The technique of Meditation is a simple, practical way to achieve true peace of mind and lead a happy, useful life. Meditation means “to see things as they really are”; it is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation.
From time to time, we all experience agitation, frustration and disharmony. When we suffer, we do not keep our misery limited to ourselves; instead, we keep distributing it to others. Certainly this isn’t a proper way to live. We all long to live in peace within ourselves, and with those around us. After all, human beings are social beings: we have to live and interact with others. How, then, can we live peacefully? How can we remain harmonious to ourselves, and maintain peace and harmony around us?
Meditation enables us to experience peace and harmony: it purifies the mind, freeing it from suffering and the deep-seated causes of suffering. The practice leads step-by-step to the highest spiritual goal of full liberation from all mental defilement.
During the Buddha’s time, large number of people in northern India were freed from the bonds of suffering by practicing Mediation, allowing them to attain high levels of mental achievement in all spheres of life. Over time, the technique spread to the neighbouring countries like Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and others, where it had the same ennobling effect.
Five centuries after the Buddha, The purity of the teaching was lost almost everywhere. In the country of Burma, however, it was preserved by a chain of devoted teachers. From generation to generation, over two thousand years, this dedicated lineage transmitted the technique in its pristine purity.
However, they are free to discuss meditation questions with the teacher and material problems with the management.
There are three steps to the training. First, the students practice abstinence from actions which causes harm. They undertake five moral precepts, practicing abstention from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and the use of intoxicants. The observation of these precepts allows the mind to calm down sufficiently to proceed with the task at hand. Second, for the first three-and-a-half days, students practice Anapana sati meditation, focusing attention on the breath. This practice helps to develop control over the unruly mind.
These first two steps of living a wholesome life and developing control of the mind are necessary and beneficial, but are incomplete unless the third step is taken: purifying the mind of underlying negativeness. The third step, undertaken for the last six-and-a-half days, is the practice of meditation: one penetrates one’s entire physical and mental structure with the clarity of insight.
A Non-Sectarian Technique
Although Mediation has been preserved in the Buddhist tradition, it contains nothing of a sectarian nature, and is accepted and applied by people from all corners of the world. The Buddha himself taught Dhamma (the way, the truth, the path). He did not call his followers “Buddhists”; he referred to them as “Dhammists” (those who follow the truth). The technique works on the basis that all human beings share the same problems, and a pragmatic method which can eradicate these problems can be universally practiced.
Meditation courses are open to anyone, who sincerely wishes to learn the technique, irrespective of race, caste, faith or nationality. As well as members of other religions have all successfully practiced Meditation. The malady is universal; therefore, the remedy has to be universal as well. For example, when we experience anger, this anger is not Christian anger, Chinese anger or American anger. Similarly, love and compassion is not the strict province of any community or creed: they are universal human qualities resulting from purity of mind. People from all backgrounds who practice Meditation find that they become better human beings.
The Present-day World Environment
Developments in the fields of science and technology, in transportation, communications, agriculture and medicine, have revolutionized human life at the material level. But, in actuality, this progress is only superficial: underneath, modern men and women are living in conditions of great mental and emotional stress, even in developed and affluent countries.
The problems and conflicts arising out of racial, ethnic, sectarian and caste prejudices affect the citizens of every country. Poverty, warfare, weapons of mass destruction, disease, drug addiction, the threat of terrorism, epidemic environmental devastation and the general decline of moral values-all cast a dark shadow on the future of civilization. One needs only one glance at the front page of a daily newspaper to be reminded of the acute suffering and deep despair which afflict the inhabitants of our planet.
Is there a way out of these seemingly insolvable problems? The answer is unequivocally, yes. All over the world today, the winds of change are readily apparent. People everywhere are eager to find a method which can bring peace and harmony; restore confidence in the efficacy of wholesome human qualities; and create an environment of freedom and security from all types of exploitation-social, religious and economic. Meditation can be such a method.
Meditation and Social Change
The technique of Meditation is a path leading to freedom from all suffering; it eradicates the craving, aversion and ignorance in simple words greed, hatred and delusion which are the basis of all our miseries. Those who practice meditation will start removing, little by little, the root causes of their suffering and steadily emerge from the darkness of former tensions to lead happy, healthy, productive lives. There are many examples bearing testimony to this fact.
The individual is the key: he or she must be treated with love and compassion; he must be trained to improve himself-not by exhortations to follow moral precepts, but by being instilled with the authentic desire to change. He must be taught to explore himself, to initiate a process which can bring about transformation and lead to purification of mind. This is the only change which will be enduring, and which will stand the test of time.
Meditation has the capacity to transform the human mind and character. It is an opportunity awaiting all who sincerely wish to make the effort.