Last week I visited the Dharma Drum Buddhist College in Taiwan to give two academic talks on the history of meditation. The audience, however, turned out to be much more interested in hearing about Acem Meditation. Many of them were monks and nuns (though also quite a few laypeople) with a lot of meditative training behind them. In significant respects, their forms of meditation are very different from Acem’s, but still their abundant experience made them a very interesting group to talk to.
So what is it that makes them different from an ordinary group of people with an interest in meditation?
First, the intensity of their interest and curiosity. For them (like for me), meditation is about some of the central issues in life – it is not just a tool to stress down (though that too).
Second, the fine-tuned view of the human mind. For them (like for me), inner cultivation has provided a sense of how the mind can work at ever subtler levels and learn to relate to the world around in more nuanced ways. This view is not primarily an opinion, but the result of experience.
The differences between them and Acem are many: religious vs. non-religious, skepticism vs. acceptance towards spontaneous thoughts, different meditation objects, and different settings. But these differences seemed to be only a source of further curiosity – on both sides.
This reminds me that a psychology student who recently came to learn Acem Meditation here in New Delhi suggested that we give a talk and perhaps a workshop at the psychology department at Delhi University. This was obviously because of the emphasis on psychological approaches to meditation and on understanding the unconscious that we have in Acem.
We have not done anything yet but I am not quite sure if that audience will be as interesting as the one you had. My feeling is that they may be very curious about the meditation but I don’t know if beyond the intellectual curiosity they would have an openness to themselves.
Worth trying though. One never knows, either with psychology students or monks and nuns – or any other group!