How to Meditate - Preface

A Practical Guide

PREFACE

When How to Meditate was first published more than twenty years ago, meditation was not widely known or practiced in the West, and there were few books about it. Things are different now. Millions of Western people practice meditation regularly; doctors prescribe it to their patients as a way to deal with pain, heart disease, cancer, depression, and other problems; scientists are studying its effects on the brain and the immune system. There are dozens of books, tapes, CDs, and websites about meditation, and meditation classes are available in most cities.

This book has been surprisingly successful: reprinted seventeen times, translated into nine foreign languages. And I continue to meet people who tell me how it has helped them in their practice and their understanding of Buddhism and meditation. The purpose of this book remains the same as when it first appeared: to offer the people in the world today a bridge into the art of meditation taught by the Buddha and developed in Asia over the last 2500 years. Despite advances in technology, the Buddha’s tools for opening up our inner capacities for genuine and lasting well-being retain their power and relevance.

Most of the meditations explained here come from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition of Tibet, several from the Theravada tradition of South East Asia, and a few are my own improvisations on Buddhist themes. I have tried to explain them simply and clearly, with a minimum of technical language, because I want to show that Buddhism is practical and down-to-earth, not a dry philosophy or an exotic cult. Throughout, the emphasis is on experience, using meditation to actually bring about changes in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Part 1, Mind and Meditation, lays the foundation, explaining why people meditate and how they benefit from it. Part 2, Establishing a Meditation Practice, gives basic information and advice for beginning practitioners. The rest of the book presents the actual meditation methods, divided into four parts: Meditations on the Mind, Analytical Meditations, Visualization Meditations, and Prayers and Other Devotional Practices. Each technique has a preamble that gives some background to the meditation, shows its benefits and how best to do it, and explains its practical application. Finally, there is a glossary of terms and a list of titles for suggested further reading.

For this present edition, I have revised most of the meditations and added several new ones: on karma, purifying negative karma, compassion and tonglen (Tibetan for “giving and taking”), and the Healing Buddha. The revisions do not mean that the meditations in the original edition are incorrect; I simply felt that they could be improved, based on an additional twenty years of practicing and teaching meditation.

Acknowledgments

Whatever I know about Buddhism and meditation I have learned from my kind and compassionate teachers, especially Lama Thubten Yeshe, Zopa Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Geshe Jampa Tegchog, and Ribur Rinpoche.

I thank these precious teachers from my heart for sharing with us their knowledge and insight and pray sincerely that their work may continue for a long time to come.

Many people have worked to make this book possible. I extend thanks to Wendy Finster for her Handbook of Mahayana Practices, from which this book developed; to Thubten Wongmo, Jon Landaw, and T. Yeshe for their initial editing and translating work; to Nick Ribush, Yeshe Khadro, Thubten Pende, Steve Carlier, Lorraine Rees, Peter Rees, James Payne, Tim Young, Jan Courtin, Marshall Harris, Sarah Thresher, Karin Zeitvogel, and the nuns of Dorje Pamo Monastery for their invaluable suggestions; to David Kittelstrom, Tim McNeill, and everyone at Wisdom Publications; and finally to my editor Robina Courtin, who has worked with me throughout both editions to rewrite and reshape How to Meditate in an effort to make it as clear and practical as possible.

 

How to cite this document:
© Wisdom Publications, How to Meditate (Wisdom Publications, 1984 and 2005)

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