At our Buddhist centres the Mindfulness of Breathing, the Development of Loving-kindness (Metta Bhavana) and Just Sitting are the main meditation practices taught. In addition to walking meditation, reflection and devotional practices, these are the primary meditations up to the point of ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. This is because concentration, mindfulness and emotional positivity are the essential basis for meditation. Our approach emphasises the importance of steadily developing the qualities one needs to meditate.
At the point of ordination, which is a wholehearted commitment to make Dharma practice the core of one’s life, Order members usually take up a meditation on a Buddha or Bodhisattva. They also take on Insight meditation practices — such as contemplating Conditionality, or the insubstantiality of the Six Elements of mind and body.
The Triratna system of meditation can be seen as a consecutive set of meditations that you progress along, or as a ‘mandala’ a circle or spiral of practices, which you go around in order to approach the centre, Enlightenment. In fact, this system reflects the two main approaches to meditation found in virtually all Buddhist schools: samatha (‘calming’)
and vipassana (‘insight’), plus Just Sitting, which in a sense isn’t a practice at all but is simply allowing whatever happens to happen, in awareness.
In the Triratna system, the calming approaches are described as ‘integration’ and ‘positive emotion’ (most often put into practice as, respectively, Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana), while the insight approaches are ‘spiritual death’ and ‘spiritual rebirth’.
All of these practices are followed by Just Sitting — so there is a pattern of activity then letting-go, or making effort followed by receptivity. This dynamic is very important in mitigating two possibly unhelpful directions: wilful, goal-oriented striving on the one hand, or vagueness and spacing-out on the other.
Listen to some full explorations of the System of Meditation.