2022-04-21 Satipaṭṭhāna (60) Tranquility and Samadhi Factors of Awakening
8:20PM Apr 21, 2022
Today, I will cover the tranquillity factor of awakening and the concentration factor of awakening – the fifth and sixth factors. The way the instructions are in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, it does not say to evoke these, make them come forth. It says, recognize them when they are present. Then, when they are present, support them and maintain them.
I think the reason it says this is that the seven factors of awakening are a byproduct of doing mindfulness practice. As the practice begins to have some momentum, it brings forth, within us, a clearer and clearer capacity for awareness.
Mindfulness practice brings forth an abiding, a living in a state of awareness, a way of being aware that is, perhaps, very individual – how different people recognize that they are aware. Some people may be more with thoughts. Some people are more with other perceptive ways of being. Some people feel awareness is more like consciousness – it is just a broad field, a state of attention.
There is a heightened sensitivity which comes naturally. It is like whatever, for you, is awareness, if you are relaxed deeply, you cannot turn it off. In a relaxed, quiet state that is not distracted by thoughts, awareness will be there. There is just no way not to have it.
This somewhat natural state becomes strong, becomes pervasive. It is like, now it has gotten light outside. So we are in light in this room. If we come in here and it is dark, we do not see anything. Then, slowly, the light – the sun – comes up. Slowly, it gets more and more light until, finally (maybe we don't say it this way), but the natural state of the room, when the sun is up, is to have light and to be able to see it. The whole room is then in awareness in an effortless way.
So, the sun of awareness dawns and grows within us until awareness becomes stronger and there is a heightened clarity of what is happening in the present moment. That heightened clarity lets us distinguish between the trail leading to suffering – to stress and reactivity, and the trail leading to peace, to wisdom, to happiness. To be able to see that distinction can bring a lot of joy because we know where the path is. We know the trail to take. We know what trail to avoid.
It might not be easy to avoid old habits. But at least we know there is a difference – some people don't even know. Then, slowly, we break the old habits. And we begin following a healthy way of being: the trail to happiness and to peace. This brings a lot of joy – very much associated with the joy of being able to practice. "Finally, I have meditation. And I know meditation is a good thing. And the way I was living my life didn't work. There's no peace or freedom in preoccupations and being lost in my life. Meditation seems to be a path of happiness, of following a trail toward something that's really good. I feel so much calmer and settled when I meditate. And it affects the rest of my life, the rest of my day."
A certain delight and happiness can arise through knowing of the possibility to practice. As we really start coursing in this practice more and more, there is a way that joy – that delight – gets stronger and stronger. It is almost as if it becomes not just an evaluative joy, like, "Oh. I'm so glad I have this practice," but a kind of joy that comes from being absorbed in the practice – just coursing, cruising in the practice.
It is like an analogy I have given of petting the cat. As we stay with the practice, stay with the practice, the cat within us begins to purr. Just a wonderful delight and joy comes up. Some people are surprised by the strong feeling of joy that wells up as they meditate. Sometimes it can be somewhat intense. Some people call it rapture.
At some point, the movement of this factor of awakening is that we are following the path of tranquility. Things calm down. The whole body-mind system begins to calm. The excitement, the enthusiasm, the inspiration of joy quiets down, and joy becomes a kind of happiness that is more embodied, more like a deep contentment, a sense of being cozy and connected in some soft, embodied way. That happiness is the foundation for the sixth factor of awakening: concentration or samādhi.
This is important to realize because some people think that they are going to develop samādhi – concentration – by huffing and puffing, by straining and trying. But rather, the dharmic way of developing concentration is to have in place, the conditions that support the mind's wanting to get settled, become unified, absorbed, and focused on something. That is a mind that is embodied, that is tranquil, and that has a certain kind of happiness in it. That happiness is the foundation for deep concentration.
We are just happy to be here. There is not a question about being present here and now, because it is the better alternative to wandering off in thoughts, and thinking about our daily concerns, or the past and the present. Being connected here – this body, this mind, this heart – feels so rich, so satisfying that, of course, we want to settle in. Of course, it is natural to settle in, to relax, to give ourselves over to the process of meditation, for example.
The happiness which comes with this path of the factors of awakening unifies – brings together – all the fragmented parts of ourselves so that the unfragmented way of being is samādhi. We are absorbed. We are all unified, connected, collected. Then we have the samādhi factor of awakening.
What is remarkable about this is that we have been doing satipatthāna now for some time. This is the sixtieth talk on it I have given. We have gone through all these exercises. I have said this before, but it is worth saying again, I believe. We are building on the momentum of having done the practice all along.
Even if you go back to the very beginning of it and just do the first exercise with breathing, it is a powerful thing to do. If you do it consistently, just keep showing up, taking your meditation posture, and engaging over and over again, there is a natural process that can begin opening up and moving through you (or you move through it) that, eventually, can be recognized as the factors of awakening.
When practice is really strong – for me, it has been mostly been on retreat that I feel this – sometimes the predominant experience of the present moment – by far the predominant experience – is the seven factors of awakening. What a cool, wonderful thing to do! To not be anxious about what is happening tomorrow, or what happened yesterday, or be angry at anything. Just be really peaceful and settled. All the focus of the mind is on these beautiful qualities of mind and body, the seven factors of awakening.
So there is a natural process that unfolds. But it requires practice – practicing well, practising sincerely, practicing settledly. Learning how to practice mindfulness, how to bring attention, how to recognize what is happening. Learning how to relax deeply, how to get concentrated to some degree.
Learning all this – all of these aspects of the path, the world of meditation, so that, more and more, we can trust that there is a natural process, an emerging, an unfolding that can happen, that we allow for. If we feel like we are the agent responsible for everything that happens in meditation, we are actually shortchanging the process of meditation.
A lot of meditation is letting go of thoughts enough, being settled enough, that we can trust, open up, and allow for something to move through us. The seven factors of awakening is one way of discussing this. I talked about tranquility being a bridge between joy and happiness. And it is. Then, I went from the tranquility to the concentration factor of awakening.
So where is happiness? There are other lists that go from joy to tranquility, happiness, concentration. The seven factors of awakening leaves happiness out, not because it does not happen in the process, but because, for some reason, it does not need to be there. Or maybe, the number seven was a special number they wanted. So they chose the most important parts.
What we have done so far: There is awareness, often called mindfulness, the ability to differentiate in our practice between what is healthy or not healthy, skillful or unskillful. There is the energy, the effort, then, to choose the healthy path. There is joy in being able to do that. Then, there is tranquility. And then, there is concentration. Tomorrow, we will do the last factor of awakening, equanimity.
Tomorrow also, we will do a Q&A – question and response – session after this YouTube. We will do it on zoom. I will post the zoom link here in the chat, but also post it on the IMC calendar – for 7:45 it says "YouTube Community Meeting." I will also post it in IMC's "What's New" section. Both the calendar and "What's New" are found on the homepage for IMC. You can find the link there. There will be a password required. The password will be mettā. And that will be clear also. Thank you, and I look forward to our time together.