The ultimate aim of a Buddhist is to attain nirvana. The nirvana is a state where one is liberated from all bindings and does not have to go through the cycle of birth and death. Meditation is a set of techniques through which a Buddhist can realize the state of nirvana.
But before that, meditation is a way to cultivate the mind. Buddhism teachings meditation as a way to reach the state of mindfulness. Mindfulness is that state of consciousness where the practitioner is fully aware of his states of mind. He is aware of each thought and each reaction passing through his mind. He knows himself much more than an ordinary person.
Buddha & # 39; s teachings center on the concept of & # 39; Four Noble Truths & # 39 ;. First, there is suffering or dissatisfaction in our world. Second, the suffering is due to our desires and ignorance. The suffering is extremely due to the state of our mind. We suffer because we do not really understand ourselves. So consequently, if we understand ourselves and the working of our mind we can end this suffering. Third, this suffering can be put to an end. Better understanding of self leads to the deliverance from suffering. Suffering is actually the inseparable part of this existence. One can reach the state of nirvana, where one goes beyond the cyclic nature of existence — the cycle of birth and death. This is the hope that Buddha held forth to the practitioners of the faith. And finally, the way to accomplish this is The Eightfold Path.
The eightfold path is constited by right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right understanding, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
The last three, in fact, refer to the path of meditation. Buddhism, sometimes, is the only system which provides the practical means to achieve everything that is promised by it. Buddha advised focusing on some thing to reach the meditative state. In meditation, the practitioner is mostly asked to direct her attention towards breathing. One conscious observes the breath going in and the breath going out. Not only this, one observes each and every sensation, thought and feeling in one & # 39; s mind. One that becomes keenly aware of the workings of the mind. This helps practitioner reach the state of mindfulness.
Broadly, the Buddhist meditation is divided into two categories — the Samatha (calm) and the Vipassana (mindfulness). The Samatha, or Calm, meditation, is done by concentrating the mind to such a degree that mind and body both attain a high level of calmness. There are three benefits of practicing this form of meditation — peace and happiness, a favorable rebirth and the freedom from mental fluctuations that are the source of unhappiness. Samatha helps us attain a state of tranquility and calmness with oneself that best described by the images of Buddha himself. With Samatha we do not attain nirvana, but get ready to achieve it.
Vipassana is the technique of observing oneself. We became aware of our reactions to the sensations of pain and pleasure. But instead of reacting with like or dislike, we become aware of these discrepancies of the mind. This method makes us reach those obscure parts of our consciousness where body and thought, chemicals and feelings, meet each other. Ultimately, we become aware of the processes through which our deepest habits are formed. This awareness liberates us from these habits and we become masters of our mind. It makes us realize the source of all thoughts and feelings and makes one & # 39; aware & # 39; in the true sense of the word.
Vipassana helps one attain the state of mindfulness — the state where we see things as they really are. Vipassana is the realization, by direct insight, of the presence of three characteristics of being — impermanence, suffering and non-self, in everything — including our bodily and mental processes. The realization is on a more direct and intuitional level rather than an intellectual understanding.