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Excerpted from Transforming the Mind by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Copyright © 2000 by H.H. Dalai Lama. Excerpted by permission of Thorsons/HarperCollins.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"In Christianity, and particularly in the Greek Orthodox tradition, there is a strong and long history of contemplative meditation."

  His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Transforming the Mind, Part 2

Now of course, we could choose to focus on a negative object in our meditation. If, for example, you are infatuated with someone, and if you focus your mind single-pointedly on that person, and then dwell on their desirable qualities, this will have the effect of increasing your sexual desire for that person. But this is not what meditation is for. From a Buddhist point of view, meditation has to be practiced in relation to a positive object, by which we mean an object that will enhance your ability to focus. Through that familiarity you become closer and closer to the object and feel a sense of intimacy with it. In the classical Buddhist literature this type of meditation is described as shamatha, tranquil abiding, which is a single-pointed meditation.

Shamatha alone is not sufficient. In Buddhism, we combine single-pointed meditation with the practice of analytic meditation, which is known as vipasyana, penetrative insight. In this practice we apply reasoning. By recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of different types of emotions and thoughts, together with their advantages and disadvantages, we are able to enhance our positive states of mind which contribute towards a sense of serenity, tranquility, and contentment, and to reduce those attitudes and emotions that lead to suffering and dissatisfaction. Reasoning thus plays a helpful part in this process.

I should point out that the two types of meditative approach 1 have outlined, the single-pointed and the analytic, are not distinguished on the grounds that they each rely on a different type of object. The difference between them lies in the way each is applied, not in the objects chosen.

To clarify this point I will use the example of meditation on impermanence. If a meditator remains single-pointedly focused on the thought that everything changes from moment to moment, that is single-pointed meditation, whereas if someone meditates on impermanence by constantly applying, to everything he or she encounters, the various reasonings concerning the impermanent nature of things, reinforcing his conviction in the fact of impermanence through this analytic process, then he is practicing analytic meditation on impermanence. Both share a common object, impermanence, but the way in which each meditation is applied is different.

I feel that both types of meditation are actually practiced in almost all major religious traditions. In the case of ancient India, for instance, the practice of single-pointed meditation and the application of analytic meditation are common to all the major religious traditions, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. During a conversation with a Christian friend of mine some years ago, I was told that in Christianity, and particularly in the Greek Orthodox tradition, there is a strong and long history of contemplative meditation. And similarly, a number of Jewish Rabbis have spoken to me about certain mystic practices in Judaism which involve a form of single-pointed meditation.

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