1. Introduction to Buddhist Meditation

Revised September 7, 2019

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. They can clarify unresolved questions, and lead to samādhi. But one must contemplate on them.

Rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, Dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, Mōhakkhayō Nibbānan

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 people believe. That is why I like the synonyms “niveema” or “cooling down.” Nibbāna can be EXPERIENCED even in the early stages.

  • The Buddha defined Nibbāna as “Rāgakkhayō Nibbānan, Dōsakkhayō Nibbānan, Mōhakkhayō Nibbānan.” Nibbāna is the removal of greed, anger, and ignorance from one’s mind. That gives the essence of how this “cooling down” results.
  • 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 stay with breath meditation for “stress reduction,” and 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 tough to get an idea of what Nibbāna is.

2. Meditation provides ways to achieve this “cooling down” for any person. There are three types of people who are interested in meditation:

  • Many people 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, many people are either not ready to take that task yet. They have doubts about the existence of 31 realms, the process of rebirth, or Nibbāna.
Nibbāna Is Cooling Down

3. In several posts, I have tried to give an idea of what this “cooling down” is. You may want to reread them. They vary from a basic description to more in-depth details. 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 essential, 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 hatred.
  • We need to start gradually reducing greed and hate from our minds; this called “sila” (pronounced “seela”) or moral living. Then one’s mind becomes clear, and one starts feeling the nirāmisa sukha. Then 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.
  • 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 degrees.
  • Thus through a better understanding of Dhamma (i.e., removing ignorance), one automatically “cools down.” Removing ignorance via learning Dhamma leads automatically to reducing greed and hate.
Correct World View is Critical

4. That is why “Sammā Ditthi” or “Correct Vision” comes first in the Noble Eightfold Path. Actually “sammā” means “san” + “” 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. That 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 regularly tend to think about such ideas and how they should be kept in mind while going through daily chores. That is “sammā sankappa” or “correct concepts.” That automatically leads to “sammā vācā” (correct speech), “sammā kammanta” (correct action), sammā ājiva (correct livelihood).
  • When those five steps, one becomes attuned to correct mindfulness (“sammā sati”). Yes. There is “incorrect mindfulness” (“micchā sati,” pronounced “michchā sathi”) too, like when a master thief plans a robbery. One needs to be “engaged” or focused on accomplishing any task, either good or bad.
  • With cultivated “sammā sati,” one will be able to “see” the consequences of any action very quickly. Then one can decide whether to go ahead with it (since only good can come out of that action) or to abandon it (because it is not beneficial 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 “micchā samādhi” too. When that master thief is planning a big robbery, he gets into a kind of samādhi also. He feels a sense of calm too, but that will have terrible consequences down the road.
  • The latter three develop at the same time. 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, one could get into “samādhi.” A jhānic state is a deeper samādhi state.
Reading About Concepts Is Not Enough

5. That is why I recommend everyone to read these posts during a quiet time. One will absorb more and just by contemplating the material while reading one could quickly get into samādhi. That 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 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 distress (disappointments to depression).

  • Bodily ailments take time to recover. But 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 cognizant of what one eats, many such ailments will reduce 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 view is going to cause mental anguish sooner or later.
  • The easiest way to determine whether any action is inappropriate is to contemplate the consequences. An action rooted in greed, hate, or ignorance can harm oneself or another being.
Buddhist meditation Is The Noble Eightfold Path

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. That is “niveema” or “cooling down” or Nibbāna.
  • We should also do things that are conducive to a calm mindset — associating with like-minded people, actively engaging in 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 permanently. Then the change will become “permanent.”

When perfected, one will be doing meditation all day long while doing daily chores. That is what is stated as “āsevitāya, bhāvithāya, bahuleekathāya“. That means, “associate and use what is good, and do that as much as possible.”

  • In a formal meditation session, one does the same. It is best to read a post or two on a given Dhamma concept just before (or during) the meditation session and then contemplate on those ideas. It is important to compare those concepts with one’s life experiences. Then 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 by comprehending the key Dhamma concepts to some extent.
Mind Is At The Forefront

8. Buddha Dhamma is all about the mind; Anything we say or do also starts 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 compatible with Nature’s laws. Regardless of whether one has a religious background or is an atheist, one can follow those guidelines.
  • 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. When one gets started on the Path with a firm determination, dhamma will guide one to be on the right path. (“Dhammō havē rakkati dhammacāri.)
  • 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 hectic modern 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 the volume control on your computer):

The Hidden Suffering that We All Can Understand

Download

That 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“………….

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