Buddhist scriptures give us a great deal of insight into meditation, the techniques are clearly explained and include the Buddhist’s own meditation practices. Although some understanding of the practice of meditation is a help, the experimental factor in meditation is a distinctive feature of Buddhist meditation. There are two quite distinct forms of Buddhist meditation, samatha and vipassana these are explained below:
Samatha Buddhist meditation
This word literally means calm or tranquil, the first stage of samatha is all about concentrating the mind and traditionally this is done by choosing one of forty ways. These ways include the ten kansinas which can be light from a candle flame or discs of various colors. One technique which is more commonly used is focusing on the breath, whereby both the body and mind are calmed with the flow of the breath.
Although there is more to samatha meditation than merely concentration or focus, It is thought that once the mind is focused then the five hindrances, which are ill will, sensual desire, sloth, anxiety and doubt are then eradicated temporarily from the mind. By practicing the meditation the person gains access to jhanas which means great happiness and rapture.
Vipassana Buddhist meditation
Vipassana is insight meditation; here emphasis is put on allowing the mind to see things as they really are. The basic practice of this meditation is to take note of the moment you are in be it, walking, taking a shower, working or any task performed throughout the day.
Bringing the two together
Very often the person will start out with samatha meditation and then once having mastered this then move onto mastering vipassana. Sometimes the choice of the meditation will be determined by the person’s lifestyle, as it might sometimes be next to impossible for the person with a very hectic life to practice samatha successfully, with vipassana being the most sensible option for them.
A brief history of Buddha
Buddha was born over 2500 years ago in what is now known as Nepal, at the age of 29 he became discontented with the life of comfort he led and left the confines of his fathers palace in the search of there being more to life. Buddha quickly realized that we all at sometime would succumb to sickness and death and believed that there must be some escape from the suffering he saw around him.
He searched for enlightenment, and for the following 6 years put his body through extremes in his search, at one point in his life almost fasting himself to death. He realized that this wasn’t the way to achieve total enlightenment; it was quite by accident that he stumbled upon a less extreme form of practice.
At the age of 35 when he was sitting one day underneath what is know today as the Bodhi tree, Buddha began reflecting and this is where he finally achieved enlightenment. He had finally found the perfect state of bliss and knowledge he was seeking, Buddha lived for another forty five years and during this time he lived as a monk teaching others what he himself had learned.