When we sit down to meditate, we are trying to transcend our everyday consciousness, the consciousness used to transact ordinary business, the one used in the world’s marketplace as we go shopping, bring up our children, work in an office or in our business, clean the house, check our bank statements, and all the rest of daily living. That kind of consciousness is known to everyone, and without it we can’t function. It is our survival consciousness, and we need it for that. It cannot reach far enough or deep enough into the Buddha’s teachings, because these are unique and profound; our everyday consciousness is neither unique nor profound, just utilitarian.
In order to attain the kind of consciousness that is capable of going deeply enough into the teachings to make them our own and thereby change our whole inner view, we need a mind with the ability to remove itself from the ordinary thinking process. Attaining this sort of mind is only possible through meditation. There is no other way.
Meditation is therefore a means, and not an end in itself. It is a means to change the mind’s capacity in such a way that it can perceive entirely different realities from the ones we are used to. The recognition that meditation is a tool is important, because it is often wrongly considered to be an end in itself.
In Pali, meditation is called bhavana,”mind training” to be used for honing the mind until it becomes such a sharp tool that it cuts through everyday realities.