This talk was given during the White Tara Winter Retreat at Sravasti Abbey.
- A rounded and complete picture of how to generate concentration
- The benefits of concentration
- Making effort to practice
White Tara Retreat 29: Concentration fault of laziness (download)
We have finished talking about the five hindrances to concentration. Those hindrances are presented both in the Pali texts and the Mahayana texts. However, Maitreya and Asanga, in their Mahayana texts, presented a list of five faults to concentration and eight antidotes. There’s some overlap between these two sets of the five hindrances and the five faults. But there are also some differences so it’s good to go through both sets. This then gives us a rounded, complete picture of how to generate concentration.
With the five faults, the first fault is laziness. We know that one. You can’t get to the cushion to meditate. Or if you get there, like what we were talking about yesterday, you figure it’s a long session so you can enjoy your distractions for a while before getting to what you are supposed to meditate on.
Four antidotes to laziness
You know that applying the antidote is not so pleasant, so we don’t do it. But you know basically it’s just hard to do the practice. We always think, “Well, I’ll do it later.” There are antidotes for that. The first is to develop faith or confidence in the value and benefit of developing concentration. To develop that confidence, you have to learn about what are the benefits of concentration.
One of the benefits is that it makes your mind much more workable. Whatever object you decide to focus it on, whatever virtuous object, you can keep your mind there and really train your mind well in those qualities or in that topic. That is one of the chief benefits of developing concentration. Concentration is also a good antidote for a restless, disturbed mind. It enables you, as you enter into the meditative absorptions, to temporarily abandon or suppress the varied manifest gross forms of afflictions. It makes the mind very calm and very peaceful, which is relaxing and certainly appealing.
There are many benefits like this that come from developing concentration. We have to learn those benefits and then think about them. That helps us to develop confidence, which is the first antidote to laziness.
The second antidote to laziness is—you don’t just leave it at the level of confidence in the value of attaining samadhi or serenity, but you have to aspire to attain it. So, it’s not like, “Oh yes, those are all those nice benefits, leave it at that.” Rather it’s like, “I want to gain those benefits, so I want to make that part of my practice.” The second antidote is an aspiration.
This leads you to the third antidote which is making an effort. We have to make an effort to practice. All the meditations and the antidotes and all these kinds of things, are able to generate serenity. It is not going to come just because we have confidence and aspiration, we have to generate effort.
Effort leads to the development of what is called pliancy or responsiveness. This is serviceability or a fitness of both the body and mind. At the lower level, because we are training, we don’t have much of this; but when you actually attain serenity then the body becomes very cooperative. You don’t have to fight against it. It doesn’t ache and complain all the time.
The mind also becomes very cooperative. You can lead it to a virtuous topic. It will stay there as long as you want it to. So there’s a sense of well-being in body and mind that really facilitates it. Of course when there’s pliancy, then laziness is gone.
That’s the first fault and it has those four antidotes of: confidence, aspiration, effort, and pliancy or responsiveness. In the future days I will cover the other faults and their antidotes.
Daily practice and developing samadhi
This set of five faults is for developing samadhi. Of course, we need some of these factors also to do our daily practices. Why? Because our daily practices are involving both stabilizing meditation (which is on the side of samadhi) and analytic meditation (which is on the side of insight). So some of these factors we need in our daily practice as well. For example, to do your daily practice, you need confidence that doing your daily practice is going to bring some benefit. Then you need an aspiration to attain that benefit. You need effort to do the practice. From that, then you begin to derive the benefit—your body and mind become more cooperative.