Is It Wrong To Use Zen Meditation To Escape?

meditation suffering

Question: Do you think it’s wrong to use meditation as an escape from a stressful situation? Is that really the purpose of meditation?

No, that is not the purpose of meditation, but it is what many people do when they begin a meditation practice. Imagine you have some kind of illness. This illness is making you exhausted and is giving you a lot of pain. What is the first thing you do? In order to relieve this symptom quickly, you take some kind of medicine. “Oh, now the pain has disappeared. I’m not tired anymore.” The problem is many people get addicted to this medicine and they keep using it because it makes them feel better. Maybe I get addicted to this medicine, and it creates more problems, more symptoms than the original one, or maybe doesn’t work anymore. Now I need something stronger.

Many people come to Zen practice in the beginning to relieve something, to relieve stress, to get rid of anger, or to be more peaceful. There is nothing wrong with that, but we eventually have to investigate where these symptoms are coming from. What is causing the “illness”?

Maybe you practice meditation to relieve stress. Great! Now what? Maybe the stress comes back again. So what do you do? You do more sitting. Then it comes back again. Where is the stress coming from?

I’ve met many people who use meditation practice to escape their life. Some other people might drink a lot of alcohol or do drugs or use their internet addiction to escape their life. So most important is to investigate the source of this suffering. Even the Buddha had to do that. He did many kinds of different aesthetic practices. Eventually, he stopped those practices because it wasn’t answering these important questions. Why do human beings suffer? What is the source of suffering? After sincerely looking deeply at these questions, he realized his enlightenment. So using meditation to relieve stress is OK. But then investigate deeper and perceive the source of this suffering. That will help your life and then you will no longer be controlled by any of the symptoms that all human beings experience.


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