April 2023 Dhamma Journal – Popularity of Meditation within the Domain of Medical Science

Dear Mahāpajāpati Dhamma Friends,

This month we continue the Comprehensive Survey of Buddhist Meditation chapter with the Various Interpretations of the term ‘Meditation’.

May you be well, happy, and peaceful.

1.2. Various Interpretations of the term ‘Meditation’

The word ‘meditation’ comes from the Latin word ‘meditāriī’, which has a range of meanings including reflecting on, studying, and practicing. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the term meditation as the practice of thinking deeply in silence, especially for religious reasons or in order to make your mind calm. Likewise, the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary explains that “meditation is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or a way of becoming calm and relaxed.” In the opinion of Sarah Kalvin, a competent meditation teacher, “meditation refers to the way, the method, path or process by which one is led from within, to a universal center of calm awareness and inspired intuition.”

To some westerners, meditation means stress management or self-management of disease. It is also interpreted as an effective form of practice in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness for achieving peace of mind and stress reduction. Some regard meditation as “a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert.”
In the eyes of Arvind Narayan, a zealous practitioner; “meditation, a sort of mental practice which relaxes the body, calms the mind and minimizes stress and tension is the science related to human consciousness.” In the words of Godwin Samararatne , an international Buddhist celebrity, meditation is “knowing the mind, shaping the mind, and freeing the mind.” According to Paramananda, a spiritual teacher, meditation is “the art of getting to know one’s own mind; getting to know one’s own mental and emotional states; getting to know oneself more deeply.”

“In the most general definition, meditation is a way of taking control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful and focused, and the practitioner becomes more aware.” However, as claimed by Ajahn Brahm, an inspirational spiritual leader of modern times, “meditation is the way of letting go; letting go of the complex world outside in order to reach a powerful peace within.” He maintains that the more one controls, the more he or she craves because of attachments, and thus the less peaceful he or she gets. Conversely, the more one lets go, the more cravings he or she abandons, and the more he or she gets out of the way and consequently the happier he or she feels.

On the contrary, Thera Piyadassi asserts that control of the mind is the key to happiness; it is the force behind all true achievement; it is owing to lack of control that conflicts of diverse kinds arise in our mind. In this connection, contrasting opinions of different meditation masters should be taken into consideration. In light of this work, meditation, in fact, is not a way of taking control of the mind, but knowing and seeing the mind and matter as they really and truly are via thorough observation. In the course of meditation, a practitioner has to establish concentration and then observe the mind and matter with rapt attention. As his or her zest, mindfulness, and concentration grow stronger, he or she will come to realize the true nature of mind and matter i.e. impermanence (anicca), un-satisfactoriness (dukkha), and non-soul (anatta). Accordingly, he or she will clearly comprehend that there is nothing to grasp the constantly changing phenomena of mind and matter as this is ‘mine’, this is ‘I’. Consequently, he or she will let the notion of ‘self’ go and will feel free and happy. It is, therefore, convinced that ‘meditation is the way of letting go’ and ‘letting go makes one happier.’

In the next Dhamma Journal, this chapter with continue with “Purpose and Benefits of Meditation”

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