Comments below. Let's see what might help.
arijitmitter wrote:I am confused by Buddhist meditation.
One thing which is helpful, when studying all this, is to have a structure that underlies the whole thing so these differences make sense; it's like having a toolbox with labelled sections.
That structure is satipatthana. This is a word which refers to keeping mindfulness (sati) close by, and the four categories of satipatthana one can read about are examples of how to bring mindfulness to bear in different ways. Basically, Buddhist meditation fits into satipatthana one way or another.
Except for the very first part where you observe your breath flowing in and out, abdomen rising and falling all sources differ ( on what happens next ).
These anapanasati instructions you're talking about are ways that satipatthana can be developed during sitting meditation in particular. The instructions for each tetrad of anapanasati are standalone pieces, but sometimes the first tetrad - the body - is the easiest to talk about. The skills which are developed there apply to the other categories anyway.
The differences you've read about are likely all related to getting satipatthana done, which takes a certain learned finesse because each individual case is different (i.e. each individual's phenomenological world differs from any other in ways which make precise communication difficult; to apply the Dhamma takes patient & careful attention in one's own case).
In short, the different procedures, in their different ways, are all aimed at establishing satipatthana and then at developing that further through a successive calming & letting go & examination procedure. That's the basic shape of meditation.
It is difficult to understand Samatha, Vippassana, concentration, not concentration, not concentration becoming a concentration ( !! ), jhana, stage of jhana, higher realms and so on ad infinitum. Many different pdfs have totally confused me. And I cannot understand anything about it from related Suttas either.
We can set some things aside, but a quick overview of these terms is always helpful:
The terms samatha-vipassana are best understood as a pair of qualities which are developed via satipatthana. The calming is samatha, the examination is vipassana, and the letting go is helped by both.
Some people will describe certain methods as beings a vipassana method or a samatha method because they experience one or another feature more strongly as a result, but satipatthana ultimately develops both, and their balanced development is something to watch for.
Concentration is one way to translate the term "samadhi". The term can refer to the whole spectrum of Buddhist methods to develop mental composure, but perhaps more often refers to the results of those practices.
Finally, the term samma-samadhi, which is part of the eightfold path, refers specifically to the four jhanas.
There are four other states of meditation called by various terms: formless states, arupas, higher jhanas, formless jhanas, and so forth. But I think it's probably not helpful to explore them at this point.
Can I for the first year do this ( since I have no teacher )
2. Close my eyes
3. Breathe in and out slowly observing abdomen rise and fall
5. Relax each part of the body from top of skull down to toes by turn
This is good as far as it goes; I wouldn't do a visualization, however, but I would stick the mind to the back-and-forth of the breathing practice, which you can see underlies every step of anapanasati.
While you explore anapanasati, begin & continue to engage satipatthana throughout the day; this simply means, bring mindfulness to bear as often as you remember to do so, and keep going. Seated practice supports day-to-day practice, and vice versa.
It can take time; if you remember to do things with good-will and calm curiosity, things will go well.