Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Does it make sense for people with a contemporary, western worldview to practice meditation?

1. Rather no. They'd have to first have a spiritual context for the practice to make sense.
5
16%
2. Rather yes. The western worldview provides a good enough basis for meditation. Being human is sufficient.
15
47%
3. Neither. That thinking is backwards. Assuming any worldview before the meditation practice is like putting the answer before the question.
3
9%
4. Doesn't matter. Worldviews are mere representations of reality. The map is not the territory. The point is to go beyond concepts.
9
28%
 
Total votes: 32

Pinus
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Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Pinus » Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:54 am

Here is a little poll to let you vote if you think meditation makes only sense, if you believe in the typical spiritual worldviews, e.g. Buddhism, Yoga-Philosophy, Vedanta etc.

The reason for this poll: there are many people that have never thought about these views and beliefs, yet experience the spontaneous meditation state (e.g. spontaneous rig pa) in various ordinary situations in life, e.g. when driving in a car, when concentrating on their work, when forgetting about themselves while playing music (Jazz: 'being in the pocket'). There are many other examples.

So based on this observation, the question is, whether it makes sense to practice meditation deliberately without necessarily subscribing to a worldview usually associated with meditation? Can anyone meditate, even deeply, especially people that culturally inherited the contemporary, western worldview? Or do they have to first adopt to an 'eastern' worldview or belief-system (or however you prefer to call it)?

Note: revoting is activated. You can change your mind later on and redo your vote.
Last edited by Pinus on Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MiphamFan
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by MiphamFan » Thu Sep 03, 2015 12:01 pm

In India, Carvaka materialists also meditated.

So yes, of course you can still meditate if you are a modern materialist. People like Sam Harris do.

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Ayu
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Ayu » Thu Sep 03, 2015 2:13 pm

Worldviews are coming and going. They are an expression of the certain dream we live in, I think.
Pinus wrote:...
So based on this observation, the question is, whether it makes sense to practice meditation deliberately without necessarily subscribing to a worldview usually associated with meditation? Can anyone meditate, even deeply, especially people that culturally inherited the contemporary, western worldview? Or do they have to first adopt to an 'eastern' worldview or belief-system (or however you prefer to call it)?
I don't believe the view somebody has is connected to the phenomenon meditation.
The motivation is important certainly: why should I meditate? People could want to do that for their own benefit or for the benefit of others, but this is independent from a certain worldview.
But if you believe in karma, it is easier to keep the wheel going, I suppose.
I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

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Malcolm
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Malcolm » Thu Sep 03, 2015 2:17 pm

Pinus wrote: spontaneous rig pa
This does not exist.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by pael » Fri Sep 04, 2015 4:15 pm

Sogyal Rinpoche writes in his book (Tibetan book of living and dying) that you can have vision of rigpa when you see lightning.
May all beings be free from suffering and causes of suffering

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Sep 04, 2015 5:50 pm

There's no one saying you can only meditate if you believe X Y Z.
However, one's understanding and approach determine the seeds, and the seeds determine the fruit.
Meditation as a way to improve the mood, cultivate patience, etc. sure, why not? But so will exercise, a good diet, or basic morality.

But the complete extinction of greed, hatred, and delusion while attached to wrong views? I doubt it.
This kind of meditation is part of the Noble Eightfold Path, and other elements in that path necessitate challenging our attachment to the self-proclaimed rational and scientific worldview which, among other things, denies the existence of karma and rebirth.
So without an understanding of the scope of samsara, what sense does nirvana make?

If you want bread, follow a bread recipe.

Everyone is welcome to meditate, and I wish more people did. There would be less violence and greed in the world, for sure.
We should be realistic about what we're doing, though. There's a strong tendency to make a great deal out of remotely unusual experiences, especially in a religious setting.
The reason for this poll: there are many people that have never thought about these views and beliefs, yet experience the spontaneous meditation state (e.g. spontaneous rig pa) in various ordinary situations in life, e.g. when driving in a car, when concentrating on their work, when forgetting about themselves while playing music (Jazz: 'being in the pocket'). There are many other examples.
This sounds more like absorption, or even access concentration, which are not equivalent to wisdom.
I am not liberated from suffering from being a jazz musician, even when I'm in the pocket.
Amitābha Buddha!
OM MA NI PE ME HUNG
TAYATA OM BEKANDZE BEKANDZE MAHA BEKANDZE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA

Pure Land Buddhism resources
* Teachings of Hōnen
* Jōdo-shū North America Buddhist Missions
* Free Pure Land books
* Taming the Monkey Mind
* Buddhism of Wisdom and Faith
* Pure Land Teachings of Master Chu-Hung

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Malcolm
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Malcolm » Fri Sep 04, 2015 6:44 pm

pael wrote:Sogyal Rinpoche writes in his book (Tibetan book of living and dying) that you can have vision of rigpa when you see lightning.
Hahahaha.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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tomschwarz
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by tomschwarz » Fri Sep 04, 2015 7:32 pm

there are three areas in the practice of buddhism. these three areas come from a great, deep pool of wisdom. that wisdom is so deep, and true, that you actually must do all three, there is no other way to make the best of your potential/ efforts. you must do all three, you can not get away with only two because our fundamental ignorance _must_ be attacked with a balance of all three. that is the only antidote, whatever religion (or lack thereof) that you choose:

ethics, wisdom, and meditation.

in short, just focus on ethics, you will be too self-centered and dualistic in your approach. just focus on wisdom, and you will be too isolated. just focus on meditation, and you will not "spill" your "heart-soup" into the "hungry mouths" of the suffering.

but this thread is about meditation. if you omit meditation, you will not elevate, get into the great subtleties and great heart-level understanding of _your_ mind and your relationship with other sentient beings. in short, ethics is the dualistic understanding of buddhism (generosity, discipline, patience and moral strength), meditation is the skillful route to understanding the absolute truth (a.k.a. emptiness, includes absolute love), and the wisdom practice joins the relative ethics practice and the absolute meditation practice, ideally, in one cognitive event. but those are all words )))))). actually, if you "do" buddhism, you will effortlessly fly from that three-way categorization into the absolute truth and back to duality in one cognitive event.
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

pael
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by pael » Sat Sep 05, 2015 9:22 am

Malcolm wrote:
pael wrote:Sogyal Rinpoche writes in his book (Tibetan book of living and dying) that you can have vision of rigpa when you see lightning.
Hahahaha.
Is resting in rigpa same as stopping discursive thinking?
May all beings be free from suffering and causes of suffering

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rory
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by rory » Sun Sep 06, 2015 7:32 am

gods who wrote that poll? Meditation comes from the Latin word meditatio - to think about, practice etc...and yes Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, Platonicism and other branches of Western Greek philosophy had meditation practices.
no wonder America is at the bottom of world education tables.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Pinus
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Pinus » Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:35 pm

Some more comments on the poll-question.

Thank you all for your votes (20 so far) and comments. Just a few words for clarification:

The underlying reason for this poll is, that westerners are really puzzled by the absence of an unanbiguous answer, as to how to look at meditation. People that didn't come to meditation 'from teaching to practice' (top-down), but by 'having had spontaneous experiences and trying to make sense of them' (bottom-up), are confronted with all these different views. So, what are we to do? Picking one view 'just like that'?

Rory mentioned the latin meaning of the word 'meditation', which includes reflection, and I fully endorse that definition in this context. Making sense of experiences lies in the nature of the mind. Ignoring that is like ignoring the nature of our mind. Consequently, how can one simply ignore that conundrum? I don't think I am alone with the observation that suppressing that riddle makes meditation more difficult, not easier.

It is different for people who grew up in a Buddhist societey, or Hindu for that matter. Whole different story. For them, there is no such question, no conflict of views. But for Westerners? Big time paradox. I cannot simply imitate a view that I didn't grew up with and hold it as self-evident, and ignore my culturally inherited one, because the former is more deeply ingrained into the structure of my mind. I look at the world and myself through that structure. It is what it is. For better or worse. So what to do? The experience remains to be way too forceful to ignore.

Sure, one could just focus on meditation practice. Ultimately, that is probably the solution, as some in this forum have pointed out. And rightfully so, I tend to agree. But I also think it would be even more considerate to acknowledge the difficulty that is unique to the beginner of meditation, or the western experiencer of the spontaneous meditation state in general. It seems, the western hemisphere may have to find it's own way through that paradox situation. There is nobody stepping up that could say with confidence, the question was just a matter of science or just a matter of spirituality. We are way beyond that kind of debate. A stalemate is what we have. And it's not due to being too stubborn or unwilling to assume other viewpoints. It's exactly in spite of being flexible in mind.

Many people may find the poll really hard to answer. I know I do. Otherwise I wouldn't have put it up. It is not meant as a trick-question, an intellectual fetish, or a study (although that may be a secondary benefit eventually). No. Exactly because there is no clear answer but it remains a question for the westerner who is confronted with the spontaneous experience of the meditation state, that one needs some way of dealing with it. It is not as trivial as 'choosing a side', or converting to another faith, or remaining in one for that matter.

When you look at the options of the question, you may find that they do mutually exclude each other logically. But I have no trouble finding enough reasons and observations to assume each viewpoint and make sense of them individually (thus hold them as true). So, are they all true then? I deliberately did not provide the laconic multiple-choice option 'all of the above'.

One way of dealing with this poll-question may be to view it as a contemporary or modern Koan, a Koan for the West so to speak. I do not believe this will resolve the paradox, although it could be a start, as it may make one aware of the convoluted paradox to begin with. But this question was not designed as a Koan at all. Besides, I cannot claim to have the wisdom to design a Koan! I am not enlightened, just some Westerner that seeks to make sense of meditation from where one begins as a Westerner, just like many others here. This poll question is asked as a genuine inquiry, a westerner's attempt to deal with the westerner's paradox and confusion what to believe, how to make sense of meditation. My hope is that something helpful may come out of it.

So, please, don't just say 'all are true' or ignore the poll altogether (as if it were just a Koan of sorts, to be answered once it is cracked in a decade or so). Don't pick 'sides' either, as a conformist would do after looking where the most votes go. Listen to your heart and reason. As I mentioned, you can change your vote later on. Please do so, if appropriate. Actually I would be very surprised, if one was to stick with one answer all the time. I don't, because I can't decide for good. Please pick an answer, one that you believe in your heart right now is the best answer.

Thank you,
Pi

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rory
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by rory » Mon Sep 07, 2015 4:24 am

There is no paradox or problem for Westerners: kindly read this interesting article from the New York Times about a modern Stoic and his mediation practices. In the Classical world philosophy was separate from religion. Christianity melded them together.
In reality, practicing Stoicism is not really that different from, say, practicing Buddhism (or even certain forms of modern Christianity): it is a mix of reflecting on theoretical precepts, reading inspirational texts, and engaging in meditation, mindfulness, and the like.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... e-a-stoic/
"A philosophical person--a lover of wisdom--indulges his appetites neither too much nor too little, but just enough to lay them to sleep and prevent them from interfering with higher activities. He collects himself in meditation to pursue spiritual investigations, seeking and discovering unrealized realities of the past, present, and future. Through identifying with his Higher Self in meditation he avoids being the victim of fantastic and uncivilized vagaries and most effectively attains Truth."
Plato, Commonwealth 9, 571d
Finally there is Christian Ignation meditation, Jewish Kabbalah and Islamic Sufism.
The West has a very rich tradition of meditation, apart from religion and with religion. There is no problem for Westerners! Start whatever way you wish.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

Pinus
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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by Pinus » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:42 am

@Rory
thanks for the interesting article. I'm sure it'll all sort itself out eventually, greek stoicism or not, 'stiff upper lip' or not. It would be boring, if it were all clear from the outset. At least it helps one to keep an open mind. Or, perhaps, the answers just aren't so static as one likes them to be.

:juggling:

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Re: Poll - Meditation with western worldview?

Post by DGA » Tue Sep 08, 2015 4:01 pm

Let's assume for the sake of argument that by 'meditation' Pinus means meditation as a Mahayana Buddhist would mean it, since we're a Mahayana Buddhist board. I suppose the question I want to answer would be: Is it beneficial for someone who refuses to learn anything at all about Buddhist methods and doctrines to simply take up meditation (something like Kabat-Zinn style "mindfulness," for instance) and expect to gain from it? I voted no to this poll, but really I voted no to that question. Why?

Buddhist practices are taken up with particular objectives. Mahayana has very specific objectives of practice in mind. In the absence of reflecting with care and urgency on those objectives, one pursues practice to advance other objectives--say, a less-stressed life, or better orgasms, or a smoother golf swing--all the things that "mindfulness" is prescribed for now. Our hypothetical meditator may achieve those goals. Bravo. But so what? From the perspective of Mahayana, that stuff doesn't matter at all.

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