Introduction to Meditation

Twenty-six hundred years ago Buddha launched a grass-root movement of spiritual awakening, which was so successful that it civilized three-quarters of the world. The essence underlying that movement was mindfulness.

Buddha describes mindfulness in Bahiya1 sutra as, “In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought.” 

We may express this description in modern language as follows.

Mindfulness is being there with total attention, and seeing things as they are.

For Buddha, mindfulness was the path to spiritual awakening. An awakened mind not only overcomes the vagaries of life but it also makes it possible for a person to evolve to higher states. This path to spiritual awakening starts with meditation. Meditation is the time set aside when one dedicatedly applies mindfulness to resolve the unsettling thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding one’s mind.

Meditation is the dedicated application of mindfulness to resolve the thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding your mind.

The resolution comes about when you are being there with total attention, and perceiving your thoughts, feelings and sensations just as they are. Mindfulness sets up an attentive and relaxed environment because you do not interfere. In fact, you do nothing else but perceive. The mind then starts to relax and unwind. Experiences that have been suppressed for some time start to release The released data then helps to resolve the thoughts, feelings and sensations crowding the mind.

But many misconceptions exist about mindfulness meditation. On the website Qura.com2 the following popular explanation is provided, “Mindfulness meditation is a period of time allocated purely to being mindful and still. You practice what you want to do daily in every moment – having focused attention, being aware of thoughts and feelings tugging at you, and train yourself to bring yourself back to your meditation over and over again.”

But if you are forcing your attention back from these thoughts, and not letting them resolve, then those thoughts will continue to distract your attention. You will end up training your mind to deny, avoid, resist or suppress those thoughts. Such outcome is harmful being the opposite of what the mindfulness meditation is designed to accomplish. Buddha’s words above simply ask one to perceive, and not do anything else but perceive.

When you look up the general description of meditation, the dictionaries provide synonyms, such as, concentration, contemplation and reflection. Wikipedia3 describes meditation as “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.”

But all these things are doing something in addition to perceiving. That is not mindfulness meditation.

The whole idea in mindfulness is to BE there and not do anything else but BE there.

This means that you do not focus your attention on some object, thought, or activity. You do not concentrate, contemplate or reflect. Let the mind do what it may. You are required only to be there and perceive. This is a very subtle point, but understanding it makes all the difference in the world.

As you meditate, you start to see through the mind’s obfuscation. You begin to recognize the things that have always been there in plain sight. You start to get realizations. This is exactly what happens when scientists make fundamental discoveries.

So, what do these realizations in mindfulness meditation ultimately lead you to? This is the subject of the next chapter.

1Udāna 1.10; Bāhiyasuttaṃ 10
2See the question “What is mindfulness meditation? On Quora.com.
3See the Wikipedia article on Meditation.

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Reference: A Scientific Approach to Meditation

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