Buddhist Meditation

Buddhists have their own version of a transcendent experience, which is achieved by meditation or zazen. Buddhists acknowledge that meditation is incredibly difficult, requiring feats of concentrationthat many people are not used to or unwilling to cultivate.

Samadhi is not dissimilar from the quest for nirvana in Buddhism. The prerequisites for nirvana can be expressed as three principles: abstention from harmful actions (shila, “moral conduct), a disciplined mind (samadhi, “mental concentration”) and a proper understanding of the self and the world (prajna, “wisdom”). In Buddhism these principles are connected to the law of karma, or moral retribution, that impacts the process of death and rebirth. According to Buddhists, the incentive for abstaining from harmful actions is that such actions will lead to punishment in a future life and thereby make it difficult to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. The function of mental concentration is to remove desires and hatreds that lead to harmful actions. And “wisdom” results in an erroneous understanding of self that feeds the whole process of desire, hatred, and harmful action.

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Main Traditions

The most common way scholars categorize Buddhist schools follows the major languages of the extant Buddhist canons, which exist in Pali,Tibetan (also found in Mongolian translation) and Chinese collections, along with some texts that still exist in Sanskrit and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. This is a useful division for practical purposes, but does not necessarily correspond to philosophical or doctrinal divisions. Despite the differences, there are common threads to almost all Buddhist branches:

All accept the Buddha as their teacher.
All accept the Middle Way, Dependent origination, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, though only the Southern (Theravada, Pali) tradition regards these as central. All accept that both the members of the laity and of the Sangha can pursue the path toward enlightenment (bodhi). All accept three types of Buddha and consider Buddhahood to be the highest attainment.

Southern Buddhism (Theravada)
In addition to the Edicts of Asoka, Buddhist annals compiled at a later date offer a history of the Asokan and post-Asokan period. Among these annals are the Dipavasa, the Mahavasa, and the Samantapasadika of the south Indian Vibhajjavada (Sanskrit: Vibhajyavada) sa?gha, beside the Divyavadana and the Avadanasataka from the northern Sarvastivada (Pali: Sabbatthivada) sa?gha. According to the accounts of the Vibhajjavada, Asoka convened a third Buddhist council (c. 250 BCE), whose purpose was to produce a definitive text of the Buddha’s words.[citation needed] According to the Theravada account, given in the Dipavamsa and elsewhere, Asoka called this council to sort out doctrinal disputes within the sangha, which these sources say were caused by the infiltration of the sangha by non-buddhists, apparently not actually ordained. The account goes on to say that the council approved the Kathavatthu, compiled by its president Moggaliputta Tissa, as part of the scriptures. As this text consists of doctrinal debates, apparently with other schools, the account seems to imply the other schools were not proper Buddhists or proper monks. The council also saw the formation of the sagha of the Vibhajjavada (“school of analytical discourse”) out of various schools of the Sthaviravada lineage.[citation needed] Vibhajjavadins claim that the first step to insight has to be achieved by the aspirant’s experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith. This school gradually declined on the Indian subcontinent, but its branch in Sri Lanka and South East Asia continues to survive; this branch of the school is now known as Theravada. The Theravada school claims that the Sarvastivada and the Dharmaguptaka schools were rejected by the council, although according to other sources the Dharmaguptaka school is classified as one of the Vibhajyavadin schools. However, these schools became influential in northwestern India and Central Asia and, since their teaching is found among the scriptures preserved by the Mahayana schools, they may have had some formative influence on the Mahayana. The Sarvastivadins have not preserved an independent tradition about the Third Council. it has been argued by some scholars that the council was part of a series of debates and/or disputes resulting in the formation of three main doctrinal schools, Vibhajjavada, Sarvastivada, and Puggalavada, which later were subject to further subdivisions. One such subdivision of the Vibhajjavada was established in Ceylon, and in course of time came to resume the name Theravada (given above in its Sanskrit form Sthaviravada). Its scriptures, the Pali Canon, were written down there in the last century BCE, at what the Theravada usually reckons as the fourth council. It was long believed in Theravada tradition that the Pali language is equivalent to Magadhi, the eastern dialect of the kingdom of Magadha spoken by the Buddha. However, linguistic comparisons of the Edicts of Asoka and the language of the Pali canon show strong differences between the Magadhi of the Edicts (characterized by such changes as r l, masculine nominative singular of a-stems in -e, etc.) and Pali. The greatest similarity to Pali is found in a dialectal variant of the Edicts written on a rock near Girnar in Gujarat. Theravada is Pali for “the Doctrine of the Elders” or “the Ancient Doctrine”. Theravada teaches one to encourage wholesome states of mind, avoid unwholesome states of mind, and to train the mind in meditation. The aim of practice, according to Theravada Buddhism, is the attainment of freedom from suffering, which is linked with Nirvana, the highest spiritual goal. Theravada teaches that the experience of suffering is caused by mental defilements like greed, aversion and delusion, while freedom can be attained though putting into practice teachings like the Four Noble Truths and especially the fourth one, the Noble Eightfold Path. The Theravada school bases its practice and doctrine exclusively on the Pali Canon and its commentaries. The Sutta collections and Vinaya texts of the Pali Canon (and the corresponding texts in other versions of the Tripitaka), are generally considered by modern scholars to be the earliest Buddhist literature, and they are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism. Theravada is the only surviving representative of the historical early Buddhist schools. Theravada is primarily practiced today in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia as well as small portions of China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bangladesh. It has a growing presence in Europe and America.

Eastern (East Asian) Buddhism
Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) is an inclusive, cosmically-dimensioned faith characterized by the adoption of additional texts, seen as ultimately transcending the Pali suttas, and a shift in the understanding of Buddhism. It goes beyond the traditional Theravada ideal of the release from suffering (dukkha) and personal enlightenment of the arhats, to elevate the Buddha to the God-like status of an eternal, omnipresent, all-knowing being, and to create a pantheon of quasi-divine Bodhisattvas devoting themselves to personal excellence, ultimate knowledge and the salvation of humanity (and indeed of all living beings, including animals, ghosts and gods). In Mahayana, the Buddha became an idealized man-god and the Bodhisattva was the universal ideal of excellence. The Mahayana branch emphasizes infinite, universal compassion (maha-karuna) or the selfless, ultra-altruistic quest of the Bodhisattva to attain the “Awakened Mind” (bodhicitta) of Buddhahood so as to have the fullest possible knowledge of how most effectively to lead all sentient beings into Nirvana. Emphasis is also often placed on the notions of Emptiness (shunyata), perfected spiritual insight (prajnaparamita) and Buddha-nature (the deathless tathagatagarbha, or Buddhic Essence, inherent in all beings and creatures). The teaching of the tathagatagarbha is said by the Buddha in the tathagatagarbha sutras to constitute the “absolutely final culmination” of his Dharma – the highest presentation of Truth. The Mahayana can also on occasion communicate a vision of the Buddha or Dharma which amounts to mysticism and gives expression to a form of mentalist panentheism (God in Buddhism). In addition to the Tripitaka scriptures, which (within Mahayana) are viewed as valid but only provisional or basic, Mahayana schools recognize all or part of a genre of Mahayana scriptures. Some of these sutras became for Mahayanists a manifestation of the Buddha himself. Mahayana Buddhism shows a great deal of doctrinal variation and development over time, and even more variation in terms of practice. While there is much agreement on general principles, there is disagreement over which texts are more authoritative. Native Eastern Buddhism is practiced today in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, parts of Russia and most of Vietnam. The Buddhism practiced in Tibet, the Himalayan regions, and Mongolia is also Mahayana in origin, but will be discussed below under the heading of Northern Buddhism. There are a variety of strands in Eastern Buddhism, which in most of this area are fused into a single unified form of Buddhism. However, in Japan they form separate denominations. The five major ones are the following.

Northern (Tibetan) Buddhism
The Vajrayana or “Diamond Vehicle” (also referred to as Mantrayana, Tantrayana, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism) shares the basic concepts of Mahayana, but also includes a vast array of spiritual techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice. One component of the Vajrayana is harnessing psycho-physical energy as a means of developing profoundly powerful states of concentration and awareness. These profound states are in turn to be used as an efficient path to Buddhahood. Using these techniques, it is claimed that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, or even as little as three years. In addition to the Theravada and Mahayana scriptures, Vajrayana Buddhists recognise a large body of Buddhist Tantras, many of which are also included in Chinese and Japanese collections of Buddhist literature.

Pagoda
A Pagoda is a Buddhist shrine or memorial. In the Orient the Pagoda may take on a very elaborate form It may be in the form of a highly decorated temple or tower.

Nibbana
The Nibbana is a state of consciousness where greed, delusion and hatred(the three evils) are overcome. In attaining Nibbana you are liberated from illusion. In doing so your journey is complete.

Lamaism
Lamaism is a term that describes esoteric Tibetan Buddhism which belongs to Mahayana tradition. Including shamanic, bon and tantric it was introduced to Tibet around the 7th century. Lamaism is made up of rituals, exorcisms and mantras. Refer “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”.

Eightfold Path
The Eightfold path in Buddhism are the qualities presented by Gautama Buddha as the way of attaining Nirvana. These qualities are Right Thoughts, Right Understanding, Right Actions, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The qualities are then divided into Wisdom, Morality and Concentration.

Satori
Satori means sudden enlightenment. This state of mind is usually attained when paradoxes and contradictions, as presented in the Zen Koans, are understood, and one`s inner Buddha nature is realized.

Tumo
Tumo is the Tibetan Buddhist technique of keeping warm. The Tumo technique enables you to keep warm in spite of snow, freezing winds and ice. Tumo is a meditation that channels mystical heat through the veins, arteries and nerve channels which enables you to remain warm during these freezing conditions. The Tibetan Buddhists believe that knowledge of Tumo sharpens the mental faculties of perception and intuition.

Anatta
In Buddhist doctrine Anatta is a belief that there is no permanent human soul that reincarnates from one body to another. Gautama Buddha described the individual person not as a specific soul inhabiting a body, but as a collection of events, perceptions, and sensations within the spectrum of human consciousness , and which is in a constant state of flux. Consequently, no fixed entity could survive death and pass to another realm.

Dagoba
A Dagoba is a Buddhist shrine or mound. It contains relics of the Buddha or a saint. The typical relics would be teeth, pieces of bone, fragments from the Bodhi tree. Some examples of Dagobas may be found in India, Sri Lanka and Burma. In some ways Dagobas resemble Stupas.

Bardo
In Tibetan Buddhism a state between death and rebirth. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the consciousness of the deceased individuals passes through various Bardo stages. These are a symbolic effect of Karma, good or evil. The Tibetan Lamas teach a technique of dying that enables the individual to pass through these Bardo visions escaping from the Karmic cycle of rebirth and entering Nirvana.

Maya
In Buddhism, Maya was the mother of Gautama. A chaste and virtuous woman she was Queen of the Sakyas. Maya was prepared by the wives of the Gods for the birth of Gautama who entered who womb in the form of an elephant. Maya then died exactly seven days after the birth of Gautama.

Maitreya
According to Mahayana Buddhism Maitreya is still the Buddha to come. Gautama was the fourth Buddha on Earth and Maitreya will be the fifth and final Buddha.

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