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meditation in buddhism

Meditation & Buddhism !

See also in this page:
*Types of Meditation
*Zen Meditation
*The Happiest M

Meditation is a mental and physical course of action that a person uses to separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings inorder to become fully aware.
It plays a part in virtually all religions although some don't use the word 'meditation' to describe their particular meditative or contemplative practice.
Meditation does not always have a religious element. It is a natural part of the human experience and is increasingly used as a therapy for promoting good health and boosting the immune system.
Anyone who has lookedat a sunset or a beautiful painting and felt calm and inner joy, while their mind becomes clear and theirperception sharpens, has had a taste of the realm of meditation.
Successful meditation means simply being - not judging, not thinking, just being aware, at peace and living each moment as it unfolds.

What is Buddhist meditation?
In Buddhism the personmeditating is not trying to get into a hypnotic state or contact angels or any other supernatural entity.
Meditation involves the body and the mind. For Buddhists this is particularly important as they want to avoid what they call 'duality' and so their way of meditating must involve the body and the mind as a single entity.
In the most general definition, meditation is a way of taking control of the mind so that it becomes peaceful and focused, and the meditator becomes more aware.
The purpose of meditation is to stop the mind rushing about in an aimless (or even a purposeful) stream of thoughts. People often say that the aim of meditation is to still themind.
There are a number of methods of meditating - methods which have been used for a long time and have been shown to work. People can meditate on their own or in groups.
Meditating in a group - perhaps at a retreat called a sesshin or in a meditation room or zendo - has the benefit of reminding a person that they are both part of a larger Buddhist community, and part ofthe larger community of beings of every species.

Meditation in Buddhism and Christianity
David Midgley is founding director of theJamyang Buddhist Centre Leeds. Dr Susan Blackmore is Lecturer in Psychology at the University of the West of England and Bristol. They discuss meditation practices with Liz Watson, director of the London Christian Meditation Centre.

Working with the mind
All that we are is the result of what we havethought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.
Dhammapada Chapter 1:1-2
These lines from the ancient Buddhist scripture the Dhammapada suggest that the mental states we experience are the key to everything in ourlives.
If we are consumed by craving or aversion, we will experience the world very differently from the way we will experience it if we are overflowing with generosity and kindness.
Buddhist meditation is an invitation to turn one's awareness away from the world of activity that usually preoccupies us to the inner experience of thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
For Buddhists, the realm of meditation comprises mental states such as calm, concentration and one-pointedness (whichcomprises the six forces: hearing, pondering, mindfulness,awareness, effort and intimacy).
The practice of meditation is consciously employing particular techniques that encourage these states to arise.

Methods of meditation
Some classical meditation methods use the meditator's own breathing. They may just sit and concentrate on their breathing... not doing anything to alter the way they breathe, not worrying about whether they're doing itright or wrong, not even thinking about breathing; just 'following' the breathingand 'becoming one' withthe breathing.
It is important not to think: "I am breathing". When a person does that they separate themselves from the breathing and start thinking of themselves as separate from whatthey are doing - the aimis just to be aware of breathing.
A meditation candle
This is more difficult than it sounds. Some meditators prefer to count breaths, trying tocount up to ten withoutany distraction at all, and then starting again at one. If they get distracted they notice the distraction and go back to counting.
But there are many methods of meditation - some involve chanting mantras, some involve concentrating on a particular thing (such asa candle flame or a flower).
Nor does meditation have to involve keeping still; walking meditationis a popular Zen way of doing it, and repetitive movements using beads or prayer wheels are used in other faiths.

The 'three trainings'
In the West, for many of those who want to explore a spiritual path, meditation is the first thing they encounter.
In Buddhist tradition, meditation is the second part of the 'threefold path'.
There are many formulations of the Buddhist path to spiritual awakening but the threefold path is generally seen as the most basic one.
The first training, and the indispensable basis for spiritual development, according to the Buddha, is ethics ( shila ).
Buddhism does not have laws or commandments but itsfive ethical precepts areguidelines for how to live in a way that avoids harming others or oneself.
Meditation ( samadhi ) is the second training. Acting ethically gives rise to a simpler life anda clear conscience, which are a sound basisfor meditation practice.
Meditation clarifies and concentrates the mind in preparation for the third training: developingwisdom ( prajna ). The real aim of all Buddhist practice is to understand the true nature of our lives and experience.

Types of Meditation

The four types of meditation:
A useful way of understanding the diversity of meditation practices is to think of the different types of meditation.
These practices are known as:
*. Concentrative
*. Generative
*. Receptive
*. Reflective
This isn't a traditional list - it comes from modern meditation teachers who draw on more than one Asian Buddhist tradition. Neither are there hard and fast distinctions.
A particular meditation practice usually includeselements of all four approaches but with the emphasis on one particular aspect.
Connected with meditation, but not quite the same as it, is the practice of mindfulness. This, too, is an essential part of Buddhist practice and means becoming more fully aware of what one is experiencing in all aspects of one's life.
Mindfulness always plays a part in meditation, but meditation, in the sense of setting out to become more and moreconcentrated, is not necessarily a part of mindfulness.

If you focus your attention on an object it gradually becomes calmer and more concentrated.
In principle, any object will do - a sound, a visual image such as a candle flame, or a physical sensation.
In the tantric Buddhism of Tibet and elsewhere,meditators visualise complex images of Buddha forms and recite sacred sounds or mantras (in fact these images and sounds have significance beyond simply being objects of concentration).
But the most common and basic object of concentrative meditation is to focus on the naturally calmingphysical process of the breath.
In the 'mindfulness of breathing', one settles the mind through attending to the sensations of breathing.
There are many variations on how this is done. Here is a common version of the practice:
*. In the first stage of the practice you follow the breath as itenters and leaves the body and count after the out-breath.
*. After the first breath you count 'two', and so on up to ten and then start again from one.
*. In the second stage the count comes before the in-breath.
*. In the third stage you stop counting and attend to the sensations of the breath entering and leaving the body.
*. In the fourth stage you focus your attention on the tip ofyour nose where the breath first comes into contact with the skin.
*. Concentrative meditation practices can lead you into deeper and deeper states of absorption known as dhyana in Buddhism.

An example of a 'generative' practice is the 'development of loving kindness' meditation ( metta bhavana ). This helps the person meditating to develop an attitude of loving kindness usingmemory, imagination and awareness of bodily sensations.
In the first stage you feel metta for yourself with the help of an image like golden light or phrases such as 'may I be well and happy, may I progress.'
In the second stage you think of a good friend and, using an image, a phrase, or simply the feeling of love, you develop mettatowards them.
In the third stage metta is directed towards someone you do not particularly like or dislike.
In the fourth stage it isdirected towards someone you actually dislike.
In the last stage, you feel metta for all four people at once - yourself, the friend, theneutral person and the enemy.
Then you extend the feeling of love from your heart to everyone in the world, to all beings everywhere.
Scripture on this practice says: 'As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. With goodwill for the entire cosmos cultivate a limitless heart.' (Metta Sutta)
Other generative practices in Buddhism include tonglen - the Tibetan practice of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out a purifying white light. This practice is aimed at cultivating compassion.

In the mindfulness of breathing or the metta bhavana meditation practice, a balance needs to be struck between consciously guiding attention and being receptive to whatever experience is arising.
This attitude of open receptive attention is the emphasis of the receptive type of meditation practice.
Sometimes such practices are simply concerned with being mindful. In zazen or 'just sitting' practice from the Japanese Zen tradition, one sits calmly, aware of what is happening in one's experience without judging, fantasising or trying to change things.
A similar practice in Tibetan tradition is dzogchen . In both cases, the meditator sits with their eyes open. (Usually people close their eyes to meditate).
Zazen and ...

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