A Rational Goal from Mindfulness in Plain English

For the past 4 weeks, I have been mediating once a day. At the end of that post, I asked if there are ways to measure progress within meditation.

In order to see progress, I need to know what I am progressing towards. This means that I need some sort of goal or set of goals that I am trying to achieve with meditating.

At first, I thought that having goals with meditating was antithetical to the mindfulness philosophy. But as I said in that previous post, during meditation, thoughts need to be let go. But having a goal in practicing meditation in general is all right.

Henepola Gunaratana says something similar in Mindfulness in Plain English:

“As meditators, we all must have a goal, for if we do not have a goal, we will simply be groping in the dark blindly following somebody’s instructions on meditation.”

So what are some of the goals of mindfulness according to Mr. Gunaratana? Out of those goals which ones align with my goals within rational thought? He lists a few in Chapter 5:

  • Purification of mind
  • Overcoming sorrow and lamentation
  • Overcoming pain and grief
  • Treading the right path leading to attainment of eternal peace
  • Attaining happiness by following that path

I can only relate to the first bullet point. All others contain emotions which do not necessarily match up with my rational goals. Eternal peace and overcoming pain and grief would be great but they do not seem appropriate to rational thought discussions.

And even purification of the mind seems a little new-agey. Purification implies that my mind is dirty. Dirty is bad. Therefore, my mind is bad. Which seems pretty judgmental. But it could be that I am just inferring the “dirty is bad” judgment.

A thing is pure when there is nothing within it other than the substance that defines it. Purity can be associated with simplicity, efficiency and Occam’s Razor. All of which works well with the rational way of thought. So, I will go with “purification of mind”.

Of course, Mindfulness in Plain English only teaches us about Vipassana meditation. As the author mentions in the introduction, there is another method of meditation called Samatha that he does not cover. I am no expert on either of the methods and can only really go on what Gunaratana says. However, Vipassana seems to be in line with my goals because it attempts to guide the subject ”to study his own mental activities and the fluctuations in the character of consciousness itself” rather than bring about “tranquility of the mind”.

Meditation can be used to study my mental activities that will lead to the purification of my mind. Hmmmm…That is not clear enough for me. Here is a quote that provides a little more explanation:

“You’ve got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, judgement or resistance of any kind. You’ve got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being. You’ve got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and above all, your responsibility to yourself as an individual living with other individuals. And you’ve got to see all of that clearly and as a unit, a single gestalt of interrelationship. It sounds complex, but it often occurs in a single instant. Mental culture through meditation is without rival in helping you achieve this sort of understanding and serene happiness.” Try to see things as they really are. Judgment and Objectivity

Here is another:

“Mindfulness practice is the practice of one hundred percent honesty with ourselves. When we watch our own mind and body, we notice certain things that are unpleasant to realize. As we do not like them, we try to reject them.”

The overall goal for my meditation practice is to study my mental activities in an effort to remove as much delusion as I can.

Photo courtesy of Susan E Adams 

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