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Samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ - how deeply concentrated?

samadhi
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#1

I was recently put onto this phrase by someone in a context in which it did not actually appear! But it’s an interesting phrase. I hope this discussion will reveal how deep or not, concentration is in this phrase. I hope we can discuss!

In Snp 2.11 we have:

Saṃvuto pātimokkhasmiṃ,
indriyesu ca pañcasu;
Sati kāyagatā tyatthu,
nibbidābahulo bhava.

By Pāṭimokkha stay restrained
and by the five sense faculties,
practise bodily mindfulness
to be dispassionate.

Nimittaṃ parivajjehi,
subhaṃ rāgūpasañhitaṃ;
Asubhāya cittaṃ bhāvehi,
ekaggaṃ susamāhitaṃ.

Avoid those objects beautiful,
which may be linked with lust,
on the unlovely, one-pointed,
well-concentrated, grow the mind.

Animittañca bhāvehi,
Mānānusayamujjaha;
Tato mānābhisamayā,
Upasanto carissatī”ti.

Develop then the signless state,
with tendency to pride let go—
by fully understanding it,
truly as peaceful you will fare.

I’m curious on the expanded definition of ‘one-pointed’ here. Is it so one-pointed that there is no multiplicity of sense experience, as in jhāna? The verse lies in between mindfulness of body, which could include that multiplicity, and the signless state. So it seems to me from the context unclear where it lies in the spectrum.

In AN 4.12 we have the following:

Suppose a mendicant has got rid of desire and ill will while walking, and has given up dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is immersed in samādhi. Such a mendicant is said to be ‘keen and prudent, always energetic and determined’ when walking.

Carato cepi, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno abhijjhābyāpādo vigato hoti, thinamiddhaṃ
… uddhaccakukkuccaṃ … vicikicchā pahīnā hoti, āraddhaṃ hoti vīriyaṃ asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ, carampi, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṃbhūto ‘ātāpī ottāpī satataṃ samitaṃ āraddhavīriyo pahitatto’ti vuccati.

I am surprised with Ajahn Sujato’s translation ’ immersed in samādhi’. Can anyone explain that? Since samādhi is not mentioned in the Pāli.

If it were samādhi, would we not assume that there is no possibility to walk? Or are there specifically some non-jhāna, non-immaterial attainment samādhis?
I’m guessing that @sujato got samādhi from samāhitaṃ, or perhaps the whole phrase? But the PED gives this for samāhita:

  1. collected (of mind), settled, composed, firm, attentive

buddha-vacana.org Translates this phrase as “his mind is concentrated and unified” I feel that I can see that in the Pāli far clearer. It seems to have the potential for a much broader meaning.

This sutta has no reference to jhāna or samādhi. And since he is talking about walking and standing, there must be sense perception, which by nature is diverse, in order to regulate balance through muscle control regulated by sense awareness of balance, not to mention also looking where you’re going! For that reason, can we not assume that it is ‘unified’ in a certain sense, perhaps as in not being fragmented with overtones of guilt from past deeds, worries about anticipated futures and so on, and rather a clearly focused awareness on the multiplicity of sensual awareness of the present, in particular perhaps the present feelings in the body and its present situation of walking, or sitting etc.?

Then we have SN 35.134 (sorry for the inappropriate paragraph breaks, that’s what happens from copying and pasting from suttacentral for some reason):

I say that, when it comes to the six fields of contact, mendicants do have work to do with diligence if they are trainees, who haven’t achieved their heart’s desire, but live aspiring to the supreme sanctuary.
Ye ca
kho te, bhikkhave, bhikkhū sekkhā appattamānasā anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ patthayamānā viharanti, tesāhaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu appamādena karaṇīyanti
vadāmi.
Why is that?
Taṃ kissa hetu?
There are sights known by the eye that are pleasant and also those that are unpleasant.
Santi,
bhikkhave, cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā manoramāpi, amanoramāpi.
Though experiencing them again and again they don’t occupy the mind.
Tyāssa
phussa phussa cittaṃ na pariyādāya tiṭṭhanti.
Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is immersed in samādhi.
Cetaso apariyādānā
āraddhaṃ hoti vīriyaṃ asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ
ekaggaṃ.
Seeing this fruit of diligence, I say that those mendicants have work to do with diligence when it comes to the six fields of contact. …
Imaṃ khvāhaṃ, bhikkhave, appamādaphalaṃ
sampassamāno tesaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ chasu phassāyatanesu appamādena karaṇīyanti vadāmi
… pe …
There are thoughts known by the mind that are pleasant and also those that are unpleasant.
santi,
bhikkhave, manoviññeyyā dhammā manoramāpi amanoramāpi.
Though experiencing them again and again they don’t occupy the mind.
Tyāssa phussa
phussa cittaṃ na pariyādāya tiṭṭhanti.
Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is immersed in samādhi.
Cetaso
apariyādānā āraddhaṃ hoti vīriyaṃ asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ.

Here it seems quite clear that they are experiencing sense input, and also thoughts. Is samādhi ever explained like that? Surely it excludes jhāna and immaterial absorption, since these cannot occur there, right? And we cannot say that it’s the kind of one-pointedness where only the object chosen is arising in the mind. Because we have other things appearing spontaneously - thoughts and sense input, and a great deal of the latter if you’re walking!

We find the following in AN 5.151:

Someone with five qualities is able to enter the sure path with regards to skillful qualities when listening to the true teaching.
Pañcahi,
bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato suṇanto saddhammaṃ bhabbo niyāmaṃ okkamituṃ
kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṃ.
What five?
Katamehi pañcahi?
They don’t disparage the talk, the speaker, or themselves. They listen with undistracted and unified mind. They attend properly.
Na kathaṃ paribhoti, na kathikaṃ paribhoti,
na attānaṃ paribhoti, avikkhittacitto dhammaṃ suṇāti, ekaggacitto yoniso ca manasi karoti.ayoniso ca manasi karoti.

We don’t have samāhita here, which is I guess why Ajahn Sujato has translated it so differently here. However, this situation is one where one is attentive to sense expernience, in this case listening to words and probably also looking at the non-verbal communication of the teacher. Just so, in the previous sutta, one is also attentive to sense experience.

It might be that the former was talking about walking while not engaging the intellectual side of the mind, and so it could be considered that one can become a bit more concentrated like that, more focused on physical sensation for example, and perhaps that is why samāhita becomes more appropriate. But in both cases, while the mind might be focused on one point (or more like one ‘field’ (the teacher teaching, or the sensual experience of walking) rather than distractingly hopping from one to another or lost in thought; it is aware of aware to multiplicity since the field itself contains multiplicity, whether that be the diversity of sense input in walking, or listening to and digesting a dhamma teaching.

So might this ekaggacitto refer rather than to a totally unified mind which only experiences one object; rather, basically ‘undivided attention’. I think undivided perhaps captures ekagga well! Even etymologically, ‘one’ being ‘undivided’, i.e. not divided into two or more. And it is a common English expression, readily understood. I have the sense that perhaps it is also the meaning of the Pāli - listening to a dhamma teaching with undivided attention. Is there anything lacking in that English which is present in the Pāli?

The mind is not unified like in samādhi (such as jhāna) - not that extreme. But that seems how extreme the highly unusual (for common English) and therefore seemingly specifically technical expression of a ‘unified’ mind is (for ekaggacitto) - not the kind of attention English people are familiar with, since there has evidently been a need to make an unusual expression to exress it with, which implies a more profound type of attention that English culture is familiar with. That would apply to deep concentration states such as in jhāna, for example, and so this suggests to me that that kind of special depth is being referenced. And this seems to be confirmed by the expanded term ’ samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ’ becoming their mind is immersed in samādhi.

But still, one is totally focused, undistractedly, even among the multiplicity of sense input, whether from the 5 senses or from the mind sense, with thought as we saw in the walking practice.

If ‘undivided’ is liked, it could be:

They don’t disparage the talk, the speaker, or themselves. They listen with undistracted undivided attention . They attend properly.
Na kathaṃ paribhoti, na kathikaṃ paribhoti,
na attānaṃ paribhoti, avikkhittacitto dhammaṃ suṇāti, ekaggacitto yoniso ca manasi karoti.ayoniso ca manasi karoti.

I know this gives the problem of attention+attend. Also aware that some might not like the sudden introduction of ‘attention’ - but I am wondering not word for word, but as a sentence, this comes closer to overall Pāli meaning for a natural English reader?

Could even me something like:

They don’t disparage the talk, the speaker, or themselves. They listen with undistracted minds, giving their undivided attention . They attend properly.

Putting this understanding back into In AN 4.12, replacing ‘mind is immersed in samādhi’ we may get something like this:

Suppose a mendicant has got rid of desire and ill will while walking, and has given up dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is settled in [/,with] undivided attention. Such a mendicant is said to be ‘keen and prudent, always energetic and determined’ when walking.

Carato cepi, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno abhijjhābyāpādo vigato hoti, thinamiddhaṃ
… uddhaccakukkuccaṃ … vicikicchā pahīnā hoti, āraddhaṃ hoti vīriyaṃ asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ , carampi, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṃbhūto ‘ātāpī ottāpī satataṃ samitaṃ āraddhavīriyo pahitatto’ti vuccati.

I want to just say that I have challenged the translation of quite a few words, and I hope I don’t come across as being critical. I am doing it so as to try to deepen my understanding of the Pāli, and am very very grateful for this amazing forum and wonderful Suttacentral translations, and all these discussions, for helping me to understand the teachings. Also, I love to be told that I’m wrong (if it comes with an explanation why!) So please don’t be shy to correct me or show my mistakes - that’s very valuable to me.


Ekagga vs Ekodibhāva
#2

I think “undivided attention” is worth consideration here, ie not being distracted - and that requires a mind which is composed and collected (samahita). So when walking, just focus on walking, when listening to a talk, just focus on the talk, and so on. Perhaps comparable to sticking with one frame at a time when practising satipatthana.


#3

It takes a great deal of practical experience to understand what the words mean. Every step of the Mindfulness of breath sutta could be seen as a gradual deepening of one-pointedness, ending with ‘release of mind’ in the 12th step, into the first jhana.


#4

Thanks for those suggestions. Indeed, these passages are a little tricky to translate; knowing where to put the weight between consistency and context is never easy.

I discussed such passages in A Swift Pair of Messengers, if anyone is interested.

Samāhita is the past participle of samādhi, so generally it would mean “immersed in samādhi”. The meaning in central doctrinal contexts is straightforward—it always refers to the deep immersion of the four jhanas. But in verse and occasional prose passages it sometimes has a looser, more colloquial meaning. “Settled” or “composed” or “stilled” would work well there.

I also like “undivided”, and I’ll keep this in mind as I revise my translations.


#5

You’re welcome! Sorry that I’ve taken so long to respond - I’ve been busy so only commenting on things which require less attention lately.

Ah thank you. I found another verse example also - Thi Ap 13

“Nagare bandhumatiyā,
kumbhadāsī ahosahaṃ;
Mama bhāgaṃ gahetvāna,
gacchaṃ udakahārikā

Panthamhi samaṇaṃ disvā,
santacittaṃ samāhitaṃ;
Pasannacittā sumanā,
modake tīṇidāsahaṃ.

J. Walters translation:

In the city, Bandhumatī,
I was a water-jug slave-girl.
After receiving my wages,
I went with a water-fetcher.

Having seen a monk on the road,
attentive with a well-calmed heart,
happy, with pleasure in my heart,
I gave the monk three sweetmeats then.

It would seem the monk may be walking, or standing begging. Either way it seems to have this same meaning of being attentive to a field of experience.

Here’s another verse example, in which Samiddhi is speaking, so it would seem more likely to me that she (?) is talking about the state of her mind at the moment of talking:

Then Samiddhi addressed Māra the Wicked One in verse:
Atha kho āyasmā samiddhi māraṃ pāpimantaṃ gāthāya ajjhabhāsi:

“I went forth out of faith
“Saddhāyāhaṃ pabbajito,

from the lay life to homelessness.
agārasmā anagāriyaṃ;

My mindfulness and wisdom are mature,
Sati paññā ca me buddhā,

my mind is serene in immersion.
cittañca susamāhitaṃ;

Make whatever illusions you want,
Kāmaṃ
karassu rūpāni,

it won’t bother me.”
neva maṃ byādhayissasī”ti.

She can’t be speaking while ‘in immersion’. But her mind being ’ settled in [/,with] undivided attention’ would make a lot of sense. She’s calm and collected, and will not be disturbed.

I’ve had a little search of verse examples. In AN 3.130 we have the same as above but in a different context:

My energy is roused up and unflagging, my mindfulness is established and lucid, my body is tranquil and undisturbed, and my mind is immersed in samādhi.

Āraddhaṃ kho pana me vīriyaṃ asallīnaṃ,
upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho,
samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ.

But my mind is not freed from the defilements by not grasping.”
Atha ca pana me nānupādāya āsavehi cittaṃ vimuccatī”ti.

This would seem to still make perfect sense if it were ‘my mind is settled in [/,with] undivided attention’. That would make it refer to the present just as the statement about mindfulness and wisdom is also referring to the present. It’s the result of the practice, it would seem to me, rather than a state of immersion. Also you cannot have those thoughts while in a state of immersion.

Then AN 3.128:

While the Buddha was walking for alms near the cow-hitching place at the wavy leaf fig, he saw a disgruntled monk who was looking for pleasure in external things, unmindful, without situational awareness or immersion, with straying mind and undisciplined faculties.

Addasā kho bhagavā goyogapilakkhasmiṃ piṇḍāya caramāno aññataraṃ
bhikkhuṃ rittassādaṃ bāhirassādaṃ muṭṭhassatiṃ asampajānaṃ asamāhitaṃ vibbhantacittaṃ pākatindriyaṃ.

If the monk is hanging about in town, it seems very odd to report that he’s not in a deep state of immersion. It seems far more natural that this was an observation of his way of being. Every other item seems to be. How about this:

he saw a disgruntled monk who was looking for pleasure in external things, unmindful, without situational awareness, unsettled, with straying mind and undisciplined faculties.

Or even ‘[his mind/heart] unsettled’.

The above are the examples I’ve found so far. Are there any where we can see that it refers to the four jhānas? Because I can see no evidence in these examples that they are referring to that.

Is there any evidence to suggest that this idea is wrong: that used in the form samāhita it means settled, in the sense of a relatively tranquil mind that may be open to a field of multiplicitous experience such as walkign around or thinking; and takes on a more specific meaning when in the form samādhi?

To me this makes potential sense hypothetically at least. If we ordinarily talk of calm, then is we come upon a state that is extraordinary, but primarily characterised by extreme calm (among other things), then I might name that state after that ordinary kind of calm. I might even start calling it ‘calmness’, and then have that be more specific in meaning that when I usually say ‘I feel calm’, ‘I calmed my mind’; making the attainment of ‘calmness’ a related but specifically different thing, a more specific thing.

If this fits with only the examples I’ve given, but is contradicted by examples where samāhita can’t merely mean settled, I will surely take that on board.