People ask me questions about Buddhism and meditation all the time.
So I decided to start a monthly column in order to share some of my answers.
If you would like to submit questions for the next column, please email me at [email protected]
An emailer asked:
“I’ve heard a lot about meditation in Buddhism, but I know some other religions meditate too. Did the Buddha create meditation?”
The story of the Buddha’s life tells us that he traveled around looking for spiritual teachers. He searched in the cities and in the wilderness. He learned from anyone who was willing to teach. He learned things like yoga, chanting, self denial as a spiritual practice and several different forms of meditation.
Meditation has come down to us from ancient history. It probably emerged in the very early days of mankind. It’s been suggested that primitive societies might have entered meditative states of consciousness while staring at campfires.
Meditation techniques are documented as existing in texts from India that are over 5,000 years old. This means that meditation was at least a few thousand years old in the Buddha’s time.
Some form of meditation practice seems to be at least nominally present in all religious traditions and in all cultures.
So, what’s unique about Buddhist meditation?
In some other religious tradition one could be meditating to become one with God or to invoke some sort of magical effect (and I’m not judging those ideas). In Buddhism our reasons are simpler.
Buddhist meditation only really has two goals. Stabilizing the mind and cleansing our perception of ignorance.
While the Buddha didn’t invent meditation, he did invent a set of practices that are centered on the goal of self transformation. Our goal in Buddhist meditation is to create, spread and experience less suffering and ignorance.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Alice Popkorn/Flickr