Wise Samadhi is the crown jewel and final limb of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path to happiness. Within various traditions there is great debate about what constitutes samadhi. The term is often translated as ‘concentration,’ or ‘single-pointedness of attention.’ But, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate interpretations closer to‘stability’ or ‘steadiness’ of mind.
If you recall the discussion on Wise View, you will remember that the path is predicated upon seeing reality with greater and greater clarity.
Samadhi is the stability that allows that vision to clarify, without wobble or distortion.
Traditionally there are roughly three stages or levels of samadhi.
1. Single-pointed samadhi: Here, one focuses the mind one a specific object, such as the breath. Every time the mind wanders, it is redirected to the primary object (breathing) over and over.
2. Moment-to-moment samadhi: When the mind is reasonably settled on the breath, one then opens the awareness to be inclusive of all psycho-physical events (sounds, thoughts, sensations, etc.) The primary object is dropped, and the mind tunes into whatever experience is most predominant in any given moment. Here the awareness is ‘choice-less’, fluidly moving from one object to another.
3. Unfabricated samadhi: As one notices objects arising and passing away within awareness, one starts to also sense – immediately and directly – the inherent stability of the awareness, itself. When uncoupled from the objects darting through it, awareness’s true nature is recognized to be unshakeable, silent, luminous and still. Resting as this awareness is Wise Samadhi.
A teacher of mine, Rodney Smith, writes: “A component of this steadying attention is the development of faith. Faith is distinguished by a relaxed attitude to the presentations of the mind. The faith-mind is undefended and confident with the complete array of mental phenomena, and is no longer afraid of what the mind contains.” – Stepping Out of Self-Deception
Originally published on December 10, 2010