Awareness and insight Inner vision Meditating on the Self Meditation techniques Presence and being present The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article focuses on some of the subjects and practices that I first began my meditation path with. Every time I return to them I find they always provide me with a valuable source of insight and wisdom. Beneath the article are the details of a meditation class that I will be teaching on the same topic this coming Wednesday 16th November. 

I have recently returned to teaching my classes at Basic Essence, feels great to be back there.

Thanks for reading!

Yours in the spirit of the journey,


The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

The Three Sets of Teachings of the Buddha

Looking at Buddhism from the outside it can seem like there are so many different teachings on meditation that it is a little difficult to see the how they all relate together, especially as some of the instructions seem to “contradict” or give very different advice from others. Historically Buddhist teachings evolved into three principal groups: The Hinayana, those teachings emphasizing personal liberation, the Mahayana, those teachings emphasizing great compassion and the path of the Bodhisattva, and the Vajrayana or tantric path emphasizing the union of bliss, emptiness and the “already enlightened, already perfect” nature of things as they are.

The Core of What Buddha Taught

Looking at this tremendous breadth of teaching it can be useful to understand the common core of Buddha’s teaching. This core is that everything he taught has two basic aspects:

1)      First he indicates that the basic experience of someone with an unawakened awareness is that of suffering.

2)     Then he points out the way in which we can ‘wake up’ and become liberated from that suffering. This ‘waking up’ is always primarily a change of our fundamental state of awareness rather than any actual change in our external environment.

Every teaching of the Buddha falls into either the first or the second category above.

Three Core practices Arising From the Buddha’s Teaching

Three practical practices arise from the Buddha’s core teaching:

– Observing and knowing deeply that we suffer.

– Understanding that a main cause of our suffering arises from misconceiving our world as permanent, meditating on impermanence

– Further understanding that the primary underlying cause of our suffering is misconceiving the nature of our self and our environment, meditating on “No-Self”

Observing and Knowing Deeply That we Suffer

The first thing that Buddha pointed out is that the everyday conditioned experience of human beings has the nature of suffering. Suffering here has a slightly deeper meaning that that which we normally ascribe to it. To quote Francesca Freemantle in “Luminous Emptiness”, her commentary to the Tibetan Book of the Dead:

“Suffering in this case is not just worldly pain as opposed to pleasure, but a deeper, more pervasive sense of lack and unreality which is inherent in worldly existence itself”.

Meditating on the pervasive experience of suffering that we experience and as a result developing a strong wish to “drop it” is the first core practice of the Buddha’s meditation. This wish to drop our suffering is sometimes called renunciation.

Meditating Impermanence

The first core reason that we suffer according to the Buddha is that we grasp at ourself and our world as being fixed and permanent when in fact if is transient and ever changing. So the first practice to overcome our inner suffering is to be aware of our grasping at permanence and focus on grounding our awareness on the impermanence of all things, most fundamentally ourself.

Meditating on “No-Self”

The second core reason that we suffer is that we imagine there to be a true self where there is in fact no self, and where there is the true self we imagine no-self!  Here Buddha points out our instinctive tendency to imagine our real or true self to be our body, or our mind, or the combination of our body mind, when in fact these are an impermanent, ever changing amalgamation of things that are not the self (For a slightly more detailed of the search for the true self see my previous article on “Finding and Meditating on Your True Self”). 

In Summary:

Buddha’s basic teaching is that our ordinary, conditioned experience is that of suffering, and that we can drop this suffering by meditating on the truth of impermanence and no-self.

 A Simple Meditation Practice For Meditating on the Three Cores of Buddha’s Teaching.

So, obviously there is a lot of depth and nuance in the three aspects of Buddha’s teaching that I have only just begun to touch on, but here is a really simple practice that you can begin to work with in meditation that to start developing your own experience of these essential meditations:

Step 1: Identify an experience of suffering that you are experiencing, whether it be some kind of manifest emotional or physical pain, or the underlying existential anxiety that underlies so much of our everyday awareness. Simply practice acknowledging it and being with it.

Step 2:  Reflect on the impermanence of both the experience of suffering that you are going through and of yourself as the experiencer of that suffering. See how deliberately recognizing your own impermanence and the changeability of the suffering affects the way in which you experience it.

Step 3: Drop your self-sense for a period of time.  Just try and go from moment to moment as if you had forgotten that you exist. See what it is like to experience your body and the moment to moment flow of your awareness without a continuous sense of “I” grasping at the experience. Experiment and see what it is like to experience your world from the perspective of “no-self”

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website


Meditation Class on Wednesday 16th  November: The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

Facilitator: Toby Ouvry

Time: 7.30-8-30pm

Location: Basic Essence, 501 Bukit Timah Road, 04-04 Cluny Court

For directions click HERE 

This one hour meditation class will look at the meditations taught by the Buddha on true sufferings, impermanence and no-self.

These three subjects comprise the core teachings of the Buddha. In this class Toby will be explaining their value and relevance as meditation topics for those of us in contemporary society seeking for enlightened solutions to the problems and challenges that we face in our life.

We will be looking at:

– The importance and necessity of being able to see clearly our own pain, anxiety and discomfort in order to be able to overcome it.

How to turn the realities of impermanence and change into friends and allies in our life, rather than fighting against them all the time.

What Buddha meant by the wisdom of “no-self” and how meditating upon it opens up a door to a genuine and lasting liberation in our life.

The class will consist of a 30-40 minute practical meditation, and a twenty minute or so talk.

Cost for Class: $25, includes MP3 recording of talk.

To register for class: Contact Basic Essence on 64684991 or email