Hermitage: Learning Meditation
Few cross over the rushing river.
Most are stranded on this side.
On the riverbank they run up and down.
But the Wise One, following the Way,
crosses over [to Nirvana], beyond the reach of birth and death.
— the Dharmapada
What Is Meditation and Why Is It
Good for You?
Meditation is a fundamental way to change your life! As said by the Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well.”
The Christian saint Padre Pio said, “Through the study of books you seek God; but through Meditation you find Him.”
The great Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, spent sustained periods in deep meditation. It was during just such a period that he received the revelations of the Koran.
Meditation may not necessarily be perceived solely as a religious act or a way of self-discovery. It is also a tool for psychological and physical health. Today meditation is being studied and tested using scientific methods to demonstrate its many benefits as a natural healer of both the mind and the body.
Meditation increases calmness and fosters physical relaxation. It lowers stress levels and has been shown to improve psychic well-being, harmony, clarity and over-all happiness. When practiced over the long term it is a great anti-depressant.
The Australian psychologist Dr. Ainslie Meares is noted for authoring Relief Without Drugs, a book demonstrating the application of meditation to alleviate chronic physical pain, as well as a large number of psychological issues such as anxiety, hypertension, stress and phobia. In more recent times meditation has been proven to alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain chemistry to the great and lasting benefit of many practitioners.
Meditation has also been shown to be the means to open the full potential of our human psychic faculties. Deep trance meditation facilitates the development of remote viewing (clairvoyance), telepathy, psychometry, magnetic healing, and similar powers latent in the mind.
The metaphysical Science of Meditation and Yoga was highly perfected in Eastern Lands long ago. This science has been preserved in traditional Schools over the centuries, in countries such as India, China, Japan, Burma, Thailand, Ceylon, Central Asia, Pakistan, Persia, and elsewhere, wherein knowledge has been passed on by teachers connected to authentic lineages of instruction. The lineage of the Ka’gyu school came from India and was preserved in Tibet in the 11th century AD, whence it remained up until recent times, thereby making it now possible to bring this advanced knowledge of self-transformation to Western seekers.
At certain times in the year, the Hermitage hosts meditation retreats. Those who attend the retreats are
from all walks of life, professions, religions, cultural backgrounds,
ethnic groups and countries. Anyone who comes with an open mind can gain
the necessary confidence in the technique and in himself or herself. The
benefit of spending ten days engrossed in silent meditation practice,
surrounded by the beauty and simplicity of nature, is enormous. No one
leaves without feeling that a significant degree of personal transformation
has taken place.
meditation alone, on one's own timing, amidst the abundant beauty of nature,
is the method used by the early disciples of the Buddha. This is also
the method adopted by the great yogis and yoginis of the Ka'gyu school,
such as Milarepa, Rechungpa, Pema Karpo, Togden Shakyashri, Tipun. At all of
the Hermitage retreats, individuals are encouraged to choose a private
place to meditate and decide for themselves how much meditation practice
they will put in each day. This allows everyone to progress at their own
pace. People have found this a more gentle, pleasant approach. When meditation
is consistently a pleasant experience, one attains a greater depth of
experience and realization more quickly and easily.
Buddhist meditation practice is direct, clear and not hard to follow,
and basically founded on what is known as the Eightfold Spiritual Path
(astanga-aryamarga), as originally taught by the Buddha. This
straightforward Path of spiritual endeavor may be summarized under three
headings: the development of virtue (sila), concentration (samadhi)
and wisdom (prajna).
The cultivation of moral virtue is a common denominator
of all meditation systems, and is essential to all forms of true spirituality.
At the Hermitage, students are asked to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual abuse, lying, and
intoxication due to using drugs or alcohol. By observing this natural foundation
of behaviour, one develops harmlessness of physical and verbal action.
Beginning with a pure moral basis, training in Calm-abiding concentration
is then exercised (chiefly by means of Anaprana-smriti, mindfulness
of the breathing), while sitting and walking. Through learning to calm
and control the mind during the first days of the retreat, the student
quickly appreciates the advantages of a steady, clear mind. Further striving
results in a growing number of hours spent in meditation and further clarity
A clear, calm mind quickly develops wisdom or insight
(vipasyana), which is practiced along with precise attention
to mindfulness, throughout the remainder of the retreat. As far as possible,
silence is maintained. Helpful guidance from the teacher aims to point
out the nature of the mind directly as it is experienced by the seeker.
Practitioners find that meditation causes them to rapidly work through any psychological issues and traumas of the past they might have. Passages of deep catharsis resulting from the meditation process lead to a refreshing sense of calm and lucidity, which thereby opens into an amazingly stable state of happiness. Joy and bliss are not uncommon aspects of the meditation experience.
The entire method rests on experience. If what you learn through experience results in positive states of being, then the practice becomes something appreciated in the depth of your being, from which you quickly develop further. All that you come to learn and know is experiential, and therefore consists of the truth discovered by yourself, in yourself.
Live in serenity and joy.
As a wise person, delight in the Truth
and follow the teaching of the awakened!
As the farmer ditches water to his crops,
as the fletcher whittles his arrows,
or the carpenter turns his wood,
so the Wise should train their mind.
— the Dharmapada
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