from one’s experiences by trying to remain unmoved, detached and impartial. This is a vital point because the Tranquility and Insight that Buddha spoke of were never meant to be practices.

One cannot practice Tranquility or Insight, but one can easily gain and develop them by regularly transcending to the state of Nirvana and becoming at one with It. It is the state of Nirvana that is perfectly tranquil and the state of perfect Insight, Perfect Wisdom.

The right method of meditation would be one that is capable of bringing us beyond all the impermanent, ever-changing, conditioned states of existence to the state of Nirvana. It would be a method that is capable of completely transcending its own process and leaving us at one with the Absolute, freed from the illusion of a limited and separate self-existence.

Then, through its regular effortless practice, this method would allow us to fully integrate and stabilize this unwavering, Absolute state of Nirvana into all activities and experiences of daily life allowing us to achieve the goal of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas—a world without suffering.

To conclude, the main point of this essay on Buddha and Meditation is that to gain the Tranquility and Insight that are the qualities of full enlightenment, to realize the Perfect Wisdom that blossoms into infinite compassion, one has to learn and use the right method of turning within.

It’s like filling a bowl with oil seeds and pressing them or milking a cow by pulling the udder or filling a jar with cream and churning it.  It’s the right method.  ~ Majjhima Nikaya


Dr. Finkelstein is professor of Comparative Religion and Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management. He has written articles that identify the common ground inherent in many of the ancient wisdom traditions. He has taught numerous courses on the universal principles that can be located in Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


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142 Responses to “The Buddha’s Meditation. ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein”

  1. David says:

    Well I am with it all the way – until it became an advertisement for TM – not that i have anything against it – but there is a money element isn't there?

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      David, No, just the Knowledge element is intended here! If the logic presented makes sense, then that was all I was after!

    • Ondine says:

      Hi David, I teach TM. Lately I've been providing follow up support to several people who learned TM 30 years ago and want to get back into the practice. There is no charge for any of the follow up consultations. The fact is, the TM organization can provide this lifetime of support because there is a course fee initially which sustains the organization. In other words, someone learned in NYC, and after all these years she gets my time for free in Florida because the organization is still around!

    • jimmy g says:

      there is a money element in food, water, clothes, education…. learning TM is a form of education. there is a tuition required for the TM classes, to sustain the organization. the TM organization operates at break even — it's strictly non-profit. and the TM organization offers grants and scholarships for anyone who wants to learn but cannot afford the full tuition.

  2. Eleanor says:

    I also enjoyed but felt that it was a bit impartial in the direction of TM to the exclusion of other methods. Surely on can reach trancendental states using all methods – if using them correctly.

    • Evan finkelstein says:

      I have not been able to reach this state through any method that required me to control my mind through sustained conscious effort. With TM it came so soon and so easily. That has been my experience. It was effortless and the Transcendence came almost immediately. I saw many of the Buddhist Scriptures supporting this experience. It seems that Buddha himself felt that some methods could be considered "right"methods and others not so much. He said, "if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any fruit from their meditation." I took this comment very seriously and it also seemed true based on my experience with meditation.
      Thanks for your reply!

  3. nandop says:

    Finkelstein, any insights on Zazen, the zen buddhist meditation practice?

    About TM, why you don't consider the mental mantra repeating a kind of concentration?

    • Evan finkelstein says:

      Sorry, my first reply to you was meant to go to someone else. Please disregard it.
      I am not familiar with the specific methods used in Zazen, so I cannot say anything about it as this point. But I would like to gain knowledge about it.
      Regarding TM, the mantra in the practice of TM is used in such a way that does not require any attempt at concentrating on it. In TM, if one is trying to concentrate on the mantra, one is not practicing it rightly.
      Thanks for your reply!

    • Saijanai says:

      who said you MUST repeat the mantra during TM? IN general, people find that they do think the TM mantra more than once during a meditation session, but I have had the experience of waking up in the morning, stretching a bit, and then briefly closing my eyes only to discover that 20 minutes or more have passed with some vague memory that I might have idly thought my TM mantra at some point and then was distracted by a rush of thoughts for 20 minutes. Where's the effort in that?

      • Evan Finkelstein says:

        Yes, in TM when it is practiced correctly, there should be no intention or effort to concentrate on the mantra. It is used as an effortless starting point for the inward flow of the mind towards its own unbounded Source–the state of Nirvana.

        • Frank malaka says:

          Perhaps it might be useful here to remind inquiries that the mantra should be the correct one for the individual and that be imparted by a guide or teacher that that is trained to lead the initiate into the practice of effortlessness. In society we are so used to making effort in achieving goals that habitually we may lapse into that same effort . That is why a qualified teacher is important.

  4. eaf says:

    Nice article! I enjoyed reading about the different types of meditations and the distinctions between them. I agree that the mind naturally flows to that which brings it most peace and happiness so it would make sense that no form of concentration is necessary to reach Nirvana.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Thank you for your reply!

    • Saijanai says:

      I would assert that no form of effort CAN lead one to Nirvana… Logically speaking, effort and control are superficial intellectual endeavors and they would be counter productive in any situation where intellect is transcended. On a scientific level, you can make a case that the way TM and other forms of dhyan work is by setting up a very simple feedback system in the brain that lowers the likelihood of thinking more thoughts. Intent, intellect, control, understanding, judgement and the like are all "big brain" functions. They complicate things and make it less likely that the system will settle down to its quietest level.

  5. Shimohn Zilber says:

    Hello people,
    A very logical and enlightening article. Anybody can easily claim that her/his way of meditating is the best, but the question is if he/she can support these claims with convincing evidence.

  6. Peter says:

    David, it's not so much the money element, but the intellectual arrogance of the TM organization. I've been doing TM for close to 40 years and it is a wonderful, powerful practice. But they think that nothing works to bring transcendence other than TM. The intellectual arrogance of presenting this straw-dog argument as to why no contemporary Buddhist meditation technique could bring about transcendence is the typical vacuous, intellectual clap-trap that they produce. There could be a fruitful discussion here, but this cult-author has decided a priori that TM is effective and samatha and vipassana are useless.

    • Frank Malaka says:

      Peter…… If you would have taken the time to read all of the article then you would have understood that any meditation that could produce the same results can be called Transcendental meditation. Even very strict concentration techniques could in effect bring about the experience of transcending however this would come about due to the mind getting fatigued to the point that it just takes recourse to transcending. There are many studies cataloged of the comparable effectiveness of TM and other meditations. I don't believe that anyone wants to bring down any other form of meditation they would just desire you to be spending your time in a way that proves to be most effective. And if people want to keep their personal philosophy and all that it is perfectly OK to do so.

  7. David B says:

    Excellent article. I can also point out scientific research to back up your points, Dr. Finkelstein. The study reviewed the brain wave patterns produced by different forms of traditional meditation and the resulting effects that would be produced. They found 3 categories, similar to what you describe here. This suggests your model is accurate.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Thank you for adding this!

    • Pat Spahr says:

      What Dr. Travis study failed to point out is the meaning of the brain patterns observed. Some guesses are made but real knowledge does not exist. The intended outcomes of each of the practices examined is not base-lined, i.e. are the goals and purpose of Vipassana the same as that for Tm? Additionally, the samples are flawed in that groups of Tm meditators were measured and averaged whereas in the Zen and Qi Gong (which is not precisely a meditation technique) observations, only a single person was observed. No worthwhile conclusion can be drawn here. The Buddhist meditation practices included in the so-called study are taken out of the context of a largely body of practices by Buddhist practitioners which negates the validity of observing them in the vacuum of a laboratory.
      Dr. Travis in his summary conclusion writes: "…the resulting phenomenological, physiological, and clinical profiles cannot be meaningfully interpreted." This agrees with the points I make about. The point of the study is pointless.

      • Fred Travis says:

        hm…actually, Pat, this paper reports the cognitive processes that neuroscience understands generates those EEG papers. It is the second section of the paper. It is much more than guesses.

        This paper doesn't discuss the cultural context of each meditation. Rather it 1) defines three categories of meditation along a range of cognitive control–the first two were defined by Lutz. 2) describes the EEG patterns that are seen during those cognitive processes in neuroscience; 3) then uses published brain patterns of different meditations to place them into the three categories. As the 3rd section of the paper discusses, papers with control groups are first presented, and then single group designs. The second designs are less strong designs but are included for completeness.

        The worthwhile conclusion of this paper is the last sentence of the abstract: "… the included meditations differed in focus, subject/object relation, and procedures. These findings shed light on the common mistake of averaging meditations together to determine mechanisms or clinical effects."

        You have taken the conclusion of the paper, completely out of context, Pat. This is the sentence in it's context::
        "These explicit differences between meditation techniques need to be respected when researching physiological patterns or clinical outcomes of meditation practices. If they are averaged together, then the resulting phenomenological, physiological, and clinical profiles cannot be meaningfully interpreted (see Luders, Toga, Lepore, & Gaser, 2009).

        I think you can see, that taken in context, the point of this paper is very important–meditations differ in procedures and practice.

        • Pat Spahr says:

          Meditation does not make a Buddhist but meditation does make a Transcendental Meditationist. Taking and keeping refuge vows makes a Buddhist. Whether they practice meditation or not, they may still reach the ultimate goal. Can a TMer reach the ultimate goal without meditating? This is the point that needs to be made. Examining a Buddhist meditating in a laboratory is synonymous with removing and keeping a man's hand and suggesting you have the man in your possession. Where TM is the whole of the practice, meditation in Buddhism is not. Thus it is impractical and invalid to attempt to draw these comparisons. Tm has tremendous merits and deserves better than this.

          • Fred Travis says:

            This is a good point, Pat. For instance, Zen is a lifestyle that contains different meditations. TM is a meditation and is fairly free from lifestyle constraints. That is a valid distinction, and would need to be considered when we consider the "ultimate goal" as you say.
            However, I think it is still valid to ask the question: Is Zen concentration the same as Zazen? Is Zazen the same as Mindfulness? etc. This is the point of the paper. It has one main purpose; meditations are different. Different EEG patterns support that.
            The larger question that you bring up: "do all meditations lead to the ultimate goal?" needs more data. I hope to gather meditation researchers together to generate a common profile of phys, psych and performance variables; give them to our populations; then come back and discuss this larger questions….stay tuned 🙂

  8. Paul Mason says:

    Thanks for bringing us your observations.

    From my own experience, I find there is something about Transcendental Meditation (TM) that defies description, analysis and discussion. If practised ‘innocently’ it allows the mind to settle in a most extraordinary way. I have been practising TM for several decades, and have researched other meditation techniques too. I find there is something in TM that brings light and bounce to life. I have found other benefits in other techniques but not this lightness of step.
    Maharishi Mahesh Yogi talked and talked and talked about TM but, though I have studied his teachings at length, I find no explanation for the extraordinary lightness that TM practise brings.
    Thanks for bringing us your observations.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      I have also found this to be true and I think it's because this technique truly honors the innate nature of the mind to spontaneously go towards the inner Absolute Bliss without any need for control or focused effort from the side of the meditator–for me, this is what creates that lightness that you were speaking of.

    • Ondine says:

      Hi Paul, I practice TM also and just yesterday heard a talk by Maharishi in which he mentions "lightness" resulting from the release of stress, lifting the burden of worries and pressures. There is also, in my experience, an inner light, a quality of consciousness that is radiant (light) and refined (lightness).

  9. Claudia Magill says:

    Maharishi explains that it is the natural tendency of the mind to go towards greater happiness, especially the bliss that we truly are inside. We only have to give it the opportunity, and not obstruct it. I think that the sense of transcendence and its natural softness and bliss that may be experienced in any meditation is simply the result of this fact. Since this experience is the desired goal of all meditations, the mind naturally learns to favor it, even "despite" the technique, if necessary. TM simply takes us to the goal with no "beating around the bush." No one should be faulted or considered "arrogant" if they are honestly sharing their personal experience and understanding. It may be offered in all love for the good of others. There is so much more to TM and Maharishi's knowledge than just the personal experience of Nirvana. Take it all, move quickly.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Thank you for your reply. Yes, I think that the mind so badly needs and wants the stable peace of the Oneness of the unconditioned state of existence that it will eventually find its way there no matter what ! In my view and experience, the value of TM is that its like a slope for water, as it just brings one there so easily and effortlessly.

  10. akismet-e8d7c971ae4b6e7d6aeeaf26d33b98c8 says:

    At my blog, I offer a critical look at "mindfulness":

  11. SuzanneVesely says:

    Thank you, Dr. Finkelstein, for posting this article. I have been practicing the Transcendental Mediation Progam and the advanced progam for many years. My experience, like yours, is that I keep growing in the development of pure awareness, simply and effortlessly. The witnessing of sleep that you mention in the article is a commonplace for me and my fellow practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation Program. What is most significant is the fullness of bliss that even a small amount of this yoga can produce in my life. It is beyond Nirvana, as Claudia suggested: the intimate structure of reality revealing itself as all ananda, bliss. And it is quite possible for someone to achieve this state without any technique at all, if their physiology is pure enough to start out with–there are such people in the world. But for the rest of us: why not investigate honestly into the possibility that there is a method that is the most consistently effective for everyone? Are there any longitudinal, peer-reviewed studies on any method other than the Transcendental Meditation Program? I am aware of some such research but it seems limited to case studies or very small studies that have not been repeated. Is that still the situation?

  12. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Thank you for your reply; I do not know the answer to your question.

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  14. yeye says:

    Excellent essay, great Intellectual comparative journey on meditation practices, daring imperative statements about what the Buddha really meant or what ancient practices really are, beautiful invitation to practice whatever method that brings you real peace, real happiness as the right method of meditation, great use of words in writing to eliminate any kind of self inquiry about the importance of one of Buddha's main teachings: learning through Experience and not intellectual understanding, since "only a Buddha can "see" Buddha".
    Dear Dr. Finkelstein, I would love to know about your curriculum in the actual experience of meditation…basically, what method do you use to bring yourself , or remain, in a state of Nirvana and how long have you been doing this method? Or methods? Have you experienced all the methods you speak of above?
    with metta 🙂

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Yeye, Hello!
      I'm a professor at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa where all the faculty and students practice the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM) twice a day as part of their academic schedule. I have had short experiences with these other methods, but now and for the past many years, I have only been doing TM. I and many others have found it to be the most direct, natural and effective method to gain the state that Buddha refers to as Nirvana. I was taught to practice TM in 1969.
      As you indicated, one can only truly know Nirvana through direct experience: intellectual understanding without experience is very incomplete and quite hollow. However, I would say that self-inquiry is important because it can lead one to to the realization that one needs the direct experience. The intellect can help one to figure that out! And, when the intellect is based in experience, then it can really shine and the heart can fully love. Thank you for your reply!

      • yeye says:

        THank you! Thank you 🙂

        How, then, is that you write that Vipassana Meditation is not the right method, if your experience with it has been short? Wouldn't it be more true that it is not the method that worked for you? What would we do with the experience of all vipassana long time meditators, like Buddha, who say this is the right method for them? Do we deny their state of Nirvana and 2500 years, or more, of its awareness?

        with metta,

  15. ARCreated says:

    sigh…here we go again arguing. who said there are many paths? hmmmmm? This idea that ONE method is better or more "right" (ewww just that statement makes me Queasy) is and always has been in and of itself incorrect.

    This doesn't take into account differences in people, how their brains work, their style of learning, their preexisting conditions/ideas/assumptions Sound is powerful for some, sight for others, movement for still others.

    Even so called experts can't agree on how to do any single practice or the results of said practices so why would make such statements that this does this and this does that and this is right and that is not?. It would have been so much more "enlightening" for me if it had just explained the different types of meditation and then stated personal experiential findings as just that…

    It starts to feel like quoting the bible — it really does guys "this is the way because we read what buddha said this way"

    Is this how you want to be perceived? How about "one interpretation has lead us to conclude…." and then ask what is your experience with this?

    I might even go so far as to say different methodologies work at different points in our life…Interesting work – but one thing that leads me to yoga and Buddhism and other spiritual pursuits is lack of dogma and this type of thinking leans toward dogma….

  16. Evan Finkelstein says:

    It is my view that one can learn a great deal from great sages like the Buddha if one can consider their words with an open mind and an open heart that is not already too filled with one's own opinions. When the Buddha said: "Whether they meditate with or without expectations, if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any fruit from their meditation." I thought, hmmmm…. what could that mean? Is he stating that some meditations could be considered wrong methods? It seems so. What could possibly make one method more right than another? The article I wrote is my response to those questions. I could have just said, "Ah, what the hell does the Buddha know. Why should I take seriously anything he said? It is my opinion that one can gain greatly from the saying: Ignorance can exist without arrogance, but arrogance can never exist without ignorance." I think that we should never accept blindly what anyone says, including the Buddhas, but to not seriously consider what they say and seek to gain something from it would be a great loss. Thanks for your reply!

  17. […] The Buddha’s Meditation share: Recommend on Facebook Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post Bookmark in Browser Tell a friend This entry was posted in Music and Consciousness, News & Events and tagged Consciousness, Maharishi Vedic Science. Bookmark the permalink. ← Innovative Music Theory Courses Based on Creativity […]

  18. Pat Spahr says:

    A dear friend shared this inspirational piece with me this morning, but prefaced it with the question, "but is it the right method?"


    I Get To Meditate

    By Nayaswami Maria

    It’s dark out and I realized I’ve been awake for awhile unable to sleep. I still my heart and mind as I always do with the words, “I love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and with all my strength.” And then, in complete awe, I say to myself, “I get to meditate!” (I will admit here that, while generally speaking, I am an early riser, I nonetheless, can and do, sometimes awake tired, but even so, I am in awe.)

    The alarm sounds, it is 4:30 am and we get up to make our early meditation so we can get to the farm by 8am and start what we know will be a very full day. Our meditation time is earlier this time of year to suit the demands of the growing season with too little time to do a great many things. As we walk up the hill by our house to the temple in our housing cluster, we can hear a distant owl, the minnowing of a snipe, and the sounds of deer startled by our passing.

    The sweet little temple, in Ranikhet Cluster, is situated amidst the towering pines and the air is filled with the sound of AUM moving through the trees. The young adults with whom we serve on Ananda Farm join with us for meditation. Together we number about 12. Some of them are great chanters and their prayers give expression to their deep and magnetic longing for God. When we first came to Ananda we were their age. Again, I say to myself, “I get to meditate with these great souls!”

    After prayer and chanting, a short reading is selected from one of the following: Whispers from Eternity, The Revelations of Christ, The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Conversations with Yogananda and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam; five scriptures, one for each day. As I listen, I feel that I am hearing these words for the first time. How could I not have heard these words before? But in our “awakened state,” everything sounds new. Yogananda would oftentimes describe the spiritual path as “Ever new Joy.” He calls to us to treasure the moments we have with God and always to approach meditation as though we are practicing it for the first time, full of expectation, and anticipation that He will come and our feeling of separation will be no more.

    Meditation isn’t easy for any of us “all the time.” But we learn how to work with it, to look for the “ever new,” and to guard against exchanging our devotion for a consciousness entirely preoccupied with qualifying results.

    Recently, in a meditation with Swami Kriyananda, the thought came to me that we can never really know what we are receiving. We might feel joy, peace, a little bliss, but can we really know the scope of blessing that is flooding our being, the karma that is being expiated? I, for example, like many, have had the experience of meditating in a very holy place, or with people whom I consider saintly, and felt nothing. It happens, but who is to say what is really taking place on a deeper level? What we can know, however, is the feeling of love for God moving through our hearts at any moment in time, and that while we can, it is in the best interest of our soul to do whatever we can to deepen that love so that it never wains and we are ever awake in Him.

    I get to meditate! And, whether serenely blissful, or…..challenging, what a blessing it is! As sister Gynamata, Yogananda’s foremost woman disciple, said, “It is a blessing to even attempt to meditate.”

    Om shanthi, shanthi, shanthi.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Pat, Thanks for sharing this beautiful expression of devotion. It was so sweet to read it!
      Since you said that your friend asked "but is it the right method?" I would suggest that the way to know if something could be considered a "right method" would be the following: Is the method natural? Meaning, does it respect and trust the inherent nature of the mind to move towards Bliss in a spontaneous and automatic way? In other words, is the method free of individual manipulation, efforts and attempts to control the mind in any way: to make the mind do this or that? To keep it on something instead of allowing it to flow according to its own God-given nature? Is it free of the attempt to keep on watching something and to try to keep separate from something? Free of the attempt to remain detached and unaffected?
      I think the bottom line is that the "right method" is one that is consistently capable of effortlessly transcending its own activity and leaving the meditator in the Bliss of the Absolute. It is a method that does not rely on human effort to sustain itself, but rather is one that is just very easily begun, and then the rest is handed over to the very nature of life Itself. I think this is the way one can know if something is a good method. And also, like Buddha said, it produces the "fruit," meaning: one can feel more peace, relaxation, more energy, love and contentment, increased creativity, compassion, and confidence, less worry, less fear and self doubt; one enjoys life more both in meditation and during one's daily activities outside the time of meditation. One is able to spontaneously give more to others and is more and more freed from a limited and separate sense of self. In my opinion, this is the way one can know. For me, and many others, TM meets and fulfills all these values very well.

  19. martha says:

    I have tinnitus (constant noise in the ears), as countless people do. this is not a complaint since people cope with far graver problems. however, it can impede the process of mindfulness–though not one's capacity for joy. is there a way to use this noise to advantage, ie. turn it into an inward experience which is good and in some way enlightening? TM is definitely helpful but pure bliss sees insurmountable, at least on this journey. "mind over matter" is ideal, but ears play a large part even when a certain tranquility is reached. has someone found a way make "noise" useful?

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Martha, Hello!
      Regarding your practice of TM, there are specific instructions that are given for how to deal with noise either inner or outer. In order to freely receive these instructions, please just set up a Personal Checking with a Certified TM Teacher in your area and explain what you are experiencing and then the teacher will explain to you what would be helpful to do.
      All the best to you!

    • nic says:

      I think it was Ajahn Summehdo,an American in the Therevadin tradition who spoke of how he developed what he heard,into his practice,and it wasn't just ordinary sounds( although maybe not tinnitus) it was a continuous noise.I have loud tinnitus (well it sounds loud to me) and I just accept it…I mean it doesn't interfere with my Vipassana practice…human activity noise does. It is confusing to read conflicting ideas on meditation practice.I think he set up a monastery in Oxfordshire or somewhere like that,and then possibly at Harnam near Newcastle and has written at least one book.

  20. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Hi, Pat!
    Well, there are quite a number of scholars that do not think that this Shurangama Sutra is either obscure or unacceptable. There were some scholars that thought this sutra to be quite central to Buddhism. What follows is just a small bit from a Wikipedia entry:
    The Śūraṅgama Sūtra has been widely studied and commented on, especially in Chan Buddhism. In the Chinese language alone, there are at least 127 commentaries on the Śūraṅgama Sūtra.[15] It was widely used by many Chan masters such as Changshui Zixuan from the Song Dynasty and Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清) from the Ming Dynasty. It was also the only sutra that Venerable Hsu Yun wrote a commentary on.
    Venerable Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Mahayana Buddhism, was one of the major proponents of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, which he commented and used in his instructions on protecting and supporting the Proper Dharma. About the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, he said:
    “In Buddhism all the sutras are very important, but the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is most important. Wherever the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is, the Proper Dharma abides in the world. When the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is gone, that is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age.”
    In addition, regarding the authenticity and validity of various Buddhist texts the widely respected Buddhist scholar Edward Conze points out that the Hinayana Buddhists, “held that works composed a substantial time after 480 B.C. [the time of the Buddha’s physical departure from the earth] and not recited at the first Council immediately after the Buddha’s death, could not be authentic, could not be the Buddha’s own words, could be no more than mere poetry and fairy tale.”
    This means that for many hundreds of years, even to this day, there are Hinayana Buddhists that would declare all the beautiful Mahayanist Buddhist texts to be “quite unacceptable”!
    So what are we to understand from all this? Do we declare a text to be insignificant or fake, or non-Buddhist, simply because there are some scholars that hold that opinion? In my view, no, we should not. There will always be disagreements in the conditioned aspect of life over such matters. Who knows the Truth? I think Buddha would say, only the one who is fully-awakened. Nevertheless, if people on the path to enlightenment can find some wisdom and comfort in a text, any text, then, I think, that text has a useful purpose.
    Also, according to many respected Buddhist scholars, including Edward Conze, many of the oral traditions you speak of came from disciples of the Buddha who had lived with him and had memorized what the Buddha had said: Ananda, being one of the most famous of them. Simply because some sutras start out with the statement, “so I have heard” does not in any way mean that Buddha did not actually say what was repeated by a devoted disciple. In fact, according to Conze, “a sutra is a text which claims to have been spoken by the Buddha himself.”
    Secondly, the statement of Buddha from Majjhima Nikaya regarding meditation:” if they have the wrong ideas and the wrong methods, they will not get any fruit from their meditation” is clearly a principle that is as true today, as it was 2,500 years ago, and will continue to be true for any time in the future.
    I also think that it’s important to note that in every ancient tradition the original teachings do get somewhat distorted and imprecise over the long passage of time. This is a natural occurrence. Enlightened teachers, like the Buddha, come from time to time to correct the situation with their profound teachings; yet, in time, even these instructions meet the same fate. But, again, in time, the precise teachings do get restored again and again–it’s a cycle.
    Regarding your comment about Transcendental Meditation, TM it is not only 50 years old. The TM Movement is only about 50 years old. However this, technique of transcending is as old as the Vedas, which many scholars claim to be the oldest living wisdom tradition on earth.
    Lastly, I was in no way using Buddhism as a foil. I deeply love Buddhism. What I was attempting to do was to explain why, in my view, certain currently used meditation practices used by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike could possibly fall under the category of what Buddha referred to as “wrong methods” that would not produce “fruit from their meditation.” I provided an analysis as to why this could be the case. The whole purpose was to encourage people to think it through and to consider if the logic I presented made sense. So far, not one reader has said that the actual analysis presented was faulty. If the analysis is correct, then the Shurangama Sutra suggests an alternative practice, which it refers to as the “easiest method” to gain liberation from suffering. In studying this sutra, it became clear to me that it was describing a process that is currently known as TM. I see no demeaning of Buddhism in this approach and certainly none was ever intended.

  21. Wow. there is so much defending and protecting going on here both in the author's and readers' comments. Any time I find long arguments defending or protecting a stance, somewhere beneath the surface is where the truth can be found. First one has to let go of the defenses. It seems that any time we compare one to another–one school of thought or practice to another, only to declare victory–we have diminished the expansiveness of the cosmos and therefore painted our very own selves into a box. Boxes can become comforting. They can also become fortresses and daggers if not looked upon as simply a measure of comfort. The mind is like that: It loves comfort.

    I invite you, dear author and readers, to decide your measure of comfort like a warm cup of tea on a chilly afternoon or perhaps it is simply your choice of tea that you wish to share? In that event, no comparisons are necessary, merely the sharing of your joyful cup of tea: TM is it?

  22. […] from iron, can corrode and destroy that same iron. Human minds are the same. If we have learned how to meditate and have minds which produce positive thoughts then our bodies will become stronger and healthier […]

  23. will trend says:

    i teach tm on the isle of wight England.
    i would make one observation to the above dialogue (which because i am in a library i have not had time to fully read)…the observation on the difference between tm and other meditations is that transcending via tm mantra uses the principle of transcending from the finest relative, which is the subtlest state of the intellect…so it would make absolute logical sense that diving to the transcendence is more natural and deeper from the most refined state of the sound of the mantra.The intellect or thought being the most subtle experience of relativity and closest to the absolute.
    jai guru dev
    will trend

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Thank you for your reply. Yes, even the finest level of the conditioned state of existence is transcended with the effortless use of the mantra during TM. This natural process allows the mind to become fully awakened and at one with the state of Nirvana in a spontaneous manner without any need for control, concentration, or any effort to be an "impartial observer" of any process.

  24. John says:

    Sorry old boy,but I think you've got it all wrong.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Hi old chap! Are you referring to me? If so, what specifically, in your opinion, did I get "all wrong"?

  25. Alex says:

    Article confuses cause & effect, is simplistic and reflects lack of understanding of Buddha's teachings.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Hi! Please explain your thinking: in what specific way [s] does the article confuse cause and effect? And in what specific way[s] does it reflect lack of understanding of Buddha's teachings? May I suggest that making generalized statements that do not show the underlying thinking, logic, or possible evidence behind your conclusions does not offer a very convincing argument. Please step up–thanks!

  26. Jane says:

    What is the motivation to do meditation defines whether it is a buddhist practice. Check that out.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Jane, I find your comment very interesting. Could you please elaborate a bit more and give an example or two of what you mean? I'd much appreciate it. The Buddhist scripture I quoted in the article seemed to clearly put the emphasis on whether or not one was using what Buddha referred to as a "right method' and not on any particular motivation; so, I would like to gain a clearer understanding of the specific meaning of your comment. Thanks!

  27. Ren says:

    That's not true…TM does involve a mild amount of concentration, contemplation, and controlled effort on the part of the mind. The fact that you repeat the mantra silently to yourself is an act of controlled effort, and when you go back to it after losing it…is again an act of controlled effort and mild concentration.

    • Jeremy says:

      I can see how you could call those things concentration, contemplation, or controlled effort. I think it's just a matter of wording. TM does not involve the concentration and contemplation that most people associate with meditation, but it does involve following a technique, which is most effective when someone is not trying to concentrate their mind or contemplate their experience.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Ren, Actually, if TM is being practiced properly, it does not involve any intention or effort whatsoever to keep the mind on the Mantra. If one has the intention to keep the mind on the mantra, that would, in fact, be a form of concentration and controlled effort; in TM, one is taught how NOT to do that. Contemplation relates to the attempt to gain a deeper and/or clearer understanding of something. In the proper practice of TM, the attempt or effort to intellectually understand anything is not involved at all. Actually, one main purpose of TM is to learn how to effortlessly go beyond the limitations of the intellect and directly experience the Unbounded state of Absolute Wakefulness and Bliss that is at the basis of the intellect.
      Truthfully, I have been practicing TM for over 40 years, and I find it to be completely effortless and not involving even a mild form of concentration or contemplation. If a person feels that his/her practice of TM does involve these elements, then it would be very good for them to have their TM practice checked by a Certified Teacher of TM, so that any misunderstanding or even slightly wrong use of the technique could be easily corrected.
      Thank you for your reply!

  28. Evan Finkelstein says:

    I was very happy to find out today that this article has already been translated into Russian and it is also now being translated into Chinese.

  29. Dear Evan
    I have referred this beautiful article to some of my "Buddhist" friends.
    Many of which practice Mindfulness as the "Buddhist" practice.
    As you may guess, most of them claimed that it is not objective.
    The leading excuse was that you did not put any reference as to the texts, chapters and paragraphs.
    Will it be OK for you to do this so that the dialogue with them will have more substance?
    Jai Guru Dev
    Daniel (formally also from Kibbutz Yahad).

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      All the quotes used are valid; I did not make them up! Many quotes came from the Buddha Reader edited by Anne Bancroft and some from on-line sources translated by Buddhist scholars. Often, chapter and verse were not provided by these sources, but the names of the Buddhist texts from which the quotes came were provided, so the quotes can be found in those texts by anyone who would care to look for them. How silly to think that the quotes were made up by me!

  30. Tamas says:

    Tranquility and insight. It does mean something for me because I have understood it from a traditional yoga system. I have had already clear picture about the path and I can place tranquility and insight in it.
    TM is dead-end. Somebody whose seeing is in the realm of TM try to connects tranquility and insight to the TM view. He can connect it but it does not make TM better. He just confirmed his dead-end picture. TM practitioners doesn't understand the essence of meditation. That is why they have stuck.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Tamas, the reason TM is not "dead-end" is that so many of those who practice it have gained great tranquility and insight from it and many other benefits as well. TM is not a "view"; it is a traditional technique of Yoga from a most ancient system of Yoga. Your claims about it are inaccurate and unfounded.

  31. Evan Finkelstein says:

    For anyone who may be interested, I taught a course called The Essence of Buddhism in Light of Maharishi Vedic Science. Here is the link to it:

  32. enposs bhakti yogi says:

    Back in 1981 I added the TM mantra to my mantra yoga practice. It soon became the go to mantra. It in no way conflicted with or diminished my efforts in the other yogic domains, i.e. jnana, karma, etc. My experience of the last 30 years agrees with what Dr. Finkelstein asserts, the tm practice is easy, effortless and does put one in a blissful state of consciousness. The scientific, peer reviewed research of the last 50 years also backs up his personal views. It is the perfect practice, in my view, for householders and for those who have no interest in a serious exploration of the other yogic domains. It seems that many of the above respondents have not looked at the research and are more interested in defending their preferred practice. No doubt there are people out there who can easily access higher realms of consciousness with vipasana, insight, or hatha yoga for that matter. The point is this is a practice for the masses. Once, while in conversation with Swami Satyeswarananda Vidyaratna Babaji Maharaj, he said to my lady and I, “What is with him (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) and this trancendental stuff, transcend what?” My lady replied, “It is good for beginners”. To which he replied, “Oh beginners, yes, good for beginners”. It is even good for some of us who have had the title Yogi conferred on them. All I can say is that in the past 30 years the TM mantra practice has ripened. It even works for one who’s main abode is bhakti yoga. Thank you Evan for your efforts and taking the time to respond to the posts. Best wishes

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear sir, thank you for your clear expression of your direct experiences and for your kind appreciation of my efforts and of the significant value of TM for spiritual development regardless of what path one may be on. Some people think TM is for beginners because it is so easy to do! This is such an unfortunate and inaccurate understanding of Yoga because it implies that meditation for advanced practitioners should have to be difficult! There is nothing further from the truth! It is such misunderstandings about Yoga that Maharishi spent so much of his time and efforts to correct.

  33. […] nor a scientist, I am not going to give you a road map to enlightenment nor explain to you how meditation changes you on a molecular level. I would just like to share with you what meditation is for me and […]

  34. Tenju Roshi says:

    This guy is simply clueless about Buddhism, let alone Buddhist meditation. His so called Doctorate by the way is for Maharishi Vedic Science. That says it all pretty much.

  35. […] opportunities throughout your day to watch the breath, feel your feet, observe your surroundings. Vipassana or mindfulness meditation is a great place to start. “When going, the monk knows ‘I am […]

  36. […] article has now been published, July 1, 2011, in the Elephant Journal: The Buddha’s Meditation. ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  37. A Buddhist says:

    Brain Imaging Illuminates Neuro-physical Basis of Meditation; A new study from Yale University.
    Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic studied 10 experienced meditators and 13 people with no meditation experience to practice the three basic meditation techniques: concentration, loving-kindness, and choiceless awareness.

  38. i am a buddhist too says:

    "Please (respond to the student who wrote me) that in the last decade buddhist meditation has become increasingly popular in the west, overshadowing the early interest in TM taught by Guru Maharishi. There is a lot of interest in the TM domain at re-establishing it's prominence. The author (who is at forefront) has been on a major campaign to do so (he even had someone try to schedule him to teach at my class)

    His article plucks from the Buddhist scriptures in ways that serve an "argument." As we know, you can pluck and argue in any directions…this is not something I'm going to engage in.

    I can only speak from my own personal experience… Training the mind in with concentration practices increases our capacity for a calm focused collected attention. Training the mind with mindfulness increases our capacity to recognize what is happening in the present moment. As this presence become full, we recognize the light and openness and love inherent in this presence as our own true nature. That realization is liberating–we see that same light shining through all of existence.

    Clearly people benefit from all these approaches–buddhist, tm…and jewish mysticism, advaita, sufi…–. I am saddened by energy put out to try to say "this is the right way," but through history, this seems to be part of the human egoic tendency. What is important is that there are traditions that allow people to begin, right where they are, to find increasing peace and happiness.

    Hope this is helpful.

  39. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Thousands of Buddhist monks in Asia learn Transcendental Meditation

  40. […] Buddha answered: “No, Subhuti. Perfect wisdom can’t be learned or distinguished or thought about or […]

  41. Larry Carlson says:

    Meditation leads to happiness.
    And…I enjoy being happy.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Yes! There is no greater happiness than the Bliss of the state of Nirvana; I and so many others have found that TM brings us to that state so easily and so naturally! Thank you for your comment!

  42. […] Journal網路雜誌,四個月內即有近三萬人點閱。歡迎至參觀。 [註2] 請參考 [註3] […]

  43. pepovium says:

    This statement, "The right method of meditation would be one that is capable of bringing us beyond all the impermanent, ever-changing, conditioned states of existence to the state of Nirvana," demonstrates escapism. All I've learned of Buddhism emphasizes being present, here and now. The Four Reminders, often reflected on before meditation sessions in many Buddhist sects, actually include 'impermanence' (the others are precious human birth, karma, and the faults of samsara). I've found that any time I even try to escape, whether from pain, fear, or whatever, part of me is hardening into a formed belief, that will inevitably act as an obstacle. The question is, do I wish to be hardened through life, or be tenderized? This is a huge issue, our escapism, and really the essence of many of our troubles, as humanity.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      This is not escapism unless you call going beyond suffering escapism. It is the direct identification with and experience of Nirvana alone that allows one to go beyond all suffering in the "here and now". This is the essential teaching of Buddhism; without this teaching, we are not speaking of Buddhism. The reason why human birth is precious is because, as a human one can experience and stabilize the state of Nirvana. The Karma of an effective method of meditation is what leads to Nirvana. The faults of samsara are repeated death and rebirth due to the constant craving that results from the lack of the stabilization of the state of Nirvana in one's life.
      Also, it's not a matter of any kind of formed belief; it's a matter of completely transcending all beliefs and concepts, which is the state of Being that exists beyond all relative and conditioned limitations–this is the non-changing and unconditioned state of Nirvana. This is a transcendental experience; it is not a thought. One becomes hardened without this experience of Nirvana and one becomes most tenderized with it!

      • Evan Finkelstein says:

        Oh, I forgot to mention in my above comment that the reason why impermanence is reflected upon is to impress on one's mind that a life imprisoned only by impermanence, which is the nature of the realm of Samsara, is not a life worth living. It inspires one to dedicate oneself to gain and permanently stabilize the non-changing state of Nirvana. Once this state has been gained, life becomes awakened and fully worth living in the here and now. In that state, everything is always here and it is always now. To achieve this goal for oneself and to compassionately help all living beings to achieve this goal is the central aspiration of Buddhism.

        • pepovium says:

          How wonderful finding your continued reply here. The timing is right. Just today I read in the book, Crazy Wisdom, by Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, this telling quote in which he recommends developing “some kind of respect, realizing that neurosis also is a message, rather than garbage that you should just throw away. That’s the whole starting point—the idea of samsara and nirvana being one. Samsara is not regarded as a nuisance alone, but it has its own potent message that is worthy of respect (p.125).” With great respect, Evan, thank you for the ‘intense debate.’

          • Evan Fijnkelstein says:

            Yes, neurosis is a message to inspire us to do what we can to live a more balanced life: one with less neurosis! We can respect it and even love it in the sense that it can inspire us to grow and never be stuck in any level of life that is not fully awakened. It's true that we can learn from everything, if we know how to interpret the messages in a helpful and useful way that promotes our development. However, this does not mean that we have to accept the principle that suffering has to be a necessary part of life.
            Buddha taught that it is possible to go beyond suffering and that one should strive to do so. One can see this truth of his expressed in his 4 Noble Truths and in his Eightfold Path, which Buddha defines as the path that leads to the extinction of suffering!
            No, my dear friend, Samsara and Nirvana are not one in the state of ignorance, in the unawakened state. And, until one is fully awakened, to say that they are one will only cause great confusion for oneself and others; then, one would think that life, as it is lived in the unawakened state, is actually what life is. Nothing could be further from the truth!
            One should not mix nor confuse the state of suffering with the state of Nirvana. Suffering results due to our lack of the direct experience of the state of Nirvana. Suffering is not due to the lack of our acceptance of suffering. Buddha's teachings are for the eradication of suffering not for the acceptance of suffering!
            In the fully awakened state, where Samsara and Nirvana are one, life is lived in a steady state of Joy and Contentment and no suffering can ever touch the core of one's Being.
            I think it's worth repeating that it is not a matter of accepting suffering; it's a matter of eradicating it through becoming at one with the Absolute peace that is the state of Nirvana–this truth is a core teaching of Buddha.
            Then, after establishing that immovable state of peace, which is accomplished by repeatedly experiencing that state of Nirvana via an effective technique of meditation,(I think TM is the most effective), one begins to see the Ultimate Reality that Samsara is nothing but Nirvana in motion! But, in the enlightened state that motion is not the waves of suffering; it is the waves of Bliss! Those who are not actually living this truth cannot possibly even imagine it. Those who are living it smile a lot.

          • pepovium says:

            Our debate (conversation) above uncannily resembles an ancient debate, repeated since the time of the Buddha, between theistic and non-theistic traditions. Truly, this is a sticking point for many people. There is such a thing as non-theistic faith, for sure, just as there is theistic reasoning, which is usually superb. This morning I read this, again from Chogyam Trungpa, but from the book Journey Without Goal; “The nontheistic approach acknowledges the dualistic gap rather than trying to unify it or conceal it. In the theistic approach, there is an ongoing attempt to conceal that gap completely.”
            Many Buddhist traditions actually study these ancient debates, and I’ve learned about quite a few cases.
            I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

          • WEvan Finkelstein says:

            What exactly does Choyam Trungpa mean by the term "dualistic gap"? What are the two things being indicated here by the word dualism? And what specifically does he see as the function of this gap? And, how is all this related to the concept of Samsara and Nirvana being one?
            Also, why is he speaking of this in terms of Theism and non-theism? (I assume he means by these terms belief in God or gods contrasted with non-belief in God or gods–is this assumption correct?)
            In order to respond in a precise manner I would need to know exactly what I'm responding to. 🙂

          • pepovium says:

            Hello! cool 😉
            What exactly does Choyam Trungpa mean by the term "dualistic gap"?
            Here he is referring to the perceived, deceptively dualistic gap between self and other.

            What are the two things being indicated here by the word dualism?
            Self and Other

            And what specifically does he see as the function of this gap?
            Trungpa answers this: "Energy is related to the experience of duality, the experience that you exist and others
            exist. Of course, both those concepts are false, but who cares about that?-at the time, anyway. The deceptive
            existence of you and other rubs together, nevertheless." It rubs together and creates sparks. That is the function, while obviously false &/or illusory. It creates sparks regardless.

            And, how is all this related to the concept of Samsara and Nirvana being one?
            Attempting to escape Samsara is related to the attempt to smooth over the deceptively dualistic, perceived gap between self and other. This is what I meant by 'escapism' in my first comment on your article.

            Also, why is he speaking of this in terms of Theism and non-theism? (I assume he means by these terms belief in
            God or gods contrasted with non-belief in God or gods–is this assumption correct?)
            It is truly a short-coming that mainstream culture seems unaware that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion (Meaning, Buddhists do not believe in a god or gods. It is said the Buddha taught the gods after attaining enlightenment). The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chogyam Trungpa, and many more have written/spoken on this, even in English, but somehow it hasn't come thru clearly.
            Trungpa is saying that theistic approaches attempt to smooth over the deceptively dualistic gap between self and other by attempting to escape samsara and ego, while non-theistic approaches attempt to acknowledge the gap by acknowledging samsara and ego, as good fertilizer.
            TM in Buddhism can work, especially since the technique is just about identical to many Hinayanist meditation practices. Also, the notion of getting the heck out of Samsara correlates to the Hinayana (Narrow Vehicle). The Mahayanist (Greater Vehicle) approach is exemplified by the Ox Herding paintings of Zen Buddhism. Once getting to the top, one sees all the suffering, and comes back down to work with the world. The Buddha, upon his enlightenment, for a while thought he would never teach this stuff, but it just happened. Then there's the Vajrayana (Indestructible Vehicle). That's just nuts.
            Hopefully this brings some clarity. Your questions are very helpful. That's not smugness, I mean it.

          • Evan Finkelstein says:

            Thanks for all your explanations. I think the ultimate answer to all of this is very simple: the sense of an individual self automatically also creates the sense of others. The mistake/illusion of an individual self and others is extinguished by the direct identification with the reality of Nirvana, which occurs when one completely transcends the entire apparently conditioned state of existence. This definitely happens with TM.
            For me, the term "God" just means the ultimate truth that a genuine Buddha has gained. This is the real "Self."
            Here's something I think you'll like; it's from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra:
            When the Buddha was dying he said to his followers: “Just as the earth has hills and grass, healing herbs and nourishing grains for all beings to use, the truth that I have taught is also so. It produces the flavor of wonder and is the healing medicine for the ailments of humankind. I have brought you to abide peacefully in this great treasure. But if you have any doubts, you must ask about them now. Whatever your doubts are, I will try to answer them.”
            “Honored One, we understand the ideas of no self, of no permanent state, and of the suffering caused to the person by the belief that he has a self and is permanent. He is like one who is drunk and sees the hills and rivers, moon and stars wheeling dizzily about him. Such a one will never understand selflessness and will wander on endlessly in a miserable state. It is because of such an undesirable state that we cultivate the idea of no self.”
            Then the Buddha was roused from the calm of coming death and said, “Listen closely! You have used the metaphor of a drunken person but you know only the words and not the meaning! The drunk believes the world is spinning when it is not. You still think the self is a something if you believe you should be selfless is order to save yourselves. You believe you should see the eternal as impermanent, the pure as impure, happiness as suffering. But these are concepts and you have not penetrated the meaning. The meaning is that the real self is truth. The eternal is existence. Happiness is nirvana, and the pure is things as they are.
            “You should not practice ideas of impermanence, suffering, impurity, and selflessness as though they are real objects like stones or rocks but look instead for the meaning. You should use expedient means in every place and cultivate the ideas of permanence, happiness, and purity for the sake of all beings. If you do this, you will be like one who sees a gem in the muddied water among the stones and rocks and waits for the water to settle before he skillfully plucks it out. It is the same with cultivating the idea of the self as with permanence, happiness, and purity.”
            The monks were taken aback. They said, “Honored One, according to all you have taught and spoken, we have been asked to cultivate selflessness, leading to the dropping of the idea of a self. But now you tell us we should cultivate the idea of a self—what is the meaning of this?”
            “Good,” replied the Buddha. “You are now asking about meaning. You should know that, like a doctor, you should find the right medicine for an illness. It is as a doctor that I observed the ailments of the world. I saw that ordinary people believe they have a self and that whoever they meet has a self. They think of the self as within the body. But it is not like that. Because it is not like that, I have shown the fallacy of all the ideas of self and shown that the self is not there in the way it is thought to be. In everything I have said I have shown that the self is not as people think of it, for this is expedient means, the right medicine.
            “But that does not mean that there is no self. What is the self? If something is true, is real, is constant, is a foundation of a nature that is unchanging, this can be called the Self. For the sake of sentient beings, in all the truths I have taught, there is such a Self. This, monks, is for you to cultivate.”
            Mahaparinirvana Sutra

          • pepovium says:

            Many thanks for sharing this!
            “But if you have any doubts, you must ask about them now. Whatever your doubts are, I will try to answer them.” This type of reasoning, ‘express your doubts,’ &/or, ‘don’t just take it from the Buddha, come find out for yourself,’ strikes me as so very profound, beautiful, and a key element of the religion that, I admit, attracts me.
            Thanks also for facilitating communication as we've gone back and forth. I felt strong synchronicity between my current study and our conversation, and some sense of clarity has increased. Hopefully that is mutual, but regardless, that's what I noticed.

          • Evan Finkelstein says:

            You are very welcome; I also much enjoyed the back and forth!
            Yes, finding out for oneself is so vital! Without the direct experience of the Ultimate Reality knowledge about It cannot be verified–it is just dry and not a true living Reality. This is why I totally love my meditation. It makes the highest knowledge come alive!

            All the best to you always,

  44. pepovium says:

    LOL – I just noticed the date on this article… Back down to earth 😉

  45. […] and private peace aspect of meditation as introduced most commonly in Hatha yoga, mindfulness, or vipassana spheres and shy away from opening the eyes and developing a peace which can be taken out into the […]

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