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If it's possible to do it, how should such practice look like? Will it be inferior to the practice of those who meditate?

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I would say begin with compassion... –  Andreas M. Sep 3 '14 at 12:17

7 Answers 7

The Buddhist 3 Fold Training or main parts of the Noble 8 Fold Path are:

  1. Morality,
  2. Mastery over the Mind and
  3. Wisdom.

You can practice 1 without meditation. But need meditation for to develop the other two. Also if you develop the other two your morality also becomes stronger.

Doing 1 itself gives benefit but this is much more if you practice all 3 parts of the Training (the latter 2 parts relating to Meditation and mental development) and with the addition of Giving which in part of the bases of merit with Morality and Meditation being an overlap.

The ultimate Buddhist goal is The Path to Nirvana in which Vipassana plays a great role.

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According to the Pali canon, stream entry (and possibly even up to once returner - I don't have my notes handy) can be accomplished by the so-called faith follower. This practitioner would need to command a resolute faith in the triple gem and observe the five precepts (i.e. strictly practice sila). The higher stages of enlightenment - and definitely the stage of arahant - are only available to those who have some mastery of the meditative absorption of jhana. The Visuddhimagga also hints that the same higher levels of attainment are available to those who practice "dry insight" (e.g. Vipassana) that isn't "moistened" by the attainment of jhana.

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IMO meditation is absolutely critical, but not at beginner's stages. I would even go as far as to recommend at least five years of practice before one tries meditation. What would that practice look like?

  1. Watch the mind for emotions arising due to giving anything high importance. Let go of those.
  2. Watch the mind for signs of behavior targeted at defending or advocating one's ego. Drop that.
  3. Watch the mind for indulging. Stop that.
  4. Protect your mind from garbage and negative information.
  5. Learn some Buddhist theory.

First three are effectively meditation in action, every second of every minute of every hour.

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Does it mean that all those Buddhists in Asia who don't meditate don't really follow the right path of Buddhism? –  michau Sep 4 '14 at 11:17
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That's right, however they are lay people not seeking Enlightenment. They follow general guidelines for good living. –  Andrei Volkov Sep 4 '14 at 12:26
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This is great practical advice. Meditation is an intensive endeavor and are the 2nd training which come after the 1st training (in truth the 3 trainings are all one thing but that's another topic). What Andrei here talks about is the 1st training in-depth. Very important. –  Ahmed Jan 25 at 6:02

If you do not follow (or know) what the Buddha taught, yet seek and reach enlightenment on your own, you are working on buddhahood. So in a sense yes. Though not meditating can also be a state of not doing the actual practice that the buddha taught.

Considering the theory of rebirth even without meditation one can start down the path as they noted above and develop kammic building blocks for the next round.

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addendum: that is of course my own understanding of things. –  A Nonimous Sep 3 '14 at 14:19

Meditation is a key practice in Buddhism, however some Buddhists say you can reach enlightment by reasoning, using your intelect and contemplating things.

In many Buddhist stories people achieve great results only by listening to the Buddha or practicing sila/dana.

A great monk from Theravada tradition once told me that meditation should be the 8th part of the noble eightfold path, not the 1st. Lay people should focus on morality, precepts and dana. I'm sure this can be questioned, not all buddhists will agree, so I'm just offering a point of view.

I would say: Meditation is great, helps a lot, can be a short cut for your insight into reality, so why not?

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If by meditation you mean "sitting down and resting the mind and gently focusing" then yes you can. Just know this though, you can be "resting the mind and gently focusing" while doing something else such as: reading the suttas or other dharma texts including the ancient Vedas, calming the mind while lying down, being more generous (or practicing any of the other paramitas), etc.!

There is no real escaping meditation. In order to practice Buddhism correctly you will calm the mind and body down and reach peace one way or another. And it will be easy. It will be relaxing and good for you. You will realize how lucky you are to be one of the few who have the opportunity to practice the Dharma... The Dharma that is beyond sitting, reclining, or standing.

So in conclusion, one can practice the 3 trainings in any position! Meditation is your True Home and is beyond sitting down. If you do not like formal sitting meditation, no worries friend! Practice letting go of your worries and relaxing in any other posture you feel like. :)

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Of course. You can be a Buddhist without meditating. It is only to separate the mind and body of us. If you want to meditate, firstly, you could rest your mind and you can notice the inhalatation and exhalation from your nose. And when you do this, you may not need to sit correctly. But you have to notice your mind and changes in your body. That is one way meditation works.

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To your credit I think you are talking about the practice of learning-through-hearing-dharma (a route to enlightenment as well). If anyone has ever felt tremendous peace and meditative ease and focus when deeply reading Dharma writings then they know what I'm talking about. Nothing can replace meditation though. –  Ahmed Jan 25 at 6:05

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