Essential Practices

Within the Buddhist tradition there are common teachings and practices, as well as specific teachings and practices.

Focal points from all phases include:

  • Physical awareness of the body and its sensations; often centered on following the kinetic sensation of the breath and maintaining correct posture.
  • Emotional awareness of intentions behind activity; the domain of causality where karma is generated and extinguished.
  • Mental awareness of thoughts and their objects; often reciting mantras and dharanis (Mantrayana and Vajrayana), reflecting on existential questions (Chán), or remembering the Buddha’s name (Pure Land), to maintain continual awareness.

five omnipresent mental events, elements, spiritual faculties, and phases

Specific focuses within different Buddhist mind training traditions include:

Reflecting on conditionality and the radiant nature of emptiness

  • In the First Phase of Buddhism, the most concise expression of conditionality was, “This being, that becomes; the ceasing of this, that ceases.” While the most complete list explaining conditionality became known as the “twenty-four niddanas.”
  • In the Second Phase, the Mahayana developed many Releasing reflections on the open nature of existence, with those meditations leading to a direct experience of this gaining favor in the Yogacara, Madhyamika, and, Mahayana mind training, practice lineages.

Mahayana mind training

  • In Mahayana Buddhism, the essential practice supporting the development of Great Compassion is the cultivation of Love – the emotional basis for all other “Divine abodes” and Mahayana Mind Training techniques.

Remembering Chán and Pure Land focal points

  • Chán’s self-reflective mindfulness takes Awareness training to its depths, making it the perfect compliment of activity (self-power) to the more receptive (other-power) approach found in the Pure Land remembrances of Amitabha, the archetypal Buddha of Infinite Light.
  • Additionally, Pure Land emphasizes Imagining, while Chán emphasizes Releasing, operatively pairing together in the same way as development and complete stages in Vajrayana and Mantrayana Buddhism.

Remembering Vajrayana and Mantrayana focal points

  • The Vajrayana requires initiation before undertaking their stages of peaceful, wrathful, and essential, meditations; combining these with their teacher perception practices. While the Mantrayana uses the same technology of the tantra, especially through chanting OM Manipadme HUM, without relying on initiation from a teacher as the basis for practice.


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