What is the ultimate goal of meditation according to Buddhism? In this episode, we explore the transformative power of meditation and the benefits Buddha outlined. We explore:
The Ultimate Goal of Meditation in Buddhism Transcript
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:27
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re continuing our series on the great minds of philosophy. Buddhism was the topic for the last two episodes. We have one more episode today that will finish up our little chat on Buddhism, even though we could do a whole series on this. But today we'll talk about meditation and Buddhism. Before we begin, I do want to remind you, if you're watching us or listening to us on Spotify, iTunes, those wonderful podcast services that host our program, make sure you click Subscribe so that you can get the rest of the series. Let's talk about Buddhism and meditation.
Robert Maldonado 01:14
Just to recap, we talked about Buddha's idea of the Four Noble Truths, philosophically, of course. From our perspective, we always want to get at the psychology of it. How does it help us? What does it do to our mind? Then we talked about his beautiful concept of aggregates that the individual self we identify with is such a false perception that the mind creates. It creates it out of aggregates, these elements that come together and make it appear as if we're locked into these little bodies, and that's all there is to us. His idea was that there's a lot more to us.
Debra Maldonado 02:00
The mind it beyond the body, the mind is not just in the brain.
Robert Maldonado 02:04
That's why consciousness is universal. But we wanted to also give people a way to practice some of these things. One of Buddha's emphasis was that you need to practice these things. This is not just to have these beautiful thoughts and muse about these things. There's an actual way to experience these things, to have a direct experience of them.
Debra Maldonado 02:36
It’s part of the path to have self-realization.
Robert Maldonado 02:41
Of course, the ultimate aim in his philosophy is nirvana. Not the band.
Debra Maldonado 02:50
Pack your bags and go into nirvana. It's not a destination. It's a state of mind.
Robert Maldonado 02:56
We'll talk about it. But let's talk about his philosophy of meditation and the attainment of nirvana. It revolves around the subjective experience of the meditator and the transformation of the mind. In Buddhism, meditation serves as a powerful tool to understand the nature of reality, overcome suffering, and ultimately achieve nirvana, which is the freedom from the cycle of birth and death, which is samsara. We'll talk about that.
Debra Maldonado 03:36
What I love about it is that meditation isn't just a stress reliever. It helps us overcome suffering in a way, but the key of meditation is to understand the nature of reality. Once you realize the true nature of reality and see through the matrix, as Keanu Reeves did in the movie, you have a new perspective to approach life from. It's not about just fixing the world out there to make it beautiful and shiny. It's about understanding the nature of things and yourself, then the world. That brings peace because you have a new concept of what you're really dealing with, that philosophical concept.
Robert Maldonado 04:23
I love the term samsara which is a sad state of mind because what it denotes is that we're caught up in this limited perspective, our mind gets locked into this idea that we’re simply physical beings struggling in life to survive and to do things. It’s sad because that's not really what the nature of reality is.
Debra Maldonado 05:03
I love the metaphor of the cork bobbing on the ocean, being tossed by the waves, helpless, feeling powerless. That's how we feel if we don't know how to work with our mind.
Robert Maldonado 05:16
Through meditation, the practitioner gains insight into three marks of existence. Impermanence, meaning that we have to let go of things. If we live as if things are permanent, that’s one of the keys to our suffering. We're setting ourselves up for suffering. Number two, suffering itself. If we set up ourselves for suffering, then when we suffer, we fall into a delusional state, we're suffering doubly because we're not only creating our own suffering, but we're perpetuating it and wallowing in it.
Debra Maldonado 05:59
The idea that a lot of people say “I'm stuck”, that's what we're talking about. Stuck in the delusion that it's permanent, nothing can change.
Robert Maldonado 06:11
Then non-self or no self. This is the liberating element. If there is no self, not in our sense of ego, our persona, like Jung would say, it's not necessarily saying it's not a valid way of being in the world. It's saying that it's impermanent, it's a mental construct we create, or our mind creates and we buy into it. We think “This must be the way the world is, that's all there is to it because it appears to me that way. Everyone is buying it, therefore, I'm going to buy it too and exist in this limited way.” Buddha’s philosophy is pointing the way to exiting samsara.
Debra Maldonado 07:01
Meditation is really how Buddha came up with his theory and his wisdom. He meditated, it came to him.
Robert Maldonado 07:11
This is our perspective, but he grew up with the Vedic tradition.
Debra Maldonado 07:18
He knew a lot of the foundational stuff.
Robert Maldonado 07:21
But he was a reformist in the sense that he wanted to restructure it and give this knowledge to anyone willing to do it, instead of just keeping it in the priestly class and then doling it out in small portions. Anyone that’s really interested in transforming their lives can meditate. They can follow these precepts and free their mind from samsara.
Debra Maldonado 07:46
It's like the psychologist of the day back then, how people dealt with their problems. He wanted to be like a psychologist, psychotherapist in those days where they didn't have someone like that. That's why a lot of psychologists and therapists are drawn to Buddhism too, because of the practicality of it.
Robert Maldonado 08:07
He's very practical. By directly observing these three aspects: impermanence, suffering, and no self, in their subjective experience during meditation, the meditator begins to let go of their illusions and grasping things, and leading to a deeper understanding of reality. What is that deeper understanding of reality? This is an important part of his teaching. He says the way the world appears to us is not reality. It's an apparent reality. It appears to us in this incredibly solid way. But he says you can test that, you can observe that it’s impermanent, everything is changing, everything is in flow. The question then is: What is real? What is reality? If we can't depend on the external to give us that sense of reality, what do we do? He says the reality is within you. Awareness is the ultimate reality, it’s the absolute reality. The only way to affirm that and to have a direct experience of it is through meditation.
Debra Maldonado 09:22
One of the things often attributed to Buddhist teaching is this idea that there's a blank movie screen, and then there's the dancing movie on the screen. The dancing movie on the screen is what we think is our reality, which is just a moving, changing world with color, senses, and emotion. But the blank screen is just neutral. It plays upon that consciousness. When we're in meditation, we're sitting at the screen watching the movie, but try not to get caught up in it. When you think about how many of us have tried to meditate, you sit there and get caught up in your thinking, your thoughts, then you get pulled away, then you go back, you're in that screen again, then you get into the movie again. It's a constant practice of letting go of that need to be pulled back in. That simple act of stilling your mind to not get caught up in meditation, how that can translate in the world, when the world doesn't go according to your plan, how can you remain as “I'm not seeing things as clear as I wanted to see them.”
Are you looking for a satisfying career as a life coach? If you are seeking a deeper path of training and growth, CreativeMind University offers an ICF accredited life coach training program that goes beyond surface positive thinking and into a powerful process of real transformation. You can start your new career as a certified life coach trained in a unique methodology based on Jungian theory, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Get the tools to become your true self, change your life and the lives of others. Visit creativemindlife.com, click on Apply, and speak with one of our team members today to discuss your future and possibilities of becoming a certified life coach. That's creativemindlife.com.
Robert Maldonado 11:31
Cultivating mindfulness, here we’re talking about how we prepare the mind for meditation, how we get there. Because like you say, it's very difficult for us to meditate when we’re distracted by the world.
Debra Maldonado 11:48
But most of us go from distraction to distraction to distraction. That's why a lot of people don't like to meditate, because they're just not used to sitting still.
Robert Maldonado 11:57
The mind is conditioned to be stimulated all the time. We cultivate this mindfulness through fully being present and attentive to the arising and passing of thoughts. This is not deep meditation. You can do it by contemplation. Pay attention to what your mind is thinking and observe how they come. You're not willing a thought to arise, the thought arises on its own, that's what the mind does. Just like your heart pumps blood, your mind creates thoughts. That's its function as an organ. You want to start paying attention to it. Pay attention to feelings. You don't really create feelings, it's not like you're willing certain feeling to arise. Feelings arise from your interaction with the environment, sensations. But look at them without judgment. This is the key, because we're trained most of the time to think in terms of good and bad. Is this good for me, is this bad for me? Is this positive, is this negative? Is it toxic or non toxic? We want to drop all that in mindfulness and just observe with no judgment. It's a very stilling and peaceful state of mind that we create. Because we're not anxious about anything, we're not judging things as bad and trying to get rid of them, or trying to create some great experience. We're just observing.
Debra Maldonado 13:35
We're not trying to detach and push away, but we're not attached. It's a very delicate balance of allowing it to arise without pushing it away or buying into it.
Robert Maldonado 13:47
I'd describe it as you're transparent. You become transparent, very lightly. Understanding the nature of reality and then practicing this observance of your mind, this mindfulness. Calming the mind may be similar but a little bit more intense because now you're really intending to calm the mind by developing one pointed focus. This is mentioned in the Gita as well and in many of the Upanishads, this ability to make the mind one pointed is essential for spiritual practice and growth.
Debra Maldonado 14:37
A lot of the meditations I've done in different meditation centers focus on a dot the wall, a spot on the floor, a point in your life, on the left nostril breathing in, on just your breath. You're pulling the mind into one focus. Our world, especially now, is so distracting, as we talked before. Now it's harder for people, maybe hundred years ago there wasn't as much technology out there. You don't have that space anymore to just be in the presence of one thing.
Robert Maldonado 15:21
The mind becomes like a laser beam, or a sword. Sometimes it's represented as a sword, because it's able to cut through the illusion of the world to get to the absolute reality. The other one is gaining insight through meditation. We're seeing the spectrum of meditation. You have to begin with understanding the philosophy. Why are you meditating? It's not about relaxation or stress management.
Debra Maldonado 16:01
It's part of, it's a great side effect but not the purpose.
Robert Maldonado 16:07
It’s the real discipline of it. This is mental training. Buddha was known for his rigorous mental training, he was not going to get up from under that tree until he got it. That's his philosophy, you have to use your self effort to get your mind to do what you need it to do.
Debra Maldonado 16:33
Can I share a story? I was reading some Buddhist texts, we went to a Zen Buddhist center in New Rochelle. It was meditating every day, just meditate. In the beginning, you and I weren't even working together, I was starting my little hypnotherapy business. I was a little worried about money and if I was going to succeed, I had a little stress in my life. This felt like I had to do a lot in order to be successful. I remember sitting to meditate. I had this beautiful view of the Long Island from our apartment, it was just a beautiful place to meditate. I was sitting there, wrestling with my thoughts. I was like “I'm gonna stay here because there's some resistance here.” I was listening to my mind talk about how worried I was about everything, if everything was going to work out. Then all of a sudden, this idea popped into my head. It said “Remember how you were so worried about love? Now you found love. Why can't it work out the same way?” You're pre-worrying about something that is never going to come to be. That one insight released so much. I don't know if it was words I heard, but it was this idea that just settled within me going “We've been through this before.” What I realized is that the mind is always going to worry about something. If it's not about love, it's gonna be about money. If it's not about money, it's gonna be worried about your health, or your parents, or something else. There’s always going to be something, it is always something with the mind. It gave me the other part, the realization of the nature of the mind. It also gave me an insight into how I was thinking. It was a really incredible experience. After that, it was interesting how things just started to flow in the outer world, because my mind wasn't filled with the junk of fear, worry, and stress. It created a space in my mind to create something else.
Robert Maldonado 18:51
Through insight meditation, you are developing a penetrating insight into the true nature of existence, the true nature of your mind.
Debra Maldonado 19:05
And the suffering and delusion that the mind creates. It was such a powerful experiences. I always mark it down as one of top five things that happened to me that shifted my life, that's how powerful meditation is. You get more from it than just reading theory. You have to practice, that's the benefit of it. You have to wrestle with these ideas and face this. My ego was like “You don't want to sit there, you want to get going and get some things accomplished.” No, I have to sit here and I have to do this.
Robert Maldonado 19:38
There's some great research being done at the University of Wisconsin. It shows that it actually changes the structure of the brain. People talk about rewiring. This is the way to rewire your mind and your brain. It actually changes the physical structure of it. Even short term meditation, some of the studies would involve eight weeks of meditation. Already, you could see changes in the brain structure. But imagine long term meditators that have been meditating for years. It begins to break apart the roots of suffering and delusion, which is samsara.
Debra Maldonado 20:20
I remember Ramdas wrote he was a meditator for 36 years, but he wasn’t doing it the way he intended. He said he spent 36 years meditating on his delusions and getting caught up in them versus not agreeing with them, just sitting there thinking. What we're doing is we're not just sitting there thinking, we're sitting there watching our thinking, being observant, open, and non-judgmental. That's the key.
Robert Maldonado 20:52
That's why it always begins with study so that you know what the philosophy is talking about, the nature of the mind, it puts you on the right track. Finally, nirvana, the ultimate goal of meditation in Buddhism. It refers to the liberation from the cycle of birth and death. This is tricky because psychologically, what does this mean? What is happening psychologically when someone is released from the cycle of birth and death? We can think of it in religious terms, of course, but we want to keep it at the philosophical, psychological level here. I think what it's saying is that, the ego, if you notice, every morning when you wake up, the ego arises, because it's not a physical organ. It's a mental construct. We're giving birth to the ego, then it dies at sunset or when we go to sleep, it disappears temporarily. The cycle of birth and death is there. A miniature of our daily lives. Nirvana is breaking that spell where we don't have to recreate the ego and let it drive our life over and over again.
Debra Maldonado 22:30
In deep sleep, we reach it, but then we don't remember it because there was no witness to remember. But we know we were somewhere because we know we were not there. We can have it in a waking state. That's the goal, to take that no-self state into a conscious experience.
Robert Maldonado 22:52
The more you practice meditation, I think the gift is that each one of us experiences it in a unique way. But yet, it's universal, where we're reaching this state of no-self, this emptiness, this pure awareness that is universal. It's the consciousness that we all share. The apparent reality is that we're all different, we all have personalities, we think that's us. But it's not. If it's an apparent reality, that means it's unreal.
Debra Maldonado 23:38
The only thing that causes suffering in our life is that we believe we’re the ego, that's really the only problem that we have, the source of all suffering. If we can break free of that attachment to the ego, we can be in nirvana. It's not on switch. You evolve into that. You have moments of nirvana, then you lose it again, then you have moments of nirvana. It’s mastering the mind to get to hold of that state.
Robert Maldonado 24:14
There are different ways to conceptualize but what they're saying is that it's already there. It's covered. You never lose it, you’re simply paying attention to the wrong thing. You're paying attention to your ego, investing yourself in a believing that you are the ego.
Debra Maldonado 24:42
You lose your focus. You forget, but it's still there. You're just focused on something else.
Robert Maldonado 24:48
But nirvana is there because it is the essence of who we are.
Debra Maldonado 24:51
We're just not aware, it blinks in and out of our conscious experience.
Robert Maldonado 25:00
All those schools that arose from the Upanishads, from the Vedic traditions, talk about a wisdom mind. The closest we come to it in Western psychology is the executive functioning. But that sounds very dull, almost like a company with directors, CEO of the mind, the brain. But the wisdom mind is sometimes translated as the intellect or this deeper wisdom mind that is able to observe, or the witness mind that is able to observe our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without being caught up in them. This is the key to meditation. If you are able to cultivate this ability to observe your thoughts, think of what it means logically. You're not your thoughts. If you're able to observe your thoughts, that must mean there's another part of you that is observing it. Therefore, that's the higher mind, the wisdom mind.
Debra Maldonado 26:16
I like to think that the level of thinking and thought is three levels. The first level is a stream of narrative that goes on, that we're not really paying attention to but we hear it. The second level is that executive functioning where we're analyzing and examining our thoughts and going “I can't believe I thought that”, or “This is interesting”, but you still want to change it, you want to make decisions through observing of your thoughts, analyzing, your memories and all those. But that witness mind is the third higher level where you're not trying to analyze, you're not trying to fix the thoughts. You're not trying to get rid of them. You're just being in that pure non-judgment. Some people confuse it. They think if they analyze their thoughts, it’s the higher intellect that’s doing that, but sometimes it's just your ego analyzing itself versus this higher witness mind, which is not your ego.
Robert Maldonado 27:14
Good point. I’d say that probably the way to verify whether it's ego or the wisdom mind is to notice whether it's judging, good and bad, the dualistic nature of the ego, because that gives it away, whenever there's a judgment of good or bad, right or wrong.
Debra Maldonado 27:38
Or “I need to fix it” or there's urgency to figure something out.
Robert Maldonado 27:43
That's ego. Whereas the witness mind is non-judging. It's observing. The mind's eye is just observing itself, without judgment, without trying to fix it. Cultivating that wisdom mind then leads to stilling of the mind, stilling of thoughts, where you're able to see the true nature of the mind, which is nirvana. What’s at the essence of us in the core of the mind? It’s pure awareness. By all accounts, it's pure bliss, pure consciousness, pure being. No complication.
Debra Maldonado 28:35
It's that emptiness we talked about in the earlier episode. It doesn't have any content to it. It's empty of judgment, empty of attachment. That's where peace lies. It could be nice getting a massage or listening to beautiful music. I also want to mention, do you recommend listening to music when meditating? I was taught that not having music is better because you're not distracted by the music. But maybe in the beginning it might be something for people to relax themselves. What is your opinion on that?
Robert Maldonado 29:15
In the beginning you can use it and also towards the end you can also use it because then you understand it's just part of it. Once you start to realize the nature of reality, you understand that there's nothing that is outside of that pure consciousness, any thought, emotion, thing, object, perception is consciousness itself. There's no distinction. Therefore, it doesn't bother you. It’s the way we escape or transcend suffering. Suffering can be transcended, that's the great message of Buddha. We can transcend suffering, we don't have to suffer all our lives.
Debra Maldonado 30:05
The main message from Eastern philosophy is that because we have circumstances in our life, we think what will end the suffering is to change the outer circumstances versus changing our mind about the other circumstances. We're chasing happiness in the external. It's in here. Once you have it in here, it reflects out there. We're all conditioned to do it the opposite way. You gotta get everything lined up out there, then I can relax. I remember my coach at the time, we were on a trip together, she was like “I'm so glad I got that thing taken care of because now I can relax.” I'm like “So you needed that thing to be taken care of to relax.” I was teasing her because she’d always teach that to me. It's so funny how we forget because we're so externally driven in the everyday world, there's so many distractions. The meditation practice itself helps us have a more solid ground while we're acting in the world. We don't get caught up in it. At first, you get caught up in the world, you bring yourself back, then it happens less and less. Then you really feel that locus of control is within yourself and not feeling pulled by the world. It's a beautiful experience. It doesn't mean you can't have beautiful things in your life and create in your life all those things. But you enjoy them more when you're not attached to them. You enjoy them more when you're not chasing them, or fear losing them. You enjoy them in the moment, in their beingness. That's really what is supposed to be experienced in this life.
Robert Maldonado 31:40
That concludes our series on Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy.
Debra Maldonado 31:45
We're so glad you decided to join us today. If you haven't meditated before, practice. Close your eyes and watch your thoughts. Practice not getting caught up in them, practice non-judgement. I wanted to remind you to not forget to subscribe to our channel and our podcasts and make sure you receive every episode. We'll continue our series with the great philosophers of mind next week. Hope to see you then.
Thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe to CreativeMinds Soul Sessions. Join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with CreativeMind Soul Session. See you next time.