Scientists say that meditators may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES...
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As we continue to hold our monthly meditation session at the temple, it's interesting to note that meditation is not a true practise of Jodo Shinshu Buddhists.
While temples in Calgary and Vancouver are both holding "Walking Meditation Relays", these are held as events and not a regular practise of our sect of Buddhism.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhists do not believe in self-power practises. To use an analogy (from the blog, Nembutsu), if we are like the circus tightrope walkers, then meditation provides us with the technique of how to walk and the pole to balance ourselves. In contrast, Jodo-Shinshu lends little assistance on the "how" of walking but simply says, "Don't worry, there is a safety net in case you fall!"
Traditionally, Shin Buddhism has limited its meditation practices to sutra chanting and recitation of the Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu). However, there is an increasing demand from within our temples and from those wishing to join us, for "quiet sitting" meditation instruction in addition to chanting meditation.
So, the debate continues on the website, Echoes of the Name. Here's an excerpt from one of the articles.
If we take the word meditation in the proper sense of its consideration, study, self preparation, exercise, practices, declamation, then Shin Buddhism has five kinds of meditation activity or service. These do not form an actual practice, though Shin dislikes and even refuses the word. Moreover, since Shin is a fusion of the principles of the ancient Sanron and Kegon sects reflected against the Buddhism of the Kamakura era, Shin does not define certain activities or services as practice, but insists that every action, even the most insignificant of daily life, may be an essentially religious action within the Way of Buddha …The goals of all such meditative exercises in Buddhism must be carefully analyzed. Westerners, and even ill informed Buddhists, too easily fall into the trap of believing that the goal of Buddhist “meditation” is the attainment of enlightenment of Nirvana. This however, is an erroneous notion …The correctly aware disciple knows that his meditation was undertaken as a result of past conditioning, and that, however much he thought he was doing it of his own innate volition, he actually was caused to meditate. The five kinds of meditation which are practiced in Shin are: ritual service, practical service, regular service, social service, and quietist service.”
--On Meditation by Rev. Phillip Karl Eidmann
The Woman's Spirit Connection is a support group that includes women of all faiths and ethnic derivations. The evening of meditation was a success because the women were well prepared by their years together. Rev. Ulrich claims that it was one of the best Loving-Kindness sessions that he has ever experienced. And while there were some participants who were new to this kind of practice, the positive relationships in this spiritual group readily included these 'beginners' in the activities.
Many of the participants have since reported to have continued these meditations on their own as an important component of their own private practice. It turns out it was an important two hours for everybody.
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