Enthusiasm as a Basis for Concentration

The young Chittagong women at an alms giving ceremony

The term iddhipā­da is trans­lat­ed as ‘fac­tors lead­ing to spir­i­tu­al pow­er,’ ‘fac­tors lead­ing to suc­cess,’ or ‘paths to suc­cess.’ There are four such fac­tors: chan­da (enthu­si­asm; love), viriya (ener­gy; per­se­ver­ance), cit­ta (focused atten­tion), and vimaṁsā (inves­ti­ga­tion; wise reflec­tion). Con­cen­tra­tion aris­es from the four fac­tors lead­ing to suc­cess in the fol­low­ing ways:

Enthu­si­asm (chan­da): an enthu­si­asm for the activ­i­ty one is engaged in; a keen inter­est in the objec­tive of such an activ­i­ty; a wish to bring this activ­i­ty to ful­fil­ment and com­ple­tion; a love for one’s work and for the goal of one’s work. On a deep­er lev­el, it is a love and desire for a whole­some, com­plete state, which is the goal of one’s actions or is acces­si­ble through one’s actions; a desire for some­thing to arrive at or be estab­lished in the great­est degree of good­ness, excel­lence, pre­ci­sion, and per­fec­tion; a desire for this whole­some, com­plete state to tru­ly man­i­fest; a desire to find suc­cess con­form­ing to such goodness.

Young Chittagong boy at an alms giving ceremony

This desire is dif­fer­ent from a desire to con­sume some­thing or to pos­sess some­thing, which is referred to as ‘crav­ing’ (taṇhā). The desire of enthu­si­asm gen­er­ates hap­pi­ness and delight when a per­son wit­ness­es that object or that activ­i­ty reach com­ple­tion and ful­fil­ment; a per­son already expe­ri­ences delight when that object or activ­i­ty moves in the direc­tion of ful­fil­ment. When the object or activ­i­ty reach­es its goal, a per­son expe­ri­ences deep sat­is­fac­tion and unbound­ed joy. The desire of crav­ing on the oth­er hand gives rise to plea­sure when a per­son obtains an object of enjoy­ment or obtains some­thing that increas­es a sense of self-impor­tance. This form of plea­sure taints or cor­rupts a per­son, is a hin­drance and con­stric­tion, and tends to leave cov­etous­ness, anx­i­ety, grief, regret, and fear in its wake.

Take for exam­ple a young child who when alone draws a pic­ture in a lov­ing, painstak­ing way, deter­mined to have this pic­ture be as pret­ty and per­fect as pos­si­ble, or a child who care­ful­ly puts togeth­er a mod­el boat or air­plane, aim­ing for pre­ci­sion. Such a child is hap­py when this act of paint­ing or build­ing pro­ceeds well and grad­u­al­ly reach­es com­ple­tion. He or she will rejoice even more—perhaps even jump with joy—when the work is com­plet­ed. This child per­forms the activ­i­ty with a stead­fast and con­cen­trat­ed mind, zero­ing in on the goal. He or she finds hap­pi­ness through the activ­i­ty and the com­ple­tion of the activ­i­ty. This hap­pi­ness does not arise from an exter­nal object of enjoy­ment; it is free from mate­r­i­al entice­ments and does not require the praise from oth­er peo­ple: it does not rely on any form of reward, either sen­su­al (kāma) or con­nect­ed to the process of becom­ing (bha­va).

Chittagong girl at Buddhist alms giving ceremony

When the task is com­plet­ed the child may want to show oth­ers the fin­ished prod­uct so that they can admire the refine­ment and skill. In such a case, if an adult who views the fin­ished object express­es admi­ra­tion for the accom­plish­ment, express­es a suit­able appre­ci­a­tion for the qual­i­ty of the object, or encour­ages the child to improve his or her skills, this is an appro­pri­ate and ade­quate response. An exces­sive amount of admi­ra­tion, how­ev­er, in which an appre­ci­a­tion for the child’s efforts becomes a form of indulging the child is inap­pro­pri­ate, for this will trans­form the child’s enthu­si­asm into craving—will trans­form a whole­some ten­den­cy into an unwhole­some ten­den­cy. This response may even spoil the child and cre­ate bad habits. When­ev­er whole­some enthu­si­asm aris­es, crav­ing will then arise too; enthu­si­asm becomes a fuel for crav­ing. Train­ing chil­dren in this way is com­mon. If a soci­ety sup­ports this form of train­ing the num­ber of peo­ple who find hap­pi­ness through whole­some enthu­si­asm will decrease, while the num­ber of peo­ple who find plea­sure through the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of crav­ing will increase; and the over­all state of the soci­ety will become more troubled.

Chil­dren do not only wish to have oth­er peo­ple admire the things that they them­selves have cre­at­ed; they also want peo­ple to admire oth­er things that they encounter, regard­less of whether these things are man­made or objects in nature. They wish to share the inher­ent good­ness and per­fec­tion that they wit­ness even in such things as rocks and peb­bles, leaves, and insects. In fact this is a uni­ver­sal expe­ri­ence: when peo­ple wit­ness and rec­og­nize say the beau­ty of nature or an out­stand­ing human accom­plish­ment, they often want to encour­age oth­ers to share this whole­some feel­ing. By encour­ag­ing oth­ers they do not seek per­son­al reward nor do they seek grat­i­fi­ca­tion by way of the sens­es. A per­son who sees the true val­ue of the Dham­ma has a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence; this appre­ci­a­tion pro­vides the Dham­ma with the char­ac­ter­is­tic of ehipas­siko: invit­ing one to come and see.

If one is able to rouse ardent enthu­si­asm and gen­er­ate a deep love for the good­ness of an object or the ful­fil­ment of a goal, one will devote one’s life to this thing. If one’s love is true one will sur­ren­der one­self com­plete­ly, per­haps even sac­ri­fic­ing one’s life for that thing. Dur­ing the Buddha’s time many princes, wealthy mer­chants, influ­en­tial brah­mans, and young men and women relin­quished their palaces, wealth, and con­sid­er­able world­ly pos­ses­sions to go forth and be ordained, because they devel­oped a love for Dham­ma after hear­ing the teach­ings of the Bud­dha. Peo­ple who love their work are sim­i­lar; they wish to per­form and accom­plish their work in the best pos­si­ble way. They are not dis­tract­ed by oth­er allur­ing things or con­cerned about some form of reward; their mind is focused, con­cen­trat­ed, and sta­ble, and they pro­ceed in a steady, con­sis­tent way. Con­cen­tra­tion aris­ing from enthu­si­asm (chan­da-samād­hi) thus aris­es, accom­pa­nied by sup­port­ive effort (pad­hā­na-saṅkhāra).

From chap­ter 16 of Bud­dhad­ham­ma on Men­tal Col­lect­ed­ness; Ven­er­a­ble Phra Payutto.

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