This following passage, although coming from a Christian source, expresses very well the attitude of Buddhist meditation I learned both in Zen and Pure Land tradition.
Note how it challenges the idea of meditation as “training of the mind” to obtain particular skills. Sometimes I think this is too extreme and some kind of training happens anyway and make the difference, … but I think this faith-based approach points to the core of the things. The training and development of “meditation skills” is a side effect for sure useful … but that is not the point.
Enjoy the reading … If you are not Christian replace “God” with “Buddha”. Buddha is not God … but, again, this is not point. 🙂
Christian meditation – Experiencing the Presence of God by James Finley
“When we practice meditation we are like the repentant son returning to his father’s house. By the time we begin to meditate, we have probably come to realise how foolish we have been in the past. We are sorry about the suffering our foolish ways have caused ourselves and others. We are sincerely intent on not being so foolish in the future. But like the repentant son heading home to beg for his father’s forgiveness, we are still labouring under the illusion that our wayward ways make us unworthy in the eyes of God.
We do not want to give up the illusion that our weaknesses are obstacles to God’s love for us. The perception that our weaknesses are real in God’s eyes is bound up with our egocentric perception of ourselves as outside God’s sustaining love. Entrenched in the ignorance of our imagined otherness from God, we set out to meditate as a way of overcoming one obstacle after another so that we might succeed in reaching God. It is in being subject to this ignorance that we become discouraged about our real and imagined slow progress in meditation and in the spiritual life in general.
As the parable begins, the father saw that his son could not be talked out of his foolish insistence on making himself miserable. And so the father, as an act of love, lets the son go off so that he can discover, in the process of exhausting his own resources, the loving home he was so determined to leave. The same is true of us. Seeing how we cannot be talked out of our ignorance, love sets up a kind of obstacle course that provides the ego with spiritual goals it can attempt to achieve. “Here, try this,” love says. “See if you can sit present, open and awake as a way of being open to my presence in your life.” The sincere ego self struggles in its efforts until it exhausts completely all its own means of overcoming its inability to realise oneness with God it desires. Then, just as all seems lost, we look up to see God running towards us with open arms. Suddenly we realise there is no place within us that is not encountered, embraced, and made whole in a love that does not even care to hear our litany of short comings and regrets.
Here is yet another way of putting it: Our egocentric self sets out with an egocentric understanding of the spiritual path. This egocentric understanding is that of having to jump over a bar that is set so high that only the most finely tuned spiritual athlete could ever hope to clear it. Our struggles with distractions, sleepiness, and indifference brings us to a point of near despair. We begin to fear that our doubts were true concerning our inability to master such a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
Then, just as we have become exhausted and spent in our futile efforts to rise above our own limitations, the saving event happens. Compassion steps out and places the bar flat on the ground! Approaching the bar, bewildered by the unthinkable simplicity of the task, we trip over it and fall headlong into God, waiting to reveal to us that we are precious in our frailty and strangely whole in our fragmentation.
Some of the mystics speak of what is called the gift of tears. Sometimes, tears may literally start streaming down our face. Most often, the tears are interior tears of realising that we are so profoundly loved by God. We are loved without any foundations for being loved, except divine love itself. The tears stream all the more as we realise that everything in us that could be offered as a reason for our not being worthy to be loved results only in deepened and intensified experiences of love.
All this occurs in the ways in which you simply open yourself to God in meditation. As you keep sitting in your “Here I am, Lord” stance of openess to God, your precious, wayward heart is laid bare. As you continue breathing God’s love into each new distraction and diversion, the imagined power and relevance of distractions and diversions dissolves in the silent love in which you now sit.