The Editors

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

By now you can find a lot of information on our website. That in itself is very nice, but if you came to our website with a specific question it can be quite challenging to find the fitting material.

That is why we have written this reading guide.

Here we try to point you to material that we think is relevant on the basis of questions you might have.

If your question is not listed here, please let us know. We will then try to answer your question and see if it is suitable for this guide, accompanied by the necessary advice. In this way you can help us improve this guide.

The Questions

The Answers

I’m totally new, what is meditation and why would I do it?

A nice short introduction to meditation in the context of Buddhism is the (somewhat old) BBC documentary ‘The Mindful Way’ in which a sketch is given of life in the monastery of Ajahn Chah, one of the most respected meditation teachers of the last century.

Ahba also gives a beautiful short look at the necessity of meditation in the movie A Short Message of Ahba about Meditation (you can turn on subtitles).

If you want to know what meditating on buddho sounds like, you can take a look at the Short Demonstration of Buddho Meditation.

If you want to know more about the Buddhist framework from which meditation originates, then What is Buddhism is a nice starting point.

If you are ready for more information, please start at Samatha Meditation: Foundation for Insight.

To get more feeling for meditation and how it helps to get a better view of reality Exploring Reality with Samādhi is worth reading.

I started meditating but it’s hard to keep it up, do you have any tips?

The first plae to take a look are our 7 Practical Meditation Tips, maybe this is enough.

Because it is essential to meditate on a daily basis, we have written Daily Meditation: How to Keep It Up.

However, the best thing you can do when it is difficult to keep up your meditation is to contact your teacher. In this light, you are always welcome to contact us and visit us once in a while.

I am practicing samatha meditation on buddho, where can I find more information to delve further into this pratice?

First of all you can find more at Samatha Meditation: Foundation for Insight. Here you will find more information about the meditation itself, but also the relationship between samatha meditation on buddho and for example ‘mindfulness’ and vipassanā.

Ahba often teaches a specific set of mental qualities as part of samatha meditation on buddho. If Ahba finds it important enough to come back to it repeatedly, it is essential information. Therefore, read Saddhā, Viriya, Sati, Samādhi, Paññā, Khanti and Mettā.

In order to get a better sense of what you are actually doing as you develop concentration, it may be nice to read Exploring Reality with Samādhi.

It is often an ignored (or even pushed away) aspect, but devotion is very important while meditating, especially when it comes to meditating on buddho.  In the text Devotion in Buddhism Nyanaponika Thera talks about this. For everyone who practices the buddho meditation system  this is a very suitable text.

When you practice samatha meditation on buddho, you focus on the qualities of the Buddha. But what are these qualities? In The Nine Qualities of the Buddha you can learn more about this.

Meditation on buddho is a form of concentration meditation. For anyone who is engaged in this meditation (but actually any form of meditation), sooner or later specific hindrances will come into view. Because these obstacles counteract concentration, it is good to know about these. We write about the hindrances and what to do about them in our text The 5 Hindrances that Hinder Progress in Meditation.

Furthermore, Ahba is not the only one teaching meditation on buddho. Read for example Ajahn Sao’s Teaching on Meditation and Ajahn Thate on Buddho. Especially the text of Ajahn Thate is very beautiful with a lot of practical advice.

Although it is not specifically about meditation on buddho, the text Questions & Answers on Meditation  in which Ajahn Chah addresses questions of laymen and monks is very worthwhile for every practitioner.

Perhaps at some point you would like to participate in a retreat. You can read more about this in Meditation Retreat: Deepen Your Practice.

I practice vipassanā meditation, how does samatha compare to vipassanā?

To start with, you can read more about this at Samatha Meditation: Foundation for Insight. And of course What is Vipassana?.

With vipassanā you essentially try to perceive reality as it is. This requires samādhi (concentration). To get a feeling for this you can read Exploring Reality with Samādhi.

It is regularly said that vipassanā is a better, faster or higher path than samatha. At the same time, many vipassanā teachers refer to the line of Mahasi Sayadaw when it comes to their teaching competence. However, it is good to know that Mahasi Sayadaw himself never claimed that vipassanā would be better, in fact, he developed his vipassanā meditation system as a stepping stone for developing concentration, which, according to him, was necessary for real understanding. You can read more about this in Thoughts on Dhamma. Especially the introduction by Nyanaponika Thera, who actually meditated with Mahasi Sayadaw, is worthwhile in this context.

The desire for insight or the development of wisdom is an hindrance in itself. It is good to be aware of this. Especially in vipassanā meditation without having developed sufficient concentration beforehand, this longing can be lurking in the dark. In Putting Forth Patient Effort Without Desire, we consider this further.

Proper concentration is one of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, the core of Buddhist practice. In the text Ajahn Suwat on Correct Concentration, Ajahn Suwat reflects on this in the context of both samatha and vipassanā meditation.

In the context of vipassanā meditation reference is often made to Satipaṭṭhāna, or the development of sati (mindfulness). There is an important interplay between sati, samatha and vipassanā. You can read more about this in Mindfulness According to the Buddha.

A nice text about vipassanā in the Buddhist context compared to secular insight meditation is Two Styles of Insight Meditation by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

I’ve been meditating for years and I’m especially looking for more in-depth pieces for the advanced practitioner, what do you recommend?

To be honest, we find all our content suitable even for the most advanced practitioner, what you can get out of a text usually depend more on yourself. There are texts and books that can bring about a new revelation every time you read through them. At some point, it’s just a matter of emphasizing meditation and daily practice, not study. Just keep meditating patiently without wanting insight. In this context you could read Meditation Without Desire.

If after this somewhat condescending paragraph you are sti looking for some reading guidance, we advise you to start at Samatha Meditation: Foundation for Insight where we look at concentration from different angles as part of meditation.

As far as we are concerned, moral behavior stands at the source of all practice, no matter at which point of the path you are. Read The 5 Precepts: Buddhism and Morality to bring moral behavior back into focus as part of the practice.

Anyone who meditates, whether samatha or vipassana meditation, and in whichever buddhist school, will encounter The 5 Hindrances that Hinder Progress in Meditation, therefore, focus on this subject.

Meditating on mettā is always good, we do it ourselves before and after the meditation on buddho. However, mettā is a deep subject. You can learn more about it in Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita.

A very beautiful text that certainly can shine new light on familiar territory for the advanced practitioner is Ajahn Thate on Buddho.

Another teacher whose teachings are always worthwile is Ajahn Chah. Don’t be fooled by his simple style, there is a lot of depth in his words. Look for example at his Questions & Answers on Meditation where he gives answers to lay people and monks, but also at Our Real Home where he teaches Dhamma to a dying person.

If you are more of a vipassanā practitoner then Mahasi Sayadaw is very worthwhile with his Thoughts on the Dhamma.

For the advanced practitioner, it can be fun to study the Abhidhamma. If you are not yet familiar with it, start with What is Abhidhamma? to see if this is something for you.

If you really want to go into more depth, you will have to pick up books at some point. However, there are a lot of books and not all of them are of good quality. If you want some advice on what to read, take a look at our 16 Recommended Books on Buddhism and Meditation or visit our online library.

I can’t find much online about your teacher Ahba, do you have more information?

Except for our website, and especially our Teachers page, there is indeed little to find about Ahba.

He hasn’t written any books, hasn’t posted any movies online and has tried for years to stay under the radar in order to pay attention to his direct disciples. However, he is now very well known in Asia, especially in Thailand.

A good way to see this is looking at how famous western monks behave towards him. For example, Ajahn Kalyano talks about Ahba in the movie Blessing of the Ground for the Bodhgaya Temple and was invited by Ajahn Nyanadhammo and Ajahn Sumedho for the opening of a new temple as can be seen in Ahba’s Paritta Chant in Wat Ratanawan.

However, it is best to listen to Ahba himself.

We know he is difficult to understand, especially for people who have never met him in person, and we realize that the energy he radiates can only be experienced in person. Still, listen to Ahba Speaks About Meditation, Mindfulness and PatienceTaking Care of the Mind with Sati and Samadhi or look at Short Message from Ahba about Meditation (you can turn on subtitles).

I would like to know more about the Buddha himself, where should I start?

The Life of the Buddha, we think that this is a good place to begin.

In The Nine Qualities of the Buddha we give an overview of what makes the Buddha special.

In Arahants, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas by Bhikkhu Bodhi you can learn more about the different paths you can take as a human being, one of which is the way to Buddha-hood.

Bu in the end the most information can be found in the book The Life of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. We think that this is best biography.

I’m interested in Buddhism but there is so much information available, where should I start?

Start with What is Buddhism?. If you want to know more, check out The Four Noble Truths: Essence of the Dhamma.

If you’re looking for some kind of course, or if you are interested in a video series A Short Introduction to Buddhism by Bhikkhu Bodhi may be right for you.

A fun and well known teaching by the Buddha himself to start with is the Kalama Sutta: The Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry, however, if you do read it then combine it with Bhikkhu Bodhi’s A Look at the Kalama Sutta so as not to fall into the same trap as so many Western readers.

I’ve been studying Buddhism for quite some time, do you have any material to deepen my knowledge?

If you have been studying Buddhism for quite some time and our Buddhism page does not provide much new knowledge, and you can dream suttas like the Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Contemplative Life, then you could take a look at our 16 Recommended Books on Buddhism and Meditation or our online library.

You might also appreciate texts like Subrahma’s Problemn, Arahants, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas or Anicca Vata Sankhara, all by Bhikkhu Bodhi (you can also do a search for Bhikkhu on our Blog).

Another text that might be interesting for you is our own A Buddhist Look at the Problems in the World.

I have heard that even within Buddhism there is abuse, what do you think about this?

We regularly try to pay attention to the importance of moral behavior on the Buddhist path, for example in The 5 Precepts: Buddhism and Morality, and speak out clearly against any form of abuse or in fact against any form of sexual contact between teacher and pupil.

For example, we wrote Sexual Abuse by Buddhist Teachers and The Teacher-Disciple Relationship Must be 100% Safe.

We also invite you to read our ethical code in this context.

My question is not listed here, what should I do now?

Do you have another question? Then feel free to contact us and ask. We will of course try to answer your question, but we will also see if we can include it coupled with advice in this reading guide. In this way you help us to further improve this website.

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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276