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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dalai Lama on Meditation

Notes from The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness

Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort.

If you are able to do a little meditation daily, withdrawing this scattered mind on one object inside, it is very helpful. The conceptuality that runs on thinking of good things, bad things, and so forth and so on will get a rest. It provides a little vacation just to set a bit in non-conceptuality and have a rest.

Practice in the morning. See if this makes your mind more alert throughout the day. As a temporary benefit your thoughts will be tranquil. As your memory improves, gradually you can develop a kind of special perception and understanding, which is due to an increase of mindfulness. As a long term benefit, because your mind has become more alert and sharp, you can utilize it in whatever field you want.

It is helpful not to practice too long in the beginning; do not over- extend yourself; the maximum period is around fifteen minutes. The important thing is not the length of the session but the quality of it. In the beginning, start with many short sessions -- even eight or sixteen sessions in a day -- and then as you get used to the process of meditation, the quality will improve, and the session will naturally become longer. A sign that your meditative stabilization is progressing well is that even though your meditative session may be long, it will feel as though only a short time has passed. If it seems that you have spent a long time in meditation even though you have spent only a little, this is a sign that you should shorted the length of the session. This can be very important at the beginning.

Effort is crucial in the beginning for generating a strong will. We all have the Buddha nature and thus already have within us the substances through which, when we meet with the proper conditions, we can turn into a fully enlightened being having all beneficial attributes and devoid of all faults. The very root of failure in our lives is to think, "Oh, how useless and powerless I am!" It is important to have a strong force of mind thinking, "I can do it," this not being mixed with pride or any other afflictive emotions. Moderate effort over a long period of time is important, no matter what you are trying to do. One brings failure on oneself by working extremely hard at the beginning, attempting to do too much and then giving it all up after a short time. A constant stream of moderate effort is needed. Similarly, when meditating, you need to be skillful by having frequent, short sessions; it is more important that the session be good quality than it be long.

When you have such effort, you have the necessary "substances" for developing concentration. Concentration is a matter of channelizing this mind which is presently distracted in a great many directions. A scattered mind does not have much power. When channelized, no matter what the object of observation is, the mind is very powerful. There is no external way to channelize the mind, as by a surgical operation; it must be done by withdrawing it inside. Withdrawal of the mind also occurs in deep sleep in which the factor of alertness has become unclear; therefore, here the withdrawal of the mind is to be accompanied by very strong clarity of alertness. In brief, the mind must have stability staying firmly on its object, great clarity of the object, and alert, clear, sharp tautness.