Why Meditate?

Why Meditate?

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No happiness surpasses peace of mind.

Buddhist Proverb

Human endeavor all down the ages has sought to improve our quality of life, whether it be in the medical, technological or social spectrums. We have possibly come as far as we can in overcoming the problems solvable by material solutions. The problems that remain 6 unsolved in spite of our material progress alert us to the fact that we need alternative strategies if we are to attain the true quality of life in our world.

Often we forget that behind every problem is a human face, and humans are more than just automatons governed by technological knowhow-humans have emotions, intentions and minds. If we are to elevate our quality of life, we have to upgrade our quality of mind alongside our material standard of living.

In answer to the question ‘Why Meditate?’ the obvious importance of meditation is that it serves as the most direct and practical means to upgrade the spiritual quality of our lives. Meditation serves as a way to integrate spiritual well-being in step with our material well-being.

Some people are attracted to meditation as a means to solve health problems. Several ‘modern-day’ illnesses that present complications for western medicine, such as stress, depression and insomnia can be improved by meditation which helps to re-balance body and mind. Meditation has also been scientifically proven to assist in the speedy recovery from illness.

It is only a minority who meditate as a result of their problems. Most meditate because they want to improve or enrich themselves, their personality or their lifestyle in the spiritual dimension. To this end, meditation can enhance one’s potential for study, sporting performance, self-confidence and decision-making.

Beyond this are those who meditate with a deeper spiritual vocation to learn more about themselves or to explore the ‘eternal questions’ of life and the world.

Meditation: not so difficult, but not too easy either.

Meditation is not so difficult to learn because it builds on skill and abilities which we already have. Meditation is already something we do in our everyday life, allowing us to focus on the task in hand—but the depth of meditation is superficial because our mind is cluttered by thoughts. By developing our meditation formally, we can free our mind of unwanted thoughts, allowing the mind to come to a standstill–at which point the depth of concentration is increased.

The difficulty of meditation is that we have to do it by our own efforts—no one else can do it for us. Furthermore, one will never become skilled just by talking or reading about it. Expertise comes only by doing it. Thus, we have to rely on our own self-discipline to integrate meditation into our life as a daily practice. Moreover, progress in meditation is gradual. Reversing the mental habits of a lifetime doesn’t happen overnight. Consistent diligence is rewarded by success in the long-term. In our modern world of ‘instant gratification’, sometimes we have to engage a new level of patience in order to adapt ourselves to the pace of meditation progress—so be warned!

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Why Meditate?

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Step by step guided meditation | Middle Way Meditation

Step by step guided meditation | Middle Way Meditation

Meditation guide by Robert Mawson

Part 01: Relaxation

This is the introduction to the middle way meditation which we will split it into two parts. The first part will be body and mind relaxation and the second part will be the visualization part which we will release in the following week.

Robert Mawson will guide you through the process of body relaxation and mental relaxation to the completeness of total silence and a peaceful mind. Please come back for Part 02: Visualization, as it is a very important part in the middle way meditation practice. 

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Guided meditation on the middle way meditation

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This guided meditation by B.T. Bhikkhu on the middle way meditation technique will guide you through the relaxation of mind and body to complete mental relaxation and a peaceful mind.

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Top 10 Health and Fitness Tips from Buddha

Top 10 Health and Fitness Tips from Buddha

Close your eyes and picture Buddha. Are you thinking of a fat bald guy with droopy earlobes and a goofy smile? This is the image that has been popularized by little statues and restaurant murals around the world, but it is far from the reality.

Born to the prosperous rulers of the Shakya Clan in the 6th Century BC, the man who would become Buddha was a prince named Siddhartha who stayed in top physical shape in the luxurious confines of his family’s palace. Outside of the palace walls, he fasted and ate only when it was necessary for his survival. We’ve assembled the top 10 health and fitness tips from Buddha, and none of them justify an endlessly expanding waistline, sorry!

1. Clean Diet

In following the First Precept of the Five Moral Precepts, many Buddhists choose Vegetarian or Vegan diets because they do not believe in killing animals for food.  Buddha recommended following a diet consisting of fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is also important to consume lean protein, healthy carbs, vitamins, minerals, and fats.

A study published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; (Apr 1999, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p459-468, 10p) shows that Vitamin E plays an extremely important role in platelet, vascular, and immune health due to its antioxidant properties. Incorporating an adequate amount of Vitamin E in your diet will leave you feeling more energetic, clear-minded and will also improve the immune system.

2. Always Begin Your Day With Breakfast

Many Buddhist monks have been observed consuming breakfasts commonly consisting of steamed vegetables, fish broth, and poached eggs.  The purpose of a diet consisting of these items is to prime your digestive system for an energetic and highly productive day while feeding beneficial digestive flora and starving pathogenic bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract.

3. Fasting

Buddhism encourages ascetic practices–practices meant to teach self-discipline or self-denial in the pursuit of a spiritual goal.

Fasting helps you achieve self-discipline and acquire more self-control while detoxifying the body. Based on the Second Precept of the Five Moral Precepts, Buddha recommended eating once a day, in one sitting, taking care to reducing the amount eaten to avoid overconsumption. It was also recommended for monks not to consume solid food afternoon.
The potential health benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, improved cardiovascular and brain function, improved risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke, and increased resistance to age-related diseases and insulin sensitivity.

4. Wake up Early

It is important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule in which you go to sleep at and wake up at the same time every day.  One of the main benefits of waking up early includes increased energy, clarity of mind and productivity.  Waking up early will also give you an early start and more time to work on your goals for the day.

5. Maintain Physical Fitness

Siddhartha Gautama was born into the caste of warriors, rulers, and aristocrats of ancient India.  As a result, Siddhartha Gautama underwent rigorous physical training to master archery, swordsmanship, and horsemanship.  A healthy, flexible, and fit body will undoubtedly complement and support the pursuit of a healthy, flexible, and fit mind.  Unsurprisingly, yoga and Buddhism are sister traditions that evolved in the same spiritual culture of ancient India.  The beginnings of yoga can be traced back over 5,000 years ago to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of Northern India and ancient monks used yoga along with pranayama (breathing the life force) to prepare their bodies for long periods of seated meditation.

6. Meditate Every Day

Meditation occupies a central place in all forms of Buddhism.  The Buddha was one of history’s major proponents of meditation, and Indian tantras (scriptures) mentioned meditation techniques around 5000 years ago.

According to the Buddha Dharma Education Association, the basic purpose of meditation is to calm the mind and train it to concentrate.  The benefits of meditating each day include lowered blood pressure and allow for fewer distractions throughout daily life.

7. Avoid Intoxicating Substances

Buddha emphasized the importance of avoiding intoxicating substances.  Intoxicating substances are to be avoided because they cloud the mind, can be physically and psychologically addictive and may increase the likelihood of breaking the other rules of Buddhism, according to the Five Moral Precepts.

8. Practice Proper Breathing

Proper breathing techniques go hand in hand with yoga and meditation.  There are many ways to practice proper breathing as one of the health benefits of mindful breathing and meditation include decreased Beta brain waves, which are associated with thinking, problem-solving, and stress.  With daily practice of proper breathing, you will increase Alpha, Theta, and Gamma brain waves, which are the brain waves associated with relaxed creativity and high mental state.  Mindful breathing throughout the day has been shown to have positive effects on the stress of the body and mind.  In a study published in NeuroImage suggests that mindful attention to breath contributes to increased emotional regulation because of the increased amygdala and prefrontal-cortex connectivity.

9. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness according to Merriam-Webster is defined as “the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” and pertains to both bodily actions and the mind’s thoughts and feelings.

Mindfulness is a conscious direction of our awareness and is often synonymous with meditation.  In Buddhism, mindfulness is a prerequisite for developing insight and wisdom.  Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time and does not necessarily require sitting in one place.

10. Practice Altruism

“O monks, wander! We will go forward for the benefit of many people…out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans.” — Catusparishad Sutra (Buddhist scripture)

“Someone may build a precious reliquary, as high as the world; It is said that training others to generate The altruistic intention is more excellent.” — Aryadeva (monk, 170-260 CE).

Many Buddhist organizations aim to give help and provide warmth and active caring to relieve suffering.  The goal of adopting an altruistic approach to life is to extend compassion and loving-kindness, or charity to others.

Right & Wrong Meditation Practice

Right & Wrong Meditation Practice

People overlook the fact that suffering lies inside the mind (rather than outside it) and therefore must be dealt with inside the mind, not in the body or outside body and mind.

Many misunderstand that drinking, taking drugs and roaming from one place of entertainment to another will alleviate their suffering but in fact, it only manages to distract the mind from suffering temporarily. If we want to deal with suffering on a permanent basis, we cannot avoid meditation and it is perhaps no surprise that meditation is becoming more popular in the present day, especially in the western world.

Different people, however, meditate for the different reason. Some merely want to show off mental powers to win spiritual followers. Others wish to use meditation to cultivate mindfulness and wisdom to deal with suffering at its roots. Thus, it is obvious that the one word ‘meditation’ can refer to different things. Therefore, it is necessary to take note of the most fundamental categorization of meditation so that when we come to practice meditation, we can choose the correct methodology:

1. Right Meditation

Proper meditation in Buddhism is called ‘Right Meditation’ [Sammaa Samaadhi] further elucidated in the scriptures as follows:1 “What do we mean by Right Meditation? Any monk established in the Dhammavinaya, who is aloof from the sense pleasures and unwholesomeness attaining the first absorption as identified by initial application of mind [vitakka], continued application of mind [vicaara], joy [piiti] and happiness [sukha] and one-pointedness [ekaggata]. Detached from these qualities, he enters upon the second absorption – his mind becoming brighter in the absence of initial or continued application of mind. Only joy, happiness and one-pointedness [ekaggata] remain, mindful [sati] and self-possessed [sampajañña]. Detached from these qualities, joy disappeared, and he enters upon the third absorption as praised by the Buddhist saints as being one who has attained equanimity, mindfulness and happiness. Entering upon the fourth absorption where there is neither suffering nor happiness – because he has already transcended elation and sorrow. Equanimity results in the pure mindfulness named Right Meditation otherwise known as the Noble Truth of the Pathway to the Cessation of Suffering [dukkha-nirodha-gaaminii-pa.tipadaa-ariyasacca].” It can be concluded that Right Meditation is a way to calm the mind and reduce any sensuality or unwholesomeness in the mind. All the way from the first to the fourth absorption, will have the condition of feeling ‘neither-happiness-nor-suffering’ [adukkhamasukha], but rather abiding in equanimity [upekkhaa] which allows one to perceive things in pure mindfulness. In other places in the Buddhist Scriptures, Right Meditation is described as:

1. the mind free of mental chatter.

2. a mind made stable and focused in the proper way.

2. Wrong Meditation

In the Abhidhamma, Right Meditation is described as:

Right Meditation is the focus of the mind, where the mind is stable and unwavering. The mind’s condition of being unmoving gives rise to peacefulness, the faculty of concentration, the strength of concentration, and focusing the mind in the proper way.

Right Meditation can thus be seen to be of great benefit to the practitioner of meditation. When mental chatter disappears and the mind becomes focused, Wrong Meditation and defilements will be vanquished in accordance with the scriptures which affirm that, “those who cultivate Right Concentration will uproot greed, hatred and delusion.”5 Broadly speaking, it can be said that Right Meditation is able to eradicate Wrong Meditation, mental chatter and defilements, and allow the practitioner thereby to attain the highest goal of Nirvana. As stated in the Majjhima Nikaaya Commentaries that when Right Meditation comes into existence, Wrong Meditation and the defilements which are the obstacle to Right Meditation are eradicated a taste of Nirvana thus being attained thereafter giving the practitioner full faith in and unfailing practice of the compounded mental phenomena [sampayutta-dhamma]  and that is why it is known as Right Meditation. In conclusion, to succeed in meditation, one must practice Right Meditation that is to practice for a peaceful mind, eradication of sensuality and unwholesomeness and freedom from mental chatter until the mind becomes focused steadfastly. This practice corresponds to the Buddha’s teachings, and will enable the practitioner to attain the goal of Nirvana. The absence of mental chatter means that thoughts or images of the things that bring about the greed, hatred or delusion must no longer pass through the mind. The Buddhist Scriptures define mental distraction as when the attention is displaced outside the body becoming caught up instead infatuation in five types of sense objects: images, sound, odor, taste and touch which pollutes the mind with sense-desires.

Portrait of 3 day meditation retreat at Pai

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