Can You Meditate Without Being Buddhist?

When someone first hears about meditation, it’s common to think that the practice has to be accompanied by a series of ethical principles to live by, something that’s grounded in Buddhist philosophy. 

While meditation’s exact origin is unknown, there are strong indications that the practice emanates from Buddhism and Hinduism, even if today, you don’t need to be religious to meditate. 

Photo by Joshua Medway on Unsplash

However, by default, many meditators tend to adopt Buddhist beliefs without necessarily being Buddhist. 

For instance, one of the philosophies Buddhism is grounded on is detachment, as attachment is seen as the source of our suffering, and it makes sense from a pragmatic point of view, the less we are attached to an outcome, the less we’re affected by how things turn and learn to be happy no matter the circumstance.

 Meditation is giving you back that control over your happiness without needing the weather to look good. No matter who you are, or what your beliefs are, meditation is available for you and anyone who wants to meditate.

There are many ways to meditate, but a common one is using mantras. Something many would associate with religion, even if its true purpose is to connect with yourself and merely serves as one of the many means to relaxation. 

Will Being a Buddhist Make You a Better Meditator?

One advantage over being a Buddhist while meditating as opposed to meditating without being a Buddhist is time. Many individuals transition to a Buddhist life for this very purpose. 

If you practice Zen meditation, or Zazen meditation specifically (a type of meditation a lot of Buddhist practice), you focus on your awareness and may be able to tap into your subconscious mind, as well as turn your focus into the meditation and being less affected by distractions. 

It’s not so much what happens to you as what you choose to do with what happens to you that shows where the true strength lies. 

Being a Buddhist means you follow a set of ethical principles to achieve enlightenment, among them being meditation. You take refuge in the three jewels, which are known as the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.

For the average individual, they can adopt the meditation habit, and over the long term, become happier and more fulfilled and achieve a level of peace that would often be seen in Buddhists, without necessarily becoming one in the process. 

Adopting meditation at the beginning is difficult, as with anything. But as you find yourself able to modify the subconscious and improve your focus, you see other areas of your life improving. 

Because of what meditation can give many people, they choose to devote their lives to the practice. But using any free time you have available and devoting a good portion to meditation is already good enough. 

Do All Buddhists Meditate?

No, many just live normal lives and embrace a different outlook. Many Buddhists, however, reach a meditative state and don’t feel they need to meditate. 

Buddhist follow the principle of good behavior and detachment, which are contributing forces in helping them reach Nirvana

Embracing parts of Buddhist philosophy and doing it with meditation, however, can make the meditation experience different for you, in a good sense. 

When you take refuge in the sangha, you meditate in a supportive community, which makes the meditation feel less alone

Monks are determined to follow the teachings of Buddha to achieve enlightenment, but what’s admirable from monks is their discipline. 

The self-control we exert on ourselves can be liberating, rather than giving in to the temptations of the mind. Buddha himself is an example of this. He could, if he wanted to, live a life of luxury, but instead, he became enlightened. 

This can be applied to the average person, and while this doesn’t necessarily pertain to Buddhism in itself, we can borrow some principles of the Buddhist philosophy and live happier lives: 

Someone that starts in a winning position will have no notion of suffering, and for us to appreciate getting somewhere, it’s necessary to have a notion of the suffering needed to get there. 

From a distance, having it all without having worked for it can seem like a blessing, but it can be a curse and removes any sense of purpose and direction. 

You can take the best of the monks and apply it to the average individual and make such individuals achieve a potential they didn’t know was there because meditation helps us to connect so well with ourselves. 

And when we tap with our subconscious, we’re able to change the course of our life, even in a religious sense, giving us a sense of direction and questioning our own beliefs. 

Being a Buddhist, however, can help many people cope with the harder parts of life, especially considering there’s a sense of community in regards to the sangha and acceptance of suffering. 

Collective greatness can be gratifying, as well as accepting suffering and turning it into something positive. 

Suffering is merely a part of life, something that we’re reminded of in Buddhist philosophy, as well as seeing things in their truest form for what they truly are. Acceptability alone can be one of the hardest parts of everything in life. 

But the more we’re detached from our suffering, the more we behave according to ethical principles according to Buddhism, the closer we are to Nirvana. 

Now, in no way is this saying that being a Buddhist is the way to go with meditation. It’s all about self-exploration and getting to know the true self that leads you to an informed decision. 

Zen Meditation and Buddhism

Zen meditation, or zazen, has its roots stemming from Buddhism. It’s the act of thinking of not thinking, but unlike mindfulness where we focus on something specific, like our breath, Zen is more tailored to our overall awareness. 

There are so many thoughts flowing through our mind where, if we fight these thoughts, rather than vanishing, they persist. Just being or detaching from any labels is what brings many to a flow state where they’re less likely to be disrupted by anything on the outside. 

In turn, this can help us connect with the subconscious mind and rewire the thoughts that were creating suffering, to begin with, either by detaching from these thoughts or replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. 

Our quality of life is often a reflection of what’s inside our minds. We can be at the worst place and still feel happy because we’ve internalized our happiness, something that becomes easier with meditation. 

On the contrary, we can be on a spot others would envious and still feel a deep void within, all because the mind is flooded with negative thoughts. 

The monk-like discipline you learn from meditation also helps to train the mind for it to embrace positive thoughts and let go of hindering thoughts. Sometimes we don’t know a certain thought or belief system is holding us back from progressing because we’re attached to such a thought. 

Dharma, which is a jewel one takes refuge in when being a Buddhist focuses on the present moment while understanding there are a set of principles to follow to reach a closer state of greatness. 

Someone who practices dharma tends to wish others, something we tend to do by default when meditating, in our ability to connect with others, but that’s not to say that there aren’t individuals who use meditation for evil, even if it’s rare.

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