Ajahn Chah on the relationship of Concentration and Wisdom in Meditation

Ajahn Chah

A Taste of Freedom

“On Meditation”

“When the mind is peaceful and established firmly in mindfulness and self-awareness, there will be no doubt concerning the various phenomena which we encounter. The mind will truly be beyond the hindrances. We will clearly know as it is everything which arises in the mind. We do not doubt it because the mind is clear and bright. The mind which reaches samàdhi is like this.

However some people find it hard to enter samàdhi because it doesn’t suit their tendencies. There is samàdhi, but it’s not strong or firm. But one can attain peace through the use of wisdom, through contemplating and seeing the truth of things, solving problems that way. This is using wisdom rather than the power of samàdhi.

To attain calm in practice it’s not necessary to sit in meditation, for instance. Just ask yourself, “Ehh, what is that?…” and solve your problem right there! A person with wisdom is like this. Perhaps he can’t really attain high levels of samàdhi, although he develops some, enough to cultivate wisdom. It’s like the difference between farming rice and farming corn. One can depend on rice more than corn for one’s livelihood. Our practice can be like this, we depend more on wisdom to solve problems. When we see the truth, peace arises.

The two ways are not the same. Some people have insight and are strong in wisdom but do not have much samàdhi. When they sit in meditation they aren’t very peaceful. They tend to think a lot, contemplating this and that, until eventually they contemplate happiness and suffering and see the truth of them. Some incline more towards this than samàdhi.

Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying, (that is, at all times, in all activities) enlightenment of the Dhamma can take place. Through seeing, through relinquishing, they attain peace. They attain peace through knowing the truth without doubt, because they have seen it for themselves.

Other people have only little wisdom but their samàdhi is very strong. They can enter very deep samàdhi quickly, but not having much wisdom, they cannot catch their defilements, they don’t know them. They can’t solve their problems.

But regardless of whichever approach we use, we must do away with wrong thinking, leaving only Right View. We must get rid of confusion, leaving only peace.

Either way we end up at the same place. There are these two sides to practice, but these two things, calm and insight, go together. We can’t do away with either of them. They must go together.”


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

One Response to “Ajahn Chah on the relationship of Concentration and Wisdom in Meditation”

  1. This is so true and so clearly and simply put. I am more on the wisdom pole. But have some samadhi or there would not be enough focus to see the wisdom. This is the basis of my recovery from schizophrenia and my successful career after 8 years on the streets or in institutions. The precepts to my are the most important guides to insight and wisdom. Practice practice practice. Each unskliiful slip in precept practice is another teaching about the nature of suffering and happiness if looked at clearly with the samadhi I do have. Gassho gassho gassho. Daigu Angyo.

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