Why Meditate?

There are several ways we might divide up the field of spiritual science and technology, and one way is according to primary interest. Is the trainee’s dominant aim know, to heal, to feel, or to act?

Depending upon the answer to that question, we can posit four main categories of motivation, namely, the Gnostic, the Therapeutic, the Hedonistic, and the Magical.

Edgar Ende, Die Wartenden

The Gnostic Path comes in two flavors, the Scientific/Philosphical and the Religious/Spiritual, and asks the following kinds of questions:

What is the nature of experience? How does my world come to be known?                                                (Epistemological)

Who or what am I? What is at the root of my sense-of-self? (Psychological)

What exists and what is ultimately real? (Ontological-Metaphysical)

Can I confirm my beliefs and/or the teachings of religious authorities?                                                        (Empirical-Mystical)

The process of investigation devolving from such questions as these is believed to lead to the condition known as enlightenment.

The Therapeutic Path has practical wisdom as its goal. It aims to realize one or more of the following conditions and capacities:

Peace of mind;

Improved mental acuity;

Management of self-hatred, guilt, stress, pain and/or phobias;

The overcoming of compulsions and/or addictions;

More skillful interpersonal and social relations;

Greater compassion, moral sensitivity, and rectitude.

The Hedonistic Path has amusement, pleasure, and entertainment as its goals, which may include the attainment of extraordinary bodily and mental states and visions. The hedonistic adept is a tourist of mental processes.

The Magical Path, or the Path of Power, is concerned with the acquisition of special abilities for purposes of control over the environment and other people.

There is a fifth path, the Path of Liberation. Its aim is nothing less than complete freedom from bodily and mental constraints. Whether or not the realization of that goal entails the permanent loss of consciousness and life itself is a matter of controversy among the several Buddhistic traditions.

Some of us are primarily motivated by the desire to more deeply understand the nature of self-reflexivity as well as the self and its experience. For us it is fair to say that the primary, overall purpose of our work is to find better ways of training ourselves to alter the quality of experience for the better, more or less at will, through systematic development of certain skills. One way of looking at the activities in which we are engaged is as an exploration of natural systems of biofeedback. Following both traditional and experimental instructional protocols, we discover many interesting things about how the mind works, how experience presents itself, how the various psychophysical faculties and their functions contribute to building and maintaining the sense of self.

Published by

Richard Kollmar

Buddhist minister & trail guide. Leads contemplative hikes & pilgrimages in the mountains of California's central coast.

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