Category: Mind Power Techniques
The first time I heard the word meditation was back in the good ol’ days of grade school. It was the time when I was only beginning to hear about the psychic stuff, you know, levitation, telekinesis, telepathy, and so on. I learned from the people around me that it’s possible to get these unusual abilities if you practice meditation though I had no clue it has something to do with the mind. Matter of fact, I did not even know what the word “mind” really meant.
After a few years, I became so intrigued by these psychic phenomena that I thought maybe if I tried meditating I might some day discover the secret about these abilities, especially telekinesis (I've always wanted to move objects by just looking at them). I tried it a few times in high school, but I still had no idea about how meditation should be practiced exactly. It didn't take long before I gave up and finally said, "Bah, funk this!" And so, the only ability I acquired was the ability to curse. Just kidding.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a technique to clear the mind of its noise then to lose the mind altogether. By doing meditation , you can go into different states of consciousness (see Transpersonal Experiences) and study those states in order to reprogram your mind, which would otherwise be impossible if you are to do it in the normal waking state.
Meditation is probably as old as the first religions to appear on the planet, but the needs of each new generation may differ from those of the preceding one. Just like science, it always requires the re-evaluation and improvement of technique and a re-examination of principles. A method that has been practiced thousands of years ago may not always be as effective as it was back then if practiced today. Thus, one must find the most suitable approach to meditation, and perhaps the best choice should basically depend on evidently significant factors such as who you are, where you live, and what you do.
When my interest in meditation returned and I started studying it seriously, I learned that there are many different types of meditation techniques out there. In fact, every religion or spiritual tradition has its own method or system of practice. I became more interested in Hindu and Buddhist meditation techniques since the most common forms, and perhaps the most sophisticated ones, come from these traditions. But I think the real reason I decided to concentrate on these traditions in the first place was because of Patanjali and the Buddha.
You can find out more about my story if you visit my sections on Powers of Yoga and the Buddha Mind. Before you do that, however, kindly read my short introduction on Hindu and Buddhist meditation below to give you a general idea as to what these are all about.
Hinduism and Buddhism often use similar techniques in meditation practice that is why they are often confused with or compared to each other. Both of these traditions see the world merely as Maya or “illusion.” Both promote and implement the preliminary practices of moral discipline, abstinence, solitude, and the abandonment of selfishness. Their practitioners also make use of various postures and breathing techniques to help them control the activities of the physical body and to achieve certain meditative states, but I guess that’s as far as they go in terms of similarities. Let's take a closer look at each system to understand their differences.
Meditation in Hinduism
Hinduism is generally oriented in mysticism and metaphysics. Its main goal is to attain union with the True Self, Brahman (God), Universal Mind, or Infinite Consciousness. In some schools of yoga, you will sometimes find devotional practices such as prayers and mantras. These are used to enhance one’s skill in meditation although there are Hindu traditions which are purely devotional such as Bhakti and Karma yoga.
Various siddhis (spiritual power) may purposely or spontaneously arise during practice and devas (deities) and siddhas (enlightened beings) may also be encountered during meditative visions, which is why these are treated with great importance by most Hindus. These phenomena are not treated simply as products of one’s imagination, but instead as metaphysical realities significant to one’s progress in the path to spiritual enlightenment.
People who belong to the various schools of yoga practice what is called Samyama. I first learned about this when I was doing research on siddhis.
Samyama means “self-control, concentration, or identification” and is primarily concerned with the mind. Samyama is a combined simultaneous practice of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, which are traditional techniques that belong to the classical yoga called Raja Yoga or "Royal Union."
Dharana or "Concentration" — means fixing the attention on a single object. The collection or concentration of the mind (joined with the retention or control of breath).
Dhyana or "Meditation" — means intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation. Training the mind to remain fixed on a certain internal or external location.
Samadhi or "Liberation or Union" — means merging consciousness with the object of meditation. When one achieves samadhi, there is no longer a distinction between the "act" of meditation and the "object" of meditation.
Samyama basically involves keeping your attention on an object until your mind becomes one with it, including every aspect belonging to that object — past, present, and future. The object of meditation is usually one of the 7 Major Chakras, but Samyama may also be performed on almost any conceivable object that one chooses, if you’re skilled enough to do so.
As mentioned earlier, meditation in the traditions of Hinduism and Yoga involves many elements of mysticism and metaphysics. Hence, familiarity with Hindu mythology and a conceptual understanding of philosophical terms such as the Atman (the Self), Moksha (liberation), Advaita (non-duality), purusha and prakriti (spirit and matter), bhutas (the classical elements), and many more may be required before carrying out the practice of Samyama.
Meditation in Buddhism
While Hinduism focuses on the metaphysical, Buddhism, on the other hand, is more oriented towards the experiential aspects of our conscious awareness. In other words, it’s a hardcore science that emphasizes the importance of always paying attention to what is happening to you Here and Now.
Metaphorically speaking, in Buddhism, performing meditation on the mind and body is like the study and practice of psychology and physiology, the only difference is that your patient is your own self. Visions and all sorts of things may be experienced during meditation, but when Buddhists tell you that everything is just an illusion and you have to realize that in order to get out this mess that you’re in, you have to take it seriously.
Buddhism is divided into three main schools: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Theravada is old school as it follows the original teachings of the Buddha while the various branches of Mahayana and Vajrayana have incorporated practices from other traditions into their belief system. Nevertheless, Buddhists generally practice two interconnected systems of meditation: Samatha meditation (the development of serenity) and Vipassana meditation (the development of insight).
Samatha Meditation aims to focus the mind on an object in a steady manner. The practice involves developing a calm, concentrated, integrated mind so that you can attain inner peace. This inner peace then helps you achieve a certain level of skill necessary to reach the Jhanas (states of meditative absorption).
Jhanas are states of profound awareness, which result from focusing your mind upon a single object with such power of attention that a total immersion in the object takes place. The Jhanas can be developed both in Samatha and Vipassana meditation, but they essentially belong to Samatha.
Vipassana meditation or “insight” meditation, as it is sometimes called, aims to investigate the true nature of reality, both mental and physical. The method involves using a modest amount of serenity and stillness to cultivate moment-to-moment sati or mindfulness of the constantly changing events as we directly experience them in the present. This mindfulness creates a sense of non-attachment toward all phenomena, thus enabling the mind to be released from all forms of suffering.
There were many forms of meditation techniques back in the good ol’ days of the Buddha, but Vipassana is the one he originally developed through his own effort. Vipassana meditation practices, regardless of how they differ in each school of Buddhism, are always based on interpretations of the Satipatthana Sutta, also known as The Foundations of Mindfulness, the Buddha's "how-to" guide to the development of sati or mindfulness.
Samatha and Vipassana are not separate paths of practice, but are complementary ways of experiencing the nature of events as they occur in the present moment. What’s more is that you can practice both methods even if you are not a Buddhist. All the teachings of the Buddha (including his meditation techniques) are universal, which means they can be applied and practiced by everyone regardless of beliefs, faith, and culture.
The Buddha On Meditation:
Ryhen: Teacher, can I ask you something?
Ryhen: Is it really true that we can discover the secrets of the mind and reality if we meditate? Can we also achieve enlightenment through meditation?
Buddha: Hmm… it depends.
Ryhen: It depends on what?
Buddha: It depends if you believe it can give you what it claims to give. You see, if you’re going to meditate to clear your mind of its noise and ultimately lose it, how is that possible if what you’re using for that purpose in the first place is your mind? Isn’t that absurd? Also, enlightenment, if that’s what you’re seeking through the use of this technique, is a total waste of time.
Ryhen: Why do you say that?
Buddha: I say this because, first, the ultimate goal of meditation, which you call Moksha Nirvana, or Enlightenment, is put into you by your culture. The idea did not come from you no matter how you look at it, so how can you be sure that there is such a thing? Second, true enlightenment doesn’t require any technique to be reached. You are already there but you just don’t know it. Unfortunately, it is not something that can be known and that’s your biggest problem. If you’re seeking “union with the divine” or what other people call “Yoga” through meditation, then you won’t find it. It only comes when you stop trying to seek it.
Now, since you’re talking to me, I might as well show it to you so you can know the secret and understand what I’m trying to say, but you have to die first — no meditation needed. You only need to drop dead. Is that ok with you?
Ryhen: Jesus H. Christ!!!
Buddha: No, my name is Siddhārtha. Siddhārtha Gautama.
Ryhen: Are you serious about all this?
Buddha: Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Always stay in the middle, my friend. Follow the middle path.
Ryhen: Geezuz! You almost broke my heart there.
Buddha: Try finding Jesus. I heard he's good with heart problems.