Reflections on Meditation – II – What is its Ideal State of Mind?

Empty? Focused on something? Filled with light?

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When I started meditating I assumed that the aim is to achieve a state of thoughtlessness.

However, I know that there are allusions in many places to meditators achieving nirvana, or realising some tremendous and fundamental truth through meditation. If we don’t take the word ‘through’ to mean ‘after’ but to say ‘during’ or ‘while’ it seems very unlikely that it could go hand in hand with thoughtlessness! Rather the opposite, maybe intense and highly focused thought is what these meditators were achieving.
But then how is it different from simply being quiet and thinking hard about something without interruption or disturbance? Is that the same as meditation?

Or are both valid forms of meditation? If so, when do we apply each, assuming we don’t mix up both states in one session? Should we aim for thoughtlessness when we want to have one type of outcome and for concentrated thought when we want another result?

Perhaps the ‘values of meditation’ in my earlier blog post other than the ones for solving severe emotional and intellectual problems are to be achieved by meditating into thoughtlessness. It is a much longer list than for solving challenging mental, emotional or spiritual problems.

I also feel that we humans are especially tormented due to our ability to think. We act not just by instinct but continuously question and judge our actions and those of others, and often this leaves us angry or sad. This power of thought, if it can be called power, is unique to us on this planet and hugely higher than those of even our closest primate cousins.

It seems inevitable by now in the progress of philosophy, religion and science that achieving control on our thoughts allows us to be happier, more useful and spread joy in society. What better way to acquire a modicum of control than by learning to cease thinking entirely for a while, consciously?! It seems to be the purpose of meditation, explicit or implicit, designed or discovered.

So for both the reasons above, I provisionally conclude that the target state to achieve in mediation is a state of thoughtlessness.

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