MeditationWhy Do Buddhists Meditate?

Meditation is one of the most powerful and meaningful practices we undertake in spiritual life. It is a means for self-development and transformation.

Practice of meditation offers means for

  • Cultivation of inner calm
  • Getting to know ourselves more fully
  • Integration of motivations and energies
  • Cultivation of positive states such as compassion and equanimity
  • Transformation of unhelpful or difficult emotions
  • Finding refuge from stresses and over-stimulation of busy modern life
  • Realization of spiritual truths

The Buddhist tradition offers rich and subtle teachings for the practice of meditation leading to full realization of spiritual and human potential.

Types of Meditation

There are two broad ‘classes’ of meditation:

Samatha – leading to calm, integration and concentration
Vipassana -  leading to insights and understanding of the nature of reality

Both strands of practice are part of a Buddhist path. A practitioner generally begins with establishing a foundation of calmness and concentration, making the mind pliable and the heart receptive to a further stage of investigation and reflection on the nature of existence. In the course of a consistent meditation practice, many realizations and changes in the psyche will occur naturally along the way.

Our Core Meditation FormsMeditation

There are many specific methods or ‘forms’ of meditation in the Buddhist tradition. At Aryaloka, and in the Triratna community, we emphasize practice of two forms for the foundation of an effective meditation practice:

Mindfulness of Breathing

  • Practiced in 4 stages of progressive subtlety
  • Based in a strong body-focus
  • Develops focus, ability to direct attention, and appreciation of the mind’s capacities
  • Offers a powerful stabilizing and integrating effect on our whole being

Metta Bhavana (cultivation of loving-kindness)

  • Practiced in 5 stages encompassing different kinds of relationships in our lives
  • We begin by cultivating deep attention and kindness towards ourselves, then in turn, towards a good friend, someone we do not know well, someone with whom we have difficulty, and finally, all beings equally, without preference.
  • Develops positive emotions of friendliness, kindness, compassion,  sympathetic joy and equanimity
  • These are cultivated through a ‘family’ of four meditations all based in Metta called the Brahmaviharas or ‘Sublime Abodes’
  • Based in our natural capacity for love, kindness and care, and the many common experiences we have with other beings: all desire safety, well-being, happiness, and fulfillment
  • Based in the truth of interconnectedness; what benefits ourself or another, has positive effects on a whole family, community, or even the world

Other Meditation Practices Common in the Triratna Community

  • Walking meditation
  • ‘Just Sitting’ – a form of open and receptive balanced awareness
  • The Brahmaviharas mentioned above
  • Reflections on the 12 Nidanas or links of conditioned causality
  • Contemplation of the Six Elements
  • Mula Yogas (These practices are undertaken by members of the Order)
  • Going for Refuge and Prostration Practice
  • Awakening of the Bodhicitta
  • Vajrasattva Sadhana
  • Guru Yoga
  • Visualizations of (These practices are usually taken up during training for ordination and after ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order):

    • The Refuge Tree – a devotion to the teachers of present and past and Buddhas of all ages
    • Of Enlightened figures (a partial list):
      • Bodhisattvas such as Padmasambhava, Manjugosha, Tara, Avalokitesvara and others
      • Buddhas such as Shakyamuni Buddha, the Five Jinas (Akshobya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amogasiddhi, Vairochana), Prajnaparamita

Our Path of Practice

Meditation as part of our path of transformation falls into a ‘system’ that has been drawn out by Sangharakshita, founder of the Triratna Order and community. While the system can be seen in terms of specific meditation practices, it is more appropriately understood as stages or aspects of our path. These are, in brief:

  • Integration
  • Positive Emotion
  • Spiritual Death
  • Spiritual Rebirth

No matter what one hopes to gain from starting a meditation practice, benefits will come. Each time we meditate is a new experience, a new opportunity for greater depth of awareness and positive growth.

More: The Benefits of Retreat