When it comes to practicing samatha meditation on buddho, Ahba regularly speaks about the series saddhā , viriya , sati , samādhi , paññā and overarching khanti and mettā .
If you don’t immediately know what these terms mean than don’t worry, just keep on reading.
Saddhā means as much as confidence, faith or as Ahba translates, believe.
Initially it all starts with this, namely the confidence or belief that it makes sense to develop your mind through meditation. If you don’t belief in the system and the teacher you will not take steps.
Once you have started practicing, saddhā fulfills another role, that of the confidence that you too can develop your mind. We will come back to this later in this text.
For more information about saddhā we can also recommend Devotion in Buddhism by Nyanaponika Thera.
Viriya can be translated as energy, but Ahba opts for the much more tangible translation “many many try”.
It is that which ensures that we sit down daily, that we put energy into the process and perhaps go on a retreat, but our daily effort to practice sīla (morality) and sati (mindfulness) is viriya as well.
Ahba teaches that if you just keep trying, the result is guaranteed. We get what we want. If we want desire, we get desire, if we want concentration and wisdom, we get concentration and wisdom.
As long as we continue to exert ourselves and keep trying again and again.
Sati is often translated with mindfulness, bare attention or conscious attention.
It is the ability to see what the mind is doing.
During meditation it is the line that binds consciousness to the meditation object. It is the great watchdog that keeps an eye on what the mind is doing and sees when thoughts have arisen and you are no longer focused on buddho.
In addition, during everyday life, it is our ability to be continuously aware of what we are doing and keep our mind occupied on just one thing at a time.
Samādhi is the calming, gathering and one-pointed focus of consciousness. Samādhi is concentration.
You cannot force or make concentration. You can only create the conditions that allow the emergence of concentration. That is why Ahba soeaks about ‘getting’ concentration.
If we sit down with confidence (saddhā) and keep trying (viriya) to keep our attention on the object (sati), then concentration comes naturally.
The practice of this is not so much an upward trend but more an upward spiral. If we can muster more pwerful sati during our practice because of viriya, this will increase our saddhā, our belief that our mind can be developed. Then the increase in saddhā gives us the ability to put more viriya in the process, ultimately resulting in further increase in sati.
And so the upward spiral continues. First we get weak concentration, then firmer concentration, then full concentration. First just sometimes, then more often, then always when we sit on your meditation cushion.
Paññā is the next step in the series and means wisdom or knowledge.
If you easily achieve full concentration then the teacher can give you instructions to move from samatha meditation on buddho to vipassanā meditation (often translated as insight meditation) if it will benefit the development of wisdom.
Vipassanā in this context is in particular the direct and personal experience of the arising and passing-away of nāma-rūpa, the mental and material phenomena. This process takes place at an increadible speed, so that only a very concentrated mind can perceive it directly. Without high concentration you run the risk of only working with your limited conceptual ideas about arising and passing-away.
However, wisdom is also the direct result of samatha on buddho. It comes along, as it were, because you focus on the qualities of the Buddha.
Ahba also indicates that having full concentration is the time to receive education about the true nature of things from a teacher. A clean and clear mind is much better able to process the given teaching and to test it in the world based on its own experience then an ordinary mind.
This entire spiral of saddhā, viriya, sati, samādhi and paññā can only be successfully practiced by simultaneously developing khanti and mettā.
Khanti can be translated as patience.
This is not a wait-and-see form of patience, not a laissez-faire attitude of “well, it will all happen someday.”
It is the patience of the one who makes a continuous and great effort with confidence, regardless of the result.
It is the patience with which, whatever comes to be, whatever surfaced during meditation, you can always say “tomorrow I’ll just try again”.
In that light, it works closely with viriya. Where viriya is the energy to try again every day, khanti is the letting go of the result, the letting go of judging and realizing that it doesn’t matter if the process takes one more year, a hundred years or a hundred lifetimes. That the necessary effort will be made patiently and persistently.
In this sense, it also strengthens confidence, namely the confidence that sooner or later the practice will pay off.
Mettā is love, or loving-kindness in contrast to the sensual desire that we often associate with love.
There are deep forms of mettā-bhāvanā, meditation on loving kindness, in which mettā is the object of concentration. If the concentration is high and it benefits the further deepening and broadening of samādhi, this form of meditation van be practiced after the instructions of the teacher, but we are not here talking about this form of mettā meditation.
Here mettā is the love for yourself, the softness given to khanti .
Laughing at your own troubled mind and the sometimes strange and confrontational things that surface.
It is letting go of the thought “I can’t do this.”
In the buddho samatha meditation system, before and after focusing on buddho, we do a simple short mettā meditation to evoke this softness to ourselves and all other living beings.
For a detailed explanation of mettā meditation see the text Mettā: The philosophy and practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita.
So you Develop More than just Concentration with Samatha Meditation on Buddho
The above shows very nicely that during the practice of samatha meditation on buddho you develop a lot more than only concentration.
By simply practicing focusing your attention on buddho, many positive qualities are generated and enhanced below th surface.
At first you may not see this and meditation on buddho may only provide some clarity or rest at the end of a stressful day.
However, through continuous practice it becomes increasingly clear that the positive effect extends over a much larger domain. That you treat yourself and others more patiently and lovingly, that your mental energy, persistence and perseverance increase in all kinds of situations in daily life. That you start to behave more morally, become more aware of what is going on in your mind and eventually understand better nd better how things work.
And that may just be the beginning.
You just have to begin, no one but you can develop your own mind!