Buddhist Teachers on Contemplation/Meditation

The Buddha taught this about meditation:

Any feeling whatsoever–past, future or present, internal or external; blatant or subtle, common or sublime, far or near; every feeling—is to be seen as it actually is with right understanding: ‘this is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.’

Statue of the Buddha, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Leonard Laub on Unsplash

We are deeper than our feelings and more than our thoughts, so why not return to that deep place of silence and emptiness once in a while?

The Mhasatipatthana Sutra instructs about meditation in this way: 

A meditator knows a lustful mind as lustful, a mind free from lust as free from lust; a hating mind as hating, a mind free from hate as free from hate…. a distracted mind as distracted, a concentrated mind as concentrated, a deluded mind as deluded.

Looking inward, focused on the breath. Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

Part of meditation is about not taking the ordinary for granted. Like breathing. Thich Nhat Hanhn teaches about the simple power that breathing meditation affords. 

You should know how to breath to maintain mindfulness, as breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool which can prevent dispersion. Breath is the bridge which connect life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

Thich Nhat Hanh offers a practical guide to meditation, citing a Buddhist community rule:

One should not lose oneself in mind-dispersion or in one’s surroundings. Learn to practice breathing in order to regain control of body, and mind, to practice mindfulness, and to develop concentration and wisdom.

Thich Nhat Hanh is convinced that because of the link between breath, body, and mind, meditation “alone is the tool which can bring them both together, illuminating both and bringing both peace and calm.”

“Monks of Ba Vang Pagoda (northern Vietnam) walking meditation in the natural forest. Ba Vàng, Uông Bí, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam.” Photo by Hannah Vu on Unsplash

Meditation is not just about sitting still for an hour a day; it is a way of breathing and staying attentive all day whether we are walking, sitting, working, or lying down. It is about being present fully to self and others. It is about breathing.

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, who also teaches meditation practices, alerts us to how the mind has

more projections than there are dust motes in a sunbeam so we ought not to fight it. Just learn to let it go. As meditators we might as well stop struggling against our thoughts and realize that honesty and humor are far more inspiring and helpful than any kind of solemn religious striving for or against anything.

Pema Chodron offers a teaching on the purpose of meditation. Uploaded to Youtube by BlackLotusSangha

In any case, the point is not to try to get rid of thoughts, but rather to see their true nature. Thoughts will run around in circles if we buy into them, but really they are like dream images. They are like illusions—not really all that solid. They are, as we say, just thinking.

When distracted while meditating she recommends simply saying to oneself, “thinking” and then returning to openness and relaxing on the out-breath. Return to one’s breath.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 194f. 

Banner Image: The lotus growing out of muddy water symbolizes the pure, enlightened mind arising out of the suffering of attachment and desire. Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash.

Do these teachings assist you to supplement your own practices of silence, and moving beyond thought at times, and for returning more open and refreshed?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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