Buddhist meditation created a variety of meditation techniques that aim to develop mindfulness, concentration, supra mundane powers, insight and tranquility
(Samatha Bhavana) – In this form of meditation, you begin by concentrating on one object of focus, attempting to slow, and eventually quiet, your mind. The most common form of this meditation is focusing on your breath – the sensations associated with your breath moving in and out of your body. Many Buddhist schools use some form of breath meditation as beginning meditation practice, before teaching other forms. In some schools, breath meditation is the only form of meditation taught, and different levels of practice, or dhyanas, are described, progressing from the beginning stages of forced concentration up to a state of pure immersion in equanimity, as the mind stills and relaxes into pure being or awareness. Breath meditation is also often taught for stress management purposes, outside of a Buddhist context.
(Vipassana Bhavana) – Sometimes called mindfulness meditation, these forms of meditation are not just about stilling the mind, but about observing it. Although instructions differ by school, the general idea is to note sensations, emotions and thoughts as they arise, but to let them pass through your mind without attaching to them. The goal is to experience direct knowledge of impermanence (anicca). Both moving and sitting forms of Insight meditation are taught.
(Metta Bhavana) – Also sometimes called compassion meditation, these forms of meditation are sometimes classified as Concentration forms, because they initially involve focusing on sending feelings of compassion or love towards other people and beings. This is usually done in a progressive fashion, starting with directing these thoughts towards yourself, then towards family and friends, and eventually to all beings. This form of meditation is prevalent in Mahayana Buddhist traditions as part of Boddhisattva practice.
While chakra meditation is more commonly associated with Hindu-based kundalini yoga, some Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist schools do have their own related chakra system, and utilize chakra meditation. The goal is to experience and merge with universal energies available through these chakras, transforming mind, body and spirit into a vessel of pure enlightenment.
Mantras are sacred sounds and words repeated in a chant-like fashion. This form of meditation is common in Tibetan Buddhist schools, but other schools also incorporate it. A common Buddhist mantra is ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’, which cannot be literally translated, but is associated with the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig.
Mandalas and yantras are both forms of religious art that employ sacred geometry to create representations of Buddhas and the states of realization they are associated with. By meditating on them through gentle gazing, a practitioner can merge with this awareness and directly experience these states him- or herself. Here’s an article on
This is the Zen term for meditation, and zazen is central to Zen practice, because Zen emphasizes direct realization or satori. There are variations on how zazen is taught, but the two main forms are koan meditation, associated with Rinzai Zen schools, and ‘whole-hearted sitting’ or shikantaza, associated with Soto Zen schools. In koan meditation, a practitioner contemplates a seemingly non-sensical statement or story given to them by their teacher, in order to experience a level of awareness beyond rational or linear knowledge. Shikantaza practice is similar to Insight meditation, with a practitioner attempting to observe and settle into a level of awareness untouched by surface activity and categorizations. One unique mark of zazen in some schools of both branches of Zen is that the eyes are kept open during practice.