Only Concentration

by Friends of Godwin

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There is this idea among meditators which is quite common that meditation is only developing concentration. In fact, in Sri Lanka when meditators come to the centre, I ask them what are you trying to achieve in meditation and the invariable answer is that they want to develop concentration. I know even here, as I said, some meditators have this idea that meditation is only developing concentration.

Certainly concentration has a place in meditation but there is another important aspect in meditation which is equally or more important. That is what is called Vipassana or developing insight. With this emphasis only of concentration I know that some meditators have even given up meditation and when you ask for the reason, they say they are unable to concentrate. And I know that many meditators sometimes are struggling with this idea of developing concentration. So in this way, meditation can be a battle and sometimes this can even create more suffering; the idea of meditation is to experience joy and freedom. And then even the word concentration may not be the right word because the word concentration has many meanings, many connotations.

When you use the word concentration, one thing it implies exclusion. Another is trying very hard to maintain and sustain that concentration. So this can create a lot of tension and restlessness in one’s practice. The Pali word Samadhi which is translated as concentration gives an entirely different meaning. For Samadhi to be there, the mind and the body has to be completely relaxed. And by trying too hard, one can never experience Samadhi because there again, with trying too hard and having strong expectations, this can also create problems. It’s interesting that according to the Buddhist texts, before one experiences Samadhi, you have to feel gentle, friendly, and also have an element of joy and bliss in one’s practice.

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