The Penn: Meditation, as practiced by the 10 Tibetan Buddhist monks visiting IUP this week, provides “stability and calmness” and opens the potential of one’s mind, said Eleanor Mannikka, Monday’s Six O’Clock Series speaker.
“What powers your behavior is your mind,” said Mannikka, an IUP art professor and 25-year practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. “All the minds that human beings have are the most powerful tools in the universe. Without meditation you’re using a small fraction of your mind.”
Buddhists practice the teachings of Siddhartha Gotama — the Buddha — who after six years of meditation about 2,500 years ago, found the “middle path,” or enlightenment, in his search for the ways to avoid suffering and be happy.
Much of that suffering, Mannikka said, comes from attachment to worldly things, whether it’s material or a connection with others.
“[Buddha] didn’t say it’s love and compassion for your friends that causes suffering, but if you have an attachment with that love where you want good feedback … If you want something in return, you’re going to suffer,” she said.
Buddhism — the fourth-largest religion and only one with enlightenment as the goal — seeks to break that attachment through meditation, which must be taught by an instructor first-hand and “altruistic thinking,” Mannikka said.
In stages and with years of practice, one achieves enlightenment, “a state of emptiness” that comes from wisdom, ethical conduct and mental discipline, she said.
“Underlying everything in the entire universe is the basis of what we call emptiness,” which “cannot be described because it lies beyond concept,” she said. “It is very different for us to imagine that our minds can actually operate beyond concept.”
Eventually, those who meditate might experience “nanoseconds of what that emptiness is, and it is so mind-blowing. You would not believe that your mind can exist in that particular state,” she said.
For the master Tibetan monks, that transcendence may have metaphysical implications, she said.
“The Tibetans are notorious for doing things like walking through walls,” levitating or flying, she said. “This world that we see is illusory. … When the mind transcends the illusion of solidity in all objects, then solid objects cease to maintain their obstacle nature.”
Meditation typically involves controlled breathing, a focus on relieving tension and introspection.
“You don’t have to be a Buddhist to do the basic meditation. … When you think of yourself in that way, that you’re much bigger than this moment, that your life has meaning. It is then your job to fulfill that meaning,” she said.
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