Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instructions

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  • 7/28/2019 Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instructions


    I will give you what advice I can about meditation.

    All profound types of meditation have their origins in eastern religions. The religions

    (of which I'm aware) which have at least fairly deep methods of meditation are

    Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Sufism. Hinduism, Taoism, and Sufismbelieve in either a god or an underlying, absolute essence of the universe, whereas

    Buddhism and Jainism do not. These two religions believe in the innate power and

    goodness of every being's mind, and meditation is the way to progressively actualize this.

    Since Buddhism (specifically, Tibetan Buddhism) is what I know most about and is

    what I practice regularly, that is what I will discuss here. You can research the others on

    your own.

    Here are some good links about the general theory of Tibetan Buddhist meditation

    (presented in a concise, but down-to-earth way).


    I'd recommend starting by reading these two on this site:http://mingyur.org/teachings/shamatha1.html


    Okay, now let's talk meditation. Like all other things in life, you get out of meditation

    what you put into it. Your motivation for practicing meditation is also very important. In

    the beginning it's certainly fine to simply want to try it out and explore, but hopefully

    after a while, you will want to begin each session with the intention to benefit all livingcreatures (which includes yourself) with your meditation practice.

    Now let's talk about meditation posture. Ancient texts frequently say that the full-lotusposture is best, but I'm not flexible enough to do that. Other good postures are half-lotus,

    quarter-lotus, and the Burmese posture.

    The spine should be as straight as possible while remaining relaxed. Some people place

    their hands folded on top of each other in front them like this man is doing:


    However, in my tradition we simply place our hands on our knees. I find this is simpler

    and gives my torso more support.

    The chin should be tucked in just slightly to straighten the vertebrae in the neck. The

    chest should be raised a bit and the shoulders should be drawn back.

    Your eyes should look down at a point on the floor about 2 meters in front of you, but

    leave your eyes relaxed and unfocused.

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    Your lips should be closed, but your jaw should be relaxed so that your teeth don't touch.

    You should place the tip of your tongue just behind your front upper teeth on your palate.

    My lama once said that if you find the right spot, the saliva will be automaticallyredirected down your throat so you won't have to swallow. However, if you need to

    swallow periodically, that's fine. Don't stress too much about posture details. Relax.

    Unless I explicitly state otherwise, all breathing is done through the nose.

    Now here is a preliminary exercise to do before meditating (or whenever you feel like itthroughout the day) to purify the energies in your body:

    Do this 3 times:

    -Exhale somewhat forcefully and completely (it takes about 3 seconds) while

    visualizing that you are exhaling all the negative energies which cause sickness and otherproblems.

    -Inhale slowly but completely (this will me much slower than the exhalation was) and

    visualize that you are filling up with the positive, pure, healing energy of all Buddhas and

    wise beings.

    All Buddhist meditation starts with Shamatha (Tibetan: Shinay). This is calmingmeditation which is the basis of all others.

    Here is a very simple version of Shinay (calming meditation) which my lama taught me:-When you exhale, feel yourself relaxing and dissolving more and more.

    -When you inhale, just rest and do absolutely nothing.

    -If you notice a thought of yours, just think "thought" and go back to focusing on your

    exhalations as described above.-Similarly, if you hear something, just think "sound" and go back to focusing on your

    exhalations as described above. If seeing something, "sight," etc.

    Don't fight your thoughts just be aware of them.

    Another variation is simply to focus on the posture of your body instead of on yourbreathing. When your posture changes from the ideal posture, change it back. When

    your mind wanders, bring your focus back to your posture. That's it.

    Here is an explanation in the words of my lama in response to an email I sent him a longtime ago:

    "Generally speaking, in Shine you are not supposed to formulate,

    visualize things, or thoughts. You just are, and don't do anythingparticular. You have a general awareness of your present situation,

    the environment and body posture.

    At the beginning you bring your mind to where you are by feeling the

    atmosphere of the place. At this point you simplify everything to the

    feeling of earth beneath - you feel well-grounded, stable - and the

    feeling of space around - you feel eased, no pressure, no expectations

  • 7/28/2019 Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instructions


    on you, no obstacles, no barriers, you can relax, be what you are. You

    are feeling all this, not thinking. Just sit heavy on the ground and

    open, easy in space - during meditation these are your referencepoints. You return again and again to these two feelings.

    Then you have the posture. You feel comfortable sitting, and keepawareness of the feeling of the main points of your posture, returning

    again and again to the feeling of them. You are alert, but not tense,


    The breathing: You work with the outbreath, during inhalation just wait.

    Again, feeling is important, not thinking. You feel the outgoing

    breath dissolving, and together with that feeling of dissolution youlet all your tensions, thoughts etc whatever there is, just vanish as

    they like, similarly to letting go a bird you are holding in your

    hand, by just opening your hand. The bird will find its way, don't

    worry. Then during the next inhalation just wait.

    Don't think about emptiness or whatever.

    Everything is just very simple, nothing to do, not even meditation,

    nothing to accomplish, no hope, no fear, just be. A perfect holidayfrom ordinary busy-ness and worries.

    Then thoughts: Don't fight with them, let them be where they are,

    just recognize their occurance, by saying: "thought" and with the samemovement return to the feeling of posture, well-groundedness, openness

    or exhalation-dissolution, whichever you like."


    I am now going to teach you some other meditations so that you can have a complete

    practice. In Tibetan Buddhism, the goal is always to develop both wisdom and

    compassion. Shinay (the breathing meditation I gave you instructions for in my lastemail) is the foundation of the wisdom meditations. The meditations in Tibetan

    Buddhism which develop compassion and loving-kindness are collectively called Lojong

    meditations. In this email, I will give you instructions for two different Lojongmeditations.

    Lojong meditation 1: Awakening an inner stream of love

    To start, just get into your meditation posture, relax, and breathe naturally for a bit.

    Then think of something which makes you feel a

    great deal of love. It could be a special memory, something you read, a religious symbol,

  • 7/28/2019 Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instructions


    a movie, etc. Spend a while focusing on this

    feeling of love and trying to increase it. It might take a while to discover what the best

    thing for you to trigger this feeling is. I often prefer to think about cute animals as mystarting point because I distrust most people. If you're thinking about a special memory,

    you want to feel that you're actually reliving it.

    Anyway, once you've got this inner feeling of love, think of someone you are very

    close to and then try feel this same intense feeling

    of love for them. Think of many people in this category and do the same thing. Thenthink about people who you're friendly with, but not

    quite as close to and do the same thing. Then think about strangers, people whom you've

    never met, and do the same thing. After you've

    practiced this for a while, then you can also try this with people who you considerenemies or who you have difficulty with.

    Once you have extended your love to all beings, just focus on maintaining it and rest in

    this state for as long as you wish.******

    Lojong meditation 2: Atmospheric Tonglen

    Breathe naturally and observe your thoughts and feelings the same way that you wouldsense the atmosphere of a room. If you notice a negative thought or feeling (it could be a

    specific angry thought or it could be something more mild such feeling a bit of pain in

    your legs or feeling sleepy or having a headache), imagine that you breathe it in when

    you inhale. Imagine that this negative thought enters your body from all sides (if youwant, you can visualize it as dirty, black smoke), and once it's in your body, it dissolves,

    is purified, and disappears (the true nature of our minds is strong enough to purify any

    amount of negativity).

    When you breathe out, imagine that you breathing out bright, clean, positive energy

    which comes out of your body from all sides and benefits all beings (including yourself)and makes them happy. Make sure to keep your breathing natural. Don't force it to be

    slow and deep or any certain way.

    If you are truly feeling so positive for a while that you observe no negative thoughtsduring some inhalations, then don't do anything but continue to observe your thoughts,

    and on the exhalations, breathe out postive energy as I described before--don't try and

    force yourself to have a negative thought artificially.

    The important thing is to simply observe your thoughts without judging them. Don't

    think, "Oh I have such mean thoughts. I'm a bad person," or "I have no bad thoughtsright now, so I'm a great person." The thoughts that you encounter don't matter. All that

    matters is continuing the method of the meditation.

  • 7/28/2019 Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Instructions



    Atmospheric Tonglen is one of my favorite meditations and was one of the mainreasons that I was able to get through last year without being crushed by difficulties and

    negative feelings. It develops generosity because you are taking negativities into yourself

    and sending out positive energy to others.

    So in order to have a balanced meditation practice, you should do both Shinay and

    Lojong meditations. The traditional way is to start with Shinay and then do one Lojongmeditation immediately afterwards. This is what I usually do. Since I'm not too flexible

    my legs serve as "timers." I do Shinay until my legs become very uncomfortable, and

    then I switch which leg is on top and do a Lojong meditation (usually, I just do one of

    these two).

    Another meditation you can do, if you wish, is to recite mantras of Buddhist deities

    (their nature is a complicated mixture of the real and the unreal--you can think of them as

    symbols of an enlightened mind). The classic Buddhist mantra is OM MANI PADMEHUM (Tibetans usually say OM MANI PEME HUNG). This is the mantra of

    Avalokitesvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) the (male) bodhisattva of compassion.

    If you want to meditate on this mantra, simply say it out loud over and over again so

    that you can comfortable with it and feel it resonate in your lower abdomen. You don'tneed to sychronize the syllables with your breathing in any particular way. According to

    my lama, repeating mantras purifies your body's energies.

    Here is that mantra set to music (one of the few attempts to mix Buddhist chants withpopular music that isn't terrible):


    There are more advanced types of Tibetan Buddhist meditations, but these require

    certain initiation ceremonies. The two main stages are the generation stage and the

    completion stage. In generation stage meditations, you visualize yourself as one of thedeities--whose forms are quite elaborate, so it's actually quite difficult to visualize them

    clearly--, while repeating their mantras (often there is a preliminary chant as well). In the

    completion stage, this elaborate visualization is then dissolved into emptiness and the true

    nature of the mind is meditated upon directly. There may also be special yogic exercisesdealing with the energy channels in the body as well. A lot of this stuff is quite secret

    and often is only taught in long-term meditation retreats.

    Anyway, I hope that these new meditations will benefit you as well.


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