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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