Buddhist meditation is a form of mental concentration that leads ultimately to enlightenment and spiritual freedom. Meditation occupies a central place in all forms of Buddhism, but has developed characteristic variations in different Buddhist traditions.
There are two main types of Buddhist meditation: vipassana (insight) and samatha (tranquility). The two are often combined or used one after the other (usually vipissana follows samatha). In China and Japan, an entire school of Buddhism developed around the practice of sitting meditation: Ch’an or Zen Buddhism.
The basic purpose of samatha or tranquility meditation is to still the mind and train it to concentrate. The object of concentration (kammatthana) is less important than the skill of concentration itself, and varies by individual and situation. One Pali texts lists 40 kammatthanas, which include:
- devices (like color or light)
- repulsive things (like a corpse)
- recollections (such as sayings of the Buddha)
- virtues (like loving-kindness)
Tranquility Meditation (Samatha)
The goal of samatha meditation is to progress through four stages (dhyanas):
- - Detachment from the external world and a consciousness of joy and tranquility;
- Concentration, with suppression of reasoning and investigation;
- The passing away of joy, but with the sense of tranquility remaining; and
- The passing away of tranquility also, bringing about a state of pure self-possession and equanimity.