Access Concentration

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Access Concentration

Postby Beautiful Breath » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Hi,

Can some one explain what Access Concentration is?

Also the best method to acheive this and how we know when we're there?

Thanks,

Tony...
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Re: Access Concention

Postby IanAnd » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:29 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:Can some one explain what Access Concentration is?

Tony...

Hi Tony,

Some here may disagree with my take, depending on whose instruction they follow, but I find that speaking from one's personal experience is always the best policy and the quickest route to the truth (at least from one's own opinion and perspective, which in many cases others may also be able to verify from their own experience).

Without becoming too technical, and in the spirit of keeping things simple and hopefully understandable, access concentration is a later term (meaning it has a more modern origin) used to describe the amount of concentration necessary to begin attempting to practice dhyana meditation in terms of the four levels of rupa dhyana as described in the discourses.

Put in laypersons terminology, if one can stay with the meditation object (such as the breath) for two to five minutes (in my humble opinion) without a break or an unnoticed break in attention on the object, then one has achieved the required amount of "access" concentration needed to pursue dhyana meditation levels. It is really that simple, and no more complicated than that.

As far as achieving this goes, there's really no best method that works. Each person is difference, and thus will respond individually to different stimuli. I found that following the breath at the tip of the nose (the in-breath and the out-breath) while keeping my attention focused at the point where the air goes in and goes out (kind of like following the blade of a saw at its point of contact with the wood it is sawing) was sufficient for me to develop the necessary concentration.

You'll just have to experiment with different methods. I'm sure others will offer their favorite methods to your question also. So, just pick one and try it out. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak (meaning the effort to attempt to make it work for you)!

In peace,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
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Re: Access Concention

Postby lojong1 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:07 pm

You say gently to yourself "holy feck, maybe that was access concentration" or something of the sort, and are convinced that your sitting practice should continue because there is obviously great value in it.
I can't think of anything else it is good for.
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Re: Access Concention

Postby Samma » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:44 pm

Common synonyms are:
access
neighborhood (because it is near to jhana/absorption)
threshold
momentary (used as access-level moment-to-moment concentration)

Related terms:
access concentration (upacāra samādhi)
absorption concentration (appanā samādhi)
preliminary concentration (Parikamma-samādhi)

Polar views on it:
1. Those more based in suttas tend to ignore it. Above terms not found in suttas. EG Thanissaro
2. Those that are based more in commentaries, consider it a clear stage. Associated with arising of counterpart sign (patibhaga nimitta). EG Pa Auk

The most popular way of resolving these is that access concentration / visuddhimagga style jhanas are produced with a fixed attention, not giving attention to any movement or qualities of breath. Whereas a more open whole awareness of the body does not necessarily produce these nimittas

Relevant topic: viewtopic.php?f=43&t=4451
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Re: Access Concention

Postby Kamran » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:40 am

I would say its the point when it no longer takes much effort to stay with the breath. The Mind is becoming still, and any thoughts that do arise don't distract you from watching your breath.

The mind enjoys the stillness, and is now more interested in watching the breath and the process of thought formation rather than getting enmeshed in the content of the thoughts themselves. Sort of like watching a magic show to try and figure out the tricks instead of being entertained by them :)
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: Access Concention

Postby manas » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:16 am

On second thoughts, I've sent this as a PM instead.

metta
Last edited by manas on Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Access Concention

Postby Digity » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:27 am

IanAnd wrote:Without becoming too technical, and in the spirit of keeping things simple and hopefully understandable, access concentration is a later term (meaning it has a more modern origin) used to describe the amount of concentration necessary to begin attempting to practice dhyana meditation in terms of the four levels of rupa dhyana as described in the discourses.

Put in laypersons terminology, if one can stay with the meditation object (such as the breath) for two to five minutes (in my humble opinion) without a break or an unnoticed break in attention on the object, then one has achieved the required amount of "access" concentration needed to pursue dhyana meditation levels. It is really that simple, and no more complicated than that.

As far as achieving this goes, there's really no best method that works. Each person is difference, and thus will respond individually to different stimuli. I found that following the breath at the tip of the nose (the in-breath and the out-breath) while keeping my attention focused at the point where the air goes in and goes out (kind of like following the blade of a saw at its point of contact with the wood it is sawing) was sufficient for me to develop the necessary concentration.

You'll just have to experiment with different methods. I'm sure others will offer their favorite methods to your question also. So, just pick one and try it out. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak (meaning the effort to attempt to make it work for you)!

In peace,
Ian

I agree. This has also been my experience with access concentration. Interestingly enough, I also used the tip of the nose with the in and out breath to achieve it. When you achieve access concentration thought are faint and in the background and you feel very present and the breath flows smoothly. There's just this real sense of being with the object of meditation, but usually you feel like you're half there, half distracted.

However, in the months and months I've meditated I've only achieved access concentration a handful of times and often times I don't know how I did it. It kind of just arises. Lately, I have not been able to gain that level of concentration. It's been a bit frustrating, but I just keep sitting regardless. As people have told me on this board, part of meditation is learning to let go and not get attached to states. Having said all that, access concentration feels very nice. I didn't like to meditate until I finally got this level of concentration and then it made me realize how peaceful meditation could be. It helps motivate you to keep practicing, because once you see that level of stillness/awareness it's very peaceful and you can't help but want more.
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Re: Access Concention

Postby manas » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:46 am

Digity wrote:However, in the months and months I've meditated I've only achieved access concentration a handful of times and often times I don't know how I did it. It kind of just arises. Lately, I have not been able to gain that level of concentration. It's been a bit frustrating, but I just keep sitting regardless. As people have told me on this board, part of meditation is learning to let go and not get attached to states. Having said all that, access concentration feels very nice. I didn't like to meditate until I finally got this level of concentration and then it made me realize how peaceful meditation could be. It helps motivate you to keep practicing, because once you see that level of stillness/awareness it's very peaceful and you can't help but want more.


It's ok to want more of the peace that comes from renunciation. And there are ways to learn how to bring those states forth, so that it becomes less a matter of luck, and more of skill. Everyone has their own preferences, but I heartily recommend Thanissaro Bhikkhu as a safe and reliable guide for learning this skill.

:anjali:
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Digity » Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:04 am

manas wrote:
Digity wrote:However, in the months and months I've meditated I've only achieved access concentration a handful of times and often times I don't know how I did it. It kind of just arises. Lately, I have not been able to gain that level of concentration. It's been a bit frustrating, but I just keep sitting regardless. As people have told me on this board, part of meditation is learning to let go and not get attached to states. Having said all that, access concentration feels very nice. I didn't like to meditate until I finally got this level of concentration and then it made me realize how peaceful meditation could be. It helps motivate you to keep practicing, because once you see that level of stillness/awareness it's very peaceful and you can't help but want more.


It's ok to want more of the peace that comes from renunciation. And there are ways to learn how to bring those states forth, so that it becomes less a matter of luck, and more of skill. Everyone has their own preferences, but I heartily recommend Thanissaro Bhikkhu as a safe and reliable guide for learning this skill.

:anjali:

Yeah, I'm hoping to do just that. I want to be able to go into a state of concentration with more ease, but lately it's completely eluded me. Just because you get concentrated in one sitting doesn't mean you will in the next. It's not linear in that sense and it often makes me start questioning my practice and wondering if I'm doing this correctly or not. Maybe I'm just not putting the right effort into it or something. Not sure, but my meditation has felt off lately.
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Beautiful Breath » Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:01 pm

Thanks for you replies!

So a fixed point of concentration is required - the types of practice described in Silent Illumination for example will not bring about this?

I have experienced some really quite sublime states whilst practicing Silent Illumination, extremely calm and quiet with a palpable sense of losing any sense of body and a strong sense of a busy mind 'falling away'.

I am however, erring on the practice of Apapanasati as I understand Silent Illumination will not bring about Jhana?

Tony...
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby lojong1 » Thu Mar 28, 2013 7:38 pm

Silent Illumination methods can take you where you want to go.
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Samma » Thu Mar 28, 2013 7:59 pm

I don't know enough about silent illumination to comment.

Two more distinctions are probably useful for you to understand.
Some make distinctions between Momentary vs access and types of jhana.
U Pandita:
There are two types of jhāna: samatha jhāna and vipassanā jhāna. Some of you may have read about the samatha jhānas and wonder why I am talking about them in the context of vipassanā. Samatha jhāna is pure concentration, fixed awareness of a single object — a mental image, for example, such as a colored disk or a light. The mind is fixed on this object without wavering or moving elsewhere.

On momentary concentration, book is Practicing the Jhanas, Pa Auk tradition:
Mediators can eventually attain access concentration using either type of momentary concentration practice--samatha or vipassana. However, samatha practices are more likely to lead to access concentration because of their more stable nature. Access concentration is characterized by the significant reduction or complete dropping of the five hindrances. For most people, a period of intensive practice is required to reach access concentration. In access concentration, the meditative experience becomes smoother, easier, and more pleasant because of this lessening of hindrances and the arising of the powerful and blissful sensations of the jhana factors. This allows mediators to meditate longer and progress more easily in the practice. It becomes a positive, self-reinforcing loop.
It is easy to confuse momentary concentration with access concentration. One difference is that with access concentration the mediators continuity with the object is much longer and more stable over time. Another difference is that with access concentration, the object is much more energized and "bright"


The views on what constitutes access concentration seem to vary quite a bit, so depends on who you ask...
For example, patibhaga nimitta marks access.
Or just any level of fixed concentration free from hindrances.
Or perhaps easiest definition, Leigh B writes, "Access Concentration is a state where you are fully with the meditation object (breath) and if there are thoughts, they are wispy and in the background and do not pull you away from the breath"
http://www.leighb.com/accesscon.htm

Because the term seems quite ambiguous and vague, probably best not to place too much emphasis on it. There are other things you can place emphasis on such as increase one-pointedness of mind, not being as distracted. Or if you are focusing more on piti-sukkha. Or if you are making use of nimitta. And so on.
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Beautiful Breath » Sat Mar 30, 2013 8:22 am

lojong1 wrote:Silent Illumination methods can take you where you want to go.


:thinking:

I'm curious, tell me more
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby manas » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:17 am

Digity wrote:...
Yeah, I'm hoping to do just that. I want to be able to go into a state of concentration with more ease, but lately it's completely eluded me. Just because you get concentrated in one sitting doesn't mean you will in the next. It's not linear in that sense and it often makes me start questioning my practice and wondering if I'm doing this correctly or not. Maybe I'm just not putting the right effort into it or something. Not sure, but my meditation has felt off lately.


I too, and others here I recall, have noticed this - progress is not linear, it appears to wax and wane. I have decided lately to be more disciplined, to really resolve not to lose heart if I experience a bit of peace or joy in one sitting, and in the next one 'nothing' happens. I think that is an immature way to look at it (note that I'm criticising myself here!). Of late, I say to myself at the outset, that "my aim is to overcome the hindrances, and even if all I do for the entire session is to patiently work on eliminating greed, ill-will, sloth, restlessness, and doubt from the mind - using the stages of anapanasati as the vehicle - it will have been time well spent, and not to lament that 'nothing happened". Actually, if we apply ourselves to the task and strive to remain awake and alert through the entire session, then 'something' did happen - the training. Cultivate a sense of devotion to the training, which is of necessity a gradual process. Training the mind takes time, and patience. (ime!)

Another thing that I have found immensely helpful, is to not always be reaching for that 'next level' up but rather, to deepen your contentment with the stage you are in, making it firm and stable before 'moving on'. I'm finding that, this attitude of patience weakens the hindrance of greed, the 'wanting more than what is'...

And lastly, we need to also remember what we cultivate jhana for - it's not for the sake of bliss, it's for seeing things as they are.

peace :anjali:
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Beautiful Breath » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:31 pm

manas wrote:


And lastly, we need to also remember what we cultivate jhana for - it's not for the sake of bliss, it's for seeing things as they are.

peace :anjali:[/quote]

:goodpost:
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Digity » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:01 pm

I think the biggest cause for my lack of concentration lately is my lack of resolve in my sitting. It feels like I'm just trying to get through my meditation rather than really wanting to concentrate the mind. When I had a stronger resolve and was more focused my meditation was better. Now that I've lost some of that my meditation just feels flat-lined. It's interesting to see how all these different causes and effects come into play when you sit. At least I'm noticing this and hope that it'll cause me to be more focused from now on when I sit.
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Re: Access Concentration

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:27 pm

Beautiful Breath wrote:... how we know when we're there?


I'd say it's when the hindrances have been suspended. The mind is tranquil and content to stay with the meditation object.
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