What is the role and concept of meditation in Buddhism?

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The Dhammapada, Buddhism’s sacred text containing the teachings of Gautama Buddha, says:

All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.

(Dhammapada, Chapter 1:1-2)

Simply put, our mental states shape our perceptions of the world and make us what we are. Often, this takes us down the wrong path, leading to great distress or harmful ways of living. Buddhist practice emphasizes meditation as a method to turn the mind inwards, away from the illusory external world. Delving deep into one’s inner experiences is the way to understanding the reality of the world and the nature of our own experiences. This is outlined in the Threefold Path – the basic steps in Buddhist practice towards spiritual awakening.

The section of the Threefold Path that concerns the mind is called Samadhi, a term that encompasses several meanings – discipline of the mind, concentration and meditation.

In Buddhism, meditation is not a technique that is isolated from the rest of one’s life. To meditate effectively, the practitioner must first make the effort to live ethically, letting go of harmful, negative thoughts, acts and words. Living in a way that is beneficial to oneself and others, without wearying of the effort, lays the foundation for sound meditation practice.

Meditation clears the mind and builds concentration. It is a vital step towards the next step on the Path – acquiring wisdom.

 
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