13297Re: [Buddhism_101] Meditation, Concentration and Mindfulness
- Sep 1, 2011TM and the meditation taught in buddhism are similar in some ways,
different in others. In order to avoid confusion where the same term
means one thing in one kind of practice and something different (or
nothing at all) in the other, we should use a consistent set of terms.
Since this is a list for buddhists, I'll be using terms with the
meanings they have in buddhism and expect that others do the same.
Otherwise it'll be a little bit like we're speaking different languages
and not even knowing it.
Also, it happens in buddhism that meanings of words (and practices)
change as one becomes more adept and occasionally depending upon a
specific situation. It's like if someone asks, should I walk down the
street on the left side or the right side? Well, this is going to
depend upon whether it's city or country, whether there's sidewalks or
not, is there construction going on you need to avoid, and so on. These
might seem to be dumb to anyone familiar with walking down streets and
roads, but if this is unfamiliar territory, then these are valid
As I understand meditation (and I'm still learning about it, so others
should feel free to correct me or give their interpretation... that's
fine and what we're here for), yes, it's quiet time with the mind.
There might be noises, both audio and visual, around you. But it's
quite possible to pay them no mind. We've probably all been in a
conversation in a crowded room with lots of noise and activity all
around, yet we're able to focus on what just one person is saying.
Meditation is like that.
And yes, even though we set aside everything happening in the
environment surrounding us and focus on the mind, there can be a lot
going on there too. Just allowing whatever thoughts arise can be
interesting... or perhaps disturbing. A thought arises, we examine it.
If it is troubling, then we might want to think about it and wonder
where it's coming from. This is vipassana, or sometimes called 'insight
meditation' meditation and can be therapeutic in dealing with personal
problems. You might have heard of 'free association' used in
psychotherapy...? It's a bit like that.
There's also shamata meditation. (This might also be spelled samatha or
shamatha. There are attempts to canonize transliterations, but people
are already using spellings they know and these can be different.) In
shamata meditation we try to clear all thoughts from the mind and so
have no thoughts, this to experience a different kind of consciousness,
one which most people don't even know exists. By 'clearing all
thoughts' we mean that we allow thoughts to arise-- which they'll do
anyway-- but just examine them briefly and then let them go. The aim is
to let the thoughts play out until they don't arise anymore. Relax into
this, just let it happen.
Another kind of meditation is analytical meditation. This is used when,
to use ordinary terms, you're trying to figure something out or when you
want to learn something. So it's a little like philosophical
contemplation and a little like rigorous study. Rather than banishing
all thoughts, you do think about something, but in a focussed way. And
you might slip into shamata meditation in order to allow it to enlighten
you on the topic. After all, words fail in trying to describe some
things (e.g., emptiness), so how could thoughts possible help in
understanding them? Yet also we might just want to commit something to
memory, something for the most part completely understandable with
thoughts. Analytical meditation can help here also, help in accessing
that kind of memory which never forgets.
As a practical matter, shamata and analytical meditation can be
difficult to practice if I have some kind of severe attachment. (And
these will be initially difficult for anyone even should they have no
such attachments.) If there is some thoughts or feelings, the same ones
over and over again, which won't let us clear the mind, then we should
deal with those, practice vipassana meditation. After all, if we can't
be at peace with these recurring and troubling thoughts, then we can't
really succeed in shamata or analytical meditation anyway. So we may as
well deal with what's so obviously and urgently in front of us.
I don't know if this answers your questions. If not, there are many
entire books just on buddhist meditation (several of which I'd like to
get to) and many more which at least in part discuss meditation. And
perhaps there are others in this group with different takes on the
topics, additional information, and/or better answers.
War is a failure of the imagination.
On 08/31/2011 11:53 PM Don wrote:
> So I have no idea what vipassana is but I have practiced Zen meditation
> and TM. In both forms one notices the churning of the mind creating and
> recreating thoughts. One notices this also with simple mindfulness. I
> suppose meditation is in the category of right concentration although
> when one is concentrating on the wall or the mantra or the breath it is
> different than when the mind is quiet. So my first question is: In
> Buddhism do we make a distinction between concentration and meditation.
> Also is the purpose to aid you in right mindfulness because the more I
> practice each the more they seem alike.
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