Meditation

Meditation is one of the most important types of worship in Buddhism. There are various types of meditation. These include:

Meditation has a clear purpose. This is to develop a calm and focused mind and to have a better understanding of the teachings of the Buddha so that Buddhists can reach enlightenment.

The importance of samatha meditation

Samatha meditation is mainly used in Theravada Buddhism. Buddhists who perform this type of meditation try to focus the mind by concentrating on their breathing. They aim to concentrate at a deeper level.

Samatha meditation is about calmness and it relies on the mindfulness of breathing. This means breathing thoughtfully. The focus is on the body, and the person who is meditating concentrates fully on breathing in and out.

The Buddha taught that it can be helpful to use kasinas as focuses to aid meditation. For example, a person may place a coloured disk in front of them and concentrate their thoughts and attention on it. Buddhists aim to reach enlightenment, and to do this they must be able to focus and concentrate. This form of meditation is a helpful way of learning to do that.

The importance of other forms of meditations

Another form of meditation is called vipassana meditation. This type of meditation helps Buddhists to seek the truth about reality and to develop wisdom, so that they can reach enlightenment. Buddhists aim to gain insight into true reality by reflecting on the teachings of the Buddha during this kind of meditation.

Vipassana meditation has a different focus from samatha meditation. In vipassana meditation, Buddhists focus on the Three Marks of Existence. By doing this, they hope to develop wisdom and work towards reaching enlightenment.

Some Buddhists, such as Zen Buddhists, practise a seated form of meditation known as zazen. They sit and relax for long periods to focus on their breathing. They become aware of the moment they are in before re-focusing and meditating further.

A monk practicing zazen - a form of zen meditation

Metta bhavana meditation is another type of meditation. It means loving kindness. In this kind of meditation, Buddhists try to develop calm and inner peace. They also focus on developing good qualities within themselves, such as kindness towards others. This is done first by focusing the loving kindness on themselves so that they can love themselves no matter what faults they have. This then means they can focus loving kindness on others, as they accept others no matter what their faults are. This enables Buddhists to show genuine loving kindness.

The role of visualisation

Some Buddhists visualise an object in their mind, which means they imagine seeing it in front of them. This is another way of focusing the mind during meditation. Through focusing on the detail of the object in their mind, Buddhists can gain depth of concentration and focus. Visualisation is not the same as using kasinas, as visualisation does not use a real object. Instead, Buddhists imagine the detail of the object in their mind.

Some Buddhists focus on a deity when they meditate. Buddhists do not believe in a god, in the sense of a supreme and almighty being who created the world. Therefore, in Buddhism, a deity is someone who has been enlightened, such as the Buddha. Some Buddhists therefore meditate using a picture of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva. They focus on the qualities of the deity in the picture, rather than what the deity looks like. This helps Buddhists to understand what they want to be like and may also help them reach enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhists even visualise themselves as the Buddha to try to gain more spiritual development and reach enlightenment.