Western culture and science have come to understand the value of meditation for physical and emotional health. Those of us who meditate as part of a religious practice eventually understand its role in our spiritual health. I’ll explain what I’ve learned in my Dzogchen Buddhist practice and invite you to share in the comments below what meditation means in your religious practice.
I read recently that there are a thousand different types of meditation in Buddhism. I doubt the number is quite that high, but there are many. I outlined a few I am familiar with in How We Meditate earlier this year. The purpose of meditation in Buddhism is to understand and train the mind so that we see, and react to, the world as it really is.
Dzogchen Buddhism focuses on the pure, perfect inner core in each of us. It’s compared to a mirror or a crystal, reflecting what’s around it. Because we are born into a world with many illusions, with a mind that tends to get distracted by those illusions (material success will bring us happiness, for example), we lose contact with our pure inner core. I’d go so far as to say that our inherited genes as well as our environment may smudge its purity. But the perfect core is always accessible.
And that’s where we find our Buddha-nature. That’s where we live in the moment, with wisdom and compassion, understanding that we are one with the world.
As we meditate, we observe out thoughts: There I go…
…feeling sorry for myself
…picking at an old scab
…placing blame on others
…getting lost in the past
…worrying about the future
…longing for things to be different
…fearing that my loved one will die
…experiencing pain in my leg.
We don’t reject these feelings. We observe them.
Except for the leg pain, we know that we can let them go, that we need not act on, or react to, them. And we may be able to let go of the leg pain, too. The observing teaches us how our mind works and helps us take control.
But there’s an even bigger realization. We begin to ask ourselves who or what is doing the observing. When we observe our fears, who is it that knows we are fearful? When we observe our sorrow, who is it that knows we’re sorrowful? When we observe our pain, who is it that knows we’re suffering?
Who is the knower?
I believe that the knower is our core. Our clean slate. Our polished mirror. Our perfect crystal.
My spiritual practice is to live as much of my life as I can as the knower, the observer. That’s where my heart-mind is. That’s where my compassion is, for myself and for others. That’s where I can live in the moment. That’s where I know I am not distinct from others. That’s the seat of my wisdom.
Meditation shows me the way to get there, but I want to be there when I’m not actively meditating. And the more I can touch that place, the easier it is to get back to it.
What role does meditation play in your spiritual practice? It may not be easy to describe, but give it a try.
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine