How much concentration is enough for investigation?

Andrew P, modified 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 12:18 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 12:18 PM

How much concentration is enough for investigation?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

Many sources incluting Daniel's MCotB talk about access concentration, but I am struggling with a precise enough definition of ACCESS concentration. Some meditation sessions are filled with doubt of when to switch to investigating sensations.

In my experience focusing on rising/falling of abdomen brings out a state of stillness and light + slow breathing but beyond that I am at a loss to know whether to continue with the "grounding" samatha or to move into vipassana. Many times switching back and forth and getting lost in thought and coming back.

My questions are
1) What are some signs that point to enough concentration/stability? Is it following undistracted breath for a minute? Two? 10?
2) Is this too much doubt seeping through and sabotaging actual effort? Would "dry insight" with investigation of sensations despite of concentration level be more indicated?

Thanks.
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John Finley, modified 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 12:45 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 12:45 PM

RE: How much concentration is enough for investigation?

Posts: 11 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Hi Andru,

I am amongst the least qualified here to answer your questions definitively, but Iin the spirit of openness and free exchange, I'll share my experiences - take them for what they are.

1. When the breath becomes so light and shallow - almost to the point where you're wondering if you're getting enough oxygen, yet you feel relaxed and pleasant, you're probably there.I think Daniel's book mentions somewhere that you'll know when you have enough concentration - and that was my experience.

2. YMMV, but my experience with dry insight during sitting meditation is that it is frustrating beyond belief. I tried it for a while and became so irritated I nearly quit meditating altogether. In my experience, it was better to focus on the breath/concentration when sitting until I was fairly sure I had access and spending the rest of my time tduring "waking hours" trying to use clear comprehension to practice the skills of remaining aware and noting my experience.
Trent S H, modified 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 2:29 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 2:29 PM

RE: How much concentration is enough for investigation?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Andru. n8sense' reply is a good one. An easy way to approach this problem is to sit and just stay with the breath for your entire sittings for a few weeks, maybe months. Try to get a good feel for the first 4 samatha jhanas if possible. You can't come to insight practice with "too much" concentration, as it is the oil that greases the wheels; getting a very stable base for it will pay big dividends in the long run. Whatever you do, make sure you set formal goals for yourself. Goodluck.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 3:04 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/19/09 3:04 PM

RE: How much concentration is enough for investigation?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hello Andru,

I agree with what both John (n8sense) and Yaba have said. Having good, strong concentration is a good way to go.

I should add, though, that I have done just fine without a working knowledge of the jhanas. This isn't the case for everyone. In fact, I am now beginning to work pretty hard on developing deep levels of concentration to improve my practice. Anyway...

You need to have enough concentration to notice the arising of gross mental and physical sensations. Once you can do this, try and get REALLY interested in what you're noticing. Note everything, so you're mind doesn't have a chance to wander. As you get more and more interested, you'll naturally want to know more and more about the objects of your investigation, and your concentration will get stronger.

Thus, if you can get good solid concentration first, do so. But, if you just have to practice vipassana right away, try what I mentioned above.