Friday, August 01, 2008

Is Meditation Good? Part 2

(This is a continuation from the previous blog, jumping off from the comments on that Part 1 post.)

GreenSkink said... Is it possible for "good" intentions to lead to undesirable results? Does anyone hold intentions they recognize to be "bad"?

Since we all have different and changing ideas of what's "good" and "bad," maybe it's clearer to talk about whether or not the intention is "only for me." Zen-style teaching suggests that a motivation that's just for myself will bring suffering.

When I first started a sitting meditation practice, it was entirely about getting something for me. I wanted to get inner feelings of peace, quiet, even euphoria. I wanted to become wise, holy, and enlightened.

With mathematical precision... to whatever extent my head is filled with "I want," I'm more likely to be ignorant of the needs of others. It's not that I ever intend to be "bad." But if I'm occupied with getting something for myself, there may be people right in front of me who are suffering (perhaps as a result of my own actions), and I won't even notice it.

Sincere questioning of this "I" can reveal it to be just a thought that comes and goes. Less clinging to "I want" can make for clearer perception, and a greater likelihood that I won't overlook or ignore the suffering of others.

"Meditation" may be a tool for questioning the self. It can also simply be an effort to get good feelings etc. If a meditation practice doesn't include strong and sincere "What am I?", I see no reason why someone can't be a great meditator or teacher, while being blind to the suffering of others.

When I'm chasing after what I want, it's like being on a merry-go-round. The constant motion makes a clear view of the situation impossible. The first thing is to step off the merry-go-round for a moment. That means following some sort of meditative discipline, keeping the mind still for a while, using any style or technique. In that pause, that not-moving, there's the chance of questioning the "I."

I guess my current view is that any practice that interrupts the merry-go-round of our usual desires, is better than nothing. But it doesn't automatically cultivate compassion; that only comes when we use the stillness to question everything, our deepest wants and identifications.

Doug wrote... Who can really say that they've never done something less than saintly, "consequences be damned."

Any time I'm caught up in a belief or desire, it's easy to follow it blindly, missing the consequences, including suffering to others. Any type of belief creates this fog. Even my desire to be more saintly is such a want. It may be a good want, but it's still a want, still a hindrance to clarity.

That leaves the practice of trying to keep a questioning mind, in this very moment. If I can sincerely ask "What am I?" and "How can I help all beings?", these big questions can cut through all thinking. That can leave an empty stillness, in which perhaps I can perceive the suffering around me, and respond as best I can.

1 comment:

clyde said...

"... an empty stillness, in which perhaps I can perceive the suffering around me, and respond as best I can."