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2024-02-22 14:15
EDITOR'S NOTE:  This article was handed out to the June 1, 2017 Meditation Workshop attendees at Wat Tampa as one of two documents.  The other document (Intermediate Buddhism) is also available on this website.  I believe that this information that is beneficial to anyone who is interested in practicing meditation. The content has not been changed from its original edition but there are some minor typographical changes.
What is Meditation?
In Buddhism the word “Meditation” is translated from the Pali language.  The Pali word is “Bhavana” which means to develop, to improve, to cultivate mindfulness and awareness, so the mind becomes healthy and strong.  Meditation is a way to cultivate the mind so it becomes calm, clear, peaceful, stable, bright, light, and pure.
A concentrate mind can focus clearly on a particular object.  Such a developed mind can focus clearly on a particular object.  Such a developed mind can be purified when defiling mental obstructions such as hatred, greed, craving, delusion, unwholesome thoughts, ignorance, etc. are removed.  A controlled and disciplined mind, free from impurities, is released from tension, worry, and stress.
Meditation is a way to psychologically train the mind to develop the tool of insight, or Vipassana enabling meditators to realize Enlightenment, the highest wisdom for ordinary persons to become complete human beings so that human beings can become “noble ones”, or ariya puggala (Pali).
The oldest form of Vipassana (insight) meditation is taught in the Theravada tradition of Southwest Asia.  The devilment of mindfulness and awareness is the heart of Buddhist meditation.  The “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” (The Satipatthana Sutta) were emphasized by the historical Buddha, as follows:  “There is one way, O monks, for the purification of beings, for overcoming of sorrow, and lamentation, for the disappearance of suffering, grief and pain, for the winning the noble path, for realizing Enlightenment, Nibbana, that is to say, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.”  (Details will be given in later chapters regarding meditation objects).
Meditation can be practiced in many ways to develop the mind to have the mind relax and become calm.  We see in the West today many people who practice meditation by themselves through reading books, without supervisors, teachers, guides or experienced friends to help them.
Meditation can be applied for different purposes.  Some apply meditation in the wrong way and for negative purposes, such as mundane magical power, and so on.  In short, meditation is a way to purify the mind from hatred (Pali: dosa), greed (Pali: lobpa), and ignorance, (Pali: moha) so we can cultivate mindfulness and awareness to see things as they really are.  The ways things are impermanent (Pali: aniccam), hard to maintain or suffering (Pali: dukkham) and out of control, non-self or selflessness (Pali: anatta).
It is very useful and wonderful to learn, study and practice medication because living without meditation is very dangerous:  it is like driving a car without a road map and with no directions. Living with meditation is just like the opposite, providing all the tools you need to get to your destination.
Why should we train our minds?
The mind is of primary importance, the most important element in human life.  All deeds, wholesome or unwholesome, are the result of mental processes.  In the Dhammapada, the Buddha said, “Mind is the forerunner of all actions, mind is the chief; mind made are they.  If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, suffering follows him/her, even as the wheel of the cart follows the ox that draws the cart.  “Mind is the forerunner of all actions, mind is the chief, mind-made they are.  If one speaks or acts with a wholesome mind, happiness follows him (her), even as his (her) own shadow.”
(Pali: Manopubbam gama dhamma, manasettha manomaya, mansa ce padutthena, bhasati va karoti va, tato nam dukkhamannaveti, cakkam va vahto padam “…manasa ce pasannena pasati va karoti va tato nam sukkhamanveti chayava anapayini.)
Why should we meditate?
Mind is by nature originally pure.  Great extensive spiritual power is all complete within the mind.  You may ask yourself what you want to have in your life.  The answer is likely be peace and real happiness because the mind wants is peace and real happiness.
How can we reach that stage where we will have a peaceful mind and happiness?  The answer is through the practice of meditation. This is the tool that helps train our minds to be peaceful and pure.  With a peaceful and pure mind we will be able to experience real happiness and the highest wisdom in life.
Meditation is a spiritual training in all the world’s religions.  Many people talk about peace and happiness in their daily gatherings and meetings.  In other words, an individual with a deluded mind cannot find the right way to experience real happiness and peace for himself (herself) and others expect by cultivating a clear and pure mind.  To experience that stage, each person must train his or her mind to develop in the proper way.  Meditation plays a key role in this matter.
Meditation helps to train and refine the mind; it helps the person who engages in meditation practice to concentrate and to be mindful in daily activities.  Everyone benefits from this training.  For example, the student needs concentration when doing homework assignments.  Administrators need concentration and a clear mind while running their offices. Parents need concentration and a clear mind while doing their work at home, conducting family life in a calm and peaceful way.
Meditation helps everyone at all times to live and work effectively and successfully. Everyone wants to be happy in life.  The way to lead oneself to real happiness and have a peaceful life may be different, but without a peaceful, calm and clear mind, real happiness cannot be realized. Meditation can help in this regard.  The Exalted One, the Buddha said, “The peaceful mind excels all other happiness.”  (Pali: natthi santi param sukkham)
What would happen if one worked without right mindfulness and right concentration?  
The answer is simple. If one worked without right mindfulness and concentration, work would not be effective.  For example, if one studies without mindfulness and full attention, one cannot remember the subject being studied.  Consequently, a poor performance would result.  As you can see, there is a role to be played by concentration and mindfulness during study.   In the same way, right understanding and insight, as worldly tools, need to be applied before starting any work.  Working without mindfulness and concentration results in more harm than good.  The way to apply these tools is to learn how to be aware, moment by moment in our daily activities, that is, to know what we are doing, what we are saying and what we are thinking.  Without mindfulness and concentration there is no life.  We are in “automatic pilot.”
We may conclude this small paper in hoping that the readers may find the essences of Buddha’s teaching, the law of impermanence, cause and effect and self reliance to realize ultimate reality.  Finally, we can find me the way of Buddhist realistic view. May all beings be free from enmity, be free from ill-treatment, be free from troubles.  May all beings be free from suffering,  May all beings be happy.
*Dasa Dhamma: 1. Dana: charity, generosity, liberality 2.  Sila: high moral character 3. Pariccaga: Self sacrifice 4. Ajjava: honesty, integrity 5. Maddava: kindness, gentleness 6.  Tapa:  austerity, self-discipline, non-indulgence 7. Akkodha: non-angry, non-fury 8. Avihimsa: nonviolence, non-Oppression 9.  Khanti:  patience, forbearance, tolerance, endeavor, endurance 10. Avirodhana:  non-opposition, non-deviation from righteousness, conformity to the law
For more information please feel free to contact: Ven. Phramaha Thanat Inthisan, Ph.D. Security General of The Council of Thai Bhikkus in USA Wat Thai Washington, D.C. 13440 Layhill Road, Silver Spring, MD 20906 Phone: (301) 871-8660, 871-8661, Fax. (301) 871-5007 E-mail:
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