“Meditation is not meditation….”
So begins a famous aphorism uttered by Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön more than 800 years ago. Evidently, even in his time, the term “meditation” intimidated some people, made them think that it was something quite exotic or beyond the reach of ordinary folks. Recognizing that misunderstanding, Jigten Sumgön very plainly taught his disciples that meditation is not what they imagined as “meditation,” but very simply, it’s just about “getting used to” (gompa ma yin kompa yin).
Familiarization. Habituation. Getting used to.
The beauty and power of this definition of meditation lies in its highlighting of the fact that we are all already “meditating” (albeit on mistaken objects, even harmful ones) – we are constantly “getting used to” our way of looking at things, responding to situations, loving certain people, eating spicy food, waking up early, living with a new partner, coping with a loss, living next to the railway tracks and a plethora of other things.
Although we are quite adept at habituation, in this context, meditation involves habituatingdifferently, familiarizing ourselves differently. Here, we learn to get used to states of mind that tend toward wellness, happiness and peace. Similarly, we learn to let go off, to relinquish those states of mind that time and again bring us confusion, turmoil and stress.
While the complete eradication of all stress and confusion and the perfect state of peace and wholeness is held up as a possibility that many have achieved, people new to meditation sometimes think that they have to be already calm and composed, naturally focussed and peaceful in order to meditate! Lucky for us, this is not the case.
No matter how scattered and stressed we think we are – whether we think we are “naturally” this way or simply “trapped” in situations beyond our control – meditation can only help. One less moment of us being occupied by negative states of mind is one less moment of confusion and stress.
Meditation is within the reach of anyone. It is not “only for Buddhists” or only for people living in a faraway time and place, more idyllic and simple than where you and I are right now. More than ever, we are now living in a world that can only be better and brighter with more rather than less awareness, happiness and connectedness.
And for you, it can start only with you.
Categories and Types of Meditation
Generally speaking, Buddhism teaches two basic categories of meditation – calm-abiding (Sanskrit:shamatha, Tib. shinay) and special-insight (Sanskrit: vipashyana, Tib. lhaktong). While special insight meditation is the actual means to complete freedom from afflictive and harmful emotions, calm-abiding is the basis for special insight. Thus both are necessary. Many different types of meditation taught and practiced here at TMC combine these two categories, with some meditations more geared towards the cultivation of a calm, serene and stress-free mind while other types of meditation focus more on uprooting the very causes of suffering and stress with the uncovering of our innate wisdom or goodness.
Although all types of meditation fall within these two categories of calm-abiding and special insight, the actual names of the types of meditation can be quite varied. Among the most commonly encountered names here at the TMC (and most likely many other Tibetan Buddhist centers) are deity-yoga (of which there are many different deities), tonglen (lit. “giving and receiving”), four boundless minds and mahamudra. If you are interested in experiencing or learning any of these teachings, please come to a Thursday evening meditation session.
A Brief Meditation on Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön
Khenchen Rinpoché composed A Guru Yoga that Brings the Dharmakaya Onto the Path in October 2008 for the regular use of practitioners who do not have much time in their daily lives for longer and complex practices. To view the online version with images and further information on Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön and MP3 file of Rinpoché chanting this practice, click here. To download a PDF copy of this practice, click here.