Buddhist Meditation: A Survey
|2 2 4|
In this survey there are many basic Buddhist terms that could be unfamiliar. When coming across unfamiliar terms, you do well to look up somewhere what they mean, to ensure a continuing, good learning experience. I also suggest there are more comprehensive surveys around. Some may be complementary to this brief one, such as the article on TM and Buddhism: [More]
Meditation is part of Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, where Right Mindfulness is a part. Buddhism has many meditation methods, and some are available to the public.
Breath meditation, being mindful of breathing, is a basic form of meditation taught by Buddha. Breath meditation helps developing vipashyana as well as shamatha.
A German professor, Eugen Herrigel, was taught a simple breathing exercise to improve his performance while being in Japan. The teacher, Awa Kenzo, showed him how to breathe out evenly and slowly, pause slightly, and then breathe in faster, breathe out slowly again, pause slightly, breathe in faster, and so on, finding a rhythm that gradually "formed itself". The master marksman said that breathing in helps integrations toward a flowing performance, breathing out can assist completions and overcome hindrances. Fit focusing helped relaxation. In training of motoric skills, relaxing deeply and focusing calmly during traing is fit. [Zwb 30-34]
Take some mental scans (checks) of the body while you practice, to note if it is well relaxed too, as it should be.
Vipashyana (Pali: vipassana) meditation, or "mindfulness meditation", is one of India's most ancient meditation techniques. It calms the mind and helps focusing. You aim at observing calmly and relaxed yourself as an observer along with observing what is in front of you. It depends on direct observation - taking direct perception by insights that count - in order to get aware (mindful). In the Theravada tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness. Mahamudra and Dzogchen use vipashyana extensively too.
Shamatha (Pali: samatha) 'Calm Abiding', is a focusing, pacifying and calming meditation, common in yoga. Shamatha culminates in an attention that can be sustained effortlessly for quarters and even hours on end. Samatha is of the concentration meditation practices. Within such as Tibetan Buddhism (Mahayana), shamatha practice, 'Calm Abiding', progresses along stages and leads to a deep, interior state called the first jhana (Sanskrit: dhyana) which is a state of tranquillity or bliss, described by Buddha.
Zazen: The aim of zazen ("Zen sitting") is just sitting, but in a regulated way. "Seated meditation" is a meditative discipline. The legs are folded in one of the standard sitting postures. The hands are folded over the belly. In many practices, one breathes "from the belly" and "is here now", as we may add.
Mantra yoga: Mantras are syllables or sets of syllables, and used as "tools of thought". They may be pronounced out loud, or internally in the mind only during meditation. Silent repetition is said to work best, all in all. Mantras are particularly important to Pure Land and Nichiren practitioners. Mantrayana means "the mantra way". To benefit from mantras, we revolve them in our minds and thus think-repeat our mantra silently at regular periods. The value of the method traditionally depends on the skilled and merciful teacher.
Tantra: Vajrayana Buddhism is often a synonym for mantrayana. Vajrayana meditation practices include Tantra. Tantra techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism are techniques used to attain Buddhahood. The most important side to the tantric path is to "use the result as the Path" and thereby attune oneself better to tall benefits. Some tantric practices include repetitions of mantras. Oral transmissions given by a tantric master are vital too. Tantra involves sex practices for some. Tantric sex is not needed to practise Vajrayana, though, and some do without it.
Three together: On the path toward Enlightenment, Buddhist traditions recognise these three: virtue (sila); meditation (citta); and, wisdom (panna). Meditative prowess, ethical development and wise understanding work together for development into arhatship. All three aspects can and should be developed. The right sort of training helps. An arhat (Sanskrit: arhant; Pali: arahant) is someone who has attained Nirvana (Pali: Nibbana), also termed Awakening. Mahayana affirms that the ultimate end of meditation is the realize of and become established in the essential Self.
Non-Buddhists use some of the Buddhist meditation techniques for the sake of better physical and mental health, and towards non-Buddhist aims. Such "ordinary meditation" (Chinese, bonpu; Jap., bonpu or bompu) is pursued for mental and physical well-being without any spiritual goal. And some use meditation for seeking to develop mindfulness into self-realization.
To avoid getting sidetracked, seek to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM), the best method publicly available according comparisons presented by Dr David Orme-Johnson. TM is also the most widely researched meditation method in our time. [◦Comparisons]
Prz: Chang, Garma C. The Practice of Zen. New York: Perennial/Harper, 1970.
Yy: Goleman, David. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. London: Rider, 1975.
Zwm: Herrigel, Eugen. Zen i bueskytingens kunst. (Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschiessens (1948) - Zen in the Art of Archery) Oslo: Hilt og Hansteen, 1995.
USER'S GUIDE to abbreviations, the site's bibliography, letter codes, dictionaries, site design and navigation, tips for searching the site and page referrals. [LINK]|
© 20042011, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [E-MAIL] Disclaimer: LINK]