View Full Version : How does meditation practice develop the mind?

25 Nov 20, 19:28
I really enjoyed this talk by Ajahn Amaro (Abbot of Amaravati Monastery UK) in which he talks about meditation for approx. 23 minutes.



27 Nov 20, 09:41
Nice talk about the relationship between mindfulness practice and vipassana practice, and how they both work to develop your mind. I don't think the story about the researcher was particularly amusing though. I don't think that he was treated particularly well. The rest is well worth a listen as it develops the idea of taking our practice into everyday life. I particularly like the 'middle way' of explaining how we can still have emotions, but how we relate to them when they arise.

He goes on to say that each moment in our lives is a construct of the mind, that we construct reality and assume that reality is what we construct, that vipassana allows us to see things in a different way. Meditation becomes a training programme for the mind, like practicing scales on a piano. A skill to develop to take to other things. Just as scales allow us to play great music, meditation training allows those skills to be used in everyday life. We use mindfulness to be aware of how we react and act from moment to moment in the real world, practicing our skills whatever we are doing.

I would also add the dimension of science into this topic, however much Ajahn Amaro runs the idea of researchers down, because here in the West we like to understand in different ways. It has been shown that whatever we do brings about changes to the wiring of the brain, to how it operates, and so to how our minds work. Meditation and practice allow us to bring about changes that we want to happen, allow for a rewiring which enables us to be the sort of person we want to be. Meditation and the path really do have an affect on us.

27 Nov 20, 17:54
This has been a really interesting talk. I think that Ajahn Amaro puts across the subject almost as if he's having a personal conversation with the listener. He's got an easy way of talking, it's easy to follow.

He does give the example of the researcher asking the questions Why and How do you meditate, and what's the Outcome? And Ajahn Chah's response comes across as a rather teasing response at first. But I can't agree with Phil in seeing that response as poor treatment though. And I don't think the story is told in order to be amusing.

There is, instead, a lesson there. The answer to the researcher's question comes as an analogy. Meditation for a monk is analogous to food for all of us. Not all questions can be answered directly with words alone.

And the analogy of meditation as food for the mind, that's really spot on. The body needs food to grow, repair itself and to flourish. The mind needs meditation to grow, improve and to live fully.

I would agree with Phil's remark that we think, in the West, of the brain and how changes in attitude and behaviour can be thought of as rewiring of the brain. Yet for all the science and research, we still have to live with terms like 'the wiring of the brain'. These are terms that are still analogies for the activity of the mind.

Neurons and synapses explain what can be observed, but they are markers of brain activity, not indicators of thought. Meditation as a practice still encapsulates a mystery for the researcher.

28 Nov 20, 13:19
.... however much Ajahn Amaro runs the idea of researchers down.....

I definately didn't noticed Ajahn Amaro doing this. Could you please give me the time sequences on the video where its occuring, Phil?

And Ajahn Chah's response comes across as a rather teasing response at first

The responses of a wise and experienced Buddhist teacher can sometimes be to challenge the thought processes and general attitudes of his/her students. I often found that this was the case with my late Tibetan teacher.


28 Nov 20, 22:48
He isn't 'wise and experienced' if he can't challenge without making fun of a researcher who is probably there in all good faith, not to me at least. On the other hand the talk is possibly only part of what had been said previously so it might be taken out of context, and the guy he was talking about may have been kinder at the time. On the other, other hand I've often come across people making fun of western researchers in various talks on the internet and other places, so maybe that's why I didn't find it as amusing as the audience. That apart, I like listening to him and he does make a lot of sense.

29 Nov 20, 07:22
On the other, other hand I've often come across people making fun of western researchers in various talks on the internet

- and I've often come across people trashing the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition lineage of Ajahn Chah in internet groups, with comments that they have "eternalist views" and are nearer to Mahayana than orthodox Theravada. The internet is as it is.

However, having spoken to Ajahn Amaro one-to-one in the past, as well as Ajahn Sumedho, and having attended their teachings on various occasions, it doesn't stop me from regarding them as very special, or from feeling blessed that I've had the opportunity of receiving instructions from some wonderful teachers from two different Buddhist traditions in my lifetime so far.

May all sentient beings have good health and happiness :hands: