How many people reading this blog do a little meditation each day, weekly, or just now and again? Does it make you feel good during your mediation, for some time afterwards or not at all? I guess this is sounding like one of those marketing follow up surveys ……….. and maybe it is, because I personally recognised the emptiness of isolated meditation some time ago and decided to do something about it. So, I am inspired today to write this rather “pointed” post after something I read recently in the online Buddhist magazine, Tricycle. Here’s a couple of quotes from the article:
“Meditation in the West grounds itself in a mélange of self-indulgence and gesture politics masquerading as compassion—a “compassion,” it must be said, that cannot see beyond self-regard. The result is the same vapid posturing that dominates so much of contemporary culture.”Lama Jampa Thaye, Living by Meditation alone, Tricycle.
“If current trends continue, meditation will become a mere app for stress-free living. In other words, it will simply come to accommodate the harmful consumption-driven lifestyles that still characterise much of life in wealthy Western countries. In such a scenario meditation would serve as a reinforcing agent to stabilise delusion!”Lama Jampa Thaye, Living by Meditation alone, Tricycle.
If ever any words called out and characterised the modern disease of virtue signalling it’s these quotes above from Lama Jampa Thaye. He doesn’t mince his words, and I believe that he is right about the modern day use of a tool of Buddhism that goes back 2.5 millennia. Meditation is a group of three steps within The Eightfold Path and comprises Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration/Focus. It is NOT a standalone group; it is an overlapping set with Wisdom and Moral Discipline where all three represent the way to overcome “suffering” in our lives.
When I first dabbled with meditation 25 years ago I soon recognised that a mere 30 min meditation each day was of little use in dealing with the onslaught of grief, anger, low self esteem and despair I was experiencing. I needed to seek answers, causes even for how I felt, and to contemplate those possible causes DURING each meditation session. I needed to change my outlook on life spiritually and morally, to understand a different reality from the one I was living in. If it interests you as a story you can read it here Buddha & Me: All States of Being.
It was the combining of the three sections of The Eightfold Path as taught by the historical Buddha that led to more meaningful meditation sessions, greater mindfulness and a stronger mental health than I would have believed possible 25 years ago. I cannot match the depth of spiritual insight of Lama Jampa Thaye, but I can certainly agree with his view of how meditation has become a shallow fashion or fad for many to wear like a badge of virtue. Maybe reading my post about how I recognised the shallowness of expecting meditation as a standalone “tool” will help a few who seek greater depth Buddha & Me: All States of Being.
Categories: Buddha, Philosophy
Thank you for this very provocative post, Dr B. I will need more time to fully digest all that you present here to respond comprehensively. I will simply say now that I too meditate daily, alone and/or with others, and follow an Eightfold Path approach. I do not subscribe to a “one-right-way- to-meditate.” As my primary teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, was reported to have said, “I do whatever works and change it when it no longer works.” See this link for an article by Natalie Goldberg https://www.eomega.org/article/what-50-years-of-meditation-has-taught-me
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Thanks Patrick, I knew I could rely on you for a well considered comment. I read Natalie’s article, thanks for the link. I think that her four points are generally helpful, though she doesn’t place meditation inside a Buddhist context. I have also read somewhere that retreats and organisations are springing up who offer “Buddhist Lite” which does not include any dharma at all!! People are either being conned financially or spiritually as far as I’m concerned. However, there are also organisations that use meditation as part of a therapeutic process and there’s nothing wrong with that. A good example if it interests you is the story of Ruby Wax who experienced then became qualified in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Her book on her story is very funny.
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Thanks for the Ruby Wax tip. Wasn’t familiar with her but have now enjoyed a couple of her YouTube videos. 🙂
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