This week's theme for The Teachings of the Buddha is “Mastering the Mind.”—editor's note
Having presented a broad overview of the world-transcending path in the previous chapter, in this chapter and the next I intend to focus more specifically on two aspects of this path as described in the Nikāyas, meditation and wisdom. As we have seen, the gradual training is divided into the three sections of moral discipline, concentration, and wisdom (see pp. 225–26). Moral discipline begins with the observance of precepts, which anchor one’s actions in principles of conscientious behavior and moral restraint. The undertaking of precepts—for the Nikāyas, particularly the full code of monastic precepts—is called the training in the higher moral discipline (adhisīlasikkhā). Moral discipline, consistently observed, infuses the mind with the purifying force of moral virtue, generating joy and deeper confidence in the Dhamma.
Established upon moral discipline, the disciple takes up the practice of meditation, intended to stabilize the mind and clear away the obstacles to the unfolding of wisdom. Because meditation elevates the mind beyond its normal level, this phase of practice is called the training in the higher mind (adhicittasikkhā). Because it brings inner stillness and quietude, it is also called the development of serenity (samathabhāvanā). Successful practice results in deep concentration or mental unification (samādhi), also known as internal serenity of mind (ajjhattaṃ cetosamatha). The most eminent types of concentration recognized in the Nikāyas are the four jhānas, which constitute right concentration (sammā samādhi) of the Noble Eightfold Path. Beyond the jhānas lie the four formless attainments (arūpasamāpatti), which carry the process of mental unification to still subtler levels.
To continue reading the introduction to “Mastering the Mind,” click here.