The top 10 posts in this section describe the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation. The rest of the posts in this section are on possible meditation subjects and can be used to clarify unresolved questions, and to gain samādhi. The first 11 posts should be followed in that order, at least initially.
1. We can get an idea of what “Buddhist Meditation” is, by looking at the Path described by the Buddha to achieve various stages of Nibbāna. Nibbāna is not an esoteric concept as many believe. That is why I like the synonyms “niveema” or “cooling down” because these terms do convey Nibbāna as something that is approached systematically and can be EXPERIENCED in the early stages even before the Sōtapanna stage.
- “Rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, Dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, Mōhakkhayō Nibbānan”, gives the essence of how this “cooling down” is attained.
- The more one gets rid of greed, hate, and ignorance, the more one experiences Nibbāna or “niveema” or “cooling down”.
- One does not, and one cannot, get rid of greed, hate, and ignorance in a few days. It is a gradual process. One can experience the “cooling down” to the extent one can purify the mind. And there will be ups and downs, especially in the early days, thus ONE MUST HAVE THE RESOLVE to stay on the Path.
- Some people just stay with breath meditation for “stress reduction”, and actually avoid anything to do with Nibbāna. They equate Nibbāna with extinction, but there is no need to worry; the fact that one has that mindset means that one is nowhere close to Nibbāna. I am not saying this in a derogatory way, but just as a fact. Until one experiences some “cooling down”, and get some idea about anicca, dukkha, anatta, it is very difficult to get an idea of what Nibbāna is.
2. Meditation provides ways to achieve this “cooling down” for the three types of people who are interested in meditation:
- Many people just want to practice some basic meditation that the Buddha advocated for achieving some “inner peace”.
- Some are convinced about the rebirth process, but are mainly concerned about getting a “good birth” in the next life.
- The main goal of this site is to provide enough material for one to attain the first stage of Nibbāna, the Sōtapanna stage. After that, one does not need outside help to complete the rest of the journey. However, there are many people who are either not ready to take that task yet, or are not yet convinced about the existence of 31 realms, process of rebirth, or Nibbāna.
3. In several posts I have tried to give an idea of what this “cooling down” is. You may want to read them again. They vary from a basic description to deeper details. Yet, they all deal with reducing greed, hate, and ignorance from our minds.
- The words greed and hate are clear, but many do not understand what is meant by ignorance. The post, “What is Avijja (Ignorance)?” gives a bit deeper description, but since it is really important, I want to say a few words here about ignorance.
- The “traditional method” for achieving some “cooling down” or “calming sensation” is to do “breath meditation” or “kasina meditation”. As I questioned in several posts, how can the greed, hate, or ignorance be removed via concentrating on one’s breath or some kasina object? Such meditation techniques DO NOT remove ignorance, and only SUPPRESS greed and hate.
- We need to start gradually reducing greed and hate from our minds; this called “sila” (pronounced “seela”) or moral living. Then one’s mind become clear, one starts feeling the nirāmisa sukha, and it will become easier to grasp Dhamma concepts and get rid of avijjā.
- Buddha Dhamma is for the wise; it is not to be followed by blind faith but with understanding. One needs to learn and “see” Dhamma first. A sustained “Cooling down” cannot be attained via following a set procedure like watching the breath.
- In fact, one could go a long way (up to the Sōtapanna stage) just by learning Dhamma and comprehending the key concepts. When one grasps the key concepts, it begins to dawn on oneself that it does not make sense to be too greedy, or to hate someone with a level of hatred that makes one’s heart to “heat up” to uncomfortable levels.
- Thus through better understanding of Dhamma (i.e., removing ignorance), one automatically “cools down”. Removing ignorance via learning Dhamma leads automatically to reducing greed and hate.
4. This is why “Sammā Ditthi” or “Correct Vision” comes first in the Noble Eightfold Path. Actually “sammā” means “san” + “mā” or “removing defilements”; but for brevity we will use the word “correct”. But keep in mind that “sammā ditthi” means “removing defilements through correct vision”. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning Dhamma. This is the first BIG step. Without understanding the message of the Buddha, how can one follow his Path?
- When one starts to understand the key Dhamma concepts, one constantly tend to think about such concepts and how they should be kept in mind while going through daily chores. This is “sammā sankappa” or “correct concepts”. This automatically lead to “sammā vācā” (correct speech), “sammā kammanta” (correct action), sammā ājiva (correct livelihood).
- When these five steps are followed, one becomes attuned to correct mindfulness (“sammā sati”). Yes. There is an “incorrect mindfulness” (“miccā sati”, pronounced “michchā sathi”) too, like when a master thief plans a robbery. One needs to be “engaged” or fully focused to accomplish any task either good or bad.
- With cultivated “sammā sati”, one will be able to “see” the consequences of any action very quickly and decide whether to go ahead with it (since only good can come out of that action) or to abandon it (because it is not good for oneself or to others).
- When one sees the benefits of these steps (i.e., “cooling down”) one will be motivated to work harder on all these steps, i.e., one cultivates “sammā vayama” (correct effort).
- The culmination is “sammā samādhi” (correct calm state of mind). Yes. There is a “micca samādhi” too: When that master thief is planning a big robbery, he gets into a kind of samādhi too; he feels a sense of calm too, but that will have very bad consequences down the road.
- Actually the latter three develop at the same time. In fact, one could get into “sammā samādhi” just via “sammā ditthi”. When one listens attentively to a Dhamma talk or gets absorbed in reading about a key Dhamma concept, it is possible that one could get into “samādhi”; a jhānic state is a deeper samādhi state.
5. This is why I recommend everyone to read these posts during a quiet time. One will absorb more and just by contemplating on the material while reading one could easily get into samādhi. This is what meditation is all about. “Absorbing the good” will automatically force the “bad” out, and one gets into samādhi automatically; we will talk about this “ānapāna” process in the following posts.
- It will get to the point that one can sit down and get into a jhāna within a minute or two. But that will take time.
- I hope you will be able to experience the LONG TERM benefits from the procedures we discuss in this post and the followup posts. Initially, it will be a bit slow, but if one sticks with it for a few months, one should be able to see a change in oneself that is not merely a temporary relief. For some it will be faster.
6. In this life we feel two kinds of suffering: bodily pains and aches as well as various diseases and mental suffering (disappointments to depression).
- Bodily ailments take time to recover; even those can be reduced by careful planning and being mindful too. If one engages in physical activity (ranging from walking to rigorous exercise) and be mindful of what one eats, many such ailments can be reduced over time.
- Mental suffering could have direct causes in greed, hate, and ignorance. While some are due to past kamma, most can be avoided or reduced by being mindful of what one thinks, speaks, and does. Any thought, speech, or bodily action arising from a greedy, hateful, or ignorant thought is going to cause mental anguish sooner or later.
- The easiest way to determine whether any action is bad is to contemplate on the consequences: if it is going to harm oneself or another being, then that action is rooted in greed, hate, or ignorance.
7. Thus Buddhist meditation is basically to cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path.
- By preventing from killing, stealing, verbal abuse, etc, what we are effectively doing is to “put out existing fires” in our minds and also prevent such “future fires” from starting. This is “niveema” or “cooling down” or Nibbāna.
- We should also do things that will help with such moral behavior: associating with like-minded people and environments, actively engaging in opposite moral behavior that makes the heart joyful, etc.
- The most important thing is to learn Dhamma so that one can “see” how all this will liberate one’s mind on a PERMANENT basis. The change becomes “permanent” only when this step is achieved.
When perfected, one will be doing meditation all day long while doing daily chores; this is what the Buddha described as “āsevitāya, bhāvithāya, bahuleekathāya” or “associate and use what is good, and do that as much as possible”.
- In a formal meditation session one does the same. The best is to read a post or two on a given Dhamma concept just before (or during) the session and then contemplate on those ideas. It is important to compare those concepts with one’s life experiences, and things will become clear with time: for example, why it is unfruitful to “live life lavishly, especially if that involves hurting oneself or others”.
- You will be surprised that this process itself will get you to samādhi, and even jhānas in the long term. But we will discuss some other variations too.
- As I have mentioned in several posts, one could even get to the Sōtapanna stage just via comprehending the key Dhamma concepts to some extent.
8. Buddha Dhamma is all about the mind; Anything we say or do also start with a thought. The Buddha said, “manōpubbangamā dhammā…”, “the mind takes precedence over everything else..”.
- It should be clear from the above discussion that Buddha’s meditation techniques are attuned to Nature’s laws. They can be followed by one with a religious background or by an atheist.
- One becomes a “Bhauddhayā” or a “Buddhist” in his/her mind. If one understands some basic Dhamma concepts and lives by them, then one is automatically a Buddhist. After one gets started with a firm determination on the Path, “Dhammō havē rakkathi dhammacāri”, or “Dhamma will guide one to be on the right Path”.
- The foremost goal is to live a moral life without causing harm to oneself or others, and to seek some “peace of mind” from the modern hectic life. That is our starting point.
9. I also recommend listening to the following discourse for anyone seriously considering Buddhist meditation (You need to adjust volume control on your computer):
“The Hidden Suffering that We All Can Understand“Download
This is in the post, “Starting on the Path Even without Belief in Rebirth” in the “Living Dhamma Overview” subsection of the “Living Dhamma” section.
Next, “The Basics“, ………….