Buddhists pursue meditation as a means to attain their goal of escaping suffering and the cycles of rebirth: the achievement of nirvana (Pali: nibbãna). The practice of meditation has been directly derived from Buddha’s own experiences and teachings as it is generally accepted that the Buddha himself reached enlightenment through meditation. Meditation can be contextualized as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, the fourth of the Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths, specifically in regards to the final three factors: Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration (Harvey, 1990, p.68-70). While several variations of this practice have developed in different Buddhist traditions the core principles of the technique are preserved in ancient Buddhist texts.
The ultimate goal of Buddhism can only be achieved through the cultivation of wisdom. Although this wisdom can be initiated through the reflection of scriptures and through spiritual teachers, meditation is required to help it mature fully (Harvey, 1990, p. 244). Meditation is the practice of mental concentration aimed at progressively increasing calmness and wisdom, or prajna. Generally the mental exercise of meditation requires personal guidance, and is typically done under the supervision of a meditation teacher (Harvey, 1990). The Buddha himself sought the knowledge two spiritual teachers on his path to enlightenment, and nibbãna (Anderson, 2010). Training in meditation can help enable the practitioner to control their mind regardless of external circumstances.
Learning the practice of meditation has often been compared to gardening; as we cannot force a plant to grow, instead we can only provide them with the right conditions so they can develop naturally (Harvey, 1990, p. 245). The Buddha taught that there were five hindrances (nivarana) or negative mental states that can obstruct the meditation process, weaken wisdom and lead the practitioner away from enlightenment (Harvey,
References: Anderson, Leona (2010). Religious Studies 100: Introduction to Religious Studies. 4th ed. Regina, Canada: University of Regina. 38-71. Britannica, Encyclopædia . (2011). Buddhism. Available: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/83406/Buddhist-meditation . Last accessed 6th Mar 2011. Harvey, Peter (1990). An Introduction to Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 68-279. ReligionFacts. (2011). Buddhist Meditation. Available: http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/practices/meditation.htm. Last accessed 6th Mar 2011.