Buddhism 499: Self-control and the Benefits of Meditation

Self-control should not be an affront to your Western freedoms. It should be the foundation of your Eastern practices. But this is a tough pill for many Westerners to swallow, because it invokes the dreaded ‘C’ word, control, mattering not to many that self-control is a totally different activity than controlling others, which for me is a hideous affair, usually. Self-control, on the other hand, is the cause and effect of some of my life’s finest moments, not the least of which are simple meditative moments, the practical foundation of Buddhism.

And all Asian monks know this, and can attest to it fully, while Westerners resist and desist, and their meditative practices often show it, twitching and flinching while struggling to finish a half-hour of meditation, while I’ve seen even Asian laypeople sit motionless for hours. But was it sarmatha or was it vipassana or was it mindfulness meditation or was it that new style that somebody was doing on TV? And there’s TM, the one that the Beatles made famous, with their Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and which has gone on to be bliss of choice for Hindu-style practice, complete with secret password.

But all Buddhist practices derive from some version of anapanasati, awareness of breath, and to there they all return—eventually. And to be aware is very much within the practice of control. Because you don’t really have to do much of anything to meditate properly. But there are some things that you should definitely NOT do, and distractions are at the top of that list. Life itself can be extrapolated from this practice, also, giving meditation a central place and practice in your life. It’s simply a good approach to life, calm and collected, and likely to produce a ripple effect that radiates outward. Don’t you wish everybody would participate?

So, if you’re looking for something like ayahuasca, then Buddhism is the wrong place to look. Because there is nothing here, really, to get excited about, and just the opposite, in fact. There is much here to get calm about—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but without all the weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth. We Westerners are emotion junkies, though that doesn’t mean that we are ‘evil,’ as certain pro-Putin pushers suggest outright. What the West loves was perfect for a world growing up and reproducing itself. What Buddhism offers is perfect for a world finding itself. The future is at stake.