(An extract from Ven. Buddhadasa’s book,

"In this chapter we shall see how concentration may come about naturally on the one hand, and as a result of organized practice on the other. The end result is identical in the two cases: the mind is concentrated and fit to be used for carrying out close introspection. One thing must be noted, however: the intensity of concentration that comes about naturally is usually sufficient and appropriate for introspection and insight, whereas the concentration resulting from organized training is usually excessive, more than can be made use of. Furthermore, misguided satisfaction with that highly developed concentration may result. While the mind is fully concentrated, it is likely to be experiencing such a satisfying kind of bliss and well-being that the meditator may become attached to it or imagine it to be the Fruit of the Path. Naturally-occurring concentration, which is sufficient and suitable for use in introspection, is harmless, having none of the disadvantages inherent in concentration developed by means of intensive training.

"In the Tripitaka, there are numerous references to people attaining naturally all states of Path and Fruit. This generally came about in the presence of the Buddha Himself, but also happened later with other teachers. These people did not go into the forest and sit, assiduously practicing concentration on certain objects in the way described in later manuals.

"Clearly, no organized effort was involved when the first five disciples of the Buddha attained arahantship on hearing the Discourse on Non-Selfhood, or by the one-thousand hermits on hearing the Fire Sermon. In these cases, keen, penetrating insight came about quite naturally. These examples clearly show that natural concentration is liable to develop on its own while one is trying to understand clearly some question, and that the resulting insight, as long as it is firmly established, must be quite intense and stable. It happens naturally, automatically, in just the same way as the mind becomes concentrated the moment we set about arithmetic. Likewise in firing a gun, when we take aim, the mind automatically becomes concentrated and steady. This is how naturally-occurring concentration comes about. We normally overlook it completely because it does not appear the least bit magical, miraculous, or awe-inspiring. But through the power of just this naturally-occurring concentration, most of us could actually attain liberation. We could attain the Fruit of the Path, Nirvana, arahantship, just by means of natural concentration.

"So don’t overlook this naturally-occurring concentration. It is something most of us either already have, or can readily develop. We have to do everything we can to cultivate and develop it, to make it function perfectly and yield the appropriate results, just as did most of the people who succeeded in becoming arahants, none of whom knew anything of modern concentration techniques.

"Now let us look at the nature of the states on inner awareness leading up to full insight into ‘the world’, that is, into the five aggregates. The first stage is joy (piti), mental happiness or spiritual well-being. Doing good in some way, even giving alms— considered the most-basic form of merit-making— can be a source of joy. Higher up, at the level of morality, completely blameless conduct by way of word and action brings an increase in joy. Then in the case of concentration, we discover that there is a definite kind of delight associated with the lower stages of concentration.

"This rapture has in itself the power to induce tranquillity. Normally, the mind is quite unrestrained, continually falling slave to all sorts of thoughts and feelings associated with enticing things outside. It is normally restless, not calm. But as spiritual joy becomes established, calm and steadiness are bound to increase in proportion. When steadiness has been perfected, the result is full concentration. The mind becomes tranquil, steady, flexible, manageable, light and at ease, ready to be used for any desired purpose, in particular for the elimination of the defilements.

"It is not a case of the mind’s being rendered silent, hard and rocklike. Nothing like that happens at all. The body feels normal, but the mind is especially calm and suitable for use in thinking and introspection. It is perfectly clear, perfectly cool, perfectly still and restrained. In other words, it is fit for work, ready to know. This is the degree of concentration to be aimed for, not the very deep concentration where one sits rigidly like a stone image, quite devoid of awareness. Sitting in deep concentration like that, one is in no position to investigate anything. A deeply concentrated mind cannot practice introspection at all. It is in a state of unawareness and is of no use for insight. DEEP CONCENTRATION IS A MAJOR OBSTACLE TO INSIGHT PRACTICE. To practice introspection one must first return to the shallower levels of concentration; then one can make use of the power the mind has acquired. Highly-developed concentration is just a tool. In this developing of insight by the nature method, we don’t have to attain deep concentration and sit with the body rigid. Rather, we aim at a calm, steady mind, one so fit for work that when it is applied to insight practice, it gains right understanding with regard to the entire world. Insight so developed is natural insight, the same sort as was gained by some individuals while sitting listening to the Buddha expounding Dharma. It is conducive to thought and introspection of the right kind, the kind that brings understanding. And it involves neither ceremonial procedures nor miracles.

"This doesn’t mean, however, that insight will arise instantaneously. One can’t be an arahant straight off. The first step in knowledge may come about at any time, depending once again on the intensity of the concentration. It may happen that what arises is not true insight, because one has been practicing wrongly or has been surrounded by too many false views. But however it turns out, the insight that does arise is bound to be something quite special, for instance, extraordinarily clear and profound. If the knowledge gained is right knowledge, corresponding with reality, corresponding with Dharma, then it will progress, developing ultimately into right and true knowledge of all phenomena. If insight develops in only small measure, it may convert a person into an ariyan at the lowest stage; or if it is not sufficient to do that, it will just make him a high-minded individual, an ordinary person of good qualities. If the environment is suitable and good qualities have been properly and adequately established, it is possible to become an arahant. It all depends on the circumstances. But however far things go, as long as the mind has natural concentration, this factor called insight is bound to arise and to correspond more or less closely with reality. Because we, being Buddhists, have heard about, thought about and studied the world, the five aggregates and phenomena, in the hope of coming to understand their true nature, it follows that the knowledge we acquire while in a calm and concentrated state will not be in any way misleading. It is bound to be always beneficial.

"The expression ‘insight into the true nature of things’ refers to transcience, unsatisfactoriness and non-selfhood, seeing that nothing is worth getting, nothing is worth being, seeing that no object whatsoever should be grasped at and clung to as being a self or as belonging to a self, as being good or bad, attractive or repulsive. Liking or disliking anything, even if it is only an idea or a memory, is clinging. To say that nothing is worth getting or being is the same as to say that nothing is worth clinging to. ‘Getting’ refers to setting one’s heart on property, position, wealth, or any pleasing object. ‘Being’ refers to the awareness of one’s status as husband, wife, rich man, poor man, winner, loser, or human being, or even the awareness of being oneself. If we really look deeply at it, even being oneself is no fun, is wearisome, because it is a source of suffering."

[The late Buddhadasa was one of Thailand’s most famous monks].


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