8. Right Concentration


8. Right Concentration

M. 44

What, now, is Right Concentration?

It’s Definition

Having the mind fixed to a single object (cittekeggatā, lit. ‘One-pointedness of mind’): this is concentration.

Right Concentration’ (sammā-samādhi), in its widest sense, is the kind of mental concentration which is present in every wholesome state of consciousness (kusala-citta), and hence is accompanied by at least Right Thought (2nd factor), Right Effort (6th factor) and Right Mindfulness (7th factor).

Wrong Concentration’ is present in unwholesome states of consciousness, and hence is only possible in the sensuous, not in a higher sphere. Samādhi, used alone, always stands in the Sutta, for sammā-samādhi, or Right Concentration.

It’s Objects

The four ‘Foundations of Mindfulness’ (7th factor): these are the objects of concentration.

It’s Requisites

The four ‘Great Efforts’ (6th factor): these are the requisites for concentration.

It’s Development

The practising, developing and cultivating of these things: this is the development (bhāvanā) of concentration.

Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi) has two degrees of development;

1. ‘Neighbourhood Concentration’ (upacāra-samādhi), which approaches the first absorption without, however, attaining it;

2. ‘Attainment Concentration’ (appanā-samādhi), which is the concentration present in the four Absorptions (jhāna).

These Absorptions are mental states beyond the reach of the fivefold sense-activity, attainable only in solitude and by unremitting perseverance in the practice of concentration.

In these states all activity of the five senses is suspended. No visual or audible impressions arise at such a time, no bodily feeling is felt. But, although all outer sense-impressions have ceased, yet the mind remains active, perfectly alert, fully awake.

The attainment of these Absorptions, however, is not a requisite for the realization of the four Super-mundane Paths of Holiness;

and neither Neighbourhood-Concentration nor Attainment-Con- centration, as such, possesses the power of conferring entry to the four Super-mundane Paths: hence they really have no power to free one permanently from evil things.

The realization of the Four Super-mundane Paths is possible only at the moment of deep ‘Insight’ (vipassanā) into the Impermanency (aniccatā), Miserable Nature (dukkhatā) and Impersonality (anattatā) of this whole phenomenal process of existence.

This Insight, again, is attainable only during Neighbourhood-Concentration, not during Attainment Concentration.

He who has realized one or other of the Four Super-mundane Paths without ever having attained the Absorptions, is called Sukkha-vipassaka, or Suddhavipassanā--yānika, i.e. ‘one who has taken merely Insight (vipassanā) as his vehicle’.

He, however, who, after cultivating the Absorptions, has reached one of the Super-mundane Paths is called Saniathayānika, or ‘one who has taken Tranquillity (śamatha) as his vehicle (yāna)’.

The Four Absorptions


Detached from sensual objects, detached from evil things, the disciple enters into the first Absorption, which is accompanied by Thought Conception and Discursive Thinking, is born of detachment, and filled with Rapture and Happiness.

This is the first of the Absorptions belonging to the Fine-Material Sphere (rūpa-vacara-jhāna).

It is attained when, through the strength of concentration, the fivefold sense activity is temporarily suspended, and the five Hindrances are likewise eliminated.

M. 43

This first Absorption is free from five things, and five things are present:

When the disciple enters the first Absorption, there have vanished (the five Hindrances): Lust, Ill-Will, Torpor and Sloth, Restlessness and Mental Worry, Doubts;

and there are present: Thought Conception (vitakka), Discursive Thinking (vicāra), Rapture (pīti), Happiness (sukha), Concentration (citt'ekaggata- = samādhi).

These five mental factors present in the first Absorption, are called Factors (or Constituents) of Absorption (jhānaṅga).

Vitakka (initial formation of an abstract thought) and vicāra (discursive thinking, rumination) are called ‘verbal functions’ (vaci-saṅkhāra) of the mind; hence they are something secondary compared with consciousness.

In Viśuddhi-Magga, vitakka is compared with the taking hold of a pot, and vicāra with the wiping of it.

In the first Absorption both are present, but are exclusively focussed on the subject of meditation, vicāra being here not discursive, but of an ‘exploring’ nature. Both are entirely absent in the following Absorptions.

And further: after the subsiding of Thought-Conception and Discursive Thinking, and by the gaining of inner tranquillity and oneness of mind,

he enters into a state free from Thought- Conception and Discursive Thinking, the second Absorption, which is born of concentration (samādhi), and filled with Rapture (pīti) and Happiness (sukha).

In the second Absorption, there are 3 Factors of Absorption: Rapture, Happiness, and Concentration.

And further: after the fading away of Rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful, with clear awareness: and he experiences in his own person that feeling of which the Noble Ones say: ‘Happy lives he who is equanimous and mindful’—thus he enters the third Absorption.

In the third Absorption there are 2 Factors of Absorption: equanimous Happiness (upekkhā-sukha) and Concentration (citt'ekaggatā).

And further: after the giving up of pleasure and pain, and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into a state beyond pleasure and pain, into the fourth Absorption, which is purified by equanimity and mindfulness.

In the fourth Absorption there are 2 Factors of Absorption: Concentration and Equanimity (upekkhā).

In Viśuddhi-magga 40 subjects of meditation (kammatṭṭhāna) are enumerated and treated in detail. By their successful practice the following Absorptions may be attained:

All four Absorptions:

through Mindfulness of Breathing (see Vis. M. VIII. 3), the ten Kasiṇa-exercises (Vis. M. IV, V. and B. Dict.); the contemplation of Equanimity (upekkhā), being the practice of the fourth Brahma-vihāra (Vis. M. IX. 4).

The first three Absorptions:

through the development of Loving- Kindness (mettā), Compassion (karuṇā) and Sympathetic Joy (mudita-), being the practice of the first three Brahma-vihāras (Vis. M. IX. 1—3,).

The first Absorption:

through the ten Contemplations of Impurity (asubha-bhāvanā; i.e. the Cemetery Contemplations, which are ten according to the enumeration in Vis. M. VI); the contemplation of the Body (i.e. the 32 parts of the body; Vis. M. VIII, 2);

‘Neighbourhood-Concentration’ (upacāra-samādhi):

through the Recollections on Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, on Morality, Liberality, Heavenly Beings, Peace (=Nibbāna) and death (Vis. M. VI. VII); the Contemplation on the Loathsomeness of Food (Vis. M. XI. I); the Analysis of the Four Elements (Vis. M. IX. 2).

The four Immaterial Absorptions (arūpa-jhāna), which are based on the fourth Absorption, are produced by meditating on their respective objects from which they derive their names:

Sphere of Unbounded Space, of Unbounded Consciousness, of Nothingness, and of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception.

The entire object of concentration and meditation is treated in Vis M. III-XIII.

8. XXII. 5

Develop your concentration: for he who has concentration, understands things according to their reality. And what are these things? The arising and passing away of corporeality, of feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness.

M. 149

Thus, these five Groups of Existence must be wisely penetrated; Ignorance and Craving must be wisely abandoned;

Tranquillity (śamatha) and Insight (vipassanā) must be wisely developed.


This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has discovered, which makes one both to see and to know, and which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

Dhp. 275

And following upon this path, you will put an end to suffering.