Buddhist Philosophy

Do We Need to Meditate?

Do we need to meditate? And if so, why? Is there a real benefit from meditation? In this video teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche answers with an emphatic “Yes!” If we actually practice mediation, Rinpoche observes, we go beyond theoretical understand and gain experience. And then, we will feel the benefits ourselves.

Do We Need to Meditate? Looking at Our Mind and Actions

We may use some motivational methods to inspire ourselves. First, we can observe our behavior and our mental state when we don’t meditate. Do we need to meditate If we pay close attention, we see that we normally act like a football being kicked around by external factors — we aren’t in control. We fly off one way or the other depending upon the situation.

Often we are short-tempered or swayed by our moods and emotions. Or we feel angry, depressed, or moody without any real understanding of why. We are struggling internally, just as if we have a physical sickness. If we were unhealthy, we might be advised to get some exercise. And initially, we might not like that idea at all. Rinpoche himself says that he dislikes exercise. Yet, at the same time, he understands that if he wants to live a healthy life, he needs to take action. So he motivates himself by thinking of the consequences if he doesn’t pay attention to physical health. In the same way, if we’re out of balance emotionally or stressed-out and unhappy, then we also might want to make a commitment to change.

Do we have to meditate to address these issues? Well, if we put the effort into mediation we can observe what happens. Gradually, we find a little more space in our minds. And we can be more patient with ourselves, with others, and with external circumstances. Additionally, we can slowly drop our habitual reactions and be more in control.

Inspiring Ourselves with Experience

Once we’ve begun to meditate, we can observe how we see gradual but definite changes. And then, we can recognize that these changes affect us and those around us. We may feel less stressed, less unable to deal with life’s many difficulties, and less reactive. Rinpoche suggests that we can compare this to feeling the benefits of exercise. When we finish exercising, we feel good: our mood is lighter and our body and minds seem to be refreshed.

Similarly, once we’ve established a new habit of meditation, we will be able to see a positive change for ourselves. And until we give it a chance, we won’t know this. So, let’s give it a shot!

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.