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What Is Tibetan Buddhist Meditation?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of the Buddha-oriented religions that originated in Tibet. It has also gained prominence in the Himalayan region of Asia and has even spread across continents. This religious form emphasizes spiritual enlightenment achieved through practices like meditation. Most forms of meditation are achieved by cleansing the mind through quiet contemplation. Other meditative techniques might include chanting and listening to transmissions.

A primary goal of Tibetan Buddhism is the attainment of Buddhahood. Individuals in this state are said to have achieved true enlightenment: a state free of mental distress and full of spiritual joy and peace. In a sense, achieving the perceived true nature of an empty mind is the goal. Once an individual has accomplished this manner of being, it is his or her duty to help others achieve enlightenment as well.

Deep thinking and reflecting on teachings is encouraged for individuals practicing Tibetan Buddhism and seeking enlightenment. Such Tibetan Buddhist meditation sessions focus first on spiritual realization and acceptance of the dwelled-upon topic, and then acclimating the mind and body to this realization. The two cooperative approaches are known as analytic meditation and fixed meditation, respectively.

Tibetan Buddhist meditation may take place by finding a calm, quiet location and then allowing the mind to enter a similar state free of distractions. Other activities may help facilitate entering a meditative state, such as visualizing, sitting in certain yoga postures, or chanting repetitive phrases called mantras. Criticisms and skepticism of the reflection are allowed and even encouraged during this process.

In addition, Tibetan Buddhist practitioners often gather in small or large groups to hear spoken teachings by respected leaders who have a lineage in this practice. These gatherings are known as transmissions. Although written texts do exist for Tibetan Buddhism, its followers often place more value on the spoken word. In a sense, transmissions may be viewed as mass Tibetan Buddhist meditation. Both transmissions and traditional meditation are practiced and taught by Buddhist instructors called lamas or gurus.

The main manifestations of Tibetan Buddhism are Tantric Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. The latter covers many of the discussed beliefs and aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. Major facets of practicing Tibetan Buddhist meditation in Tantric Buddhism include the following: completing tantric yoga, performing rituals, and using visualization and imagery techniques. In all of these cases, abiding by certain codes of behavior and good works are valued alongside the main Buddhist principles.

Tibetan Buddhists encourage practical application of their religion. For example, many of the meditation and yoga techniques are used as a means of relieving stress and bolstering physical health. Meditation centers devoted exclusively to Tibetan Buddhist meditation even populate many regions of the world.

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