Friday, December 30, 2011

Before Meditation

Before Meditation

By  Supawan


   One of my students in Singapore forwarded me a report talking about meditation is playing an important role in modern medicine. I must confess first of all that this is the kind of material that I would just browse through and wouldn't come back to it again. As this student asked me to comment about it, I thought I would give it a go. 

             This whole article indicates clear signs of doubts and uncertainty as far as using meditation as an alternative treatment to some mental ailments is concerned. Although there was some distinctive evidence of what meditation could do to help certain physical and mental maladjusted conditions as they did in the researches, some medical scientists are still not satisfied. According to the report, they still came out with their patronizing view like: " more conventional approaches to reducing stress come out looking equally effective", "the scientific evidence (until now) doesn't support the idea that meditation is anything better than a placebo effect..." "Current evidence for the therapeutic effectiveness of any type of meditation is weak".
The Buddhists stand no chance to win the argument with medical science as far as using meditation as a means of treating illness is concerned. It is because we are thinking on the different grounds altogether. While conventional medicine is based on the understanding that the mind has every connection with the brain, the Buddha does not think so. The way the Buddha views the human body and mind is totally different from our conventional approach. The Buddha places the mind (thought, memory, feelings and consciousness) as the separate entities from the body and the brain. Among the four formless entities, the Buddha separates them even further and tells us that the consciousness (Tom) is our sixth sense while thought; memory and feelings (Jerry) are our sixth sense objects.  It is a very precise and clear-cut presentation. Can you see that these two ways of thinking can neither mix nor compromise? The gap is too wide because the conventional knowledge sees humans with five senses, whereas the Buddha regards humans with six senses. The sixth sense has unfortunately gone missing from our mainstream global education. I can't help find it rather amusing when experts came out to talk about the sixth sense in term of being psychic, telepathy and the like and made it sound like they have just discovered this mystery of a human's mind. In fact, there is no mystery about it at all and the Buddha had talked about the use of our sixth sense for over 2546 years ago. Where have you been?! I often asked whenever I heard people talking about it.
When we talk on the different ground, the Buddhists cannot win the argument that easily even though the proof is there. And also the might of today science overshadows the wisdom of the Buddha regarding making use of our sixth sense in which meditation plays a main part. Before understanding why meditation is so important in all avenues of our lives, we must understand the great loss in not using our sixth sense properly. When we could understand our loss, we would appreciate our meditation practice because meditation is only the means to the end result. So let's talk about our sixth sense in relation to the ultimate truth first. Then we can see the whole perspective of life as well as realize that Buddhist meditation (the four foundations of awareness) is indeed the only means for mankind's survival.  
Missing just one sense is an enormous loss to an individual. Now we are talking about the loss of one sense of the collective humanity. Can you imagine the enormity of what humanity has lost so far?  I am telling you as well that in not using this crucial sense in a proper way, has been responsible for all the havoc, mayhem and suffering in the world. The Buddha's teaching is aimed to end all suffering in mankind, this is what he claims all along. It means that if we can all use our sixth sense properly, we can live in harmony with just the necessary suffering of aging, illness and death.      
            As long as medical scientists view human with five senses and place the mind in the brain, medical problems will never be truly solved; the puzzles will never click. We often have experts in the same field of knowledge come out to contradict one another's views and leave the public in dismay. Parents are in great concern for sometime about the MMR vaccination. There is no conclusive evidence whether it has any link with autism or not. So far, no medical experts can put the parents' minds at rest.  1.7 million women in Britain are using a type of the Hormone replacement therapy or HRT. Experts are fighting at the moment about the high risk of HRT with breast cancer. Once again, experts (doctors and drugs companies) are contradicting one another. What is the truth, we don't really know? 
In fact, there are no illnesses that medical science can truly claim they have defeated, from a simple cold to cancer, Aids, let alone defeating mental illnesses which is a much more complex matter. Although medical research has no conclusive evidence so far that the state of human's mind is the result of the function in the brain. It does seem to me that they draw up such conclusion anyway because this is all we hear of. When doctors are confronted by different symptoms of mental illnesses from mild to severe states, the most common explanation we hear of is the imbalance of the chemical in the brain. If not it is because of the hormone or the vitamin deficiency, which somehow still relates to the malfunction of the body. This conventional approach makes a very strong impact on people when it comes down to receiving treatment. Most doctors will automatically prescribe different types of drugs to their patients, which would help to balance out the chemical in their brain as a way to calm their minds down. This is a very common way to treat patients with related mental problems from mild symptoms like headache, migraines, worry, anxiety to severe symptoms like depression, breakdown and being suicidal.  As a result, patients or "all of us" have no saying whatsoever. In other words, our lives are in the hands of the doctors and drugs companies. What can we, patients, do to adjust the so-called chemical imbalance in the brain, hormone or vitamin deficiency? Absolutely nothing but solely depend on our doctors and chemists.
The point is that if medical research into the function of the mind is still on shaky ground, with no conclusive evidence about the state of mind linking to the function in the brain, how can we know that the conventional treatment really works? How can we trust our doctors and chemists? Most people know that the prescribed drugs like anti-depressants don't work but we have no other option, do we?  This is the area of knowledge that is still full of ambiguity, uncertainty and mystery. Above all, medical experts tend to increase the degree of complexity into the matter and we seem to get nowhere whatsoever as if circling a boat in a gigantic lake.
 Having designer babies, the ability to do all kinds of complex transplantation, plastic surgery to vanity treatment and so on are not the real signs of medical development.  We must not be fooled by all these medical achievements because they serve only a handful of humans "in the affluent society" to live better and a bit longer. That's all. Globally, we still have enormous problems as far as our physical and mental health are concerned.
 This is the reason why I keep on saying that we must listen to the wisdom of the Buddha. His enlightenment means he has found the ultimate entity in nature or the ultimate truth. Why is this ultimate nature so important to humanity that I keep on bringing it up? It is because this has everything to help us getting out from this gigantic roundabout in which we are trapped.
If you want to know your position on this planet, you must find a ruling point where you want to measure from and to, must you not? I can say that I am 6000 miles away from Thailand. My ruling points of both ends are Britain and Thailand. That's why we use GMT as our standard time scale. No matter what we want to measure, we must have an absolute ruling point to begin with, otherwise we cannot measure anything accurately and precisely at all. So far, all these ruling points in the universe are assumed and relevant. Our weights relates to the gravity of planet earth. If we go to the moon, our weights change.  
The ultimate entity, which the Buddha had achieved on the night of his ultimate enlightenment, is indeed an absolute ruling point for absolutely everything in the world and the universe. I call it bluntly as the ultimate truth and my own version as the ‘innocent perception' for sometime now.  We cannot claim that our civilization now is much more advanced than that of our ancestors only because they did not walk around with mobile phones, could not perform complex brain surgery, had no knowledge of genetic engineering and so on. It's true, if we use our modern technology as the ruling point to measure the advance of our civilization, we can say that our ancestors were backward and we are forward. The point is that as long as we do not know the absolute ruling point of the universe, we cannot calculate anything at all and we cannot say that we are better or more advanced than our historic friends. In fact, a lot of things that they could do then, we cannot do now despite our advances in technology. British television ran a series of programs a few years ago showing a number of magnificent constructions of the past that we could not possibly achieve today by using their traditional methods despite our sophisticated knowledge tucked away in our brains. Among them were the pyramids of Giza, the Roman baths, the rainbow bridge, Stonehenge and so on.   
 There was a significant event happening during the Buddha's time till a couple hundred years after he had passed away. It was recorded that in the town called Patalibutta, the people in this town would greet one another by asking what foundation of mindfulness they were doing in their daily life. Most people in the town would have the answer handy whether it was mindfulness with breathing or walking because this was what they were doing. If anyone said they did none of the meditation practice, people would walk away, did not want to associate with as they regard those people with the sign of trouble. To me, this is what I call the real advance in civilization. And this is also one of the things that our historic friends could do then but we cannot do now.
Without knowing the ultimate entity in nature, we don't know where our civilization should aim for. Rationally speaking, it should prepare mankind to aim for the ultimate truth. Then we would know exactly how advanced our civilization is. What the people in Patalibutta in ancient India were doing was classed as the real advance in civilization because they were leading their lives toward the ultimate aim of life. The enlightening culture I talked about in A Handful of Leaves is also a way of life that can prepare people en mass to achieve that ultimate aim. When we have that ultimate aim, we know exactly our standing point whether we are too far or near that aim. Moral conduct will begin to make sense. People will have no problem to understand why they have to do good deeds and not to do bad deeds. That is because good deeds will speed their journey to the ultimate aim and bad deeds will prolong their journey. We are in moral chaos because we have no ultimate aim to focus on. People nowadays cannot understand why they should follow the five moral precepts. Without that ultimate ruling point in nature, we will always be trapped in this gigantic roundabout, not knowing we are leaning more to the left, right, center, up or down. This is exactly the nature of our world, bewilderment, confusion, chaos, mayhem and suffering.
At the moment, we burn up our entire natural and human resources just to curb the end of all problems. If we use the scale of 1 to 10, everything that we call ‘solving the problems' is between 5 to 10, if not 8 to 10. Putting cameras and alarms to detect and deter crimes can hardly call solving the problems. Hospitals are inundated with patients who abused themselves with alcohol, smoking and drugs. Is this called solving the problem? We barely scratch the root of any problem at all.
The root of the problem is a human's mind. Human's mind is the variable factor that can either make peace or war on earth. Angry people make war on earth, greedy  people rob the world, selfish people make an unfair world. Happy people make a happy world and peaceful people make a peaceful world. Human mind is the number 1 factor on the scale. To create happy people, we must change the concept of our global education. We must introduce the use of the sixth sense to humanity because this is the sense that will enable us to witness the ultimate truth, which is right here in front of us. Witnessing the ultimate truth or having the innocent perception is the crucial factor that will change people's mind from bad to good. Buddhist meditation or the four foundations of awareness is about making use of our sixth sense so that the practitioner can witness the innocent perception at some point. This would result in the practitioners having the intuitive wisdom and subsequently allow them to understand life and live in peace. This is what Buddhist meditation is all about. There is no doubt about it that meditation is vital to humanity in all avenues of our lives. It can serve not only as a cure to mental illnesses and some physical illnesses too but it is also a crucial means for man to just survive the existence of our everyday lives, put us in better moods and make us feel happier. Meditation can also makes us stay clear from trouble. This is the reason why the residence of Patalibutta, in ancient India, did not want to associate with people who were not doing one of the foundations of mindfulness as they regarded those without meditation base as signs of trouble. This is very true. The mind without one of the 4 foundations of mindfulness is self-destructive and troublesome. Although one may think one is a happy person now, it is a matter of time before troubles and suffering attack once again. In fact, the suffering in people's mind is obvious to the wise people but most people are too ignorant to realize and admit.  Besides, there are not enough teachers with real wisdom around to send out the right message about life. Even in a Buddhist country like Thailand, because of the deterioration of the Buddhist institution, the younger generation turn their backs on the traditional way of Buddhist thinking and adopt the western logic and life style. So even those who want to find a refuge, they don't know where to turn to and how to begin that very first step of the long journey to the ultimate goal of life. People's mind is the first domino of all our problems. Simply change people's minds and the rest of the problems will be collapsed accordingly. Happy and peaceful people will not abuse themselves, nor will they go out to cause trouble, havoc and mayhem to others. Consequently, we won't need the whole range of crime deterrents, nor having weapons to prevent war. Our physical and mental health will be better too. The workload of our health service will be reduced by half in not having to treat patients of wars' victims and those who abused themselves. When people are happy, they will be less selfish and we would have enough food for the poor. The world is not short of food if we distribute it fairly and don't waste it too much. Greedy and selfish people's minds can never be pacified because they have unlimited desire. Our natural and human resources will be used with much more rewarding results if only we have quality people - people with good, happy and unselfish minds. 
Once again, I am not imagining things. Some people may think this is a laughable matter, fancy talking about the sixth sense, the ultimate truth and the dream world. I am not dreaming.  This is what we would have if we could tackle the root of the problem, which is the human's mind. Before you want to laugh it off, please look at the consistency and the coherence of my work.  Although I am not supported by any prominent people in the Buddhist world and very much working alone, I always insist on what I said so far. I haven't yet wavered as far as the ultimate truth is concerned. With this perspective, you can either take action on an individual level by quickly pursuing your meditation practice or you can help others along too by doing whatever you can to let them know this message.
Because of this letter, I have unintentionally started writing the second part of The User Guide to Life. In responding to the medical science, it is necessary to go into a great length to explain the five elements, which constitute our human life form. Then I can rationally talk about the sixth sense, Tom and Jerry and all the way to the ultimate truth or the innocent perception.  Only then could science admit the power of Buddhist meditation, which is the means to an end.
Finally, I hope this letter gives you some perspective. If you would like to help me with the publication of my books so that my little voice can be heard and this wisdom can be shared to more people, please either contact me or Khun Patarachai who is helping me with the publication of my books in Thailand. I still need a lot more funding to print my books. Better still, if you could find a publisher who is willing to take me under their wing and take a risk with me on this venture, I will certainly appreciate it very much. It isn't easy for me to not only shoulder this huge concept of life alone but trying to do the propagation as well. It will be good if I have help. It means more people will benefit from my work.  
 I also hope you all are still pursuing your meditation practice. Enjoy your summer holiday. I must admit this is the hottest summer I have experienced in my 23 years of living in Britain. Just like living in Thailand really. Today 10 August 03, Heathrow airport reached 37 degree centigrade! All the best, everyone.  
With metta, (means... loving kindness) 
The best way from



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