Why Do Monks and Nuns Meditate?
I’ve been getting lots of interesting questions on Quora. And usually, though I avoid talking about enlightenment, I decided to address this one.
Question was: ‘What are monks longing for? Why do they meditate for long?’
And my reply?
Aside from the monks and nuns who simply seek to serve as devotees, functionaries and teachers, many seek enlightenment.
And this is where meditation is the main tool.
Unlike those of us out in the world, who meditate to adjust what we are, so we can live more efficiently, monks and nuns who ordain with the purpose of seeking enlightenment use meditation in a different way.
They use meditation to deconstruct all the conditioning we take for granted out here.
And that process of deconstruction is impossible to do in the hyperactive, hyper-competitive and information clogged culture we live in.
So they go to the monastery, where they give up all the things we take for granted – money, possessions, sex, entertainment – everything.
Stripped of all the ‘stuff’ of contemporary life, they are profoundly alone.
And that’s when the work begins.
They focus on meditation. And the meditation process is one of learning to let go of everything their mind and body have been conditioned to cling to. They let go of needing pleasure. They let go of fearing pain and death. They let go of hunger and yearning. They let go of needing to achieve. They let go of needing self-importance, status and wealth.
As each of these conditioned addictions are gradually let go of, the individual is freed just a little more from the anxieties and tensions that we in the outside world live with – things we think are ‘normal’.
Then they go to the hardest part – they work to let go of their sense of self and their conditioned need for reality to be one thing or another.
If that is achieved they enter free flow – a state in which awareness is freed from the prison of self. And at that point, I can’t describe any further because words diminish the experience. Because it is just that – experience and experience alone.
Put simply, the journey these humble men and women are taking is one of the greatest adventures a human being can make – yet to the outside observer, they just look like faceless monks and nuns.
Last word to the Buddha himself, who saw that enlightenment is our true nature, only obscured by the conditioning we live within. He said:
“Enlightenment exists solely because of delusion and ignorance; if they disappear, so will Enlightenment … so be on guard against thinking of Enlightenment as a “thing” to be grasped at, lest it too should become an obstruction. When a mind that was in darkness becomes enlightened, it passes away, and with its passing, the thing called Enlightenment passes away also.”
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)