How to overcome doubts about meditation

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    Alexander B


    I have lately been having a lot of doubts about meditation and buddhism in general, and am seeking some sort of higher guiding power of compassion that supposedly does not exist in buddhism but could be personified as a God in western religions. I find it has actually helped me gain deeper levels of insight and peace when I imagine a god of some sort looking after me and caring for me. Are these thoughts compatible at all with Buddhist teachings in some way?



    T Sparby


    I don´t think the idea of a self-subsistent, ultimate and personified god is compatible with traditional Buddhist teachings. But maybe you can find a way to interpret Buddha Nature as similar to the Christian teaching. And if you have a pragmatic mindset and a felt relationship to a personified god — why not use it? There are of course also teaching on dieties and diety practice in some parts of Buddhism. Maybe you can look into that. For me, I don’t feel compelled to follow traditional Buddhist doctrines even though I practice in a way that is very much inspired by and in accordance to Buddhist meditation practice. If I experience a personified presence in meditation practice, I work with that; I bracket the question of whether it is ultimately real or not.

    Have a look at my blog, if you wish:

    There you find some examples of how to relate to Christian imagery and dieties from a foundation that is very much TMI-based.

    Best regards,


    Ted Lemon

    Depends what you mean by compatible. Will TMI meditation work in that context? Sure. I’ve used TMI meditation in a practice that I would describe as similar to what you are experiencing. It’s not my a practice I do anymore, but it was a lovely practice. The ability to stabilize the attention while maintaining mindfulness worked just great for getting in touch with this higher power. What the higher power is, I wouldn’t claim to know. Is it just my deep mind? Could be. Is it God? Dunno, now you’ve just put a label on it—what does the label actually mean?

    What I would argue against is reifying it. Does it feel like there’s a presence there taking care of you? Great, go with that. But don’t get dogmatic and start believing it as an axiom. I have a theory that the sin of idolatry, making an image of God and worshiping that, is actually just the act of deciding that you know what you’re referring to when you talk about God. If there is such a being, how could this mind, here, ever encompass what that being is?



    Hi Alexander,
    It is a difficult place to be in when the hindrance of doubt is strong, especially if it stops your practice. Some possible ways to deal with doubt may be to talk to a teacher or practitioners who have been in a similar situation and have been able to move through it. Reading dharma books and listening to dharma talks can also be helpful. It may be useful to reflect on changes you have noticed in yourself already. Is there more kindness toward yourself and others? More equanimity around difficulties? More mindfulness in general? Noticing even small changes over a period of time can help with doubt.

    If the doubt is about whether the teachings of Culadasa are helpful, I would say, yes indeed they are! However, it does require time and dedication to practice.

    As far as your main question about Buddhist teachings of a higher power, the Buddha did not ask anyone to believe anything without finding out for themselves what is true. And meditation can lead you to an understanding of what is true about a higher guiding power of compassion. We tend to see everything through the lens of what is called perception in Buddhism, and when we see through our perceptions, we can get a sense of what you are looking for.

    It is good that you have found a way to make compassion work for you. Compassion is an important part of Buddhist practice. There is a practice in Tibetan Buddhism, called the benefactor practice, which you may find useful. Recall a person, several people, an animal or a place which make you feel cared for and accepted. A benefactor may be a spiritual teacher, a family member, or even a kind stranger. Just recall a moment when you felt seen and cared about. Visualize yourself in the midst of these people while they are sending you unconditional love and compassion. Take it in fully and rest in it. What you are looking for in a higher power already exists with in all of us underneath the personality structures and sense of separate self. We just need to access it. You may want to check out the Foundation for Active Compassion by John Makransky.

    Some practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism also connect with deity practice.

    I hope you find these tips helpful, but if not please keep trying to find what works for you.
    With Metta and Karuna,



    I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, but here goes –

    I’m coming at this from the place of a raging agnostic. Hyper agnostic. Atheism and theism both seem like a leap of faith to me. Yet, I find it impossible to accept that everything comes from nothing. I was pushed by a teacher I had been working with (a Buddhist ex-monastic) to accept atheism. Can’t do it, but I’ve always been led to believe that Buddhism and a higher power weren’t compatible.

    Then I read The Science Of Enlightenment by Shinzen Young. He doesn’t make a case for “god” whatever that might be, or not. But he does describe what he calls the Source. Apparently a contaction/expansion that underlies All and gives rise to the entirety of everything manifest everywhere.

    Sounds pretty higher powery to me.

    As many probably are already aware, Shinzen is the real deal. Spent time in Zen monasteries when westerners had never done so before. Went through some pretty intense practices and experiences. If he claims this is the case, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Additionally, when I consider Paticca samuppada, and that ultimately there aren’t things and only processes, and that the separation from everything else is delusion created by the mind, and the sense of “I” being someone in here, in opposition to out there, then that means the idea that everything is all one isn’t just new age or pseudo-spiritual talk. It’s a fact of existence. I actually experienced it once as a teenager, but had no idea what it was I experienced. I just know it shook me to the very foundation of my being. But if that isn’t higher power, than what is?

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