Mitchell Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Meditation
   

Meditation

For visitors to this web page who may be interested in or curious about an approach to heart-felt mindfulness as taught under the name of insight (vipassana) meditation, in which tradition I have been a teacher (or kalyana mitta) since 1975, please see the page on insight meditation, with various further links there.

My books that are most focused on insight meditation (also referred to as mindfulness practice or vipassana meditation) are The Far Shore (1980/2009) and Mindful Raft over Troubled Waters (2015).

Meditation in this context (as a translation of the Indic term bhavana) is the process of bringing about changes. A word I find that captures this basic idea is Cultivation. This sort of "meditation" may be distinguished from meditation as an intellectual (thinking) process, as a focused, topic-defined contemplation, or a detailed, thorough thinking, the way it does in a Western philosophical context (compare the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius or of Descartes). Thus, in this sense of Cultivation, a “tranquility meditation” is the systematic cultivation of tranquility, and an “insight meditation” is the systematic cultivation of insight. This insight is understood specifically to refer to insight into the nature (features, structure, patterns) of our own experience.

Some of my other published books include more discussion and presentations of this practice. (See menu on the left for links to individual books of mine.) Among a number of basic texts, consider What the Buddha Taught and the Heart of Buddhist Meditation.


Of special value here will be any of the writings of my teacher, V. R. Dhiravamsa (formerly Chao Khun Sobhana Dhammasudhi), such as The Way of Non-Attachment (also in French, Dutch, and Spanish editions), A New Approach to Buddhism, and his recent publications, Nirvana Upside Down and Healing through Pure Mindfulness, described at the web site of the publisher, Wisdom Moon Publishing. Dhiravamsa has also several books published in Spanish. For more, see Dhiravamsa’s home page, with text in English and Spanish.

Stated generally, insight (vipassana) practice or meditation operates through mindfulness, as tranquility (samatha) practice or meditation operates through concentration.

Here, by being mindful of what is ongoingly current in our life situation, we come to insight into how we are experiencing our world. In particular we may carry out this practice in various physical positions or “forms” (seated, standing, walking/moving, and lying down).

Beyond that “formal” way of naming a meditation, we may describe it in a “formless” way, in terms other than those concerned with our bodily posture or status. This formless meditation that is mindfulness practice or insight meditation is simply a matter of paying attention to what is most prominent in our consciousness at each moment, and doing this repeatedly, ongoingly. This is perhaps the simplest description of what this practice is.

As this can sometimes be quite an excited and agitated show, it is often suggested that we begin by calming down the mind a bit. This can be done by any concentration practice (which helps develop calm or tranquility), such as repeating a sound or looking at some object or putting our attention on our breathing. (Each of these has been suggested in different contexts.)


 

© Mitchell D. Ginsberg, Ph.D.