The attempt to fit Buddhism into the secular, technical, reductionist mindset of modernity often has the effect of turning the matter on its head. Thus, we now find Western schools of practice – I hesitate to call them schools of Buddhism – in which meditation is the central matter and all other practices are ancillary to it and dispensable. Bowing, making offerings, chanting and so on are presented as cultural accretions somehow stuck onto and burdening the real matter which is the practice of pure meditation. This is like typifying Christianity as prayer technique to which odd ideas about love of God have got erroneously attached.

Buddhism is a religion. It is not primarily a health cure, nor a means to success in the rat race. It begins and ends with taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This act of faith can then be expressed in a variety of ways such as bowing, making offerings, chanting the holy name or reciting revered texts and so on, and these practices can all be understood more deeply through contemplation and meditation. However, the act of faith is primary and is the pivot around which everything else revolves. Without a sacred focus, meditation is pointless, or wrongly pointed.

Meditation in Buddhism is broadly classified into two forms, calm and insight. Insight refers to experientially understanding dependent origination in one way or another so that one has some appreciation of the frailty of the being who has faith. Calm refers to the experience of receiving the grace, or transference of merit, bestowed by the Buddhas when one abandons self-power and turns to them for refuge. These contemplations can thus deepen one's appreciation of what taking refuge means. Detached from such faith they become mere mental keep fit exercises or, worse, elements in a self-perfection project that can only lead to trouble later.

Mechanical meditation and so-called mindfulness practices do serve the purpose, in a purely practical way, of bringing large numbers of people into some tangential relationship with Buddhism, but they also misrepresent it and can easily immunise people against the real thing. Buddhism is mindfulness based, not in the modern sense of here-and-now-ism, but in the original sense of keeping refuge in mind throughout all one's life. As such, mindfulness is a protection against getting lost in the here and now - in the merely imminent.

Original mindfulness was to saturate oneself in ancient wisdom, wisdom in which reverence for transcendent truth – the Unborn – was primary. In a religious orientation, the mundane is an expression of the holy, the imminent an expression of the transcendent, not the other way about. When it is up-ended in the modern secular manner the transcendent is soon lost sight of and all one has left is reductionism. The Dharma is not a reduction, it is an expansion into eternal life and limitless light. When one takes such a refuge the light is everywhere and meditation is to let one's heart and mind dwell upon it, revere it and be filled with it. Meditate on that, but do not put the cart before the horse. Refuge is the alpha and omega and in the Pureland school our foremost means of expressing this is nembutsu. Try it and see.

Views: 107

Replies to This Discussion

Thank you for the awakening words that remind us what to do in every day life!

To the Buddha himself, meditation wasn't the final completion of his whole practices?  Refuge in himself too. To the sentient beings, meditation(including Chan, Seon, Zen) should be a part of refuge in the three Jewels of the Buddhism, I  think.

Yes, "meditation as part of refuge" puts them in the right relationship. In the West, commonly, refuge is not understood at all or is seen as an inessential add-on.

Well spoken and thank you.
Well said. Often when I read about or meet Mindfulness teacher I have a feeling that there is something missing. It is not only about learning a meditation technique . The missing link is like you said taking refugee; learning that there is more to mindfulness, there is also a spiritual part too it. NAB

RSS

ITZI Conference 2017

Blog Posts

JOHNNY HALLYDAY

Posted by David Brazier on December 6, 2017 at 10:08 1 Comment

Johnny Hallyday died just after midnight this morning.

A vous autres, hommes faibles et merveilleux

Qui mettez tant de grâce a vous retirer du jeu

Il faut qu'une main posée sur votre épaule

Vous pousse vers la vie, cette main tendre et légère

On a tous quelque chose en nous de Tennessee

Cette volonté de prolonger la nuit

Ce désir fou de vivre une autre vie

Ce rêve en nous avec ses mots à lui

Quelque chose de Tennessee

Cette force qui nous…

Continue

THE RUBICON

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 5, 2017 at 22:30 0 Comments

i have been attending a parent and toddler group at the Steiner school in Kings Langley for a little while. I first started going there with Selena and then started taking Dorian there in September. It’s a lovely place with a different outlook and philosophy, and where I have learned about the Rubicon stage, but unfortunately the regulatory body Ofsted had rated it badly and so it had to introduce radical measures in order to stay open. 

But these changes have made things worse for…

Continue

By sheer power of aspiration

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 3, 2017 at 22:30 4 Comments

Ever since my ordination back in Dec 2003 I have always loved being involved in or being a witness to someone taking a step onto the Buddhist path. The aspirant or candidate taking on the Amida precepts always appears solemn, and sincere, and as I listen to the vows and see how willing they are to aspire to live an ideal life they become even bigger with a certain amount of gravitas and I find myself shrinking and becoming less Significant. It is a wonderfully moving experience and so I always… Continue

letter to Father Christmas

Posted by Susthama Kim on December 2, 2017 at 22:36 6 Comments

Dear Father Christmas,



Please can I have a light up Christmas tree and the prettiest baubles in your workshop. Love Selena



My daughter is 5 and loves decorations. She would love to have a garden with lots of flowers and fruit trees and plants but we live in a flat with a balcony so she spends time enjoying other people’s garden whenever she can. So maybe this Christmas we will try and create a mini Pureland garden on our balcony.



This Bodhi retreat she and her… Continue

© 2017   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service