Samadhi is a Sanskrit term usually translated as concentration. I have some problem with that definition, though, because it implies fixing mind on something else, like an object or the breath. In my experience, Samadhi is more about collecting or holding mind than focusing it on something. Practicing it correctly we don’t attach mind to something in a subject/object relationship, but continue to BE mind without distraction. When we achieve that we are practicing true Samadhi.

For a long time in meditation I worked with what’s commonly called moving mind, meaning the thoughts and emotions that arise in consciousness. I would look at these occurrences and observe that they were empty or use them as reminders to return to the mind where they originated. The problem with that approach, however, was the great number of occurrences and the speed with which they entered mind. It was impossible to keep track of most of them, so they easily stole my awareness, entering me into strings of continuous thoughts that occupied my attention. Samadhi changed all that.

With Samadhi, we allow thoughts, emotions, and pictures in our head to do whatever they wish. Our goal is to hold the mind they arise in, and not become fascinated with its activities. It’s like ignoring the waves and paying attention to the ocean beneath. My teacher compared it to walking through a crowd. In a crowd, many people are talking and brushing against us, but we don’t pay attention to them. We don’t stop and talk or let ourselves be distracted from where we are going, we continue on our way. It’s the same with mind when practicing Samadhi.

My teacher also compared the activities of mind to ripples on a pond, meaning they were minor in comparison with the size and presence of the pond. The activities of mind compared to its vastness are like those ripples and should not distract us from greater mind. With Samadhi we remain in the vastness and bliss of mind.

No matter what our level of insight on the Buddhist path, we will not enjoy it if we can’t contact it. We can be highly realized, but our insight will never inform our lives if we are unable to access and remain in that state. Samadhi is the means for doing that. Using it to hold us in insight, we derive complete benefit from what we have realized both for ourselves and others.

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