On samadhi

From: Eightfold Path 2
Full transcript

The Sanskrit word, samadhi, is a very difficult word to translate. And it has actually a wide range of meanings, but in this context the meaning is actually fairly precise. With some reservations I use the word absorption. I haven’t found anything better yet. There are lots of problems with that word but samadhi is active attention and it is composed or comprised of the union of stability and clarity. In just the resting mind there are those two aspects of the mindfulness and awareness and they come together to form active attention. But then that evolves into the stability or the resting quality and then the insight quality which is basic clarity quality. So when those two come together then you’re experiencing absorption or samadhi.

And the way that I’ve find very helpful in regarding this from the mahamudra perspective, it’s from a book called, Clarifying the Natural State. As you develop the ability to rest you naturally find that you begin to look at experience. So the way that you deepen the resting is to start looking in the resting. Now as soon as you start looking it brings an active quality into the attention which tends to destabilize the resting.

So by working at this and being sensitive to the balance, you’re not only able to look in the resting but rest in the looking. And that’s the two-liner that I find very helpful. Rest in the looking and look in the resting. Those two lines will take you a very, very long way in your meditation practice. The key thing here is to be sensitive to imbalance. When you are just resting the mind tends to grow a bit dull. When there is too much emphasis on the looking, the resting quality destabilizes.

People talk about balance. I find it’s much more useful to talk about imbalance. Because when things are in balance, we don’t experience anything, we are just there. Chuang-Tzu says, When the shoe fits you forget the feet. When the belt fits you forget the waist.

In terms of developing our skill and abilities in meditation practice, rather than trying to maintain balance become adept at detecting imbalance. And so this involves being in touch with your body, in touch with emotions, in touch with quality of attention and as imbalances arise you can quietly correct them. And there’s constant period of adjustment but the net result is that the quality of attention becomes progressively deeper and more stable. That’s the way I found most useful and most effective for working with this last one. So you are bringing attention to the quality of your attention, if you wish.

Note: Another commentary on samadhi: A Trackless Path II 5