Buddhism is known throughout the world for promoting the technique of meditation. Infact, meditation is considered to be one of the basic elements that make up Buddhism. It is deemed to be one of the essential practices in the path to enlightenment. In Buddhist tradition, each and every meditation technique is explained in detail. Meditation was adopted even by Lord Buddha Himself and the records of His own experience serve as the guidelines for those wishing to follow in His footsteps.
In meditation, practice is more important than the mere theoretical
knowledge about its techniques. In this beginner guide on Buddhist
meditation, we will tell you about the two basic techniques that
The first method is known as Samatha, which literally means peace or
tranquility. This method is undertaken with initially one purpose in
mind, concentration of the mind. The student is required to choose from
forty subjects, including the ten kasinas (like, different colored
discs, light such as a candle flame, water, etc) and a range of bodily
decay (like a rotting corpse). A technique that is usually followed is
anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing.
In this, a person calms both his body as well as his mind by focusing
on his breathing. It is believed that as a person concentrates his mind
on one particular aspect, the five major hindrances of his life, namely
ill-will, sensual desire, anxiety, sloth and doubt, will cease to exist,
even if on a temporary basis. The person who meditates then goes to the
states of great happiness and rapture, known as jhanas. However, still
he does not attain enlightenment.
The second method is known as Vipassana, literally meaning insight.
Under this method, a person tries to see things as they actually exist.
He tries to free his mind form aversions, which may affect his rational
judgment. In other words, it insists on accepting the truth of what you
are doing. If you are sitting, you should know that you are sitting and
when you are standing, you should know that you are standing. This is
the first state of Vipassana, known as bare awareness.
However, at the same time one has to have insight into the three marks
of existence, which lie beneath all phenomena. These marks include
suffering (dukkha); not-self (anatta) and impermanence (anicca). The
technique of breathing meditation forms a part of Vipassana also.
However, this method, unlike Samatha, can help you achieve the ultimate
goal of enlightenment.
A Combination of the Two
Many a times, a combination of both Samatha and Vipassana is used. In
the initial stages of meditation, a person makes use of Samatha. With
time he gains the art of concentration and after this has been achieved,
he moves towards Vipassana.