Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

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dwdanby
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Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by dwdanby »

What is the cause-and-effect connection between meditation and awakening? I am brand new to meditation, but so far I understand it to be an effort to empty the mind. Does a cleared mind then lead to an openness to awakening? is it something to do with connecting to something outside of us by clearing the mind so the outside can be understood? I am very curious as to how this works. Thank you so much! :thanks:
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KathyLauren
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by KathyLauren »

Meditation is not an attempt to empty the mind. The mind processes thoughts. That is what it does, just as the lungs breathe and the heart beats. You can't empty the mind of thoughts and survive, any more than you could stop the lungs from breathing or stop the heart from beating and survive.

Meditation is an effort to discipline the mind, to have it exert some self-control.

Buddhism is about putting an end to suffering. Suffering is the result of attachments or cravings, which are the result of delusion. Delusion is a function of the undisciplined mind. By disciplining the mind, you reduce delusions, thereby allowing you to reduce cravings and reduce suffering.

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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Minobu »

KathyLauren wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:40 pm Meditation is not an attempt to empty the mind. The mind processes thoughts. That is what it does, just as the lungs breathe and the heart beats. You can't empty the mind of thoughts and survive, any more than you could stop the lungs from breathing or stop the heart from beating and survive.

Meditation is an effort to discipline the mind, to have it exert some self-control.

Buddhism is about putting an end to suffering. Suffering is the result of attachments or cravings, which are the result of delusion. Delusion is a function of the undisciplined mind. By disciplining the mind, you reduce delusions, thereby allowing you to reduce cravings and reduce suffering.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Very well put Kathy.

If i may add

there is a huge reason that all Buddhist practice starts with one baby step.

Mindfulness.

without a semblance of mindfulness nothing can be accomplished.

Hence the breathing , walking , mantra meditations.

thoughts come and go and we all find ourselves thinking about the grocery list whilst practicing mindfulness.

the medicine for that is when you realize it is happening during an act of training in some sort of mindfulness meditation,,just let it go and move back to the practice...no worries ..no obsessing you can only concentrate on half a breath going in...lol...

the weird thing is , most find even lousey meditators like myself...will get so much benefit from a steady daily practice...even though your attention span is only a half a breath in...

it might take months but eventually you will get to watch one breath in and half a breath out....then the whole thing in and out for a few times..


lol

don't beat yourself up over it...like i said some sort of huge benefit arises from just a daily trying..

the breath meditation is the same for mantra recital, or walking meditation ..practicing mindfulness whilst cooking is really helping ...better food , less stress and practice forcing the mind to focus...

cheers

best question ever...always the best question ...
Genjo Conan
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Genjo Conan »

You're going to get different answers from different traditions. In mine--Soto Zen--there is no purpose per se. Zazen is completely useless; it doesn't lead to anything. We do it because it's an expression of awakening: in our tradition there's a unity of practice and realization.
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Genjo Conan »

Minobu wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:17 pm
Genjo Conan wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:23 pm You're going to get different answers from different traditions. In mine--Soto Zen--there is no purpose per se. Zazen is completely useless; it doesn't lead to anything. We do it because it's an expression of awakening: in our tradition there's a unity of practice and realization.
interesting so no mindfulness in zazen
learned something...

so what exactly is zazen or is it a secret teaching that needs lineage and such to tell someone about it

which i fully respect
I wouldn't say there's no mindfulness in Zazen. I would say that we don't sit Zazen to cultivate mindfulness, but mindfulness may arise.

I also wouldn't call Zazen an esoteric or secret practice, although I do think that Zen practice requires grounding in a lineage. Because Soto Zen teaches Zazen as a formless, objectless practice, I think it's really important for practitioners--especially new ones--to work with a teacher. Otherwise I think people wind up sitting on a cushion just thinking about groceries or sex and thinking that's all there is.
dwdanby
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by dwdanby »

Hi Kathy, I appreciate your reply.

To this part: "Delusion is a function of the undisciplined mind. By disciplining the mind, you reduce delusions..."

could you go into that a little more? I don't understand the connection between disciplining the mind in terms of better focus, and not having so many delusions. I guess I think of delusions as something to be reduced by better understanding where they come from and why, in other words by reasoning them away, as it were. How are they a result of lack of mental focus, and how does learning to focus on the breath, or on what one is doing at the moment, connect to the delusions in one's mind? (As you can probably guess, I'm partly a product of therapy that is focused on thinking things through as being a solution.)
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by reiun »

LastLegend wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 7:25 pm It’s because the perception of Zazen is wrong...dead end on cushion no Bodhisattvayana intent.
LastLegend wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 6:33 pm I am waiting for someone who would say something different from my claim.
The supreme meditation method is not any technique of manipulating thoughts, being "mindful", or "staying in the moment," but rather to turn around and directly recognize the luminous*, boundless nature of one's own mind.
Meido Moore Roshi: The Rinzai Zen Way, p. 17

*One of our expert members here has offered that luminous also means "pure"
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dwdanby
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by dwdanby »

"The supreme meditation method is not any technique of manipulating thoughts, being "mindful", or "staying in the moment," but rather to turn around and directly recognize the luminous*, boundless nature of one's own mind."

Holy cow. How do I do that?

(I'm not trying to be flip, I'm just so unfamiliar with all these concepts. Thanks for your patience.)
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Ayu »

I moved this topic to the subforum Discovering Mahayana, because this is exactly the place for answering newbie's questions patiently.

I removed some off-topic posts, because they were not referring to OP's questions.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:
Genjo Conan
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Genjo Conan »

dwdanby wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 9:56 pm "The supreme meditation method is not any technique of manipulating thoughts, being "mindful", or "staying in the moment," but rather to turn around and directly recognize the luminous*, boundless nature of one's own mind."

Holy cow. How do I do that?

(I'm not trying to be flip, I'm just so unfamiliar with all these concepts. Thanks for your patience.)
I genuinely don't mean to be opaque or secretive, but I think the best way to learn the practice of Zazen is to find a teacher who teaches Zazen, and then try it for yourself. It's hard to describe in words, in part because, when you describe it in words, it seems totally ordinary. For example, Eihei Dogen, the Japanese founder of my lineage, wrote this:
At the site of your regular sitting, spread out thick matting and place a cushion above it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, you first place your right foot on your left thigh and your left foot on your
right thigh. In the half-lotus, you simply press your left foot against your right thigh. You should have your robes and belt loosely bound and arranged in order. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left palm (facing upward) on your right palm, thumb-tips touching. Thus sit upright in correct bodily posture, neither inclining to the left nor to the right, neither leaning forward nor backward. Be sure your ears are on a plane with your shoulders and your nose in line with your navel. Place your tongue against the front roof of your mouth, with teeth and lips both shut. Your eyes should always remain open, and you should breathe
gently through your nose. Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immovable sitting position. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.
And you can read that and think "nonsense, what's so special about that? That's just standard meditation instructions." But Dogen goes on to write:
The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the dharma-gate of repose and bliss, the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is the manifestation of ultimate reality. Traps and snares can never reach it. Once its heart is grasped, you are like a dragon gaining the water, like a tiger taking to the mountains. For you must know that just there (in zazen) the right dharma is manifesting itself and that from the first dullness and distraction are struck aside.
So it is totally ordinary--and still, there's something else besides that. But again, it's really hard to describe in a way that doesn't sound banal. So I really think the best way to learn Zazen is to find a teacher to work with.
Last edited by Genjo Conan on Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
reiun
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by reiun »

dwdanby wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 9:56 pm "The supreme meditation method is not any technique of manipulating thoughts, being "mindful", or "staying in the moment," but rather to turn around and directly recognize the luminous*, boundless nature of one's own mind."

Holy cow. How do I do that?

(I'm not trying to be flip, I'm just so unfamiliar with all these concepts. Thanks for your patience.)
Meido Roshi, member emeritus here, is Abbot at Korinji, and may be contacted at: https://www.korinji.org/

Guidance by a teacher is imo essential. I strongly suggest you survey teachers online for a good fit. Zoom, email, etc., are available if you can't commute. No doubt others here may have a preference. Meido Roshi's book contains a superb introduction to zazen.

If you pursue zen, the book Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy by Katsuki Sekida is the best practice-oriented reference that I have ever found.

The "expert member" I quoted is Malcolm, and might be available for PM.

As my own teacher was fond of saying, "Good ruck!"
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

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dwdanby wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 7:07 am What is the cause-and-effect connection between meditation and awakening? I am brand new to meditation, but so far I understand it to be an effort to empty the mind. Does a cleared mind then lead to an openness to awakening? is it something to do with connecting to something outside of us by clearing the mind so the outside can be understood? I am very curious as to how this works. Thank you so much! :thanks:
It's impossible to empty the mind, and a completely pointless thing to do. It's about truly, nakedly apprehending the mind...to put it in the simplest way possible.

If you are completely unfamiliar with Buddhism, maybe basic books on it might be a starting place? Depending on where your interests lie, there are some good ones out there.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Inedible »

There is a description of how Samsara works called Dependent Origination. There are other versions of it, but I keep studying one with 12 links in the cycle. The point of meditation is to develop the ability to slow down the process so you can break the links and bring the cycle to an end.
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by KathyLauren »

dwdanby wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 9:02 pm Hi Kathy, I appreciate your reply.

To this part: "Delusion is a function of the undisciplined mind. By disciplining the mind, you reduce delusions..."

could you go into that a little more? I don't understand the connection between disciplining the mind in terms of better focus, and not having so many delusions. I guess I think of delusions as something to be reduced by better understanding where they come from and why, in other words by reasoning them away, as it were. How are they a result of lack of mental focus, and how does learning to focus on the breath, or on what one is doing at the moment, connect to the delusions in one's mind? (As you can probably guess, I'm partly a product of therapy that is focused on thinking things through as being a solution.)
Delusions are a result of making assumptions that turn out to be incorrect. Making assumptions is something we do automatically, without thinking. So we tend to be unaware of them. We just take it for granted that that is the way things are, without examining them.

The point of meditation is to train the mind in being aware. In particular, to be aware of the mind's own processes. Once we are aware of our own mind's functioning, we can better see and examine the wrong assumptions that we have made.

We don't watch the breath because the breath is particularly interesting. The whole point is that it is not interesting. The mind will wander. But, with practise, we can catch the mind in the act of wandering. In doing so, we become aware of how the mind works: its craving for distraction, for example. It is not enough for someone to tell you that the mind wanders. You have to catch it in the act yourself and experience how hard it is to discipline the mind. Only then can you begin to explore the mind's capacity for delusion.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by avatamsaka3 »

What is the cause-and-effect connection between meditation and awakening? I am brand new to meditation, but so far I understand it to be an effort to empty the mind.
There are many, many different Buddhist traditions, and many different ways of describing and teaching people to meditate. So, naturally, your question could be answered from many different perspectives. It's best to ask these questions with a particular tradition and even a particular text or teaching in mind: e.g. "What does Tsongkhapa say in the Lam Rim about the relationship between shamatha, vipashyana, and Buddhahood?" Or, "How does Dogen view the concept of enlightenment and its relationship to zazen practice?" If you can mention a specific tradition and a specific meditation practice in that tradition, the value you will get out of your questions will be greater.

Also keep in mind that different people have different characters, experiences, needs, inclinations, faults, etc. This means that while one person may benefit from viewpoint X, another may benefit from viewpoint Y. Traditionally, meditation is not learned through books and random encounters with external resources: rather, it's learned through a student-teacher relationship in a specific tradition, grounded in certain viewpoints that may have a cultural component, and (in the best of cases) contain the right viewpoints for practitioners to enter the practice. Unfortunately, it's hard to simulate all of this using books. Obviously, books aren't able to read your character (or look at your posture, or anything else) and make useful suggestions.

To actually answer your question we'd have to figure out first which sort of viewpoint we're seeing things from. Then, we'd have to define our terms better. What exactly do we mean by "meditation"? What exactly do you mean by "awakening"? (This is a term used a lot in various ways in various communities, but is not usually clearly defined.) Depending on the tradition, there may not be a simple cause-and-effect relationship. Meditation could be one of a myriad of causes, or the whole notion of a causal link between these is challenged.

What's more important here is: What do you want to practice and why?
Last edited by avatamsaka3 on Sat Jun 12, 2021 11:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

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Inedible wrote: Sat Jun 12, 2021 6:41 am There is a description of how Samsara works called Dependent Origination. There are other versions of it, but I keep studying one with 12 links in the cycle. The point of meditation is to develop the ability to slow down the process so you can break the links and bring the cycle to an end.
What tradition is this from? The part about slowing down the cycle.

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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

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Hi avatamsaka3, thank you so much for your very clear reply. I need to learn about the different traditions. Right now all I know is that, after a lifetime being a Christian, I'm now looking for something different. I've read the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and listened for some hours to Ajahn Brahm with the Buddhist Society of W. Australia. What he says makes wonderful sense to me, but it's the only source I have at the moment. I wonder - is my next step to find teachings from all the other traditions, and then compare notes? or is it more a matter of finding one that gives me peace, hope and joy, and settle there? I'm awfully old (well, ok, 59) and the idea of lengthy comparison is exhausting just to think about. :thinking:
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

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dwdanby wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 12:36 am Hi avatamsaka3, thank you so much for your very clear reply. I need to learn about the different traditions. Right now all I know is that, after a lifetime being a Christian, I'm now looking for something different. I've read the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and listened for some hours to Ajahn Brahm with the Buddhist Society of W. Australia. What he says makes wonderful sense to me, but it's the only source I have at the moment. I wonder - is my next step to find teachings from all the other traditions, and then compare notes? or is it more a matter of finding one that gives me peace, hope and joy, and settle there? I'm awfully old (well, ok, 59) and the idea of lengthy comparison is exhausting just to think about. :thinking:
Don't sweat the big stuff. You could look at what dharma centers are near you and check them out. Just do a little bit of homework about them and the tradition they represent to help keep you safe from the cults.

Happy Pride month to my queer dharma siblings!
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by Inedible »

Hazel wrote: Sun Jun 13, 2021 12:16 am What tradition is this from? The part about slowing down the cycle.
The local Mahayana group I went to fell apart and they weren't much into study or meditation. Just reciting practice texts. I get most of what I have learned from reading. One of the books was saying that craving is the weak link in the chain of Dependent Origination because we don't have to act on it. The mindfulness we develop in meditation allows us to realize craving at the time of feeling it and skilfully release it. There will be enough time to do this because it will seem to have slowed down due to the amount of detail perceived. Another book said the weakest point in the chain is between contact and feeling. The important thing is to develop your mind and perceive more detail in your experience so you can respond instead of being forced to react. That is how meditation helps. The more details per second your mind is recording as unique snapshots, the slower time seems to move. Normally this is around twelve, but in a serious accident it can be closer to eighty. It can feel like you have all the time in the world with nothing to do but wait for it. At the other extreme, you have those people who used to be on the Jerry Springer show. They are constantly explaining how they did things they didn't really mean to do because they didn't have a choice. Things were just moving too quickly.
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Re: Very very new to Buddhism - purpose of meditation?

Post by avatamsaka3 »

Hi avatamsaka3, thank you so much for your very clear reply. I need to learn about the different traditions. Right now all I know is that, after a lifetime being a Christian, I'm now looking for something different. I've read the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and listened for some hours to Ajahn Brahm with the Buddhist Society of W. Australia. What he says makes wonderful sense to me, but it's the only source I have at the moment. I wonder - is my next step to find teachings from all the other traditions, and then compare notes? or is it more a matter of finding one that gives me peace, hope and joy, and settle there? I'm awfully old (well, ok, 59) and the idea of lengthy comparison is exhausting just to think about. :thinking:
Each of the Buddhist traditions provide a map of what is possible. The question is what relevance this map has for us, right here and now. I find that most people have to deal with all kinds of attachments, pressures, annoyances, likes, dislikes, fighting, injustice, addictions, aggressions, insufficiencies, jealousies, etc. This world is messy, harmful, deceitful, and corrupted. So when we're trying to walk a path that goes against the way of the world we have to understand the enormity of the task. Just living well at a basic level is hard enough. Just not being nasty in the face of lots of nastiness is hard enough. So, yes, you should learn the basics of traditions you're interested in. Read Bhikkhu Bodhi's guide to the Noble Eightfold Path, if you're interested in that. For Mahayana teachings, you can read Shantideva's classic text or the Dalai Lama's books in the Core Teachings series (which I often recommend). The important thing to do after you've learned something from a tradition is to ask "How is this relevant to me? What will I do with this specifically? Can I actually see myself using these teachings in my life?" Otherwise, why would one want to learn anything?

It's important to not get caught up in the phenomenon of cultural "flipping". Someone went somewhere and didn't like community X for some reason. So they "take refuge" in community Y, thinking it's the opposite of X. Well, this is not the meaning of taking refuge. And if you spend enough time seeking for truth, you'll find that there are certain human faults seen in communities that are universal (in the sense that they could always manifest in particularly unfortunate, challenging situations): meanness, prejudices, harsh speech, divisiveness, etc. The problem from the Buddhist point of view that I practice is the three poisons: hatred, greed, and delusion. When you make these your enemy, we can say you are on the path of renunciation. When you use the Buddha's teaching (and not the example of the world) to destroy or restrain these, then we can call that true refuge.

There are a bunch of other little suggestions: as a seeker, say very little and listen to everything but don't accept everything without investigation. Don't get caught up in sectarianism or divisive hate of any kind. (Could write a whole response on that part.) Don't commit to any community without knowing what its tradition believes, and without spending a lot of time there. Also, be very realistic about teachers and communities. None of them are going to be fault-less, unfortunately. (Unless you find a truly enlightened master, which is going to be quite rare!)

I hope this helps.
Last edited by avatamsaka3 on Sun Jun 13, 2021 9:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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