How reliable is Meditation

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

How reliable is Meditation

Postby AJungianIdeal » Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:40 am

I was just listening to an Ajahn Brahm talk entitled "Superstitions" and he mentions that one should not believe in things until they've been discovered by oneself. One example he gives is his understanding of rebirth and how one should treat it as superstition until one gains knowledge of it in meditative practice.

This ties in with recollection of past lives to me, as phrased by the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy,

"It is no doubt quite difficult to believe that karma and rebirth exist in the form that the Buddha claims. It is said that their existence can be confirmed by those who have developed the power of retrocognition through advanced yogic technique. But this is of little help to those not already convinced that meditation is a reliable means of knowledge. What can be said with some assurance is that karma and rebirth are not inconsistent with non-self. Rebirth without transmigration is logically possible."

Is meditation reliable?
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:40 am

Dear AJungianIdeal,

In my experience, meditation is a reliable way to bring more happiness and peace into all aspects of life. It's subtle but it's always there. It's hard at first but you can build yourself up. Even starting with just five minutes a day. I recommend that you make it as daily of a routine as possible, like brushing your teeth. And that you are patient with the benefits. They come in time.

There are also plenty of scientific studies about the benefits of meditation if you want a guarantee of reliability from an objective, scientific standpoint.

:anjali:
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James
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby kmath » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:56 am

Do you mean: can meditation lead to recollection of past lives? Or if you have such a recollection, is it reliable?

Can you perhaps rephrase the question?

Good topic by the way.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby manas » Fri Jan 03, 2014 7:06 am

AJungianIdeal wrote:I was just listening to an Ajahn Brahm talk entitled "Superstitions" and he mentions that one should not believe in things until they've been discovered by oneself. One example he gives is his understanding of rebirth and how one should treat it as superstition until one gains knowledge of it in meditative practice.


Greetings Jung,

I would be surprised if a monk of Ajahn Brahm's standing said that we ought to treat rebirth as a 'superstition' until we gain direct knowledge of it (such direct knowledge only occurring at a quite advanced level of practice), did he really use that word?

su·per·sti·tion
noun \ˌsü-pər-ˈsti-shən\

: a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck : a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck
Full Definition of SUPERSTITION
1
a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
2
: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superstition


I'm not criticizing him, of course, I just think he could have chosen a better word in this instance.

Regarding the question, "is meditation reliable?", I would say 'it is as reliable as the practitioner is in adhering to the Path'. We ought not to trust our meditative experiences blindly, but ought to continuously compare them with what is written in the suttas, to ensure we are heading in the right direction, imo. But I agree that this is an important issue to think about.

kind regards,
manas. :anjali:
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby AJungianIdeal » Sun Jan 05, 2014 1:31 am

kmath wrote:Do you mean: can meditation lead to recollection of past lives? Or if you have such a recollection, is it reliable?

Can you perhaps rephrase the question?

Good topic by the way.

second. I'm thinking more of realizations gained through meditation. On another forum I frequent, where there the majority of people are around my own age group (20-30); Their thread on Buddhism introduced me to the philosophy. The majority of them said they were very skeptical of the metaphysical concepts surrounding Buddhism, but as their practice went on, they began to cling less to their old ideas and at the very least became more open.

Is this just the brain "fooling you" or is it a legitimate way of realization?
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby chownah » Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:31 am

I think the brain is fooling you pretty much all of the time. Meditation is just a way to see this. When some people see how foolish an idea is they immediately grasp onto another idea.....it is better if, when seeing the foolishness of an idea, one comes to understands the foolishness of all ideas and although one still has ideas and acts on ideas one sees their foolishness and so does not grasp at them.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby kmath » Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:58 am

AJungianIdeal wrote:second. I'm thinking more of realizations gained through meditation. On another forum I frequent, where there the majority of people are around my own age group (20-30); Their thread on Buddhism introduced me to the philosophy. The majority of them said they were very skeptical of the metaphysical concepts surrounding Buddhism, but as their practice went on, they began to cling less to their old ideas and at the very least became more open.

Is this just the brain "fooling you" or is it a legitimate way of realization?


At least with regard to the rebirth question, I have wondered this myself. I once read a very interesting article on mystical experiences by Bertrand Russell that has helped shape my opinion on the matter. The article is here:

http://scepsis.net/eng/articles/id_4.php

If you don't want to read it all, I can kind of some it up for you...
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:19 am

AJungianIdeal wrote:Is this just the brain "fooling you" or is it a legitimate way of realization?


Dear AJungianIdeal,

In my experience...

This kind of inquiry in regards to one's own mind is a rabbit hole to Doubtland. One can always doubt oneself. One develops the Buddhist path to eventually remove doubt. The best way to counter doubt is to use the techniques in MN 20. Learn to recognize the feeling of confusion that arises when one doubts. Don't follow up on doubtful inquiries because the questions and answers never end.

:anjali:
Peace,
James
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:52 pm

AJungianIdeal wrote:second. I'm thinking more of realizations gained through meditation. On another forum I frequent, where there the majority of people are around my own age group (20-30); Their thread on Buddhism introduced me to the philosophy. The majority of them said they were very skeptical of the metaphysical concepts surrounding Buddhism, but as their practice went on, they began to cling less to their old ideas and at the very least became more open.

Is this just the brain "fooling you" or is it a legitimate way of realization?


I think what you've described is a process of growing up, mature people (among other things) cling less to their old ideas and at the very least are more open.

Buddhist meditation when done properly helps you to grow up, it can't fool you as such as you can only fool yourself, and yes people can use meditation wrongly to support that too.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Digity » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:38 am

Meditation is all about awareness. It's one of the most reliable methods of seeing things as they really are.

I doubt anyone here can help you with the whole past lives discussion...I doubt anyone here has ever had that experience in their meditation. At this point, I have so much trust in the Buddha's teachings that I'm willing to take it on faith his teachings about rebirth. Everything else that I've been able to verify has turned out to be true, so I'm willing to take the Buddha's word on it.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Invincible_Summer » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:54 am

AJungianIdeal wrote:
kmath wrote:Do you mean: can meditation lead to recollection of past lives? Or if you have such a recollection, is it reliable?

Can you perhaps rephrase the question?

Good topic by the way.

second. I'm thinking more of realizations gained through meditation. On another forum I frequent, where there the majority of people are around my own age group (20-30); Their thread on Buddhism introduced me to the philosophy. The majority of them said they were very skeptical of the metaphysical concepts surrounding Buddhism, but as their practice went on, they began to cling less to their old ideas and at the very least became more open.

Is this just the brain "fooling you" or is it a legitimate way of realization?


I think it's up to you to come to that conclusion. You either have faith in the fruits of meditation or you don't.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:12 pm

AJungianIdeal wrote:I was just listening to an Ajahn Brahm talk entitled "Superstitions" and he mentions that one should not believe in things until they've been discovered by oneself. One example he gives is his understanding of rebirth and how one should treat it as superstition until one gains knowledge of it in meditative practice.


Sounds reasonable, but would you also apply this to jhana, for example? Or to enlightenment?
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby JeffR » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:37 am

My thinking is that your meditation is as reliable as your adherence to the eightfold path. "Wrong view" is probably what trips us up the most as we struggle along.

-Jeff
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby waterchan » Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:30 pm

AJungianIdeal wrote:Is meditation reliable?


I doubt anyone here will testify to being able to recall past lives. If there is anyone on this forum who is advanced enough in meditation to recall past lives, I doubt they would claim it on an online message board. And if anyone does, you would be right to be skeptical of such claims.

What I can guarantee you is that it's not overly difficult to become good enough in meditation to experience a breakdown of normal perceptions. In fairly deep meditation, you can get really weird, almost otherworldly experiences. Probably not enough to convince you of karma and rebirth, but just enough to convince you beyond all doubt that there exist states of mind you had never imagined before. After that first taste of the strange and weird, you'll never have doubts as to whether meditation is worth doing.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby seeker242 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:13 pm

I like Thanissaro Bhikkhu's take on this. :smile: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ening.html

"The Buddha never placed unconditional demands on anyone's faith. And for anyone from a culture where the dominant religions do place such demands on one's faith, this is one of Buddhism's most attractive features. We read his famous instructions to the Kalamas, in which he advises testing things for oneself, and we see it as an invitation to believe, or not, whatever we like. Some people go so far as to say that faith has no place in the Buddhist tradition, that the proper Buddhist attitude is one of skepticism.

"But even though the Buddha recommends tolerance and a healthy skepticism toward matters of faith, he also makes a conditional request about faith: If you sincerely want to put an end to suffering — that's the condition — you should take certain things on faith, as working hypotheses, and then test them through following his path of practice"


Now if you were to say one of those things would be that "yes meditation is reliable", I doubt Ajahn Brahm would disagree with all that. :smile: Reason being that if you don't think it has the possibility of being reliable, you won't even try doing it to begin with. At least not to the extent that is necessary.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Kamran » Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:19 am

It is reliable source of knowledge in that Meditation calms you and allows emotions, which cloud your judgement, to subside.

While the mind is calm, rested, unified, and fee of emotions its ability to discern the cause of issues is much stronger. You learn from things that you never even noticed before.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: How reliable is Meditation

Postby Sati1 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:43 pm

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for rebirth from outside the realm of meditation, principally from recollection of past lives by children (see book "Twenty Cases of Suggestive Reincarnation" by Stevenson), and from cases of recollection in hypnosis (see book "Many Mansions" by Cerminara). In both cases, the recollections were subsequently verified by investigators. Since not anybody can recollect past lives and those who can might not be able to do so at will, it is difficult to impossible to study it scientifically. The common "hoax argument" can also be employed easily, since the recollection is (of course) "only" an experience experienced by one person.
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"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)
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