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Switch to Forum Live View Can I practice Buddhism if I don't meditate?
7 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2007 - 6:34AM #1
seekinglikejonas
Posts: 1
"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
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2007 - 9:06AM #2
spr152
Posts: 49
I haven't been able to really meditate in over five years due to a brain injury. I guess we are in the same boat.  I do walk the Noble Eightfold Path and I can say that it has truly benefited me and has made me into a much more wise and loving person.  I do practice mindfulness in my daily activity and I even practice mindfulness of breathing as well just not in meditation and that has brought me a certain degree of peace.  I guess the only path factor that doesn't come into play is right concentation but that's okay.

In my daily morning routine what I do is take refuge, recite the four immeasurables, then I recite Migtsema (Lama Tsongkhapa's mantra) and then the mantra of Avalokitshvara.  The most important thing for me though is to take refuge thereby renewing my intention to follow the path.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2007 - 9:10AM #3
Engyo
Posts: 138
Hello, Seeking -

I think that you might be able to find a sangha to practice with that has activities outside of meditation.  I can think of several - it would depend on where you live, of course, and what Buddhist groups are available to you within a reasonable distance.

My other suggestion would be to persevere with the meditation - find a style that you can stand for a few minutes, and work up to longer times.  My own school chants as a primary meditation form, and it is quite active - a departure from silent sitting styles. 

Beyond that, good luck with your search.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2007 - 2:58PM #4
austex
Posts: 88
On one hand, I think sitting meditation is way over-emphasized by Western converts to Buddhism; on the other, I think not meditating because "it's boring" kind of misses the point, as does framing everything around what you like and don't like.  If you honestly believe that practicing the Eightfold Path leads to enlightenment and the ultimate cessation of suffering, then whether you "like" it or think it's "boring" is neither here nor there.  It's normal to be bored, especially when you're just starting a meditation practice - there have been times when chanting has absolutely bored me to tears and I could barely keep from jumping up and running off - but you have to decide where your priorities are.  kwim?
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2007 - 12:00AM #5
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
I believe that Pure Land Buddhists chant instead of meditating, but I'm not sure about that. I'm a Zen Buddhist, and "Zen" means mediation, so I'm not terribly familiar with forms of Buddhism that don't involve mediation. The basic story that Buddhism is founded on involves the Buddha leaving home, doing a lot of meditation, and eventually becoming liberated. Consequently, most forms of Buddhism involve some meditation.

However, you can take any part of Buddhism that you like and practice it. It would probably be to your advantage to do a little meditation every day, but if you don't, you won't make yourself into a worse person.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2007 - 7:29AM #6
Cinorjer
Posts: 124
The short answer, in my own opinion, would be you cannot practice Zen without meditating, but you can certainly practice Buddhism.

Heh.  I remember when I was first going to a once-a-week beginner's meditation class.  After the newness wore off, I discovered it was about as exciting as watching the paint peel off the wall.  Come to think of it, that's basically what I was doing.  But I liked the group, certainly liked the Teacher, and figured if this was the price of being a Buddhist then it beat going door to door and handing out tracts. 

So I pretended to enjoy and "get something" from my meditation, and listened to the other folks in the group talk about what a difference it was making and the profound insights they were having.  And one night, when I just couldn't take another second of counting breaths, I sighed, opened my eyes, looked around, and caught the Teacher doing the same.  He grinned at me, winked an eye, and managed to tell me in that one gesture that each and everyone else in the room was just like me and only putting on a big show because we all wanted to be part of a group.

Most lay Buddhists in the world don't meditate.  They leave that to the monks, who don't have anything else to do with their time, like raise a family and make a living.  They live the Precepts and that is practicing Buddhism. 

So what do Buddhists do when they get together, if not meditate?  We talk and socialize.  We engage in rituals together in a bonding.  And sometimes we use the instinct to be part of a group to motivate us into watching paint peel off a wall.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 24, 2007 - 5:31PM #7
termite
Posts: 16
What does "bored out of your mind" really mean?  Maybe this feeling is something you should examine. :)

Seriously, meditation is attention to what is actually going on in this mind.  Do you want to know who you are, and, if so, how else than by observing your mind?

This practice of Buddhism isn't about only doing what we find pleasant.  Given that "suffering" is at the heart of what Buddhism is about, it would seem that "seeking only what's pleasant" would be avoidance of the issue.

It's only a few minutes of boredom.  How hard can it be? :D
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 25, 2007 - 3:18PM #8
ronnewmexico
Posts: 490
To add very slightly  to the other excellent replies and posters; perhaps this has been stated. If it has not, perhaps it should be...."Can I practice Buddhism if I don't meditate?".......yes. Certainly you may and are.
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7 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2007 - 7:22PM #9
vredstein
Posts: 1
[QUOTE=seekinglikejonas;88772]"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[/QUOTE]

It depends on what you want to get out of your practice. If you are working toward attaining enlightenment, or practicing the wisdom aspect, you must meditate. Otherwise, you are setting your goal higher than even the Buddha himself- to become the first being to attain enlightment without meditating.
You can pick and choose aspects of Buddhist practice, such as compassion and ethics, but you can do that with self-help books, group therapy and other secular means.

As far as activities for someone who doesn't have access to a dharma center or a spiritual teacher, that's the great beneficial function of sites such as this one. Asking  questions, receive replies
and general communication.
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7 years ago  ::  Dec 03, 2007 - 1:07PM #10
vacchagotta
Posts: 298
Hi,

My thoughts on your question are mixed.  I have to try to speak generally (and therefore somewhat mysteriously I admit), but I hope primarily to inspire.  Disregard if my words are anything but that.  Firstly, I think that meditation is foundational to Buddhism.  That means that according to tradition, meditation was the efficient means of the Buddha's discovery of enlightenment.   He also therefore advocated meditation as the crowning part of the eightfold path (which is our means to fruition), to which the other path factors are listed as "means and accessories" (MN 117). 

However...I believe the Buddha's teaching is wider than that and includes those who are not yet ready for meditation or even for the world-surpassing eightfold path.  It includes those who are still preparing for that.  Some people would say "not yet ready for meditation, what kind of nonsense is that? Meditation is a practice, you start where you are no matter how ready or not and work through it from there!"  I believe that not to be altogether correct approach, and the Buddha's discipline is called a "gradual training".  How gradual you think of it depends on your beliefs, but most traditions maintain that it took the Bodhisattva many many lifetimes of purification before he was ready to become a Buddha. 

A lot of lay followers of the Buddha in his own time probably did not spend very much time in meditation at all (on the other hand, some probably did), but they had faith in the Buddha and so would by modern terminology thus be called "Buddhists"... and they practiced according to their means: they may not have been good meditators committed to the life of an contemplative, but they could certainly make an effort to be more moral, to give to the sangha, etc.  And all those things are taught by the Buddha to lay the foundation for eventual correct meditation.   And then you have the serious question of what it means to meditate.  Meditation is not just sitting and thinking, not chanting, not breathing or breath-counting...those are just the outward signs of a much deeper aim--it's what an outsider sees when they walk into a room of meditating Buddhists!...the problem is that many of the meditating Buddhists also see meditation in the same way the outsider does.  They are the things by which meditation is known outwardly, but they are not what meditation really is inwardly.  I think maybe a lot of modern Buddhists are trying to meditate and although they are "following the directions" they really are not even in the ballpark of what meditation is, and in a way they are putting the cart before the horse.  As an expression of faith, the effort to meditate may be in many cases a good intention with no power behind it, and it looks like a lot of people are putting the cart before the horse, trying to meditate before they are acquainted with its means and aims.  I only say this because I was like that and I recognize myself in a lot of fellow Buddhists who are like that.   We all grow out of it, and who knows if our struggle to imitate was the actual cause of realizing what meditation is or if it actually got in the way.  I'm of the opinion that it got in the way for me...wasted years...if only I had known!  But maybe I had to go through that, I don't know!

You mentioned that you try to make life your meditation, and this is good!  I hope to encourage you in that wholeheartedly, and maybe it will lead you to a place where you simply need to meditate in a more focused way (ie sitting meditation) to go deeper.  And that will be a good thing because when you get to that place you will be certainly ready for it and you will have some idea of what meditation is, your meditation will have a purpose and you won't be like that person who walks into the room of meditators and tries to imitate what they are doing outwardly and becoming bored and frustrated because they still don't know exactly why and how they are doing what they are doing.  You will be a person with a plan and a goal and a firm resolution, like the Buddha when he sat down under the Bodhi tree, instead of, perhap,s like a person who wants to be an artist and so watches painting lessons on tape and learns how to create the appearance of mountains and trees by imitation of techniques.

in friendliness,
V.
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