The Buddha’s Meditation. ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein

Via on Jul 1, 2011

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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12,647 views

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?

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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. http://drfredtravis.com/downloads/Travis_preprint

  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.

  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.

  10. akismet-e8d7c971ae4b6e7d6aeeaf26d33b98c8 says:

    At my blog, I offer a critical look at "mindfulness": http://speculativenonbuddhism.wordpress.com/2011/

  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.

  13. elephantjournal says:

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    DAVID_LYNCH David Lynch
    Dear Twitter Friends, here is a great article about Buddha & Meditation. I think this has very important knowledge. bit.ly/kJmUVF

  14. Yesica Pineda 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?
    THANK YOU!
    with metta :)
    Yeye

  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:

    Hi!
    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.

  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?

  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

  24. John says:

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

  25. Alex says:

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

  26. Jane says:

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

  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.

  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).

  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.

  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: http://www.tm.org/emailing/2011_08_19.html

  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

  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. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/meditation-brain-rew

  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 http://www.tm.org/blog/meditation/buddhist-monks/

  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.

  42. […] Journal網路雜誌,四個月內即有近三萬人點閱。歡迎至http://www.elephantjournal.com/?p=185163參觀。 [註2] 請參考http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/ [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.

  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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