Look at it this way: Can a Christian follow their creed even if they don't pray?
Last I checked, it's a free country. And yet I think it's only in America where meditation has been put up as high on a pedestal. The teachers want their acolytes to be really really good students (Buddhist pride exists too, you know) & a good teacher teaches what they know is the best practice, and best practice is to meditate. And since Buddhism is still "new" to America, the serious-minded who stick with it are going to maintain the faith with a high level of fidelity.
If you've taken refuge, or even if you haven't, and you self-identify yourself as a Buddhist & you try to apply the principles of Buddhism - from the 8-fold path, to understanding annata, sunyata, dukkha, samsara, metta, salvation in the present moment, then you're still practicing Buddhism, no meditation required. Plain and simple.
Case in point: I'm a non-meditating Buddhist. I've practiced meditation, had a odd jhana here or there, but found finally that I couldn't meditate worth a crap after a point. It actually got to stressing me out - but then I'm Aspie & have smidge of ADHD. So I'm kinda sitting in the back pew (zafus), being a "bad" Buddhist. Well, I was an agnostic, and then atheist, back-pew Christian too, so maybe what's right for me is to march to a different drummer.
From what I've learned, and I've learned quite a bit since I adopted Buddhism 12 years ago, meditation isn't the end-all & be-all of the dharma. The purpose of meditation is to learn to attend to the present moment as part of actively applying dharmic principles. I've learned more about those principles via years of study & active discussion in online sanghas.
I've learned to attend to the present moment, gotten far better at it. If I could meditate, either samatha or vipassana, would I be better still? Perhaps, but it's just not my gig & I'm not gonna get hung up over it.
In S.E. Asia Most of the "monks" in Buddhist monastary schools don't actively engage in meditation. Are 5-yo kids supposed to meditate?
I've talked w/ other, experienced Buddhists about this, some are regular meditators, others aren't, and the older crew has generally supported the view that not everybody can, or even necessarily should, pursue meditation as a regimen.
I know people who can only meditate while they walk, or sweep the house. Others who using chanting instead. I play my guitar.
You're a practicing Buddhist if you say you are. Welcome to the club.
Just as the commentator says above there are many forms of meditation and contemplation in Buddhism. The widespread development of Buddhism actually came about not so much by those with the capacity for deep meditation but rather the masses of the people who intuitively could grasp the purity of the Buddha's behavior, what he actually stood for and the essence of his belief: awakening to the eternity of the correct Dharma within his own life. This is why in the Lotus Sutra - the teaching wherein the entire means, methods and concluding principle of the Buddha's ministry is drawn together within a 28 chapter schema - we find, in the chapter where the Buddha seeks to insure the future of his essential teaching by extolling the benefit of practicing with the same intent as the Buddha and exhorting his disciples to do so in the period after his passing, he states:
Like branches of a small tree Being blown by a great wind. Through this skillful means I enable the Dharma to abide forever. I tell the great assembly That after my nirvana Whoever can preserve and recite this sutra Should now individually make a declaration In the presence of the buddhas
O heirs of the buddhas! Whoever is able to preserve the Dharma Should make a great vow So that it may abide forever. Whoever is able to preserve The teaching of this sutra Will thus honor me And Prabhūtaratna.
It is hard to preserve this sutra. If anyone preserves it Even for a single moment, I shall truly rejoice. All of the other buddhas Will do so also. Such people as these Are praised by the buddhas. They are courageous. They are persevering. They are known as those Who follow the rules of good conduct And carry out ascetic practices. Subsequently they quickly attain The highest buddha path. Those in the future Who recite and preserve this sutra, Are the true heirs of the Buddha And abide in the stage of purity. Those who can understand its meaning After the Buddha’s nirvana Will become the Eyes of the World.
In effect, the Buddha in his final teaching states that those who uphold the Buddha's final and highest teaching are observing all the teachings of the Buddha. They are the one's who get it; who understand the full range of the Buddha's ministry and correctly observe all the Buddha's Laws of wisdom. This means that to observe, uphold, recite, spread and teach others the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra itself (the essential teaching) is itself the correct practice of Buddhism. This principle especially rings true in the latter ages after the Buddha Dharma has spread, having taken on many perspectives, interpretations, modes of authority within society itself, a time when the Buddha would become watered down, compromised, conflicted, obscured and lost, the Buddha predicts that this would be the proper time to return to the Buddha's most essential principle, practice and uphold it in the face of much opposition and hostility. This is a time when one can reap the full reward of the correct Buddhist practice., by returning to the primary practice.
"Can I practice Buddhism if I don't meditate?" Hi. I know that's an odd question. Allow me to explain. Personally, I try to make life into a kind of living meditation. However, I don't do the "classic" techniques of meditation very well: sitting still and breathing, chanting, humming, etc. In fact, I get bored out of my mind very quickly doing that. So, I can work at the first 7 steps of the 8 fold path pretty well, but the 8th step is not only beyond me; it is beyond any interest of mine. I like Buddhism as a philosophy for life, but (for me) meditation will just have to naturally result from the first 7 steps. So, can I even practice Buddhism as a religion? I like the social aspects of religion; I also like having rituals that express truths which language cannot fully convey, etc. Yet, it seems that meditation is the main activity at Buddhist gatherings. Maybe I am mistaken? But, it seems that meditation is to Buddhists what prayer / praise / worship are to Christians. It can be pretty lonely as a solitary Buddhist, but what is there to *do* together as a group for Buddhists except meditate ? I get the feeling that I haven't framed the question quite right, but I hope you get the gist and can reply. Thank you. singed, Seeking
Hello, Brother or Sister:
I'm not that experienced but I'll offer something. I would spend allot of time being mindful about what I feel inside and what thoughts come and images come when I attempt sitting meditation. Before we can offer suggestions on how to correct our practice we must know what is wrong.