Bhavanga to Samadhi

Bhavanga to Samadhi

The practice of meditation is very central to Buddhism. However without an understanding of the mind, there are many pitfalls. The idea of Bhavanga, an idea central to the Abhidhamma, can indeed help us make things clearer. Bhavanga, usually translated as life-continuum, literally means ‘that wherein one’s life is rooted’. It is in fact referring to the same phenomenon that in modern times is called the subconscious mind. In other places I sometimes used the word “life-stuff” (especially in relation to the vibrating bhavanga), to indicate, that the essential nature (or characteristic) of this part of the mental process is, that it is engaged with life problems and life experiences.

Here I want to show in pictorial form, where this particular teaching of Buddhist thought is fitting in relation to the practice of meditation. The subject of the bhavanga itself is treated more extensively in my post ‘Keys to the Abhidhamma system’ and in my book ‘Paramattha’.

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Whenever there is a pleasant feeling in your body (due to past wholesome kamma) and you, becoming aware of it contemplate its benefit for your spiritual path,…you develop supporting wholesome kamma… Whenever you experience unpleasant feelings in your body,…and you can yet keep your mind positive, then wholesome kamma develops (and the continuation of the unwholesome kamma is obstructed).

Yet, people who are for a long time stuck in a situation corresponding to the last diagram, are generally not well advised to focus only on meditation, as a lack of variety in experience usually will lead to dulling and blunting of the faculties. In that case more coarse activities and some amount of study will become necessary. For people whose faculties have become sharp…those faculties can take on the work of making even apparently very dull experiences interesting and thus are able to work with even quite uniform and repetitive experiences in a beneficial way.

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