When many people encounter the idea of meditation for the first time, they are often powerfully struck by the question, What’s the point of this? Sitting quietly, observing your thoughts, emotions and bodily responses?
One potential answer could be that meditation allows individuals to lead more peaceful and wholesome lives. Meditation is seen as the act of managing one’s emotions, allowing negative states to subside and positive ones to emerge.
While this is true, it has always struck me that in this approach, the “me” is still to be saved or protected in some way. Meditation is perceived as a way for me to achieve my spiritual or emotional ends.
However, in many of the more uncompromising meditative traditions, such as Zen, the point is to understand that the individual personality is a construct, an illusion, and to dissolve it once and for all. This uncompromising attitude, the urge to find the reality that transcends the individual, is perhaps the root motivation or interest in meditation for many of us.
From a totally different angle, meditation could be seen as crucial in the endeavour to understand the world’s ills as a whole. From the perspective of a thinker such as Krishnamurti, the world is in a deep crisis at many levels: political, environmental, religious. However, the social world is created by individuals functioning chaotically, with self-interest and insecurity being our dominant modes of operation. For society to fundamentally change, individuals must fundamentally change: we must understand impermanence, the dissolving ego, and become deeply peaceful in a non-verbal manner.
Meditation seen in this light is no longer a narcissistic activity undertaken by the deluded. It becomes tied in with all of our futures, and with the future of the planet itself.