People have all sorts of ideas about what meditation is, based on a wide variety of experiences and influences. For example, we might have the idea that meditation is about seeing into past lives, reading people’s minds, making the mind go off into some sort of blissful state or inhabit some kind of wonderful esoteric realm while we take a break from our busy lives, and so on.
Perhaps we have come to believe that meditation will enable us to lose weight or make a lot of money, give us healing powers, or, at least, make us into a wonderfully glorious interesting attractive person who can dazzle people at cocktail parties. We see the word “meditation” in books and magazines. We hear it talked about and discussed on television talk shows.
So we can get all kinds of impressions about the purpose of meditation and how you do it. The following is intended to clarify, from the Buddhist perspective and the tradition in which I was trained, that meditation is not really about those kinds of effects.
Certainly some people are said to have the ability to concentrate their minds in such a way that visions arise, or they are able to read other people’s minds, or have other similar experiences. But my teacher, Ajahn Chah, was vehement in discouraging us from being interested in those kinds of experiences. He emphasized that we should approach meditation in the way the Buddha intended it to be used, which was to help us develop qualities of peacefulness and clarity, to learn how to understand our own lives and to learn how to live harmoniously with the world.
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Finding the Missing Peace, (pdf) pp. iii-iv.