What is the perfection of meditation?
The fifth perfection is dhyana paramita — the perfection of meditation. What is perfect meditation? It is meeting each moment with a kind-hearted attention and embracing life as it is.
The Sanskrit word dhyana translates as sustained attention in the present moment. Meditation practice helps us to cultivate the ability to touch the present moment, and stay with our experience without getting lost in thought.
Life is full of distractions. Our thoughts can take us very quickly very far away from the present, into remembrance of the past or into anticipation of the future. Thinking is not necessarily a problem. Perfect meditation is definitely not about clearing the mind from thought. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings about meditation. Meditation is about cultivating attention. In meditation practice we are taking attention and placing it in the present moment.
The breath is a great object for attention in meditation. There is no breath we could ever breathe that is not a present moment breath. Therefore, when we place attention on the breath, it brings us into the present moment and we become aware of everything else that we can experience through our senses in that moment.
Meditation and the Six Perfections
Meditation in the context of the six paramitas (or perfections) give us a practice for cultivating mindfulness of the present moment, as well as awareness of our thoughts, words, and actions, so we can use our mindfulness to be of benefit to others and the world around us.
In the traditional Buddhist teachings, there are three aspects to the perfection of meditation. The first is to train the mind to peacefully abide in the present moment. This can be accomplished through the practice of Shamatha meditation.
The second aspect of the perfection of meditation is to cultivate specific qualities like generosity, kindness, patience or joy, which are the first four paramitas. The practice of contemplative meditation helps us do this.
The third aspect of the perfection of meditation is using our mindfulness to benefit others. We practice this by taking the fruits of our meditation practice into our everyday lives and relationships.
Through meditation we learn to meet each moment with kind-hearted attention and cultivate generosity, kindness, patience, and joy in our lives.