View Full Version : Meditation is stillness, not concentration

01 Feb 20, 17:04
A short talk from Ajahn Brahm (just over 7 minutes).


Any thoughs about what he said?


02 Feb 20, 10:37
Spot on with the stillness thing, but of course we can't get to the still point without strategies to get there. It took me many years to convince my brain that it was ok to just sit still and not worry about thoughts. To sit in stillness. Not without thoughts popping into my head but at a stage where they merely existed for a while then disappeared. Personally I think we then get back to a natural state of mind. I think back to hundreds of thousands of years ago, before complex civilizations, before all the accumulated knowledge took over our thinking. When we would sit for hours staring into a fire, or on a trail waiting for game to come along, or even undertaking simple tasks like collecting berries and stuff.

My thinking is that there is a natural resting state of the brain where we access what we really are. Unfortunately everything about our society, the knowledge we have to gain, the distractions provided for us, and so on mean that it's more difficult for us to get to that state. Consequently we have to train the brain in meditation and this means concentrating on strategies to do this, such as mindfulness of breathing. Then is the time to let go of concentrating and let the brain come to the stillness he was talking about. 'Right concentration' might be a better way of saying it.

For me it all goes back to the Kafka quote I'm so fond of: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

02 Feb 20, 10:50
To sit in stillness. Not without thoughts popping into my head but at a stage where they merely existed for a while then disappeared. Personally I think we then get back to a natural state of mind

Yes... I find the settling of thoughts and stillness is easier to access naturally, when I'm sitting in a quiet place ouside in the open air.

(Eyes still and focused on the space beyond the tip of the nose.)

03 Feb 20, 11:25
Yes... I find the settling of thoughts and stillness is easier to access naturally, when I'm in a quiet place ouside in the open air.

Me too. 'Just sitting' in a quiet garden or park or somewhere with open eyes but not settling on anything. Walking as well, but I tend to get involved in what's around me when I have to navigate woodland or climb over stiles or look out for cows and bulls. Personally I like being on a footpath where cows are grazing, but my wife keeps pointing out how many people a year are killed by cows rather than bulls...

03 Feb 20, 14:49
I think I vaguely understand what Ajahn Brahm ment by stillness, not concentration, especially after hearing about his experience while a novice monk with his Bhante'.

It took a long time (years) for me to experience the kind of mental silence of which he spoke, my personal need was to concentrate on my breath during mediation.

Another difficulty I experienced was pains in my joints while sitting, while using a near full, but mostly half-lotus posture. All my effort was some time spent on tolerating the pain I was experiencing, until I met a Bhikunni, who suggested I concentrate on comfort rather than trying to achieve an un-natural sitting posture, which few Westerners could ever hope to achieve, especially those of us with disconnected right hips from birth trauma / stresses, and sports injuries. After following the sister's recommendations I was able to increase my sitting time from 20 minutes to 4 and five hours at which time I experienced the peace of silence, that I had only previously known while walking stealthily in jungles of Philippines, Vietnam, and in national forests at home in The States. I didn't do much walking meditation in Japan, because I was stationed on the outskirts of cities.

26 May 20, 12:34
Looked up Samadhi on the internet
It states that Samadhi is a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation
And Jhanas is defined as the training of the mind, commonly translated as meditation

Meditation does sound like stillness.
When I started, someone told me that they could shut the mental voice for hours.
But, I do not believe meditation is only shutting off the inner dialogue?

Early on, I broke down meditation into two.
One part would do the breath in and out
The other part would watch
So, it became mechanical and boring
And would fall asleep. (Was told I snore very loudly):zzz::h-o-e:

When I do some sitting, there is pain in my lower back
And there is pain in my legs.
It is a big distraction.
Am able to get passed this by focusing on the breath.
(Or falling asleep):zzz::biglol:

I do not understand when, in the video, he states not concentration but stillness?
Doesn't one need both?
Maybe it just depends upon to what kind of group he is speaking to?

27 May 20, 10:07
I think he means that the word concentration has different shades of meaning, and that, taken the wrong way, it can mean that your meditation practice may be made more difficult if you use the 'wrong' concentration. Which is why some say that 'right' concentration is needed, as in 'right' effort. I would equate stillness and right concentration, but then again I would equate meditation to a cat sitting outside a mouse hole. Seemingly fully relaxed but ready to pounce at the slightest sign of mouse activity.

27 May 20, 20:03
I am not sure when and how the doubts about the word samadhi started. I don’t know all the various meanings attached to it in Buddhist literature but I can talk about two words from my knowledge of sanskrit and the usual contexts in which they are used.

The first word is “dhyana”. It means to pay attention to, be mindful of, lookout for, and similar situations. In daily usage, it is used for all sorts of banal activities. If done in a sustained and focussed manner, it is still dhyana but it is used usually with another word that means “to hold” .

Samadhi is a state of being. Typically achieved via dhyana. Etymology wise, it is either “sam” + “adhi”, or “sama” + “dhi”, which usually means ( together or balanced or in equilibrium )+ ( mind or intellect or consciousness) depending on the context in which it is used. Unlike the word dhyana, which can be momentary, sustained, focussed or open awareness type, samadhi always is a sustained state. The word itself has no implications about how it was achieved - via concentration efforts or gentle awareness.

The usage in Buddhist literature seems to have a different meaning since we have these numbered jhanas. Generally speaking, pre-Buddhist notion of samadhi was a state of mind undisturbed and unperturbed by any sense signals. One could be focussed on a specific mental object or not in that state. What one did in that state was a secondary issue. When I first read about the jhanas, my initial impression was that fourth or fifth jhana onwards sounded like a samadhi state, but I could be totally wrong because I have no experience of what happens in each jhana.

27 May 20, 20:54
The Pali equivalent to the Sanskrit word "dhyana" is "jhana", and the meaning of "samadhi" in the Nyanatiloka Buddhist Dictionary is "concentration" or "one pointedness of mind".

There's also a section about "samma samadhi" (right concentration) at the Access to Insight website.


Regarding "stillness," some information can be found in Lesson Two 'Movement and Stillness' of Ajahn Amaro's book "Finding the Missing Peace - A Primer of Buddhist Meditation".



28 May 20, 06:37
and here's Bhikkhu Bodhi talking about samadhi for a minute.


28 May 20, 15:40
To add to the resources, here is Ajahn Chah talking about samadhi:


audio version: