Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Form of practice

Dorje Tsig Dün
The final topic that arose from my discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government representatives was about Buddhist practice.  Andrea Adams and Jo Glenn asked about what form Buddhist practice takes.  This is quite a big question as different traditions will practise in different ways.  The forms that I mentioned were meditation, mantra, chant, song, and visualisation.

What is regarded as meditation will vary according to tradition.  In my writing I categorise meditation of broadly three types: concentration or quietening the mind; visualisation; and analytical or contemplative.  Practices such as shi-nè, Letting Go or vipassana would fall into the concentrating and quietening the mind category – allowing the mind to discover its own nature.  Visualisation includes any energetic practice employing symbol and may include song, chant or mantra.  This is a primary aspect of Vajrayana practice.  An awareness being may be visualised and a sadhana chanted.  Analytical meditation takes a topic for contemplation and uses the intellect to penetrate to the reality of the situation.  It challenges ordinary view and encourages realised view.

In my tradition chant and song are understood as separate practices.  Chant is employed as an aid to visualisation – the meaning of the words is significant and guides the visualisation.  In song, it is the actual singing that is the focus of practice.  Song is used as a sem-dzin – a means to hold the mind so that the nature of mind can be discovered.  Sometimes the same practice can approached as chant or song.  An example of this would be Dorje Tsig Dün – the Seven Thunderbolt Phrases of Padmasambhava.  This can be chanted—following the meaning of the words—as an inspiration or as a guide to visualising Padmasambha; or it can be sung – where one finds presence of awareness in the dimension of the experience of singing and sound.

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