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                                An Introduction To Meditation

                                                                    By Kim Do Quang

           Meditation is not a body of knowledge so it cannot be conveyed, nor its benefits obtained, just by reading about it.  It is not simply a technique either in the fact that it is not the application of technology or scientific knowledge.

          It is, however, a practice, so it can be learned, but it must be practiced to reward you.  (Meditation, here, means consciousness-expansion, or no-mind, as it is understood in the East, rather than contemplative reflection, as it is understood in the West.)  Ordinary people think too much, and the practice of meditation is to stop thinking by moving to no-mind, expanding the consciousness rather than dwelling in the mind, in thoughts.

         Each thought is a small electrical current between the gray cells of the brain.  A brain thinking continuously is full of electrical currents, running anarchically day and night, sometimes (if, for example, you are angry) like a storm.  If an ordinary person can stop thinking for two seconds, it is already an outstanding achievement.  Meditation, to stop thinking and move to no-mind, is to control the electricity of the brain.

         At night, ordinary people dream because they are still thinking, as much as during the day.  Dreams are the results of thoughts combined with the imagination.  In the daytime they work or go to the market with their minds full of thoughts; thus, hey are day dreaming.  They are dreaming throughout all of their lives, and meditation, moving to no-mind, is to awaken from the long dream

        The mind never stops desiring.  People desire fame, wealth, to have beautiful things for themselves or for others.  If one desire is met, the mind immediately creates another one.  Many desires are impossible to be fulfilled.  So people live with stresses, anguishes and sufferings.  Meditation, to stop thinking and move to the no-mind is to be freed from sufferings.

        A helpful approach to understanding meditation is to use Siddhartha Gautama Buddha's definition of life, formed of five components or aggregates:

          1. Matter
          2. Senses
          3. Perception
          4. Mind and
          5. Consciousness.

        The relative ratios of the 5 aggregates are not constant, but continuously changing.  For example:
        "If someone is thinking a lot, the proportion of the aggregate # 4 greatly increases at that time and the other aggregates become smaller.
        If a person is suffering from the pain of an injury then his aggregate # 2 becomes bigger.
A deceased person no longer has aggregate # 1, the physical body but still has the four other aggregates.  Therefore, he is still "alive," he exists in another world, another   dimension.

        Having too many thoughts allows the mind become predominant.  The consciousness is reduced to almost nothing.  Ordinary people live 'unconsciously" most of the time.  Thus meditation is to stop thinking, move to no-mind to expand the consciousness.

        If you meditate until your mind, the aggregate #4, is dead (when there is not one thought left in the head), you will reach the state of the Buddha, the ultimate development of the human being.  Only then will you know your true nature or the Self.  Realizing the state of the Buddha will be the most blissful experience one could have.  A new entity will be born, completely different from the old one, although she/he will still live in the same physical body.  Having no more thought in is mind, a new Buddha does not dream.  He is freed from sufferings.  The electricity in the brain is controlled and his consciousness is expanded to the outermost limit, the cosmos.  When a Buddha says something, his ideas flow out from the Self automatically because he is completely in the no-mind (he does not think anymore like the ordinary people do).

        How can you stop thinking?  If you reflect upon the consciousness and its expansion, you will get the opposite result because you are using the mind.  It will be strengthened instead.  You have to find method to overcome the thinking process.  Meditation methods use the physical body, the senses, and the feelings to indirectly develop the consciousness.  They are all based on training the attention.  For example, meditate by listening attentively to a chosen sound or by alertly following each movement of your breathing.

        Attention will bring the following results:

          1. The mind cannot simultaneously think and focus the attention on something 
            (breathing for   example).  So if every day you train your attention, surely it will slow 
            down. Then one day you will forget to think.  The mind will get smaller and the 
            consciousness will grow.
          2. Sustained attention will make your energy lighter, thus spiritual (the energy will move 
            up different levels of your being).  The more you meditate the higher the energy will 
            move and you will become increasingly serene, peaceful.
          3. By training the attention, you will become so attentive that one day you will be able 
            to witness your thoughts: when you think you will know that you are thinking, you will 
            be able to differentiate between the brain which is thinking and you, who is observing 
            the brain.  You are not the mind; you are something else (the pure consciousness or 
            the Self).
          4. The next step will be able to witness your dreams.  If you can observe your thoughts 
            in the daytime then you will witness your thoughts during your sleep.  You will also 
            witness your dreams, when you dream you see things, while when you think you have 
            only thoughts in your mind.  So when you dream you will be aware that you are 
           dreaming.   You are not the dreaming mind.  The consciousness will spread into your 
           sleep.  The more you meditate, the clearer and the more penetrating your insight will be.
          5. If you continue to meditate you will reach the state of no-mind naturally.  Then one
            day you will become a Buddha.  At this time the energy will have jumped to its 
            highest peak.

         Why do meditators insist so much that you have to live accordingly to the principles of no-ego, no-desire, and no-attachment?

        Such notions are not abstract philosophies.  The simple reason is that ego, desire, attachment are sources of thoughts.  They make you think more, therefore should be avoided.

        When you meditate how can you know that you are encountering consciousness?  Thoughts can be spoken out as words.  So thoughts are sounds.  A mind full of thoughts is very noisy.  On the contrary, consciousness is silent.  The main characteristic of consciousness is silence or stillness.  But everyone has already experienced this silence everyone has already met the Self.  For instance when you were a child, you played hide and seek. You went into an empty house and did not find anybody.  The house was so silent you got scared.  You thought a ghost could be there, so you escaped.  The silence of the house helped you to feel your own silence.  In fact, the two silences were fused together.  By not being attentive enough, you were unaware in this very short time that your consciousness was pervading, filling the whole house because it was not limited to the physical body.  In other words, you and the house were one at that moment.  So while meditating if you stop thinking and feel the silence then that silence is the consciousness.

        The consciousness is difficult to perceive because it is intangible.  Hence the various names given to it by the meditators are emptiness, nothingness, soundlessness, etc.  Those terms are only designations, not philosophies to reflect upon.  The silence felt while meditating is one way for the consciousness to become manifest (its ratio is actually increased).  Witnessing is another way, because who is observing your thoughts or your dreams (the activities of the mind) if not the consciousness itself?  Thus, stopping to think and witnessing allow you to reach the transcendental state beyond the mind, the pure consciousness.

        In the past, you have gone through an innumerable cycles of life and death.  You began your extremely long journey eons ago in the shape of the simplest life form, the bacteria.  Your consciousness has evolved very slowly form that point to the present state where you ar enow.  You might ignore that you, as an entity, came back so many times to life to pursue the same goal, the enlightenment.  Thus, the realization of the state of Buddha is the true purpose of life, not the relentless pursue of money and other desires.  Without meditation, ultimately the goal will be attained but you need and infinite number of lives more.  Meditation will help you to fulfill your quest faster.  During the past lives you have suffered enough that your tears could fill up an ocean!  Your corpses have also enough enriched the soil of graveyards!  So why you would you accept further and unnecessary anguishes, sufferings?  Why would you not change the orientation of your journey?  Start to meditate, to give a real meaning to your life today.  If you do not realize in this life, the experiences gained through meditation will be kept to the next life.  You have to practice meditation yourself because nobody can meditate for you.  Nobody can expand your consciousness for you.  On the other hand, you must work to survive in this modern, very materialistic world.  You cannot spend the whole day in meditation.  You have to find a balance between meditation and the needs of life.

        It is not necessary to sit cross-legged to meditate.  Any position will do: standing, sitting on a chair or laying on a bed.  You can, for example, follow your breath while watching your TV or taking the metro to go to work.  Meditate for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.  The most suitable time is in the evening before going to bed.  Light up an incense stick and practice the breathing method during the time the incense burns.  Breath slowly from the diaphragm and pay attention to the movements of the air:

        "When you inhale you know that the air is moving in, when you exhale you know that the air is moving out.   Also, with each inhaling breath, do not forget to smell the fragrance of the incense that will help you to be more attentive.

        You will sleep better afterwards.  If you are not comfortable with the smoke of the incense, use a perfume.  At the beginning, it will be difficult to concentrate your attention on the breathing because you are constantly distracted by thoughts.  Do not be discouraged; do not give up.

        With patience and perseverance, one day the thinking will stop, at first for a very short time.  Later, the periods of no-mind will become longer and also more frequent.  Do not worry about stopping to think, just practice the breath awareness as explained and with time, you will be transformed.