VISUALIZATION in Buddhist Meditation?

I saw that there are a lot of people meditate by visualizing something.
Did The Buddha say so? Any EBT supporting that visualization was one of the object of Buddhist Meditation.

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It depends on what you understand or define as visualisation.

Among the chants usually recited in the Theravada tradition you will find something as the below:

One could argue that practices such as the reflections on a corpse in a cemetery or decay and absence of beauty, are visualisations of some sort. :man_shrugging:



but it is not a visualitation @Gabriel_L … to my perception it is real and true it is real corpse.

Isn’t that 'visualization is an act of creating unreal-object(s) in our much? Such as visualizing the image of our friends or visualizing the image of a teacher (although we never met in person - visualizing based on photo only) or creating the image of our body, etc.

moreover it was not taught by the Buddha himself @Gabriel_L … it is somehow taught a few thousand of year after The Buddha parinibbana. I am not sure whether this can help us to achieve purification. To me it is just another mysticism, just like the current act of selling amulets?

This is not necessarily true. Venerable Anālayo makes a good case that these instructions can also be done using visualization. From his article The Emphasis of the Present Moment on the Cultivation of Mindfulness:

The instructions proceed through different stages of decay of a corpse, relating each of these to the mortality of one’s own body and its eventual disintegration:

As though one were to see a corpse thrown away in a charnel ground…one compares this same body with it: ‘This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate.’
(MN 10: seyyathā pi passeyya sarīraṃ sivathikāya chaḍḍitaṃ … so imameva kāyaṃ upasaṃharati: ayam pi kho kāyo evaṃdhammo evaṃbhāvī etaṃ anatīto ti).

One contemplates another’s corpse … having seen it, one compares oneself to it: ‘This body of mine now is also like this, it is of the same nature, and in the end cannot escape [this fate].’
(MĀ 98: 觀彼死屍… 見已自比: 今我此身亦復如是, 俱有 此法, 終不得離).

One contemplates a corpse … one contemplates that one’s own body is not different from that: ‘My body will not escape from this calamity.’
(EĀ 12.1: 觀死屍… 自觀身與彼無異: 吾身不免此患)

The instructions in the two Chinese versions seem to refer to actually seeing a corpse. This in turn implies that the actual exercise is either done standing in front of a corpse or else a form of recollection of a corpse seen in the past. The object employed for such recollection would no longer be present-centered, as it involves something seen previously. At the same time, the contemplation requires that this sight is then applied to one’s own present body, as explicitly indicated in the second version (MĀ 98) with the qualification “now” (今).

The Pāli version employs the expression “as though one were to see” (seyyathā pi passeyya). This conveys the impression that an act of imagination could also fulfill the purposes of the instruction.


That’s exactly why I suggest we need to define what is visualisation for the conversation and discussion to be productive. :anjal:


觀 is more like meditative observation / contemplation, in this type of Buddhist context. The usual term for simply seeing something in front of oneself is 見. Recalling something to mind for meditation would be more like 念. That’s not to say that the interpretation of the situation is wrong, though…

As another example, we also see 觀 used in the MA for contemplating or visualizing the 32 marks of the Buddha. 觀 is the typical term used for visualization in Buddhist texts, but its meaning is significantly broader to encompass any other types of meditative observations, contemplations, etc.


@llt … it seems a more better definition, an observation based on something which is physically real to observe and contemplation is based on a theory that had to logically think about … and

based on something unreal that we have to imagine or to create the imagery in our mind. Is that you mean @llt ?

Unfortunately, nothing here is that specific about whether there is visualization. My comment was mostly that the terminology and specifically 觀 does not necessarily imply seeing an actual corpse in front of oneself. It could very well mean visualization (or possibly something else).


I feel that visualization is often implied in the EBTs because of the frequent use of analogies, such as the frontier fortress for mindfulness, or the lotus for the third jhana. The term sati can be interpreted as having a component of recollection or memory, and it seems logical to me that at times this recollection may be of a visual image, as well as the seminal recollections of dhammas, such as anata. If you are referring to a more literal form of recollection, there are techniques such as the kasina practices. These are present here: A.v.36, A.v.46-60, M.ii.14; D.iii.268, 290; Nett.89, 112; Dhs.202; Ps.i.6, 95 (Kasina - Encyclopedia of Buddhism)


Please make yourself receptive to this buddha image. Once you made yourself comfortable, dispel fervor-distress.

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There are the various suttas concerning the ten recollections (anussati).

Three of these (dhammānussati, upasamānussati and ānāpānassati) don’t entail visualising anything. But with the other seven (buddhānussati, sanghānussati, sīlanussati, cāgānussati, devatānussati, maranānussati and kāyagatāsati) it’s inevitable that meditators will do so, even if the texts don’t explicitly say that they should.

One can’t, for example, meditate on the nine special qualities of the Buddha and the Sangha without thinking of the possessors of these qualities. And in bringing to mind the possessors -the Buddha and his ariyan disciples - it’s unlikely that one will be thinking about, say, how they sound or smell or taste. Rather, it will be to some imagined visual form (a remembered favourite Buddha statue, an imagined 32-marks mahāpurisa, a Keanu Reeves performance, or whatever) that one will mentally attach the said qualities.

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@Dhammanando, thank you, Bhante.

BTW, thanks also reminding me of the definition of the kusala and akusala objects of meditation.

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@winkingsequence , is it?

@HSS Yes, it is valid meditation (that above photo is a rupa, a body among bodies).

Try it. Make yourself receptive to the Buddha in the image. Once you become comfortable, you can dispel fervor-distress.