Meditation itself has been described and defined in several different
ways. Pekala (1990) conceives of meditation as a "process of turning
consciousness upon itself to develop attentional control of the
processes and contents of consciousness". Claxton (1990) similarly
defines meditation as "learning to pay attention"; while Delmonte
(1990) states that meditation is the mechanism for "seeing the world
as it is, free from preconceptions." Others, such as Griffiths
(1986), describe meditation as a means toward achieving attainment of
cessation, a condition characterized by an utter absence of mental
events, yet accompanied by a purification of the sense organs. Each
of these descriptions of meditation focuses on meditation's role in
enabling the meditator to reflect upon his/her perceptual distortions
in order to correct them, leading to an experience of reality as it
While the overall goal of meditation is acknowledged to be the
ultimate state of nirvana, or enlightenment (West, 1990; Vajiranana,
1962), there are several ways in which the techniques of meditation
are categorized. This section of the paper will explore various
typologies of meditation in an attempt to describe their relevance to
the Buddhist doctrines. It will then attempt to show how within each
typology, meditation is assumed to lead to a state of nirvana.
Because the Eightfold Path presents two different types of
meditation: Right Concentration and Right Awareness, meditation has
naturally been systematized according to these two main distinctions.
One typology of meditation is offered by de Silva (1991), who
distinguishes between two goals of meditation: 1) the goal of
tranquillity, and 2) the goal of insight.
The first type of meditation can be equated with Right Concentration,
as it requires the meditator to focus attention upon a specific
object, becoming increasingly concentrated on it. The effect of this
exercise is the mind's withdrawal from all external and internal
stimuli, which then leads to a state of pure and undistracted
consciousness. The term "tranquillity" refers to the calming of
mental processes which results from such a withdrawal. Yet, as de
Silva notes, in order for a state of nirvana to be achieved, this
concentrative meditation must be followed by yet a second type,
insight meditation, which encourages the meditator to contemplate
his/her body, sensations, mental states, and mental objects (i.e.
moral and intellectual subjects) in order to gain insight into the
workings of one's mind. The meditator becomes a detached observer of
these objects of contemplation, with the aim of achieving total and
immediate awareness, or mindfulness, of all phenomena (for this
reason, this type of meditation has also been called "mindfulness"
meditation). The goal of this dual practice is to gain a full and
clear perception of the impermanence of all things. Such an
experience would presumably lead to the relinquishment of one's
illusion of the self/ego; nirvana would be attained through a
subsequent annihilation of desires and cravings.
more can be read at this url:
Paper is written by Phouttasone (Pilou) Thirakoul, who wrote it
during her senior year (1996-1997) as a Psychology major and Neural
and Behavioral Sciences concentrator at Bryn Mawr College. Pilou's
essay provides a useful introduction to both Buddhist thinking in
relation to brain and behavior, and to a branch of western psychology
which, with its stress on active generation and regeneration of self,
is of considerable interest from a Serendip perspective. Pilou's
essay also represents an example of the benefits to be gained by
looking at problems from multiple perspectives, and as encouragement
to further thinking about the relations between psychological,
neuroscientific, and spiritual approaches to problems of
consciousness and self-hood.
This is a wonderful paper, but may I add that in Zazen (meditation) on Mu (Nothing, No-thing) of the Zen tradition that we know that "thoughts are things". Therefore we quiet the mind and have one pointedness
as a method to transcend the many distractions. One method is the focus upon the breath and flow of Qi.
The Koan will confuse the busy mind that will perhaps cause it to relax. "Those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know." You must have a thought to speak. When you have perfected awareness in pure consciousness, awareness not thoughts running then you might pass through the "Gateless Gate".
"Meditation is the key that unlocks the door to a hallway of many doors." Mr. George Wong, Sensei