Meditation on the Buddha
from Guided Buddhist Meditations: Essential Practices on the Stages of the Path
by Ven. Thubten Chodron
In the context of meditating on the stages of the path to awakening (lamrim), mindfulness of breathing is done as a preliminary meditation, mainly for the purpose of calming the mind and subduing distracting thoughts. The majority of the session then involves analytical or checking meditation on a specific lamrim topic.
In other contexts, an entire meditation session may be done using mindfulness of breathing. In addition, there are meditation objects other than the breath that may be used for calming the mind and cultivating concentration, if that is the focus of your meditation session.
While the breath works well for some people as the object of meditation when cultivating concentration or serenity, for others it doesn’t. For example, some people who have asthma find observing the breath makes their mind tight. People who have bad allergies often cannot breathe through their nose, so following the breath is difficult.
Fortunately, the Buddha taught a number of other meditation objects that can be used to develop concentration, such as loving-kindness, the parts of the body, and so forth. One object that is commonly used in the Tibetan tradition is the visualized image of the Buddha.
Here we do not try to see the Buddha with our eyes, but instead see him in our “mind’s eye.” Imagine Shakyamuni Buddha appearing instantly in the space in front of you. He is the size of your thumb; visualizing a small image like this helps to focus the mind and prevents distraction.
You may want to look at a statue or painting of the Buddha before your meditation session in order to remember his features, but in your session, lower your eyes and let the image of the Buddha arise in your mind.
Going over all the details individually in your mind’s eye helps you to remember them. After doing that, focus on the entire image. Be satisfied with the clarity of the image that appears, without making your mind tight in an effort to reconstruct each and every detail.
If the clarity declines, review the Buddha’s features and again focus your mind on the entire image. If the stability of your concentration is interrupted by thoughts and sensations, bring your mind back to the image of the Buddha.
Using the image of the Buddha as the meditation object to develop mindfulness and concentration has several unique advantages:
- It helps us to continually remember the Buddha and thus to accumulate positive potential and increase our feeling of connection to him.
- When death approaches, it will be easier to recollect the Buddha and his qualities, which will soothe the mind and maintain it in a positive state during the death process.
- It also increases our ability to visualize, which is helpful in other meditation practices in the Tibetan tradition.
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Guided Buddhist Meditations: Essential Practices on the Stages of the Path
This is a new, paperback release of Venerable Thubten Chodron’s immensely useful and well-loved Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. The new version comes with a URL link to audio of Ven. Chodron guiding you step by step through the meditations of the lam rim. Issued by Shambhala Publications.
* Learn more about “Guided Buddhist Meditations,” an updated edition of Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path.
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