Samādhi (Sanskrit: समाधि, Hindi pronunciation: [səˈmaːd̪ʱi]), also called samāpatti, in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools refers to a state of meditative consciousness. It is a meditative absorption or trance, attained by the practice of dhyāna. Insamādhi the mind becomes still. It is a state of being totally aware of the present moment; a one-pointedness of mind.
The Abhidhamma teaches us about different kinds of wholesome cittas. There are kamavacara kusala cittas (kusala cittas, belonging to the sensuous plane of citta), rupavacara kusala cittas (which are rupa- jhanacittas) and arupavacara kusala cittas (which are arupa-jhanacittas). All these types of citta are kusala but they do not eradicate the latent tendencies of defilements. Only lokuttara kusala cittas (magga-cittas) eradicate the latent tendencies of defilements. When all defilements are eradicated completely there will be an end to the cycle of birth and death.
The lokuttara citta experiences the dhamma which does not arise and fall away, it experiences nibbana.
There are four paramattha dhammas: citta, cetasika, rūpa and nibbāna. Citta, cetasika and rupa are realities which arise and fall away, they are conditioned dhammas (sankhāra dhammas). Nibbāna does not arise and fall away. It has no conditions through which it arises, it is an unconditioned dhamma (visankhāra dhamma). We cannot experience the unconditioned reality unless paññā is developed to the degree that it can experience the conditioned dhammas as they are: impermanent, dukkha and anattā (not self).
Do both magga-citta and phala-citta directly experience nibbāna?
The magga-citta and the phala-citta are lokuttara cittas, thus they have nibbāna as the object. When the magga-citta has fallen away, it is succeeded immediately by the phala-cittas which experience the same object. When one performs kāmāvacara kusala kamma (kusala kamma of the sensuous plane of consciousness) the vipāka does not follow immediately. Even if the vipāka were to arise soon after the kamma, it could never arise in the same process of citta. It is different with the lokuttara citta. The magga-citta has to be followed immediately by the phala-cittas, which are two or three moments of citta, depending on the individual.
Beyond the Tipitaka
A Field Guide to Post-canonical Pali Literature
A quick glance through the pages of the Pali Text Society’s publications catalog should be enough to convince anyone that there is much more to classical Pali literature than the Tipitaka alone. Intermingled with the familiar Nikayas, Vinaya texts, and Abhidhamma are scores of titles with long, scarcely-pronounceable Pali names. Although many western students of Buddhism may be unacquainted with these works (indeed, most have never been translated into English), these books have for centuries played a crucial role in the development of Buddhist thought and practice across Asia and, ultimately, the West. In fact, in some countries they are as deeply treasured as the suttas themselves. But what are these ancient books, and what relevance do they have to the western student of Buddhism in the 21st century? Although complete answers to these questions lie well beyond the range of my abilities, I hope that this short document will provide enough of a road map to help orient the interested student as he or she sets out to explore this vast corpus of important Buddhist literature.
The Five Precepts:
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
Jhana is a meditative state of profound stillness and concentration in which the mind becomes fully immersed and absorbed in the chosen object of attention. It is the cornerstone in the development of Right Concentration.
Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference
translated from the Pali by
Alternate translation: Burma Pitaka Assn.
The word “satipatthana” is the name for an approach to meditation aimed at establishing sati, or mindfulness. The term sati is related to the verb sarati, to remember or to keep in mind. It is sometimes translated as non-reactive awareness, free from agendas, simply present with whatever arises, but the formula for satipatthana doesn’t support that translation. Non-reactive awareness is actually an aspect of equanimity, a quality fostered in the course of satipatthana. The activity of satipatthana, however, definitely has a motivating agenda: the desire for Awakening, which is classed not as a cause of suffering, but as part of the path to its ending (see SN 51.15). The role of mindfulness is to keep the mind properly grounded in the present moment in a way that will keep it on the path. To make an analogy, Awakening is like a mountain on the horizon, the destination to which you are driving a car. Mindfulness is what remembers to keep attention focused on the road to the mountain, rather than letting it stay focused on glimpses of the mountain or get distracted by other paths leading away from the road.
As a compound term, satipatthana can be broken down in two ways, either as sati-patthana, foundation of mindfulness; or as sati-upatthana, establishing of mindfulness. Scholars debate as to which is the proper interpretation, but in practice both provide useful food for thought.
The first interpretation focuses on the objects of the meditation practice, the focal points that provide mindfulness with a foundation — or, to use the more idiomatic English phrase adopted here, a frame of reference. Altogether there are four: the body in and of itself; feelings in and of themselves; mind in and of itself; and mental qualities in and of themselves. The “in and of itself” here is crucial. In the case of the body, for instance, it means viewing the body on its own terms rather than in terms of its function in the context of the world (for in that case the world would be the frame of reference). Dropping any concern for how the body’s beauty, agility, or strength fits into the world, the meditator simply stays with the direct experience of its breathing, its movements, its postures, its elementary properties, and its inevitable decay. A similar principle applies to the other frames of reference.
The second interpretation of satipatthana — sati-upatthana — focuses on the process of the meditation practice, on how a frame of reference is established. This sutta gives three stages for this process, applied to each frame of reference. The first stage, as applied to the body, is this:
The monk remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world.
“Remaining focused” refers to the element of concentration in the practice, as the meditator holds to one particular frame of reference amid the conflicting currents of experience. “Ardent” refers to the effort put into the practice, trying to abandon unskillful states of mind and develop skillful ones in their stead, all the while trying to discern the difference between the two. “Alert” means being clearly aware of what is happening in the present. “Mindful,” as mentioned above, means being able to keep the frame of reference continually in mind. As these qualities work together, they bring the mind to a solid state of concentration. Although satipatthana practice is often said to be separate from the practice of jhana, a number of suttas — such as MN 125 (not in this collection) and AN 8.63 — equate the successful completion of this first stage with the attainment of the first level of jhana. This point is confirmed by the many suttas — MN 118 among them — describing how the practice of satipatthana brings to completion the factors for Awakening, which coincide with the factors of jhana.
The second stage of satipatthana practice is this:
One remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination & passing away with regard to the body.
The “phenomena of origination and passing away” covers events either directly or indirectly related to one’s chosen frame of reference. “Directly” means changes in the frame of reference itself. For instance, when focused on the body, one may notice the arising and passing away of breath sensations within it. “Indirectly,” here, means events in any of the other three frames of reference as they relate to the body. For example, one might notice the arising and passing away of feelings of pleasure or mental states of irritation in connection to events in the body. Or one might notice lapses of mindfulness in one’s focus on the body.
In each of these cases, if the origination and passing away is of neutral events such as the aggregates, one is directed simply to be aware of them as events, and to let them follow their natural course so as to see what factors accompany them and lead to their comings and goings. However, when skillful or unskillful mental qualities — such as the factors for Awakening or the Hindrances — arise and pass away, one is encouraged to foster the factors that strengthen jhana and eliminate the factors that weaken it. This means actively getting engaged in maximizing skillful mental qualities and minimizing unskillful ones. One thus develops insight into the process of origination and passing away by taking an active and sensitive role in the process, just as you learn about eggs by trying to cook with them, gathering experience from your successes and failures in attempting increasingly difficult dishes.
As this process leads to stronger and more refined states of concentration, it makes one sensitive to the fact that the grosser one’s participation in the process of origination and passing away in the mind, the grosser the level of stress that results. This leads one to let go of increasingly refined levels of participation as one is able to detect them, leading to the third and final stage in satipatthana practice:
Or his mindfulness that ‘There is a body (feeling, mind, mental quality)’ is maintained [simply] to the extent of knowledge & recollection. And he remains independent, unsustained by (not clinging to) anything in the world.
This stage corresponds to a mode of perception that the Buddha in MN 121 terms “entry into emptiness”:
Thus he regards it [this mode of perception] as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: “there is this.”
This is the culminating equipoise where the path of the practice opens to a state of non-fashioning and from there to the fruit of Awakening and release.
At first glance, the four frames of reference for satipatthana practice sound like four different meditation exercises, but MN 118 makes clear that they can all center on a single practice: keeping the breath in mind. When the mind is with the breath, all four frames of reference are right there. The difference lies simply in the subtlety of one’s focus. It’s like learning to play the piano. As you get more proficient at playing, you also become sensitive in listening to ever more subtle levels in the music. This allows you to play even more skillfully. In the same way, as a meditator gets more skilled in staying with the breath, the practice of satipatthana gives greater sensitivity in peeling away ever more subtle layers of participation in the present moment until nothing is left standing in the way of total release.
The Long Discourses
The Digha Nikaya, or “Collection of Long Discourses” (Pali digha = “long”) is the first division of the Sutta Pitaka, and consists of thirty-four suttas, grouped into three vaggas, or divisions:
Silakkhandha-vagga — The Division Concerning Morality (13 suttas)
Maha-vagga — The Large Division (10 suttas)
Patika-vagga — The Patika Division (11 suttas)
An excellent modern translation of the complete Digha Nikaya is Maurice Walshe’s The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya (formerly titled: Thus Have I Heard) (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987). A fine anthology of selected suttas is Handful of Leaves (Vol. 1), by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (distributed by the PTS).
The Digha Nikaya (dīghanikāya; “Collection of Long Discourses”) is a Buddhist scripture, the first of the five nikayas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka, which is one of the “three baskets” that compose the Pali Tipitaka of (Theravada) Buddhism. Some of the most commonly referenced suttas from the Digha Nikaya include the Maha-parinibbana Sutta (DN 16), which described the final days and death of the Buddha, the Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31) in which the Buddha discusses ethics and practices for lay followers, and the Samaññaphala (DN 2), Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1) which describes and compares the point of view of Buddha and other ascetics in India about the universe and time (past, present, and future); and Potthapada (DN 9) Suttas, which describe the benefits and practice of samatha meditation.
Nibbana names the transcendent and singularly ineffable freedom that stands as the final goal of all the Buddha’s teachings.
See also Theravada Buddhism: A Chronology
Theravada (pronounced — more or less — “terra-VAH-dah”), the “Doctrine of the Elders,” is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha’s teachings. For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka. Today Theravada Buddhists number well over 100 million worldwide. In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West.