5 Meditation Insights From The Dalai Lama
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation” (Dalai Lama)
The current Dalai Lama has dedicated most of his entire adult life to kindness and compassion, and to providing practical advice to eternal questions that trouble mankind. Recognised by his devotees as the rebirth of a line of descendants leading back to Avalokitesvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion), he is often described as a ‘living Buddha’ or a ‘god-king’. He personally prefers to describe himself as a simple ‘human being’ who has chosen to be a Buddhist Monk.
Regardless of any fancy titles or historic lineage, he is arguably the most important and respected living spiritual leader in the world today. Dedicating an average of 5.5 hours per day towards prayer, meditation and study; the Dalai Lama often speaks of the profound benefits offered by a regular practice of meditation. Here are 5 stimulating insights on meditation to inspire and encourage you in your own personal practice:
1. Meditation Requires Patience And Perseverance
“Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort” (Dalai Lama). It is often said that spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation should not be rushed. Some yoga experts such as B.K.S Iyengar also caution that meditation cannot be ‘taught’, that it must be ‘directly experienced in one’s life’. The Dalai Lama reinforces this message with advice relating to the amount of time required before benefits can be felt, encouraging practitioners to continue patiently down the path of their own daily practice. A focus on continuous and sustained practice is emphasized.
2. Meditation And Transformation
“The main emphasis in Buddhism is to transform the mind, and this transformation depends upon meditation…..in order to meditate correctly, you must have knowledge” (Dalai Lama). The Dalai Lama often refers to the natural ability and potential of the human mind to transform itself through contemplation or meditation practices. He speaks of using meditation to cultivate a compassionate heart and to discover deep insights into the nature of reality.
3. On Religion as a Barrier to Meditation
“Meditation is valuable for all humanity because it involves looking inward. People don’t have to be religious to look inside themselves more carefully” (Dalai Lama). There is a common misconception that meditation and spirituality is conflicting with various religious beliefs and practices. Meditation sequences and gestures such as ‘Namaste’ with the palms together are often cited as points of conflict with religious views and prayers. The Dalai Lama reinforces the message that central to meditation practice is the ability to look inwards and this process is not aligned with any particular religion or faith.
4. The Importance Of Meditation In Its Traditional Context
“….in its traditional context, the term for meditation is ‘bhavana’ (in Sanskrit) or ‘gom’ (in Tibetan). The Sanskrit term connotes the idea of cultivation, such as cultivating a particular habit or way of being, while the Tibetan term has the connotation of cultivating familiarity. So, briefly stated, meditation in the traditional Buddhist context refers to a deliberate mental activity that involves cultivating familiarity, be it with a chosen object, a fact, a theme, habit, an outlook, or a way of being” (Dalai Lama). As meditation moves further into mainstream society it is important to reflect on the foundation and context in which it has been traditionally used. Dating back thousands of years ago in India (followed closely by China and Japan) the practice of meditation has been widely used as a powerful technique for concentration, contemplation, knowledge and liberation.
5. The Practice of Meditation
“Broadly speaking, there are two categories of meditation practice – one focused on stilling the mind and the other on the cognitive processes of understanding. In both cases, the meditation can take many different forms. For example, it may take the form of taking something as the object of one’s cognition, such as meditating on one’s transient nature. Or it may take the form of cultivating a specific mental state, such as compassion, by developing a heartfelt, altruistic yearning to alleviate others’ suffering. Or it could take the form of imagination, exploring the human potential for generating mental imagery, which may be used in various ways to cultivate mental wellbeing” (Dalai Lama)
Meditation can be used for a wide range of purposes, whether it is to clear your mind, address a health concern, remind you to slow down and focus, or to seek spiritual insight from within. This is a reminder that there is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way of meditating, that by adopting a regular daily practice at a familiar time and place (even if for only 5 minutes before bed!) the benefits will come at their own pace.
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