Right Concentration in Buddhism – The Eighth Spoke of the Wheel
The last principle of the Eight-fold Path is called Right Concentration or Samma Samadhi in the ancient Pali language and it refers to the practice of concentration, and is sometimes called “Right Meditation” by focusing on something, such as the breath.
Defining Right Concentration
Right Concentration in Buddhism means focusing all of your mental faculties onto one physical or mental object and practicing the Four Absorptions/Meditations otherwise known as the Four Dhyanas/Jhanas. Chan and Zen Buddhism emphasize this step of the Eight-fold path. Chan and is the Chinese form of the Pali word Jhana (Dhyana in Sanskrit) and Zen is the Japanese form of Chan.
The Four Dhyanas/Jhanas
The Four Dhyanas/Jhanas are the meditative means to experience the Buddha’s teaching directly, which frees us from the delusion of a separate self with an intrinsic reality. Together the Four dhyanas/jhanas can be seen as the progression of Buddhist meditation.
- The First Dhyana/Jhana (Investigation, Analysis, Joy, Bliss, One-pointedness)
“Having given up covetousness/sensual desire with regard to the world, he dwells with a heart free of covetousness; he cleanses his mind from covetousness.
Having given up the blemish of ill will, he dwells without ill will; friendly and compassionate towards all living beings, he cleanses his mind from the blemishes of ill will.
Having given up sloth, he dwells free from sloth, in the perception of light; mindful and clearly comprehending, he cleanses his mind from sloth.
Having given up restlessness and worry, he dwells without restlessness; his mind being calmed within, he cleanses it from restlessness and worry. Having given up doubt, he dwells as one who has passed beyond doubt; being free from uncertainty about wholesome things, he cleanses his mind from doubt…And when he sees himself free of these five hindrances, joy arises; in him who is joyful, rapture arises; in him whose mind is enraptured, the body is stilled; the body being stilled, he feels happiness; and a happy mind finds concentration. Then, quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.” (Digha Nikaya.i,73-74)
- The Second Dhyana/Jhana (Inner clarity)
“With the subsiding of applied thought and sustained thought he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without applied thought and sustained thought, and is filled with rapture and happiness born of concentration” (Majjhima Nikayai,181; Vbh. 245)
- The Third Dhyana/Jhana (Equanimity, Mindfulness, Insight)
“With the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful and discerning; and he experiences in his own person that happiness of which the noble ones say: ‘Happily lives he who is equanimous and mindful’ — thus he enters and dwells in the third jhana.” (Majjhima Nikaya i,182; Vbh.245)
- The Fourth Dhyana/Jhana (One-Pointedness, neither pleasure nor pain) “With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which has neither-pain-nor-pleasure and has purity of mindfulness due to equanimity.” (Majjhima Nikaya.i,182; Vbh.245)
The Buddha also taught an additional four stages of attainment in dhyana/jhana meditative practice:
- The Samadhi of Infinite Space (Emptiness)
- The Samadhi of Infinite Consciousness
- The Samadhi of Infinite Nothingness
- The Samadhi of Neither Thought nor No-Thought
The eight principles of the Eightfold Path are all interconnected and you can’t practice one of the principles without the others. We need to keep in mind that these are not meant to be sequential steps that will guarantee us enlightenment once followed but rather all of them as a whole when we meditate.
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May we attain perfect Buddhahood for the sake of all living beings!