Meditation, together with wisdom and morality, is one of the central elements of Buddhism teaching (or path). There are several kinds of meditation mentioned in Pali Canon. Many of them are of the same origin as in other religious practices.
But there two methods that seem to be genuine: formless mental trance and non-reactive awareness-of-a-subject. The main distinctive feature of a Buddhist meditator is that he doesn’t aim at experiencing or achieving unity with some higher and wiser realm (like in Hindu practice it is a matter of fusing with the original Attman). His goal is to clean up his mind from all objects of perception and to become only an aware subject.Beginning of the story: Merry, encouraged by her friend’s stories of meditation practice pleasure, started meditating too. She was not popular and very shy and unconfident person. Religion, as she thought of Buddhism, could help her to find something really meaningful in life, something she would like to identify herself with, something to believe in. But Buddhism didn’t give her any God to apply to and to pray to while meditating. She didn’t feel the united entity with some strong and wise realm that she was looking for.
That’s why she quitted abstruse practice that gave no results to her and didn’t solve her problems with self-identification.Reflection of the story: Merry took a wrong path of meditation which she believed would help her to find herself. An attempt to identify one’s “self” with tangible and changeable signs is doomed to a failure. She didn’t abandon her feelings and desires but tried to find the most important things among them, the things that would form her as a person.Theory-of-X-#1: What meditation gives is not a self-confidence or a unity with the opposing world. On the contrary, it teaches not to be afraid to feel disconnection and solitude in the material world and not to accept this world as something that forms and nourishes your “self”.Counterexample to Theory-of-X#1: John felt sated with all the pleasures and sorrows destiny rewarded or punished him with.
Being deeply disappointed in life he turned into Buddhism to free his mind and to find the real path to the true understanding of this world. He began practicing meditation with all his eagerness and inner strength. He could sit for hours in deep trance trying to abandon his body, his feelings and obsessive thoughts that followed him wherever he were. And he thought he really succeeded in it. But in the moment of returning he felt frustrated as well as before the meditation because he would feel his body and would suffer all the irresistible desires he suffered previously.
His friend Nick also did some meditative practice but never stayed in trance for days and hours. He didn’t escape from Tanha to meditation but used meditation as a medicine for his “I”. That’s why, when returned, Nick felt rather one step closer to his goal rather than frustrated.Reflection of the story: John is searching for escape from everyday routine. Meditation for him is like a small vacation from other people, other things and himself as well. He needs these hours of rest to come back to the rough reality and face the same hazards and problems as before. While Nick is not a renegade of reality. What he wants is not an escape but less dependence on things and ideas surrounding him.
Theory-of-X-#2, a revision of Theory-of-X-#1: Meditation is a guide-sign on the road of elimination of Tanha. Understanding invalidation of tangible signs and feelings is its aim. But this state of mind should prolong after the meditation as well. While meditating, one should remember the words: “path is a raft but not a shore”.
Meditative trance is not what a Buddhist aims. It is only a ladder leading to liberation from Tanha. So, a consistent Buddhist who is conscientiously practicing gradually feels free from desire not only in meditation but also in his everyday life. Freedom from an-atta in Buddhism doesn’t mean a passing freedom, a liberation of short duration (‘cause a similar kind of freedom one can achieve with the help of sport or drugs, etc.)Tanha/Upadana“Tanha” is a metaphor. Originally this word meant “thirst” and was chosen by Buddhist for defining deep human psychological and physical thirst for tangible signs (called in Pali Canon “five khandas”) that comes from insecurity and natural need to identify oneself with material and spiritual substances.
The term “Upadana” means inflexible dependence on these tangible signs that are mostly things and people (so called anchors of one’s life) we invest in and delusively hope them to be permanent.Beginning of the story: David doesn’t doubt that “five khandas” is a source or suffer one should exclude out of a “self”. He doesn’t want to “abide in” and thus to be poor. Obviously, David is sure that neither his fabulous BMW nor his overwhelming career makes him reach for always, because all they are subjects to change. They are impermanent as well as his body, his present feelings and thoughts.
So, he is trying not to be dependent on them. But recently he had to undergo a terrible ordeal. His mother died. At first, David felt simply destroyed but then pulled himself together and didn’t let this distress to occupy him totally. He stopped concentrating on grief thoughts and recalled Buddhist parable about Kisa Gotami: there is no such a house where no one ever died. So, body (rupa) is a thing to change, to decay.
“Sooner or later every body should die”, – he assumed as an outside objective mind.Reflection of the story: David caught the Tanha/Upadana idea that everything in this world is a subject to change. He put himself in a state of awareness-of-a-subject that means feeling desire but not clinging to it. He doesn’t take things as personal, close or essential to him but observe them objectively so that suffer originating from desire vanishes.Theory-of-X-#1: Impermanence (an-atta) should be eliminated from and not identified with “self”.
Personal things and feelings are impermanence too. One who depends on them is on the wrong way.Counterexample to Theory-of-X-#1: Ted is a newcomer in a Buddhism teaching. But he is already fascinated by its ideas: “to be plunged no more into a troubled stream of life” sounds like an incontestable dogma. To become immortal, to be not like others is a Ted’s goal.
He knows that all people are marked with suffer because they cannot abandon “five khandas”. Neither flesh no brains would rule him now. No hunger, no greed, no sex need, no love… He left his university studies and forget his family ‘cause they are only obstacles on his path to Nirvana. They are to be repressed. He is hungry and shabby, a waif in New York.
Now he resembles a jackal, with no home and no relatives. People say that he is simply an idle fraud.Reflection of the story: Ted didn’t take into account that Buddhism is a pragmatic teaching that explains how to leave in a place where you leave (it can be any place anywhere) without desire and attachment. Ted kept fast and practiced mortification of flesh but it wasn’t necessary. He took mostly inefficient way: not to eat when you want to, not to study and work that everyone expect from you, not to love and be loved, etc.
Theory-of-X-#2, a revision of Theory-of-X-#1: In deed, reduction of desire means not avoiding but realizing a desire and separating your “self” from it. Not to be dependent on one’s job one doesn’t have to quit it literally but only to understand its impermanent nature and not to be dependent on it. Just like no one should invest in one’s close people’s love like in something going to last forever. But this is not a matter of repudiation.