Buddhist Meditation Is Preserved by Theravada

For my visitation paper, I visited a Buddhist temple, London Fo Guang Shan Temple, to participate their meditation. I chose to experience Buddhist meditation because I have heard reviews from people who had done it before. They all said it helped them to calm down and to become more focus on their work, in addition, meditation helped them to release their mental stress. All these comments triggered my curiosity, I wanted to feel that healing power personally. Buddhist meditation is preserved by Theravada, the oldest branch of Buddhism.

Generally, there are two major types of meditation and they are Samatha (calm abiding) and vipassana (insight) (textbook). Meditation practiced in Fo Guang Shan Temple is vipassana, which begins by simply watching’s one’s breath as it flows and out (textbook). Besides the traditional meditation, zazen, I also experienced the one that has curing power, which is called “The Tien-Tai School Six ‘Qi’ Healing Methods”. The meditation room is located at the third floor of the temple.

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Different from the main worship room for both bodhisattva and ancestors, the worship does not have much decorations, the walls are painted with plain-white and hold no paintings. On the floor there are only cushions, 36 of them, spread out with certain distance, making sure everyone has enough room for meditation. In front of the room is a small table and a wooden fish is on the table, aside the table is a special cushion for the leading nun. I arrived at around 1:25pm, there were not many people in the room, mostly Asians; when the leading nun came in, around 20 cushions were filled in.

Before the meditation started, we have to “Pao Xiang (?? )”, which is an warm-up activity that involves walking, both fast and slow. Buddhists believe that “Qi (? )” function along with blood in human body and it is essential for our health. Similar to blood, if Qi doesn’t circulate well in our body, it will affect our health in a negative way. Since we were mostly sitting while meditating, we must did some exercise (pao xiang) to make the circulation of our blood an qi smoother, so that they wouldn’t be blocked during or after zazen.

Pao Xiang involve both quick walking and slow walking. During Pao Xiang, people should focus on nothing but their breath and every single step. In addition to warm-up physically, it also has a calming effect to our mind, telling us to get rid of other irrelevant thoughts and to be prepared for the latter meditation. The first part of meditation is The Tien-Tai School Six “Qi” Healing Methods. As I mentioned before, Buddhists believe our physical health is strongly associated to the flowing Qi, if our body goes wrong, it is probably due to the blocked Qi in our body.

Hence, the purpose of the healing methods is to break through the obstructs of our Qi, and it mainly focuses on our six important organs: Lungs, Kidney, Liver, Heart, Spleen, and Mouth, Stomach, Bladder. By practicing the healing methods, one can exhale out the Qi that has been stuck in our body, which brought negative effect to our health. The healing method has 8 different sets of exercise, included warm up exercise and finishing exercise, and they all composed by inhalation and exhalation.

The way of inhalation stays the same throughout all 8 sets of exercise, the difference among these exercises comes from the method of exhalation, different ways of exhalation will exhale the Qi from different parts of the body. We started with the warm up exercise and each exercise was repeated five times. I will briefly describe each exercise in the paragraphs below. Warm up exercise Inhalation: Stand with your feet at shoulders width. Slowly raise both arms at your side until it is in line with the shoulders. Then, move both arms to the front of the body.

Exhalation: Slowly and naturally bring your arms own with the palms of your hand facing down (breathe naturally). Healing method: Lungs Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise. Exhalation: Push both arms out to the side with finger tips facing upwards, while pushing arms out, make a “si” sound along with exhalation (the sound must continue until the whole process of exhalation is finished). When both arms are in line with the shoulders, slowly bring down your arms. Healing method: Kidneys Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise

Exhalation: Slowly bring your body down to a squatting position (Ma Bu) while exhaling. During the process of exhalation, make a “xu” sound until the end of it and slowly bring down your hands to finish the exercise. Healing method: Liver Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise Exhalation: Position your hands 2 inches in front of the eyes with palms facing towards the face. While exhaling, move hands to make a circular motion around the eyes three times and make a “xu” sound until the end of exhalation. Then slowly put down both hand. Healing method: Heart

Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise Exhalation: Position both hands in front of the chest with palms facing down. While exhalation, push both hands downwards until reach the “dan tian”, about 1 inch below the navel, and make a “he” sound at the same time (must last until the end of exhalation). Healing method: Spleen Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise. Exhalation: While exhaling, raise one hand up with palm faces up and push the other hand down with palm faces down, pushing the raised hand as far up as possible and lower hand as far down as possible.

At the same time, make a “hu” sound. Then slowly bring down the raised arm back to the side of body. Healing method: Mouth, Stomach, Bladder Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise Exhalation: Turn hands upside down in front of the chest, with finger tips facing each other, and palms facing upwards. While inhaling, put both hands down slowly along the side of body and make a “xi” sound (must continue until the end of exhalation). Finishing exercise Inhalation is as same as warm up exercise

Exhalation: Put one palm on the top of the other with 1-inch distance between palms and position them on the “dan tian”. While exhalation, image all the “Qi” around the body is taken in to strengthen it. Then, put down the hands slowly. Meditation: Zazen The whole process of healing methods was really relaxing, and I got a feeling of relief and freshness afterward. Although I still cannot assure it’s positive effect to my body, the calming effect itself is worth trying to do this on a regular bases. Perhaps, like people who told me about

meditation, it will not have significant improvement until I continuously practice it every day for at least a month. The typical meditation, zazen, came after the healing methods. We were asked to sit down with legs crossed on the cushion, straighten the back, and pull back the chin so that the hips, the spine, and the chin will be a straight line. While keeping in this position, the body should be fully relax. After adjusted our position, we were asked to regulate our breath, it should be light and soft that we should be barely notice the air flowed in when we inhaled.

Then, use the tongue to push the back of the upper teeth and position the sight in 45 degree downward towards the front. Finally the last step before meditating, we were asked to count from 1 to 10 cyclically, we should go back to 1 if we counted beyond 10. The meditation lasted for 30 minutes. Because It was my first time doing meditation, sat down with legs crossed was painful for me, I had a hard time to be fully relax while keeping in the right position. And, the leading nun said that, “If you count beyond 10, that means you are ‘thinking’”.

I had full confidence that I wouldn’t count beyond 10, since it sounded so hard to get it wrong. I was wrong, it was quite hard to keep track of the number when my mind was thinking other things. The first couple minutes were the most difficult part, painful body and other thoughts often let me lost the tack of counting, but after I tried to only focus on counting, the physical pain seemed went away and I finally immersed myself in the meditation. 30 minutes pasted when the leading nun knocked the wooden fish, but for me it felt like 15 minutes or even less.

The experience of meditating reminds me the concept of anatman, no soul, especially the impermanence. Impermanence in Buddhism states that everything goes through the cycle of birth, live, and death in a short time, the time line is composed by numerous amount of fragments, hence, there is no “I” because the concept of “I” is a cumulating product. Since the time line is not continuous, there is no such cumulating product exists, therefore, there is no “I”.

No I, or no soul, is the core belief of Buddhism, it seems like the practice of meditation is useful for follower to reach the state of impermanence and realize humans are nothing but cumulating karmas. It is not only the beginning of the Eightfold Path, but it also brings the calming effect to followers who meditate in a regular bases; in addition, it will sharp people’s mind by increasing their attention so that they can focus on one thing for a long time and will not be easily affected by the outer world.

It is quite hard to have a peaceful and calming mind during the age of knowledge-explosion, and it is even more difficult in the city where I live. Meditation aims at keeping our mind in calm regardless of the outer environment. I would love to be able to immerse myself to this state of peaceful, whenever I want to escape from this world that filled with pressures. Mediation gives me a way to rest and recollect my mind in order to be fully prepared for the future challenges. I would say my first experience of meditation is successful and fruitful.

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Buddhist Meditation Is Preserved by Theravada. (2016, Sep 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/meditation/