The Word of The Buddha
An Outline of the teachings of the Buddha in the words of the Pali canon
Compiled, translated, and explained by Nyanatiloka

Right Concentration (Sammaa-samaadhi)

M. 44

What, now, is Right Concentration?

Its Definition

Having the mind fixed to a single object (cittekeggataa, lit. `One-pointedness of mind'): this is concentration.

`Right Concentration' (sammaa-samaadhi), in its widest sense, is the kind of mental concentration which is present in every wholesome state of consciousness (kusala-citta), and hence is accompanied by at least Right Thought (2nd factor), Right Effort (6th factor) and Right Mindfulness (7th factor). `Wrong Concentration' is present in unwholesome states of consciousness, and hence is only possible in the sensuous, not in a higher sphere. Samaadhi, used alone, always stands in the Sutta, for sammaa-samaadhi, or Right Concentration.

Its Objects

The four `Foundations of Mindfulness' (7th factor): these are the objects of concentration.

Its Requisites

The four `Great Efforts' (6th factor): these are the requisites for concentration.

Its Development

The practising, developing and cultivating of these things: this is the development (bhaavanaa) of concentration.

Right Concentration (sammaa-samaadhi) has two degrees of development; 1. `Neighborhood Concentration' (upacaarasamaadhi). which approaches the first absorption without, however, attaining it; 2. `Attainment Concentration' (appanaasamaadhi), which is the concentration present in the four Absorptions (jhaana). These Absorptions are mental states beyond the reach of the fivefold sense-activity, attainable only in solitude and by unremitting perseverance in the practice of concentration. In these states all activity of the five senses is suspended. No visual or audible impressions arise at such a time, no bodily feeling is felt. But, although all outer sense-impressions have ceased, yet the mind remains active, perfectly alert, fully awake.

The attainment of these Absorptions, however, is not a requisite for the realization of the four Supermundane Paths of Holiness; and neither Neighborhood-Concentration nor Attainment-Concentration, as such, possesses the power of conferring entry to the four Supermundane Paths: hence they really have no power to free one permanently from evil things. The realization of the Four Supermundane Paths is possible only at the moment of deep `Insight' (vipassanaa) into the Impermanency (aniccataa), Miserable Nature (dukkhataa) and Impersonality (anattataa) of this whole phenomenal process of existence. This Insight, again, is attainable only during Neighborhood-Concentration, not during Attainment Concentration.

He who has realized one or other of the Four Supermundane Paths without ever having attained the Absorptions, is called Sukkha-vipassaka, or Suddhavipassanaa-yaanika, i.e. `one who has taken merely Insight (vipassanaa) as his vehicle'. He, however, who, after cultivating the Absorptions, has reached one of the Supermundane Paths is called Saniathayaanika, or `one who has taken Tranquillity (samatha) as his vehicle (yaana)'.

For samatha and vipassanaa see Fund IV. and B. Diet.

The Four Absorptions (jhaana)


Detached from sensual objects, detached from evil things, the disciple enters into the first Absorption, which is accompanied by Thought Conception and Discursive Thinking, is born of detachment, and filled with Rapture and Happiness.

This is the first of the Absorptions belonging to the Fine-Material Sphere (rupaavacarajjhaana). It is attained when, through the strength of concentration, the fivefold sense activity is temporarily suspended, and the five Hindrances are likewise eliminated.

See B. Dict.: kasina, nimitta, samaadhi.


M. 43

This first Absorption is free from five things, and five things are present. When the disciple enters the first Absorption, there have vanished (the five Hindrances): Lust, Ill-Will, Torpor and Sloth, Restlessness and Mental Worry, Doubts; and there are present: Thought Conception (vitakka), Discursive Thinking (vicaara), Rapture (piiti), Happiness (sukha), Concentration (citt'ekaggataa = samaadhi).

These five mental factors present in the first Absorption, are called Factors (or Constituents) of Absorption (jhaananga). Vitakka (initial formation of an abstract thought) and vicaara (discursive thinking, rumination) are called `verbal functions' (vaci-sankhaara) of the mind; hence they are something secondary compared with consciousness.

In Visuddhi-Magga, vitakka is compared with the taking hold of a pot, and vicaara with the wiping of it. In the first Absorption both are present, but are exclusively focussed on the subject of meditation, vicaara being here not discursive, but of an `exploring' nature. Both are entirely absent in the following Absorptions.


And further: after the subsiding of Thought-Conception and Discursive Thinking, and by the gaining of inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, he enters into a state free from Thought-Conception and Discursive Thinking, the second Absorption, which is born of concentration (samaadhi), and filled with Rapture (piti) and Happiness (sukha).

In the second Absorption, there are three Factors of Absorption: Rapture, Happiness, and Concentration.

And further: after the fading away of Rapture, he dwells in equanimity, mindful, with clear awareness: and he experiences in his own person that feeling of which the Noble Ones say: `Happy lives he who is equanimous and mindful'-thus he enters the third Absorption.

In the third Absorption there are two Factors of Absorption: equanimous Happiness (upekkhaa-sukha) and Concentration (citt'ekaggataa).

And further: after the giving up of pleasure and pain, and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into a state beyond pleasure and pain, into the fourth Absorption, which is purified by equanimity and mindfulness.

In the fourth Absorption there are two Factors of Absorp-tion: Concentration and Equanimity (upekkhaa).

In Visuddhi-magga forty subjects of meditation (kamma.t.thaana) are enumerated and treated in detail. By their successful practice the following Absorptions may be attained:

All four Absorptions. through Mindfulness of Breathing (see Vis. M. VIII. 3), the ten Kasina-exercises (Vis. M. IV, V. and B. Dict.); the contemplation of Equanimity (upekkhaa), being the practice of the fourth Brahma-vihaara (Vis. M. IX. 4).

The first three Absorptions: through the development of Loving-Kindness (mettaa), Compassion (karunaa) and Sympathetic Joy (muditaa), being the practice of the first three Brahma-vihaaras (Vis. M. IX. 1-3,).

The first Absorption: through the ten Contemplations of Impurity (asubha-bhaavanaa; i.e. the Cemetery Contemplations, which are ten according to the enumeration in Vis. M. VI); the contemplation of the Body (i.e. the 32 parts of the body; Vis. M. VIII, 2); `Neighborhood-Concentration' (upacaara-samaadhi): through the Recollections on Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, on Morality, Liberality, Heavenly Beings, Peace (=Nibbaana) and death (Vis. M. VI. VII); the Contemplation on the Loathsomeness of Food (Vis. M. XI. I); the Analysis of the Four Elements (Vis. M. IX. 2).

The four Immaterial Absorptions (aruupa-jjhaana or aaruppa), which are based on the fourth Absorption, are produced by meditating on their respective objects from which they derive their names; Sphere of Unbounded Space, of Unbounded Consciousness, of Nothingness, and of Neither-Perception-Nor-Non-Perception.

The entire object of concentration and meditation is treated in Vis M. III-XIII; see also Fund. IV.


8. XXII. 5

Develop your concentration: for he who has concentration, understands things according to their reality. And what are these things? The arising and passing away of corporeality, of feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness.

M. 149

Thus, these five Groups of Existence must be wisely penetrated; Ignorance and Craving must be wisely abandoned; Tranquillity (samatha) and Insight (vipassanaa) must be wisely developed.


This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has discovered, which makes one both to see and to know, and which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nibbaana.

Dhp. 275

"And following upon this path, you will put an end to suffering.

Gradual Development of the Eightfold Path in the Progress of the Disciple

Confidence and Right Thought (Second Factor)

M. 38

Suppose a householder, or his son, or someone reborn in a good family, hears the law; and after hearing the law he is filled with confidence in the Perfect One. And filled with this confidence, he thinks: `Full of hindrances is household life, a refuse heap; but the homeless life (of a monk) is like the open air. Not easy is it, when one lives at home, to fulfil in all points the rules of the holy life. How if now I were to cut off hair and beard, put on the yellow robe and go forth from home to the homeless life?' And in a short time, having given up his possessions, great or little, having forsaken a large or small circle of relations, he cuts off hair and beard, puts on the yellow robe, and goes forth from home to the homeless life.

Morality (Third, Fourth, Fifth Factor)

Having thus left the world, he fulfils the rules of the monks. He avoids the killing of living beings and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is desirous of the welfare of all living beings.- He avoids stealing, and abstains from taking what is not given to him. Only what is given to him he takes, waiting till it is given; and he lives with a heart honest and pure.- He avoids unchastity, living chaste, celibate and aloof from the vulgar practice of sexual intercourse.- He avoids lying and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, no deceiver of men.- He avoids tale-bearing and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there, he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided, and those that are united he encourages; concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words.- He avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.- He avoids vain talk and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the law and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate and full of sense.

He takes food only at one time of the day (forenoon), abstains from food in the evening, does not eat at improper times. He leeps aloof from dance, song, music and the visiting of shows; rejects flowers, perfumes, ointment, as well as every kind of adornment and embellishment. High and gorgeous beds he does not use. Gold and silver he does not accept.- He does not accept raw corn and flesh, women and girls, male and female slaves, or goats, sheep, fowls, pigs, elephants, cows or horses, or land and goods. He does not go on errands and do the duties of a messenger. He eschews buying and selling things. He has nothing to do with false measures, metals and weights. He avoids the crooked ways of bribery, deception and fraud. He has no part in stabbing, beating, chaining, attacking. plundering and oppressing.

He contents himself with the robe that protects his body, and with the alms bowl by means of which he keeps himself alive. Wherever he goes. he is provided with these two things; just as a winged bird in flying carries his wings along with him. By fulfilling this noble Domain of Morality (siila-kkhandha) he feels in his heart an irreproachable happiness.

Control of the Senses (Sixth Factor)

Now, in perceiving a form with the eye- a sound with the ear- an odour with the nose- a taste with the tongue- an impression with the body- an object with the mind, he cleaves neither to the whole, nor to its details. And he tries to ward off that which should he be unguarded in his senses, might give rise to evil and unwholesome states, to greed and sorrow; he watches over his senses, keeps his senses under control. By practising this noble `Control of the Senses' (indriya-sa.mvara) he feels in his heart an unblemished happiness.

Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension (Seventh Factor)

He is mindful and acts with clear comprehension when going and coming; when looking forward and backward; when bending and stretching his limbs; when wearing his robes and alms-bowl; when eating, drinking, chewing and tasting; when discharging excrement and urine: when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and awakening; when speaking and keeping silent.

Now being equipped with this lofty `Morality' (siila), equipped with this noble `Control of the Senses' (indriya-sa.mvara), and filled with this noble, `Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension' (sati-sampajaŮŮa), he chooses a secluded dwelling in the forest, at the foot of a tree, on a mountain, in a cleft, in a rock cave, on a burial ground, on a wooded table-land, in the open air, or on a heap of straw. Having returned from his alms-round, after the meal, he seats himself with legs crossed, body erect, with mindfulness fixed before him.

Absence of the Five Hindrances (

He has cast away `Lust' (kaamacchanda); he dwells with a heart free from lust; from lust he cleanses his heart.

He has cast away `Ill-will' (vyaapaada); he dwells with a heart free from ill-will; cherishing love and compassion toward all living beings, he cleanses his heart from ill-will.

He has cast away `Torpor and Sloth' (thiinamiddha); he dwells free from torpor and sloth; loving the light, with watchful mind, with clear comprehension, he cleanses his mind from torpor and sloth.

He has cast away `Restlessness and Mental Worry' (uddhacca-kukkucca); dwelling with mind undisturbed, with heart full of peace, he cleanses his mind from restlessness and mental worry.

He has cast away `Doubt' (vicikicchaa); dwelling free from doubt, full of confidence in the good, he cleanses his heart from doubt.

The Absorptions (Eighth Factor)

He has put aside these five `Hindrances' (, the corruptions of the mind which paralyse wisdom. And far from sensual impressions, far from evil things, he enters into the Four Absorptions (jhaana).

Insight (vipassanaa) (First Factor)

A. IX. 36

But whatsoever there is of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, or consciousness: all these phenomena he regards as `impermanent' (anicca), `subject to pain' (dukkha). as infirm, as an ulcer, a thorn, a misery, a burden, an enemy, a disturbance, as empty and `void of an Ego' (anattaa); and turning away from these things, he directs his mind towards the Deathless thus; `This, truly, is Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all Karma formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, Nibbaana. And in this state he reaches the `cessation of passions' (aasavakkhaya).


M. 39

And his heart becomes free from sensual passion (kaam'aasava), free from the passion for existence (bhav'aasava), free from the passion of ignorance (avijj'aasava), `Freed am I!' this knowledge arises in the liberated one ; and he knows: `Exhausted is rebirth, fulfilled the Holy Life; what was to be done, has been done; naught remains more for this world to do'.

M. 26
For ever am I liberated.
This is the last time that I'm born,
No new existence waits for me.

M. 140
This is, indeed, the highest, holiest wisdom: to know that all suffering has passed away. This is. indeed, the highest, holiest peace: appeasement of greed, hatred and delusion.

The Silent Thinker

`I am' is a vain thought; `This am I' is a vain thought; `I shall be' is a vain thought; `I shall not be' is a vain thought. Vain thoughts are a sickness, an ulcer, a thorn. But after overcoming all vain thoughts, one is called `a silent thinker'. And the thinker, the Silent One, does no more arise, no more pass away, no more tremble, no more desire. For there is nothing in him whereby he should arise again. And as he arises no more, how should he grow old again? And as he grows old no more how should he die again? And as he dies no more, how should he tremble? And as he trembles no more, how should he have desire'?

The True Goal

M. 29
Hence, the purpose of the Holy Life does not consist in acquiring alms, honour, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge. That unshakable deliverance of the heart: that, indeed, is the object of the Holy Life, that is its essence, that is its goal.

M. 51
And those, who in the past were Holy and Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones also have pointed out to their disciples this self-same goal as has been pointed out by me to my disciples. And those who in the future will be Holy and Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones also will point out to their disciples this self-same goal as has been pointed out by me to my disciples.

D. 16
However, disciples, it may be that (after my passing away) you might think: `Gone is the doctrine of our master. We have no Master more'. But thus you should not think; for the `Law' (dhamma) and the `Discipline' (vinaya) which I have taught you, will after my death be your master.

The Law be your isle,
The Law be your refuge!
Look for no other refuge!

Therefore, disciples, the doctrines which I taught you after having penetrated them myself, you should well preserve, well guard, so that this Holy life may take its course and continue for ages, for the weal and welfare of the many, as a consolation to the world, for the happiness, weal and welfare of heavenly beings and men.


Buddhist Literature:
A selection for further study
I. Life of the Buddha

E. H. Brewster. The Life of Gotama the Buddha. Compiled from the Pali Canon. London, Kegan Paul.

Narada Thera. The Life of the Buddha in his own words. Colombo, Y.M.B.A.

E. J. Thomas. The Life of Buddha as Legend and History. London, Kegan Paul.

Bhikkhu Silacara. A Young People's Life of the Buddha. Colombo, W. F. Bastian & Company.

Edwin Arnold. The Light of Asia. (Poetical). Many editions. Pivadassi Thera. The Buddha, A Short Study of His Life and His Teachings. Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society.

Kassapa Thera & Siridhamma Thera. The Life of the Buddha. Colombo 1958, Dept. of Cultural Affairs.  

II. Translations from the Sutta-pitaka 

1. Anthologies

H. C. Warren. Buddhism in Translations. 496 pp. Harvard Oriental Series.

F. L. Woodward. Some Sayings of the Buddha. Oxford Press.

E. J. Thomas. Early Buddhist Scriptures. London, Kegan Paul.

Nyanatiloka Thera, The Path to Deliverance. Colombo, Lake House Bookshop.

David Maurice. The Lion `s Roar, An Anthology of the Buddha's Teaching. Rider & Co.

Selected Buddhist Texts from the Pali Canon. (Sutta translations from `The Wheel' Series) Vol. I-lI) Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy.  

2 Complete Texts

Prof. T. W. Rhys Davids, Tr. Dialogues of the Buddha (DÓgha NÓk‚ya). London, Pali Text Society. 3 vols.

I. B. Horner, Tr. The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima Nik‚ya). Pali Text Society. 3 vols.

F. L. Woodward and F. M. Hare, Tr. Gradual Sayings (Anguttara Nik‚ya). Pali Text Society. 5 vols.

C. A. F. Rhys Davids and F. L. Woodward, Tr. Kindred Sayings (Sa.myutta Nik‚ya). Pali Text Society. 5 vols.

Narada Thera, Tr. Dhammapada (Pali text with English prose translation). Wisdom of the East Series, John Murray.

Professor S. Radakrishnan, Tr. Dhammapada. London, George Allen & Unwin.

F. M. Hare, Tr. Woven cadences (Sutta Nip‚ta). (Sacred Books of the Buddhists). Pali Text Society.

FL. Woodward, Tr. Minor Anthologies. Vol. II: Ud‚na and Itivuttaka. (Sacred Books of the Buddhists). Pali Text Society.

C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Tr. Songs of the Brethren (Therag‚tha). Pali Text Society.

C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Tr. Songs of the Sisters (Therig‚tha). Pali Text Society.  

3. Single Discourses

Soma Thera. The Way of Mindfulness (Transl. of the Satipatth‚na Sutta and its Commentary, 3rd ed.) Buddhist Publication Society.

Soma Thera. Right Understanding (Transl. of the 9th Discourse of Majjhima Nik‚ya and its Commentary). Colombo, Lake House Bookshop.

The Wheel Series contains annotated translations of many Discourses. Buddhist Publication Society.  

III. Abhidhamma

Nyanatiloka Mahathera. Guide through the Abhidhamma Pi.taka (Synopsis of all 7 Abhidhamma Books). 3rd ed. Colombo 1971, Lake House Bookshop.

Narada Thera. A Manual of Abhidhamma (Abhidhammattha Sangaha). Pali text, translation and explanatory notes. 2nd ed. Buddhist Publication Society.

Shwe Zan Aung & C. A. F. Rhys Davids, Tr. Compendium of Philosophy (Abhidhammattha Sangaha). Pali Text Society.

Dr. W. F. Jayasuriya. The Psychology and Philosophy of Buddhism, An Introduction to the Abbidhamma. M. D. Gunasena & Co., Colombo.

Anagarika B. Govinda. Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy and its systematic representation according to Abhidhamma tradition. Rider & Co.

Nyanaponika Thera. Abhidhamma Studies. Researches in Buddhist Psychology. 2nd enlarged Ed. Kandy, Buddhist Publication Society.  

IV. Non-canonical Pali Literature

I. B. Horner, Tr. Milinda's Questions. 2 vols. Pali Text Society.

T. W. Rhys Davids, Tr. The Ouestions of King Milinda. 2 vols. Dover Books.

Buddhaghosa (Bhikkhu —‚namoli, Tr.) The Path of Purification (Visuddhi Magga). 2nd ed. A. Semage, Colombo. (The most important and comprehensive systematic treatment of the entire Buddhist teachings).  

V. Historical Literature

B. C. Law. History of Pali Literature. 2 vols. London, Kegan Paul.

S. C. Banerji. An introduction to Pali Literature. Punthi Pustak, Calcutta.

M. WÓnternitz. History of Indian Literature, Vol. II: Buddhist and Jain Literature. Calcutta University.

T. W. Rhys Davids. Buddhist India.

F. J. Thomas. History of Buddhist Thought. London, Kegan Paul.

G. P. Malalasekera. Pali Literature of Ceylon. M. D. Gunasena & Co., Colombo.

E. W. Adikaram. Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon. Colombo, 1946, Lake House Bookshop.

H. R. Perera. Buddhism in Ceylon, Its Past & Present. Buddhist Publication Society.

Karuna Kusalasaya. Buddhism in Thailand, Its Past and Present. Buddhist Publication Society.  

VI. General Literature

Nyanatiloka Thera. Buddhist Dictionary: A Manual of Buddhist Terms & Doctrines. 3rd enlarged ed., Frewin & Co., Colombo, 1971.

Nyanatiloka Thera. Fundamentals of Buddhism: Four Lectures. Lake House Bookshop, Colombo.

Piyadassi Thera. The Buddha's Ancient Path. Rider & Co.

Nyanasatta Thera. Basic Tenets of Buddhism: Aids to the Study and Teaching of the Dhamma. Ananda Semage, Colombo 11.

Narada Thera. Buddhism in a Nutshell. Buddhist Publication Society.

Khantipalo Bhikkhu. Buddhism Explained: An Introduction to the Teaching of Lord Buddha. Social Science Association Press, Bangkok.

Dr. Walpola Rahula. What the Buddha Taught. Gordon Frazer, Oxford. (also Grove Press, NY.)

R. G. de S. Wettimuny. Buddhism and its Relation to Religion and Science. M. D. Gunasena & Co., Colombo,

Nyanaponika Thera. The Heart of Buddhist Meditation (Satipa.t.thana). 3rd enlarged ed., Rider & Co.

P. VajiraŮana Mahathera. Buddhist Meditation in Theory and Practice. M. D. Gunasena & Co., Colombo.

Nanamoli Thera. Mindfulness of Breathing: Buddhist Texts from the Pali Canon & Commentaries. Buddhist Publication Society.

K. N. Jayatilleke. Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge. George Allen & Unwin.

G. P. Malalasekera, Ed. Encylopaedia of Buddhism: Vol. 1, Vol. II, fasc. 1ff (to be continued). Published by the Government of Ceylon (Distributors: K. V. G. de Silva & Sons, Colombo).  

VII Periodicals

The Maha Bodhi, A Monthly Journal for International Buddhist Brotherhood. Calcutta, Maha Bodhi Society
The Middle Way. A quarterly; organ of the Buddhist Society, London, W.C.I.
The Buddhist. Monthly organ of the Colombo Y.M.B.A. Colombo.
World Buddhism. Monthly international Buddhist News Magazine. PubIished at 91/1 Dutugemunu St., Dehiwala, Ceylon.


Preface and Introduction | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |