Sorting through the various meditation techniques

Years ago I did Zen meditation pretty seriously and had some real amazing experiences but since discovering theravada and the thai forest tradition, I have for the most part followed the meditation techniques of Ajahn Geoff who teaches Ajahn Lee’s methods. This mostly centers on breath meditation, and moving the breath energy to different parts of the body, from head to toe. While Buddho is mentioned briefly, I’ve never heard Ajahn Geoff teach it and even when done, seems to center on synching the Buddho to the in and out breaths, breathing in Bud, breathing out Dho.

Now, thanks to the miracle of youtube, I find myself drawn Ajahn Martin who learned directly from Luang Tha Maha Boowa and his method is completely different. He emphasizes Buddho. It seems to be the rapid, repeated focus on the word Buddho, not connected to the breath at all. And when he does teach breath meditation, he is adamant that the awareness never leave the tip of the nose, and never in other parts of the body.

As western lay practitioners what are we to make of these seemingly contradictory methods within the thai forest tradition and how to we sort through them to understand proper technique and effectiveness?


Just a humble oppinion but i have encountered so many different techniques and methods of meditation. I think its important to experiment and find for oneself what works, but also to be aware of when this searching for something else is based on a discontent for what one has currently.
Its that familiar feeling of ‘now THIS meditation method is the one… this one is going to take me all the way’ :joy: then half an hour later giving up completely and returning to the breath.
But then again, you never know.


I think Ajahn Martin learned directly from Luang Tha Maha Boowa.

Techniques are fine initially, but I regard my technique as the best for me because that’s attuned to my type and personality. Learning is a movement, and being stuck on how somebody else did or does it, isn’t my way.


Yes, yes…my mistake. Editing my original post.

I had an interesting experience with short teaching from Luang Tha Maha Boowa. I sat down during a lunch break and read from one of his dhamma talks, and his words landed in my heart and made it vibrate; tears were rolling down my cheeks, and my mind became bright and joyful. I had to check to see if somebody had noticed me, but they were nose-deep into their feeding frenzies :sweat_smile:

From that moment and for six weeks, I fell into being fixated on my nose tip, and I could see what was going on but didn’t understand this strange state of mind, also couldn’t see any point with what I was doing, but just trusted that the heart knew. When the period ended, the result became apparent, which brought me a few steps further into developing an unbroken mindfulness practice.

1 Like

Excellent advice, and really the best advice available if I am being honest.

1 Like

These two methods IMO, aim at two different things.

The Ajahn Geoff method, IMO is a variation of Anapanasati which is designed to broaden the focus of Mindfulness to encompass the entire body. Harnessing the Energy of the Mind while contemplating the various parts of the body is a Vipassana technique that fosters Investigation, leading to the experience of Joy.

The Ajahn Martin method, IMO is primarily Mantra/ Recollection of the Buddha with a dash of Anapanasati, designed to narrow the focus of Mindfulness to a single object. This is a Samatha technique which fosters Tranquillity, Samadhi and Equanimity.

The two techniques serve two different purposes which taken together are the twin engines of Awakening.

A practitioner may develop either aspect to begin with or both together. The final aim is mastery of the Mind … making it bright, supple and flexible so as to effectively use it to penetrate the four Noble Truths.

The aspect one should develop is whatever is best suited to oneself at that particular time. This can be best judged by examining the enthusiasm with which one’s Mind takes up a particular technique (SN47.8).

BTW, there are over 40 different Meditation objects and many different methods described in the Suttas! :rofl: :grin: … the best technique is the one that allows one to progress on the path. One could try out whatever holds one’s interest, being mindful of the results one is getting.

You might know that certain things lead to dispassion, not passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to dispersal, not accumulation; to fewer desires, not more; to contentment, not lack of contentment; to seclusion, not crowding; to energy, not laziness; to being unburdensome, not being burdensome. You should definitely bear in mind that these things are the teaching, the training, and the Teacher’s instructions.


I think this caution is so important. Yes, there have been several times in my life when changing meditation technique has deepened my experience and progress. But there have been hundreds (thousands?) of times when I’ve been distracted by the latest thing I’ve read or watched or heard and changed what I was doing when my current practice had been exactly the one I needed at that time.

When I first started meditating in the 80’s, I went to a talk with a friend. (Seung Sahn) As a beginner, I was taken to another room and taught to meditate. I had one meditation technique, I attended Seung Sahn’s talk most Sunday evenings, I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and that was my practice for years.

Now, I have the option of non-stop books, articles, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. One can easily get caught up in the non-stop flow of new techniques, and lose track of the value of long-term, deep practice of a single technique.


Different teachers will prefer different methods. Some of it also depends upon your view of Jhāna. Personally I view Jhāna as absorption, without the 5 senses, and prefer the method of being mindful at the tip of the nose. I was reading a translation of the Dharmatrāta-dhyāna-sūtra a while back, which comes from the tradition of the Dārṣṭāntika. It was interesting to find that they too recommended placing one’s mindfulness at the tip of the nose, in agreement with their southern counterparts in Sri Lanka.

Discourse on Higher Advancement (parākramaṇa-bhāgīya) in the Preparatory Path (prayoga-mārga)

5.1 Bhikṣus practising Ānāpānasmṛti will proceed to higher distinction (parākramaṇa-bhāgīya) in their spiritual cultivation if they have successfully abided in positive effects. Their prajñā will also be enhanced. I shall herewith expound it in orderly sequence.

5.2 Once having advanced after abiding in positive effects, the practitioner should, again, abide in positive effect. That is why it is essential for any practitioner to abide in positive effects for the sake of attaining higher distinction (parākramaṇa-bhāgīya) in his practice.

5.3 Meanwhile, he should always concentrate on his nose-tip, making his mind bind firmly there, focusing all his thoughts in the proper observation of the wind. He should then keep his in-breaths and out-breaths firmly in mind and follow them closely in his recollection (anusmaraṇa).

5.4 If he does that well without laxity, he has initially abided in positive effects. Once this has been achieved, then he should keep up his preparatory effort (prayoga-mārga) for further advancement.

5.5 Then the practitioner‘s quest for further benefit will bring about positive abiding, followed by higher distinction (parākramaṇa-bhāgīya). Furthermore, it should also be noted that higher distinction will simultaneously bring in the abiding in further positive effects. Hence, when one passes the positive abiding state and advances further, another abiding in positive effects will come forth.

5.6 Therefore, once the practitioner appreciates fully well the various patterns of ānāpāna (exhaling and inhaling) and their ensuing benefits (guṇa) and faults (doṣa),for instances, whether his breathing is light, or heavy, or cold, or warm, or delicate, or rough, or sticky and or smooth he will fully understand that the concentration on ānā (exhaling) which combines with that of apāna (inhaling), can maintain control over his faculties (indriya-s), with their cognitive objects (ālambana) quietened and subdued to tranquility (śamatha) and nirvāṇa.

5.7 Similarly, there is also a similar way to control the wandering thought-concomitants (caitta) by counting the breaths and focusing on how they enter the body. This, is the essence of ānāpāna (exhaling and inhaling) which stops one‘s thought from chasing the cognitive objects (ālambana-s) Even one‘s thought of the cognitive objects will also be extinguished by its control.

You don’t have to place mindfulness at the tip of the nose though. Even the Visuddhimagga allows for simply being aware of the breath instead. What is important, if practicing mindfulness of breathing, is to be be continuously aware of the breath somewhere and to calm the mind until it becomes tranquil, still and one-pointed. The Buddha mantras are usually a means to anchor your attention to the breath, but sometimes can be used as a calming practice in their own right.