You don’t have to be Buddhist to practice one of the core functions of Buddhism – meditation. Actually, millions of people around the world engage in some sort of meditation practice daily to eliminate stress and gain a clear head-space. To some, meditation seems boring and uneventful and I would lie if I said I didn’t once subscribe to this school of thought. However, with practice, meditation becomes an essential part of your day as you take time to connect with reality (contrary to escaping reality).
Not all of us can afford to mosey off to a meditation retreat, but with this online meditation retreat course, you can reap equal benefits. So how do you begin utilizing ancient Buddhist meditation techniques? Furthermore, what are the Buddhist meditation techniques?
Purpose of Buddhist Meditation
Buddhist meditation is quite different from the yogi and modern day mentality of meditating. Buddhism practices meditation not to escape from reality, but rather to embrace and understand reality in a more precise and insightful manner. When those who meditate are able to stay in reality they are said to be “awake”. Buddhism meditation masters do not seek auditory or visual hallucinations as a result of their meditation exercise like many religious facets do. Christians may fall into a deep meditation and be presented with the saints and angels of the scripture, Hindus may come face-to-face with Krishna, that of whom Hindu’s revere. These are manifestations of a subjective and sub-conscious truth, not so much the objective reality in which they exist. Ultimately, this kind of spiritual meditation is not the end goal for Buddhist practitioners. Instead, Buddhist meditation seeks to eliminate the delusion of what we think we know about happiness, serenity, suffering and enlightenment or hereafter proclaimed as the “Self”.
Buddhist meditation will yield results that bode well for dealing with everyday life. Proper meditation establishes an attitude of detachment, objectivity and courage which employs the individual meditating to consider the world around him with patience and discretion. Disciplined focus of the mind offers no comparison to the desires sought in the tangible world. Those who master their mind, master the world. There are two avenues of cultivating this type of mastery, Samantha Bhavana and Vipissana Bhavana. Read How to Meditate to learn other methods of meditation.
Buddhism meditation techniques differ from discursive meditation relevant to other religions, as randomized and repetitive prayer, chants, or rituals do not apply in the search for truth. The techniques employed by Buddhist masters are carefully executed as to not disturb their mental balance and cause undue psychological stress. If you are new to the study of Buddhism or Buddhism meditation do proceed with caution. Much like a hypnotist can use language to encourage the hypnotized to act out, Samantha and Vipissana Bhavana can wreck equal havoc if not conditioned correctly.
- Samantha Bhavana
Samantha Bhavana is the development of concentration accompanied by mental tranquility. This technique employs the meditator to search deep in the mind for stillness and clarity. It’s said the achievement of Samantha will induce a state of reflection for the meditator to clearly view things as they really are sans the restlessness of desire.
- Vipissana Bhavana
Vipissana Bhavana succeeds Samantha and is the development of higher and direct insight through the realization of dukkha, anatta and anicca. These three signs represent the being of suffering, non-self and impermanence as stairs to acknowledging, and utilizing, the intuitional plane of the higher mind. To understand, and to “know” are two different achievements. Understanding and preaching a philosophy while not living by it is the short-story of incompatibility between the ego and the non-self; or theory and practice. The Vipissana technique strives to break through the barrier of theory while using insightfulness as a conduit to knowledge. Knowledge of the higher intellectual capacity is akin to “knowing” you are hungry or “knowing” you are in love. The knowledge is concrete and true but it goes without easy explanation. Discursive meditation as practiced by a myriad of other religions does not typically function on this level of existence. Moreso, they live comfortably in a mental plane of spirituality and subjectivity. By no means is this a bad place to live, however, it is not the goal of Buddhism meditation. Learn about creative flow states and mindfulness in this course.
How to Use the Techniques
Internalizing the concepts behind these two Buddhist techniques takes time and dedication. Just like coming to believe in a political agenda takes due research and analysis before accepting or denouncing it. Trying to regurgitate this information as if studying for an exam is not going to benefit your path to enlightenment and an ego-free state of being. However, practice does make perfect. Try using these physical meditation techniques to attain a visible path to Samantha or Vipissana.
A method of meditation used around the world, although called by a different name in respective religions. Anapanasati is the attentiveness to breath, the in-and-out of air from the system, with a sharp focus on the breath itself and not the direction, inhalation or exhalation. Counting can be used as a mechanism to keep focus but it should not be standard practice. Only use it when the mind begins to wander.
As in many discursive religious practices, beads can be used as a symbolic aid. However, in Buddhism meditation, these beads are not representative of prayers nor do they signal a higher power; instead they are used as a tool to maintain focus. The beads can be counted while repeating the Pali formula. The Pali formula encompasses twelve practices prescribed by the Buddha. This is not a summoning of a higher power so much as it is to posit concentration and overcome the five common obstacles of obtaining sincere focus: desire, anger, laziness, restlessness and doubt. Meditation and Mindfulness is a course that will teach you 7 steps to experience inner growth.
In Buddhism the posture most often associated with meditation is in the lotus position on the floor. While sitting cross legged is ideal, it isn’t practical for everyone. If sitting cross legged is uncomfortable, sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet under your buttocks or find comfort sitting in a chair or on some other stable surface. It is of utmost importance that an individual partaking in meditation holds a correct and comfortable posture. If you are slumped over or contrarily, straining to sit in the traditional meditation position – your focus will become on your body and not on the mind. All those who meditate are implored to practice while sitting down, and to keep the spine erect. Strike a balance with your body as you feel it pushing against the surface. If you have an easier time concentrating with your eyes closed, then do so. You can also utilize an object of concentration – this can be whatever you want it to be (not T.V. or live action) – to steadily gaze at as you descend into a meditative state.
- Meditation Schedule
Don’t lunge into hour long meditation sessions expecting to reach nirvana. It’s not going to happen and chances are you’ll either be bored to tears or you’ll fall asleep. Start small, with 15 minute daily increments of satisfactory meditation. Practice anapanasati, practice mastering your posture and practice slowing down the chaos in your mind for 15 minutes a day for the first week. The next two weeks, increase this meditation session to 30-minutes a day. The more often and frequently you train your mind to embrace quietness, the better meditation will serve you. After three weeks of solid meditative practice, move the time increment to 45-minutes a day. After two weeks of this you can try 60 minutes of meditation a day. At this duration, you are beginning to breech the boundaries of Vipissana.
Remember, everyone is different and everyone will have an equally different adjustment period. Maintain an open mind, a willingness and an attitude of commitment and you will be on your way to true Buddhist meditation. The course Mindful Meditation will introduce you to more techniques to use during meditation.