Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path to liberation from impurities (kleshas) and from clinging and craving (upādāna), also called awakening, which results in the attainment of Nirvana, and includes a variety of meditation techniques, especially asubha bhavana (reflections on repulsion); reflection on. The word "jhana" literally means "meditation"; it comes from the verb jhayati, meaning "to meditate". Often, the Buddha would give a talk on the dhamma and close it by saying: "There are these tree roots, these empty huts, go and meditate (jhayati)". From this use of jhayati, it seems certain that what the Buddha meant by meditation was the practice of jhana.
Shamatha (mindfulness) is a well-known Buddhist practice that focuses on developing calmness, clarity and equanimity. With proper guidance and commitment, cultivating these qualities can ultimately lead to deep inner peace. When combined with vipassana (mindfulness) practices, it can lead to profound insights and spiritual awakening. The initial stages of mindfulness meditation are essentially non-denominational and can be practised by anyone, regardless of religious tradition.
Another popular method of Buddhist meditation practice is Metta, or loving-kindness meditation. There are also many different forms of this meditation. They begin with a period of śamatha to allow the mind to settle and become receptive. The last of the bodily meditations is designed to overcome the narcissistic infatuation with one's own body, to abandon unrealistic desires for immortality and to destroy sensual lust.
Two principles are employed to achieve these ends. The first is to vividly and repeatedly impress upon the mind the temporary, changing, composite nature of the body. Secondly, one establishes and persistently reinforces a series of negative associations with the generally sensual characteristics of the body. This latter process employs the same principles as behavioural therapy and Pavlovian conditioning.
However, Satipatthana differs from Pavlovian and behavioural therapy in that the conditioning is set by the meditator himself rather than by an external agent. The initial effort in Buddhist meditation is to calm and quiet the mind so that it is fully alert, but has temporarily diminished the amount of daydreaming, planning, reminiscing and all other forms of verbal and visual thinking. Similarly, one who undertakes Buddhist training, whether as a monk or as a layperson, would do well not to set a time limit and should not over-commit oneself to future plans (such as "I will finish my university training or return to my homeland to teach the Dhamma"). They strongly resist a pragmatic and eclectic approach to meditation and are hyper-concerned with the nuances and fine points of Buddhist tradition and decorum.
In the UK, as in many other Western countries, there are many Buddhist centres and independent teachers offering meditation classes and courses. Some time ago I met a Caucasian Buddhist who for several years had been doing a daily meditation practice on love. Buddhist meditation is an invitation to turn one's awareness away from the world of activity that usually preoccupies us to the inner experience of thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Buddhist meditation, the practice of mental concentration that leads ultimately, through a succession of stages, to the ultimate goal of spiritual freedom, nirvana.
Buddhist meditation is often mistakenly confused with yogic meditation, which often includes physical contortions, self-hypnosis, seeking occult powers and an attempt at union with God. All forms of Buddhism - and, by extension, Buddhist meditation techniques - have grown out of the Buddha's ideas about the nature of existence, the causes of suffering, the causes of happiness and guidelines for living a healthy and constructive life. Tibetan visualisation practices, Zen, Vipassana, Pure Land, Nichiren and other forms of Buddhist meditation are now taught and practised throughout the Western world. On the other hand, people who have made only slight progress in sustained concentration have nevertheless, in the course of Buddhist practice, made considerable progress in diminishing conceit, resentment, depression and selfishness.
This, too, is an essential part of Buddhist practice and means becoming more fully aware of what one is experiencing in all aspects of one's life. These same obstacles are present to a lesser degree in traditionally Buddhist cultures and must be considered before discussing meditation itself. Given the large number of living beings, being born human is for Buddhists a precious opportunity to attain spiritual bliss, a rarity not to be renounced. The Fourth Noble Truth outlines the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path.