Comprehensive List of Practices and Meditation Styles

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Comprehensive List of Practices and Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:19 pm

A friend and I are seeking to compile a comprehensive list of Buddhist meditation styles across traditions. Consulting books, online resources, teachers, and personal practice, we have already encountered quite a few different techniques and approaches. Although we've created partial lists from our background research and our own meditation experience, we would like to hear what fellow practitioners can contribute. In addition to meditation styles, we're interested in other activities people consider part of their formal practice, including but not limited to activities practiced on retreat. We also intend to run a survey/poll about the most widely used forms of meditation in the near future.

So this inquiry consists of two main questions:

1. What are the various forms of meditation that are practiced in Buddhism - whether specific to a certain school or universal to all schools?

2. What other activities (apart from meditation) are typical of your practice and/or retreat settings?

Many thanks.

:anjali:
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:03 pm

Do you have a working definition of "meditation"? So that it becomes possible to consider styles.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:41 pm

Well, I must say you have quite a task ahead of you. At the retreat seminar I went to this year we learnt around twenty different techniques for shine (calm abiding) meditation.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:28 pm

Meditation for the purpose of this list refers to formal practice, particularly within the categories of shamatha and vipashyanā. A few examples from the present Mahayana list of meditation styles are included below:

Zazen
Shikantaza
Kōan
Huatou
Kinhin
Sādhanā
Visualization
Tantra
Tonglen
Dzogchen
Mahāmudrā
Ngöndro

If appropriate, these practices can be further elaborated upon (i.e., various meditation practices that fit under the broader category of Ngöndro) or even classified as sub-styles of either (or both) shamatha and vipashyanā. Any and all feedback is much appreciated.
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:36 pm

Astus wrote:Do you have a working definition of "meditation"? So that it becomes possible to consider styles.


Although the categories shamatha and vipashyanā are helpful for defining meditation, Buddhist practices in general are also of interest here. These can include anything from Zazen to Nembutsu to recitation of the Bodhisattva Vows. In addition to the brief list of meditation styles outlined in the post above, a few examples from our list of "other activities" related to practice are as follows:

Meal ceremony (oryoki)
Pūjā recitation
Work practice (samu)
Sanzen, Dokusan
Prostrations
Dhāraṇī/Mantra

Of course, this is an incomplete list (as is the list of formal meditation styles), and we welcome input from other practitioners from all traditions.
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:40 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Well, I must say you have quite a task ahead of you. At the retreat seminar I went to this year we learnt around twenty different techniques for shine (calm abiding) meditation.


Would you mind sharing the twenty shamatha techniques you learned? This would be of great help in fleshing out the list we have at the moment, which remains quite skeletal. Many thanks.
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:52 pm

I think you have started off on the wrong foot.

For example: you have puja recitation, prostrations and dharani/mantra (which are two different things, by the way) under "other" whereas they would fit quite neatly into the "meditation style" of tantra (and not only).

Ngondro is its own "style"??? Ngondro is 100% tantra!

Visualisation is a style seperate to tantra?

What in tarnations do you consider tantra then? :shrug:

etc...
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:39 pm

From my own experience, I think it's safe to say that Visualization isn't practiced exclusively within the context of Tantra. For instance, I've practiced Visualization (in the context of Vipassana with a Theravada sangha and Zazen with a Soto Zen sangha) but I've never practiced Tantra.

The following amendments (or clarifications) can be made based on feedback so far:

Zazen
    Shikantaza
    Kōan
    Huatou
Kinhin
Sādhanā
Visualization

Tantra
    Ngöndro
    Visualization
    Pūjā recitation
    Prostrations
    Dhāraṇī
    Mantra
Tonglen
Dzogchen
Mahāmudrā

Yes, there will inevitably be plenty of overlap, and in the activities list, some categories were blended due to superficial similarities. The point is not necessarily to separate styles but to compile a list that can be conceptualized as a tree, with various branches and leaves. Some branches are bound to intertwine.

Thank you, Greg, for the feedback. Additional feedback from other practitioners (from all traditions) would be very helpful.

:anjali:
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby dharmagoat » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:43 pm

Broad categories have an unpleasant tendency to overlap one another in the way Greg describes.

I think the better strategy would be to dispense with any attempt to cover general areas of practice and just list specific practices.
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Madhyama Pratipada » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:59 pm

Perhaps it would be more helpful to list practices/emphases under schools/traditions instead. Here's a rough outline (again, this is completely open to revision). Forgive me for enjoying list-making so much. :)

Mahāyāna
    Tendai/Tiāntāi
    Zen/Chán
      Sōtō/Cáodòng
      Rinzai/Línjì
      Ōbaku
    Pure Land
      Jōdo Shinshū
      Jōdo Shū
    Nichiren
      Soka Gakkai International
Vajrayāna
    Shingon
    Tibetan
      Gelug
      Nyingma
      Kagyu
      Sakya
      Jonang
      Bön

:anjali:
sarvopalambhopaśamah prapañcopaśamah śivah
na kimcitkasyacitkaścid dharmo buddhena deśitah

MMK 25.24

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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby purple rose » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:35 am

Madhyama Pratipada wrote:A friend and I are seeking to compile a comprehensive list of Buddhist meditation styles across traditions.


Hi Madhyama Pratipada

Apologies for butting in but I was wondering if the list you are compiling has a specific purpose more than say for personal interest ...
Madhyama Pratipada wrote:Forgive me for enjoying list-making so much. :)
... or the joy attained in list making. :)

If there is a specific purpose it may be helpful or of benefit for the reader to know what that purpose is.

:oops: ....... :focus:
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:00 am

Nice list.

I will start to fill it out from what little i know. (I have included Theravāda too):

Śrāvakayāna
  Theravāda
    Ānāpānasati
    Satipaṭṭhāna
    Mettā bhāvanā
    Vipassanā
Mahāyāna
  Tendai/Tiāntāi
  Zen/Chán
    Zazen
    Kinhin
    Sōtō/Cáodòng
      Shikantaza
    Rinzai/Línjì
      Kōan
    Ōbaku
  Pure Land
    Nembutsu/Niànfó
    Jōdo Shinshū
    Jōdo Shū
  Nichiren
    Soka Gakkai International
Vajrayāna
  Shingon
  Tibetan
    Pūjā
    Tonglen
    Lojong
    Ngöndro
      Taking refuge, Prostrations
      Vajrasattva
      Maṇḍala offering
      Guru yoga
    Chöd
    Nyingma
      Dzogchen
    Sakya
    Kagyu, Gelug
      Mahāmudrā
    Jonang
    Bön
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:16 am

Hello Tara :smile:

I can't speak entirely for Madhy, but she and I have been working on compiling a complete list of Buddhist practices these past few weeks, primarily as an interesting exercise in its own right, but ultimately as resource to be incorporated into a new feature for our HamsterWheel Buddhist meditation support site.
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:41 am

A westerner teacher/translator that did two traditional 3 year retreats some decades ago said that he learned somewhere between 150-200 meditation techniques in one retreat (I assume that was in one tradition). A different teacher I have personally met, in the context of shamatha practice, said he knows somewhere between 30-40 variations of shamatha.

I'm interested to see a list. It seems to be quite a task.
Last edited by Roland on Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Seek truth in meditation, not moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:43 am

dharmagoat wrote:Vajrayāna
  Shingon
  Tibetan
    Pūjā
    Tonglen
    Lojong
    Ngöndro
      Taking refuge, Prostrations
      Vajrasattva
      Maṇḍala offering
      Guru yoga
    Chöd
    Nyingma
      Dzogchen
    Sakya
    Kagyu, Gelug
      Mahāmudrā
    Jonang
    Bön

+ Phowa?
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:48 am

Let me point to some problems.

Take buddha-remembrance (nianfo/nenbutsu) as an example.

The Amitayurdhyana Sutra (aka Visualisation Sutra) describes 13 methods. They are visualisations of various objects. But the tradition knows several other objects one could visualise, and the visualisation can be combined with different postures and movements. These are practices related to the Amitabha. Also, in the Pure Land tradition of East Asia the most common understanding of buddha-remembrance is not a visualisation practice but the recitation of the name. Reciting the name also has many forms and styles. Another factor is that not only those who consider themselves Pure Land practitioners use these practices but almost everyone. Also, Mahayana has several other buddhas, and they all have their own visualisations and recitations. That is, in the single category of buddha-remembrance there are numerous practices and interpretations of the practices. The single common feature is that they are all related to a specific buddha or bodhisattva. Just to complicate things, buddha-remembrance also means recalling the virtues of the Buddha (Shakyamuni), as it is used in Theravada, and it is more like an inspirational contemplation rather than a focused repetition or visualisation. Adding another factor, buddha-remembrance can also mean abiding in the buddha-mind, that is again not a typical meditation technique.

Thus, in this single term one can encompass so many things that talking about it as if it were a single method is being blind to the complexities that are actually there. That's why I asked if there is any definition of "meditation", because you can't really put all those methods into the categories of shamatha and vipashyana, and even specific traditions don't view all forms of buddha-remembrance as meditative practices.

If you want to follow traditional categories, you should look at the major meditation handbooks, like the Visuddhimagga, the Mohezhiguan and the Bhavanakrama. Theravada distinguishes samatha and vipassana, while Mahayana adds to this their combined practice (which doesn't mean that in actual practice it is not known in Theravada). If you want to encompass other meditation related practices, you can add to those three a fourth as preliminary practices conducive to meditation. Otherwise, as it shows in the current list posted previously, it won't be a list of meditation techniques but rather of various schools.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:28 pm

Roland wrote:+ Phowa?

Thanks, Rowland.

Astus wrote:Let me point to some problems...

You raise some valid points, Astus.

Clearly we need to give up on trying to provide any kind of structure to the list, and also acknowledge that the various forms of Buddhist practice cannot be described by their names alone.

Instead we can focus on compiling (as best we can) an unstructured list of the names of all the practices that posters here are familiar with. I believe it will still be an interesting exercise, and at the end we will have a list that will be useful for indicating the various practices we are collectively engaging in.

This is especially relevant because the upcoming feature for the HamsterWheel website (mentioned earlier) requires a list of practices that the user can select from when recording their activity on the communal practice log, presented as a chart.
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:26 pm

What about physical techniques: yoga practices (eg yantra yoga), physical breath practices (tummo), etc...

Another point: Let's take phowa practice (for example). It consists of visualisations, physical breath techniques, mantra, postures, mind based breathing techniques, energy manipulation, prayers, etc... So which category does it fall under?

What about a technique like dakini breathing? It is considered a calm abiding technique but it utilises "tantric" visualisations too.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:00 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:What about physical techniques: yoga practices (eg yantra yoga), physical breath practices (tummo), etc...

Another point: Let's take phowa practice (for example). It consists of visualisations, physical breath techniques, mantra, postures, mind based breathing techniques, energy manipulation, prayers, etc... So which category does it fall under?

What about a technique like dakini breathing? It is considered a calm abiding technique but it utilises "tantric" visualisations too.

I no longer think that trying to force practices into categories will be productive.

For the examples you have given above, we can just list them like this:

Yantra yoga
Tummo
Phowa
Ḍākinī breathing
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Re: Comprehensive List of Meditation Styles

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:59 pm

dharmagoat wrote:I no longer think that trying to force practices into categories will be productive.


Or you should use proper analysis. If a term like "phowa" includes various practices, it means it is not a single meditation method but rather a package of methods. It's like a Happy Meal. You have to dissect them, otherwise the toy will be confused with the hamburger.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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