Six gems of Buddhist meditation

by Sumaa Tekur, DNA India, December 4, 2010

New Delhi, India -- Just as the body needs daily cleaning, the mind, too, needs to be cleansed regularly. Almost all cultures and religions say meditation is an effective way to do this. I recently read a copy of the new book, Buddhist Meditation by Samdhong Rinpoche.

The book drew my attention to interesting aspects about meditation - some known, some lesser known, but insightful all the same.

1) The Buddhist acharas (techniques) are divided into two parts. The first is vipassana (to think, to analyse) and the second is samatha (to concentrate). A common question is that the mind is already so overcrowded. Will not more analysing of happenings and thoughts further crowd the mind? Rinpoche writes that in meditation only one strand of thought is chosen for analysis. Besides, analysis in the context of meditation means searching of the Self to find the truth.
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2) Buddhism believes that four disciplines are required in order to prepare the ground for meditation – right livelihood, right speech, right action and, most important of all, right intention. For all these to work, quiet surroundings and proximity to nature are important. Noise creates the worst kind of disturbance for the mind.
Buddhism does not recommend bhajans even to start off on meditation as they do not help in concentration.

3) We would all agree that there is a constant tussle between the environment and the individual. If a person is affected or influenced by the environment, he is thought to be weak. If he creates his own environment, he is said to be strong. Great people, who are surrounded by a negative
environment, often lift the mood by their very presence.

4) Meditation is all about discipline. Yet it is most difficult to achieve. One can practice discipline by training the mind to concentrate fully on the present activity and only that, nothing else. It can be eating, walking, reading, talking or simply sitting. It’s common for most of us to be doing one thing, but have the mind wander in a dozen other places. To keep the mind recollected at all times is to practice samadhi.

5) Buddhist meditation does not recommend closing the eyes while meditating. Shutting the eyes or ears does not help one concentrate better. The eyes should be focused downwards in such a way that the edge of one’s nose is just in view. One must stare down where the tip of the nose is vaguely visible.

6) Mantras are not used in the initial stages of Buddhist meditation. They are used only in Tantric meditation. Tantric meditation begins with the combined development of the mind, body and speech. Mantras are, therefore, indispensable to this form of meditation. Beginners, however, concentrate on their breath in meditation. This is known to purify the body as well as the mind.