The following letter is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.
Dear Rev. Mugo,
I hope you are well. I’ve been reading Rev. MacPhillamy’s book. I like its relaxed, conversational style. The lack of terms from other languages is also refreshing and offers a less “exotic” approach to the subject, which is a good thing. The ancient, Asian terminology that most Buddhist books use can make it seem that you should be having an ancient, Asian experience to really practice meditation, whatever that might mean!
I’m part way through the book, and I’ve come across something that really tripped me up. On page 66, the Reverend writes: “Meditation cannot be easily judged or measured—which is probably just as well, since measuring and judging are precisely some of the things which right thought teaches us to set aside. As a matter of fact, when people are meditating they don’t even know that they are doing it. That sounds strange, but the reason is actually very simple: if a person were to know that he or she was doing it, then part of the person would be doing it and another part would be knowing that it’s being done. This would create a division in a mind that, by its very essence, is one and undivided.”
The specific line that flipped my pancake was “when people are meditating they don’t even know that they are doing it.” That seems to go against the whole notion of being alert, focused, and present in the moment. How can one be aware of meditating and yet not know that one is doing it?
I guess part of the problem is that I’m trying to understand this from the “outside,” with the measuring and judging mind. Maybe the best thing is to keep meditating, keep practicing, and not be hung up over the contradiction. Or what seems like a contradiction.
What do you think?
I’ll post my answer tomorrow. This letter is a fine example of what we call in Buddhism; Going for Refuge: Taking Refuge in the Dharma (reading the book), Taking Refuge in the Sangha (asking me a question) and clearly the author is Taking Refuge in the Buddha (practicing seated meditation). The Three Refuges are sometimes referred to as the ‘Triple Gem’. It’s value is immeasurable.