Meditation and the Practice of Virtue
“Establishing a meditative life can lead to a more settled and attentive mind, but to what end will you direct these capacities? If you are more attentive, to what will you direct your attention? If more settled, on what will you rest your mind?
The legendary Indian sage Milarepa (c. 1052-1135) is said to have used his miraculous siddhis or “psychic powers” to bring devastation to an avaricious landlord who treated his parents poorly. When meditation made its way to the West in the sixties, some of those most interested in its offerings were the special forces of the world’s military. Their uses of attention would be lethal. I raise this issue because in their descriptions of the meditative path, the contemplative traditions of all cultures emphasize the importance of virtue, and for good reason. Ethical conduct is not guaranteed by contemplative practice. Meditation can be use for selfish as well as selfless ends, to win basketball games or turn a greater profit as well as to mitigate suffering. Therefore it is important at the outset to lay the sound ethical foundations for the meditative life. If one does this adequately, then one’s practice serves not only oneself, but others as well.”
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