This morning I read many posts on this site. I felt like topics on Buddhist doctrine were somewhat clear to me, but those on meditation seemed complex, difficult to me.

I wondered: Does meditation practice increase knowledge about meditation? Is this what is meant by direct experience?

I feel this may seem as a naive question; I'm mainly wondering how something experienced (i.e. meditation) might affect cognition / knowledge about the topic of meditation.

For example, I'm unsure whether a person hammering nails all day would necessarily understand their task conceptually. Does meditation necessarily give one conceptual knowledge of meditation?

4 Answers 4


One possible answer is that meditation relies both on the theoretical understanding on what's going on, but also the direct experience. They are mutually dependent as far as i can see.

A mere theoretical understanding of meditation will not take us very far in the progress, just like meditation without a theoretical description of the phenomena involved probably won't take us far either.


Simple analogy:

The experience of watching someone drive (a car) for 1000 years can never compare to actually driving by yourself for 1 hour.

  • I felt that @Erik had a slightly better answer in that I, also, feel both are required. While the above is true, I felt that trying to drive without watching/learning about driving first could be almost equally fruitless in its results.
    – GVCOJims
    Apr 18, 2019 at 22:34
  • Respect your view. However, the best way to start learning how to drive, still is to practically drive slowly and carefully, better with an instructor next to you of course. It's just not something to learn 'theoretically', conceptually, or 'tabletop'. Same goes for meditation. Cheers! Apr 23, 2019 at 2:34
  • I respect your view as well. However, I think the 'best' methods for a person may depend on the type of individual they are. Using your analogy, if you are an experiential / intuitive type, getting behind the wheel would be best. You would not care about the physics of how brakes work. Stepping on the petal would be enough for you to learn. But for me, an analytic, often I wish to understand theory before experience. For people like me, we need both. Hence my comment of "both are required" for complete and balanced learning. Complicated individual differences give different 'best's. Regards.
    – GVCOJims
    Apr 24, 2019 at 14:42

Going canonical: Meditation involves samadhi (tranquil absorption) and sati (mindful awareness).

When you investigate a phenomena (breath for example) with this state of mind, depending upon the strength of your mindfulness you will see aspects of the working of the mind itself.

Almost like seeing through the corner of your mind, you see how the mind itself works. And by virtue of seeing that you might see how reality is- this could come from different angles (impermanence, fabricated nature, dependent arising)- our mind releases a little bit "ahh this is silly, why am I so worried about this!".

But those are names we use to convey our experiences. No amount of scholarly dissection of those names will help our mind release it. Only direct, real time, seeing would. Meditation develops the skill and arena for such insights.

This seeing the working of the mind does not need a conceptual framework. But certain conceptual framework (the optimal way to nail a hammer) will help you hammer it deeper and better. But it relies on your experiential understanding of hammering a nail itself. The eight fold path is such a conceptual framework which points us in the general direction of these realizations.


Its like this.Say you face a problem with the direct experience of a certain feeling ,thus you decided to formulate a new meditation concept where you contemplate that feeling.

Direct experience is to investigate the true nature of reality its subjective quality

.In hammering nails one will experience nailing

Conceptual knowledge comes about as a result of problems faced when having a direct experience.

If the nail gets bent then one decides to hammer a bit slowly next time.

  • A quibble. I would question whether the phrase 'its subjective quality' is correct here. It might suggest Reality is an object with a subjective aspect. .
    – user14119
    Apr 16, 2019 at 13:22
  • Its quality is experienced subjectively is what I meant. Apr 16, 2019 at 13:32
  • This is what I thought you meant. I would suggest that 'Subjective qualities' are rather mundane things and meditation takes us beyond them. Indeed. 'subjective quialites' are exactly what we are trying to transcend. But I see this may be just matter of terminology. ,.
    – user14119
    Apr 16, 2019 at 13:38
  • I agree regarding transcendence ,but its merely the result.The message is that there is nothing...absolutely nothing but the quality and that is the end of suffering. Apr 16, 2019 at 13:58
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    Yes. its no problem .Our disagreement seems to be of a high caliber it has a sophistication ,knowing this one is not bothered and simply learns from the other :). Apr 16, 2019 at 14:13

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