The Importance of Concentration

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

The Importance of Concentration

The desire to get the mind into concentration is an important part of the path. There are two reasons for why you need concentration.

One of the purposes of concentration is to provide good food for the mind: a sense of pleasure, a sense of well-being that comes when you get the mind to settle down and you don’t need to think about how to gain pleasant sights, nice sounds, pleasant smells, tastes, or tactile sensations. You’ve got something better, a better pleasure, inside.

The mind needs nourishment. It has a tendency to feed on things, and as the Buddha said, even though you may understand that sensuality has its drawbacks, if you don’t have a higher level of pleasure than sensuality, you’re going to go back and feed on the sensuality.

The second reason for why you need concentration is that it’s like a laboratory for understanding your mind…

Concentration is one of the most skillful ways of engaging in becoming for the sake of going beyond becoming, because once the mind gets settled down, you can actually see the process: “This is how becoming happens in the mind.”

This knowledge arises on two levels. The first is when distractions come up. You see the distractions arise, how they take shape, and how you go into them. You realize: “This is how I take on an identity in the world of that distraction.”

The second level, which is deeper, is that you also understand how you take on a sense of becoming as you become a meditator, as you get the mind into concentration. You are inhabiting the whole body. The whole body is your world. You are the person who is focused on one spot and trying to gain a state of concentration.

This is a kind of becoming, and because it is quiet, because it is clear, it’s a becoming that you can understand as you’re doing it. And then, by understanding it, you can potentially get beyond becoming altogether.

But you need to do this first. This is a skill you have to master if you want to understand becoming well enough to transcend it.

These reflections by Ajaan Geoff are from the book, In the Elephant’s Footprint : Three Talks, “The Skills of Concentration,” (pdf) pp.25, 26.