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Lions Roar : May 2017
The heart of Buddhist meditation lives in the word “buddha.” In the now-familiar outer sense, this ancient Sanskrit word is the name for an extraordinarily wise being, an “awakened one.” But the inner meaning—shared by every Buddhist tradition and lin- eage—is that we can all awaken completely from the nightmare of psychological confusion. We can all become buddhas. That is our innate potential, our human birthright. Buddhist meditation places the key to this profound inner transformation firmly in our own hands. No one else can unlock the prison doors of the neurotic states of mind that confine us. No one else can open the way into the rich spiritual treasury of compassion and wisdom hidden in our own hearts and minds. In the words of the Bob Marley song, None but our- selves can free our minds. The two main kinds of Buddhist meditation, often translated as “peaceful abiding” and “insight,” are gentle ways of increas- ing your mind’s stability while expanding its innate clarity. Let’s look closely at each type of meditation training, understanding both techniques as methods to cultivate and ripen the mind’s natural powers. Buddhist tradition compares our ordinary state of mind to a restless monkey. First the monkey drops to the ground to grasp a fallen coconut. Then, seeing bananas swaying in a nearby tree, the monkey drops the coconut and climbs toward more deli- cious fruit. This is our familiar mental habit of restless distraction. Hop- ping here, jumping there, our minds move quickly and incessantly from one thing or person to another, rarely resting anywhere. We continually search outside ourselves for inner well-being, security and contentment. The disappointing results remind us of the old saying: “One can never get enough of what does not satisfy.” Psy- chologically, we become eternal hitchhikers. Peaceful abiding or concentration meditation trains the mind to stay. We rest our innate mindfulness on the body breathing, and, when it momentarily wanders off in search of a new, improved “banana 2.0,” awareness recognizes that wander- ing and we return our attention to the breath. Buddhist medita- tion teacher Pema Chödrön leads a program titled “Learning to Stay,” an apt summary of peaceful abiding practice. Note that this meditative training skillfully builds on the mind’s inherent stability, the inborn ability to stay that is pres- ent in all of us. Even if our minds rest on the breath for only a single full cycle of breathing in and breathing out, that is embryonic steadiness. With gentle exertion and friendly care, that tiny seed of stability can grow and ripen. Peaceful abiding meditation cultivates the mind’s inherent strength—an essential capacity for developing deeper insight into the nature of human life. What Is Buddhist Meditation? Basic Buddhist meditation, GAYLON FERGUSON explains, combines peaceful abiding practice to stabilize your mind and insight into the nature of reality. PHOTOBYJILLSHEPHERD