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How to Meditate

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"Meditation--above all, seated meditation--has always been one of the foundational practices of Buddhism. Sakyamuni Buddha realized supreme enlightenment while seated in meditation beneath the bodhi tree. When he set out to establish the teachings and convey this enlightenment to others, he organized the Buddhist path according to the three basic disciplines of purity in the observance of the precepts, or moral restraints (Sanksrit, sila); meditative concentration, or samadhi; and wisdom, or prajna. The two factors of concentration and wisdom are developed primarily through formal meditation practice, with moral restraint as a preparatory basis."


"The aim of meditation is to develop the mind through three basic stages: first, to collect the scattered and confused mind and to focus it to a concentrated mind with few thoughts; next, to purify and further concentrate this simple mind into a highly unified and one-pointed mind; finally, to pass from the unified, or one-pointed, mind, to no-mind. For successful Buddhist practice, one must learn to find perfect quietude and concentration while in the midst of activity, as well as activity in the midst of quietude. Proper integration of the body and mind are instrumental to this process."


"One useful model for understanding meditation is to think of it as a holistic discipline that seeks to bring about the integration of body, breath and mind. With the harmonizing and progressive calming of these three factors, body, breath, and mind become completely interfused, as though they are one. When this total concentration of body, breath, and mind becomes truly one-pointed, samadhi, or 'meditative absorption', is at hand. Wisdom, or prajna, develops in response to samadhi."

(all the above passages taken from Venerable Master Sheng Yen, Hoofprint of the Ox, with Dan Stevenson)


Throughout his writings and talks on meditation, Ven. Master Sheng Yen has continually stressed the importance of having the correct views regarding the aim and methods of this profound spiritual practice. Maintaining a solid view of meditation's purpose allows practitioners to fully benefit from the entire process of meditation, while learning how to seamlessly integrate this beautiful practice into their daily interactions. Once the principles of meditation are learned, practitioners can flexibly establish a routine of regular meditation practice based on their unique schedules, needs and circumstances.

Chan practice stresses the unique role and process of meditation as a means of establishing direct awareness of mind and its innate wisdom. While sitting meditation can be done both in an individual and group setting, DDMBA Ontario welcomes and strongly encourages practitioners to join in a regular group meditation practice, which is being held in our 1027 McNicoll Avenue location every Sunday (except for the 2nd Sunday of each month) from 10 am - 12 pm, as well as every Thursday evening (7 pm - 9 pm) at Multifaith Centre, Main Activity Room.

Through gentle, guided meditation in a group setting, practitioners learn the foundations of uniting body, breath and mind, particularly through relaxation practice and moving meditation practice. Furthermore, the collective practice of meditation allows practitioners to benefit others with their practice, as well as share their experiences and understanding of meditation with like-minded, caring practitioners. We welcome everyone to come and see for themselves the meaning and benefits of meditation practice, and what it can do.

Benefits of Meditation

Among the many benefits of consistent practice of meditation, the following health benefits are possible for those who engage in a meditation practice regularly (Source: Master Sheng-Yen “The Effects of Chan Meditation”):



         ·        Strengthening of willpower


·        Enhancement of the power of thought


·        Refinement of personality


·        Rapid calming of the mind


·        Mood stabilization


·        Increased interest and efficiency in activity


·        Improved physical health/wellness

Among the many psychological benefits of meditation are:


·        Reduction of anxiety,


·        Enhanced sense of well-being,


·        Increased empathy


·        Greater sense of self-actualization.


·        Greater awareness of thought patterns and negative habits




The following is an excerpt from "Zuo Chan (Tso-Ch'an)," an article by Chan Master Sheng Yen, originally published in the October 1988 issue of the "Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal."

The Chinese term "zuo chan" (zazen) was in use among Buddhist practitioners even before the appearance of the Chan (Zen) School. Embedded in the term is the word "chan," a derivative of the Indian "dhyana," which is the yogic practice of attaining samadhi in meditation. Literally translated, "zuo chan" means "sitting chan" and has a comprehensive and specific meaning. The comprehensive meaning refers to any type of meditation practice based on the sitting posture. The specific meaning refers to the methods of practice that characterize Chan Buddhism.


Zuo Chan (meditation) was practiced in China long before the appearance of Chan. The earlier masters practiced according to methods in the Hinayana sutras, which emphasized the techniques collectively known as samatha-vipasyana. Generally speaking, these were methods for achieving samadhi through three aspects: regulating one's body, regulating one's breathing, and regulating one's mind.


To regulate the body by sitting, one should observe the Vairocana Seven-Points of Sitting. This refers to the seven rules of correct sitting posture. Each of these criteria has been used unchanged since ancient days.



Sit on the floor with legs crossed either in the Full Lotus or Half Lotus position. To make the Full Lotus, put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot crossed over the right leg onto the right thigh. To reverse the direction of the feet is also acceptable.

To take the Half Lotus position requires that one foot be crossed over onto the thigh of the other. The other foot will be placed underneath the raised leg.

The Full or Half Lotus are the correct seated meditation postures according to the seven-point method. However, we will describe some alternative postures since for various reasons, people may not always be able to sit in the Full or Half Lotus.

A position, called the Burmese position, is similar to the Half Lotus, except that one foot is crossed over onto the calf, rather than the thigh, of the other leg.


Another position consists in kneeling. In this position, kneel with the legs together. The upper part of the body can be erect from knee to head, or the buttocks can be resting on the heels.


If physical problems prevent sitting in any of the above positions, then sitting on a chair is possible, but as a last resort to the above postures.

The positions above are given in the preferred order, the Full Lotus being the most stable, and most conductive to good results. Sitting cross-legged is most conducive to sitting long periods with effective concentration. The position one can take depends on factors such as physical condition, health, and age. However, one should use the position in which prolonged sitting (at least twenty minutes or more) is feasible and reasonably comfortable. however, do not use a position that requires little, or the least effort, because without significant effort, no good results can be attained.

If sitting on the floor, sit on a Japanese-style zafu (round meditation cushion) or an improvised cushion, several inches thick. This is partly for comfort, but also because it is easier to maintain an erect spine if the buttocks are slightly raised. Place a larger, square pad, such as a Japanese zabuton, underneath the cushion. Sit with the buttocks towards the front half of the cushion, the knees resting on the pad.




The spine must be upright. This does not mean to thrust your chest forward, but rather to make sure that your lower back is erect, not just slumped. The chin must be tucked in a little bit. Both of these points together cause you to naturally maintain a very upright spine. An upright spine also means a vertical spine, leaning neither forward or backward, right or left.