Dalai Lama on heart of meditation

Why do people meditate? Obviously, different people meditate for different reasons. Some want to stop the mind from its constant thinking; others want to control the mind, rather than be controlled by it. For most people, becoming one with the Higher Self, Buddha, or the deity they worship calms them in the rock-about world.

According to His Holiness, "At the heart of these meditation practices lie two key techniques, the refinement of atte- ntion and its sustained application on the one hand, and the regulation and transformati- on of emotions on the other."

Meantime, in my 25 years in India, meditating every day, I've found that many people have no idea that meditation refines our attention. In my own case, after intervals of meditation, I am able to focus on my professional work with a concentration that blocks out everything else. My mind lets go of whatever emotions I might be going through. And by the time I complete my work-related tasks, not only does my attention on a project become so one pointed I forget to eat or sleep, but also, my emotions are steadied. Morning tension often changes into afternoon relaxation without the effort of will.

When I first began to meditate, my mind wandered from one thought to another. As I learned how to just let the thoughts come and go and not spend time on one or the other, my meditations began to produce results.

The Dalai Lama, said, "In both of these cases, I feel, there might be great potential for collaborative research between the Buddhist contemplative tradition and neuroscience. For example, modern neuroscience has developed a rich understanding of the brain mechanisms that are associated with both attention and emotion. Buddhist contemplative tradition, given its long history of interest in the practice of mental training, offers ...other hand practical techniques...."

Neuroscience is an expanding field. It includes the scientific study of the nervous syste- m; and it is also an interdiscip-linary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, engineering, lingui- stics, mathematics, medicine, philo- sophy, physics and psychology.

The Tibetan Lama noted, "The meeting of modern neuroscience and Buddhist contemplative discipline, therefore, could lead to the possibility of studying the impact of intentional mental activity on the brain circuits that have been identified as critical for specific mental processes. In the least, such an interdisciplinary encounter could help raise critical questions in many key areas."

Meditation, therefore, is a link to the vast Consciousness that is witness to the entirety of experience. It is a way to "learn" and "experience" without ever having to go to a cave in the Himalayas. Neuroscience will undoubtedly one day be able to explain that just as mankind is one, so is the nervous system only one. Perhaps then we may know why we feel the grief of others as well as their joy.

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