Five Factors Of Concentration – The Samadhanga Sutta

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Introduction

This introduction is common to the following suttas on Jhana:  Aṭṭhakanāgara Sutta, Anupada Sutta, Rahogata Sutta, Jhana Sutta, Jambālī Sutta, and the  Samādhaṅga Sutta. They are all linked here: Right Meditation – Samadhi – Jhana

Jhana means meditative absorption. The Buddha teaches, in a general way,  four levels of meditative absorption, or deepening concentration. As can be seen here, these four levels are not in a practical sense strictly defined. The development of concentration can and should be mindfully observed as concentration increases.

The four levels of Jhana are impermanent and are developed from engaging in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation as taught by the Buddha and so should not be viewed as meditative achievement. Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is not another opportunity for fabricating experience through continued confusion or continued desire encouraged by misguided instruction. [1]

Free of grasping after, these levels of meditative absorption are simply the recognition that Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is actually developing concentration while avoiding creating further distraction. This aspect of Right View then remains free of conceit – I-making –  that would otherwise create frustration and distraction within Shamatha-Vipassana meditation practice.

The sequencing of the additional descriptions of non-physical meditative experience that follows the descriptions of four levels of Jhana should not be seen as “advanced” levels of meditation as is commonly presented, and certainly not as levels of meditative achievement. These fabricated non-physical meditation experiences were part of the doctrines of Siddartha Gotama’s early teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. [2,3]

Having mastered them, he immediately dismissed them as they “do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, or to unbinding. This (method) only seeks to establish a reappearance in the dimension of nothingness” (or in the dimensions of neither perception nor non-perception, or infinite space, or infinite consciousness, or any other fabricated non-physical self-reference.)

This is a realization Siddartha developed prior to his awakening. As such, it could have been taught to simply avoid any fabricated non-physical self-reference. One of the break-throughs of understanding Siddartha had was insight into the powerful but very subtle strategies that a mind rooted in ignorance will develop and cling to in order to continue ignorance. [4]

With profound wisdom, the Buddha realized the attraction of continuing self-establishment in fabricated non-physical realms. He understood that the most effective method of understanding the foolishness of these doctrines that encouraged continued I-making would be to explain these common experiences in the context of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. In this way, these non-physical fabrications, when seen in the proper context, are simply ordinary fabrications to be recognized and abandoned.

The Buddha typically told his followers to “Go find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” This is instruction on establishing seclusion as the proper environment for Shamatha-Vipassana meditation leading to the development of ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption. The singular meditation method the Buddha taught for deepening concentration is through Shamatha-Vipassana meditation. The Shamatha-Vipassana meditation method is established in the Satipatthana Sutta, the primary sutta on Four Foundations Of Mindfulness. [5]

It is the initial section of the Satipatthana Sutta that is instruction for calming the mind by becoming mindful of the breath in the body. This is the first foundation of mindfulness that begins the process of Jhana – of developing concentration. The second and third foundations of mindfulness continue the establishment of concentration by ending distractions arising from reacting to, or clinging to feelings and thoughts as they arise and pass away, always returning mindfulness to the breath. This instruction relates directly to the levels of Jhana. Avoiding the distraction that would arise by reacting to feelings and thoughts, the joy of seclusion and deepening concentration is recognized.

As concentration increases, directed thought and evaluation is abandoned and a pleasant abiding is established which relates to the fourth foundation of mindfulness – being at peace with the present quality of mind.

(The remaining sections of the Satipatthana Sutta then shows how to apply ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption to other significant themes of the Dhamma. The entire Satipatthana Sutta is not meant as meditation instruction which becomes obvious when seen in the proper context of the Buddha’s Dhamma)

The Buddha’s Dhamma reunites the mind and body and overcomes the self-identification seeking to establish a “self” in fabricated magical, mystical, and imaginary planes of physical non-existence.

(I use the term physical non-existence as it accurately depicts the grasping present in ascetic practices that hope to free the mind from the body using extreme self-denial. These were practices Siddartha Gotama mastered and abandoned as ‘painful distracting, ignoble, and not leading to knowledge, wisdom, or release.’) [3]

As with all of the Buddha’s teachings, this sutta must be seen within the over-arching context of Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths to be useful and practically applicable. The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that ignorance of Four Noble Truths is the initiating condition that results in fabricating views of ordinary experience resulting in all manner of distraction, confusion, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointing and unsatisfactory experiences. [6,7]

When seen in the over-arching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma and in the context of engaging in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation solely for deepening concentration, grasping after self-establishment in imaginary and fabricated mind-states is seen clearly as intentional distraction used to continue to ignore ignorance of Four Noble Truths.

As concentration increases refined mindfulness is established supporting the integration of the Eightfold Path developing a profound understanding of Three Marks Of existence. [8,9]

In the Samadhanga Sutta, the Buddha teaches the Five Noble Factors Of Concentration that relate directly to ever-increasing levels of Jhana, or Meditative Absorption.

The Six Superior Understandings developed as a result of proper meditative absorption are often portrayed as “six higher knowledges” and presented in mystical and supernormal terms. The Buddha taught a self-contained and complete Dhamma practice which avoids magical and mystical thinking or magical and mystical extraordinary intervention.

Six Superior Understandings:

  1. Knowledge of personal suffering and the impermanence of Five Clinging Aggregates ie.: the arising and passing away of all phenomena. [10]
  2. Knowledge of the Six-Sense Base. From Superior Understanding, the Six-Sense-Base is now the ground of meaningful and mindful presence seeing clearly the manifestation of refined mindfulness, or continued ignorance. [11]
  3. Knowledge of the suffering of others.
  4. Knowledge of the true and useful meaning of Karma and the ignorance that continues suffering. [12]
  5. Knowledge of Rebirth resulting from continued ignorance. [12]
  6. Knowledge of the proper application of the Dhamma and the results, or lack thereof, of a properly developed and entirely integrated Eightfold Path. [7]

Right Meditation – Shamatha-Vipassana meditation – when properly developed provides the ever-deepening concentration necessary to support the refined mindfulness that can now remain mindful of the Eightfold Path. This and other suttas on Jhana describes the quality and direct experience of increasing concentration. This and other suttas on Jhana are not instruction for meditation, or substitution for the singular importance of developing Shamatha – Tranquillity, and Vipassana – Insight, in tandem, not as separate meditation practices. [5,13

This sutta (and many others) also shows the importance to recognize adaptations, accommodations,  and embellishments to the Buddha’s simple, direct, and highly effective meditation method in deepening concentration. As the Buddha teaches, using Shamatha-Vipassana meditation time on practices that are more accurately described as contemplation, or using deity visualization or worship, chanting, excessive bowing, or the use of sensory stimulations such as the ritualistic burning of  incense or playing “meditation” music, cannot lead to the development of ever-deepening levels of meditative absorption – ever-deepening levels of jhana.

When looked at mindfully and in the over-arching context of the Buddha’s Dhamma all of these adaptations, accommodations, and embellishments are often imaginary, and always impermanent phenomena.

No understanding can develop from that which is inherently impermanent and is clearly prone to continuing confused and deluded thinking that supports the Three Defilements of craving, aversion, and continue delusion.

As recounted and taught in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta, Siddhartha Gotama eventually became Rightly Self-Awakened by first realizing that understanding cannot be found by searching in what is inherently prone to confusion, delusion, and ongoing disappointment, or using rituals and practices that are themselves rooted in craving, aversion, and delusion and inherently impermanent and ever-changing, that reinforce self-identification, and are shrouded behind the veil of ongoing ignorance. [3]

The feedback loop of self-referential views reverberating off of ongoing thinking ignorant of Four Noble Truths as described in the Nagara Sutta is the initial foundation that supports the fabricated wrong views that give rise to the compulsion to adapt, accommodate, and embellish a Rightly Self-Awakened human being’s Dhamma. [4]

Siddhartha eventually developed the profound understanding from recognizing “spiritual” or “religious” practices that constitute an ignoble search, and then, through a clear and well-concentrated mind was able to realize what constitutes a true Noble Search.

In this way, it becomes obvious that the meditation method and the recognition and development of the practice and development of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation is singularly paramount to integrating the entire Eightfold Path as an authentic, useful, and effective Dhamma practice.

As will be seen, this sutta is remarkable in the scope of underlying Dhamma referenced.

Rapture is a word often used in the Dhamma to describe a profoundly joyful engagement with the Dhamma.

Directed Thought has Right Intention as its motivating factor – to recognize and abandon craving and clinging.

Evaluation here refers to the value placed on an experience as being either pleasurable or painful.

Samsara is the continued state of ignorance prone to confused, deluded thinking, and ongoing disappointment.

My comments within the following sutta are in italics.

 

Samādhaṅga Sutta  – Five Factors of Concentration

Anguttara Nikaya 5:28

On one occasion the Buddha was in Savatthi at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Monastery. He addressed those gathered:

“Friends, I will teach you Five-Factored Noble Concentration. Listen and pay close attention.

“And what is Five-Factored Noble Concentration?

“A follower of the Noble Eightfold Path is quite secluded from sensuality and other unskillful mental qualities. They enter and remain in the First Jhana. This First Jhana is experienced as rapture born of that very seclusion. It is accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. The joy of seclusion permeates their entire mind and body.

Unskillful mental qualities are any qualities of mind rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths prone to greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. As a meditator is mindful of their breath they are, in this moment, free of unskillful qualities.

“It is as if one poured bath powder into a brass basin. Kneading the powder into the water, sprinkling more and more powder forming a ball of bath powder saturated and moisture-laden. It would, nevertheless, not lose a drop of its own substance. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of seclusion. This is the first development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.

The Buddha would often instruct the meditator to “Find the root of a tree or an empty hut and do Jhana.” The first jhana is the initial quieting of the mind developed from seclusion, solitude, as the meditator becomes mindful of the breath in the body. [5]

“Furthermore, as the stilling of directed thought and evaluation, they enter and remain in the Second Jhana.  This Second Jhana is experienced as rapture and pleasure born of concentration. Free of directed thought and evaluation, the joy of concentration permeates their entire mind and body.

From the initial calming established in seclusion noticeable concentration increases.

“It is as if a lake with no inflow is filled with spring-water welling up within, and from abundant showers. The cool water welling up from within the lake would permeate and fill the entire lake. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of concentration. This is the second development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.

“Furthermore, as rapture fades, they remain equanimous, mindful, alert, sensitive to pleasure. They enter and remain in the Third Jhana which is equanimous and mindful, a pleasant abiding. With the fading of rapture this pleasant abiding permeates their entire mind and body.

Concentration continues to increase establishing a peaceful abiding.

“It is as if a pond is permeated with red, white, and blues lotus, born and growing immersed in the water. They flourish permeated with cool water from their root to tip never standing above the surface. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body from the joy born of the fading of rapture.  This pleasant abiding permeates their entire mind and body. This is the third development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.

“Furthermore, with the abandoning of evaluation, they enter and remain in the Fourth Jhana which is pure equanimity and mindful. Being pure, neither pleasure nor pain is seen. They sit permeated in mind and body with pure, bright awareness.

Increased concentration now supports the balanced mental quality of pure equanimity characterized as free of passion. Being free of passion, refined mindfulness is characterized as bright awareness.

“It is as if one were sitting head to toe in a white cloth – their entire body covered. This is how a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path permeates their entire mind and body with pure, bright awareness.  This is the fourth development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.

“Furthermore, this follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has refined mindfulness well-established. Their mindfulness is attended to, understood, and well-penetrated by wise discernment.

Knowing the unsurpassed value of Right or Refined Mindfulness, one continues to engage in Right Effort maintaining and nurturing continued refined mindfulness. [8]

“It is as if this person, when sitting knew another as standing or when standing knew another as lying down. So too, this follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has refined mindfulness well-established. Their mindfulness is attended to, understood, and well-penetrated by wise discernment. This is the fifth development of the Five-Factored Noble Concentration.

“When a follower of the Noble Eightfold Path has pursued and developed this Five-Factored Noble Concentration they have mastered the Six Superior Understandings:

“This person thinks what they want whenever they want and does not think what is unskillful.  [14]

“Through appropriate mindfulness, they understand the suffering of many from understanding their own suffering. They understand the arising and passing away of the aggregates. [10]

I use “appropriate mindfulness” or “when appropriate”  where some translations use the ambiguous phrase  “whenever there is an opening.“ Appropriate mindfulness has a more direct reference to the Buddha’s description of his own awakening from the Nagara Sutta when he describes his mind opened:  “from my appropriate mindfulness came a breakthrough of understanding.” [4]

“From lack of clinging they are spacious, free, unbounded. Unimpeded, their form has no boundaries and no self-distinction. This occurs to a practitioner whenever they are mindful and well-concentrated.

Released from wrong views there is no establishment of self “here, there, or anywhere in between.” [15]

“Their ear-consciousness unbound, restrained, sounds are un-fettered and unsurpassed. This occurs to a practitioner whenever they are mindful and well-concentrated. [11]

“When appropriate, mindful and well-concentrated, they understand the mindfulness and concentration of others.

  • They know a mind with passion as a mind with passion.
  • They know a mind without passion as a mind without passion.
  • They know a mind of aversion as a mind of aversion.
  • They know a mind free of aversion as a mind free of aversion.
  • They know a deluded mind as a deluded mind.
  • They know a mind free of delusion as a mind free of delusion.
  • They know a restricted mind as a restricted mind.
  • They know a mind free of restriction mind as a mind free of restriction.
  • They know a spacious mind as a spacious mind.
  • They know a constricted mind as a constricted mind.
  • They know a refined mind as a refined mind.
  • They know an unrefined mind as an unrefined mind.
  • They know a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind.
  • They know a distracted mind as a distracted mind.
  • They know a mind released from ignorance as a mind released from ignorance.
  • They know a mind clinging to ignorance as a mind clinging to ignorance.

These qualities of profound understanding one’s own mind and the mental qualities of others is often portrayed as clairvoyance when this is simply a natural awareness of an awakened human being.

“They know for themselves a well-concentrated mind supporting refined mindfulness.

“They know the arising and the passing away of bodies within the continuation of endless samsara. They understand their associations to people and the circumstances of wandering in ignorance. They know karma and the know rebirth. [12]

“Their eye-consciousness unbound, restrained, they see clearly the continuation of others bound to endless samsara according to their karma. They understand the suffering of others rooted in bad conduct arising from wrong views. They understand those bound to wrong views are also bound to continued suffering.

“Furthermore, Their eye-consciousness unbound, restrained, they see clearly the arising and passing away of others bound to endless samsara according to their karma. They understand the release of others rooted in good conduct arising from Right Views. They understand those released from wrong views are also released from continued suffering. [11]

The Buddha describes Awakened Right View as having a profound and penetrative understanding of suffering relating directly to Four Noble Truths.:

  • Knowledge with regard to stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the origination of stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress
  • Knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress  [8]

“Thus, from establishing this Five-Factored Concentration they enter and remain free of the defilements of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking. They are mindful of their release through direct experience right here and now.

“They know this for themselves due to a well-concentrated mind supporting refined mindfulness. [16]

That is what the Buddha said. Gratified, those assembled were delighted in the Buddha’s words.

End of Sutta

 

  1. Shamatha-Vipassana Meditation
  2. Mental And Bodily Fabrications
  3. The Noble Search For The Noble Path
  4. Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes His Awakening
  5. Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  6. Dependent Origination – The Paticca Samuppada Sutt
  7. Four Noble Truths – The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
  8. Eightfold Path – The Magga-Vibhanga Sutta
  9. Three Marks Of Existence – Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha
  10. Five Clinging-Aggregates
  11. Wisdom Of Restraint
  12. Karma And Rebirth
  13. Yuganaddha Sutta
  14. Vitakkasanthana Sutta
  15. Mindfulness Of Bahiya
  16. Refined Mindfulness

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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