WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION
– C Kali Aitken
When the Buddha taught that freedom from pain and confusion is possible, and that this freedom gives rise to enduring well-being and happiness, he also mapped out the path that leads to this goal. Meditation is an integral part of this path, along with principled behavior.
Under the meditation umbrella, we find the techniques that the Buddha taught directly, as well as others that have been developed and transmitted by his wisest, most experienced followers. When Buddhism spreads to different lands, it takes on different flavors, and so does meditation. From mindfulness to visualization practices, some forms are very calming and others are quite colorful.
What Buddhist meditation techniques have in common is their purpose: to help us remain focused and alert; recognize and relate to our experiences with equanimity and serenity; and, ultimately, to become enlightened. Along the way, we learn to put ourselves in others’ shoes and distance ourselves from unhelpful emotional reactions. This has a positive impact on our relationships and our own well-being: we find that meditation helps us encounter life with an open and confident heart.
Outer circumstances are always changing. By reinforcing our ability to work with the present moment and giving us space to explore our minds, meditation engenders qualities of balance, empathy, and happiness that are less and less dependent on causes and conditions beyond our control. We gain insights into the nature of mind and reality and learn to put these insights to good use on the path to freedom.