Research Study

The Noble Eight Fold Path
- Samadhi (Concentration)


Meditation is hard work. It demands the highest form of discipline - not conformity, not imitation, not obedience - but a discipline which comes through constant awareness, not only of the things about you outwardly, but also inwardly. So meditation is not an activity of isolation but is action in everyday life which demands co-operation, sensitivity and intelligence.

Without laying the foundation of a righteous life, meditation becomes an escape and therefore has no value whatsoever. A righteous life is not the following of social morality, but the freedom from envy, greed and the search for power-which all breed enmity. The freedom from these does not come through the activity of will but by being aware of them through self-knowing. Without knowing the activities of the self, meditation becomes sensuous excitement and therefore of very little significance.

-Pg 6, meditations

There cannot be a world transformation, a revolution, as long as action is based on ideas; because action then is merely reaction; therefore ideas become much more important than action, and that is precisely what is taking place in the world, isn't it? To act, we must discover the impediments that prevent action. But most of us don't want to act - that is our difficulty. We prefer to discuss, we prefer to substitute one ideology for another, and so we escape from action through ideology.

-Krishnamurti's Talks 1949-1950 (Verbatim Report)...Ceylon p.10

Understanding comes swiftly, unknowingly, when the effort is passive; only when the maker of effort is silent does the wave of understanding come.

-Krishnamurti's Talks 1949-1950 (Verbatim Report)...India p.19

(Please refer to the K teachings quoted under ''Meditation from moment to moment/'Total' 'Complete' 'Holistic' Meditation'' and ''Observation'' in this study)

In trying to concentrate, the conflicting thoughts-feelings are suppressed or pushed aside or overcome and through this process there can be no understanding. Concentration is gained at the expense of deep awareness. If the mind is petty and limited, concentration will not make it any the less small and trivial; on the contrary it will strengthen its own nature. Such narrow concentration does not make the mind-heart vulnerable to Reality; it only hardens the mind-heart in its own obstinacy and ignorance and perpetuates the self-enclosing process.

-Authentic Report of Sixteen Talks given in 1945 & 1946 ... p.52

Effort is a distraction from what is. The moment I accept what is there is no struggle. Any form of struggle or strife is an indication of distraction; and distraction, which is effort, must exist so long as psychologically I wish to transform what is into something it is not.

-Pg 68, First and Last freedom

Therefore action as we know it is really reaction, it is a ceaseless becoming, which is the denial, the avoidance of what is; but when there is awareness of emptiness without choice, without condemnation or justification, then in that understanding of what is there is action, and this action is creative being. You will understand this if you are aware of yourself in action. Observe yourself as you are acting, not only outwardly but see also the movement of your thought and feeling.

-Pg. 70, first and Last freedom


The third bojjhanga is viriya (effort) as in samma-vayamo in the Noble Eightfold Path. Great effort is required, but the effort is not to react, to let things just happen. Even if you have been victorious in a thousand battles against a thousand warriors, this inner battle of non-reaction is more difficult because the old habit is to do something, to react. Don't fight Ananda's battle - ''I must become an arahant," "I must" eradicate my impurities - if you do, the mind becomes unbalanced. Another extreme is not to work, not to observe at all, and just let things happen. Let things happen, but also know the reality 'as it is'. Some slight degree of tension is necessary: either too much, or none at all, doesn't work. For example, some pressure is necessary to drill a hole in a precious gem, but too much pressure will break it. It is a middle path.

-Pg 72, ''Discourses on Satipatthana Sutta'' by S N Goenka. (Dhammanupassana-bojjhangapabbam)

(Bojjhangas are factors of enlightenment. Ananda was trying hard to become an arahant-a liberated human being. The State of Enlightenment is free from craving and as Ananda was craving for enlightenment and putting a lot of effort to get enlightened he was not enlightened but when Ananda was completely in the present moment-knowing 'what is' - that was the state of enlightenment).

Question for Shri S N Goenka
Date/Place-Igatpuri Jan 1997 10 day Vipassana course and Jan 1999 Annual Conference.

Q. How to put effort and yet be effortless ?

Ans. by S.N.Goenka-Effortless in not trying to create a sensation and effort in trying to remain equanimous-Effort in observing. Choiceless in no craving, no aversion.

This must be noted that whenever Lord Buddha talked about awareness (Sati) He always included insight (Sampajanna). Awareness and insight are inseparable in the holistic Noble Eight Fold Path (atapi sampajanno satima). Awareness, concentration, insight go hand in hand in the Noble Eight Fold Path, they are inseparable.

(Please refer to the article titled 'Sampajanna - The constant thorough understanding of impermanence' under 'sensations-the root of misery and sorrow and the key to insight and freedom in this study.)

Q. Why is the practice of samadhi (concentration) not sufficient for liberation?

SNG - Because the purity of mind developed through samadhi (Concentration) is achieved primarily by suppression, not elimination of conditioning. It is just as if someone cleans a tank of muddy water by adding a precipitating agent, for example, alum. The alum causes the mud particles suspended in the water to fall to the bottom of the tank, leaving the water crystal-clear. Similarly samadhi makes the upper levels of the mind crystal-clear, but a deposit of impurities remains in the unconscious. These latent impurities must be removed in order to reach liberation. And to remove the impurities from the depths of the mind, one must practice Vipassana. (Vipassana is the observation the reality as it is from moment to moment with insight)

-S N Goenka Q/A, Pg 79, 'Art of Living' by William Hart

''If the mind is fixed upon any will become still, it will achieve one pointed concentration but mere concentration of mind is not samma samadhi (right concentration). For samma samadhi it is necessary for the mind to be wholesome, it is necessary for the mind to be untainted. Only the one pointedness of a wholesome mind can be called kusalacittekaggata samadhi-samadhi free from defilements.

Samma Samadhi means that the mind is established in equanimity. A mind that is focused upon an external object cannot attain equanimity; it will only disturb the balance of the mind. That is why only the concentration of a wholesome mind should be regarded as samma samadhi.

A mind filled with craving is not wholesome, a mind filled with aversion is not wholesome, a mind filled with ignorance is not wholesome. When the mind is concentrated with the help of an object of craving, aversion or ignorance, it will achieve concentration, but it will be neither balanced nor equanimous. Such concentration of the mind is not proper, not pure, not conducive to happiness. Concentration that is dependent upon craving, aversion or ignorance is the absorption of an unbalanced mind-how can it be beneficial?

A cat with a fully concentrated mind has its full attention on a mouse-hole, it is fully engrossed in its object. A heron standing on one leg on the bank of a lake in search of fish, focusing its full attention on the water, has a completely concentrated mind. It is not aware of anything else. This is the concentration of a mind filled with craving for the mouse or fish, it is not samma samadhi. Such a samadhi is not proper, not pure.

Similarly, a soldier lying in wait for his enemy, with his attention on the enemy's trench, has a fully concentrated mind. As soon as the enemy raises his head, he will shoot him. In the same way, a hunter with a double-barrelled gun, lying in wait for some dangerous beast, is fully attentive. His mind is fully concentrated. As soon as he sees his prey, he will fire a bullet at it. In this way, the mind is concentrated but it is not a wholesome mind; it is polluted with aversion and violence. Therefore, the concentration of such a mind is not samma samadhi, is not pure samadhi.

A person who is in a stupor after taking an intoxicating substance becomes absorbed in intoxication and attains concentration of the mind. He is insensate like a person in a deep sleep. He is not aware of any external or internal event. Similarly, a person making use of chemicals, such as LSD, experiences hallucinations and becomes completely absorbed in them. In both these conditions, he loses the equanimity of his mind, he loses the balance of his mind. Concentration based upon an unbalanced mind, distorted by ignorance, is not meditation, is not proper samadhi, is not pure samadhi.

For the attainment of pure samadhi, an object based upon any kind of emotional fervour is not suitable. By this, the equanimity of the mind will be lost, the balance of the mind will be disturbed, the mind will become immersed in sentimentality and attachment that is full of craving. Even though the mind will become concentrated, purity will be missing.....''

-from ''Samma Samadhi'' an article by Shri S N Goenka.

Q. What is the difference between Vipassana and concentration?

SNG - Vipassana is not merely concentration. Vipassana is observation of the truth within, from moment to moment. You develp your faculty of awareness, your mindfulness. Things keep changing, but you remain aware - this is Vipassana. But if you concentrate only on one object, which may be an imaginary object, then nothing will change. When you are with this imagination, and your mind remains concentrated on it, you are not observing the truth. When you are observing the truth, it is bound to change. It keeps constantly changing, and yet you are aware of it. This is Vipassana.

-S.N. Goenka

The noble eight fold path is not a philosophy or a dogma or a mechanical ritual. It is an art of living-a way of life-the path as shown by the Buddha. It is actually living the teachings-'going into' the teachings. The perfection of the noble path is insight or wisdom (samma ditthi). The noble 8 fold path is divided into Sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and panna (wisdom/insight) but these are not rigid water tight compartments-they flow into each other and help each other culminating in insight. Anyone living a life of real wisdom/insight from moment to moment will be a righteous and virtuous person naturally and effortlessly - for they go hand in hand.

Whenever Lord Buddha talked about Sati (awareness) He said that awareness and insight go hand in hand (atapi sampajano satima-Maha satipatthana Sutta) The Buddha never instructed to develop mere concentration or forced concentration of a narrow or unwholesome mind.

All the 8 limbs of the 8 fold path have the prefix 'samma' which is translated as 'Right' but it can be more accurately translated as 'holistic'. For something to be holistic it has to be natural, choiceless and wholesome-with the perfume of 'what is' - which is insight. It cannot be a rigid mechanical system.

The noble 8 fold path is the 'pathless path' to truth-to reality-to liberation. It is 'The path' (ekayano maggo) because it shows the way to purification (visuddhimagga) but it is the 'pathless path' because it is not a beaten track or a mechanical ritual or a technique or a method. To walk on this path one has to be in touch with the reality 'as it is' (yathabhuta) and as the reality keeps changing (anicca or impermanence), one is aware of it choicelessly from moment to moment (yathabhuta nana dassanam). The reality keeps changing from moment to moment and one is aware of this change (at the level of sensations) from moment to moment-this changing reality makes the 'path' the 'pathless path'.

The view of reality as it is becomes his right view. Thought of reality as it is becomes his right thought. Effort toward reality as it is becomes his right effort. Awareness of reality as it is becomes his right awareness. Concentration on reality as it is becomes his right concentration. His actions of body and speech and his livelihood become truly purified. Thus the Noble Eightfold Path advances him toward development and fulfillment.

-M. 149, Maha-Salayatanika Sutta

"Those truths of which before I had only heard, now I dwell having experienced them directly within the body, and I observe them with penetrating insight."

-S. XLVIII (IV). v. 10 (50), Apana Sutta (spoken by Sariputta, chief disciple of the Buddha)
- (From the introduction to the noble eight fold path in this study).

NOTE: According to the sukkhavipassaka puggala (One who develops Insight Only), samatha (Calm) and anapana (the process of observation of natural / normal breathing 'as it is' from moment to moment), etc., are not separate. After observing the three constituents of the Morality-group of the Eightfold Path, the development of the Wisdom-group of the Eightfold Path is undertaken. The three constituents of the Concentration-group of the Eightfold Path come along together with the two constituents of the Wisdom-group of the Eightfold Path, and these two sets are termed Pancangikamagga (the five constituents of the Eightfold Path). These five form one group and together with the aforesaid three constituents of the Morality-group of the Eightfold Path, they become the Noble Eightfold Path.

-from Magganga Dipani by Ven. Ledi Sayadaw. For details ref to ''Manuals of Dhamma'' by Ven. Ledi Sayadaw - VRI.
(This simply means that concentration and insight go together + morality based on insight constitutes The Noble Eight Fold Path).

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