One of the most important things for us to be doing here—as either monastics or as visiting laypeople living like monastics— is to develop our formal meditation practice. A key to this is learning how to delight in meditation—the freedom that comes from simply sitting, not becoming anything, resting in a state of mind that is able to put things down.
Yesterday I was reflecting on the word concentration, which is the most common translation for samādhi. I think that’s a poor translation because concentration has a strong sense of coercing the mind, forcing it to be a certain way. My understanding of samādhi is that it is a freeing experience, rather than one which squeezes the mind into a frozen or held state of being.
It is much more an experience that allows us to let go of unwholesome states of mind, especially those we are obsessed with or attached to. What remains is a mind that is relaxed, peaceful, and stable. It’s not going out to search for happiness because it is quite happy to stay where it is at home.
We often use the words cultivating concentration, which is an important expression, but it can be misleading. Quite simply, it means developing the ability to put things down. We can recognize that the things which we attach ourselves to are endless and that this attachment results in bhavataṇhā, a sense of becoming—the incessant inclination to exist, plan, create an identity, and attach to some idea of ourselves as some thing.
We’re caught up in this becoming like an animal in a trap. Either we see that it’s going to lead to suffering or we don’t, but either way, if there’s bhavataṇhā, suffering will be the result. One of the main tasks in our meditation practice is to learn how to put down this becoming. Once we do this, we will begin to experience a profound sense of freedom. As Sāriputta once commented to Ānanda, “Nibbāna is the cessation of becoming.”
We need to use our time here to not only develop service and generosity, which is so important to communal living and harmony, but also to pay attention to our formal meditation practice—sitting and walking—and developing the ability to put things down.
This reflection by Ajahn Yatiko is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume Two, (pdf) pp. 239-240.