"Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
Post Reply
User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 6457
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

"Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Queequeg » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:49 pm

"Meditation says to focus on the present. But life may be more meaningful if you don’t."

Its a stupid editorial byline, and a silly article, citing Louis C.K. as authority. What do you expect from Slate?

Notwithstanding, its the sort of middle brow discussion you'll find in popular media these day. The article argues against popular ideas about mindfulness and "living in the moment."

My general reaction is, at least from a Buddhist perspective, "meditation" would not say only to focus on the present, but rather, once the mind is calmed, one should move on to some of the modes of mentation that they say uncovers meaning and insight.

I'm not posting this to say, "Ah, what idiots these people are!" but rather pointing out, our fellows encompassed in the middle brow gestalt who are just learning about Mind cultivation are still working out incomplete pictures of what "meditation" entails. Those of us who earnestly pursue meditative practice and know a little bit more about it than they do might look on these people for what they are - novices flailing in the elementary stages of discovering Mind. It inspires me offer words of encouragement.

Thought the thoughts and reactions of this community would be interesting...
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

User avatar
Paul
Posts: 1726
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Paul » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:17 pm

Seems that the main problem is bad information. This takes loads of forms, such as meditation is for hippies or for people living caves. The new form of bad information is that mindfulness is for working even harder at your job.

But at least it's out there and becoming more popular. Misinformation is to be expected when something so apparently alien is introduced to the general culture. For people totally new to it there is the problem of not knowing who to turn to as a reliable authority.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell

User avatar
Kaccāni
Posts: 1083
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:03 pm
Location: Germany
Contact:

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Kaccāni » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:52 pm

I would assume this depends on the definition of meaningful.
Shush! I'm doing nose-picking practice!

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1789
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Rick » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:54 pm

I liked the article, thought it was brave in light of the current mindfulness fad.

I find the OP dripping with "better than thou" condescension, the kind of attitude that comes from holding on tightly to a belief system.

Of course I could be utterly wrong! That's the fun of speculation ... it's so ... speculative. ;-)
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 8432
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:03 pm

Silly article. There certainly are occasions where our ability to project and plan are useful, but really I think 90% is meaningless chatter, plenty is just obsessive thought, that never gets 'used' for anything.

The article also somewhat neglects the fact thay when you project or relive, this is not just thoughts, but stirring of emotions, for many people projections of the future, and 'loops' of past experience are full of negative content, and grasping at them leads to pain.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

User avatar
monktastic
Posts: 477
Joined: Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:48 am
Location: NYC

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by monktastic » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:56 pm

This is the sort of article you might write if you couldn't discern the difference between "being aware of whatever is going on in your mind and environment right now" and "doing and thinking only stuff that pertains to right now."
This undistracted state of ordinary mind
Is the meditation.
One will understand it in due course.

--Gampopa

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 6457
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Queequeg » Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:18 pm

rachmiel wrote: I find the OP dripping with "better than thou" condescension, the kind of attitude that comes from holding on tightly to a belief system.
Well, that's one way to put it. I suppose I could have been more sensitive and not characterized the sort of article linked as "middle brow." Its a pejorative. I dunno. Is it not deserved?

I am indeed unapologetic in asserting that people benefit from cultivating their minds and that the world would be a better place if more people did it. I'm unapologetic in asserting that Buddha Dharma presents the supreme path for all beings. I'll go out on a limb and suggest the troubled folks shooting journalists and beheading anyone they deem an enemy of their creed for publicity would not be doing those things if they engaged in Buddhist practice. Some of us are further along in actually doing this practice than others. Condescension? Or extending help or an encouraging word that will bring benefit to the person addressed?

The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas condescend to help beings. Its what they do... How fortunate for us.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Herbie
Posts: 597
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:10 pm

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Herbie » Wed Feb 18, 2015 5:35 pm

But even if buddhists do focus on the present in meditation they still do not focus on the present in daily life because they have their religious goals to make their lives more meaningful. So there is no discrepancy.

Jesse
Posts: 1729
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Jesse » Thu Feb 19, 2015 12:44 am

Herbie wrote:But even if buddhists do focus on the present in meditation they still do not focus on the present in daily life because they have their religious goals to make their lives more meaningful. So there is no discrepancy.

What goals? What meaning? Meditation is to show the dual and non dual nature of mind. Grasping is dualism. Non grasping is free, clear, unobstructed.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
-Henry David Thoreau

User avatar
Konchok Namgyal
Posts: 100
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2014 1:39 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Konchok Namgyal » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:34 am

mindfullness, and being engaged in the present moment are all practices I try to do continually...even at work..maybe even more than while I am sitting on a cushion !
Recognize that your mind is the unity of being empty and cognizant, suffused with knowing. When your attention is extroverted, you fall under the sway of thoughts. Let your attention recognize itself. Recognize that it is empty. That which recognizes is the cognizance. You can trust at that moment that these two – emptiness and cognizance – are an original unity. Seeing this is called self-knowing wakefulness. ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

User avatar
Queequeg
Global Moderator
Posts: 6457
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Queequeg » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:31 pm

Just adding some further reflection.

The main assumption of the article is that apprehending "meaning" in life is the key to happiness, and that practices like mindfulness which draw our mental focus on the present leads to nothing more than the “basic despair that we all feel in the pit of our being”. They then argue that we should use these mental capacities inherent in us to escape this despair.

This pretty much sums up the recipe for samsara. That despair sounds pretty much like dukkha. The authors seem to argue that in order to avoid this despair, we ought to build meaning - ie. they're telling us to keep grasping and that will help us avoid the despair - and then they catalog all the ways we can find meaning in our lives.

"Samsara got you down? Well double down!"

One of the points I was also trying to make in my original post is that some of the modes of mentation they describe as useful in finding meaning -

"Yet the human mind possesses remarkable abilities of time travel, teleportation, and mindreading. We can step forward or backward in time by reliving previous accomplishments or trying to predict how we will feel in the future. We mentally traverse space by envisioning what it might be like to be in faraway places. And we enter other people’s heads by considering what they are thinking or predicting how they might act in the future."

are capacities applied in Buddhist meditative practice - albeit not necessarily for the ends or even in the manner they advocate. These are all capacities that can be used to understand cause and effect and co-arising "gee, when I did that, it led to this. If you move this part, all these other parts move, too. Hm" They can also be used in more directed ways in therapeutic practices like contemplating the vileness of the body for those highly attached to sensual experience. This is not to mention tantric practices that utilize these capacities to enable the performance of practices that are physically impossible.

In my view, at the core, the authors of the article essentially proceed from a modern form of existential materialism. This creed is marked by the fundamental assumption that life is absurd, utterly lacking in meaning. Its the reaction of someone who expected to find meaning at the core of life, but then found on close examination that such a task was utterly futile. They saw sunyata, but rather than explore it and work out its implications, they hastily retreated to try and salvage something of their constructed world. The best that they can do is to construct meaning on limited scales. Fundamentally, its a school of thought marked by a profound cowardice - on catching a glimpse of the True Aspect, they recoiled in terror. The God they expected was not home after all, and the implications of their discovery were too much to bear.

The way I see it, the propagation of Buddha dharma is partly propagation of a framework within which to confront this existential insight, and then get beyond it - to realize its implications and reform life based on those insight. I realize that some of my fellow Buddhists will disagree with the latter part of my characterization. That's a different story - I think though that we can generally agree on that first part to some extent.

Returning to the article, its a mainstream media piece that indicates that people are generally tuning in to the field of activity in which Buddhism is operative. This is, in my view, a positive sign. Further exploration and reflection on these matters will bring about increasingly more subtle understanding of the landscape of reality and when they hear Buddha Dharma, will have a better idea about some of the more profound matters the Buddha talked about.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

larry
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:43 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by larry » Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:53 am

I really don't have any idea about meditation, but after reading these comments I understand the importance of meditation. Please can any one of you suggest me that how can I learn meditation ? Do i need to join any Retreat?

muni
Posts: 4532
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by muni » Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:42 pm

larry wrote:I really don't have any idea about meditation, but after reading these comments I understand the importance of meditation. Please can any one of you suggest me that how can I learn meditation ? Do i need to join any Retreat?
Welcome Larry,

By youtube there are some introductions about meditation. Here for example by Mingyur Rinpoche, always explaining everything in joyful but clear way.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLjelIPg3ys
True meditation is not asking any complicated thing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dG5ywz8OGqo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOHH6pxYi8A
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPKhJfrpDDg

There are more by other traditions. If you have a Dharma centre in the area, you maybe can go to peep there, see how things run.
All the best.
:meditate:

User avatar
Berry
Posts: 282
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:19 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Berry » Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:09 am

larry wrote:I really don't have any idea about meditation, but after reading these comments I understand the importance of meditation. Please can any one of you suggest me that how can I learn meditation ? Do i need to join any Retreat?
Its a good idea to investigate some Buddhist centres and then when you find one where you feel comfortable, to join one of their regular meditation classes.

I wouldn't recommend trying to learn meditation without one-to-one instruction & feedback from a teacher - but thats just my personal opinion , of course.
Leave the polluted water of conceptual thoughts in its natural clarity. Without affirming or denying appearances, leave them as they are. When there is neither acceptance nor rejection, mind is liberated into mahāmudra.

~ Tilopa

Simon E.
Posts: 5637
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 11:09 am

Re: "Meditation says to focus on the present. But..."

Post by Simon E. » Sun Mar 22, 2015 2:55 pm

Berry wrote:
larry wrote:I really don't have any idea about meditation, but after reading these comments I understand the importance of meditation. Please can any one of you suggest me that how can I learn meditation ? Do i need to join any Retreat?
Its a good idea to investigate some Buddhist centres and then when you find one where you feel comfortable, to join one of their regular meditation classes.

I wouldn't recommend trying to learn meditation without one-to-one instruction & feedback from a teacher - but thats just my personal opinion , of course.
Agreed 100%... :twothumbsup:

Even if a full-on guru figure does not appeal, teaching oneself Buddhist meditation from books and tapes is fraught with problems. Many experienced Buddhists will have met self -taught meditators whose practise has led them into a cul-de-sac without their being aware of it.
Back to fishin' folks... :namaste:

Post Reply

Return to “Meditation”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Majestic-12 [Bot] and 12 guests