WHAT IS THE SUTTANTA PITAKA?
Practical methods of mental cultivation for development of concentration, samædhi.
Mental cultivation for spiritual uplift consists of two steps. The first step is to purify the mind from all defilements and corruption and to have it focused on a point. A determined effort (Right Exertion) must be made to narrow down the range of thoughts in the wavering, unsteady mind. Then attention (Right Mindfulness or Attentiveness) must be fixed on a selected object of meditation until one-pointedness of mind (Right Concentration) is achieved. In such a state, the mind becomes freed from hindrances, pure, tranquil, powerful and bright. It is then ready to advance to the second step by which Magga Insight and Fruition may be attained in order to transcend the state of woe and sorrow.
The Suttanta Pi¥aka records numerous methods of meditation to bring about one-pointedness of mind. In the Suttas of the Pi¥aka are dispersed these methods of meditation, explained by the Buddha sometimes singly, sometimes collectively to suit the occasion and the purpose for which they are recommended. The Buddha knew the diversity of character and mental make-up of each individual, the different temperaments and inclinations of those who approached him for guidance. Accordingly he recommended different methods to different persons to suit the special character and need of each individual.
The practice of mental cultivation which results ultimately in one-pointedness of mind is known as Samædhi Bhævanæ. Whoever wishes to develop Samædhi Bhævanæ must have been established in the observance of the precepts, with the senses controlled, calm and self-possessed, and must be contented. Having been established in these four conditions he selects a place suitable for meditation, a secluded spot. Then he should sit cross-legged keeping his body erect and his mind alert; he should start purifying his mind of five hindrances, namely, sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt, by choosing a meditation method suitable to him, practicing meditation with zeal and ardour. For instance, with the Ænæpæna method he keeps watching the incoming and outgoing breath until he can have his mind fixed securely on the breath at the tip of the nose.
When he realizes that the five hindrances have been got rid of, he becomes gladdened, delighted, calm and blissful. This is the beginning of samædhi, concentration, which will further develop until it attains one-pointedness of mind.
Thus one-pointedness of mind is concentration of mind when it is aware of one object, and only one of a wholesome, salutary nature. This is attained by the practice of meditation upon one of the subjects recommended for the purpose by the Buddha.