Buddha and Meditation (cont.)

A Survey of the Practice of Buddhist Meditation

All the six basic patterns of human thought referred to in the preceding pages have a common characteristic— they are all of an ever fluctuating, shifting, and changing nature. The human mind is like a river, constantly flowing onward, meandering and winding hither and thither, full of rapids and whirlpools, seldom quiet, never still. Seemingly the human mind can function only by following this acting, fluctuating, and moving pattern. Common sense maintains that the mind—like everything else in this world—must be active in order to function, that an "operating" mind must be in motion, and that a "static" mind is dead.

But is this true? Is there any other way in which the human mind may perform its duties without binding itself to this pattern of flux? According to Buddfiism, the nature of mind, or consciousness, is "awareness," which means neither more nor less than "the state of being aware." The term itself suggests no action, moving, or changing of any kind. Only on the human plane is it true that awareness is coupled with perpetual movement by the driving force of blind will. This condition need not be true on a higher level of consciousness. The consciousness of Buddha never moves, fluctuates, or changes. A consciousness that oscillates, moving from one point (of attention) to another, or changes its form in various ways, cannot possibly be the consciousness of Buddhahood. Buddha's all-embracing consciousness needs no moving from place to place, for it permeates all things; Buddha's transcendental consciousness requires no fluctuations, for it transcends all necessity for change; Buddha's Consciousness of Totality needs neither alterations of form nor adjustments of function, because all the innumerable forms and capacities embodied in the infinite matrix of the Supreme Consciousness of Buddhahood are simultaneously arising in a perfect harmony of interpenetration.

To achieve this Supreme Consciousness, Buddhism believes that the first step is to quiet the ever flowing thoughts, bringing them to as complete a halt as possible, so that one may have the opportunity to elevate his awareness to a higher and steadier level until it is brought to its final consummation. Meditation is, therefore, the practice that is fundamental and indispensable to the transformation of human consciousness into the enlightened Wisdom of Buddhahood. The theory and practice of Buddhist meditation and its related subjects are so vast and comprehensive that a lifetime may not be sufficient to exhaust them. The most, therefore, that can be done here is to sketch in brief outline a contour of the meditation practices as envisioned by Buddhist yogis within the framework of the Buddhist tradition. We shall begin our discussion by reviewing the three main facets of Buddhist meditation, namely, its general characteristics, its techniques, and the successive stages leading to Samadhi.

top of page