In facing the hectic and busy world today, there are many ways to maintain and ensure the safety of our sanity; plan a regular vacation, hang out with friends at a cafe or bar every weekend, go to the gym, spend the weekend under a comfortable blanket, or doing this modest activity: meditation.
When I traveled to Bali a couple of weeks ago, I went to a Buddhist temple, Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni in Denpasar. There, I met Andi Candra, 55, a pandita, or scholar, who has mastered the five sciences: language, logic, medicine, arts and spirituality, and explained to me the benefits of meditation.
“Through meditation, one will be able to reach serenity and the body will be healthy. It also trains our mind to concentrate. Meditation is not a form of medication, but it can help the medication process from the inside and cultivate our mind,” he explained.
Most people who come to this vihara are Buddhist. However, one does not need to be a practicing Buddhist to understand and practice meditation. Anyone from any religious background is allowed to meditate. When meditating in a vihara, though, we will need to follow Buddhist etiquette by minding our behavior and the way we dress.
Vihara Buddha Sakyamuni practices three techniques of meditating: metta, samatha and vippasana. Metta meditation focuses on compassion and can be practiced anywhere, at anytime — even while we’re busy with something — by repeating the chant “sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta” or “may all beings be happy.”
The samatha meditation trains our mind to focus on one object, which may be anything. When we close our eyes and enter the depth of meditation, our minds must stay with that object and nothing else.
The vippasana method of meditating is the opposite of samatha. With this method we train our mind to heighten awareness of our environment by recognizing every object that appears, moves and disappears. In vippasana, we are allowed to move our body and stand, walk slowly (cangkama), lie down and observe our movement and surrounding.
I was introduced to the vihara by my friend Tria Nin, 29, who shared a story about her meditation.
“I meditate every day, at home and at the vihara. When I meditate, I am aware of things that pass my mind. I am not looking for calmness, but I am aware of the vociferation inside of me and I do not reject it. I accept it as the way it is.”
Other benefits of meditation is the burst of creativity. Abmi Handayani,27, a fiction writer, shared her experience and thoughts.
“After I learned and practiced meditation, I felt it became easier to come up with new ideas. It calmed me down by lessening my anxiety, it helped me cultivate my imagination and structure my writing.”
Although we instantly and unwittingly relate the word “meditation” to Buddhism, it is in fact a universal practice that has been developed for centuries by various prophets and spiritual figures.
The word derives from the Latin, meditatio, or from the verb, meditari, which means to think, contemplate, devise and ponder.
In the Sufi tradition, meditation or muraqaba was developed in the 12th century, and allowed followers to practice their breath control through the repetition of holy words or verses. This form of meditation may lead to the experience of receiving divine inspiration and lead to both emotional and intellectual awakening and liberation.
In Christianity, meditation is a process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. In the Baha’i faith, meditation along with prayer, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, while in Hinduism, meditation is practiced to realize the union of one’s self or one’s atman, with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman.
With the technology we have today, we are provided with an abundance of information on meditation while scientific research has given us a more thorough and logical understanding. By using machines such as MRI scans, scientists are able to see the physical transformation our brains go through when we meditate.
During meditation, our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would; we start to show a decrease in beta waves, which indicates that our brains are processing information.
For all of its benefits and modesty, also in the context of preserving tradition and respecting history, I believe meditation is worth including in our daily “to-do-list,” even for a few minutes.
Besides maintaining a healthy body and mind, it can bring us back to the core of our humanity: compassion and wisdom, in this complicated, modern world.