May 10, 2012

What is the Point of Buddhist Meditation? My answer in 304 Words.

Photo: Chaojikazu

“It is not known how the understanding understands; if it understands at all, at least it can comprehend nothing of that which it understands. To me it appears not to understand, because (as I was saying) it is not understood; and I have not been able to understand this myself.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Most of us sit on the cushion in order to get some place. We want to get “it.”

We are all looking for the grand finale—the awe inspiring moment of insight that ends all moments of insight, enlightenment. Then we get frustrated when it doesn’t come.  We think, “I think too much to meditate!” or “Some thing must be wrong with me…I’ve tried to meditate and I just don’t get it.”

We seem to believe that realization is a matter of tweaking this or that, or seeing things from a more “spiritual” point of view. Much to our chagrin, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Ultimately, meditation is concerned with the awakened state. It is about surrendering to the basic state of wakefulness that underlies not only, the rapturous moments of bliss and the agonizing moments of heart-ache, but the terrifyingly mundane spells of boredom we all cycle through.

Wakefulness isn’t something you get, obtain or acquire. It isn’t something to be understood or figured out. Understanding and accomplishment are conditioned states of mind born out of intellectual effort. The unconditioned mind is spontaneous or effortless. Therefore, relaxing into unconditioned awareness is about consenting to the naturally emergent is-ness that is the ground from which all conditioned phenomena arise.

The unborn mind is not the product of philosophical algorithms or psychic visions of a spiritual realm. So, there is no need to indoctrinate yourself with an enlightened point of view. Just fall into the un-elaborated immediacy of the present moment, which is the spontaneous emergence of a bird outside the window just before it becomes a bird outside the window.

The awakened state isn’t a point of view. It is view without any point.

Meditation is the non-practice of not tampering with anything including the tendency to tamper with everything. Realization is the perfection of simplicity.

Below is a set of simple instructions for the practice of meditation.

These instructions might be simple, but as you will soon realize, it is their simplicity that makes them so elusive. In the beginning it will be nearly impossible to practice these instructions for long periods of time. They are extremely accessible for a minute or two at a time, and are most effective when practiced throughout your day for a couple of minutes every hour.

Just pause and reconnect with that basic state of wakefulness that is embedded in the human condition. Simply notice the breath at the tip of your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest, your beating heart, fleeting thoughts, singing birds, and honking horns. Don’t limit your practice to the cushion. Taste the awakened state in the context of your daily life.


Pith Instructions for the Practice of Meditation by Benjamin Riggs.


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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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