To begin meditation, we first calm and focus the mind. To do this, we usually concentrate on our breathing or on a particular object, and then use this concentrated attention to develop insight. The ultimate goal of Buddhist meditation is insight into the nature of the mind - enlightenment.
By meditating on the Buddha or on the qualities of the Buddha, the liberated or enlightened Buddhist teacher, we achieve two things. The external form attracts and holds our attention, and by seeing that our own nature is enlightened, like the Buddha nature, we can make rapid progress.
Meditation is a profound method that reaches deep enough to enlighten us fullz. While we are still on the way to the ultimate goal, we can also observe its other benefits.
When we lose focus during meditation, we return to the object we are meditating on. In this way we practice not getting carried away by our feelings or thoughts. We simply become aware of them. Over time, as this habit slips into our daily lives, we will most likely notice that our relationships with people improve. We are less and less likely to react with anger or jealousy, and if we do express it, we get over it more quickly.
Meditation can give us a broader perspective, which makes us less stressed. This provides us with a whole range of physical and mental benefits: physically we can have better sleep and more energy, and psychologically we simply feel better with more surplus.
It then becomes natural to use the surplus we have created through meditation to help others. We try to use our growing clarity to discern what will benefit people the most for the longest time. Then we direct our energy towards that goal. This action creates more positive impressions in our mind, which makes meditation easier and more effective.
The principles of calming the mind (Tibetan: shinay, Sanskrit: shamatha) and generating deep insight (Tib: lhaktong, Skt: vipashyana) apply to all kinds of Buddhist meditation. A specialty of Tibetan Buddhism is exciting meditations on forms of energy and light. Some of these meditations also work with the inner energies of the body, and have very strong effects. They must usually be learned in retreat. Many of them are not so practical for modern Western lifestyles. The Yoga of Inner Heat, one of the Six Yogas of Naropa, for example, is very practical for keeping warm in the snowy mountains of Tibet!
One special meditation method, which is especially treasured by the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, is identification with the teacher (Sanskrit: guru yoga). When we meditate on an enlightened teacher, we remember that the teacher has realized the nature of mind. The outer form of the teacher thus represents to us the enlightened mind itself. If we did not also possess these enlightened qualities, doing a meditation like this would not have much effect. But we do. Enlightenment is beyond all limits, meaning it must be always and everywhere. All beings, including ourselves, are Buddhas who simply haven’t realized it yet.
Our openness to the living example of the teacher shows us what enlightenment looks like in real life. We realize that enlightenment isn’t something abstract or only for other people. This confidence in our Buddha nature allows us to actually experience it more and more. When we look at the teacher, we see the qualities outside; when we look into our own mind during meditation, we experience them inside. In the end we realize that this separation between inside and outside can no longer be upheld.
All Diamond Way meditations are, in a way, meditations on the teacher. This is especially clear in the meditation on the 16th Karmapa, the Guru Yoga from the Foundational Practices, and the 8th Karmapa meditation.
"To melt one’s own mind with the mind of the teacher is the most profound practice and the shortest way to realization. It is the life force of this path and the one practice that unites all the others.
– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991)"