The past several years I've been asked to speak at different universities about Buddhism. I do the best I can and then the student(s) usually send me a questionnaire for their term paper. Here are my 2015 answers:
1. What is meditation? What do you hope to achieve through meditation?
Meditation is single pointed focus on an object with an overall objective in mind. For instance contemplating a bunch of ideas about Jesus may be spiritually objective, but it's not meditation. But focusing on a door knob may be meditatively focused, but it's one zoning out without objective. You are tweaking the mind between its gross states of agitation and dullness. Agitation is when the mind is flying off, dullness is when it's sitting there. You want an alert mind that's like a bird perched on a branch: alive, fluid, but not flying. You want to be in that middle ground and when one has reached a state of alert and sustained focus on an object with an overall spiritual objective then one is meditating. You need to get into a deep state of meditation to advance to different levels of enlightenment.
2. How often do you meditate? How often should you meditate?
Meditate for about an hour a day. Some times it's less, some times it's more. But it usually balances out to an hour. There isn't a 'should' but an hour is standard base line level. In an ideal scenario I would be meditating for 2-3 hours a day.
3. What is enlightenment?
Cessation of mental afflictions through the direct perception of emptiness. You can temporarily cease mental afflictions by dying or getting knocked out. But direct perception of emptiness (DPE) is like a lightning bolt wiping out zillions of karmic seeds for mental afflictions. Generally you go into a deep state, contemplate some very fine point in buddhist scripture about wisdom. Things begin to shift, the mind gets extremely still but alert. The body slows down to the point where you don't even feel it any more. You are in a DEEP meditation. You have a direct perception of emptiness which last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. You come out of it and return. When you're having a DPE you can't think of anything else b/c it's single pointed focus on an object. Afterward you come out of it and have several different visions. For about 24-48 hrs you can read people's thoughts. This fades away as your mind becomes dull again. Now you will return to 'normal' so to speak, but you will have no doubt of DPE because you have experienced it directly. After that you're on your way out. Scripture says that means you get totally enlightened within 7 to 24 lifetimes but you know you're gonna get there. You're a stream enterer (entered stream of emptiness for a few minutes, dipped your metaphorically toes into the water and have entered into the class of an Arya.) Over the next few lifetimes you're cleaning up the rest of your deeply subtle seeds of mental affliction but you no longer suffer like you used to. On the outside things look the same, but the internal world of thinking is much different. You are not mistaken by the obvious illusions of life. You still see them, but you know 100% that it's an illusion and, yes, this includes your loved ones, enemies, and body. You use these illusion, you use your body, you may get married, have kids. But it's more like you're really invested in this great movie or video game when you cry, laugh, shout. You're having real emotions but you know it's in relation to an illusion so you don't get too wrapped in it and you would certainly never harm anyone for an illusion any more than you would if you were watching a movie and a character did something you didn't like. Now there's another method of enlightenment that is much much quicker and that is "Tantra Buddhism" or The Diamond Way. It's possible to get there in the same lifetime in the Diamond Way but it's highly advanced, requires years of study, and LOTS of meditation. I am in the Diamond Way as well as in the Open Mahayana school of traditional Buddhism.
4. Can you achieve enlightenment by meditating, is it the only way? The most common way is to meditate. There are other ways in the Tantra school but those take a lot of practice and guidance with a teacher.
5. How long does it take to achieve enlightenment? Can we all achieve it? why or why not?
We all will achieve enlightenment. There is no other way, otherwise we just keep circling around. This universe has existed for trillions of years. But there was a universe before that and before that too. And we keep getting put here until we learn our lesson. Enlightenment once someone has had a DPE is something between 7 and 24 lifetimes, or possibly one lifetime in Tantra.
6. Is meditation good or bad?
Depends. Is food good or bad? Depends on what you eat. Is meditation good or bad? Depends on what your mind ingests.
7. What are the different types of meditation?
Several types of meditation but the most common one are 'review,' problem solving, or mandala work. Review meditation is when you're trying to learn something. You fix on it and keep reviewing it, sharpening clarity and meaning. Problem solving is when you run over a list in your head and try to problem solve something. Mandala meditation is when you create a world. You create a world and take yourself on a video game' tour of your body's inner workings or the world's (hint: they're both connected). You can't do inner work creating a world inside your body without effecting the world you see outside. Therefore the best way to change the world IS to change oneself. There is no other way. For creating inner and outer world and mandala, that is more Tantra. Visualizations and sharp concentration are a must.
8. Can meditation effect and individual enhancing physical awareness or having any effect?
Yes the world out 'there' is the same as the world 'in here' in that they are both illusions from past actions. These actions aren't good or bad. They simply exist and grow like seeds in a field. You would never pick up a corn stalk and ask 'is this corn moral?' Of course it's not. It's growing because the seed was planted and the conditions were met for growth. It's important to remember that when one struggles. It's very easy to play 'karma blame game.' No shame or moralizing like that in Buddhism. The ultimate enhancer is to study emptiness. Seriously, it gets you to enlightenment quicker AND it burns away a lot of underbrush. Even if one hasn't seen emptiness yet, just its contemplation ripens beautiful things in the mind and then the body. And then the world.