Religion: Buddhism, THE BASICS OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION
Buddhism, Religion Buddhism, Buddhism Religion. THE BASICS OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION:
THE BASICS OF BUDDHIST MEDITATION
Buddhism began by encouraging its practitioners to engage in smrti (sati) or mindfulness, that is, developing a full consciousness of all about you and within you -- whether seated in a special posture, or simply going about one's life. This is the kind of meditation that Buddha himself engaged in under the bodhi tree, and is referred to in the seventh step of the eightfold path.
Soon, Buddhist monks expanded and formalized their understanding of meditation. The bases for all meditation, as it was understood even in the earliest years of Buddhism, are shamatha and vipashyana.
Shamatha is often translated as calm abiding or peacefulness. It is the development of tranquility that is a prerequisite to any further development. Vipashyana is clear seeing or special insight, and involves intuitive cognition of suffering, impermanence, and egolessness.
Only after these forms were perfected does one go on to the more heavy-duty kinds of meditation. Samadhi is concentration or one-pointed meditation. It involves intense focusing of consciousness.
Samadhi brings about the four dhyanas, meaning absorptions. Buddha refers to samadhi and the dhyanas in the eighth step of the eightfold path, and again at his death. Dhyana is rendered as Jhana in Pali, Ch'an in Chinese, Son in Korean, and Zen in Japanese, and has, in those cultures, become synonymous with meditation as a whole.
The most basic form of meditation involves attending to one's breath.
Begin by sitting in a simple chair, keeping your back erect if you can. The more traditional postures are the lotus position, sitting on a pillow with each foot upon the opposite thigh, and variations such as the half lotus (one foot on the opposite thigh, the other out in front of the opposite knee). This is difficult for many people. Some people kneel, sitting back on their legs or on a pillow between their legs. Many use a meditation bench: kneel, then place a little bench beneath your behind. But meditation is also done while standing, slowly walking, lying on the floor, or even in a recliner!
Traditionally, the hands are placed loosely, palms up, one on top of the other, and with the thumbs lightly touching. This is called the cosmic mudra, one of a large number of symbolic hand positions. You may prefer to lay them flat on your thighs, or any other way that you find comfortable.
Your head should be upright, but not rigid. The eyes may be closed, or focussed on a spot on the ground a couple of feet ahead of you, or looking down at your hands. If you find yourself getting sleepy, keep your eyes open!
Beginning meditators are often asked to count their breath, on the exhale, up to ten. Then you begin back at one. If you loose track, simply go back to one. Your breath should be slow and regular, but not forced or artificially controlled. Just breathe naturally and count.