Samadhi is the eighth component of the Noble Way. It refers to the practice of reaching single focussed concentration. It is meditation that develops into perfect concentration. Here we practice meditation to develop a mind which is focussed and one-pointed. We seek a deeply concentrated state of mind in order to facilitate the arising of wisdom and insight (vipassana) into the Dhamma.

 

It is possible, in one sitting, to progress through several deep stages of mental absorption which are called jhana. However, all the foundations, the eight facets of practice, must be developed before we can hope to build such a home for ourselves. The Tathagata taught that there are five levels of jhana which can be attained. Each is a different experience to the other with variant characteristics.

The first jhana has five characteristics. As we move from the calming samatha (peaceful) meditative state induced by practising mindfulness of the breath we are able to take up an object of mind (vitaka) and contemplate it through the application of discursive thought (vicara).

As we contemplate an aspect of dhamma and begin to truly understand then a state of exhilaration (piti) comes about which is replaced by a feeling of overall happiness and wellbeing (sukha). It is the joy associated with a personal discovery of truth. As we move past this phase the mind is able to gain single focus or one- mindedness (ekagata). The mind becomes fixed at one point or object and we may advance to a second stage.

The second jhana or absorption is said to have four characteristics, piti, sukha, ekagata and vicara. We no longer need to deliberately take up a mind object or dhamma to contemplate as it now arises intuitively. The third jhana has three characteristics. Discursive thought is gone and we experience piti, sukha and ekagata. The fourth jhana or absorption has two characteristics, sukha and ekagata. The fifth and final jhana also has two characteristics. Ekagata is still there but sukha is now replaced by equanimity (upekkha).

Equanimity is one of the four so called divine states of mind. The others are friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna) and mutual joy (mudita). So the power of Samadhi is great indeed.

This is all just an academic description of Samadhi and in no way intended to be a presumption of what it is like to experience such levels of concentration. There is no substitute for personal experience. To develop Samadhi alone is not the way. To desire deep states of concentration for reasons of pride means we have missed the point. We must train ourselves in all facets of the Eightfold Way to create the conditions for wisdom to arise. Perfect balance in our practice is what we seek. Perfect balance is the condition for perfect practice to come about.

If you are interested in learning more about the development of Samadhi, Panna and other crtitical tenets of the Vinyana School of Thought then it may be time for you to become a Samana Member.


·         When the mind is in a peaceful, concentrated state contemplation comes about of its own accord. Many themes may arise one after another passing through the mind but they don’t disrupt the calm condition that pervades the mind.  There is no need to select a topic for they will arise by themselves. The peace that I speak of is real peace, total tranquillity which can endure for an hour, two hours or more.  When this state is reached we have no desire to deliberately think about anything for at this stage all mind objects just pass on through. There is however one type of object that arises as a type of knowing from out of this concentrated mind. There is comprehension without the serenity being disturbed.  This cognition enhances the calmness which in turn is conducive to further comprehension. In this way contemplation is automatic; for example, the thought of death may enter the mind but it is more than a thought. It is a complete awareness of its presence. Death becomes truly known to us.

 However, if we decide to take it from there and start pondering it, then this is just a lot of sanna. But that also has its usefulness when deep concentration is unattainable. We deliberately pick up topics and contemplate them, like picking up this spittoon for example and considering it. It is full of rubbish just like me. It is of the same nature as me and Pamutto over there, everyone in fact is the same as this spittoon, all just passing entities full of rubbish.

But don’t forget that this form of contemplation is just sanna.  This is not to be mistaken for what arises in the perfectly calm mind, , things which can only arise in the tranquil state. Subjects arise of their own accord. When they arrive there is no room for reasoning, no space for doubt for it is simply, knowing. No need to reason it, you feel it. We could be lying down meditating, relaxed completely calm and then suddenly the realization of death is there. We have not chosen the topic but there it is and for the rest of the day we can’t sleep for thinking about it. Such things only arise when the mind is totally still. Then we call it contemplation in a calmed mind. Anything else is just sanna.