Article

Meditation

David L. McMahan

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0104
Meditation

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Buddhist meditation is made up of a wide array of techniques designed to produce heightened states of awareness and concentration that lead to insight into the true nature of things and liberation from suffering. A number of terms tend to be translated as meditation—bhāvanā (cultivation), dhyāna (concentration), samādhi (meditative absorption)—and these terms have been understood differently in different Buddhist traditions. Virtually all meditative traditions of Buddhism, however, contain some version of tranquility meditation (śamatha) and insight meditation (vipaśyanā; Pali: vipassanā). Often the distinctions between meditation, worship, and ritual can be ambiguous, especially in Mahayana and Vajrayāna traditions, in which practitioners visualize and worship buddhas and bodhisattvas or chant the name of Buddha Amitābha repeatedly. The distinction between scholarly and popular is also sometimes blurry in works on Buddhist meditation, as is that between ancient and modern, since virtually every translation of ancient texts contains a modern introduction and interpretation. Meditation began to be a subject of explicit interest in the West in the mid-20th century, when scholars and Buddhists began writing books on the subject. During that time it was often believed to be a method of training the mind toward a mystical experience that was essentially the same in all times and places, among different religions. Later treatments take into account the differences in Buddhist traditions, address meditation in the context of particular schools and institutional settings, and tend to impose less of a metaphysic of sameness inherent in the comparative mysticism model.

Article.  5838 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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