Most of us, these days, begin our practice of Buddhism by learning to meditate. For some, meditation as means to relax and calm the mind and body is an end in itself. For others, deciding to tread the path the Buddha taught, it is indispensible as a tool to help us to transform.
In his study and practise of meditation, both alone with many teachers over a long period in India, Sangharakshita discovered that there is a recognisable sequence of unfolding in the life of someone who follows the Buddha’s teachings. There are certain key elements and patterns which emerge again and again and which we can support and enhance by the approach to meditation which we choose to follow. It’s not that we literally travel through these stages ‘once and for all’ – its much more as though we are travelling up a spiral path and will revisit the different stages at different times, each time building on what we have learned before.
Known as the ‘great stages’ of the path in traditional Buddhist texts the stages of the system of meditation are
There is also a fifth element in this sequence which comes between each and every stage and, ideally, as part of each and every session of meditation practice. This is known as ‘just sitting’ and is a dimension of practice which involves just that – as Sangharakshita so enigmatically put it ‘don’t make an effort, don’t not make an effort’!
Whilst particular meditation practices can be associated with the different stages, it is also possible to see aspects of each stage in each practice – an almost kaleidoscopic image!
This brief introduction to the complex matter of the Triratna system of meditation is offered to provide a glimpse of how the most basic practices we teach, several times, every week at our Centre, form part of a path and framework which can take us a very long way indeed, if we let them.
See also Samatha & Vipassana