- A form of mind stilling and insight-building "exercises" normally associated with sitting but also noticeably and traditionally practiced in walking, standing, and lying positions, during tantric rituals and eventually in everyday activity (this is considered "Mindfulness").
Some techniques involve focusing on the breath as the object of meditation as in anapanasati (in and out-breath). Anapanasati is a form of Samatha meditation (calm abiding). This slows the mind's distracted nature, and allows a clearer awareness of phenomena, since they are apprehended without the mind's pre-conceptions getting in the way. The Samatha is learnt and applied by followers of other religions to deepen and augment their experience, especially in religions such as Hinduism. It is used for relaxation, stress reduction, psychological relief, and well being, and is increasingly encouraged for its psychological and physical healing potential.
Meditation techniques are often separated into two categories, 'Formless' and 'Concentrative'. In concentrative meditation, the meditator attempts to focus his or her thoughts on a particular task, such as the contemplation of a particular object or the repetition of a series of sounds called a 'Mantra'. In formless meditation, one does not simply let one's mind wander, but instead attempt to remain present in the moment without subjecting it to analytical scrutiny.
Another commonly used categorization of meditation techniques in Buddhism is [Vipassana][ http://www.vipassanahawaii.org/introtomindfulnessmeditation]  (insight meditation) and samatha (calm meditation). In every Buddhist meditation, there has to be two factors: concentration and wisdom. The difference between 'vipassana' and 'samatha' meditation is that in the former wisdom is the main factor while in the latter concentration is the main one. But it should be understood that these two factors must coexist in a meditation. What is meant by wisdom here is the understanding of the nature of the object. For example, when practicing anapanasati (awareness to the in-and out breath), fully knowing when the breath goes in and out (without interval) is concentration, while knowing whether it is gross or calm, long or short is the wisdom.
One of the first written Buddhist meditation techniques appears in the Anapanasati Sutta. This text, part of the Pali canon, describes a method that begins by using the breath to still bodily emotions and ultimately culminates in full realization. Given the importance accorded to the contemplation of the breath in early Buddhist texts, the practice has become central to most schools of Buddhism. Focusing on the breath as the object of meditation combines a little of both the concentrative and formless approaches to meditation. One can remain closely aware of the breath, as in concentrative meditation, or simply use consciousness of the breath to restrain the mind when it starts to wander.
Some schools, however, teach other methods of concentrative meditation that either replace, or are used in combination with, contemplation of the breath. Some teach students to fix their consciousness on an object, such as a flower or an image of the Buddha. Other forms of Buddhist meditation involve directed mental activity, in which one actively ponders or analyzes certain Buddhist philosophical doctrines. Still others involve visualization exercises thought to stimulate the movement of psychic energies within the body.
One of the most often emphasized aspects of Buddhist practice is the integration of the experience of meditation into our everyday consciousness. To this end, some schools recommend meditating with the eyes open, and most include some form of walking meditation as part of their recommended practices. Exact meditation techniques vary from school to school and are often hotly debated. Yet all agree that meditation loses its value if the lessons and experiences of sitting are not integrated into our day to day lives.
It is important to note that the terms 'concentrate' and 'focus' are frequently used in English descriptions of meditation, but these can be highly misleading. The aim is not to have a tightly focussed mind holding on to a particular object, but to have a loose awareness of the object that doesn't meander away. External phenomena are not actively blocked out, but the mind unwaveringly holds gently to the object being meditated on. Meditation is not about entering another dimension or being out-of-control, meditation is about focussing all of our consciousness in one point, continuously. This is a form of a very great concentration, which when highly developed, have the power to burn the darkness and illusion of things, so that we come to see 'things as they really are'. To see 'things are they really are' is the main goal of Buddhism.
Stages of ConcentrationEdit
There are three stages of concentration (or commonly two, but here we will use three stages for completeness):
- Parikamma (introductory stage), when we start sitting to meditate, the mind is still gross, this is the introductory practice.
- Upacara (access concentration), when we are able to concentrate our mind to the object, for as long as we want, without any interval when our mind gets unconcentrated.
- Appana (deep concentration), or commonly known as Jhana. This level is hard to describe, because Jhana is something beyond the world of sense (kamavacara-bhumi). The difference between the stage of appana and that of upacara is that the upacara stage is weak. It can easily be destroyed by internal or external distractions (for example: sound). But appana stage is strong. The upacara stage is like a baby learning to walk, but appana is like an adult who can walk steadily.
Meditation is something that can increase good karma.You will be reborn with a good record.