Buddhism and meditation are about freeing ourselves from limitations and mind-made suffering. For this transformation to really work we need to pay attention to all aspects of life. The Triratna Buddhist Community provides practices and a context to do this.
We can think about five aspects of Buddhist practice; five ways the mind can develop:
Becoming aware and whole. We learn to know ourselves and our conditioning and how to work with that so we can act with integrity to express our values. Especially helpful with this are ethical practice, mindfulness, mindfulness of breathing meditation, and friendship with others who share our values.
Strengthening our helpful intentions for ourselves and others, loving kindness, a clear conscience.
Again ethical practice and spiritual friendship are important, as is metta bhavana (loving kindness) meditation and devotional practice.
Letting go of what is unhelpful and limiting, particularly our self-clinging and the suffering it causes us. Examples of practices focusing on this aspect include study and reflection on the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings), eg conditionality, and the six element practice.
The vast, flowing, loving and free potential we open into as we let go of the limitations of self-clinging. Practices to develop inspiration with this include contemplation of the Buddha, symbolic archetypal personifications of enlightenment and the bodhisattva ideal, and devotional practice.
We can think of these as progressive stages of the path; we need a good basis of integration and positive emotion before spiritual death/rebirth is sustained. To provide that basis our main meditations are mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana, until the point of ordination in the Triratna Buddhist Order. However glimpses of spiritual death and rebirth happen early on and motivate our commitment to practice.
Any practice which is truly effective as Buddhist practice will include something of all five aspects – whether you’re considering the mindfulness of breathing, communication with a spiritual friend, your work, your life as a whole, or something traditionally regarded as insight or vipassana practice, you can see all these aspects happening.
Read more about Triratna System of Meditation
Listen to Jvalamalini exploring these 5 aspects in friendship and community: Sangha as Insight Practice
Listen to a great series of talks on the deeper significance of The Five Aspects of the Dharma Life (these talks were given to men training for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order)