Meditation is the method of training the mind. The classical definition of meditation, dating to the time of the Buddha, is “the obstruction of thought waves in the mind.” According to this definition, written by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, a “thought wave” is any mental event: not only a linguistic thought, but also a feeling, an image, a desire, etc.
Nonviolence depends essentially on one’s ability to overcome the tendency to be driven into action by negative thoughts, anger, and fear. Meditation is a tool used for the “inner work” of nonviolence practitioners to gain self-control of their thoughts and actions. Self control enables one to use energy aroused by a negative drive in a constructive way, rather than automatically going into the fight or flight response.
An uncontrolled or untrained mind, on the other hand, poses a liability in a situation where there is violence. This is because human beings will tend to act on impulse unless prepared for the reactions they might experience in the face of an extreme threat.
The Buddha states in the Dhammapada, (Trans. Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 2007) “More than those who hate you, more than all your enemies, an untrained mind does greater harm. More than your mother, more than your father, more than all your family, a well-trained mind does greater good.”
Meditation, of one form or another, is practiced almost universally throughout the world’s religions. Regardless of the specific tradition followed or method employed, a common feature of meditation is that it must be practiced rigorously and with great self-discipline in order to train the mind and control attention. As Meister Eckhart, the 13th century German mystic wrote:
“This [meditation] needs prodigiously hard work… A man must be closeted within himself where his mind is safe from images of outside things… Second, inventions of the mind itself; ideas, spontaneous notions or images… he must give no quarter to on pain of scattering himself and being sold into multiplicity.”
Meditation Instructions from Sri Eknath Easwaran (the ‘grand-founder’ of the Metta Center)