Image

IMPORTANCE OF BREATH IN SAMMA SAMADHI

Samādhi means that the mind is established in equanimity. The word equanimity is derived from Latin aequanimitas, from aequus ‘equal’ + animus ‘mind’.

However, concentration that is dependent upon craving, aversion or ignorance is the absorption of an unbalanced mind, it cannot be beneficial. When the concentration of a mind is filled with craving for an external object, can indeed be termed as Samādhi  but by no means, it is sammā samādhi.

It is only the concentration of a wholesome mind which is regarded as sammā samādhi. Only the one-pointedness of a wholesome mind can be called kusalacittekaggatā samādhi – samādhi free from defilements.

For the attainment of pure samādhi, an object based upon any kind of emotional fervour is not suitable, an object placed externally is not suitable as it would lead to imbalance of the mind. By this, the equanimity of the mind will be lost, 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.

In order to concentrate the mind, the object should be neither pleasant nor unpleasant; and for which there should be neither craving nor aversion in the mind. At the same time, the object of concentration should help to keep the mind continuously alert and protect the meditator from getting immersed in any kind of delusion; protect  from self-hypnotism and hypnotism by others; protect from sleep-inducing meditation.

While walking on this path, the object that is chosen for attaining concentration of the mind, should be universal, eternal, and acceptable to all nationalities. It should be easily grasped by all, acceptable to all.

For that, we have chosen our own incoming and outgoing breath as the object of concentration, pure incoming and outgoing breath. Pure, in the sense that no word, name, incantation, form or shape is associated with it. The practice of continuous awareness should be only on the coming in and going out of bare breath. This breath should be natural breath, normal breath. If it is long, it is long; if it is short, it is short; if it is deep, it is deep; if it is shallow, it is shallow; if it is gross, it is gross; if it is subtle, it is subtle. The breath is merely an object of concentration. The more natural the object, the better it is. Any interference with it will cause artificiality, which will produce an obstacle in the observation of the truth. Instead of seeing nature as it is, we will turn away from it, we will become indifferent to it.

After all, why do we practise concentration of the mind? We practise so that the concentrated mind will become so subtle and sharp that it can pierce and tear the veils that have concealed the ultimate truth of liberation. Therefore, the more natural the object of concentration, the better are the chances that we shall avoid wandering in blind alleys and instead, become established on the straight and high road of Dhamma.

Another reason for adopting natural incoming and outgoing breath as the object of concentration is that the rhythm of our respiration has an intimate natural connection with the negativities of the mind. When the mind is polluted and overpowered by any harmful negativity such as anger, fear, lust, envy or any other negativity, we see that the rhythm of our respiration naturally becomes rapid and gross. When these negativities stop polluting the mind, the rhythm of respiration becomes slow and subtle. After developing samādhi, the next step is to enter the field of paññā, where we learn to become free from the bondage of the negativities of our own mind. Therefore, the observation of the reality of the incoming and outgoing natural breath is of great help in the next step of meditation.

Respiration is the only process in the body that can be regulated, that can be made fast or slow voluntarily, but which otherwise is an involuntary, effortless process. In the journey from the voluntary to the involuntary, from the known to the unknown, from the familiar bank of the river to the unfamiliar bank, breath can act as a bridge. For this reason too, it is useful as the object of concentration. For the practice of living in this moment, we should learn to remain alert to the gross events occurring in the body at this moment, awareness of the incoming breath or the outgoing breath.

Without strong sammā samādhi, we cannot enter the depth of this moment; we cannot set foot in the field of paññā. To strengthen samādhi in the right way, let us give the mind a natural, imagination-free, faultless object of this moment, which is the awareness of the incoming and outgoing breath. On the basis of this awareness, let us learn to live in the present moment. Let us develop the concentration of a wholesome mind free from craving, free from aversion, free from ignorance. Let us develop our ability to avoid unwholesome physical or vocal actions. By becoming strong in paññā and eradicating impure mental defilements, let us develop our ability to avoid unwholesome actions at the mental level.

Pure samādhi developed in this way gives happiness. Come, let us develop samādhi by practising awareness of the incoming and outgoing breath. By strengthening samādhi, sīla will be strengthened and by strengthening samādhi and sīla, paññā will be strengthened. In the strengthening of sīla, samādhi, and paññā, lies the way to liberation: liberation from mental defilements, liberation from sorrow, liberation from delusion and ignorance.

Truly, the path of samādhi is the path of well-being, the path of good fortune, the path of peace, the path of liberation.

-Much metta

Advertisements