Meditation Blog : December 2005 Archives

Tibetan Perspectives

Wired reports on the Dalai Lama's meeting with scientists at the Mind and Life Institute conference in Washington D.C. in November. This part caught my attention:

While Western researchers are exploring the effects of meditation on physical health, Alan Wallace, a leading Tibetan scholar and one of the Dalai Lama's translators, pointed out that when faced with physical ailments, Tibetans traditionally turned to doctors or healers, not to meditation. The purpose of meditation, added the Dalai Lama, is not to cure physical ailments, but to free people from emotional suffering.

While meditation has recently been gaining attention in the media as a result of medical research proclaiming its health benefits, it's good to have a reminder that meditation goes beyond stress relief. In the act of being aware, deeper forces are at work. Awareness grounds us in what we can call reality, life here and now, rather than in mental abstraction.

A Voice of America article on the Dalai Lama's visit to D.C. includes this excerpt:

Mind and Life Institute chairman Adam Engle compared meditation to exercise, saying a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. "So, in the same way that you've got a myriad of physical exercises to help your body, there are a myriad of mental trainings. And this is not well known. Most people, when they think about meditation, they think about turning your body into a pretzel and zoning out somewhere," he said. "But it is really just a word for mental training."

Meditation is often presented as a form of mental training in which the mind applies its focus on an object (the breath, a sound, a mantra, a visualized image). On this site we would like to offer an alternate view of meditation as a kind of mental un-training. Instead of focusing the mind on an object, the mind can be left to rest as it is. Paltrul Rinpoche (1808-1887), a Tibetan meditation teacher, describes this poetically:

All you practitioners, male and female, who wish to realize the faultless and correct point of view, should let your mind rest fully awake in a state of unfabricated emptiness. When your mind is quiet, then rest in that quietness without trying to fabricate anything. When it doesn't think, then rest in that non-thinking. In short, no matter what takes place, let your mind rest without fabricating anything.

Don't try to correct, suppress or cultivate anything.

Don't try to place your mind inwardly. Don't search for an object to meditate upon outwardly. Rest in the meditator, mind itself, without fabricating anything.

One doesn't find one's mind by searching for it. The mind itself is empty from the beginning. You don't need to search for it. It is the searcher himself. Rest undistractedly in the
searcher himself.

"Have I now grasped that which should be observed?" "Is this the right way or not?" "Is this it or not?" No matter what takes place rest in the thinker himself without fabricating anything.

No matter what kind of thoughts occur, excellent or terrible, good or bad, joyful or sorrowful, don't accept or reject, but rest in the thinker himself without fabricating anything.

I recently watched the documentary "Wheel of Time" by the indefatigable German director Werner Herzog. The film depicts the pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands of Tibetan Buddhists to the spot in Bodhgaya, India, where Siddhartha Gotama, more commonly known as the Buddha, was said to be enlightened. A side trip in the film covers the occasionally perilous journey of thousands of Tibetans to circumnambulate Mount Kailash, which is regarded as holy. In Bodhgaya the Dalai Lama leads the assembled monks and laity for several days in a ceremony called the Kalachakra initiation. The Dalai Lama is interviewed briefly for the film, and is his usual genial, insightful self. However, the Bodhgaya gathering itself appeared to be steeped in the rituals, tradition, and hierarchy of religion. The display evoked a spiritual striving that seemed at odds with Paltrul Rinpoche's words that, "One doesn't find one's mind by searching for it."

December 6, 2005 | Meditation | Permalink


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