You’re undoubtedly well aware of the rich benefits of Buddhism meditation by now. Question is, how many Buddhist meditation practices are you familiar with? Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was a well-known enlightened teacher who shared deep insights aimed at ending suffering among sentient beings. A variety of the Buddha’s teachings have been passed from one generation to another initially through oral tradition and later preserved in sacred Buddhist texts. There’s a wide array of Buddhist meditation techniques, all of which help meditators to develop mindfulness, tranquility (Pali: samatha) and insight (vipassana).
How do Buddhists Meditate?
- Metta/loving kindness
One of the most popular Buddhist meditation practices is Metta (or lovingkindness) meditation. This type of meditation is highly encouraged in Mahayana Buddhism. According to this tradition, a meditator focuses on his/her own liberation before working for the benefit of others. To practice Metta meditation, one technique is to first visualize Buddha sitting in front of you, surrounded by other great Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of old. Feel the tremendous love that emanates from their hearts and pour into yours. Also visualize your loved ones sitting behind you, together with your parents, friends and all of humanity, even your enemies. Feel the immense flow of love pouring throughout, cleansing and purifying your entire essence.
- Samatha and Vipassana
Samatha and Vipassana meditations are major Theravada Buddhist meditation practices that involves cultivating a mind of calmness, as well as clarity and insight, which leads ultimately to liberation. The initial stages of these practices are often taught as basic mindfulness practice, as follows:
- Sit in a comfortable meditation posture: find a pose that doesn’t hurt your back or knees. Any crossed legged position is suitable, but you can also sit on a chair. Ensure that your back is straight and avoid slumping your backbone.
- Observe your breath: Use your normal breathing. It isn’t necessary manipulate your breath, use abdominal breathing or have long, deep in-breaths and out-breaths. Just pay attention to your breath, one breath at a time. Make sure that your awareness is focused but be gentle, with an attitude of making friends with yourself.
- Observe each thought that pops into your mind without engaging them. Simply observe thoughts as they enter and leave your mind. We call this touch and go. Let the thought arise, touch on it gently, and then let it go.
- The Brahmavihara or Four Immeasurables
These refer to a collection of 4 Buddhist virtues that include loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy. When cultivated, these 4 immeasurable Buddhist meditation virtues can cause meditators to achieve a deep sense of reflection and self-awareness.
- Loving-kindness refers to the cultivating the presence of love and goodwill towards both yourself and others.
- Compassion helps you to identify the suffering that others are experiencing, putting yourself in their shoes for a change.
- Sympathetic joy enables us to feel immense joy when other people are happy and are experiencing the results of their own meritorious activities.
- Equanimity refers to achieving a state of serenity and even-mindedness. This not only means treating everyone equally and fairly, but on a profound level you see everything that arises without discriminating between what you like and don’t like. You become accepting of everything.
Guided Buddhist Meditation
If you’re just starting your Buddhist meditation practice but aren’t quite sure how to go about it, try using the guided Buddhist meditation. You could either use online resources or download a meditation app directly to your phone. The Mindworks: Guided Meditation App, for instance, contains a variety of daily meditations that will guide you in your sessions. It also contains helpful Mind Talks from numerous meditation experts. Trungram Gyalwa, for instance, talks about the immense benefits of meditation in one of this inspiring mind talks. He also leads you through a comprehensive guided meditation technique to help you work with frenemies.
Apart from using guided Buddhist meditation, you could also join your local meditation class. It’s a great way to interact with other like-minded people and achieve amazing meditation experiences. Now that we’ve answered how do Buddhist meditate, it’s time to try it out for yourself. Have fun!