The training in samādhi consists of learning the art of stopping thoughts and holding the mind still. Thinking is the factor that prevents us from becoming calm. When we can stop our thoughts and hold them still, the results of samādhi will come automatically. Samādhi is quite a natural state. When we stop the restlessness of the mind and keep it still, it will either go into sleep or into samādhi. If we prevent it from going to sleep, it will then drop into samādhi. It’s natural. It’s not something strange. Were it something strange, the Buddha would not have taught it. In fact, samādhi is inherent to the mind. If we learn to stay clear of the kilesas with the thoughts and restlessness they bring up, samādhi will happen of its own accord.
If we could stop the mind from thinking and hold it still for long enough, we would automatically drop into a state of samādhi. But as soon as the mind starts moving in that direction, the kilesas immediately jump up and begin creating doubt and anxiety, causing that calm mental state to break up. Defilements are constantly disturbing the mind and preventing it from settling down. They act like the wind that blows up the waves on the surface of the ocean. When the wind stops, the waves calm down and quietly recede back into the ocean. The kilesas can also be compared to muddy water. If the water remains still long enough, the mud will settle down to the bottom, allowing the water to become clean and clear.
Samādhi brings a state of calm. When we do that often, the calm penetrates and gets in deep and becomes part of our nature. When it reaches that level, we tend to be calm the whole time. Then, the kilesas don’t come up easily, and when they do they are seen for what they are. In the end, when that calm state becomes continuous, we feel repulsed by behavior that’s full of kilesas and don’t even want to be associated with it. That’s a sign that samādhi is firm and reliable inside. Samādhi must be firm enough to fix our undivided attention on a meditation object, like the senses or the body. When we establish our mental focus on the body, for instance, we must be able to keep it solely on the body.
The practice of samādhi is extremely valuable in its ability to wake us up and sharpen the mind. Samādhi pulls the mind together and concentrates it. But although it fosters a very clear mind, samādhi on its own will not turn into wisdom. Wisdom must be cultivated.
This reflection by Ajaan Pannavaddho is from the book, Uncommon Wisdom, pp. 136-138.