Dr. Thynn Thynn on khanika samadhi
In daily-life meditation, is the mind actively watching itself through a state of no thought?
Yes. When your mindfulness is at its peak, you can experience states where thoughts fall away. But the no-thought state lasts for only a split second. You experience a heightened awareness that is one-pointed as well as absolutely quiet. This momentary one-pointedness of the mind is called khanika samadhi. Although it is not as prolonged as the samadhi states in sitting meditation, khanika samadhi has the same intensity and quality. In khanika samadhi, thoughts fall away and the mind arrives at its purest state.
If thoughts fall away, does it mean that no “I” exists in that moment?
Yes, but only momentarily.
If no “I” exists in that moment, what does exist? What happens in that moment of no thought?
When split-second samadhi occurs, in that moment there is no thought, but only an absolutely pure and heightened consciousness. It is at that moment that pañña or insight awareness arises. The person experiences pure vision, ditthi visuddhi. In Pali, ditthi means view and visuddhi means purity. So, it means pure vision.
Although this experience may be brief, it is timeless and infinite; it is a moment of transformation. It is the moment when the “I” and “mine” resolve. After that moment of no thought, pure vision is followed by thought, but the thoughts, emotions and actions are not in the old habitual routine. In the moment of an absolutely still and quiet mind, pure vision (pañña or insight), love and compassion arise from our inner depths. Subsequent thoughts and actions are tempered with love and compassion.
You see, meditation does not make you into an inert, unthinking, unfeeling person, my dear. In fact, meditation brings out the best in you — love, warmth and sensitivity to all beings.
How did we lose our peace?
We never lost peace; it has always been there. We were just too preoccupied with our emotions and were not aware of our peaceful state. This peaceful state is nothing extraordinary. But one has to be very careful here. As long as we think this stillness is extraordinary, we cling to it. This clinging is so subtle and refined that it is difficult to recognize in oneself. One does not realize that one is still on a very refined ego trip. So long as that is the case, even when one experiences stillness through samadhi (concentration), there is no chance for pañña (wisdom) to arise.
Why is that?
Even a very concentrated mind, if it is not completely free, impedes the unfolding of wisdom. You see, in achieving samadhi, although you can suppress defilements to some extent, they are not totally extinguished. Samadhi enables the mind to achieve a sharpness and sensitivity that is greater than ordinary. This sensitivity is what experiences peace and stillness so clearly. Sensitivity has its drawbacks in that the stillness is so unique and exquisite that one clings to its uniqueness. Thus self-importance arises. Many are stuck in this way and are unable to proceed from there.
Don’t you need samadhi to achieve pañña (wisdom)?
Sure — but let’s be clear. There are two kinds of samadhi. In addition to jhanic samadhi, there is also what is called khanika samadhi. It is only momentary in nature but it is penetrating enough to realize Truth. Khanika samadhi can occur even without strenuous meditative efforts, given the right circumstances and mental state. Even in jhanic samadhi, realization of Truth or anatta (not-self) is only momentary. After that, one is back to ordinary consciousness. The unfolding of insight wisdom with khanika samadhi occurs with few or none of the mystic experiences or sensations of bliss that are usually encountered in jhanic samadhi; thus, the person has no chance to cling to blissful sensations. Before they know it, they are back to ordinary consciousness.
But don’t people who experience khanika samadhi also accumulate some experiences they hang on to?
Of course they do, and that is why in all cases there should be a guiding hand to help people free themselves from their own achievements. As I said just now, clinging to progress on the spiritual path is so subtle that it is never easy for us to realize this in ourselves.
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