Meditation and Mediation, Buddhism on the Half-Shell…

The best meditation requires no app. Only silence can solve the problems caused by language. Not that I don’t find ‘guided meditations’ interesting, I just don’t think that they are the best form of meditation.

Not that there need be many forms of meditation in the first place, but that comes with the turf, the modern commercial turf, that just one more thing under the tree will get us through the next year with flying colors, the colors of Christmas and New Year in joy and celebration of what I am not sure, but it seems that abundance is the common theme, my cup running over and all that jazz, eternal life and all that rap.

But is the ‘special insight’ of ‘vipassana’ really some sort of qualitative improvement over the ‘awareness of breathing’ in anapanasati? Is there really any difference between the ‘calm abiding’ of ‘samatha’ and the ‘concentration’ of ‘samadhi’?

Self-described experts go on and on about the ‘four different kinds’ of meditation like bloggers slicing and dicing adverbs and artichokes for the special garnish to Sunday brunch, to be ladled over with the special sauce of ‘mindfulness.’

Then there is the ‘mental development’ of bhavana holding lengthy sessions, while the ‘trance-like states’ of ‘dhyana’ and ‘jhana’ morph into entire schools of Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen, so that entire cultures can be exported overseas a millennium later, and Alan Watts can make a living without ever having to plant rice, much less harvest it.

So I suppose that there is a difference between a ‘one-focus’ meditation and a ‘field-focus’ meditation, but I’m really not sure, if the underlying concentration is upon the breath, or if you’ve got a really quiet place, then worth noticing the heartbeat, which our ears normally block out as background noise.

But there seems to be a more significant distinction between meditation ‘upon’ something and meditation for meditation’s own sake. And this is where guided meditation comes in, because it is certainly a meditation upon something, if it is meditation at all.

And I’m not sure who started this, because I have practiced the art in formal and semi-formal settings in three SE Asian countries, all of the Theravada school of Buddhism, and I can assure you that there was no bloke holding forth at the time. But I do see this online with monks of the Tibetan school, and saw it myself with a Western ex-monk of the same school in Nepal. So which is better, guided or silent?

That I can’t say, but when I discussed all this with research neurologists interested in measuring the effects of meditation on the brain, all they wanted to know was, “Were you able to stop the internal dialogue?” To which I giddily responded something like, “Yes.” To which they responded with a dubious, “Do you understand this concept?” “Of course. That’s all I remember of Don Juan’s ‘Tales of Yaqui Power.”

Guided meditation won’t do that, so you still need silent meditation IMHO. But to be a good Buddhist, more important than the sutras, the precepts, and all the meditations are the simple acts of kindness and compassion, ‘metta karuna’…