Quan Am Temple
Mahayana Buddhist Practice
Meditation Overview

Please seat yourself comfortably. There are cushions at the back of the hall and you can use them if you wish to sit on the floor. Sitting on a chair is fine too.  Teachers encourage students to keep their backs (spines) straight while meditating.

The ultimate goal of Buddhist meditation is waking up to the truth which can free the mind.

In Buddhist meditation, we often hear of three practices:

  • Samatha practice (concentration, one-pointedness, calmness, tranquility)
  • Vipassana practice (insight into the mind)
  • Both samatha and vipassana practiced simultaneously
There are many techniques one can use to meditate. These various techniques are used by some so that the mind can reach a state of concentration.  Others meditate so that they can gain insight into the nature of the mind.  Some teachers encourage the practice of both calmness and insight simultaneously.  As you become more settled in your practice, the mind will calm down. Once the mind is tranquil, deep insights begin to arise. Finally, both tranquility and insight combine to lead to wisdom which is the ultimate goal of meditation.

The Buddha taught a technique known as the Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati).  Please focus on your Breath as you inhale and exhale.  Your breathing should remain normal.  Keep your attention on the span—inhalation and exhalation—of each breath. At some point, you may find that there is a point where you feel the breath: it could be the upper lip or the nostril or some other area where you feel the breath touching. If you feel this, then you may focus on that spot. If you do not feel this, just stay with the breath.   

For people who have very active minds, teachers sometimes recommend counting or a mantra.

Count your breath—each span—up to ten.  Thus, you breathe in and breathe out and count 1; you breathe in and breathe out and count 2.  Count up to 10 and then repeat.

Use a mantra like “Buddho” which means “Awaken.”  So say “Bud” with the inhalation and “dho” as you exhale.

Choose whichever method suits you and stick to it. From time to time, you will realize that your mind has moved away from your breath. When you realize that, simply bring the mind gently back to the breath.

When you practice walking meditation, you can stay focused on the breath and continue the same meditation technique that you used for sitting meditation. Another way of practicing walking meditation is to focus on the sensations you experience as your feet touch the floor. If you use this method, the sensation will be the object of your focus.

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