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The Noble Eightfold Path -- the Buddha's prescription for attaining enlightenment -- is familiar. We have some idea what is meant by right speech, right action, right livelihood, and so forth. And we know that these are very important.
However, the one factor of the path that is often shortchanged is the eighth fold: Right Concentration. Here the Wanderling seeks to explain what "right concentration" is, how to practice it, and the role it plays on the road to enlightenment.
Right concentration (samma samadhi) is explicitly defined in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (DN 22) and in other sutras (e.g., Saccavibhanga Sutta, MN 141) as jhanic meditation:
And what is right concentration? Here a [meditator] -- secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind -- enters and remains in the first jhana, which is filled with rapture and joy born of seclusion accompanied by initial and sustained attention. With the stilling of initial and sustained attention, by gaining inner tranquility and oneness of mind, one enters and remains in the second jhana, which is without initial and sustained attention, born of concentration, and filled with rapture and joy. With the fading away of rapture, remaining imperturbable, mindful, and clearly aware, one enters and remains in the third jhana, and of such a person the Noble Ones declare, "Equanimous and mindful, one has a pleasant abiding." With the abandoning of pleasure and pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation and distress -- one enters and remains in the fourth jhana, which is beyond pleasure and pain and purified by equanimity and mindfulness. This is called right concentration.
Therefore, the jhanas are at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching. This fact is presented in not only one important sutra but in many as well as in commentaries and in personal meditation instructions with living masters...