I meditate for the purpose described by the Dalai Lama (in his book The Heart of Meditation: Discovering Innermost Awareness):

To achieve a friendly attitude, a warm heart, respect for the rights of others, and concern for their welfare, we must train the mind. The essential objective of mental training is to cultivate an attitude of compassion and calm

After 30-60 minutes I am calm and aware, but seeing no further benefit in sitting longer. I don't buy the idea that the Buddha's teachings were only available to the select few who can achieve special meditative states.

Are there any teachers or traditions that teach a path that does not rely on long meditations that last for hours?

(The closest I know of is the Insight Meditation Society, and while they don't appear to emphasize jhanas, they do hold meditation retreats.)

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    If you consider the wisdom of teachers outside of Buddhism, I have a teacher who suggests a path where one is constantly meditating through the day, even while doing things. I find it to be a useful direction to search because it challenges me to explore what it means to meditate in situations outside of the trivial cases.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:41
  • Yes I read something about this in What the Buddha Taught following a discussion on meditation: "You haven’t got to spend one second of your precious time on this particular ‘ meditation ’ : you have only to cultivate mindfulness and awareness always , day and night , with regard to all activities in your usual daily life ."
    – user8619
    Jan 25, 2018 at 4:55
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    In addition to above. If one does not spend much time doing the meditation it is considered a painful path because one neglects Jhana. It will also go slower probably because to keep the theme of mindfulness of the body constantly it helps a lot to do formal Satipatthana walking and sittings, as that is when one gets focused most then it is about maintaining focus, adapting, not losing the concentration and keep developing enlightenment factors in other postures, being aware of what is going on.
    – user8527
    Jan 25, 2018 at 10:36
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    i dont think it is fair to say that this path is without long meditations, i think it is a path with a less or a lot less. There is a Sutta called Asubha, talks about four modes of practice.
    – user8527
    Jan 25, 2018 at 10:45
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    If one looks thru the Suttas dwelling in pain is referred to and explained in several instances, ie Nandiya Sutta.
    – user8527
    Jan 26, 2018 at 12:14

2 Answers 2


The Buddha's teachings were often tailored to the audience he was addressing. Teachings like karma, merit making, and securing a good rebirth are available to anyone regardless of how much time they wish to dedicate to meditation. If you are after true liberation, however, there are no shortcuts.

There is a koan that goes something like this:

Nangaku (Ch. Nanyue) asks, “What are you doing these days?”
Baso (Ch. Mazu) says, “These days Dōitsu just sits.”
Nangaku says, “What is the aim of sitting in zazen?”
Baso says, “The aim of sitting in zazen is to become buddha.”
Nangaku promptly fetches a tile and polishes it on a rock near Baso’s hut.
Baso, on seeing this, asks, “What is the master doing?”
Nangaku says, “Polishing a tile.”
Baso says, “What is the use of polishing a tile?”
Nangaku says, “I am polishing it into a mirror.”
Baso says, “How can polishing a tile make it into a mirror?”
Nangaku says, “How can sitting in zazen make you into a buddha?”

You can actually achieve enlightenment without ever sitting. Since this is going to be my last post on this site, I'll candidly tell you that my first truly deep kensho experience happened before I ever met my Zen teacher. In fact, it happened on my way to Wendy's to buy a hamburger! Things like this do happen from time to time. Unfortunately, this has led a lot of people in the modern age to read this koan as saying that consistent, long periods of meditation are not required for liberation. That's rubbish. More poignantly, one of the things this koan is saying is that there is no transactional relationship between enlightenment and zazen. 1,000 hours of meditation does not equal 1,000 credits of enlightenment. Instead, meditation creates the conditions for enlightenment to occur. Think of it like planting a garden. Seeds grow all on their own in the right conditions, but as anyone who has planted a garden will tell you, getting that garden started is a lot of work. You have to establish decent soil, you have to make sure that your plot has a good solar aspect, you have to ensure that there is adequate water, and you have to sow your seed. Some gardens need more remediation to get going, others less. And even then, once your plants are started, your work still isn't done. In some ways, it's just started! Now, you have to maintain the plot. You have to weed it, ensure that it has the right amendments, and you have to keep the critters out.

Buddhist practice is no different. The seed of enlightenment will grow in a plot tilled with moral discipline and meditation. For some people, this may happen quickly. Their karmic soil is fertile and will allow wisdom to grow with little effort. Others can sit wholeheartedly for decades without experiencing daikensho. But in either case, the better conditions they create, the better chances they have of seeing success. Moreover, once they have had an enlightenment experience, the easier it will be for them to maintain it. As is often the case with spontaneous kensho, as deep as my first experience was, it only lasted for a couple of months. Eventually, it began to fade - overwhelmed by karmic weeds that could reestablish themselves since I wasn't maintaining my mind with an equally deep meditation practice.

You never reach the end of the path. There are always deeper strata of karma to tend to - even after enlightenment. You need sharp tools and strong back to reach the really subterranean stuff. You develop both with sincere, dedicated, daily practice. I'm not going to lie, sometimes that work can have the character of drudgery. Your legs will hurt, you will get frustrated, and you will even be bored. Let me assure you, however, that as your practice grows, this very same practice will become absolutely transcendent. In time, meditation will become your favorite thing in the world. It truly is a wish bestowing gem. And it is one that is available to everyone.

  • Too bad this is your last post!
    – user4878
    Jan 25, 2018 at 14:54
  • I'm not looking for shortcuts, rather, I want to make the best use of my time given my aptitudes. As you said, "The Buddha's teachings were often tailored to the audience he was addressing", and the practice that works for me may be what is called post sitting practice, i.e. continuous mindfulness in all activities. Thank you. Sad to see you go.
    – user8619
    Jan 26, 2018 at 2:55
  • "You never reach the end of the path." Clearly: "After [Buddha's] enlightenment, he said, a person must return to the marketplace and there practice compassion to all, doing anything he or she could to alleviate the misery of other people. After achieving Nirvana, he had been tempted to luxuriate in the transcendent peace he had found, but instead he spent the remaining forty years of his life on the road teaching his method to others." Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Karen Armstrong
    – user8619
    Jan 26, 2018 at 3:39
  • I watched '10% Happier with Dan Harris' and Lama Tsomo, and she tells an incredible story where upon enlightenment, practicioners 'tranform their bodies out of the material realm' and 'leave behind nothing but hair and nails'. It's unlikely the path ends like that as the Buddha did no such thing. Instead, he continued to teach others for the rest of his life. Yes, "You never reach the end of the path"
    – user8619
    Jan 27, 2018 at 1:01

It's not really about how long one sits at all.

A person might regularly sit for hours with no attainments whereas the same person under different training might do some work, do a little walking and sit just to become absorbed as to mind inclination at the first opening within minutes.

However the latter won't be able to do it without a lot of good behavior conducive to the goal like reading scripture, rousing effort and otherwise living the teaching to his best ability.

It is more so about how long do you maintain good mental, verbal & physical behavior conducive to the goal without getting distracted too much whilst calming down & gladdening. Not so much about having a particularly long sitting.

Sometimes it is important to sit through some unpleasantness as some taints are abandoned trough forbearance but that is not to say that one should fall to self-mortification.

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