There are lots of different types of Buddhist meditation for beginners to learn.
In this tutorial on Buddhist meditation, which in Buddhism is called Bhavana and Jnana I will guide you through all the most important practices, and their scripts and benefits.
As a meditation teacher, I have helped many people to learn Buddhist meditation techniques, and today I will show you how to meditate like Buddha, who create many of the methods that we use today. With these methods, you will learn all about how your mind works, and you will take control of your emotions and your thoughts.
Buddha brought meditation to the world via Tibet, the home of Buddhism, where Buddhism is the dominant religion. Buddha taught meditation as a way to educate people about the inner workings of their minds, and to give them control of psychological phenomena. That’s why all the different Buddhist meditations focus on learning how the mind works, as you will see when we discuss methods like Vipassana and Anapanasati in just a moment.
One of my favourite things said by Buddha on meditation is: “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance.”
What this means is that by practising Buddhist meditation, beginners can learn about the processes of the mind. Once you understand how your mind works, you will be more able to live a happy life with less stress and anxiety.
Buddhists meditate as a way to achieve enlightenment (Nibana). They achieve this principally through four primary categories of meditation: asubha bhavana (“reflections on repulsiveness”); reflection on pratityasamutpada (dependent origination); sati (mindfulness), and anussati (recollections).
Through meditation, Buddhist monks achieve different qualities of mind: Mindfulness (sati), Concentration (samadhi), Tranquility (samatha), Insight (Vipassana), and Emptiness (sunyata), and Supramumdane Powers (abhijñā). Although different Buddhist schools (such as Theravada and Chan) use different meditations to achieve this.
Ultimately, meditation is used to develop the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: : sati (mindfulness), dhamma vicaya (analysis), viriya (persistence), w pīti (rapture), passaddhi (serenity), and samadhi (concentration), as well as for release from suffering (dukkha).
That said, even within Buddhism, master describe the benefits of Buddhist meditation differently.
- The 17th Karmapa said that by meditating we awaken a faither that we are full of wisdom and compassion.
- Ajahn Chah (Meditation master) described mind like a pool. Meditation quietens the mind. “Many wonderful and rare animals will come to drink at the pool, but you will be still,” he said.
- Pema Chodron says that meditation leads to attention, clarity, courage, and steadfastness.
- And Buddha taught meditation for enlightenment.
Buddhism brought meditation to the world. There are hundreds of different meditations, but most are based on Buddhist philosophy (which in turn is heavily based on Vedic Brahmanical practices and Jain ascetic practices).
Buddha taught meditation as a way to educate people about the mind so that they could take control of their thoughts and emotions, and gain personal empowerment. Meditation, Buddha taught, is a very scientific thing. It’s all about understanding the mind, and this is the basis of all the different meditations in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, meditation is about gaining insight into the processes of the mind so that we are more conscious of the way the mind works. Once we are more conscious of how the mind works, we are more in control, less emotionally reactive, and have more self-mastery.
As you try the methods below, notice how they teach you about your mind and about yourself.
You can find a guide to the best Buddhist meditations for beginners below, and I have shared a video too.
Buddhist Meditation For Beginners VIDEO
Best Types of Buddhist Meditation For Beginners
In this list of Buddhist meditations, beginners can find everything from breathing techniques to mantras and mudras. I suggest trying all these methods to find the best ones for you.
If you’re interested in following the truth Buddhist path and not just meditation, you should know that according to the tradition of Buddhism, meditation techniques should be preceded by certain training. In particular, before meditating monks would learn the Noble Eightfold Path. That is, right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (absorption).
1: Mindful Breathing (simple Buddhist meditation for beginners)
If you want to learn how to meditate like a Buddhist, start with mindful breathing. It is one of the most basic Buddhist meditation practices, and it cultivates mental control.
Losing control. Wiping out. Crashing and burning. Falling off. Whatever you want to call it. It can happen in meditation. It’s when you lose control of your mind.
I don’t mean that in the sense that we lose control and go insane; simply that we can lose focus.
One of the essential skills in Buddhist meditation for beginners to learn is to maintain control of your conscious awareness. In other words, be mindful of what you are focusing on.
This is why the best type of Buddhist meditation for beginners is mindful breathing.
The purpose of breathing meditations (in Buddhism at least) is to create what Buddha called “equanimity”, which is a mental calmness.
With breathing meditations, beginners can stay in control and maintain focus.
In Buddhist meditation, breathing acts like an anchor. When we feel our focus slipping away, we draw attention back to the breath. This keeps our consciousness anchored so our minds stay in place, so to speak.
When we breathe, we are conscious of the entire body. In the Anapanasati Sutta , Buddha said, “He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body. ‘ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.” So when you practise breathing meditations, be conscious of your entire body.
One of my favourite quotes about Buddhist meditation comes from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who said, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
When you know how to return the mind to the breath, you give yourself an easy way to restore your focus. That’s why the best Buddhist meditation for beginners is mindful breathing.
Basic Buddhist Meditation
Beginners who are just starting to learn to meditate will be better off sticking to very easy forms. Below you can find the proper Buddhist meditation practices. But first, for the novice, here is a very easy Buddhist meditation practice.
- 1: Sit cross-legged on the floor if you can do so comfortably. Otherwise kneel. Or you may use a chair if you prefer. You will find it easier to have good posture if you use a meditation chair or a Zafu.
- 2: Sit upright and comfortably and tuck your chin ever so slightly downward. Rest your hands facing palm-down on your thighs. Gently close your eyes.
- 3: Begin to focus on your breathing. Observe your breath moving through your diaphragm. Observe the passage of your breath in through you nose, down to your diaphragm, and out through your mouth or nose.
- 4: When you reach the end of an exhale, allow the next breath to come naturally without being forced.
- 5: Inevitably there will be some thoughts and feelings that move through your mind. This is natural. Simply observe these thoughts and feelings coming and going. You may like to label them, “Thought” and “Feeling”.
- 6: Continue for twenty minutes.
- Note that different Buddhist meditation techniques work with the breath differently, so you might find slightly different instructions elsewhere.
This is a very simple Buddhist meditation that should take about ten minutes.
Below are more techniques. Because these techniques are detailed I have provided links tutorial on them.
One of the best Buddhist meditations for beginners is “Anapanasati”. This is a technical form of mindful breathing mostly used in Theravada, Tiantai and Chan Buddhism. When we practice this technique, we focus the mind on the breath, and then we notice when the mind wanders.
There is an easy way to practice Anapansati meditation and a more advanced way. The Ānāpānasati Sutta states this method is used to cultivate inner peace and develop equanimity (calmness of mind).
Read my guide to Anapansati .
3: Buddhist mindfulness for beginners
Losing your mind is not funny unless Jim Carrey is doing it. That”s why Buddhists use mindfulness: to help them maintain a conscious awareness of the processes of the mind. [READ: Gettting Started With Mindfulness]
Buddhist Mindfulness technique is one of the most important practices for beginners to learn. It helps the mind to stay in the moment. And it will boost your focus and concentration. Plus, it’s an excellent way of removing stress and relaxing.
Essentially, Buddhist mindfulness is about being consciously aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental fashion. In the book “Mindfulness For Dummies”, Shamash Alidina says, “In mindfulness, acceptance always comes first, change comes after.”
At its core, it is about accepting the present moment. It is about living in the now. Read the link at the top of this section to learn more about Buddhist mindfulness.
According to the Buddhist tradition, the two core component of mindfulness are Sati (mindfulness itself) and Satipatthana (Establishment of Mindfulness). Buddha explains in the Pali Satipatthana Sutta that the four foundations of mindfulness are: mindfulness of body, mindfulness of feelings (vedana), mindfulness of mind (citta), and mindfulness of phenomena (dhammas).
4: Zazen—Buddhist meditation in the Zen tradition
Zen is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that is closely related to Taoism. There are many excellent Zen Buddhist meditations for beginners to learn, ranging from traditional seated meditation to Zen walking.
For beginners, Buddhist meditation in the Zen style will help you to learn to be inwardly still and focused, which is essential when you’re new to meditation.
If you would like to try this now, take a look at my Zen techniques tutorial.
5: Zen Walking
You love walking, right? I know I do. But, grasshopper, do you know what is better than just plain old walking? Zen Walking.
This is one of the most relaxing types of Buddhist meditations for beginners to try.
With Zen Walking, you focus your mind on the process of walking.
Now, you might be thinking, “Why would I want to do that”. But actually, there are some excellent reasons why you should be mindful of walking.
Zen walking makes you more conscious of the body and of movement. It heightens your awareness of your actions, which leads to increased self-control. Plus, it is a gentle form of exercise, particularly for the elderly and for people who have minor mobility problems.
Also, consider the amount of time you spend walking. Probably a lot, right? Now imagine if you were mindful every time you walked. That would be a major boost to your overall levels of mindfulness, wouldn’t it? That’s why walking meditation is such a good choice. And for an alternative Buddhist meditation that involves movement, you could also try meditative dance.
In Buddhism, meditation is about cultivating insight into the workings of the mind. Buddha stated that meditation is about becoming consciously aware of what is happening in the mind. And one of the best ways to achieve that is with Vipassana technique.
When learning how to meditate, Buddhism focuses on developing an understanding of the processes of the mind. One way to do this is with Vipassana, which is essentially the practice of labelling what goes through the mind. For instance, if we hear something, we label it “sound”, or if we feel something we label it “sensation”. This labelling helps us to understand the nature of existence and to be less reactive to things like thoughts and feelings.
Buddhist website LionsRoar define Vipassana as “the practice of continued close attention to sensation, through which one ultimately sees the true nature of thing.”
One of the best Buddha meditation techniques is Loving Kindness, which in Buddhism is “Metta”. This practice is all about cultivating love and compassion for sentient beings. This is a beautiful Buddhist meditation for beginners because it cultivates warm feelings of love and kindness, and teaches us to see the world as a more compassionate place, which can be incredibly beneficial when dealing with stress and anxiety. Loving Kindness is one of the “ten perfections” or “Paramis”, which are the ideal character traits that Buddhists develop via meditation.
This is one of my favourite types of Buddhist meditation for beginners because it quickly develops happiness. Loving Kindness is one of the Brahma-viharas, along with Karuna (Copassion))
Samatha is concentration meditation. It is usually performed after Anapansati (which develops calmness or “Equanimity”). The different with Samatha is that it involves focusing the mind absolutely on one thing (most other forms of Budhist meditation involve generally focusing on one thing while also being aware of the thoughts and feelings or using visualizations).
Samatha is focusing absolutely on one object. And as such it is a potent form of meditation for developing concentration.
Benefits of Buddhist Meditation
Scientific research is increasingly finding benefits of Buddhist meditation for mental health as well as for general wellbeing. And as would be expected, each of the different Buddhist practices that we have looked at above has its own unique benefits, and there are also some universal benefits of Buddhist meditation.
Likely the most well-known benefit of Buddhist meditation is that it incredibly relaxing, and this in turn helps with stress, anxiety and depression. Buddhist meditation has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads to general relaxation and feelings of wellness. Is also balances noradrenaline, a hormone released by adrenal medulla and sympathetic nerves that acts as a neurotransmitter and causes rises in blood pressure.
After continued practice Buddhist meditation benefits the mind by essentially educating us about the nature of thoughts, feelings, and mental phenomena. When we are educated about these things we become less reactive to them, which leads to less anger and less stress.
Different types of Buddhist meditation benefit us in different ways. For instance, Metta (Loving Kindness) and Karuna (Compassion) lead to positive feelings about other people, such as trust and social connection. While methods like Samatha and Vipassana increase our focus and concentration and make us less reactive to distractions, which is naturally beneficial for productivity.
Non-reactivity is a large part of Buddhism. The less reactive we are to internal and external stimuli, the more we maintain our inner peace. In Practicing The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle said that all suffering is reaction. It is seeing what is and then reacting to it with emotions like desire, anger, or hate, that causes suffering. Buddhist Meditation increases mindfulness, which is the non-judgmental acceptance of present moment reality; in other words, non-reactivity. And in this way the principle benefit of Buddhist meditation is the end of suffering. Indeed, Buddha himself said, “I teach one thing and one thing only, suffering and the end of suffering”—although this quote, supposedly from the Pali canon, is believed by experts to be a misreading. Either way, I believe it adequately summarizes the purpose of Buddhist meditation.
Daily Buddhist Meditation For Beginners
Now that we are familiar with the different types of Buddhist meditations, beginners might like to put all that knowledge into practice with a daily Buddhist meditation plan.v
Here is the plan that I recommend.
How To Use This Plan.
Buddhists meditate as a way to achieve enlightenment [READ: How To Become Enlightened]
But before you set your sights on such lofty aspirations, stop.
It’s smart to go slowly and to learn meditation the right way.
For the beginner, Buddhist meditation must be done gradually and consistently.
Here is a daily plan of Buddhist meditations beginners can use to start training.
One Week Of Daily Buddhist Meditation
Let’s look at how to practice Buddhist meditation daily. Simply follow this easy plan to get in the habit.
The most important thing when it comes to learning Buddhist meditation as a beginner is commitment. Commit to practice. Do it daily.
In the first week, you want to do only the simplest techniques, which is a breathing meditation. This is the easiest Buddhist meditation for beginners to use.
Take twenty minutes each day to sit and focus your mind on your breathing. This will quiet your mind and enhance your focus.
Choose a time each day when you can focus on your breath for twenty minutes. Do not focus on results during this time, simply aim to do twenty minutes of mindful breathing each day.
In the the second week, you will want to continue your breathing practice and at the same time, progress into slightly more advanced techniques like Zen Walking.
However, this demands that we put aside another 20 minutes to practice.
Many people simply don’t have the time. For this reason, I recommend practising Zen walking while on your way somewhere.
If you are going to work, for instance, choose a safe path to walk and leave a little earlier than usual. This will give you time to practice zen walking while you are on your way to work (which saves time).
You may practice Zen walking whenever you are on a safe path, so the next time you are walking somewhere, go a safe route and meditate while you walk.
In the third week, we want to begin to use meditation in our everyday living.
For this we use mindfulness.
It is possible to practice mindfulness meditation while doing anything.
Say, for instance, that you are doing the dishes. You can meditate on the process of cleaning, thus practising while you work.
You can equally practice while exercising, showering, and doing other simple tasks. By practising mindfulness meditation while you work, you are learning to adopt a meditative style of living, rather than simply practising at specific times.
In this final week, I recommend adding Anapanasati, Samatha, and Vipassana to your current meditation training schedule.
Once you have learned Anapanasati, Vipassana, loving-kindness and Samatha, add them to your plan. Try doing twenty minutes of each method per week.
By week four, your schedule will look like this:
- Practice 20 minutes of breathing per day
- Mindfulness: While doing any simple tasks, do them mindfully
- Walking: While en route somewhere, take the safe path and practice Zen Walking
- Include a second 20 minute period per day when you will practice one of the traditional methods, such as Vipassana or Samatha.
- And there you are, the complete Buddhist meditation plan for beginners. Follow this path, and you will soon realise the meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum.
With the plan above, you can use all the best types of beginners Buddhist meditation techniques effectively. But naturally, you can feel free to add to this plan if you like.
Who knows, eventually you might become such an advanced meditator that you return as an enlightened Buddhist, having lived to 200 in Tukdam state with a Rainbow body.
And just in case you’re wondering how popular Buddhist meditation techniques are, take a look at this list of famous Buddhist celebrities!
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