- Translated from the
In general terms, Right
Concentration means establishing the mind rightly. On one level, this can apply to all the
factors of the path. You have to start out by setting the mind on Right View. In other
words, you use your discernment to gather together all the Dhamma you've heard. Then when
you set the mind on Right Resolve, that's also a way of establishing it rightly. Then you
set it on Right Speech, speaking only things that are right. You set it on Right Action,
examining your actions and then forcing yourself, watching over yourself, to keep your
actions firmly in line with what's right. As for Right Livelihood, you set your mind on
making your livelihood exclusively in a right way. You're firm in not making a livelihood
in ways that are wrong, not acting in ways that are wrong, not speaking in ways that are
corrupt and wrong. You won't make any effort in ways that go off the path, you won't be
mindful in ways that lie outside the path. You'll keep being mindful in ways that stay on
the path. You make this vow to yourself as a firm determination. This is one level of
establishing the mind rightly.
what I want to talk about today is Right Concentration in the area of meditation: in other
words, Right Meditation, both in the area of tranquillity meditation and insight
meditation. You use the techniques of tranquillity meditation to bring the mind to
stillness. When you make the mind still, firm in skillful qualities, that's one aspect of
Right Concentration. If the mind isn't firmly established in skillful qualities, it can't
grow still. If unskillful qualities arise in the mind, it can't settle down and enter
concentration. This is why, when the Buddha describes the mind entering concentration, he
says, "Vivicceva kamehi": Quite secluded from sensual preoccupations. The
mind isn't involved, doesn't incline itself toward sights that will give rise to
infatuation and desire. It doesn't incline itself toward sounds that it likes, toward
aromas, tastes, or tactile sensations for which it feels infatuation through the power of
desire. At the same time, it doesn't incline itself toward desire for those things. Before
the mind can settle into concentration, it has to let go of these five types of
preoccupations. This is called vivicceva kamehi, quite secluded from sensual
akusalehi dhammehi: quite secluded from the unskillful qualities called the five
Hindrances. For example, the first Hindrance: sensual desire. When you sit in meditation
and a defilement arises in the mind, when you think of something and feel desire for an
internal or an external form, when you get infatuated with the things you've seen and
known in the past, that's called sensual desire.
you think of something that makes you dissatisfied to the point of feeling ill will for
certain people or objects: that's the Hindrance of ill will. Things from the past that
upset you suddenly arise again in the present, barge their way in to obstruct the
stillness of your mind. When the mind gets upset in this way, that's an unskillful mental
state that forms an obstruction to concentration.
sloth and torpor: a sense of laziness and inattentiveness when the mind isn't intent on
its work and so lets go out of laziness and carelessness. It gets drowsy so that it can't
be intent on its meditation. You sit here thinking buddho, buddho, but instead of
focusing the mind to get it firmly established so that it can gain knowledge and
understanding from its buddho, you throw buddho away to go play with
something else. As awareness gets more refined, you get drowsy and fall asleep or else let
delusion overcome the mind. This is an unskillful mental state called sloth and torpor.
there's restlessness and anxiety, when mindfulness isn't keeping control over things, and
the mind follows its preoccupations as they shoot out to things that you like and don't
like. The normal state of people's minds is that, when mindfulness isn't in charge, the
mind can't sit still. It's bound to keep thinking about 108 different sorts of things. So
when you're practicing concentration you have to exercise restraint, you have to be
careful that the mind doesn't get scattered about. You have to be mindful of the present
and alert to the present, too. When you try to keep buddho in mind, you have to be
alert at the same time to watch over your buddho. Or if you're going to be mindful
of the parts of the body -- like hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin --
you should focus on only one part at a time, making sure that you're both mindful and
alert to your mindfulness, to make sure you don't go being mindful of other things. That's
how you can cut off restlessness and anxiety.
keep being mindful for of the same thing for a long time, the body will gradually calm
down and relax. The preoccupations of the mind will calm down, too, so that the mind can
grow still. It grows still because you keep it under control. You weaken its unruliness --
as when you pull fuel away from a burning fire. As you keep pulling away the fuel, the
fire gradually grows weaker and weaker. And what's the fuel for the mind's unruliness?
Forgetfulness. Inattentiveness. This inattentiveness is the fuel both for restlessness and
anxiety and for sloth and torpor. When you keep mindfulness and alertness in charge, you
cut away forgetfulness and inattentiveness. As these forms of delusion are subdued, they
lose their power. They gradually disband, leaving nothing but awareness of buddho
or whatever your meditation object is. As you keep looking after your meditation object
firmly, without growing inattentive, restlessness will disappear. Drowsiness will
disappear. The mind will get firmly established in Right Concentration.
is how you enter Right Concentration. You have to depend on both mindfulness and alertness
together. Right Concentration can't simply arise on its own. It needs supporting factors.
The first seven factors of the path are the supporters for Right Concentration, or its
requisites, the things it needs to depend on. It needs Right View, Right Resolve, Right
Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness. As you keep
developing the beginning factors of the path, concentration becomes more and more refined,
step by step. When the mind is trained and suffused with these qualities, it's able to let
go of sensual preoccupations, able to let go of unskillful mental qualities. Vivicceva
kamehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi. When it's secluded from sensual preoccupations,
secluded from unskillful qualities, it can enter concentration. It experiences stillness,
rapture, pleasure, singleness of preoccupation. Both body and mind feel light.
first stage, the mind isn't totally refined because it still has directed thought and
evaluation in the factors of its concentration. If your mindfulness is in good shape and
keeps its object in mind without pulling away, if your effort is right and alertness keeps
watching over things, the coarser parts of your concentration will drop away and the mind
will grow more refined step by step. Directed thought and evaluation -- the coarser parts
-- will drop away because they can't follow into that more refined stage. All that's left
is rapture, pleasure, and singleness of preoccupation. As you keep on meditating without
let-up, things keep growing more refined step by step. Rapture, which is coarser than
pleasure, will drop away, leaving the pleasure. Pleasure is coarser than equanimity. As
you keep contemplating while the mind grows more refined, the pleasure will disappear,
leaving just equanimity. As long as there's still pleasure, equanimity can't arise. As
long as the mind is still feeding off pleasure, it's still with something coarse. But as
you keep up your persistent effort until you see that this pleasure still comes under the
Three Characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-self, that it's part of the
aggregate of feeling, the mind will let go of that coarser aspect and settle down with
equanimity. Even though equanimity, too, is part of the feeling aggregate, it's a feeling
refined enough to cleanse the mind to the point where can give rise to knowledge of
refined levels of Dhamma.
the mind reaches this level, it's firm and unwavering because it's totally neutral. It
doesn't waver when the eye sees a form, the ear hears a sound, the nose smells an aroma,
the tongue tastes a flavor, the body feels a tactile sensation, or an idea comes to the
mind. None of these things can make the mind waver when it's in the factors of jhana. It
maintains a high level of purity. This is Right Concentration.
should all develop tranquillity meditation, which can give temporary respite from
suffering and stress. But in a state like this, you simply have mindfulness in charge.
Discernment is still too weak to uproot the most refined levels of defilement (kilesa)
and latent tendencies (anusaya). Thus, for our Right Concentration to be complete,
we're taught not to get carried away with the sense of pleasure it brings. When the mind
has been still for an appropriate amount of time, we should then apply the mind to
contemplating the five aggregates, for these aggregates are the basis for insight
meditation. You can't develop insight meditation outside of the five aggregates -- the
aggregates of form, feeling, perception, thought-fabrications, and consciousness -- for
these aggregates lie right within us. They're right next to us, with us at all times.
How do you develop the aggregate of form as a basis for insight meditation? You have to
see it clearly in line with its truth that form is inconstant. This is how you begin. As
you develop insight meditation, you have to contemplate down to the details. What is form?
Form covers hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, and all the four great
elements that we can touch and see. As for subsidiary forms, they can't be seen with the
eye, but they can be touched, and they depend on the four great elements. For example,
sound is a type of form, a type of subsidiary form. Aromas, flavors, tactile sensations
are subsidiary forms that depend on the four great elements. The sensory powers of the
eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body are subsidiary forms -- they're physical events, not
mental events, you know. Then there are masculinity and femininity, which fashion the body
to be male or female, and create differences in male and female voices, manners, and other
characteristics. Then there's the heart, and then vi˝˝ati-rupa, which allows for
the body to move, for speech to be spoken.
Buddha taught that we should contemplate form in all its aspects so as to gain the insight
that will enable us to withdraw all our clinging assumptions that say that they're us or
ours. How does this happen? When we contemplate, we'll see that yam ki˝ci rupam
atitanagata-paccuppannam: all form -- past, future, or present; internal or external;
blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near -- is inconstant, stressful, and
not-self. It all lies under the Three Characteristics. When we remember this, that's
called pariyatti-dhamma, the Dhamma of study. When we actually take things apart
and contemplate them one by one to the point where we gain true knowledge and vision,
that's called the practice of insight meditation, the discernment that arises in line with
the way things really are.
is a short explanation of insight meditation, focused just on the aggregate of form. As
for feeling -- the pleasures, pains, and feelings of neither pleasure nor pain within us
-- once we've truly seen form, we'll see that the same things apply to feeling. It's
inconstant. When it's inconstant, it'll have to make us undergo suffering and stress
because of that inconstancy. We'll be piling suffering on top of suffering. Actually,
there's no reason why the mind should suffer from these things, but we still manage to
make ourselves suffer because of them. Even though they're not-self, there's suffering
because we don't know. There's inconstancy because we don't know. Unless we develop
insight meditation to see clearly and know truly, we won't be able to destroy the subtle,
latent tendency of ignorance, the latent tendency of becoming, the latent tendency of
sensuality within ourselves.
we're able to develop insight meditation to the point where we see form clearly in terms
of the Three Characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-self, then disenchantment
will arise. When the latent tendencies of ignorance and becoming are destroyed, the latent
tendency of sensuality will have no place to stand. There's nothing it can fabricate, for
there's no delusion. When ignorance disbands, fabrications disband. When fabrications
disband, all the suffering that depends on fabrication will have to disband as well.
is why we should practice meditation in line with the factors of the noble eightfold path
as set down by the Buddha. To condense it even further, there are three trainings: virtue,
concentration, and discernment. Virtue -- exercising restraint over our words and deeds --
is part of the path. Tranquillity meditation and insight meditation come under
concentration. So virtue, concentration, and discernment cover the path. Or if you want to
condense things even further, there are physical phenomena and mental phenomena -- i.e.,
the body and mind. When we correctly understand the characteristics of the body, we'll see
into the ways the body and mind are interrelated. Then we'll be able to separate them out.
We'll see what's not-self and what isn't not-self. Things in and of themselves aren't
not-self, for they each have an in-and-of-themselves. It's not the case that there's
nothing there at all. If there were nothing there at all, how would there be contact?
Think about it. Take the fire element: who could destroy it? Even though it's not-self,
it's got an in-and-of-itself. The same holds true with the other elements. In other
words, these things still exist, simply that there's no more clinging.
ask that you understand this and then put it correctly into practice so as to meet with
happiness and progress.
enough explanation for now. Keep on meditating until the time is up.