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Walking meditation

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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You learned about the Aanāpānasati meditation and how to perform all your activities mindfully. You are next going to learn about the walking meditation. This walking meditation is a type of meditation you must know. Walking meditation is an extremely helpful meditation to your life in developing the mind. Some people realize most Dhamma facts while practicing walking meditation. If you feel one or more of the five hindrances while you are promenading, do not get discouraged; keep on promenading.

You need to have an unwavering effort

Something exemplary happened during the time of the Buddha. A Bhikkhu meditated hoping to realize the Four Noble Truths. He became very much sleepy while meditating, but he never gave up his effort on the meditation because of it. But, it is not the case for most of us. If we get sleepy, we will give into sleep and postpone the meditation. But, this Bhikkhu went into the promenading compound even with that sleepiness. His sleepiness was so intense; he even fell down on the ground while performing walking meditation. If it was a normal person, he would either sleep on that ground or go into his room and sleep. But, this Bhikkhu had an unwavering effort. He stood up, removed soil on his hands, and started to meditate again. He promenaded with determination and could concentrate his mind in the next moment.

The mind changes rapidly

See how this mind is. The mind was sleepy and lazy but was tamed in the very next minute by effort and mindfulness. This shows us that the mind behaves according to what we think and do. Thus, the mind will act accordingly when we perform walking meditation.

Some people use to perform walking meditation by focusing on the movement of their legs in the following ways. ‘I am moving my left foot. It’s right foot now. Likewise, left, right, left, right…’ Or, they think in this manner: ‘Now I am lifting my leg. I am moving it forward now. I am placing my foot on the ground now.’ But, the teachings of the Buddha do not mention such a way to focus on moving your legs in the walking meditation.

The proper way to perform the walking meditation

The Supreme Buddha taught the following way to perform the walking meditation. (Gachchantō vā gachchāmiiti pajānāti) Be mindful about walking when you are walking. Be aware of sitting down when you are sitting down. Be aware of standing up when you are standing up. Be aware of lying down when you are lying down. Thus, that person will be aware of all these postures and not just the walking posture.

One does not have to think that the leg is lifting, moving, and placing on the ground. What we need to do is following what the Supreme Buddha taught us. That is, one needs to be mindful about the posture that he/she is in. That is what important in this meditation.

Postures will become tranquil

An Arahant known as Pārāsariya Thero once said that “when the postures are maintained in this way, the mindfulness will be established in the Satipatthāna. Then, these postures will become beautiful like a thin stream of oil.” This means that the person who practices the meditation will have tranquil and well-disciplined bodily postures in his/her life. That is why it was shown as a thin stream of oil.

Likewise, one aims a destination and walks towards that destination by being mindful about the walking. He focuses his mind on his whole body, to the movement of his legs (lifting, moving, and placing it on the ground). But he does not whisper it (no words are needed to do it). He just focuses on the movement mindfully.

Walking meditation for the day-to-day life

Let’s say you are coming back home from somewhere. If you are walking home, then you can turn it to the walking meditation. Then, your mind will not having sinful thoughts. Your mind is well focused, and you will start to develop that mindfulness. Therefore, you can cultivate your mindfulness well within this meditation.

In this walking meditation, you will be mindful about walking and stopping. Once you stopped, you will know that you have stopped. Then, you will turn and walk back. You will have your mindfulness on the promenading again when you are walking back. Likewise, you walk and stop again. Then, you realize that you have stopped. You turn again and walk back again mindfully.

A concentration that can be last for a long time

The Supreme Buddha preached that if one is able to attain a good focus in the mind when performing walking meditation, that person will be able to maintain the concentration that is built due to that focus for a long time. This clearly shows us that if someone is having difficulties achieving a concentration and a development in his/her concentration is being delayed, that person should select the promenading as his/her meditation.

A promenade in your house

If you would like, you could make a promenade in your house. You could choose a place with some space in the house (probably in the ground). You could make a promenade in your house by putting some soft sand on the ground in about 2.5 feet wide and about 30 to 35 feet long area. I think it is something beautiful to every Buddhist house. If you make a promenade in your house, you will be able to practice the walking meditation in your house at day time or whenever you choose. You could also just use a part of your house to perform walking meditation. In this manner, you will be able to cultivate your ability to maintain your mindfulness on your postures.

No defilements since you are cultivating mindfulness

Thus, there are many benefits of practicing the walking meditation. Even though you are unaware, lots of sinful thoughts come to your mind when you walk. This happens because you walk without mindfulness. Your mind scatters everywhere because you do not have mindfulness when you are walking, sitting, and sleeping. Because you make each and every posture of your body without mindfulness, your mind will be allured into defilements. You will not even be able realize it. It happens because you do not maintain mindfulness. But, once you practice to maintain mindfulness, you should be able to be mindful in your every posture. Let us see the importance of the walking meditation.

The way that the venerable Ananda Thero became an Arahant

Ven. Ananda Thero is our Buddha’s attendant. He had achieved the first state (Sōtapatti) of the path-fruition when he was treating the Gautama Buddha. By the time when the first Dhamma convocation was to be started after the Buddha’s passing-away, Venerable Ananda Thero had to join that convocation as an Arahant.

In order to attain the realization of the Four Noble Truths, Venerable Ananda Thero performed the walking meditation. While he was in the walking meditation, he sat on the bed and raised his legs to getting ready to sleep. But, he was still on the meditation (being mindful about his bodily postures). In the Dhamma, it says that the Venerable Ananda Thero attained the Nibbāna freeing his mind from all defilements when he raised his legs and touched the bed and while his head was still above the pillow: this means, without any posture at all. But, the venerable Thero was still being meditating. See how the developed state of walking meditation helped Venerable Ananda Thero in his attainment of the Nibbāna. Therefore, you can also develop walking meditation very well and bring joy, wisdom, and light to your life.

Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero.


Mahamevnawa Sri Lanka