Bhante Dewananda

Bhanthe Bokanoruwe Devananda received ordination at the age of fourteen and entered higher ordination in 1973. Read More →

Samaloka International Buddhist Centre

145/2B, Robert Gunawardhana Road
Malabe, Sri Lanka 0094-11-2791197



What is meditation?

First of all I wish to draw your attention in terms of the how meditation is defined in various dictionaries. Webster’s Universal College Dictionary has defined it thus: “Meditate to engage in thought or contemplation”. All these writers have defined the word meditate literally. Buddhism has borrowed this word from English to introduce Buddhist BhŒvanŒ. It is formulated as: BhŒva+ nŒ. Here bhŒva literally means condition, nature or becoming and adding the suffix “nŒ” into bhŒva has made the term “BhŒvanŒ which means to develop, dwell, increase, cultivate or contemplate. The Pali English Dictionary compiled by T.W. Rhys David has described about this term thus: “BhŒva-producing, dwelling on something, putting one’s thought to, application, developing by many of thought or meditation, cultivation by mind”.


            All those definitions agree that the term “meditate” gives the meaning of “developing” in common. The Buddhist term BhŒvanŒ too very clearly indicates this same idea by itself. So, BhŒvanŒ is developing and growing. Then, developing and growing of what?  Developing and growing of mind and wisdom is meditation. Cultivating of the mind or mental faculties is samatha bhŒvanŒ/citta bhŒvanŒ concentration meditation and sharpening of the wisdom is vipassanŒ bhŒvanŒ/pa––Œ bhŒvanŒ- – insight meditation. Wise men, who are well established in good conduct and being ardent & skillful themselves, have developed mind (concentration meditation) and wisdom (insight meditation) continuously and have disentangled all tangles and bondages in their lives.


            S´le patiÊÊhŒy naro sapa––o

            Cittam pa––am ca bhŒye

            îtŒpi nipako v´ro

            Ko imam vijataye jatam (SN Jata Sutta Desam)


The Buddha has explained the actual natures of the undeveloped and developed mind in detail in the Anguttara Nikaya (the collection of gradual saying) in the division of the Akammaniya.

NŒhaµ bhikkhave a––aµ eka dhammampi samanupassŒmi, yaµ evaµ abhŒvitaµ mahato anatthŒya saµvattati, yathayidaµ cittaµ. Cittaµ bhikkhave abhŒvitaµ mahato anatthŒya saµvattatati.”

“Oh, Venerable Monks, I do not know any other thing so detrimental than an undeveloped mind. The nature or thing that creates so detrimental since undeveloped is the uncultured mind but nothing. Such an uncontrolled mind conduces to much of the catastrophic state of our lives”.


Nàhaµ bhikkhave a––aµ ekadhammampi samanupassŒmi, yaµ evaµ bhŒvitaµ mahato atthŒya saµvattati, yathayidaµ cittaµ. Cittaµ bhikkhave bhŒvitaµ mahato atthŒya sa


“Oh, Venerable Monks, I do not know of any other thing so helpful or harmless than a developed mind. The nature or thing that creates so helpful since developed is cultured mind.  Such a controlled mind conduces tor much of the beneficial state of our lives.


It is very obvious that there is a big distinction between abhŒvita citta (unrestrained mind) and bhŒvita citta (restrained mind). One with an undeveloped mind easily becomes excited, agitated, restless and his behavior is so demeaning; perhaps he behaves like an uncivilized animal. Think, you may have your own experiences with regard to how you behaved with an undeveloped mind. One with a developed mind easily does not give in to excitement, agitation, restlessness and his behavior is so excellent; perhaps he behaves like a gentle man. Think, you may have your own experiences with regards to how you behave with a developed mind. Meditation paves the way to change mind from an undeveloped state to devel

do not delay. Do not waste time thinking. Indeed, thinking is not meditation. Think, decide and take into practice your thought on meditation or on transcendental development. This path has been described very systematically by the Buddha. One who wants to develop the mind, must firstly be righteous and generous by practicing dŒna (generosity)S´la (morality) and then, on this foundation he or she will be qualified to develop meditation (bhŒvanŒ). These are called the three kinds of meritorious deeds.


            Craving (rŒga), anger (dosa) and delusion (moha) contaminate a human being’s mind. Therefore, they are called the main evil roots (akusala mèla). Involving in craving, anger and delusion, people create destruction and despair for themselves and others as well.


Non-greed (v´rŒga), non-hatred (v´gtadosa) and non-delusion (v´tamoha) purify the mind. Therefore, they are called wholesome roots of the good deeds (kusala mèla). Practicing non craving, non-hatred and non-delusion humans make success and development for themselves and others as well.


From the Buddhist philosophical point of view mind and matter (nŒma and rèpa) come to existence because of Vi––Œöa (consciousness) (Vi––Œöa paccayŒ nŒma rèpaµ). So, mind is major aspect of the human entity. Mind is forerunner of all states and it is chief. Humans have obtained a very special potential i.e. thinking power, so they are able to govern the entire world. Once the Buddha said that “the world is led by the mind – cittena n´yati loko – cittena parikassati” – in the Citta Sutta (Discourse on mind) in the Samyutta NikŒya.  The controlling of mind is good. A restrained mind is conducive to achieve happiness and success (cittassa damato sŒdhu citta× danta× sukhŒvaha×). By what way can the mind be restrained?  Indeed, it can be tamed only by practicing meditation. Meditation is the last aspect of the gradual and systematic process of the threefold meritorious deeds, i.e. dŒna (generosity) S´la (morality) and bhŒvanŒ (meditation). The method which is conducive to develop the mind destroying all mental defilements is called citta or samatha bhŒvanŒ – concentration meditation-. It is actually the foundation of insight meditation (VipassanŒ bhŒvanŒ). Therefore, one must develop concentration meditation in his or her early stage of the practice in order to easily practice insight meditation. Samatha is like the first step of a ladder. It enables one to climb to the top of the ladder. The last step is like insight meditation. Before entering to insight meditation; of course, you are bound to practice mindfulness to make your insight practice easy.


There are mainly two kind of sickness according to the Rogasutta (Discourse on ailment) of Indriya Vagga in the Angutta NikŒya Volume IV:

Dissanti bhikkhave sattŒ kŒyikena rogena ekampi vassa× Œrogya× pa–ijŒnamŒnŒ. Dvepi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. T´öipi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. CattŒripi vassŒni Œrogya× pañijŒnamŒnŒ. Pa–capi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. Dasapi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. V´satimpi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. Ti×sampi vassŒni Œrogya× pañijŒnamŒnŒ. CattŒr´sampi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. Pa––Œsampi vassŒni Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ. Vassasatampi. Œrogya× paÊijŒnamŒnŒ.

“Oh, Venerable monks, there are two ailments. What two are they? They are bodily and mental ailments. Monks, there are sentient beings acknowledging freedom from bodily ailments for one year,  for two years, for three years, for four years, for five years, for ten years, for twenty years, for thirty years, for forty years, for fifty years, or even for a hundred years. Yet Monks, sentient beings acknowledging freedom from mental ailments even for a moment are rare in the world, unless it is an arahant.

The illness of the mind is more dangerous and criti

mentally due to frustration and offer unnecessary reasons. These causes will affect the major sickness of the mind:

Lack of contentment with possessions

Craving for glory, fame and acceptance

Lack of right understanding

Insatiable desire for materialism

Imbalanced livelihood

Having a desire to achieve unnecessary fame, acceptance and wealth

Unnecessary and unsuitable involvement with the modern media.

Over estimating of one’s own capacity, capability and skill

Imbalance between income and expenditure

Chasing after new fashions one after another

Lack of time management

Lack of management of rescores

Samatha bhŒvanŒ has been recommended for the cure of mental illness which could occur due to the above reasons. All the roots of mental sickness can be eradicated by developing insight meditation because it results their reality.

The Sallekha Sutta in Majjhima Nikaya enumerates forty- four mental illnesses and the way to overcome them.

“Idha kho pana vo cunda sallekho karaö´yo: pare vihi×sakŒ bhavissanti. Mayamettha avihi×sakŒ bhavissŒmŒti sallekho karaö´yo.

Pare pŒöŒtipŒtã bhavissanti, mayamettha pŒöŒtipŒtŒ paÊiviratŒ bhavissŒmŒti sallekho karaö´yo.  –re-”

Cunda, purifying should be done thus: Others will be hurters, we will be non-hurters. Others will be destroyers of life, we will not destroy life. Others will be taking what is not given; we will abstain from taking what is not given. Others will lead an unholy life; we will lead a life of celibacy. Others will tell lies; we will abstain from telling lies. Others will talk maliciously; we will abstain from malicious talk. Others will talk roughly; we will abstain from rough talk. Others will talk frivolously; we will abstain from frivolous talk. Others will be coveting; we will abstain from coveting. Others will be with an angry mind; we will not be angry. Others will be with wrong view; we will be with right view. Others will speak wrong words; we will speak right words. Others will be with wrong actions; we will be with right actions. Others will be with wrong livelihood; we will be with right livelihood. Others will be with wrong effort; we will be with right effort. Others will be with wrong mindfulness; we will be with right mindfulness. Others will be with wrong concentration; we will be with right concentration. Others will be with wrong knowledge; we will be with right knowledge. Others will be released wrong, we will be rightfully released. Others will be overcome by sloth and torpor; we will throw out sloth and torpor. Others will be excited, we will not be excited. Others will be doubting; we will overcome doubts. Others will be angry, we will not be angry. Others will bear a grudge, we will have no grudge. Others will be hypocritical; we will be free from hypocrisy. Others will be merciless, we will be merciful. Others will be jealous, we will not be jealous. Others will be selfish, we will not be selfish. Others will be crafty, we will not be crafty. Others will be deceitful, we will not be deceitful. Others will be stubborn, we will not be stubborn. Others will be conceited, we will not be conceited. Others will be unruly, we will be gentle. Others will have evil friends, we will have good friends. Others will be negligent, we will be diligent. Others will be without faith; we will be with faith. Others will be shameless, we will be shameful. Others will be remorseless, we will be remorseful. Others will have little learning; we will learn much. Others will be lazy; we will be with aroused effort. Others will be confused; we will be with mindfulness established. Others will be not wise, we will be wise. Others will hold to views tenaciously, we will give up views quite easily. Cunda, purifying should be d

arousing of thoughts for meritorious things is of much.

Bad tendencies can directly affect one’s mental state. So, the Buddha advises and encourages his disciples to avoid such bad mental tendencies by developing their opposite positive qualities in order to establish mental culture and health. One will able to establish his mental health depending on one’s own diligent practice and understanding of meditation. Basically psychotic and neurotic problems of mankind will occur due to those bad and evil human tendencies. An undeveloped mind catches those bad mental qualities such as; sloth & torpor (Th´namiddha), agitation (haughtiness) (uddhata), doubt (uncertainty) (vicikichchŒ), anger (kodha), contracted enmity (baddhavera), depreciation of another’s worth (ingratitude) (makkha) imperiousness (rivalry) (yugaggaha), jealousy (ill-will, envy) (issaŒ), avarice; (niggardliness; stinginess) (macchariya) ,craftiness, (fraudulence, cheating) (saÊha), fraud, (deceit) (mŒyŒ), hardness, (stiffness, callousness) (taddha), undue estimate of oneself, (conceit, arrogance) (adhimŒna), obstinacy, (disobedience) (dubbaca), bad companionship (pŒpamitta), negligence; (indolence; remissness) (appamŒda/pamatta), unfaithfulness(asaddhŒ), shame less (shyness) (ahiri), ill-versedness, (little learning) (appassuta), remorselessness (AnottŒ), lazyiness, (indolence, inactiveness) (kus´ta), poor-memory (ill-sanity), very easily and they bring one into mental disorder and stressfulness. Wise and diligent followers of the Buddha always make an effort to cultivate opposite side of these bad mental attitudes practicing meditation sincerely.

The Buddha has pointed out in the Girimananda Sutta (Discourse to Girimananda Thera) in the Anguttara NikŒya that human beings become sick when their bile (pitta), phlegm (semha), wind (vŒta) and other external facts go wrong completely. The quotation from the Sutta is:

“The diseases originate from bile, from phlegm, from wind, from conflict of the humors, from changes of weather, from adverse conditions (faulty deportment), from devices (practiced by others), from kamma-vipaka (results of kamma); and cold, heat, hunger, thirst, excrement, and urine.’ Thus he dwells contemplating the disadvantages (dangers) in this body. This Ánanda, is called contemplation of disadvantage (danger).

Mental ailments originate basically based on evil volitional thought like rŒga (greed), dosa (anger) and moha (delusion) as physical diseases are caused on the bile, phlegm and wind. A traditional physician first of all makes an arrangement or gives relevant medicine to the patient to make him vomit in order to make sure his medicine works properly before proceeding the proper medication course. Doing so, he hopes to keep body responses to due medicine controlling bile, heat, wind, and phlegm of the patient. Likewise, meditators should become v´rŒga (passionless), v´tadosa (without anger) and v´tamoha (without ignorance) rŒga (craving), dosa (anger) and moha (ignorance) in order to make sure to continue