Meditation, Varieties of. There are so many varieties
meditation practices that it would take a whole book to describe them
all in any detail. For this reason only a brief and superficial review
can be given here. The most well known and still most widely practiced
is the calming meditation which focuses on “in and out breathing,”
A second meditation is that of the Brahma Vihara or Divine Abidings.
This consisted of four stages, of an ever deepening abandonment of
self-centeredness which culminates in equanimity. A third meditation
practice is insight (vipashyana) meditation. This meditation also
consists of four stages starting with meditation on the impermanence
of the body, of the emotions, of the mental states, and finally
meditation on the general Buddhist teachings of the impermanence of
all that is thought of as self.
Still other meditations includes recollection on the Buddha, Dharma
(Buddhist teachings), and Sangha (Buddhist spiritual community);
chanting, reading, and copying of sutras (sacred texts); reciting
short scriptural passages (dharanis) or even shorter invocations
(mantras); the visualization of elaborate sacred iconography
(mandalas); and visualizing various Buddha Pure-Lands (heaven-like
When Buddhism went from India to China still new meditational
practices and techniques were developed such as physical exercises
inspired by Taoist physical practices such as tai-chi.
Another uniquely Chinese developed meditation consisted of a focusing
on gongan (Japanese: koans). These are words or phrases of a
paradoxical nature, and thus which can not be fathomed by the
intellect. The purpose of this Zen meditation is to break through our
normal dual thinking and realize, through pure intuition, the deeper
truth of just who we really are right here and now.
When Buddhism traveled from China to Japan, not only did many of the
Sino-Indian practices and techniques establish themselves there, but
the Japanese devised their own unique meditational forms. Among the
most well known of these are “just sitting in faith in ones innate
Buddhahood (sikan-taza),” the tea ceremony (chado), flower arranging
(ikebana or kado), and non-contact swordsmanship (iaido, suburi, etc.)
meditation. Less well known meditational practices are climbing of
sacred mountain (shugendo), the art of incense appreciation (kodo),
playing the Japanese flute (fuke Zen), poetry writing (shado), and
even playing the strategic game of ‘go’. This list of Zen
practices is not exhaustive, but should give an idea of the great
variety of such practices found in the Zen tradition.