Guide to Meditation (1)

Speaker: Ven. Miao Tan

Fo Guang Shan Hsingma Temple, Malaysia

I. Introduction

Auspicious Greetings to Everyone. I am Miao Tan from Hsingma Temple in Malaysia. Today I am going to share with you on Guide to Meditation
So, Before I go into the topic of Guide to Meditation let me start with a brief introduction on meditation.

II. What is Meditation?

Meditation is mental training to take us to a state of peace and quiet in our mind away from thoughts. The practice of meditation can take different forms, however, all types of meditation that exist are ultimately aimed at calming and relaxing the mind and cultivating awareness. 

With meditation, you can put more emphasis on what is going on around you rather than focusing on the past or being concerned about the future. There are many types of meditation depending on the technique used.

You can use the various types of meditation to achieve a calm state, which includes: Sitting Meditation, Walking Meditation, Working Meditation and Sleeping Meditation.

III. Introduction to Meditation

The spread and propagation of Buddhist meditation in the east can be divided into two periods. The first period can be referred to as Indian Buddhist meditation. The second period can be called Chinese Buddhist Meditation or Ch’an.

Indian Buddhist Meditation covers the period from Sakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment after many years of spiritual striving and the subsequent formation of the Sangha, up to the entrance of Buddhist meditation in China during the Eastern Han Dynasty. 

Meditation was known as Dhyana, in the Sanskrit language. This means silent contemplation or contemplation on the truth. The phonetic translation of the Dhyana into Chinese was Ch’an-na (禪那).

Chinese Buddhist Meditation or Ch’an covers the period from the Tang Dynasty, through to the development of meditation in the Ch’an School. 

The teachings of Ch’an School of Buddhism do not rely on language and words. Words cannot describe Ch’an. Ch’an points directly to the mind. I would like to share the story of Flower Sermon.

In the story, the Buddha gives a wordless sermon to his disciples by holding up a white flower. No one in the audience understands the Flower Sermon except Mahakasyapa, who smiles. Within Ch’an, the Flower Sermon communicates the ineffable nature of suchness and Mahakasyapa ‘s smile signifies the direct transmission of wisdom without words. 

A transmission outside the teaching, not established on words, directly pointing to the heart of man,

So, from the introduction, we understand that meditation is not just a technique used, but more on how to practice meditation to achieve and experience a state of tranquility . 

There are 6 pointers to help you practice meditation.

IV. Pointers for Successful Meditation Practice

1. Find physical comfort.

Simply sit down, you can consider to seated with crossed-legged posture or a lotus pose. It is important that you must first achieve comfort in your physical body before you can achieve stage of relaxed or calmness mind. You can a meditation cushion under your seat to provide comfort.

2. Relax your body and mind.

You may take a deep breathing, put one hand on your stomach or one hand at your heart. Breath in slowly, Breath out slowly. Observe your breathe in and out. This is to allow you to focus and find a balance between focus and relaxation.

3. Making an effort.

Making an effort just means keeping the mind settled and calm at all times. All meditation practices have stages. Every practice is very simple yet has remarkable results.

4. Practice Intensively.

A meditator should practice intensively to perfect each stage. With extreme concentration or effort in observing your breathe

5. Must have enthusiasm about practicing meditation .

As long as one is enthusiastic about one’s meditation, there will be good results. The greater the effort, the greater will be the result.

6. Start slowly, don’t overdo it.

Start slow and start easy. Don’t have high expectations of your practice, plan your time that you can commit to, that is sustainable to you.

V. Three Basic Meditation Practices

There are three basic meditation practices what will help you to achieve calming and relaxing mind: Relaxation Meditation, Breath Counting Meditation and Breath Observation Meditation are the main practices.

1. Relaxation Meditation

Relaxation actually isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally for many of us. 

To get better at relaxation you may do some physical exercise such as yoga to relax and stretch the body. Regular practice makes it easier to condition our bodies to find balance between focus and relaxation.

2. Breath Counting

The basic method of regulating the mind is to count one’s breath in a repeating cycle of ten breaths. The basic idea is that by concentration on the simple technique of counting, this leaves the mind with less opportunity for wandering thoughts.

Focus on your breath. Begin by taking five deep breaths — in through the nose and out through the mouth. As you breathe in, think about taking in fresh air; as you breathe out, think about letting go of any stress in the body and mind.

3. Breath Observation

The technique consists simply in mentally following the movements of the abdomen that moves in and out as a natural consequence of breathing.

Now, begin to silently count the breaths. When you breath in count 1, when you breath out count 2 and so on up to 10.  

If thoughts bubble up or your mind starts to wander, don’t worry. Just guide your attention back to the breath.
For one to practice meditation, you have to start slowly and have patient in practicing, sometimes, we give up practicing meditation because, we find it very boring in just observing the breath.

VI. Conclusion

Buddha presents a meditation practice that uses conscious breathing to calm the mind so that it is fit to see into itself, to let go into freedom.

The purpose of practicing meditation is to help us relief our body and mind from stress, therefore if we are well prepared, we can achieve a successful meditation.

Next Session I will continue to talk on Preparation Before Meditation.

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Thank you, see you next week