The average person might tend to believe that a discipline such as Buddhism would have one standard and generally accepted method of practicing meditation. However, when you look a little deeper, you learn that there actually are a number of different Buddhist meditation techniques that are practiced by followers of Buddhism and interested practitioners of meditation.
Despite the differences between the specific methods, all generally agree on developing two things - mindfulness and concentration.
Attentiveness to the movements and activities of the body, and to the various, and changing, states of mind must first be developed to a more full state and understanding so as to isolate, and identify, the real concept of self. Objectivity is a valuable aid to clear thinking in this instance. With objectivity comes concentration.
Concentration is the ability to focus the mind and keep it focused on a single point or object.
Considering the common goal of the various forms of Buddhism, it might be surprising to you to learn that Buddhist schools may actually teach and emphasize different meditation techniques.
One school of Buddhist meditation, for example, may focus on such activities as breathing, while another may focus on movement. The diversity is wide and there are a multitude of variations available even within these separate methodologies. A great many of these Buddhist techniques can be school specific. Usually, only a few masters, and unfocussed amateurs, aim to combine the techniques from several Buddhist traditions.
In the early history of Buddhism, a form of meditation, called Ecstatic Meditation was common.
Ecstatic meditation, which is actually a form of frenzy, appears to have been taught, and, widely practiced, in the early history of Buddhism. However, many thought it to be in some ways "misleading" in that it seemed to go against the teachings of the Buddha.
One of the better known meditation techniques is that being practiced by Western Order meditation master Kamalashila. The teacher identifies that there are five basic methods to be used as a traditional set for meditation. Each method can be used as an antidote to one of the five primary obstructions to Enlightenment- distraction, hatred, craving, conceit and ignorance.
One of the five most common philosophies of Buddhist meditation is based on the mindfulness of breathing.
This popular method involves the practice of tranquility meditation. This helps to counteract distraction and strengthen a better concentration in the individual.
Another of the five basic methods of Buddhist meditation is the Metta Bhavana, or Loving-Kindness Meditation.
This method includes the four brahmaviharas; benevolence, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity, and is used in counteracting sentimental attachment or hatred. As the description implies, this method aims to develop loving kindness in a person.
Another of the five basic methods of Buddhist meditation involves the contemplation of impermanence.
This method is used to help counteract cravings while developing inner peace and a feeling of freedom. You will also hear of a six-element practice which is based on meditation which involves the six elements- earth, water, space, air, fire and consciousness. This meditation practice is intended to counteract craving and develop inner clarity in regards to self.
Another of the basic methods of Buddhist meditation is the contemplation of conditionality. This form aims to counteract ignorance while developing wisdom and compassion.
While those are the most common methods of Buddhist meditation, there are also other techniques not included within the five basic methods. This includes methods of visualizations, meditation by sitting and the walking meditation.
There are yet other techniques used in Buddhist meditation which include the five types of Zen as grouped by Kuei-feng, a Tang dynasty Buddhist scholar-monk.
Zen meditation practices are also grouped according to five categories.
Although more common to Zen practitioners specifically, these techniques are also applicable to Buddhist meditation methods.
One of the types is the bonpu or "ordinary" meditation. This is commonly done to achieve physical and mental well-being without any conscious spiritual goal in mind.
There is also the gedo or "outside way" which is a meditation technique which is used for non-Buddhist purposes. Another is the shojo or "small vehicle" which is meditation used for self-liberation or to achieve nirvana, a profound peace of mind.
The fourth Zen Buddhist meditation technique, as grouped by the monk Kuei-feng (780 - 840), is the daijo or "great vehicle". This is meditation in pursuit of achieving self-realization in order to experience the inherent unity of all things.
Last, there is also the saijojo or "supreme vehicle". This meditation is hopes to achieve an understanding of the nature of Buddha existing within all beings.
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