|Buddhism began by encouraging its practitioners to engage in smrti
(sati) or mindfulness, that is, developing a full consciousness of all
about you and within you -- whether seated in a special posture, or
simply going about one's life. This is the kind of meditation that
Buddha himself engaged in under the bodhi tree, and is referred to in
the seventh step of the eightfold path.
Soon, Buddhist monks expanded and formalized their understanding
of meditation. The bases for all meditation, as it was understood even
in the earliest years of Buddhism, are shamatha and vipashyana.
Shamatha is often translated as calm abiding or peacefulness. It is
the development of tranquility that is a prerequisite to any further
development. Vipashyana is clear seeing or special insight, and
involves intuitive cognition of suffering, impermanence, and
Only after these forms were perfected does one go on to the more
heavy-duty kinds of meditation. Samadhi is concentration or
one-pointed meditation. It involves intense focusing of consciousness.
Samadhi brings about the four dhyanas, meaning absorptions.
Buddha refers to samadhi and the dhyanas in the eighth step of
the eightfold path, and again at his death. Dhyana is rendered as
Jhana in Pali, Ch'an in Chinese, Son in Korean, and Zen in Japanese,
and has, in those cultures, become synonymous with meditation as a
The Five Hindrances (Nivarana) are the major obstacles to
1. Sensual desire (abhidya)
2. Ill will, hatred, or anger (pradosha)
3. Laziness and sluggishness (styana and middha)
4. Restlessness and worry (anuddhatya and kaukritya)
5. Doubt (vichikitsa) -- doubt, skepticism, indecisiveness,
or vacillation, without the wish to cure it, more like the common idea
of cynicism or pessimism than open-mindedness or desire for evidence.