Buddhism: The Limits of Language and the Benefits of Meditation

The wisest person has the mind of a child, always open, always learning, with no preconceptions, and higher advanced concepts optional. It almost seems like we spend the first half of our lives cluttering up our minds with useless nonsense, and then spend the second half of our lives trying to undo all that. Ha! But language is like that, isn’t it? Once we invented it, then we made it part of our central conscious operating system, as if nothing could be more natural. Could it have been any other way? Was the invention of language merely an accident? It’s debatable. Could we have made a decision to keep it as a plaything but reject its centrality in our conscious interface with reality?

The experience of our modern computerized world would indicate that once we have a new language, then not only will we certainly use it, but it will spread like a virus within us, restless and hungry, assuming a centralized position with our process of consciousness and expanding as rapidly as it can. It almost sounds like a business, ha! But mostly it sounds like DNA. And that is why anthropolinguistics was once so crucial to the study of prehistory prior to the advent of DNA genomics. Because language also mutates and so leaves ‘markers’ along its historic path, all of which can be coordinated chronologically, just like non-recombinant y-DNA and mt-DNA do…

But what’s good for business and cultural evolution are not necessarily what’s good for healthy human psychology. And so, we meditate, to reverse that very process that is so profitable for our wallets and dangerous for our enemies. For it is no accident that the remaining hominid species besides our own disappeared soon after our acquisition of language. And so the prime purpose of meditation is to stop the internal dialogue, if only for a second, or a few minutes, or an hour, or a lifetime. When I discussed meditation with some neurological researchers, that’s the first question they asked: “Can you stop the internal dialogue?” That’s the main point that I can remember of Carlos Castañeda’s Don Juan character, also, in his ‘Tales of Yaqui Power,’ etc…

Is language the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden? Maybe. The analogy would seem to hold, not that good and evil are really on offer, but the fallacious and pretentious knowledge of such is always a temptation, and forever destined to fail. With language we are suddenly faced with a duality of mind and body, one doing all the talking and the other a captive audience. We externalize the dialogue to turn all that brilliance and perspicacity loose on the world, but with mixed results. It seems that language creates more problems than it can solve and resolve. And so we meditate. The mind is a minefield, enmeshed in views. Sometimes it’s simply better to forego thought, or at least language…