Benefits of Buddhist meditation
As scientific instruments become more capable of measuring the physical and psychological effects of meditation on humans, more and more evidence is being produced to support the general idea that 'meditation is good for you'.
Generally, simple meditation, in particular meditation through which people learn not to so strongly identify with feelings in their body and with thoughts and feelings in their mind has been shown to give most people a greater ability to relax and rest from the stresses and strains of everyday life.
This is enormously beneficial, but it is not everybody's experience. For some people, prone to either strong depression or mania, certain kinds of meditation can actually reinforce the problem rather than help soften its impact or solve it.
Buddhism recognises that a healthy balanced mind is a pre-requisite for successful meditation practice, but defines success in meditation rather differently as it is not overly concerned with benefits experienced in this life.
The purpose of Buddhist meditation is for the meditator to become irreversibly free of unhelpful repetitive problematic behaviour and to become fully capable of helping others attain that way of being.
In order to achieve that it pays great attention to developing the focus, strength and flexibility of the mind; for example so that the meditator can uninterruptedly stay with and analyse an object for at least four hours. The reason the mind needs to be this strong and this focused is so that the meditator can fully develop a number of social skills and intellectual understandings that will propel him/her along the path to enlightenment.
On the social side these are the social skills of:
- unbounded limitless love
leading to a heartfelt wish to become fully enlightened so as to be of the best possible help to others.
On the intellectual side these are:
- the understanding of subtle momentary change of all experience
- the recognition that our personality is dynamic and composite and not stifled by any form of unchanging essence
- the knowledge that every single part of experience is constituted of fleeting dynamic moments, all of which are themselves dynamic composite forces and not static states
The combination of the social skills and intellectual understandings helps us to step out of the habitual unhelpful patterns we make of chasing after fleeting ephemeral events thinking they will bring us lasting satisfaction, or of pushing away other fleeting ephemeral experiences thinking that will bring us lasting happiness or attempting to protect a hallucinated sense of having an unchanging static state at the core of our being. Stepping out this for good brings us to enlightenment.