Samadhi Sutta – The Purpose and Practice of Concentration

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Introduction

The Samadhi Sutta shows the proper use of Shamatha-Vipassana meditation practice within the broader framework of the Eightfold Path. The word meditation in modern Buddhist practice has many applications. It is often used as contemplation or analysis. Topics popular for contemplation or analysis are suffering, emptiness, Buddha-Nature, conditionality, and many others. These over-emphasizes simple and direct teachings leading to distraction by analysis.

Often, too, meditation is used to describe a process of deity visualization and worship. Still, other applications of meditation are used to (hopefully) develop a quality of mind of “nothingness” where an inherent “Buddha-Nature” is realized.

The Buddha taught Shamatha-Vipassana meditation as one factor of the Eightfold Path for the purpose of developing the concentration necessary to support the refined mindfulness of the other seven factors of the path. At its most profound and skillful usefulness, it is concentration developed within the framework of the Eightfold Path that directly brings cessation of all confusion, delusion, and unsatisfactory experiences.

The Samadhi Sutta

Anguttara Nikaya 4.41

The Buddha addresses those gathered: “Friends, there are four qualities that are developed from concentration. Concentration, when developed and practiced leads to:

  1. Developing peace and calm here and now.
  2. Developing useful knowledge and true vision.
  3. Developing refined mindfulness and attentiveness.
  4. Developing the cessation of craving, aversion, and delusion.

“How does the development of concentration lead to peace and calm here and now? When properly engaged in Shamatha-Vipassana meditation one is withdrawn from sensuality and unskillful mental qualities. They enter and remain in the first jhana, [1] delight and pleasure born of withdrawal and accompanied by focused thought and insight.

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the second jhana. Focused thoughts and insight still. Delight and pleasure born of composure and inner assurance arise.

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the third jhana. Delight and pleasure and the perception of pleasure and pain disappear. Equanimity and refined mindfulness increases and a peaceful mind prevails.

“As concentration deepens further they enter and remain in the fourth jhana. Mindful equanimity prevails. Greed and aversion disappear. This is the development of concentration that brings peace and calm here and now.

“And how does the development of concentration lead to developing useful knowledge and true vision? As concentration deepens distractions subside. Even the passing from day to night and night to day is free of disturbance. The mind is bright and spacious. This is the development of concentration that brings useful knowledge and true vision.

“And how does the development of concentration lead to developing  refined mindfulness and attentiveness? As concentration deepens the impermanence of feelings is understood. As concentration deepens the impermanence of perceptions is understood. As concentration deepens the impermanence of thoughts is understood. This is the development of concentration that brings refined mindfulness and attentiveness.

“And how does the development of concentration lead to developing the cessation of craving, aversion, and delusion? As concentration deepens one remains attentive to the arising and passing away of The Five Clinging Aggregates.[2] They know the impermanence of form, of feelings, of perceptions, of mental fabrications, and of consciousness. This is the development of concentration that brings the cessation of craving, aversion, and delusion.

“Friends, these are the four qualities that are developed from concentration.

“Those who understand The Three Marks of Existence, [3]

For whom there are no disturbances,

Free of desire, at peace,

This one has abandoned confusion, delusion, and disappointment.”

End of Sutta

The Samadhi Sutta teaches the proper use of meditation and how the concentration developed through Shamatha-Vipassana meditation directly addresses developing understanding of Four Noble Truths, integration of the Eightfold Path, and cessation of greed, aversion, and deluded thinking.

 

  1. Jhana
  2. The Five Clinging Aggregates
  3. The Three Marks of Existence

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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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