Traditions in conversation

Traditions in conversation

Meditation today: Traditions in Conversation

 

On Friday, February 23 presented at the Colloquium, Meditation today: Traditions in Conversation. It was held at the Melbourne University of Divinity. There may still be some places available. If you are interested in a copy of the notes from the day, please get in touch through the contact page.

 

The event was from 9.00am to 4.00pm, Friday, February 23, 2018.

 

The venue:

 

Melbourne University of Divinity

 

Centre for Theology and Divinity,

 

29 College Crescent, Parkville.

 

The programme and speakers are listed below.

 

Meditation today: Traditions in conversation – Event Brochure

 

In February 2018, leading experts in meditation from different traditions will gather at the University of Divinity.  They aim to discuss the evolution of meditation and its relevance today.  The contributors are experts and practitioners of meditation.  They are recognised as contributing to research and practice in several areas. They cover historical studies of meditation with a variety of religious traditions of meditation. Others examine the science of meditation, in its clinical and therapeutic uses, and the use of meditation in education settings.

 

This Colloquium is the outcome of collaboration between The Contemplary, Confluence and the University of Divinity

 

Meditation today: Schedule

 

9.00am Arrival, welcome, tea and coffee

 

9.25am Meditation in the Chapel

 

Charles Potter

 

9.45am Ancient practices of meditation: Stoic and Christian

 

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe (Deakin University)

 

Dr. Cullan Joyce (University of Divinity, CTC and Confluence)

 

10.45am Morning Tea

 

11.15am Religious Meditation: How is it relevant today

 

Associate Professor, Reverend Dr. John DuPuche (University of Divinity, CTC and Confluence)

 

Venerable Toby Gillies (Buddhist Monk)

 

12.15am Lunch

 

1.00pm The Science of Meditation

 

Dr. Petrina Barson GP (The Contemplary)

 

Dr. Anette Webb

 

2.00pm Afternoon Tea

 

2.15pm Meditation and Education in Theory and Practice

 

Janet Etty-Leal (Meditation Capsules, Meditation Australia and Confluence)

 

Christopher Morris (University of Divinity, CTC)

 

3.15pm Panel Discussion

 

All speakers

 

3,45pm Response and Farewell

 

Associate Professor, Reverend Dr. John DuPuche (University of Divinity, CTC and Confluence)

 

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe (Deakin University)

 

Presenters – morning sessions

 

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe teaches philosophy and Deakin. He has published on the history of Western conceptions of philosophy as a way of life and is working on a co-authored monograph on the subject. Professor Sharpe has a particular interest in Stoic philosophy, and the Roman Stoics Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. He is also co-translating a volume of essays in the area by the renowned French classicist Pierre Hadot.

 

Dr Cullan Joyce lectures in philosophy at Catholic Theological College. His doctorate is on the thought of Maximus the Confessor, a pivotal Early Christian ascetic. He is researching how Maximus’ work relates to contemporary studies in meditation. He is the founding director of Confluence.

 

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He is Associate Professor at the University of Divinity and an Honorary Fellow at the Australian Catholic University, and chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese. He has a doctorate in Sanskrit, specialising in Kashmir Shaivism and is interested in its interface with Christianity. His book: Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka was published in 2003; Jesus, the Mantra of God in 2005; and Vers un Tantra Chrétien in 2009 (translated as Towards a Christian Tantra). He has written many articles in these fields. He leads an interfaith ashram on the outskirts of Melbourne. His website is johndupuche.com

 

Venerable Toby Gillies has been presenting courses in Buddhist philosophy and the theory and practice of meditation since 1980. Toby was granted full ordination in 1986 and accepted into the Sera Jey Monastic University in Mysore India. He has completed a study of the five major fields: Logic, Phenomenology, Ontology, Transcendental Wisdom and Monastic Discipline. Toby teaches these fields and the esoteric Vajrayana (tantric) theory and practice. He has conducted numerous group and solitary meditation retreats ranging from two weeks to five months in duration.

Presenters – afternoon sessions

 

Dr Petrina Barson is a certified teacher of the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) originating at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. CCT is a program which draws from traditional contemplative practice and the science of mindfulness and compassion. She has been teaching CCT to medical students at the University of Melbourne since 2014. Dr. Barson is involved in research into outcomes of this program amongst medical students and is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of General Practice. She is a long-term member of a progressive Christian community, which inspires and supports the understanding of compassion.

 

Dr Annette Webb is a Consultant Paediatician, Gastroenterologist and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Her MD doctoral thesis was in the area of mind body therapies for Chronic and Complex Abdominal pain. Annette has been meditating since she was a child and has completed formal qualifications in Mindfulness and Stillness Meditation therapy. Annette was employed as a staff specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Southern Health and Cabrini Hospital’s In Melbourne and is currently in private practice. She continues to utilise meditation practices in her personal and professional life.

 

Janet Etty-Leal specialises in bringing Mindfulness to life: developing and delivering meaningful programs, instilled with thoughtful, creative pedagogy to a range of persons and institutions. With many years of experience, her program is informed by neuroscientist and leading educational visionaries, including the work of Professor Martin Seligman, Alfie Kohn and Dr Norman Doige (The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing)

 

Christopher Morris is a lecturer at the Catholic Theological College Melbourne in Christian Spirituality and in a Graduate Course in Meditation. He is a PhD candidate focussing on the Christian wisdom tradition. Christopher is also a spiritual director and oblate of the Camaldolese Benedictines.

A one minute Buddhist meditation

A one minute Buddhist meditation

This simple one minute Buddhist meditation has the power to change your life

Let your gaze rest briefly on the image of the Buddha and know him as your Guru.

Then recite the prayer, it only takes half a minute at normal pace.

Spend the rest of the minute allowing the prayer and the image of Awakening, the Buddha, to sink in. Then go about your day.

At the end of the day, before bed, reflect on your day in the light of the prayer and the Buddha image as a reflection of your own Buddha nature, or Buddha within.

Meditation for whenever you need it

At any time during the day that you feel you may like to gather and centre yourself, you can take a moment for this prayer and remembering the Buddha as Guru. It will set your intention toward truth and goodness for yourself and others and put the events you encounter into perspective.

In our meditation classes those who attend, and are exploring the Buddhist approach, have expressed a genuine desire to put time aside to meditate. But life can be incredibly hectic so that even the best laid plans can go astray. It was in light of these time pressures that the ‘One Minute Meditation’ was conceived. I hope it proves helpful.

I will explain more of the concept of the Buddha within, karma, and truth (ultimate and conventional) in subsequent posts. These subjects help to fill out the Buddhist meaning of the prayer. But I thought to present the One Minute Meditation as an option for a minimal amount of meditation practice first.

This simple prayer itself is more powerful than mindfulness meditation practiced without the intent expressed in this prayer. Reciting the prayer, or traditional prayers like it, and then meditating for as many minutes or hours as you wish is perfect.

But as a minimum you can start with this one minute Buddhist meditation and prayer. Practice it sincerely and see how life changes for the better.

The Buddha

Shakyamuni Buddha image

The Daily Prayer

I meet this day blessed with life

And all I need to awaken.

I give myself to a love of all

As shown by my Guru, Buddha. 

Mindful and aware I give no harm

But always look to contribute.

Slights and pain I will endure

And for my gifts be ever grateful.

May all find their Buddha within.

May we come to peace and bliss.

With bad karma cleansed in truth

May goodness shine forever.

A New Year meditation for 2018

A New Year meditation for 2018

A Meditation to start your year

The Buddhist teachings tell us that New Year is a special time. It is a new beginning and a time to set our direction. It is worth taking the time for a new year meditation.

Every morning we awaken to the day grateful for yet another breath. A new year, like each day, brings with it fresh opportunities.

So what can we do with this continued gift of life to shape it in the best direction?

First, we can set our mind toward enlightenment, not as a long-distance goal, but as an ever-present awakening to the good both in and around us.

Moment by moment, through this day, this year and this life, awaken to the love within and around us. The love of friends and family, the love of our work and our achievements, and the love of the world with its beings and environments – love is the fuel of life.

Inspired by love, this year we will make new friendships and strengthen old ones. We will care for those around us and those we encounter. Our face will shine with the kindness we show. Our interactions will bring happiness, a smile to the face.

May our goodwill bring good fortune to those we encounter.

Meditate to strengthen the quality within

Let us awaken to our best nature, our Buddha-nature, the pure consciousness with which we know the truth. Abide in the Buddha’s peace and clarity and feel the depth of this joy and bliss. Whenever we pause there is an opportunity to rest and refresh, immersed in our Buddha-nature, and to reflect on how we express that best to those around us.

In 2018 we will be mindful of karma, conscious to do good and to avoid creating suffering for both oneself and others. Restrain from anger, grasping, pride, prejudice and fear. Emerge from self indulgence and embrace the world.

This year we are able to meet any challenge before us and surmount any obstacle or misfortune.

Let love fill our hearts and wisdom clear our minds.

In 2018 we will never forget to spend time in meditation to direct our energy toward the benefit of all.

In this we find the enlightenment we seek, that awakening to truth, that clear seeing and love.

By starting like this 2018 will be our best year. It will also be your best offering to all that live.

A Buddhist meditation on Christmas

A Buddhist meditation on Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for Buddhists. We love to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ. The message of his true being, as the son of God, as God incarnate, and thus as love incarnate, is an inspiration. As inspiring to all Buddhists as it is to Christians.

As Buddhists we marvel at the enormous beneficial influence of Christianity through history and throughout the world. Much of the good in Western civilisation has its foundation in the teachings of Christ.

These teachings are more important now than ever before for modern Western countries. The insidious influence of those opposed to the Deity, with their political and social engineering, need a counterbalance. There can be no ethics without a source of ethics. That source is the greater nature and capability of humankind when connected with the divine.

For it is essential that humanity understand its grounding in the divine. We must come back to a greater mode of being, a transcendent divine dwelling which goes beyond the boundaries of any ego-based view of our individual importance.

The presence of the Divine

Not that individuals are not important, but to be a true individual, to be your best self, is to understand one’s divine essence.  The connection of the soul with the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is very much mirrored in the Buddhist teachings on Buddha nature. Turning away from the Divine, or the Buddha nature, is the Buddhist definition of ignorance.

This ignorance binds us to the suffering of samsara as we discussed earlier.

So thinking of Christmas is to think of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the birth of Christ. This speaks to us of our creation in love, our connection in compassion and our capability in wisdom. In this we are all grounded in the Divine and freed of ignorance.

Thus, Christmas connects our minds with the greater good, with boundless love and with the great beauty of the divine.  We feel the Deity is present in and around us at all times and revealed in the course of our life. It is a precious time of year.

For this we give thanks to the source, Jesus the Christ, whose birth we honour, and to all the good Christians who have sustained and spread the Gospel through history and reached out to benefit all who would hear.

With this in mind, blessings for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

How karma works in Buddhism: I won the fight, but..

How karma works in Buddhism: I won the fight, but..

An example of how karma functions

People often ask me how karma works. What is the connection between cause and effect? How is it that our actions come back at us? In an earlier article I summarised karma and examined how it works to our benefit in good actions, and how karma damages us when our actions are bad. We also looked at the general principles of karma.

But here I will flesh out one karma and look at its many aspects, in particular how cause connects with effect. The example is a case of negative karma and so we will also explain how meditation and mindfulness act to counter bad karma.

For our purposes here, let’s examine a violent action. We will explore how karma functions with that.

How karma works in creating the cause

I walked into a room I find beautiful. The carpet is soft underfoot and a nice neutral colour. The chairs and couches are inviting and comfortable, the colour palette subtle and warm. Impressionist paintings add a delightful splash of colour. The room is most pleasant to my eye. I am relaxed and at ease here. Until.

Someone walks into the room. I look up and see it is Diablo, my worst enemy. Diablo has had it in for me a long time. But until now I have avoided him. The glint in his eyes tells me he is ready to unleash. He rushes me and it begins.

I am confronted by an enemy attacking me. It is an unprovoked attack, and he has gone from verbal abuse to violence in an instant. He is an annoying person at the best of times, but this time his unprovoked attack has stirred something primal. He has made me angry. Even though I have no training in fighting my anger makes me feel I can prevail. I defend his blows and then strike back myself. We crash about the room breaking things and bouncing off others. The battle rages with verbal abuse from both sides. Then I smash his nose with a lucky blow and the huge amount of blood that flows gives us both pause, and the fight is over.

My enemy leaves. His blood stains the carpet. A broken chair and two shattered vases remain. A once attractive room looks horrible, and it is difficult to find a path between the blood and glass to leave.

How karma shapes our inner world

A contrast I want to point out is between the way I perceived the room before Diablo entered to how I perceived it while he was present.

While he was in the room I was angry, in a boiling rage. In that rage and in the grip of the fight I was not aware of the beautiful impressionist paintings. Nor was I aware of how soft the carpet was. Nor the delightful palette of colours in the room. I perceived a violent and dangerous place, an ugly environment. It was an environment inhabited by a fearful monster intent on my destruction. I was intent on his destruction. It was a battle environment. I took blows, and I gave blows. My anger covered over my underlying fear that the monster might destroy me. It felt life or death.

With Diablo present, the room was not a beautiful place. It was an ugly, dangerous and fearful place. There is no redeeming feature to my enemy. He was the monster I must overcome. I was in a place of extreme struggle with my mind on fire with anger. Sure, I knew the damage done, but also knew of the damage I was doing to him. I absorbed my pain and sensed his. Further, I revelled in his pain.

My perception of the environment was in complete contrast to how I first knew it. While relaxed and at ease, my awareness was far more expansive and able to appreciate the beauty in the room. I could enjoy its qualities and aesthetic appeal. Being in such a room was enjoyable.

How anger affects your mind

Compare my experience while relaxed and with an expansive awareness to my experience while in the grip of anger. Anger reduces the expansiveness to a narrow focus of struggle. Unaware of the room at all, I am lost in my hatred of Diablo. Appreciation has changed to the intent to harm. Enjoyment gave way to pain. My perception of qualities changes to perceiving only the faults in my enemy.

So anger and the violent actions that proceed from anger, produce a mental environment that is violent and harsh. Your personal experience is painful, threatening, fearful and harmful. That mental environment embraces both the harm done and the harm I am doing to the other. I know his pain and am immersed in the pain of my anger and the fire of my rage.

The karmic problem that anger and violence cause

This environment, as I experienced it, becomes a part of me. My violence and its destructive effect on Diablo are all part of me now. This is one of the many events that make me the person I have become. So now my consciousness holds this fight and violence. I hold the experience of my enemy with his broken nose.

This, including having a broken nose, is present in my consciousness. It will remain latent there as a seed until finding the circumstances for its expression. This will be circumstances in which someone breaks my nose, a cycle of karma returning. The dangerous and fearful fight environment is also present in my consciousness. It too will one day gain external expression. I may find myself in a war zone that reflects the violence I hold inside me.

So what we hold within us from all our previous actions will one day meet the circumstances for its expression. The good within will bring happiness and joy, good conditions and good circumstances. In contrast, the bad within us will bring experiences of suffering. We will experience unhappiness and pain when we meet the circumstances for that.

How karma works: primary and secondary causes

So the process of karma is that our actions create the seed of a similar result returning to us. This seed, the outcome of our actions, or karma, is the primary cause for the future result. The secondary causes for that result, the conditions, are the other people and circumstances we meet and interact with. They will take the aspect of the karmic result.

So a karmic seed of violence will attract us to dangerous circumstances facing attack. In contrast, a karmic seed of generosity will attract us to the circumstances where we receive much.

Everything we experience comes out of the primary causes of the karma we have created. Good or bad, we make it all. The mental environment that our anger creates is a bad place. It is a hard, restricted, dangerous, threatening and painful place to be. It all depends on karma. Karma, our actions or how we behave, creates who we are and what we experience in life.

By comparison, our generosity will in future bring us to a land of plenty.

Our karma, the actions we have done in the past create the environments we experience through our lives.

In fact, whatever we do to others we do to ourselves on time delay.

Everything counts

To understand how karma works, we must see how pervasive karma, or action, is. It is not just violent physical actions which change our mental environment. In the same room, we may become caught up in an angry argument with someone. In the heat of an argument, when we are both angry, we lose our awareness of the pleasant aspects of the surrounding environment. Again we have a sense of narrowing of the mind, a hardness, a harshness in the struggle of the argument. Our mental environment is unpleasant even though the physical environment is very pleasant.

We could sit in the same pleasant room surrounded by impressionist paintings and mulling over a perceived hurt. Once again, we are angry at the person who hurt us and see the circumstances of his insult. We think of a million things we could have said to hurt him back. Again we lose the expansive sense of the environment we occupy. Our mental environment is once again one of struggle, of anger, and like that of the verbal argument.

Every time we create karmic causes they will bring results that resemble the mental environment we have created. Those karmic causes may be purely mental, just our hateful thought processes. Our speech creates bad karma when we abuse or criticise. Further, our own version of a Diablo encounter will create bad karma physically.

But it is not just in the extreme case of a Diablo encounter. Some fly into a rage just discovering that their neighbour packed their rubbish in your rubbish bin. Or the car in front was pushing in. Maybe the service was very slow at the shop.

How will meditation and mindfulness help with karma?

In the same way that anger constricts the mind, narrows it, heats it and makes it hard, meditation opposes this. Meditation expands awareness, it opens the mind. It cools anger’s agitation and that of other non-virtues. It softens the mind toward compassion.

Mindfulness, through its role in meditation, helps produce these effects. Further, mindfulness helps to keep our mindset stable and calm. That stability and calmness gives us the means to steady anger’s agitation.

So conduct an experiment for yourself. Meditate until your mind calms itself and becomes clear.  Note the details of your mental environment, your first person experience. Notice how relaxed and expansive your awareness is and how open to experience.

Then visualise yourself in the fight sequence as described. Imagine how your mental environment transforms and see the changes. What I described earlier will be close.

In our meditation classes we learn many ways to meditate on karma and how it works. The more we practise these meditations, the clearer we become about the process of causality, the law of cause and effect. The aim of Buddhist meditation is to free us completely and forever from the grip of karma.

Why do people do this to themselves?

When we see how we create ourselves through karma of body, speech and mind, we ask this question. Why would anybody want what anger brings? Why do that to myself again? The mental environment of anger with its pain, has nothing to recommend at all. It is like your mind is on fire, consumed by manic obsessiveness and struggle. Fear and paranoia overwhelm us. When we see anger, we will forever want to avoid it.

What meditation and mindfulness give us is the means to rid ourselves of anger forever. They give us the means to free ourselves from previous negative karma and the way to produce happiness.

Once we understand the workings of karma, we will want to avoid creating bad karma. We will find ways of dealing with the Diablos of the world without getting angry. The neighbours rubbish will not spoil our day. Driving will be a lot more relaxed and the wait for service at the shop a welcome respite and time to meditate.

Don’t let karma make you its victim. Use karma to create the life you want, to become the happy and balanced person you would like to be.

Buddhist meditation: how it is different

Buddhist meditation: how it is different

The purpose of Buddhist meditation practice is to end samsara. Samsara is the state of being governed by the causes of suffering and varies from extreme levels of suffering to temporary experiences of happiness. In fact, while caught in samsara we can move through extreme pain or mental anguish with brief occasions of perceived happiness. At other times we may fluctuate between slightly unpleasant experieces to moderately pleasant. 

While temporary experiences of happiness can be pleasant, they are only a respite from moderate or more extreme forms of suffering. Samsara is to cycle through states of suffering and happiness while governed by the causes of suffering. How are our experiences of happiness governed by the causes of suffering? Because the happiness is temporary. Accordingly, that temporary relief from suffering brings more anguish when the respite ends.

What causes the cycle of suffering existence?

At its root, the cause of samsara, and thus suffering, is ignorance. This term describes ignoring reality. We ignore and deny what is true and hold the false to be true. Thus with ignorance we come to think the non-existent exists and the existent does not exist. For example, ignorance imagines that the object of our attachment will bring us happiness. In similar fashion ignorance imagines that you must defeat the object of your anger. Altogether, ignorance creates this sad and non-existent fantasy-land of samsara.

Because ignorance distorts our view of everything, it gives rise to non-virtues such as attachment, anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety and doubt. These give rise to negative actions, or negative karma.  As we discussed in this article, karma propels the wheel of suffering, or samsara.

This wheel of samsara turns in endless change. Accordingly we can be up one minute and down the next. We smile and dance for a year and then go into the foetal position for ten. Over lifetimes we may have a god-like existence some lives, but complete misery in others. In any event we are never free and always propelled by karma.

How Buddhist meditation ends samsara

To stop karma, we must subdue non-virtue and become free of anger and attachment. In order to do this, we must overcome ignorance. Ignorance is the hub around which the whole of samsara turns.

Ignorance is very difficult to overcome. In order to overcome it, we must come to realise ultimate and conventional truths. In fact, few even know these two truths. So first we need to study them and gain an intellectual understanding. From there we can gain an experiential understanding. We do this through Buddhist meditation practice.

But to even approach these understandings one must at least have overcome ignorance of causality. In other words, we need to understand the cause and effect of karma. To understand karma requires a coherent theory of consciousness.  Although consciousness remains the “difficult question” in science it is important that we common folk learn about it. This is because without understanding consciousness we are in no position to realise its continuity as we explained in this article. We thus have no way of recognising that life beyond death exists. That level of ignorance is disastrous for the way we live our life.

Life or lifetimes

Why is this type of ignorance such a disaster? Because not knowing about karma means we do not recognise the full consequences of our actions. After all, our karma creates our future and with the continuity of consciousness it creates our future lifetimes. Likewise, this present life and our circumstances now, good or bad, are a result of our karma from previous lives.

Without that continuity and causality there is no way of making sense of life and we will make disastrous mistakes the like of supporting euthanasia as discussed here.

Professor Robert Thurman in his wonderful book, Infinite Life, gave an example to illustrate the problem.  It shows what lacking an understanding of the continuity of consciousness entails. This atheist, materialist view is that only this life exists because it is all we can see. There is nothing more from their point of view. Professor Thurman illustrates this view as follows.

One life

Imagine waking up to find yourself in a railway carriage going nowhere. You do not know how you got there.  As far as you know this is all there is.

You find people around with whom you interact. There are things to do. Now and then new people appear. But over time you notice yourself getting older. Then you notice the ancient people around you disappear leaving a body collapsed on the floor. As a result others drop these bodies under the train carriage out of sight.

So you dream up a theory that your life is lived here in this one stationary train carriage.  At the end of life you will disappear into a never-ending nothingness and your old body dropped under the carriage.

Death comes. Next thing you awake in a stationary carriage with no idea how you got there. There are people around you…….Rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

More than one life

Professor Thurman then goes on to contrast this with the way your train experience would be in light of the Buddhist view of karma and reincarnation. 

You step off the railway platform into a train which then moves in the direction you wish to go. In this case you had a choice of trains and pick the one going to a destination you like. In due time you arrive at your destination, you get off the train and do what you aimed to do. Perhaps you take other train journeys or do something different.

The two scenarios are poles apart. In the first you don’t know how you got to be where you are. In this example you are not going anywhere. At the end of your time there is nothing. Again and again!

In the second scenario you know how you got there. Further, you know where you want to go. By understanding how to get there and what to expect you know it is well worth the going.

So one is life without purpose while without a clue. Due to understanding, the other is life with purpose.

Thus, the myopic view is of a carriage that never moves. It seems to begin from nothing and end in nothing, all the while going nowhere, and leaving you nothing more purposeful to do than try to amuse yourself.

By contrast a more panoramic view is to know where you came from, where you want to go, and how you will get there. Accordingly, for you there is somewhere worth the going.

Today people appear satisfied with the first view. It is the classic materialist, nihilist view, a perspective entrenched in the realm of ignorance. Even more, it is a complete fabrication – ignorance-based samsara on endless repeat while maintaining the ‘nothing thereafter’ delusion.

How Buddhist meditation gets you somewhere

Buddhist meditation starts with the second view. In this case the goal of life is to end suffering by ending the cause of suffering. This is the train you want to ride. The aim is to become free from samsara forever. Consequently you take your journey confident you will get there. It is this understanding which powers Buddhist meditation.

So here are the alternatives.  Engage in meditation from the point of view of ignorance.  Thus you will have your meditation practice perpetuate samsara. Conversely, engage in Buddhist meditation practice and end samsara forever.

With the first option the best you can hope for is occasional temporary respite from extreme suffering. An example is a sense of relaxation you might gain from a meditation session. Once again in the bustle of a busy work environment stress comes back. Although you are better for the meditation session, it only lasts for a while.

The benefits touted by the new age mindfulness movement are there. You can lower your blood pressure, relax more, sleep better and focus. But these are just minor fluctuations in your level of suffering. They are tiny blips in samsara.

But so long as we have an innate conditioning by ignorance the real problem, samsara, continues. As a result we remain victims of karma. If we have a philosophy entrenched in ignorance, the same occurs. But, by ending ignorance we end samsara once and forever. We become free, free from karma, non-virtue and ignorance. That freedom is bliss constant and unending. It is an ineffable peace. You achieve the aim of Buddhist meditation. (You will also have fixed your blood pressure, by the way, without even needing to give it a thought!)

Study and meditation

I am sometimes asked how meditation can help education in our schools and colleges. But I find it more interesting to examine how education can help meditation.

Learning meditation and mindfulness may help you gain an education that reinforces ignorance and so perpetuates samsara. Another education leads to understanding ignorance and the means to overcome it. You learn how to realise ultimate and conventional truths so that your meditation ends samsara forever. Study is essential for Buddhist meditation.

Tibetans describe the person who meditates without study as like an armless rock climber or a traveller without eyes. But with a wisdom that arises from well directed study you have all the tools to achieve your end.

Ultimate and conventional truth

This article is lacking in two very important points. What is ultimate truth? What is conventional truth? These are deep subjects and need extensive study.

To understand them requires a course in Buddhist meditation and philosophy. That is a commitment to be sure. But ending samsara forever is a wonderful attainment not amenable to just adding water and microwaving.

If you understand the benefits, a comprehensive Buddhist meditation course is nothing. Otherwise, explaining the two truths is pointless. To merely give a quick summary is like learning one simple mindfulness method. To then imagine you understand mindfulness and meditation is just another form of delusion. It is like thinking you can understand the nature of being, the nature of consciousness and form, ultimate and conventional truth, without a strong course of study and guided practice.

But if you are serious, then your course begins on Tuesday evenings. Perhaps I will see you there!