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8 Rights: The Noble Eightfold Path — the Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

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A popular visualized Buddha for “visualization meditation” is Medicine Buddha, a form of Shakyamuni Buddha. By visualizing healing blue light flowing from Buddha to your own body you can help yourself heal. Blue is symbolic of medicine.

Right meditation includes many methods from different paths, all equally valid:

  • Mindfulness meditation (Apannasati): sitting, lying, walking, skateboarding, just being mindful all day long. For previous stories on Mindfulness, please see these>>
  • Samatha: single-pointed meditation (concentrating single focus on breath, for example), helping to give insight into the transitory nature of reality. For helpful guidance on samatha, see this previous story on Mahamudra, with Venerable Zasep Rinpoche guiding samatha>>
  • Vipassana: seeing things as they really are, or discerning “formations” (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates)
  • Panna (in Pali), Prajna (in Sanskrit): wisdom meditation: advanced meditations on reason, wisdom, insight, knowledge, recognition.
  • Metta Meditation: meditating on loving kindness for all beings.
  • Analytical meditation: where is this “I” — a specific form of Vipassana and also a subset of Panna meditation
  • Visualization meditation: traditionally advanced Enlightened being or deity visualizations in Vajrayana: these guided meditations (in the sense that you typically recite the visualization) take the meditator through the full path, generation, completion, understanding shunyata through “rehearsal” style drama that ultimately bring insight and realizations. For one of our stories on Visualization meditation, see this interesting story where researchers found that Vajrayana visualized meditation is good for people with cognitive or memory issues>>
  • Mantra meditation: focusing on symbolically sacred sounds (often combined with meditation): can be considered a combination of Samatha (with sound as the focus) and Visualization. Some Buddhist include an element of faith in the use of mantra (or prayer) which can empower the sound. There is even some evidence mantra can have some effect even if there is no faith (See this story, “The Science of Mantras”>>).

There are many more. All of these methods, taught by our precious teachers, are designed to bring us — we, ourselves — to our own realizations, our own ultimate Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Samatha, Panna, Vipassana

As we follow the eightfold path, we try to focus on Samatha, Panna, Vipassana. Here’s how it might look in simplified form (in a perfect practice):

At a future time, when your body and mind are pure in conduct (Morality), and your mind is entirely focused and concentrated (Samatha), and you come to realize the wisdom (Panna) of the Emptiness of the Five Aggregates, you might have a sudden flash of insight (Vipassana). Then, realizations — or even Enlightenment — becomes possible. Once you achieve all of these things, possibly ………..Nibbana! (Nirvana!)

Shakyamuni Buddha practiced the eightfold path and taught it to his disciples. He attained Enlightenment.

Of course, the actual ‘doing’ is a lot harder than described……

Never-the-less, this is the goal and the journey. Initial knowledge (Wisdom) guide moral conduct (Morality). Purified mind and body through morality assist concentration (Samatha). Using concentration, the Five Aggregates can be analysed thoroughly (Wisdom). Finally, with the realization that the ‘self’ is actually a composition of factors streaming along and intrinsically ‘empty’ – then, the actual breakthrough to Enlightenment (Bodhi) is possible.

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