A question on motivation

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

A question on motivation

Postby Seeker of Wisdom » Sun Jul 14, 2013 4:26 pm

Hi everyone:

I am currently reading and re-reading several books on jhana and shamatha meditation. In all those books, the authors say that motivation is very important. If one's motivation for practicing concentration meditation is simply to develop psychic powers so that they can use such powers for their own personal gains, then that's not good motivations. The motivations for practicing concentration meditations should involve wanting to gain full awakening, to see through illusions and perceive reality, to gain liberation, and the like.

I myself have a motivation for doing this practice, but I am not so sure if this is the right motivation, so I like to ask for your opinions.

If my understanding of concentration meditation is correct, it will purify our mind so that our thoughts/acts are selfless; so that we can develop strong concentration which will no doubt help with any endeavors that we take on; so that we develop the emotional intelligence needed to maneuver competently in life; so that we can develop the fearlessness which can empower us with courage (which is so vital to selflessness).

For me, enlightenment in the spiritual sense of the word (such as seeing through illusions and perceiving reality) is great! But my main motivation for practicing concentration meditation is to develop those qualities I have just listed in the previous paragraph (such as developing concentration to improve my mental functioning; to develop courage; to purify mind, etc). I want to develop these qualities because I want to be of service to the world, but in a big way. By big, I don't mean in an egoistical way. By big, I mean I want to be involved in a group effort by a network of people to do something that will challenge status quo, overthrow existing regime, and erect a new one that will make the world a better place. I am not saying I want to start a global political revolution or anything scary like that. I don't have an exact definitive path yet, but what I want is to be involved in effort to reform. It could be political reform, or environmental reform, or education reform. In any case, they involve upsetting the existing status quo. The problem is that when one challenges existing system, he will run into resistance. In the worst case scenario, he will risk death. Given the risk and danger involved, it is easy to see how cultivating selflessness, courage, purification of mind, and concentration will help sustain a person who wants to change the world for the better.

So this is why I want practice concentration meditation. I hope that by cultivating those qualities that is the result of such practices, I will not coward before obstacles. I want to be able to bravely and selflessly press forward until I create the changes that I want which I know will make the world better in some ways.

My question is this. Is this the right motivation for shamatha/jhana meditation? To develop through meditation those positive qualities which empowers a person to contribute to betterment of the world is definitely a good thing. But just because it is a good thing doesn't mean it is necessarily an appropriate motivation for concentration meditation. In fact, in one book on shamatha which I have read, the author said that the best motivation for practicing shamatha meditation is if he desires to become "fully awakened" so that he can help other sentient beings. The author actually explicitly stated that if one wishes to achieve shamatha in order to do something positive for the world (such as becoming a doctor to heal people), this is a noble goal, but not necessarily a good motivation for shamatha. The reason is that the contribution that the doctor makes in his position as a healer will be limited to just this life time. My interpretation of the author's message is that a positive motivation that can't be carried over into the next life time isn't a good motivation for shamatha training.

So thus my question. On the surface, it seems that any kind of motivation which led us to the path of concentration meditation practice seems good enough a reason. But after reading the book and what the author said about motivation, I have some doubts. Can anyone please shed some light on this? Any insights will be greatly appreciated!!!!

Thank you!
Seeker of Wisdom
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:57 pm

Re: A question on motivation

Postby Ben » Mon Jul 15, 2013 12:26 am

I can't comment on the works you've read because you haven't mentioned the authors or given direct quotes.
Motivation is important so that one doesn't go into samatha practice with the selfish aim of developing psychic powers for one's own fame, fortune and following. Psychic powers are, if you like, a bi-product of developing samadhi. And increased concentration is merely a tool that assists one to develop panna (wisdom) via vipassana bhavana. It is only through vipassana bhavana that the mind becomes purified. When one develops samadhi via samatha meditation, mental impurities are only supressed.
I think your wish to help others is very noble, but I tend to believe that one cannot help others unless one is first helping oneself. Practice the Noble Eightfold Path diligently, study, and give dana. If you still wish to get involved in community action, start small - donate blood, donate your time to worthy volunteer organisations or give money to reputable charities. But most importantly - maintain your practice.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16051
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: A question on motivation

Postby Seeker of Wisdom » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:49 am

Ben wrote:I can't comment on the works you've read because you haven't mentioned the authors or given direct quotes.
Motivation is important so that one doesn't go into samatha practice with the selfish aim of developing psychic powers for one's own fame, fortune and following. Psychic powers are, if you like, a bi-product of developing samadhi. And increased concentration is merely a tool that assists one to develop panna (wisdom) via vipassana bhavana. It is only through vipassana bhavana that the mind becomes purified. When one develops samadhi via samatha meditation, mental impurities are only supressed.
I think your wish to help others is very noble, but I tend to believe that one cannot help others unless one is first helping oneself. Practice the Noble Eightfold Path diligently, study, and give dana. If you still wish to get involved in community action, start small - donate blood, donate your time to worthy volunteer organisations or give money to reputable charities. But most importantly - maintain your practice.
kind regards,

Ben


Hi Ben:

Thank you for your thoughtful response! Whether by intention or not, your response has somehow reminded me of the importance of just focusing on the present. Motivation certainly is important; but I shouldn't let myself stress out about whether or not my motivation of practicing shamatha is appropriate especially if the motivation is positive. In that case, just keep practicing. Even if the particular positive motivation I have for practicing isn't appropriate, I think nobody would argue that practicing concentration meditation is a good idea even if I am simply doing it to improve my focus, help me management my emotions, and calm myself. So, like you have suggested, I will keep practicing and walk the path. It isn't time to decide yet whether or not my motivation is correct, and whether or not I need to change my path.

Thank you for your insight!
Seeker of Wisdom
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2013 6:57 pm


Return to Samatha Meditation and Jhana

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests