What is "meditation"?

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Rakshasa
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What is "meditation"?

Postby Rakshasa » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:55 am

Since I am not very well versed in either Pali or Sanskrit (or Tibetan or Chinese), I read the Sutras/Suttas in English translations. The English translations of many Sutras also include terms like "meditation" which although in English may have a singular meaning (deep thought), it seems deficient in representing the origin terms and ideas in the Indic languages for which it is substituted.

I have my own ideas about what exactly is "meditation" and what are the forms of meditation available in the market but have no idea how they correspond to the actual types (or rather terms) in Buddhist language.

By my own experience, whenever I sit in the cross legged Lotus posture (actually half Lotus), I have the following three options to choose from:

1. Calm the mental activity, body and relax naturally. Energy is conserved here. Not focused on any particular object.
2. Sharpen the concentration by focusing on a single object and lead to single-pointedness of mind. Energy is expended here and I get tired afterwards.
3. Observe all the Dharmas. Improve mindfulness and wakefulness. Four Stations of Mindfulness.Vippassana.

In terms of the object of focus of mind, we could alternatively define the above three differently as:

1. Focus no nothing.
2. Focus on One thing.
3. Focus on everything.

Examples of the above three types of "meditation" would be IMO:

1. Shinkatza, Void meditation, wall-gazing, sky-gazing etc.
2. Anapanasati, Nembutsu, staring at a candle, etc.
3. Four Stations of mindfulness


I thoroughly believe that all the types of meditations available in the world can all be categorized into any of these three categories - there is no fourth type of meditation (Even Dzogchen fits there I think). I would like to know what are the peculiar benefits of each of these types of meditation and which one is emphasized by the Buddha (or by different sects).

Which of these leads to Jhanas? Which one leads to the understanding of Prajna? Which one leads to Nirvana?

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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Yudron » Sun Dec 09, 2012 8:45 am

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Ukigumo
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Ukigumo » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:00 am

This might be helpful:



Note how mindfulness of the breath is linked up to the 'four frames of reference' (satipatthana) - which the Shakyamuni as the direct path to nirvana. Basically anapanasati is supposed to be used to establish the Four Frames of Reference and the Seven Factors of Awakening.

I have to admit that even though I consider myself a (non-sectarian) Mahayana Buddhist, I don't know much about Mahayana Sutras that teach meditation. I've been taught meditation from both Theravadins and from the Chan tradition; both emphasis mindfulness of the breath.
All compound phenomena are like a dream;
a phantom, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning
That is how to meditate on them
That is how to observe them

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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby icylake » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:47 am

the original term must be dhyana or sammadhi, in chinese usually traslated as "Ding", or "Chan". i don't know much about Terabada or Tibetan buddhism. but i've heard that all of buddhist meditations are consisted of 'concentration(sammadhi)" and "insight(vipashana)". even Koan zen has the both at the same time.
and "Sutra of Great enlightment" , "Shurangama sutra" , "Avatamsaka sutra" or "the great tretise of the stages of enlightment" describing the stages of Mahayana(Boddhisattva) dhyana in detail.

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Astus
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Astus » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:44 am

The two categories used are calming (samatha) and insight (vipasyana) to define meditation (bhavana). It is like this in Theravada and both Eastern and Northern Mahayana. The so called special forms like shikantaza and mahamudra are presented either as vipasyana or as the union of samatha and vipasyana.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Rakshasa
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Rakshasa » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:12 pm

Is mindfulness a form of calming (shamatha) or insight (vipassana)? Interesting that you say Shamatha is a form of calming the mind, I like allowing all the thoughts and mental activity to calm down just by sitting in lotus posture with erect spine and trying to relax every muscle of my body so I must be practicing Shamatha.

Where would you categorize "focusing" in the Buddhist scheme of meditation? Someone once told me that if you practice to stare at a candle light with complete focus for long time, you may develop psychic abilities. Since there is effort and mental focus required I dont think this could be classified as "Shamatha" (calming), right?

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Rakshasa
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Rakshasa » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:15 pm


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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby lowlydog » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:00 pm


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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby muni » Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:13 pm


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Astus
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Astus » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:16 pm

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Jainarayan
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:00 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby juliaaflowers » Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:57 pm

5 Steps Towards Meditation Mastery: http://youtu.be/FBRKczWj6Qc
Julia A. Flowers

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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby DGA » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:13 pm


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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Feathers » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:57 am


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randomseb
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby randomseb » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:37 am

In Zen it seems, based on the texts of the Patriarchs and ancient sages anyway, "meditation" seems to be not doing anything at all. That includes not doing "not doing". They discourse, for example, about how if you "calm your mind", you are actively "calming your mind", therefore you are busy doing something, not doing nothing, and so the point seems to be to just "watch", without specifically watching anything.. Just being and being aware of this being, sort of thing. By this practice, they say, your mind will "clean itself" naturally. That's all paraphrased of course.

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Rakshasa
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Rakshasa » Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:21 am

I agree with you.

The first step of relieving one's mind from grasping dharmas is relieving the muscular tension on the head. People won't believe but our involvement in different matters, our deep thinking, our day dreaming etc manifests as a tension on our skull and other parts. So when I suddenly remember about Buddhism in the middle of my thought process or involvement with different affairs, the first thing that happens is that I suddenly realize that my head was quite tense, and I automatically relieve it (and feel easy in the body and mind). Unfortunately, this only happens for a minute or two, after which I am again grasping at different things.

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Jainarayan
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Jainarayan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:11 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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randomseb
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby randomseb » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:09 pm


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Jainarayan
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Re: What is "meditation"?

Postby Jainarayan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:59 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273


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