Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Right Concentration

Right concentration (samma samadhi) is the eighth step on the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path and is an essential component of successful meditation. It is defined in the scriptures as `any unification of the mind' (M.I,301) and is sometimes also called `one-pointedness of mind' (ekodibhava). The advantages of concentration are many. The attention is fixed on an object for a sustained period allowing us to come to know it better and thus it has a role to play in wisdom. When we have developed concentration, we can turn our attention to whatever we like, rather than having it constantly flitting from one thing to another as is usually the case. The ability to do this can minimize useless daydreaming, worry and unwanted intrusive thoughts thus giving us a degree of peace and calm. In Buddhist meditation concentration is usually developed by practicing mindfulness of breathing (M.III,82).
According to the Buddha there are several things we can do which will assist in the development of concentration. The first is following the Precepts. Doing this simplifies our life and minimizes the possibilities of remorse, embarrassment and conflicts with others, all of which keep the mind churned up. Another thing is what the Buddha called guarding the sense doors (indriya samvara), which means not seeking out situations that will over-stimulate the mind (D.I,70). Also, there is a direct connection between physical ease, psychological well-being and concentration. While actually practising meditation, maintaining a relaxed, comfortable posture will allow the body to become still without being forced. Likewise, having a light, joyful attitude will make concentration easier. The Buddha said that ‘…from gladness comes joy, being joyful the body is tranquil, with a tranquil body one is happy and the mind that is happy becomes concentrated’ (D.I,74).


Anandajoti said...

Dear Venerable,

Samma samadhi is consistently defined in the discourses in terms of the attainment of the four jhanas or deep meditative states, see e.g. Saccavibhangasutta (The Analysis of the Truths), Majjhima Nikaya 141.

Mike said...

I've a question, if I may. I'm in the U.S. where we've just had a presidential election. As Bhante has written in this post, following the 5 precepts is the foundation for a concentrated mind. When I discuss politics with people (even those I enjoy the company of)who are on the other "side" I get very excited in a bad way. I can be snippy or aggressive in my stating my position.
Definitely not a calm discussion between colleagues or friends.
So does this fall under Right Speech? In other words, having these discussions with co-workers just makes me crazy so is it Unskillful Speech for me? Obviously, many other people can have these discussions without getting worked up. Is this simply a Psychological question or actually a situation from which I can learn about Right Speech? thanks, Mike