Concentration and Visualization Techniques in Buddhist Meditation

Nobuyoshi Yamabe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter outlines the early form and development of Buddhist meditation. First, it discusses the “application of mindfulness, ” especially “mindfulness of the body, ” which can be largely classified into two types of practice. One is “mindfulness per se, ” without reflective thought, and the other is a more reflective or visual approach. “Mindfulness per se” (in particular, mindful breathing) was transmitted to East Asia and remains the cardinal method there. The chapter discusses close ties between traditional mindfulness and Japanese Sōtō practice. It then moves on to describe meditation on the decomposition of a corpse, which is a representative form of the more reflective and visual type of practice, involving the observation of a dead body in its stages of decomposition. This is found in early scriptures. Later texts came to teach a more elaborate method of “grasping the images” of a corpse. A notable development in visualization is that the images seen by the practitioner came to include ones that were more enigmatic. The discussion finally turns to another significant development in Buddhist meditation, one which involves Buddha visualization. Its undeveloped form is found in early Mahayana sutras, but a fully developed version employing statues as aides for visualization is found in later meditation texts from the fifth century onward. This type of visualization was inherited by Esoteric Buddhism and is still practiced today.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Meditation
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780198808640
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 1


  • Aśubhā
  • Mind-body interrelationship
  • Mindfulness
  • Satipaṭṭhāna
  • Smṛtyupasthāna
  • Vision
  • Visualization
  • ānāpānasmṛti

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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