Buddhist meditation has become increasingly popular as of late, with more and more people looking to find peace and solace in our confusing and hectic world. Being extremely similar to mindfulness meditation, Buddha meditation enables you to clear your head from any negative thoughts and impurities and discover your true inner self.
What is Buddhist Meditation?
This meditation practice refers to those meditation techniques that have been preserved in Buddhist texts and are associated with the philosophy of Buddhism.
Buddhists are willing to use Buddhist meditation to achieve Nirvana or Enlightenment and to learn how to discover their minds, train their minds and free their minds.
Buddhist meditation aims to develop concentration, mindfulness, insight, tranquility and supramundane powers. Even thought experts think that there are tens of buddhist meditation techniques, commonly there are only two recognized types of buddhist meditation: samatha and vipassana.
Before looking at these techniques, I would like tell you more about the Buddhist practice and show you some of my discoveries in this area.
Mindfulness and the Buddhist Practice
Probably one of the main uses of Buddhist practice is to achieve mind freedom and clarity. Most people who practice this type of meditation are ready to reap the benefits of mindfulness for their minds. In fact, Buddhist meditation can’t be practice without keeping into account the importance and benefits of mindfulness.
Every Buddhist session included in buddhist meditation classes has three main components:
- Know the Mind
It is extremely easy to spend your days being caught up in various concerns, thoughts, worries or other activities that make you lose your purpose and focus in life. Most people are clueless as to what motivates them and are unable to motivate their feelings and reactions.
The first and most important step in a Buddhist meditation session is understanding the mind and finding your purpose in life. This first step is a process of discovery, highlighting what is happening in the mind and trying to pinpoint its effects on the body.
Instead of trying to make things happen and being unsuccessful, try and know your mind first. Many people, including me, who have made countless New Year’s resolutions, were not able to meet them until we stood in silence and tried to discover who we really are and how the mind works. Just observing the mind can be quite a relief and a radical change in your life.
- Train your Mind
After you get to know your mind, Buddhist meditation helps you train it. Because the mind is pliable and malleable, you can actually shape and train it in countless ways. If you do not take responsibility for your own mind, external forces, such as media, companions, advertisements or rules & regulations will try to shape it.
Even a little mindfulness meditation from time to time can reveal what types of conflict you have with yourself and can help you train your mind in order to get rid of any external threats. You can develop an increased stability and a deeper concentration, while ensuring you stay away from any form of conflict, such as anger, confusion, aversion, negative ambition, despair or discouragement.
- Free your Mind
After you have trained your mind to stay strong and not be influenced by any external factors, you need to use your Buddhist practice to free your mind of any things you are clinging to. Everything you cling to will drastically limit your mind’s peace and freedom. Some of the most common things you can cling to include: self-image, pleasure, judgments, desire, ideals, people, opinions and possessions.
Once you manage to set your mind free using loving kindness meditation, you are now ready enjoy the wisdom, peace and freedom you’ve always dreamed of experiencing.
Types of Buddhist Meditation
As stated above, there are two main Buddhist meditation types:
Also known as tranquility meditation, this type of Buddhist meditation is mainly used to still the mind, train it and help it to concentrate. In this type of meditation, the object of meditation is less important the meditation session in itself. Some of the objects you can use to concentrate include repulsive things, devices, virtues or recollections.
Samatha meditation has four unique phases:
– Detachment from the exterior and an in-depth realization of the joy and tranquility waiting for you.
– Deep concentration with suppression of any reasoning or investigation.
– Removal of the joy while maintaining a deep sense of tranquility.
– The removal of tranquility while gaining a deeper sense of self-possession and perfect acceptance of your self.
Also known as insight meditation, this unique type of Buddhist meditation is similar in nature to the Samatha practice, but has a different goal. While the purpose of Samatha is to still your mind and help you concentrate, the purpose of Vipassa is to focus outwardly rather than inwardly. In other words, you will begin to realize important truths about the external world.
While practicing Vipassa, you gain the precious skill of mindfulness. You can practice it whether standing, sitting or walking. Practicing this type of meditation in your everyday activities enables you to fully participate in every activity while focusing on improving your inner self.
Also known as metta bhavana, this type of meditation is part of the Buddhist spectrum. Loving kindness is one of the most important virtues in Buddhism, so metta bhavana has been created as a way to develop this unique virtue. This practice is complementary or supplemental to the other two types of Buddhist meditation.
The purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to enable you to develop the beneficial habit of offering altruistic love. In the first stage of this type of meditation, you begin to focus on sending love and kindness to specific groups of people, in this exact order:
– A teacher or an elder you greatly respect.
– A close friend or a family member you love.
– An acquaintance or a neutral person, someone that does not evoke you certain feelings.
– An enemy person or someone you have hostile feelings towards.
Starting with yourself, your goal is to evoke positive feelings towards each person in the order listed above. Some of the tools you can use to achieve this include:
– Visualization: you should try to imagine that person looking happy, joyful and full of positive feelings towards you.
– Reflection: start to reflect on the acts of kindness performed by that specific person and consider his positive qualities.
– Mantra: repeat a mantra that fits your personality. You can repeat it loudly or silently, however you see fit.
Once you have completed this stage, you can move on to the next stage, called “Directional Pervasion”. In this stage, your aim is to project positive feelings of love and kindness in each of the main four geographical directions: west, north, east and south.
Tips on Practicing Buddhist Meditation
You can easily learn how to practice Buddhist meditation and people I have encountered informed me that you could learn it in less than one month. Many of them did sessions at their home, but there are also several Buddhist meditation retreats around the world.
In Buddhist meditation sessions, you can also use certain buddhist prayers. You can find plenty of prayers on the Internet.
Using a Buddhist prayer is part of your meditation practice. Once you learn a few Buddhist meditation chants or mantras, keep repeating them in your head or voice them out loud. Pray for your happiness and for the happiness of your whole family. You can also use Tibetan prayer beads to aid you in your prayer effort.
Here is a quick guide to help you get started with Buddhist meditation:
- Find a soft cushion or a pillow to sit on: it is imperative to sit on something comfortable. The floor is not always the best choice, unless you have a comfortable, large carpet. I recommend buying a zabuton or a zafu on the Internet.
- Choose a secluded, quiet room: it is practically impossible to meditate for the first time in a room full of noise, with children screaming around and with the TV turned on Animal Planet. Turn off your TV, get everyone out of the room or simply go and find a secluded room where you can spend quality time with yourself.
After a few weeks meditating, external noise will not matter so much, and you will even be able to meditate in harsh conditions without being affected by noise or movement.
- Choose your own style: in the beginning, it is recommended to start meditating with your legs crossed or kneeling. However, after a few months, you can start practicing walking meditation or even running Buddhist meditation.
After you have crossed your legs, let your hands rest on your lap, be comfortable and relaxed, and start meditating. Start counting your breaths and try not to be distracted by annoying thoughts.
In the beginning, try to meditate for just a few minutes, and try just to clear your head of thoughts. After a few sessions, you can try to use certain Buddhist meditation techniques in order to reap the benefits of this activity. You can also start listening to Buddhist meditation music.
Should you Listen to Buddhist meditation music while Meditating?
Whether we are talking about tibetan buddhist meditation or guided buddhist meditation, it is important to discover if listening to music is the best decision you can take. The naked truth is that the powerful surges of positive energy that music provides you are incomparable with many other feelings. For instance, people who love rock feel a heightened state when listening to a great rock song such as “Numb” or “New Divide” by Linkin Park.
The same is true for people who practice exercising or work out at the gym. Disco or trance music has unmistakable benefits in their case. Thus, there is no problem listening to meditation music. There are a lot of amazing tracks that can help you take your meditation sessions to the next level.
Traditionally, meditation is all about silence, tranquility and the lack of noise. Traditional gurus would disagree with the use of music. However, more and more modern gurus accept this new trend, and Buddhist meditation practitioners are not afraid to follow.
Meditation music should be relaxing. However, in addition to this basic benefit, using the right Buddhist meditation chant complemented by the best meditation music you can find lets you become much more alert and focused. You also get to enjoy a deeper relaxation.
Of course, listening to music from the first time might be quite a daunting task. In the beginning, all you try to do is to clear your head of bombarding thoughts and remain focused on your breath. In this case, music might get in the way of your activity and might stop you from reaching your true potential.
However, after a few weeks or months, once you feel you are ready to go to the next level and advance in your Buddhist meditation sessions, you can start to capitalize on the amazing benefits of music. Music produces very pleasant feelings and lets you dive deeper into yourself.
If you listen to music while meditating, look online for some Buddhist meditation music or tracks and find some that you enjoy. If you choose to play the music on YouTube, make sure your laptop is not connected to Facebook or Skype, as you don’t want to be disturbed. Similarly, ensure your smartphone is on Quiet or Airplane mode.
Is Buddhist Meditation Right for you?
Buddhist meditation is an extremely beneficial practice for both your body and mind. If you fall into one of the following categories, you should definitely dive deep into this practice in order to reap its benefits:
– You want to gain inner peace.
– You want to step out of the ordinary.
– You need to increase your self-awareness and learn more things about yourself.
– You are eager to enjoy an increased self-esteem.
– You struggle with anxiety and you want to become calmer.
– You need a great source of inspiration.
– You struggle to find a rejuvenating activity that would renew your strength and help you to live each day at its fullest once again.
– You struggle with insomnia and are looking for a long-term cure for it.
– You want to connect with a higher power.
– You want to get to enjoy life more.