Is Concentration Necessary for Enlightenment?I would like to know whether you consider achieving high levels of concentration necessary for enlightenment.
I have benefited immensely from reading your book and your responses here to questions within this group. Thank you.
I would like to know whether you consider achieving high levels of concentration necessary for enlightenment. Attainments of this kind seem to be a prerequisite for enlightenment in some methods of yoga and Buddhist teachings.
The short answer is ‘No.’
A more in depth answer would be this:
Concentration may have some benefit in gathering together the disparate and outward energies of the mind at one point.
In other words it withdraws the mind from what seems to be a multiplicity and diversity of objects to a single object.
As the focus of attention relaxes, this one object fades in intensity and ultimately disappears altogether, leaving only its source and substance, Consciousness, present and aware of itself alone, just as the fading of an image on a screen leaves only the screen, which is realised to be both the support and the substance of the image.
That which is giving attention, Consciousness, and that which is receiving attention, Being, are now realised to be one and the same. Consciousness realises it own Self. It knows its own Being.
This timeless, non-objective experience of Consciousness knowing its own Being is, in the Indian tradition, known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi, sometimes described as an absorption in a state where no objects are present.
However, such an interpretation by the mind of a ‘state,’ in which it was by definition not present, can be misunderstood. There is in fact no personal entity present, let alone ‘absorbed,’ in this timeless, non-objective experience. It the absence of a ‘person,’ but the presence of Consciousness.
This timeless, non-objective experience is the experience of Consciousness knowing itself directly as transparent, luminous Presence, prior to and independent of the mind or body. It is also known as peace and happiness. That is, it is the revelation of causeless peace or happiness that is itself the experience of Consciousness knowing its own Being. In other words, in this timeless, non-objective experience, Consciousness ceases to veil itself by taking the shape of a thought which identifies itself (Consciousness) exclusively with a body and comes, as a result, to ‘taste’ the peace and happiness that is inherent in its own nature. It sees its own face.
When the mind and the body reappear after this ‘absorption,’ the personal entity which they seem to constitute, imagines that it, ‘I,’ this personal entity, was present in this peaceful, happy state. By comparison to this state, the world of objects is deemed problematic and a desire to return to the transparent, presence of Consciousness initiates a new round of seeking, that is, a new round of rejecting the current appearance of objects.
In other words the peace and happiness that are inherent in the non-objective experience of Consciousness knowing its own Being, seems to be lost ‘on coming out of’ this absorption.
It is only a deeper exploration of our experience that reveals that Consciousness is in fact equally present and aware during the presence of objects as it is in their absence and, moreover, that the objects of the body, mind and world have no inherent power to disturb or obscure this peace and happiness.
This absorption without objects, or Consciousness’ direct knowing of its own Being, is sometimes known as Awakening or Enlightenment. The subsequent stabilisation of this understanding in all realms of experience (the mind, body and world) is sometimes known as Self-realisation.
Having said all that, the practise of concentration that leads, in some cases, to Consciousness becoming aware of itself in its own freedom and independence, is not what is being recommended here.
In fact it is rather the opposite: That element of our experience which is best known and most loved is Consciousness itself. Whenever we desire peace, happiness or love, it is this presence of Consciousness that is, as it were, longing for its own Self.
Once it has become clear through direct experience that this Consciousness that we intimately and directly know ourselves to be, is ever-present and independent of objects (whether or not these objects are appearing) there is no longer any need to try to get rid of these objects by any focussing of the attention.
If anything it is a relaxation rather than a focussing of the attention. However, it should be emphasised that this relaxation is brought about naturally, effortlessly and spontaneously through understanding rather than through any effort or discipline of the mind.
Only an object can be concentrated upon and Consciousness is not an object. Moreover Consciousness is ever-present and is therefore available to itself, as it were, at every single moment, irrespective of the particular characteristics of that moment.
Once it has been seen clearly that we are already and always Consciousness itself, and that the Consciousness we intimately and directly know ourselves to be is the Presence in which all appearances of the mind, body and world appear, then we simply take our stand knowingly as this Presence.
This Presence that we are is like an open, loving space which welcomes all things impartially into itself. Whether we know it or not, we are that, but now we take our stand there knowingly. Not we, a person, an entity, but rather ‘I,’ ‘We’ take our stand in and as our Self, as we are, this Knowing Presence.
If however, we still feel that we are a separate entity we can simply offer or surrender every appearance of the mind, body and world to this open, loving Presence. If we know ourselves to be this Presence we can simply welcome all appearances within our Self, without agenda. Surrendering or offering is, for the ‘person,’ what welcoming is for Presence. They amount to the same thing, because in surrendering or offering all appearances, the separate self, the primal object, is itself offered up.
As we take our stand as this Knowing Presence it becomes clearer and clearer, usually over a period of time, that we are not just the background, the witness of all experience but also its substance. In the path of wisdom or discrimination we come to know ourselves as ‘nothing,’ that is, no-thing, non-objective Knowing Presence prior to and independent of the mind, body and world. In the path of love we come to know ourselves as everything, the substance of all things.
As regards, the prerequisite for Enlightenment: as ‘Enlightenment’ is the timeless, non-objective experience of Consciousness knowing its own Being, the only prerequisite for such a knowing is Consciousness and Being. See clearly in your own intimate and direct experience that Consciousness and Being are ever-present, which means right now, in this very experience, they are shining. If you feel that Consciousness and Being are not present, that you are somehow separate from or other than this Knowing Presence, simply turn your heart and your mind towards it, towards that placeless place in your self that is the most intimate thing that you know. Remain there and allow it to reveal itself to you, that is, to itself. This turning round is the moment the prodigal son turns away from the world of objects towards the ‘father’ and is immediately met with the purple robe of Love. If the personal entity does anything at all, it simply turns around. Presence does everything else.