Surely, you have seen images of the practitioners of Buddhism sitting in the lotus position. Those familiar with such a posture are undoubtedly aware that when practitioners are in such a position they are meditating. Without a doubt, meditation can be considered one of the most vital components to the practice of this eastern religion.
Yes, if there was one component that most people were familiar about when it comes to Zen Buddhism it would be the art and science of meditation. Now, while most people are familiar with the concept of meditation, they are probably only familiar with it on a cursory level. Meditation is not just about calming and relaxing the mind. There is a deeper meaning and spirituality behind it. As such, a greater exploration of the process is worth engaging.
So, what is the primary purpose of meditation in Zen Buddhism? It should come as no surprise that the purpose of meditation is to attain enlightenment. Actually, the prime purpose of meditating is to remove many of the common obstacles to attaining enlightenment. This is achieved through reflecting on life, the universe, and all things in between. Through closing one’s eyes, relaxing, and looking inward, it becomes possible to see one’s experiences in a clearer perspective. Such a process allows for a greater understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world. It also aids in reducing the psychic noise and internal dialogue that may clutter how we perceive things and how we act.
In some ways, you could say that meditation can be a form of personal psychotherapy. Our perceptions and actions can be dictated by the inaccurate way we see things. Personal psychoses can lead to poor interpersonal and intrapersonal relations. By calming the mind, we can get a better handle on both these components. That, in turn, allows us to be more effective in our daily pursuits and also aids in the potential to attain enlightenment.
Through years of practice, Zen experts have found ways to get the most out of meditation practice. Often, Zen meditation will involve pondering on a Zen koan. A koan is a form of riddle/parable designed to be pondered on. Generally, the messages and morals of a Zen koan are ambiguous. Such ambiguity is by design because it promotes the potential to think deeply on the answer to the riddle. In most instances, there is no answer to be found and finding a definitive answer is not the purpose. The goal is to develop deep personal insights that can help you improve spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. The inclusion of a koan helps provide targeted thinking on a particular concept. For many, this aid in making the meditation session quite fruitful because pondering on the koans helps keep the mind focused.
Similarly, some may ponder on a mantra. A mantra can be a word or phrase that when meditated upon can also lead to deep insights and meaning. A basic mantra such as “life is all things good” can mean different things for different people. Regardless of what its individual interpretations mean, great insights can be derived when thinking of this or any other mantra. As with this koan, a mantra can prevent the unfortunate instance of intrusive thoughts permeating the mind and undermining the value of the session.
It is important to point out there needs to be a specific process involved with performing mediation. Namely, you will need to set aside quiet time in a special place in order to perform it. Noise and distractions can undermine your ability to properly mediate. That is why you need to pick the proper time and place to meditate.
Additionally, you will want to be as comfortable as possible when you meditate. That means you need to wear loose fitting clothing and have a cushioned mat in which to sit upon. Why is this so? If you are not comfortable, you run the risk of being distracted and that certainly would not help the cause in any way.
Consistent practice is a must for those that want to get the most out of meditation. The more you do it, the better you will become at it. This means you will get greater benefits from it. Hopefully, the end result will be the proper attainment of enlightenment.