The Purpose of Meditation

1 The Purpose of Meditation

I would like to explore the meaning of meditation in some depth. On hearing the word meditation perhaps you are reminded of Zen meditation (Zazen, sitting in a cross-legged posture) or yoga. It is true that Zen meditation and yoga are ways to practise meditation but regrettably many people seem to think of meditation as simply sitting without thinking or sitting in a particular posture.

Why do people practise meditation in the first place? Many people do not seem to have ever considered this very deeply; they seem conscious only of the form or style. However, we need to go to the roots. What I am saying is that we need to think once again about the true purpose of meditation.

The Japanese Zen master Dogen (1200-1253 CE) introduced a style of meditation called ‘Shikantaza’, which means ‘just sitting without a purpose’, simply sitting quietly. He was the founder of one of the major schools of Zen, and this method of meditation has long been accepted as an important part of Zen training. In yoga too, which originated in India, there are many styles of meditation but it appears some of these are directed only at maintaining health or as physical disciplines. Although yoga is certainly a method of meditation that has been handed down through the ages, I have the impression that those who practise it are only seeking the essence of meditation from a three-dimensional perspective.