Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena.The historical Buddha himself, Siddhartha Gautama, was said to have achieved enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. In Buddhist mythology, there were twenty eight Buddhas and all of them used meditation to make spiritual progress. Most forms of Buddhism distinguish between two classes of meditation practices, samatha and vipassana, both of which are necessary for attaining enlightenment. The former consists of practices aimed at developing the ability to focus the attention single-pointedly; the latter includes practices aimed at developing insight and wisdom through seeing the true nature of reality. The differentiation between the two types of meditation practices is not always clear cut, which is made obvious when studying practices such as anapanasati which could be said to start off as a shamatha practice but that goes through a number of stages and ends up as a vipassana practice.
Theravada Buddhism emphasizes the meditative development of mindfulness (sati) and concentration (samadhi), as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, in the pursuit of Nibbana (Nirvana). Theravada buddhism was the original practice, and uses a style of individuality each person is different argo so is the path to Nirvana. Traditional popular meditation subjects include the breath (anapana) and loving-kindness (mettā).
In the Vipassana style of meditation the awareness is initially focused on the rising and falling breath and then (when respiration is almost suspended and the mind and heart still) on either some simple symbol (candle flame), body part (thumb or tip of the nose) or concept (provided any of these is unlikely to evoke emotional or intellectual disturbance).
One particularly influential school of Buddhist meditation in the 20th century was the Thai Forest Tradition which included such notable practitioners of meditation as Ajahn Thate, Ajahn Maha Bua and the Ajahn Chah.
In Japanese Mahayana schools, Tendai (Tien-tai), concentration is cultivated through highly structured ritual. Especially in the Chinese Chán Buddhism school (which branched out into the Japanese Zen, and Korean Seon schools), ts’o ch’an meditation and koan meditation practices allow a practitioner to directly experience the true nature of reality (each of the names of these schools derives from the Sanskrit dhyana, and translates into “meditation” in their respective languages). The esoteric Shingon sect shares many features with Tibetan Buddhism. The Japanese haiku poet Basho saw poetry as a process of meditation concerned with the art of describing the brief appearances of the everlasting self, of eternity, in the circumstances of the world. We get a sense of this ethical purpose in his writing at the commencement of his classic work Narrow Roads to the Deep North. In a more lonely and perhaps more profound pilgrimage than Chaucer depicted in the Canterbury Tales, Basho reflects on mortality in intermingled poetry and prose as he journeys north from shrine to shrine.
Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) emphasizes tantra for its senior practitioners; hence its alternate name of Tantrayana Buddhism. Many monks go through their day without “meditating” in a recognizable form, but are more likely to chant or participate in group liturgy. In this tradition, the purpose of meditation is to awaken the sky-like nature of mind, and to introduce practitioners to the true nature of mind: unchanging pure awareness, which underlies the whole of life and death.
“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well. Meditation is the road to enlightenment.”- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
– Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.