Saturday, 18 June 2011

Qualia in Meditation - Analytical and Placement Meditation

Here are brief excerpts from The New Meditation Handbook by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, regarding the relationship between procedural (analytical) and qualitative (placement) thought-processes in meditation.  Note how the procedural mental process is used to generate a qualitative state of mind.  The qualitative mental feeling of compassion is what is known in Western philosophy as a 'quale' (singular of qualia).   It is an internal subjective state generated from the observation or recollection of external events.

Analytical meditation
'The purpose of contemplation, or analytical meditation, is to bring to mind the object of placement meditation. We do this by considering various lines of reasoning, contemplating analogies, and reflecting on the meaning of the instructions. It is helpful to memorize the contemplations given in each section so that we can meditate without having to look at the text. The contemplations given here are intended only as guidelines. We should supplement and enrich them with whatever reasons and examples we find helpful.'

Placement meditation
'When, through our contemplations, the object appears clearly, we leave our analytical meditation and concentrate on the object single-pointedly. This single-pointed concentration is the actual meditation.
When we first start to meditate, our concentration is poor; we are easily distracted and often. lose our object of meditation. Therefore, to begin with, we shall probably need to alternate between contemplation and placement meditation many times in each session. 

For example, if we are meditating on compassion, we begin by contemplating the various sufferings experienced by living beings until a strong feeling of compassion arises in our heart. When this feeling arises, we meditate on it single-pointedly. If the feeling fades, or if our mind wanders to another object, we should return to analytical meditation to bring the feeling back to mind. When the feeling of compassion has been restored, we once again leave our analytical meditation and hold the feeling with single-pointed concentration.'   For an excellent explanation of this process see here.

Both contemplation and meditation serve to acquaint our mind with virtuous objects. The more familiar we are with such objects, the more peaceful our mind becomes. By training in meditation, and living in accordance with the insights and resolutions developed during meditation, eventually we shall be able to maintain a peaceful mind continuously, throughout our life. More detailed instructions on the contemplations and on meditation in general can be found in Transform Your Life and Joyful Path of Good Fortune.'

- Sean Robsville