Friday, August 5, 2016



  1. Preparation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Meditation
  4. Dedication
  5. Subsequent Practice


If we want to cultivate external crops we begin by making careful preparations. First, we remove from the soil anything that might obstruct their growth, such as stones and weeds. Second, we enrich the soil with compost or fertilizer to give it the strength to sustain growth. Third, we provide warm, moist conditions to enable the seeds to germinate and the plants to grow.
There are three essential preparations for successful meditation:
purifying negativities, accumulating merit, and receiving blessings.
In the same way, to cultivate our inner crops of Dharma realizations we must also begin by making careful preparations. First, we must purify our mind to eliminate the negative karma we have accumulated in the past, because if we do not purify this karma it will obstruct the growth of Dharma realizations. Second, we need to give our mind the strength to support the growth of Dharma realizations by accumulating merit. Third, we need to activate and sustain the growth of Dharma realizations by receiving the blessings of the holy beings.


If you like, you can engage in these preparatory practices by reciting the following prayers while contemplating their meaning,


(We imagine ourself and all other living beings going for refuge
while reciting three times):
I and all sentient beings, until we achieve enlightenment,
Go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. (3x, 7x, 100x, or more)


Through the virtues I collect by giving and other perfections,
May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all. (3x)


May everyone be happy,
May everyone be free from misery,
May no one ever be separated from their happiness,
May everyone have equanimity, free from hatred and attachment.


In the space before me is the living Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded
by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, like the full moon surrounded by stars.


With my body, speech, and mind, humbly I prostrate,
And make offerings both set out and imagined.
I confess my wrong deeds from all time,
And rejoice in the virtues of all.
Please stay until samsara ceases,
And turn the Wheel of Dharma for us.
I dedicate all virtues to great enlightenment.


The ground sprinkled with perfume and spread with flowers,
The Great Mountain, four lands, sun and moon,
Seen as a Buddha Land and offered thus,
May all beings enjoy such Pure Lands.
I offer without any sense of loss
The objects that give rise to my attachment, hatred, and confusion,
My friends, enemies, and strangers, our bodies and enjoyments;
Please accept these and bless me to be released directly from the three poisons.


The path begins with strong reliance
On my kind Teacher, source of all good;
O Bless me with this understanding
To follow him with great devotion.
This human life with all its freedoms,
Extremely rare, with so much meaning;
O Bless me with this understanding
All day and night to seize its essence.
My body, like a water bubble,
Decays and dies so very quickly;
After death come results of karma,
Just like the shadow of a body.
With this firm knowledge and remembrance
Bless me to be extremely cautious,
Always avoiding harmful actions
And gathering abundant virtue.
Samsara’s pleasures are deceptive,
Give no contentment, only torment;
So please bless me to strive sincerely
To gain the bliss of perfect freedom.
O Bless me so that from this pure thought
Come mindfulness and greatest caution,
To keep as my essential practice
The doctrine’s root, the Pratimoksha.
Just like myself all my kind mothers
Are drowning in samsara’s ocean;
O So that I may soon release them,
Bless me to train in bodhichitta.
But I cannot become a Buddha
By this alone without three ethics;
So bless me with the strength to practise
The Bodhisattva’s ordination.
By pacifying my distractions
And analyzing perfect meanings,
Bless me to quickly gain the union
Of special insight and quiescence.
When I become a pure container
Through common paths, bless me to enter
The essence practice of good fortune,
The supreme vehicle, Vajrayana.
The two attainments both depend on
My sacred vows and my commitments;
Bless me to understand this clearly
And keep them at the cost of my life.
By constant practice in four sessions,
The way explained by holy Teachers,
O Bless me to gain both the stages,
Which are the essence of the Tantras.
May those who guide me on the good path,
And my companions all have long lives;
Bless me to pacify completely
All obstacles, outer and inner.
May I always find perfect Teachers,
And take delight in holy Dharma,
Accomplish all grounds and paths swiftly,
And gain the state of Vajradhara.


From the hearts of all the holy beings,
streams of light and nectar flow down,
granting blessings and purifying.
(At this point we begin the actual contemplation and meditation. After the meditation we dedicate our merit while reciting the following prayers:)


Through the virtues I have collected
By practising the stages of the path,
May all living beings find the opportunity
To practise in the same way.
May everyone experience
The happiness of humans and gods,
And quickly attain enlightenment,
So that samsara is finally extinguished.


The purpose of contemplation is to bring to mind the object of placement meditation. We do this by considering various lines of reasoning, contemplating analogies, and reflecting on the scriptures. It is helpful to memorize the contemplations given in each section so that we can meditate without having to look at the text. The contemplations given here are intended only as guidelines. We should supplement and enrich them with whatever reasons and examples we find helpful.
By training in Lamrim meditation eventually we shall be able to maintain
a peaceful mind continuously, throughout our life.


When through our contemplations the object appears clearly, we leave our analytical meditation and concentrate on the object single-pointedly. This single-pointed concentration is the third part, the actual meditation.
When we first start to meditate, our concentration is poor; we are easily distracted and often lose our object of meditation. Therefore, to begin with we shall probably need to alternate between contemplation and placement meditation many times in each session.
For example, if we are meditating on compassion we begin by contemplating the various sufferings experienced by living beings until a strong feeling of compassion arises in our heart. When this feeling arises we meditate on it single-pointedly. If the feeling fades, or if our mind wanders to another object, we should return to analytical meditation to bring the feeling back to mind. When the feeling has been restored we once again leave our analytical meditation and hold the feeling with single-pointed concentration.
More detailed instructions on the contemplations and on Lamrim meditation in general can be found in Modern Buddhism and Joyful Path of Good Fortune.


Dedication directs the merit produced by our meditation towards the attainment of Buddhahood. If merit is not dedicated it can easily be destroyed by anger. By reciting the dedication prayers sincerely at the end of each meditation session we ensure that the merit we created by meditating is not wasted but acts as a cause for enlightenment.


This consists of advice on how to integrate Lamrim meditation into our daily life. It is important to remember that Dharma practice is not confined to our activities during the meditation session; it should permeate our whole life. We should not allow a gulf to develop between our meditation and our daily life, because the success of our meditation depends upon the purity of our conduct outside the meditation session. We should keep a watch over our mind at all times by applying mindfulness, alertness, and conscientiousness; and we should try to abandon whatever bad habits we may have.
Deep experience of Dharma is the result of practical training over a long period of time, both in and out of meditation, therefore we should practise steadily and gently, without being in a hurry to see results.


To summarize, our mind is like a field. Engaging in the preparatory practices is like preparing the field by removing obstacles caused by past negative actions, making it fertile with merit, and watering it with the blessings of the holy beings. Contemplation and meditation are like sowing good seeds, and dedication and subsequent practice are the methods for ripening our harvest of Dharma realizations.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today

 started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. But the one place I did have a say over was my mind, through meditation. When I started meditating, I did not realize it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released. Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to get on the bandwagon today:
It Boosts Your HEALTH
1 - Increases immune function (See here and here)
2 - Decreases Pain (see here)
3 - Decreases Inflammation at the Cellular Level (See here and here and here)
It Boosts Your HAPPINESS
4 - Increases Positive Emotion (here and here)
5 - Decreases Depression (see here)
6 - Decreases Anxiety (see here and here and here)
7 - Decreases Stress (see here and  here)
It Boosts Your SOCIAL LIFE
Think meditation is a solitary activity? It may be (unless you meditate in a group which many do!) but it actually increases your sense of connection to others:
8 - Increases social connection & emotional intelligence (see here and - by yours truly - here)
9 - Makes you more compassionate (see here and here and here)
10 - Makes you feel less lonely (see here)
It Boosts Your Self-Control
11 - Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here) (Ever flown off the handle or not been able to quiet your mind? Here's the key)
12 - Improves your ability to introspect (see here & for why this is crucial see this post)
It Changes Your BRAIN (for the better)
13 - Increases grey matter (see here)
14 - Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control (see here and here)
15 - Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention (see here)
 It Improves Your Productivity (yup, by doing nothing)
16 - Increases your focus & attention (see here and here and here and here)
17 - Improves your ability to multitask (see here)
18 - Improves your memory (see here)
19 - Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schooler)
20. It Makes You WISE(R)
It gives you perspective: By observing your mind, you realize you don't have to be slave to it. You realize it throws tantrums, gets grumpy, jealous, happy and sad but that it doesn't have to run you. Meditation is quite simply mental hygiene: clear out the junk, tune your talents, and get in touch with yourself. Think about it, you shower every day and clean your body, but have you ever showered your mind? As a consequence, you'll feel more clear and see thing with greater perspective. "The quality of our life depends on the quality of our mind," writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. We can't control what happens on the outside but we do have a say over the quality of our mind. No matter what's going on, if your mind is ok, everything is ok. Right now.
It Keeps You Real
Once you get to know your mind, you start to own your stuff and become more authentic, maybe even humble. You realize the stories and soap operas your mind puts you through and you gain some perspective on them. You realize most of us are caught up in a mind-drama and become more compassionate towards others.
And...the more you meditate, the more you seem to benefit, research studies such as thisone suggest.
Myths about Meditation
Having an empty mind—nope, in fact, when you start meditating, you'll find its quite the opposite
Sitting in lotus position—nope, you can sit on the couch (just don't lie down, you'll fall asleep)
Sitting for an hour a day—nope, small doses work just fine, (see here and - by yours truly - here)
Chanting in a language I don't understand—nope, not unless that floats your boat
Buddhist, Hindu or religiousnope, not unless you make it so
Weird—what's so weird about sitting and breathing? Besides, US congressmenNFL football leagues and the US Marine Corps are doing it, how weird can it be?
Wearing robes—what? 
I can't clear my mind—no worries, while you're sitting there you'll experience the noisy chaos of a wound up mind that's unwinding: tons of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Don't worry about how you feel during, notice how you feel after and throughout the rest of the day
I can't sit still—that's ok, just sit comfortably, fidget if you need to
I get anxious—that's also normal, all the junk's coming up, learn some breathing practices to calm yourself down, exercise or do yoga before meditating
I hate sitting still—that's fine, then go for a walk without your earphones, phone etc; or start with yoga; or do breathing exercises…give yourself time to just "be" without constantly "doing" something
I tried and I hated it—there's not just one kind of meditation, there's a whole menu out there, look for the shoe that fits: mindfulness, Transcendental, compassion, mantra, Vipassana, Art of Living breathing practices, yoga nidra, yoga, insight, loving-kindness, tai chi etc...
I don't have time - if you have time to read an article about meditation all the way through, you have time to meditate. Think of all those minutes you waste every day on the internet or otherwise, you can definitely fit in 20 minutes here or there to give your life a boost! Gandhi is quoted as saying "I'm so busy today, that... I'm going to meditate 2 hours instead of 1."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Meditation Exercises

excerpted from the writings of Sri Chinmoy

Breathing exercise

Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body infinite peace. When you breathe out, try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness within and all around you.
After practising this a few times, try to feel that you are inhaling power from the universe. When you exhale, feel that all your fear is leaving your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and depression.
There is also something else you can try. Feel that you are breathing in not air, but cosmic energy. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that is not being filled by cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you, washing and purifying your whole being. Then when you start to breathe out, feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you - all your undivine thoughts, obscure ideas and impure actions.

Visualisation exercise: the vastness of the sky

Keep your eyes half open and imagine the vast sky. In the beginning try to feel that the sky is in front of you; later try to feel that you are as vast as the sky, or that you are the vast sky itself.

After a few minutes please close your eyes and try to see and feel the sky inside your heart. Please feel that you are the universal heart, and that inside you is the sky that you meditated upon and identified yourself with. Your spiritual heart is infinitely vaster than the sky, so you can easily house the sky within yourself.
(Video: Sri Chinmoy wrote many meditative aphorisms that can be used as visualisation exercises. For example, this video features a series of Sri Chinmoy's aphorisms on the theme 'Imagine', along with beautiful photographs of nature. 5)

Visualisation exercise: the heart rose

rose.jpgKindly imagine a flower inside your heart. Suppose you prefer a rose. Imagine that the rose is not fully blossomed; it is still a bud. After you have meditated for two or three minutes, please try to imagine that petal by petal the flower is blossoming. See and feel the flower blossoming petal by petal inside your heart. Then, after five minutes, try to feel that there is no heart at all; there is only a flower inside you called 'heart'. You do not have a heart, but only a flower. The flower has become your heart or your heart has become a flower.

After seven or eight minutes, please feel that this flower-heart has covered your whole body. Your body is no longer here; from your head to your feet you can feel the fragrance of the rose. If you look at your feet, immediately you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your knee, you experience the fragrance of a rose. If you look at your hand, you experience the fragrance of a rose. Everywhere the beauty, fragrance and purity of the rose have permeated your entire body. When you feel from your head to your feet that you have become only the beauty, fragrance, purity and delight of the rose, then you are ready to place yourself at the Feet of your Beloved Supreme.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Generally, the purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace. We can use breathing meditations alone or as a preliminary practice to reduce our distractions before engaging in a Lamrim meditation


The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practising a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. If we wish, we can sit in a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy.
The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of the breath. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.


If we practise patiently in this way, gradually our distracting thoughts will subside and we will experience a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Our mind will feel lucid and spacious and we will feel refreshed. When the sea is rough, sediment is churned up and the water becomes murky, but when the wind dies down the mud gradually settles and the water becomes clear. In a similar way, when the otherwise incessant flow of our distracting thoughts is calmed through concentrating on the breath, our mind becomes unusually lucid and clear. We should stay with this state of mental calm for a while.
Even though breathing meditation is only a preliminary stage of meditation, it can be quite powerful. We can see from this practice that it is possible to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling the mind, without having to depend at all upon external conditions.
So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind
When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us to cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress.
Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day, we will be able to reduce this stress. We will experience a calm, spacious feeling in the mind, and many of our usual problems will fall away. Difficult situations will become easier to deal with, we will naturally feel warm and well disposed towards other people, and our relationships with others will gradually improve.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

How do I know if I'm meditating well?

If you are meditating properly, you will get spontaneous inner joy. Nobody has given you good news, nobody has brought you any gifts, nobody has appreciated or admired you, nobody has done anything for you, but you will have an inner feeling of delight. If this happens, then you know that you are meditating properly.
There is also another way that you can know. If you are actually entering into a higher plane, you will feel that your body is becoming very light. Although you don't have wings, you will almost feel that you can fly. In fact, when you have reached a very high world, you will actually see a bird inside you that can easily fly just as real birds do.
If you have a good feeling for the world, if you see the world in a loving way in spite of its teeming imperfections, then you will know that your meditation was good. And if you have a dynamic feeling right after meditation, if you feel that you have come into the world to do something and become something - to grow into God's very image and become His dedicated instrument - this indicates that you have had a good meditation. But the easiest way to know if you have had a good meditation is to feel whether peace, light, love and delight have come to the fore from within.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


When we practise meditation we need to have a comfortable seat and a good posture. The most important feature of the posture is to keep our back straight. To help us do this, if we are sitting on a cushion we make sure that the back of the cushion is slightly higher than the front, inclining our pelvis slightly forward. It is not necessary at first to sit cross-legged, but it is a good idea to become accustomed to sitting in the posture of Buddha Vairochana. If we cannot hold this posture we should sit in one which is as close to this as possible while remaining comfortable.
The seven features of Vairochana’s posture are:
  1. The legs are crossed in the vajra posture. This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.
  2. The right hand is placed in the left hand, palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. The hands are held about four fingers’ width below the navel. This helps us to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom – the two together symbolize the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolize the blazing of inner fire.
  3. The back is straight but not tense. This helps us to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely.
  4. The lips and teeth are held as usual, but the tongue touches against the back of the upper teeth. This prevents excessive salivation while also preventing our mouth from becoming too dry.
  5. The head is tipped a little forward with the chin slightly tucked in so that the eyes are cast down. This helps prevent mental excitement.
  6. The eyes are neither wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open we are likely to develop mental excitement and if they are closed we are likely to develop mental sinking.
  7. The shoulders are level and the elbows are held slightly away from the sides to let air circulate.
If we want to colour our mind with a virtuous motivation we need to clear away all our negative thoughts and distractions.
A further feature of Vairochana’s posture is the preliminary breathing meditation, which prepares our mind for developing a good motivation. When we sit down to meditate our mind is usually full of disturbing thoughts, and we cannot immediately convert such a state of mind into the virtuous one we need as our motivation. A negative, disturbed state of mind is like pitch-black cloth. We cannot dye pitch-black cloth any other colour unless we first remove all the black dye and make the cloth white again. In the same way, if we want to colour our mind with a virtuous motivation we need to clear away all our negative thoughts and distractions. We can accomplish this temporarily by practising breathing meditation.


When we have settled down comfortably on our meditation seat we begin by becoming aware of the thoughts and distractions that are arising in our mind. Then we gently turn our attention to our breath, letting its rhythm remain normal. As we breathe out we imagine that we are breathing away all disturbing thoughts and distractions in the form of black smoke that vanishes in space. As we breathe in we imagine that we are breathing in all the blessings and inspiration of the holy beings in the form of white light that enters our body and absorbs into our heart. We maintain this visualization single-pointedly with each inhalation and exhalation for twenty-one rounds, or until our mind has become peaceful and alert. If we concentrate on our breathing in this way, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear because we cannot concentrate on more than one object at a time. At the conclusion of our breathing meditation we should think `Now I have received the blessings and inspiration of all the holy beings.’ At this stage our mind is like a clean white cloth which we can now colour with a virtuous motivation such as compassion or bodhichitta.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

what is meditation?

There are many things in life that are beyond our control. However, it is possible to take responsibility for our own states of mind – and to change them for the better. According to Buddhism this is the most important thing we can do, and Buddhism teaches that it is the only real antidote to our own personal sorrows, and to the anxieties, fears, hatreds, and general confusions that beset the human condition.
Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Buddhist meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energised states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.
Over the millennia countless meditation practices have been developed in the Buddhist tradition. All of them may be described as ‘mind-trainings’, but they take many different approaches. The foundation of all of them, however, is the cultivation of a calm and positive state of mind.

Learning meditation

Each year thousands of people learn meditation with the Triratna Buddhist Community. We teach two basic meditations that were originally taught by the historical Buddha. These help develop the qualities of calmness and emotional postivity: the Mindfulness of Breathing and Loving-Kindness (Metta Bhavana) meditations .
The techniques of meditation are very simple. However, reading about them is no substitute for learning from an experienced and reliable teacher. A teacher will be able to offer you guidance in how to apply the technique and how to deal with difficulties. Perhaps most importantly, a teacher can offer the encouragement and inspiration of their own example.