Brief Discussion on Concentration

Before I begin, some friends have expressed interest in my views on concentration, and since someone asked recently, I'll briefly discuss concentration here today. In the Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikaya), the Buddha recounted his experiences from the time he renounced the householder's life. He described how he achieved the seventh and eighth levels of concentration known as the "Jhana of Nothingness" and the "Jhana of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception," respectively, under two well known teachers of the time.

In the Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikaya 36), the Buddha also described his experience of practicing meditation under the shade of the cool, sal tree while his father was involved in Sakyan affairs. During this meditation, the Buddha achieved the first jhana, which involved experiencing "piti" (rapture) and "sukha" (pleasure) and seclusion from sensory desires.

In the same Middle Length Discourses (Majjhima Nikaya 26), the Buddha mentioned that he had no teacher in this world, implying that he realized the truth by himself. This indicates that the meditation he practiced before and after attaining enlightenment was different because if it were the same, he would have merely surpassed his teachers and would not have claimed that he had no teacher. This suggests that there are two types of meditation, one is an external meditation, and the other is the meditation that the Buddha realized himself.

In the Theravada tradition, two major forms of meditation are recognized: Samatha (calming) meditation and Vipassana (insight) meditation. Both of these have different meditation objects and techniques. Samatha meditation focuses on calming the mind by concentrating on a single object, while Vipassana meditation involves contemplating the impermanence and insubstantiality of phenomena. These two forms of meditation share common factors in the early stages, but they diverge in their emphasis and purpose.

The difference between these two types of meditation is that Samatha meditation uses a fixed object as its focus, leading to tranquility, while Vipassana meditation employs the ever-changing sensory experiences as its object to reach momentary concentration. Many believe that Vipassana meditation is the meditation that the Buddha himself realized.

However, early texts in the Pali Canon and the early Buddhist Abhidhamma tradition describe a different type of meditation. This meditation involves renouncing sensual desires, unwholesome mental qualities, and cultivating right mindfulness and right understanding. This form of meditation is often referred to as authentic meditation.

In this authentic meditation, the practitioner does not rely on any specific object. Instead, the focus is on renunciation, right mindfulness, and right understanding. This is the only meditation that the Buddha explicitly taught.

To practice this authentic meditation, one doesn't rely on a specific target; it's all about renouncing and dwelling in renunciation. In sharp contrast to Samatha and Vipassana meditation, this authentic meditation doesn't require concentration on an external object.

It's essential to remember that this practice is not dependent on any object. It leads towards renunciation and staying in renunciation. This is the unique meditation taught by the Buddha in the early texts.

In conclusion, it appears that the Buddha indeed realized a new form of meditation, which allowed him to attain enlightenment. He continued to teach this meditation throughout his life. However, soon after the Buddha's parinirvana, the true meaning of this meditation began to be confused with external meditation practices, misinterpreted, and altered. The presence of these alterations is evident in the earliest versions of the scriptures, indicating that the period of the true Dharma's preservation was indeed quite brief.

This is a brief discussion on these theoretical aspects of meditation. For those interested in a more detailed understanding, you may refer to my 14th and 15th essays on my meditation experiences, which could provide further insight into this authentic meditation.

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