Buddhist Meditation: The Techniques And Their Potential In Modern Culture
When people choose to start meditation there is a good chance that their choice has nothing to do with religion; however, Buddhist meditation is the starting point for many modern practices and its influence should be recognised. This guide will look at Buddhist traditions, the controversial transition into modern culture and the potential of mediation in any religious or secular lifestyle to show how the initial ideals have wide-reaching effects today.
The link between meditation and Buddhism and its impact on modern society.
Buddhist meditation is one many style of meditations, alongside well-known practices like yoga and Tai Chi, and it is characterised by peaceful reflection and concentration through chanting and breathing exercises. To be honest, this is just the surface with Buddhist practices because once you go deeper into the culture and regional variants you will find a range of different styles that focus on different elements. Some areas prefer visualisation techniques, other focus on the concentration and there are fifty different mindfulness methods in the Theravada tradition alone. The use of meditation in Buddhism is complex and this is something that is often overlooked.
At one time Buddhist meditation would have been restricted to Eastern culture and the temples but it is found its way into the mainstream to the point where seemingly foreign concepts of chanting and enlightenment become general practices around the world. A large percent of people meditate in some way and use these Buddhist ideals, to a degree, as part of their regime. Meditation is seen as healthy, beneficial practise and is recommended to anyway with stress issues, even to the point where it is being brought into schools to aid with performance and anxiety. Some people are less than happy with this development because it is seen as bringing Buddhism – rather than just meditation – into a classroom and, therefore, undermining other people’s beliefs and blurring the line between the church and state.
Meditation and religion as a wider subject and its accessibility to everyone.
What some people do not realise is that meditation does not have to be completely linked to Buddhism and the basic teachings and methods can be applied to any religion – or even secular pastimes. The concepts of creating a deeper pathway to thoughts, getting in touch with real feelings and concentrating your focus on mantras can relate to any chosen deity with the same level of devotion and great results as Buddhist practices. Meditation is an art that is open to expression and has many purposes and this means that the deep connections can be linked to any faith and the mantras can easily be substituted for a prayer. Christen meditation – which is taught in classes and specialised retreats – does exactly that and helps people use the ideas of deep focus and spiritual awakening as ways to better connect to the Bible and God’s words.
Moving away from the religious styles of Meditation and Eastern influences – there are plenty of secular forms of meditation that can be enjoyed by Atheists, Agnostics or religious folk that simply want an alternative form of stress relief. The thoughts and feelings that you connect to and the elements you focus on for relief are personal and there is no reason why they have to be related to a god if you just want to ease anxieties or help depression. Meditation is being used worldwide as a great aid in mental health issues and it is this side of the practice that schools are focusing on, not Buddhist meditation.
Summary: what can we learn from Buddhist meditation?
This is a question with two answers really: on one level there are the literal teachings of Buddhist meditation, the ones that bring relief, enlightenment and a better sense of self through chanting, breathing and concentrated focus; however, we can also learn that meditation is an art that anyone can benefit from, no matter their religious persuasion. Meditation started as an ancient practise with Buddhism but as it has expanded across the globe it has taken on new possibilities and been opened up to new users – like Christians in need of another way to connect with God, Atheists looking for an alternative stress relief therapy or students trying to deal with educational anxiety.
For more information on Buddhist meditation please see the blog A Simple Path.