These are notes from Joseph Goldstein’s book “Mindfulness”.
It is the last of the section about the four qualities of
ardency, clearly knowing,
mindfulness and concentration.
One of the benefits of meditation is to find a clearer,
calmer mind. This helps us in so
many ways. It helps us relax and
be present, and it also helps us discern what we should do in each
situation. We aren’t filled with
thoughts and stories of our own projections. It is a mind that is free from our personal desire system
and also a mind that knows the truth about samsara – the wandering-in-circles
world. We will never find the
wholeness and happiness we seek from the appearances and stories of our
world. We have to find this truth,
this discontent with regards to the world, in order to have enthusiasm about
What surprised me about this section was Goldstein’s
emphasis that concentration brings joy and relaxation.
He quotes Ajahn Sucitto speaking of Samadhi thus:
Receiving joy is another way to say enjoyment, and Samadhi is the act
of refined enjoyment. It is based
in skillfulness. It is the careful
collecting of oneself into the joy of the present moment. Joyfulness means there’s no fear, no
tension, no “ought to” There isn’t anything we have to do about it. It’s just this.
Early in my Buddhist life, I felt the opposite about
concentration. It was an intense
and very effortful focus on staying with an object; almost military in its
discipline. Maybe even the
opposite of joy, until I opened up to the rapture of concentration. Then, I was attached to the sensual
delight of rapture for another several decades. I laugh.
But in this reading from the book, the emphasis is on
skillful behavior, sila, ethics, as the skillful means that is the basis of
non-harming that is the foundation of joy. We do not want a mind that is filled with worry,
regret and agitation.
In the stillness of Samadhi, we become more aware of our
actions and their consequences. As
our mindfulness gets stronger, we see more clearly the unending ego-centricity
of our minds. This is a good
thing! We have a vast field of
moments in which to practice pivoting our ego-centric desires into skillful
behavior. Dogen says we have 6 and
a half billion moments in a day to continuously practice pivoting our behavior.
The strengthening of concentration comes through the
continuity of mindfulness.
In practicing continuity, we learn to skillfully interweave
the two approaches to concentration
Object concentration – placing our mind on a
single focus, the breath, the sound, our walking etc. This can definitely help moving away from the hindrances and
interrupting our monkey minds- the constant chatter in an untrained mind.
Choiceless awareness – one-pointedness on
changing objects called momentary Samadhi
or in Zen vernacular, Shikantaza, receiving
the moment just as it is.
Object concentration gives us the strength to follow choiceless
awareness without being distracted.
After some time, we get an intuitive feel for which approach to concentration is appropriate at
any given time. We have the
flexibility of mind to move between concentrating on an object and being open
to everything according to the circumstances.
Labels: Buddhist ethics, choiceless awareness, concentration, Joseph Goldstein"s Mindfulness, mindfulness, object concentration, samadhi, shikantaza, sila