At this week’s Mission Dharma sit, Howie talked about Mara and all the ways Mara keeps us stuck in the world.  At the end, he talked about stages of meditative concentration – beginning with directing the attention (to the breath), sustaining the attention, and finally being so fully concentrated in the moment, that the thought of wanting anything (else) is absurd.  He called this quality of mind “ekaggatā”. Then translated it as “one pointed”.

Directing the mind to an object of meditation, which is called (vitakka) and sustaining the attention on that object, which is called (vicāra) are very familiar meditative experiences. That these two are the first two Jhana Factors is interesting because they both resonate so fully with the experience of practice.  Hearing the description of the ekaggatā factor – it sounded at once very familiar; very much like the experience of resting in pure awareness, with all of the happiness, joy and equanimity inherent in that state. Simply hearing these three meditative states discussed and given names gave my practice a little boost today – a little clarity and a little extra motivation.

I’ve heard the concept of ‘one pointedness’ before many times, and while that isn’t how I’d describe the experience of being fully concentrated in the present moment — I now think that’s exactly what it means. I’d always seen ‘one pointedness’ as inherently contracted. The image of a pin-point comes to mind. Is a pin-point the right metaphor to use when trying to get someone to understand ‘staying in the present moment’? I think the metaphor of balancing works better – not falling into the past or the future, but balancing in the current moment as it unfolds. Being “open” is another way to describe it, because what one is doing when they are in the present moment is being open to real-time experience, which is the only experience there is, and allowing awareness to simply be open to receiving it (without getting sidetracked by the mind into thinking of past and future). Could “Open, Effortless Awareness” be the same as “Onepointedness”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this..


5 thoughts on “ekaggatā

  1. Thanks, Peter. I suspect that they are the same, but I also think it’s important to keep an open mind on the topic (no pun intended) because the term One-pointedness is the traditional term used. There may be another layer or finer insight that is yet to be revealed — one that would explain that word choice to describe the experience.

  2. I think unification is probably a better term to describe ‘one-pointedness’. It’s focused awareness but not 100% exclusive to the object, it can still be aware of other mental factors if they arise, but you have enough insight to recognise the illusory nature and lack of inherent peace when compared to the object. One insight that came to me at this stage was ‘reality is just The Knower and The Known’. Clearly seeing the distinction that mental formations arise and have no lasting satisfaction, whereas the object is full of peace.

  3. P.s I would add to my previous comment something that helped me to progress towards ekaggatā. You can label the few subtle distractions that arise as… Infrequent, Impermanent and insignificant (can be dealt with after the sit). You could also add ‘Illusory’. It helped for me to use these to identify them and quieten the mind further.

  4. Podkin – Thanks for your insights!

    I’m reflecting on another aspect of meditation now and I’ll be writing a post soon, I hope. The topic is about the object of one’s meditation and how the object may lead to different experiences. Concentration practices, where we focus on going deeper seem to lead to different insights than Mindfulness practices, where we are invited to broaden attention to include a vast awareness of space. I bring this up because I think it is at the heart of the post above. Please come back and give me your thinking.

    In gratitude,

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