‘All that we are is the answer of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts; it is made up of our thoughts.’ – Dhammapada
These lines from the ancient Buddhist scriptures hint that the mental states we experience are the key to everything that goes around us.
If you want to transform yourself and reach an exalted mental state, then we will guide you on how to practice Buddhist meditation.
What is Buddhist meditation?
Buddhist meditation is different from regular meditation, as it focuses completely on mental abilities to see beyond distractions.
Unto the true nature of things.
It creates a full awareness in the practitioner, separating the physical body from the thoughts and feelings.
Buddhist meditation does not have a religious element. It is solely used for therapy, advancing health, and boosting the immune system.
It can be practiced by people belonging to all cultures. Provided that they are ready to open their minds.
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What is the experience like?
Anyone who has viewed a spectacular sunrise, or perhaps seen a beautiful picture, has experienced Buddhist meditation in some degrees.
It does not mean getting into a hypnotic state. Rather it is an attempt to unify the body and mind.
You become aware of your surroundings; breathing in each moment as it unfolds before you.
What are the advantages of Buddhist meditation?
- It has been clinically validated that Buddhist meditation improves cognitive function and emotional control. This form of meditation provides fodder for the brain, keeping it fit and active.
- It acts as a soothing balm for anxiety, stress, and depression
- Buddhist practices are known to relieve insomnia.
- It can lower blood pressure and works wonders for anger management.
- The loving kindness meditation brings about peace and understanding.
How to practice Buddhist meditation?
You can practice Buddhist meditation on your own, or as part of a larger group.
Remember, the aim of meditation is to still the mind.
Group meditation can be carried out in retreats (called sesshin), or in meditation rooms (called zendo). It can also be done in any peaceful background.
4 Different types of Buddhist Meditation
It can be practiced in 4 diverse ways. They include:
There is no distinct boundary between the four types. This list is derived by Buddhist teachers based on ancient Asian Buddhist scriptures.
Things you will need
- Yoga Mattress
- Comfortable clothing
- Bottle of water
Following are the different steps to practice the various forms of mediation:
Step 1: Pick a suitable time and place
The best thing about Buddhist meditation is that it can be practiced during any hour of the day. Select a time that suits you best.
It can be in the early morning when your mind is clear and devoid of stress.
You can also practice it before going to bed. This helps you release all the pent up stress and free your mind.
The only thing you need to ensure is that you are not too tired. Keep in mind that meditation requires immense focus and concentration.
Selecting the place
You can meditate in any location that is calm and peaceful.
Tibetan monks are known to clean their rooms before beginning to meditate. You can take a leaf out of their books and do the same.
The following is a famous Buddhist saying that will get you thinking:
A monk once said to his teacher
“I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please instruct me on meditation, Master.”
The teacher asked, “Did you have your breakfast?”
“Yes, I did,” the monk replied.
“Then,” said the Master, “wash your bowls.”
The monk then had an epiphany.
Make sure that the setting is such that you are not disturbed. Turn off your cell phone before starting.
Step 2: Get into a comfortable pose
The classic meditation pose is called ‘the Lotus position.’
Sit cross-legged with the left foot over the right thigh, and the right foot over the left thigh. Your spine should be straight.
Support the natural curve of your spine by sitting on a raised pillow. Sitting in a natural position will help to strengthen your core muscles and make deep meditation easier for longer periods.
Try not to slouch or overexert yourself.
You can also try sitting on a chair if you need back support.
Step 3: Relax your body and mind
Try to get your body in a comfortable position. You may bend your head forward slightly and relax your shoulders.
Close your eyes slightly. It is best to keep your eyes semi-closed, but you may shut them off completely if it is distracting.
In the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen, the meditator sits with their eyes open.
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and swallow in. This tends to reduce the saliva in your mouth and decreases the need to swallow.
Step 4: Gently go into deep meditation
First, ask yourself the reason behind meditating.
Calm the mind and focus on one emotion at a time.
You can try out some chants to help you get started.
There are many variations of these mantras. You should find a version that inspires and calms you. These chants should soothe your mind and help you meditate:
Sabbe Satta sukhi hontu
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
You can also try the Bodhisatta Avalokiteshwara
or the Seven limbed prayer to purify the mind of pride and arrogance.
Respectfully, I prostrate with my body, speech, and mind.
I present clouds of every type of offering; actual, and mentally imagined.
I confess all my destructive actions since beginningless time,
And rejoice in the virtues of all beings, holy and ordinary.
Please, teacher, stay until cyclic existence ends,
And turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
I dedicate all the virtues of myself and others to the great enlightenment.
Step 5: Focus on your breathing
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Concentrate on each breath. Feel each inhalation and exhalation.
- Feel your abdomen rise and fall.
- Do not control your breathing, simply feel it.
Step 6: Allow your thoughts to flow freely
Garchen Ripoche has said that you should not try to obstruct your mind. Just allow them to flow freely.
Recognize their existence, but do not pursue them
Let them come and go of their accord.
Step 7: Try to become the master of your emotions.
Explore each feeling as it courses through your body.
The more you meditate, the better you get at moving past distractions.
- Pain – If you feel pain then try to imagine that your body is a vessel. Then, picture that you are standing outside this vessel and reflect on the pain and its causes. Do not let it consume you.
- Desire – Try to realize that desire is transient. It will come and go. Try to wash it out of your mind and body as you meditate deeply.
- Restlessness – Try to calm the body and focus on your breathing. Quell the restlessness with will-power and feel it leaving your mind.
- Tiredness – Gently try to remove all tiredness from the body. Imagine you are focusing on a white light which makes your mind more alert.
Step 8: Add loving kindness meditation
You can train your mind to be kinder and more compassionate towards those around you.
Try to develop loving-kindness towards:
- Your teachers, or any other respectful people
- Those you love
- A neutral person
- A hostile being
Arouse the feeling of loving kindness through:
- Reflection: By thinking about the positive qualities of the person you are considering.
- Visualization: By picturing the person you are considering with a smile on your face.
- By reciting the loving kindness prayer
Step 9: Visualizing a meditation candle
Try breathing slowly and deeply. Count your breath. Count to ten without any distraction.
Repeat the count again from one. If you are distracted, take note of your thoughts, and start again.
Imagine a still candle flame and try to concentrate on it. Visualize it.
You can also imagine a flower or any other soothing object instead of a candle. Use beads and prayer wheels if required.
Step 10: Things that will help you in Buddhist meditation
- Turn your focus away from the outside world and concentrate on your inner thoughts.
- Be patient.
- Have respect and loving kindness towards others.
- Embrace a positive attitude. Avoid all negativity.
- Train your mind to go deep into meditation.
- Maintain a good posture.
- Avoid slipping into a sleepy or dull state during meditation.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Chant a mantra during meditation.
- Keep all distractions aside. Do not let them enter your mind.
The aim of Buddhist meditation is to:
- Know the mind
- Train the mind
- Free the mind
With Buddhist practices, aim to walk in the ‘three-fold path’ of training.
- Develop the ethics for spiritual enlightenment.
- Lead a simple life and engage in samadhi (meditation) regularly.
- Develop prajna (wisdom) to enhance perception in life.
Try to meditate for 15 minutes each day. Increase the time to become more adept at meditation.
If you develop pain or feel uncomfortable, then stop immediately. Consult a doctor if pain persists.
When you are not consumed by craving or aversion, you will experience the world in a whole new light. You will experience feelings of kindness and generosity towards others.
This will help in improving your personality. Gradually the distracting thoughts will subside, and you will experience inner peace.
We hope that this article on how to do Buddhist meditation has been helpful to you.