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Our email address is editor @realization.org.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org.




Meditation can lead you to enlightenment if you do it properly.

People meditate for many reasons. Some do it to lower their blood pressure; others like to see special effects with their eyes closed. Many people do it simply because it makes them feel good.

There is nothing wrong with these motives, but on this website, we are only interested in meditation methods that can help lead to enlightment. We think all such methods have something in common: all of them are exercises in remaining aware of where your attention is pointing. In other words, they teach you to avoid getting lost in thought. When the exercise becomes automatic, permanent, and effortless, enlightenment may follow.

Note the word permanent: you are supposed to meditate all day while engaged in normal activities. If you want to get enlightened, meditation is not just something you do for half an hour while sitting on a cushion. This can't be stressed enough: these techniques lead to enlightenment only if they become permanent states of mind. They must become habits.

People sometimes say that practicing a deliberate technique is not meditation. According to them, only an effortlessly alert and quiet state is meditation. Such assertions are confusing. Actually, both things are meditation, because the word meditation has two meanings. The important point to understand is that meditation in the first sense (deliberate effort) is intended to lead to meditation in the second sense (an effortless state of quiet awareness). It is a two-stage process. (And it is designed to lead to a third stage, the dissolution of the ego.)

Although many types of meditation have been advocated by various schools of Hinduism and Buddhism, this page emphasizes insight methods associated with Theravada Buddhism, and the method of self-enquiry as taught by Ramana Maharshi. The best book about the first is probably Mindfulness in Plain English, which is on our website here; the best book about the second is probably Be As You Are, which can be purchased here.


“The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces Enlightenment.”
—Gunaratana in Mindfulness in Plain English

Beginning meditators may find it useful to divide meditation methods into two categories, those that stress concentration (holding onto a single thought) and those that stress mindfulness (remaining aware of what the mind is perceiving without getting lost in thought). This conceptual division is associated with Theravada Buddhism and is explained brilliantly in the book The Meditative Mind. The reason we recommend mindfulness techniques is that they automatically develop both concentration and mindfulness. This is not true for concentration techniques: they do not necessarily develop mindfulness.

When the English word "meditation" is used in the context of Hinduism or Buddhism, as we use it here, it is a translation of the Sanskrit word dhyana or its cognates in other Asian languages: jhan in Pali (the language of the Buddha), chan in Chinese, and Zen in Japanese.




The Only Meditation There Is: Watching
If you could read only one article, this might be the right one. In plain, easy-to-understand language, it tells you to watch your mind. Watching your mind leads to mindlessness. In mindlessness your mind is quiet, but it's a different quiet than the one that results from forcible suppression. Make this a habit, and everything else follows automatically.

The Way To Practice Vipassana Meditation
By Sayadaw U Pandita Bhivamsa

A Burmese abbot explains the technique of insight meditation in simple, direct language.

Satipatthana Vipassana
By the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
A famous master of insight meditation explains how to do it.

What We Learn in the Dark
By Gary Schouborg

When insomnia strikes, it's an opportunity to practice disengagement from thoughts.

Turning Blue: Natural Pranayama
By Freddie Yam

The author describes how his breath used to stop while he meditated. Eventually the problem cleared up by itself. He explains why it happened and how this information can be put to good use.

The Day My Kundalini Woke Up
by Freddie Yam
A kundalini explosion -- a perception of blinding light and thundering noise entering the head from the lower body -- is one of the most dramatic experiences in Yoga. One of our contributing editors describes in detail how he deliberately provoked this experience and what it felt like. The event left him in an elevated spiritual state for three days, and he concludes (without making any special claims for himself) that Yoga is a technology for turning people into saints. This article includes a good phenomenological description of apana.

by Jinendra Swami
If the great classical how-to poems of Advaita Vedanta -- the Ashtavakra Samhita, the Advahut Gita -- had been written in modern English by a living realized person who spoke our own colloquial language, they might look like this.




How Meditation Works
By Shinzen Young
A master teacher explains that all types of Buddhist meditation are a combination of two components, tranquility and awareness. From the website of the Vipassana Support Institute. There are nineteen excellent articles on this website here.

The Meditator
By Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
A nice introductory overview for beginners from a traditional Hindu perspective by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. On the website of the Himalayan Foundation.

Meditation Handbook
Christopher Calder
This short essay contains original, acute advice for meditators.

The Necessity for Developing Skill at Mind-Process Observation, and a Suggested Methodology
by Copthorne Macdonald

Suggestions for making Buddhist awareness meditation into a scientific method.

Experiments in Insight Meditation
by Rod Bucknell

After two months of formal training in vipassana, the author (a professor at an Australian university) spent several years developing a method of mindfulness meditation that could be practiced continuously during ordinary activities. He noticed that two mental states alternated: either he was aware of his thoughts or he was lost in them, and only in the latter case did they affect him emotionally. To help himself remain in the aware state as much as possible, he invented a technique of retracing trains of thoughts backwards and forwards. From the website of the Chieng Mai Dhamma Study Group in Thailand.

Elements of Meditation
Swami Nirgunananda Giri
We include this article only because it contains an interesting section about Svara Yoga by Dr. Jacques Vigne (it's Section V, about halfway down). It is a physiological fact that normally only one nostril is fully open at a time, and the nostrils alternate during wakefulness every two or three hours. Svara Yoga allows the practitioner to become aware of this asymmetry and control it. This is supposed to help the practitioner raise energy (Kundalini) in the central channel (sushumna). Dr. Vigne gives practical instructions as well as some references to scientific and yogic literature.

Yoga Meditation
by Dinu Roman
Overview of yoga meditation technique on SpiritWeb.







by Sri Ramana Maharshi and David Godman (editor)
This superb compilation of Ramana’s writings and dialogues is the best introduction to Ramana’s method of self-enquiry, which many people regard as the fastest, most direct path to enlightenment. If you could read only one book about how to get enlightened, this might be your best choice. For a longer review, see here. For more information about Ramana on this site, see here.



The Varieties of Meditative Experience
By Daniel Goleman

If you're looking for an overview of the main meditation systems, something that will help you navigate the bewildering thicket of competing traditions and religions, this is probably the best book in English. Goleman first explains the classical Theravada system, then contrasts and compares it to others, and finally attempts to show what they all have in common by means of the useful categories of concentration and mindfulness. The book also contains a long section on Buddhist psychology and a few other odds and ends. Goleman has considerable personal experience with meditation and it shows. Read more about it here on Amazon.com.


by Sri Ramana Maharshi
This is the most comprehensive single volume of Ramana's teachings: 668 pages of transcripts of talks he had between 1935 and 1939 with visitors who traveled to south India from all over the world to ask for advice from the man whom many regard as the greatest realized teacher of the twentieth century. The English (translated here from the three Indian languages used by Ramana) is slightly stilted but nonetheless lucid, direct, literate, and pleasant to read. Part of the book is on the Web here.


  Mindfulness in Plain English
By Henepola Gunaratana

Many people say that this nuts-and-bolts manual on Vipassana (insight) meditation is the best book on meditation in English. Some parts of it, like the section on handling distraction, are applicable to all meditation methods. The entire book is on our website here. You can also order a printed edition from Amazon here.

by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
More than five hundred pages of transcribed conversations allow you to eavesdrop on Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, the most famous realized teacher of Advaita since Ramana Maharshi, as he sits in his living room and answers questions from visitors who have come to ask what they should do to become enlightened. There is enough information here to guide you to enlightenment by several paths. Unlike some fully realized teachers, Nisargadatta described what it felt like to be in his state at considerable length, and he did so with a prodigiously intelligent, uncannily articulate modern vocabulary. As a result, this book comes closer than others we know to conveying what it’s like to be enlightened. This is a unique and astonishing work. ORDER IT.


By Puran Bair
By becoming mindful of their heartbeats, readers will be able to create a deep state of stillness and alertness, improve physical health, enhance intuition, and concentrate personal power. Bair illustrates the effectiveness of his program with stories of clients he has helped and with ancient teaching stories from the Sufi masters. Heart rhythm meditation is suitable for beginners as well as experienced meditators looking to expand their practice. Chapter One is on the Web here.

by Luangpor Teean Jittasubho

At the relatively late age of 45, Luangpor Teean, a former Buddhist monk from Thailand, made an intensive effort to reach enlightenment by practicing a remarkably simple form of dynamic meditation. Within a few days he succeeded. The basic idea of the method is to facilitate mindfulness by making continuous rhythmic body motions; thus mindfulness has a restricted range of potential objects to focus on. This book (a booklet, really) describes the technique in a remarkably succinct, practical way. It used to be on the web here, but lately the site has been unreachable; you can order a free snail mail copy here.

by Ajaan Fuang Jotiko
Compiled and Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff)
Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, a Theravada Buddhist monk in the Thai forest ascetic tradition, was a wonderful meditation teacher. After he died in 1986, one of his students, Thanissaro Bhikku (Geoffrey DeGraff), compiled this anthology of snippets of his teachings. We enjoyed it and found it useful. The second half (starting with the section called "Meditation") focuses more directly than the first half on technique. It's on the web here at AccessToInsight.org.

by Sri Swami Sivananda
Includes advice on Hindu meditation techniques. Read it here on the website of the Divine Life Society.

Meditation Made Easy
by Lorin Roche, Ph.D.
The author believes that people have a natural tendency to discover methods that work for them on their own. This book helps you find the techniques that work best for you. Available as book or cassette. We have a longer review of this book here. Order it from Amazon.




A very ancient Sanskrit text that probably dates to the classic Vedanta period. Nothing is known about the author. Taking the form of a highly compressed dialog between a teacher and student, it presents the ideas of Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga with a clarity and power that have rarely been matched. For a translation and links, see here.

by Buddhaghosa
The classic, definitive book on Theravada Buddhist meditation. Written in the fifth century. So far as we know, the only portion of it on the web is Chapter 10, here. Read more about it here.


A very ancient Sanskrit text that probably dates to the classic Vedanta period. Nothing is known about the author. Taking the form of a highly compressed dialog between a teacher and student, it presents the ideas of Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga with a clarity and power that have rarely been matched. For a translation and links, see here.

(Mindfulness of Breathing Sutta)
One of the most important Theravada texts for beginning and veteran meditators alike, this sutta is the Buddha's "roadmap" to the entire course of meditation practice, using the vehicle of breath meditation. The simple practice of mindfulness of breathing leads the practitioner gradually through 16 successive phases of development, culminating in full Awakening. Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff). Both the translation and this note are from the website of AccessToInsight.Org.

(Great Frames of Reference Sutta or Great Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta)
This sutta offers comprehensive practical instructions on the practice of mindfulness meditation. The Buddha describes how the development of continuous mindfulness of the four satipatthana ("foundations of mindfulness," or "frames of reference") -- mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mind-objects -- can lead ultimately to full Awakening. Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff). Both the translation and this note are from the website of AccessToInsight.Org.

by Patanjali
The classic, definitive book on the theory of Astanga Yoga (eight-limbed classical Yoga, the kind that leads to control of the mind and samadhi), written more than a thousand years ago (nobody knows when exactly). The famous second sentence says, “Yoga is the stopping of movements of the mind.” Since this book consists of sutras -- terse epigrams on which a teacher would expand improvisationally during a lecture -- it lends itself to a considerable range of interpretation and has become something of a Rorschach blot for commentators to impose their opinions on. There are many translations and commentaries in print. One of the most readable, under the title How to Know God: Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, is by Swami Prahbavananda and Christopher Isherwood. A translation by Swami Venkatesananda is online here.

THE WAY OF MINDFULNESS: The Satipatthana Sutta and Its Commentary
by Soma Thera
The Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness) is generally regarded as the canonical Buddhist text with the fullest instructions for mindfulness meditation. This English edition from the Buddhist Publication Society includes Satipatthana Sutta Vannana, Buddhagosa's 5th century commentary on the sutta, and a tika (subcommentary) by Dhammapala. It's on the web here at AccessToInsight.org.

Attributed to Vasishtha

One of the most important classical treatises on yoga. Excerpts are on the web here; buy it from Amazon.com here. (If anybody knows of a complete translation on the web, please tell us at editor@realization.org.)

by Sankara
Sankara (also called Shankara, Sankaracharya, or Shankaracharya) is one of the two most famous philosophers and teachers of enlightenment in Indian history (the other is Buddha). According to tradition, in the eighth century he wrote the canonical books on Advaita Vedanta (nondualism) and established the ten monastic orders of Indian swamis which continue to this day -- and managed to do these things before dying at age 32. Here, in one of his most famous works, he explains a method for attaining self-realization. A dreadful English translation (under the title Crest-Jewel of Knowledge) is available for download here. If you don't mind laying out a few bucks, you'll be a lot happier with the translation by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood available here on Amazon.com. There are of course many other translations of this major classic in print.

Author Unknown

This is one of the most popular books of the Pali Canon, the core scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. In 423 succinct verses it condenses a tremendous amount of information about basic Buddhist practice. There are translations on the web here and here.

by W. Y. Evans-Wentz
Excellent English translations of Tibetan documents that give instructions for performing eleven forms of Tantric Yoga including the Great Symbol (Mahamudra), Psychic Heat (Tummo), Consciousness Transference (Phowa), and Voidness (Prajna Paramita). Evans-Wentz was a professor at Oxford University in the first half of the twentieth century. Read more about it here on Amazon.com.

by Saint John of the Cross
Many westerners are unaware that Christianity, like Hinduism and Buddhism, produced enlightened meditators who wrote books explaining how to follow their paths. One of the best-known of these was Saint John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish Carmelite priest. As the titles of these two books suggest, he was also a great poet. We recommend the two books together here because they are actually parts of a single work. You'll find them on the web here, here, and here.

by Mahatma Dattatreya
A classic of Indian nondualism. There's a translation by Hari Prasad Shastri on the web here on SpiritWeb, or buy it here on Amazon.com.

by Sri Swami Sivananda
Practical instructions for waking the Kundalini. Read it here on the website of the Divine Life Society.

Author Unknown
ancient Sanskrit book that describes 112 dharanas or objects of meditation. Read this summary for free on the Hindu Tantrik Home Page, or buy this translation by Jaideva Singh from Barnes and Noble, or buy this interpretation by Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) from Amazon.com.




Vipassana Support Institute
Numerous suberb articles and audio tapes by Shinzen Young.


This page was published on January 22, 1999 and last revised on April 15, 2001.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.