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. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Great! We should make this an annual event!

  2. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Hi! I'm glad you enjoyed!
    I felt that after all this serious discussion for so long, some good laughter was in order! If one is not enjoying, what's the point?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. […] 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 […]

  9. 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.

  10. […] 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 […]

  11. 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.

  12. […] 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"); […]

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Thousands of Buddhist monks in Asia learn Transcendental Meditation

  16. i am a buddhist too says:

    Thank you for sharing. No one was misinformed. However you may have been uninformed as you said you were unaware. Your worldwide organization has many arms.

  17. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Interesting! If someone tried to contact you, supposedly on my behalf, without even first asking me about it, nor even telling me about it, I find this very odd. This should not have happened; this is the first that I'm hearing of it.
    I'm sorry if you were inconvenienced in any way. I wish you all the best always and great success on your path!

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

  19. Larry Carlson says:

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

  20. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Dear szlaszlo,

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us! The fact that so many Buddhists have learned TM and that they find it to be in support of and in full harmony with their devotion to Buddhism and their desire to achieve Nirvana, shows that what you are saying is true. It was truly fulfilling for me to read your comments. Thank you again for sharing this!

  21. 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!

  22. […] 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] […]

  23. 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.

  24. pepovium says:

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

  25. 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!

  26. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Dates are just there to tickle eternity. That's probably why you laughed.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.’

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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. 🙂

  32. 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.

  33. 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

  34. 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.

  35. 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,

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  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

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