Buddhist meditation

Meditation is a way of working with mind that is not reserved for Buddhism. For hundreds of years, people of many religions and spiritual paths have used meditation as a method for gaining greater concentration and insight into themselves. As the different religions have different aims, so the methods are different.
Within Buddhism, you also find many ways to meditate, but the goal of all Buddhist meditations is always the same: to realise the nature of mind.

In Tibetan, meditation is called gom which means to do or to practice, which means that you practice paying attention to mind and what happens in it without getting attached to the thoughts and feeling that arise naturally.
In this way, Buddhist meditations should be understood as practical exercises that can calm mind and lead to a direct experience of it.

Calming meditation and insight meditation

Meditations can be grouped in more ways. One of the ways is to divide them into main groups as calming meditation (Skt. Shamata, Tib. Shine) and insight meditation (Skt. Vipashyana, Tib. Lhaktong).
As opposed to other religions, both types of meditation are present in any Buddhist meditation, so here they can also be mentioned as different phases of the meditation.

The goal of the calming phase of the meditation is to make mind more peaceful by increasing our concentration and creating greater distance to our emotions. When we are no longer controlled by our emotions we have a much higher degree of freedom to decide how to act, and thereby we can consciously create good conditions for the future.
In the calming part of the meditation, one uses an outer object to hold one’s attention. It can be the flame from a light, a picture, or one can feel the air coming and going at the tip of one’s nose. Thoughts and feelings continue to occur naturally, but instead of following them one lets go and sees them disappear again.
The calming meditations can give the peace and clarity necessary for taking the work with mind further, but they cannot change the fixed illusions of ourselves and the world around us which keep us from reaching full enlightenment.

The other part – the insight meditation – is the meditations leading to the experience of emptiness. Insight should thus not be understood as an intellectual understanding, but as a spontaneous and intuitive “aha”-experience. This means that one in the meditations seeks to break one’s habitual illusions about the world and oneself, as one is not just seeking the individual “aha”-experiences, but a direct and permanent insight that goes beyond concepts, names, or ideas.
The insight meditation can enable us to understand the nature of mind either through an analysis process where one can for instance use logical sentences to penetrate one’s habitual illusions. One can use riddles that do not seem to make sense as the most important thing is not the answer, but the insight gained on the way. An understanding of mind can also be gained through a direct, non-conceptual approach in the so-called formless meditation where one attempts to rest in what is without fixing one’s attention to anything specific.

Calming meditations and insight meditations are used on all three ways (the small way, the great way, and the Diamond Way), and as mentioned, it is characteristic of Buddhist meditations that both are present in every single meditation.

Meditation on The Diamond Way

On the Diamond Way, we work with meditations where we identify with the Buddha state, including meditation on the lama who represents full enlightenment. In Sanskrit, these meditations are called Guru Yoga which means meditation on the lama. Through seeing again and again the enlightened qualities in a teacher and then identifying with them, you gradually uncover the same qualities in yourself. Therefore, the Guru Yoga meditations are quick and efficient means for reaching full enlightenment.

In each meditation, we begin by calming our mind by following the air coming and going at the tips of our noses. Then we motivate ourselves by thinking about the different reasons for working with mind. These considerations are called the four basic thoughts, and they are:
1. We have a precious opportunity in this life.
2. Like everything else, the opportunity is impermanent.
3. Everything that happens has a cause. In other words, we create our own lives.
4. Enlightenment is better than anything we know, and we can only do little for others while confused and suffering ourselves.

Then we take refuge in Buddha, that is, we open up to the goal, full enlightenment; in the Dharma, the Buddhist teachings and methods that can lead us to the goal; and in the sangha, the people in Buddhist community who have reached liberation so that they no longer act out of attachment to their own needs and the illusion of an I and are therefore able to help others. As something special to the Diamond Way, we finally take refuge in the lama, the union of all blessing, development, and protection.

The meditations within the Diamond Way and the Karma Kagyu School involve body, speech, and mind, and they follow a course that can be divided into three phases; the building-up phase, the mantra phase, and the completion phase.
In the building-up phase, you imagine different forms that have a symbolic meaning and work on a deep psychological level as they have purifying or other beneficial effects. It is central to imagine letting Buddha or Karmapa arise in front of us or over our head. Not as a solid picture, but as a form of energy and light – a little like a hologram that shows us the Buddha state or certain aspect of enlightenment.
In the next phase, the mantra phase, we repeat a mantra which is “the vibration of enlightenment”. It works on a deep psychological level, and as a positive side effect, the mantra makes it easier to focus on the Buddha form. The mantra could for example be “Karmapa Chenno” or “Om Mani Peme Hung”.

Finally, in the completion phase, we imagine that the Buddha or Karmapa dissolves into light, that this light shines into us, and that all form disappears. We rest in this experience for at short moment in which we experience the nature of mind. In the beginning, it only lasts a very short moment until we again begin to follow thoughts and feeling that come and go, but gradually, as we get more experience, it is possible to rest in the experience for a longer period of time.
Finally, we wish that all the good just experienced and the positive effect must benefit all living beings.

If you wish to learn to meditate, you are welcome to contact your closest Karma Kagyu center, where all interested are welcome. Here you will be given give a thorough explanation of the different elements of the Guru Yoga meditation on the 16. Karmapa and you can meditate together.