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

  • 3
    I would say begin with compassion...
    – Andreas L.
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 12:17

11 Answers 11


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.


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.

  • 1
    Does it mean that all those Buddhists in Asia who don't meditate don't really follow the right path of Buddhism?
    – kami
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 11:17
  • 1
    That's right, however they are lay people not seeking Enlightenment. They follow general guidelines for good living.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 12:26
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 6:02
  • -1 I've never heard a teacher say beginners shouldn't meditate, in fact at every temple I've practiced at beginners take part in the full meditation programme.
    – user10515
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 21:59
  • That's why we have so few enlightened people, because students meditate without understanding.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 23:02

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.


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?


There are many Shin and Pure Land Buddhists that do not exercise mediation. You do not need meditation to be a Buddhist.

  • If you are not seeking nirvana, can you say you are a true buddhist? Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 13:52

Answer based in Theravada Buddhism.

If you would like to win Nibbana and issue liberation from the rounds of suffering, then you need meditation.

The root defilements exist in 3 layers in the Mind. The deepest layer, which is the layer of latent tendencies, i.e. the "roots" of the root defilements cannot be removed unless one practices insight meditation.

If the roots are not cut off the tree can grow back again, meaning one cannot become free from Samsaric existence.

If one does not want to become free from Samsara, then one can practice without integrating meditation into the practice. If that is the case then one is not fully following the teachings of the Buddhas, i.e. The Noble Eightfold Path, hence one will not gain the full benefit from the practice.

  • But if one does not want to become free from Samsara, what would be point in being Buddhist in the first place?
    – kami
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 11:17
  • Whether or not one does not want to become free from Samsara, is not up to me to say or even possible for me to say. Each to their own.
    – user2424
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 11:35
  • I like the ideas of "deepest layer of the mind" and the "roots". These affect also how deeply one can convey the teaching to others, by living it and by having insight and experience. I have met many sincere "preachers" (of many faiths) who were obviously going only "on faith". This is not very encouraging to an inquirer. Go for depth.
    – user2341
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 13:26

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.

  • addendum: that is of course my own understanding of things.
    – A Nonimous
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 14:19

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. :)


I am not a Buddhist, however I have had a long spiritual practice including meditation taught to me by a direct disciple of my Guru (whom I have met several times - in another country). The point of meditation is to speed up the process greatly. My Guru compares it to travel on foot vs by airplane. If you want to end suffering sooner and help others more fully, then the insight gained by meditation will get you there in your lifetime.

Otherwise, of course people can gain understanding and insight and even Realization and Liberation, because it is a natural process that is supposed to happen. It is a process of development. But we can get lost in dead-ends for a long time when we do not have something like meditation to show the depth of the mind and the silent clarity within it. To see to the bottom of the pond, you have to learn how to stop stirring it.

Another analogy: there are lots of kinds of food which can be made without cooking. But if you want a cake, you have to bake it. It depends on what you want and how long you are willing to watch it unfold.


Meditation is the core of the Buddha's teachings. But meditation can be in many ways. For example you can start practising general mindfulness in daily life(this is also the core of Buddha's teachings) before starting practising formal meditation. I started my path after reading Eckhart Tolle's books and trying to live mindfully in daily life before I interested at Buddhism and did formal meditation for long periods of time with Ven. Yuttadhammo's teachings.

Those who don't practise mindfulness/meditation are not really following the core of Buddha's teachings. Meditation/mindfulness must be taken seriously and must be done with effort until the mindfulness becomes natural and spontaneous for you.

I think the Buddhist countries are better than most of the countries(especially better than the societies with narcissitic and bloody cultures) in the world. Because Buddhism leads people to do good deeds, respect and support the monks, and Buddhism makes people more kind, generous, loving. But this is a very limited benefit for those who don't practise meditation which is the core of Buddhism. Unless you do the actual work to change the structure of the mind, you cannot really expect any profound change in your mind that make you free from the evil nature of humanity.


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.

  • 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
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 6:05

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