A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
From the Buddha: “If concentration is developed, what profit does it bring? The mind is developed. If the mind is developed, what profit does it bring? All greed is abandoned.”
“If insight is developed, what profit does it bring? Wisdom/insight is developed. If wisdom is developed, what profit does it bring? All ignorance is abandoned.”
We work with Concentration and Insight meditation in alternating sequences throughout our practice. All of this rests on the essential foundation of the gradual purification of our habits of greed, clinging, worry, resistance, anger and fear… a process which comes about in part through the understanding that blossoms via the exploration of Virtue/Sila with its underlying principle of non-harming. These unwholesome habits are primarily what create suffering in this here & now round of daily and meditative life and obstruct the development of a deep and purifying concentration… and our growing recognition of the true nature of things.
Understanding the difference between wholesome and unwholesome states of mind is essential for the development of concentration and its attendant wholesome states. The wholesome fruits of concentration, calm, joy, tranquility, happiness, peace & equanimity along with the deeper states of concentration called Jhana cannot grow when unwholesome habits of mind such as greed, clinging, aversion, lethargy, agitation, and doubt are occurring.
The active force of a peaceful, lucid and undisturbed state of mind attained by the practice of strong mental concentration begins by gathering together the potentially powerful energy of the mind that ordinarily is quite dispersed. The initial act of concentration reins the mind in from its myriad distractions. We then learn how to focus it by coming back again and again to the simple present so that our mental and physical energy isn’t being used up or usurped in unconscious and unskillful ways. For this, one needs a willingness rooted in the wholesome intention to stay present with the chosen object of attention, along with the development of clearly knowing when the attention gets lost in something other than what is intended. A clear, relaxed and focused mind feeds itself as our ability to stay present with the object of attention and not attach to other things strengthens. The mind is just where it is… pure, clear, and calm… which can be an energizing, refreshing and beautiful experience.
In order for us to learn how to properly apply the three active forces of purification – virtue, concentration and wisdom — just as the Buddha did, we need to learn directly from our own experience — from some of our most difficult experiences and also from our quieter, pleasant, beautiful, and subtle experience. The process of purification is synonymous with this act of learning.
Within the three currents that carried the Buddha across the river of dissatisfaction and confusion to the other side –the currents of virtue, concentration and wisdom — the current of concentration, possibly including states of deeply absorbed concentration/Jhana, is beautiful, healing and powerful in and of itself. At whatever level we are able to develop a concentrated mind, from the perspective of the Buddha Dhamma it is ultimately to be used towards seeing the true nature of phenomena – towards parting the veil, untangling the tangle that keeps us from seeing it, thus allowing us to awaken into the natural state of an undisturbed mind.
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