There are two main meditation techniques in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. One is concentration meditation (Samatha bhavanā ) and the other is insight meditation (vipassanā bhavanā ). Some meditation teachers advise on developing concentration meditation initially and then moving to insight meditation. The other teachers advise developing insight meditation directly.
However, it is beneficial for a meditator to learn about the main meditation techniques. This article discusses how to do concentration meditation and its benefits.
What is concentration meditation?
Concentration means to keep focused on the meditation object. Usually, the meditators concentrate on the meditation object such as the breath, morality, generosity, etc.
Meditation means the development of the mind. Therefore, concentration meditation means the development of the mind by focusing on the meditation object.
Can meditation improve concentration?
The purpose of meditation is to keep the mind focused on one object. It is called the meditation object.
Initially, the mind wanders away all the time. That is the biggest challenge faced by a meditator. If he continues to practice for days, months, and years, he can improve his level of concentration.
First, the meditator eliminates five hindrances of the mind. Five hindrances are Sense-desire, ill-will, dullness, restlessness and worry, and doubt. When there are no hindrances, the mind becomes clear and focused.
A skillful meditator can develop concentration until he reaches the absorption concentration level. Therefore, constant practice of meditation can improve concentration.
How can concentration meditation help an individual?
Concentration meditation can help an individual in a lot of ways.
- A practitioner of concentration meditation can focus well
- It is easy to comprehend things with a focused mind
- It is easy to achieve goals with a focused mind
- One can pay attention to details
- One can sleep well and wake up afresh
- One can engage in the daily tasks with mindfulness
- One will become more sensitive to the concerns of others
- A meditator can maintain a good relationship with others
- A meditator will not waste time on meaningless talks, deeds or thoughts
- One can live with a peaceful mind by practicing meditation on regular basis
Concentration meditation vs. insight meditation
The purpose of concentration meditation is to calm the mind by focusing on the meditation object. For example, if your meditation object is the breath, you will keep on focusing on the incoming and outgoing breath until you reach one-pointedness or tranquillity. The meditator does not change his meditation object from time to time in concentration meditation.
On the other hand, insight meditation means developing the mind to see the reality of life. The meditator will develop his mind to an extent where the mind does not wander. Then he directs his mind to understand the reality of animate and inanimate beings and things.
The wisdom he gains through this understanding is called insight. It is not a mere intellectual understanding, but a thorough understanding of the phenomena related to the mind and matter.
What are the types of concentration meditation?
In Theravada Buddhism, there are 40 types of concentration meditation objects. An individual can choose the right technique suitable for his general temperament. I have discussed a few methods that suit anyone.
The most popular meditation is the breathing meditation technique.
You can find a quiet spot and sit in a comfortable posture with closed eyes
Make sure the body is erected
Take a few deep breaths to make the body relaxed
As you breathe in, notice it. As you breathe out, notice it
Do not pay any attention to the outside world. If your mind wanders away, simply bring it back without worrying about the fact your mind wandered away.
Practice for a few minutes and end up your session.
The above is the basic instructions for breathing meditation.
2.Loving kindness meditation
Loving-kindness meditation means spread friendly wishes toward everyone including yourself.
To get ready, you can follow the same instructions given under the breathing meditation technique such as sit in a comfortable posture with closed eyes.
Then start contemplating “may I be well, happy, and peaceful, may no harm come to me, may no difficulties come to me”
Try to stay focused for a few minutes with the above contemplation. If the mind wanders away, bring it back to the meditation object.
When you are familiar with spreading loving kindness to yourself, extend it to someone you like. You can use the same phrase with a slight change like “may my parents be well, happy, and peaceful.”
Then extend loving-kindness to a neutral person, to an enemy, to those who are in your city, state, country, the world, and the entire universe.
For more details, read Loving-kindness meditation: Beginner’s guide
Meditation on morality
If one lives a virtuous life, he can contemplate morality. By contemplating that, he feels happy because a virtuous person is praised by everyone. A householder can contemplate the five precepts he observes.
For more details on morality, read What are the basic principles of morality? The key to developing meditation
Meditation on generosity
Generosity brings a pleasant feeling to the mind. When one recollects the good deeds one has done in life, he can concentrate his mind.
For more details on generosity read Can generosity be taught?
How to progress in concentration meditation?
- Unlike insight meditation in which one develops wisdom at the present moment, concentration meditation needs specific circumstances to develop it. A person can develop concentration in day-to-day life if he is committed.
However, if one wishes to develop deep concentration, it is advisable to go for a meditation retreat which provides a quiet environment to go in-depth.
- Also, it is important to associate with friends who also practice meditation. People who do not meditate, are less likely to discuss about meditation. Moreover, they might distract you with frivolous talks.
- Morality is the foundation of concentration meditation. If you feel guilty about something, you cannot get settled to develop concentration. Therefore, cultivate morality in your life.
- Also, it is important to pay attention to the five hindrances. Mind is not clear when hindrances are present in the mind. Try their antidotes to eliminate them.
For more information on five hindrances, read What are the five hindrances?
- Your way of living is extremely important for concentration meditation. Therefore, try to cultivate other good qualities like loving kindness, sympathetic joy, and kindness. Try to help others whenever you can. Always engage in good deeds, speech, and thoughts. When you grow up with noble qualities, your meditation will automatically improve.
Concentration meditation teaches you the art of focusing on one object and persistent effort until you reach the final goal of a steadfast mind. Start your practice today for a better future.