Sati Means Recollection

Here is why sati (or mindfulness) means "recollection" in practice and not observation. And here is why right mindfulness leads to right concentration and True Vipassana - (part 1).

Currently, mainstream Buddhism interprets sati or mindfulness as "observe," which truly confronts the true meaning or original meaning of sati, "recall from memory."

"Furthermore, a mendicant is mindful. They have utmost mindfulness and alertness, and can remember and recall what was said and done long ago." -- AN 10.17.


So why does memory play such an important role in the sutta, while the current mainstream explains mindfulness as observation? Observation comes from the wrong view from the very beginning that "people can know things only by observing or paying attention." In other words, when people try to observe, they assume there is someone who can observe or there is an observer and there is something that can be observed. However, is it true? Can you know without observing?

When someone calls your name suddenly on the street, and you hear and respond to them, did you intentionally observe first and then realize someone called your name, or is the truth the reverse: the sound heard by you, and then you recognize your name and you respond? If you think through this case, you have to realize this simple and direct point of consciousness: when sound arises, sound is heard by your ears, and the moment it contacts there, sound consciousness is there. In other words, consciousness itself is knowing itself. There is no one knowing, and there is nothing outside of consciousness that can be known. Consciousness itself is an independent phenomenon, which is why it is one of the five aggregates and different from feelings, perceptions, matter, or formations.

Check the following sutta, MN18: "Eye consciousness arises dependent on the eye and sights. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for feeling. What you feel, you perceive. What you perceive, you think about. What you think about, you proliferate. What you proliferate is the source from which judgments driven by proliferating perceptions beset a person. This occurs with respect to sights known by the eye in the past, future, and present."


From MN9, the right view sutta: “A noble disciple understands the six sense fields, their origin, their cessation, and the practice that leads to their cessation… “Field” is āyatana, literally a “stretching out,” i.e., a field or dimension. But what are the six sense fields? What is their origin, their cessation, and the practice that leads to their cessation? "There are these six sense fields: the sense fields of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.


In Buddhism, the mind is the “sixth sense,” which knows mental phenomena just as physical senses know physical phenomena. The six sense fields originate from name and form. The six sense fields cease when name and form cease."

So what is happening here? There is no one observing, and there is nothing that can be observed. There are only six consciousnesses that arise and disappear.

When eye consciousness arises, you see what you see and you have feelings for what you see, you have thoughts about what you see, and you take actions based on what you see. Therefore, when consciousness arises, feelings, perceptions, and formations all arise at the same time, like burning fire: once the heat + candle (matter) --> fire (consciousness), and there is light and heat (feelings, perceptions, and formations) arising at the same time when the fire is burning. This consciousness depends on nama-rupa, and nama-rupa depends on consciousness. All five aggregates are there at the same time.

To better understand this, let's answer what observation is. When people try to see the pain they are suffering, the pain itself is known immediately when body consciousness arises. So, observation itself is another formation or response to the previous body consciousness, and this observation is just a mind consciousness. Remember, there are only six consciousnesses and nothing more than that. People who hold the wrong view that they can observe and find the truth of phenomena are off the right path, and there is no way to attain stream entry or gain real dharma eyes.

Here, I only explain why observation is not true, but most importantly what the true dharma or sutta means and how observation is wrong from the sutta point. Actually, if you understand the point that we only have six consciousnesses and our mind consciousness mainly works in the way of "recollection and thinking," you will know for sure that whatever you know, you are recalling the past, which exactly means sati (recollection). So, when Buddha says "be mindful of your breath", the breath sensation or body consciousness keeps arising and disappearing, which means that when you know you are breathing in or breathing out, when you know this is a long breath or a short breath, you are literally recalling the very last breath. This is the key to mindfulness practice.

I will show you how right mindfulness practice is way different from observation. Actually, you can ask yourself a question: did you ever recall something you never really paid attention to but indeed it is recalled when you try to recall? If you experience similar things, you will understand without a doubt why mindfulness is not observation.

The point is, people believe they are observing the truth while not realizing that observation itself is just a reaction to previous consciousness. So, observation is another mind consciousness that arises after sound consciousness.

For example when observing sound you can never get to the truth unless you realize that what you observe is just your current mind consciousness instead of the true sound consciousness. You are always chasing the consciousness that’s already passed, and this is called knowing things as they are not, which leads to false knowledge.

An important point to keep in mind is that most teachers explain sati as recollection, but teach it as observation even though they call it recollection.

SN 47.15 "Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

WHAT THE JHĀNAS ACTUALLY ARE By Bhikkhu Anīgha

A Glaring Discrepancy

One of the most notable differences among today’s Buddhist teachers and traditions is their interpretation of the jhānas, as well as the practices that they assert are the way to achieve them. The mutual gaps between these views are particularly wide when it comes to the first jhāna, due to varying ideas of what the Pali term vitakkavicāra refers to, the characteristic factor of the initial and arguably most crucial establishment of mind, given that all the subsequent jhānas are, in a manner of speaking, successive refinements of the first. The first jhāna that the Suttas describe is also perfectly sufficient for Arahantship (MN 64 & AN 9.36).

The foremost, generally unquestioned assumption about the practice of jhāna (and mental cultivation in general) is that one or another form of continuous attention upon one object is necessary, and this itself rests on the idea samādhi is a state of focused attention. For this reason, the term jhāna has frequently been interpreted as meaning “absorption”. The reality is, however, that not even a concept of “absorption” is discussed, let alone encouraged, anywhere in the Suttas, nor does it correspond to any Pali term in the early texts, and is invariably being read into them and justified heuristically, if at all. In fact, the word jhāna has a very unambiguous meaning both in Pali and Sanskrit: thinking, contemplating, reflecting—meditating.1

The average person who is told to “meditate” would instead proceed to try to “empty their mind”, become hyper-aware of bodily sensations, and breathe deeply to achieve a bodily relaxation akin to what a massage provides. The more serious teachers and practices would then expand upon this, often in meticulous detail and with various nuances, slap Buddhist concepts and terminology into it after the fact, and present the final product as the core of the way towards Nibbāna.

Why It Exists, And Why It Shouldn’t

These distorted ideas have come about due to the fact that what is widely thought of today as Buddhist meditation is, at best, for those who label themselves Early Buddhists, the result of rejecting only some parts of the overall framework put forth by later Buddhist Schools, the Theravada Commentaries and the Visuddhimagga, often unaware that the largest of all the elephants remains in the room. At worst, some base their views on later interpretations without a second thought. In either case, the premise that the gist of mental cultivation is concentration upon objects is rarely challenged, despite the critical Western attitude often being willing to strip basically everything else away from Buddhism.2

It is overlooked that if one where to have a person wholly unfamiliar with meditation and Buddhist ideas—say, an average European from the 18th century equipped with a perfectly literal Pali dictionary, who will take what they read on its own terms and not those of Christianity or any other religion—read through the collection of early texts exclusively, without being told what they mean in advance (as most of us today are way before we actually read them), there is simply no way that they would come to the conclusion that the Buddhist path to liberation centers around stopping one’s thinking and/or watching bodily sensations. But modern practitioners, by the time they bother to read the Suttas (if they ever do), are already quite invested in that overall direction due to having had previous success with a contemporary “meditation” technique. This results in them inadvertently only being open to (mis)reading the Suttas in ways that support or at least do not invalidate what they have circumstancially come to regard as the Dhamma.

Instead, this individual of a previous era who is free from such biases and conflicts of interest would likely conclude, judging by the sheer frequency of mentions, that the Buddha’s main injunction is to meditate diligently (in the right sense of the word) on what is beneficial (kusala) and what is unbeneficial (akusala), and that the cultivation of the former and abandoning of the latter is done first and foremost through undertaking the precepts and restraint in regard to one’s desires, and moreover, by meditating on the unreliable and perilous nature of everything that one is, to one’s own detriment, emotionally dependent on—particularly sensual pleasures. And this would be a merely intellectual yet authentic and undistorted conclusion by someone who still has no plan to actually implement those teachings.

Having abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unwholesome states, he abides having entered the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thinking and pondering, with joy and pleasure born of seclusion.

—MN 39, Great Discourse at Assapura And how, bhikkhus, are sensual pleasures seen by a bhikkhu in such a way that as he looks at them sensual desire, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, and sensual passion do not lie latent within him in regard to sensual pleasures? Suppose there is a charcoal pit deeper than a man’s height, filled with glowing coals without flame or smoke. A man would come along wanting to live, not wanting to die, desiring happiness and averse to suffering. Then two strong men would grab him by both arms and drag him towards the charcoal pit. The man would wriggle his body this way and that. For what reason? Because he knows: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit and I will thereby meet death or deadly suffering.’ So too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu has seen sensual pleasures as similar to a charcoal pit, sensual desire, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, and sensual passion do not lie latent within him in regard to sensual pleasures. [i.e., he is able to establish the first jhāna.)

“And how, bhikkhus, has a bhikkhu comprehended a mode of conduct and manner of dwelling in such a way that as he conducts himself thus and as he dwells thus, evil unbeneficial states of longing and aversion do not flow in upon him [which would obstruct jhāna]? Suppose a man would enter a thorny forest. There would be thorns in front of him, thorns behind him, thorns to his left, thorns to his right, thorns below him, thorns above him. He would go forward mindfully, he would go back mindfully, thinking, ‘May no thorn prick me!’ So too, bhikkhus, whatever in the world has a pleasing and agreeable nature is called a thorn in the Noble One’s Discipline. Having understood this thus as ‘a thorn, restraint and non-restraint should be understood.

—SN 35.244, Things that Entail Suffering (Ānāpāna)sati is… “Observation”?

Another cause of the widespread misconceptions about what meditation and jhānas are is the centrality given to what can be called “breath observation”, which means that virtually any other practice is done in a manner analogous to it, i.e., by focusing on something, even if it’s not static, such as a changing stream of bodily sensations or images of people one is radiating loving-kindness towards—in the end it’s still done with the purpose of narrowing down one’s awareness, however much the degree of narrow-ness varies.

The point here is not that ānāpānāsati is wrong, but that observing sensations of breathing, being either at one single point or throughout one’s whole body, or whatever arbitrary variation of this “observing”, is not what ānāpānāsati is, nor does it have anything to do with sati in general.

Ānāpānāsati is mentioned only a handful of times in the Suttas compared to the types of contemplations mentioned in the previous quoted passage, and there is ample reason to believe that a vast number of monastic disciples3 had never received detailed instruction on it, if at all. Therefore, instead of taking ānāpānāsati and the modern ideas of it as the starting point, one should actually interpret ānāpānāsati in the light of of the other comparatively enormous bulk of right reflections aimed at understanding4 the nature of things that the Buddha left behind, which are instead seen as supplementary, if at all considered. On top of this, the standard contemplation that is given in the context of jhāna is not ānāpānasati, but the recognition of the drawbacks of sensuality and its concomitant unbeneficial states. Thus, when you have pondered/meditated on the drawbacks of sensuality correctly, your mind abides having entered the meditation/state-of-comprehension (jhāna)5 that sees sensuality as a “charcoal pit”, and is accompanied by profound joy, pleasure and relief born of the safety from those burning embers. In this way, to use an analogy, planting apple seeds―not something else―provides you with an apple tree, and apples eventually.

Coherent, Doable, Free From ”Patchwork”

When jhāna/meditation is understood in this way throughout, everything in the 4 Nikāyas forms a coherent whole, and one does away with the otherwise lurking implication that the Buddha spent decades traveling far and wide teaching things that were only secondarily relevant compared to the supposed crux of the matter, which is absorption into bodily sensations with little to no thinking. Given that he tirelessly instructed people to be diligent and meditate ardently, it would follow that they would not be able to even make use of the vast array of discursive reflections he taught if the practice is about rendering oneself unable to meditate as much as possible. Instead, he would’ve been much better off leaving behind something more akin to a modern meditation manual and calling it a day, given that he was already not too eager to teach when asked to soon after his enlightenment.

We also do away with the notion that meditation, jhāna and enlightenment by extension, and dealing with day-to-day affairs are fundamentally at odds,6 which is certainly the case when your idea of “deep samādhi” requires you to not skip a beat in your alertness to every moment and (supposedly) not engage with concepts to sustain it—essentially tying you down more than it’s freeing you.

What jhāna practice does demand from you without exception is that you completely abandon delight in the five cords of sensual pleasure (not become unaware of them)—physically, verbally, and mentally—spend the majority of your time away from the presence of others, and refrain from using company as a form of entertainment when you do meet people due to practical necessities. This is exactly why the Suttas go on incessantly about the need for withdrawal from sensuality and seclusion from company—valuable space that could’ve been used to, at least once, mention these special object-observation techniques that magically bypass that need, making samādhi accessible to anyone who simply devotes time to them regularly, rendering monasticism effectively unnecessary except for the odd person who is perhaps too zealous about the practice.

Bhikkhus, without having abandoned six things, one is incapable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna. What six? Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, doubt; and not having clearly seen with correct wisdom, as it really is, the danger in sensual pleasures. Without having abandoned these six things, one is incapable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna.

Bhikkhus, having abandoned six things, one is capable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna. What six? Sensual desire … not having clearly seen with correct wisdom, as it really is, the danger in sensual pleasures. Having abandoned these six things, one is capable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna.”

—AN 6.73, On The First Jhāna With all this in mind, we can go on to elaborate further on the nature of the four “pleasant abidings here-&-now” and how contemplation done rightly and persistently naturally results in them, with no need for extraneous props.

Meditation is Concrete Thinking

To start off with, the first thing one is likely to wonder is what is the difference between the practice of meditation in this correct sense, and rehearsing abstract ideas and views one has read or heard about, which clearly anyone can do without experiencing the wholesome joy of relief from all that is unwholesome. The fact that people cannot see that distinction and thus end up doing the latter form of abstract pondering is one of the main reasons that they opt for the “more palpable” observation of bodily sensations and similar practices instead.

What one needs to start getting used to is contemplation, which is the sort of thinking that develops the mind towards Right View and Right Recollection (sati). “Right Recollection” in the sense that one reflects, meditates on, thinks and ponders about the nature of a phenomenon while it is present, as opposed to dwelling on an abstract notion of “sensual pleasures are bad”, which, sure enough, would not result in anything of real value.

WHAT THE JHĀNAS ACTUALLY ARE By Bhikkhu Anīgha

A Glaring Discrepancy

One of the most notable differences among today’s Buddhist teachers and traditions is their interpretation of the jhānas, as well as the practices that they assert are the way to achieve them. The mutual gaps between these views are particularly wide when it comes to the first jhāna, due to varying ideas of what the Pali term vitakkavicāra refers to, the characteristic factor of the initial and arguably most crucial establishment of mind, given that all the subsequent jhānas are, in a manner of speaking, successive refinements of the first. The first jhāna that the Suttas describe is also perfectly sufficient for Arahantship (MN 64 & AN 9.36).

The foremost, generally unquestioned assumption about the practice of jhāna (and mental cultivation in general) is that one or another form of continuous attention upon one object is necessary, and this itself rests on the idea samādhi is a state of focused attention. For this reason, the term jhāna has frequently been interpreted as meaning “absorption”. The reality is, however, that not even a concept of “absorption” is discussed, let alone encouraged, anywhere in the Suttas, nor does it correspond to any Pali term in the early texts, and is invariably being read into them and justified heuristically, if at all. In fact, the word jhāna has a very unambiguous meaning both in Pali and Sanskrit: thinking, contemplating, reflecting—meditating.1

The average person who is told to “meditate” would instead proceed to try to “empty their mind”, become hyper-aware of bodily sensations, and breathe deeply to achieve a bodily relaxation akin to what a massage provides. The more serious teachers and practices would then expand upon this, often in meticulous detail and with various nuances, slap Buddhist concepts and terminology into it after the fact, and present the final product as the core of the way towards Nibbāna.

Why It Exists, And Why It Shouldn’t

These distorted ideas have come about due to the fact that what is widely thought of today as Buddhist meditation is, at best, for those who label themselves Early Buddhists, the result of rejecting only some parts of the overall framework put forth by later Buddhist Schools, the Theravada Commentaries and the Visuddhimagga, often unaware that the largest of all the elephants remains in the room. At worst, some base their views on later interpretations without a second thought. In either case, the premise that the gist of mental cultivation is concentration upon objects is rarely challenged, despite the critical Western attitude often being willing to strip basically everything else away from Buddhism.2

It is overlooked that if one where to have a person wholly unfamiliar with meditation and Buddhist ideas—say, an average European from the 18th century equipped with a perfectly literal Pali dictionary, who will take what they read on its own terms and not those of Christianity or any other religion—read through the collection of early texts exclusively, without being told what they mean in advance (as most of us today are way before we actually read them), there is simply no way that they would come to the conclusion that the Buddhist path to liberation centers around stopping one’s thinking and/or watching bodily sensations. But modern practitioners, by the time they bother to read the Suttas (if they ever do), are already quite invested in that overall direction due to having had previous success with a contemporary “meditation” technique. This results in them inadvertently only being open to (mis)reading the Suttas in ways that support or at least do not invalidate what they have circumstancially come to regard as the Dhamma.

Instead, this individual of a previous era who is free from such biases and conflicts of interest would likely conclude, judging by the sheer frequency of mentions, that the Buddha’s main injunction is to meditate diligently (in the right sense of the word) on what is beneficial (kusala) and what is unbeneficial (akusala), and that the cultivation of the former and abandoning of the latter is done first and foremost through undertaking the precepts and restraint in regard to one’s desires, and moreover, by meditating on the unreliable and perilous nature of everything that one is, to one’s own detriment, emotionally dependent on—particularly sensual pleasures. And this would be a merely intellectual yet authentic and undistorted conclusion by someone who still has no plan to actually implement those teachings.

Having abandoned these five hindrances, imperfections of the mind that weaken wisdom, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unwholesome states, he abides having entered the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thinking and pondering, with joy and pleasure born of seclusion.

—MN 39, Great Discourse at Assapura And how, bhikkhus, are sensual pleasures seen by a bhikkhu in such a way that as he looks at them sensual desire, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, and sensual passion do not lie latent within him in regard to sensual pleasures? Suppose there is a charcoal pit deeper than a man’s height, filled with glowing coals without flame or smoke. A man would come along wanting to live, not wanting to die, desiring happiness and averse to suffering. Then two strong men would grab him by both arms and drag him towards the charcoal pit. The man would wriggle his body this way and that. For what reason? Because he knows: ‘I will fall into this charcoal pit and I will thereby meet death or deadly suffering.’ So too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu has seen sensual pleasures as similar to a charcoal pit, sensual desire, sensual affection, sensual infatuation, and sensual passion do not lie latent within him in regard to sensual pleasures. [i.e., he is able to establish the first jhāna.)

“And how, bhikkhus, has a bhikkhu comprehended a mode of conduct and manner of dwelling in such a way that as he conducts himself thus and as he dwells thus, evil unbeneficial states of longing and aversion do not flow in upon him [which would obstruct jhāna]? Suppose a man would enter a thorny forest. There would be thorns in front of him, thorns behind him, thorns to his left, thorns to his right, thorns below him, thorns above him. He would go forward mindfully, he would go back mindfully, thinking, ‘May no thorn prick me!’ So too, bhikkhus, whatever in the world has a pleasing and agreeable nature is called a thorn in the Noble One’s Discipline. Having understood this thus as ‘a thorn, restraint and non-restraint should be understood.

—SN 35.244, Things that Entail Suffering (Ānāpāna)sati is… “Observation”?

Another cause of the widespread misconceptions about what meditation and jhānas are is the centrality given to what can be called “breath observation”, which means that virtually any other practice is done in a manner analogous to it, i.e., by focusing on something, even if it’s not static, such as a changing stream of bodily sensations or images of people one is radiating loving-kindness towards—in the end it’s still done with the purpose of narrowing down one’s awareness, however much the degree of narrow-ness varies.

The point here is not that ānāpānāsati is wrong, but that observing sensations of breathing, being either at one single point or throughout one’s whole body, or whatever arbitrary variation of this “observing”, is not what ānāpānāsati is, nor does it have anything to do with sati in general.

Ānāpānāsati is mentioned only a handful of times in the Suttas compared to the types of contemplations mentioned in the previous quoted passage, and there is ample reason to believe that a vast number of monastic disciples3 had never received detailed instruction on it, if at all. Therefore, instead of taking ānāpānāsati and the modern ideas of it as the starting point, one should actually interpret ānāpānāsati in the light of of the other comparatively enormous bulk of right reflections aimed at understanding4 the nature of things that the Buddha left behind, which are instead seen as supplementary, if at all considered. On top of this, the standard contemplation that is given in the context of jhāna is not ānāpānasati, but the recognition of the drawbacks of sensuality and its concomitant unbeneficial states. Thus, when you have pondered/meditated on the drawbacks of sensuality correctly, your mind abides having entered the meditation/state-of-comprehension (jhāna)5 that sees sensuality as a “charcoal pit”, and is accompanied by profound joy, pleasure and relief born of the safety from those burning embers. In this way, to use an analogy, planting apple seeds―not something else―provides you with an apple tree, and apples eventually.

Coherent, Doable, Free From ”Patchwork”

When jhāna/meditation is understood in this way throughout, everything in the 4 Nikāyas forms a coherent whole, and one does away with the otherwise lurking implication that the Buddha spent decades traveling far and wide teaching things that were only secondarily relevant compared to the supposed crux of the matter, which is absorption into bodily sensations with little to no thinking. Given that he tirelessly instructed people to be diligent and meditate ardently, it would follow that they would not be able to even make use of the vast array of discursive reflections he taught if the practice is about rendering oneself unable to meditate as much as possible. Instead, he would’ve been much better off leaving behind something more akin to a modern meditation manual and calling it a day, given that he was already not too eager to teach when asked to soon after his enlightenment.

We also do away with the notion that meditation, jhāna and enlightenment by extension, and dealing with day-to-day affairs are fundamentally at odds,6 which is certainly the case when your idea of “deep samādhi” requires you to not skip a beat in your alertness to every moment and (supposedly) not engage with concepts to sustain it—essentially tying you down more than it’s freeing you.

What jhāna practice does demand from you without exception is that you completely abandon delight in the five cords of sensual pleasure (not become unaware of them)—physically, verbally, and mentally—spend the majority of your time away from the presence of others, and refrain from using company as a form of entertainment when you do meet people due to practical necessities. This is exactly why the Suttas go on incessantly about the need for withdrawal from sensuality and seclusion from company—valuable space that could’ve been used to, at least once, mention these special object-observation techniques that magically bypass that need, making samādhi accessible to anyone who simply devotes time to them regularly, rendering monasticism effectively unnecessary except for the odd person who is perhaps too zealous about the practice.

Bhikkhus, without having abandoned six things, one is incapable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna. What six? Sensual desire, ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, doubt; and not having clearly seen with correct wisdom, as it really is, the danger in sensual pleasures. Without having abandoned these six things, one is incapable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna.

Bhikkhus, having abandoned six things, one is capable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna. What six? Sensual desire … not having clearly seen with correct wisdom, as it really is, the danger in sensual pleasures. Having abandoned these six things, one is capable of entering and dwelling in the first jhāna.”

—AN 6.73, On The First Jhāna With all this in mind, we can go on to elaborate further on the nature of the four “pleasant abidings here-&-now” and how contemplation done rightly and persistently naturally results in them, with no need for extraneous props.

Meditation is Concrete Thinking

To start off with, the first thing one is likely to wonder is what is the difference between the practice of meditation in this correct sense, and rehearsing abstract ideas and views one has read or heard about, which clearly anyone can do without experiencing the wholesome joy of relief from all that is unwholesome. The fact that people cannot see that distinction and thus end up doing the latter form of abstract pondering is one of the main reasons that they opt for the “more palpable” observation of bodily sensations and similar practices instead.

What one needs to start getting used to is concrete thinking, which is the sort of thinking that develops the mind towards Right View and Right Recollection (sati). “Concrete” in the sense that one reflects, meditates on, thinks and ponders about the nature of a phenomenon while it is present, as opposed to dwelling on an abstract notion of “sensual pleasures are bad”, which, sure enough, would not result in anything of real value.

This brings us to another massive shortcoming in the usual approach towards samādhi, which is built around trying to get rid of “mind-wandering”, as it’s called. Truly recognizing the danger in the 5 cords of sensual pleasure requires them to present themselves as mental phenomena. That is what allows one to think about their perilous nature concretely, and for the contemplation not to revolve around abstract notions that have no practical relevance to when real desires arise. Only then can one start to realize the gratification and danger in those phenomena while they persist, without which any apparent escape will be illusory. When the mind is taken by desire, one should, instead of cowering away by focusing on something else7, interpret that as a symptom of the mind not having sufficient clarity and confidence regarding the nature of pleasant experiences—which is what is being overlooked whenever one delights in them—and then get to work with developing that clarity and address the problem at its root8. This clarity/confidence being referred to is precisely what elevates the mind to the level of the first jhāna, not a meticulous manipulation of what objects and thoughts arise.