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I've tried hard to practice meditation - Anapansatti & Vipassana but I just can't concentrate on my breath. Now, I'm feeling inferior as if I can never concentrate my breath or get rid of my inner problems/ sufferings. I feel as if peace or enlightenment or eradication of suffering is not for me.

After proper analysis, I've found that I just simply can't concentrate. So my questions are

  • What are necessary & sufficient condition to get enlightened? If I don't have those qualities how can I develop those qualities? What I would have to do?

  • How to concentrate provided I have tried my best to concentrate my breathing but mind wanders away in no time. It is making me sick thinking I don't posses qualities to eradicate my own sufferings. It makes me feel as if I will never be at peace.

Note: I have been into 10 days Vipassana course also.

Anyone help me.

  • You should start with Shila. Make sure you don't break Shila... Your question make me to think how one can develop patience? – user10804 Jan 23 '18 at 11:36
  • The base improvement, yes. Then, having the base: sila-, caga-, devatanusati – Samana Johann Jan 23 '18 at 17:35
  • Your mind has never been in a concentrated state? You have never focused on a task? Your mind has never focused on a TV program or music? – Lowbrow Aug 10 at 22:21

10 Answers 10

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as i see it in OP based solely on content of his post.

The faculty of conviction - seems to appear The faculty of persistence - seems to appear The faculty of mindfulness - seems to appear The faculty of concentration - self reported weak The faculty of discernment - seems to appear

Indriya-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Mental Faculties

On concentration:

"And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

So it has attainment of singleness of mind as property of mind.

So how to develope it: https://suttacentral.net/en/ma42

At that time, the Venerable Ānanda rose from his seat of repose in the afternoon and went to Buddha. He bowed his head at his feet and then withdrew to sit at one side. He said: “World Honored One, what is the meaning of this: ‘to keep precepts’?”

The World Honored One replied: “Ānanda, the meaning of keeping the precepts is to bring about non-regret. Ānanda, if someone were to keep the precepts, he would readily attain non-regret.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/an10.2

(1)–(2) “Bhikkhus, for a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous, no volition need be exerted: ‘Let non-regret arise in me.’ It is natural that non-regret arises in a virtuous person, one whose behavior is virtuous.

(3) “For one without regret no volition need be exerted: ‘Let joy arise in me.’ It is natural that joy arises in one without regret.

(4) “For one who is joyful no volition need be exerted: ‘Let rapture arise in me.’ It is natural that rapture arises in one who is joyful.

(5) “For one with a rapturous mind no volition need be exerted: ‘Let my body be tranquil.’ It is natural that the body of one with a rapturous mind is tranquil.

(6) “For one tranquil in body no volition need be exerted: ‘Let me feel pleasure.’ It is natural that one tranquil in body feels pleasure.

(7) “For one feeling pleasure no volition need be exerted: ‘Let my mind be concentrated.’ It is natural that the mind of one feeling pleasure is concentrated.

Later again from Meanings Sutta but it fit here more in this post:

Again, he asked: “World Honored One, what is the meaning of this: ‘concentration’?”

The World Honored One replied: “Ānanda, the meaning of concentration is to bring about seeing according to reality and knowing according to reality. Ānanda, if someone were to be concentrated, he would readily attain the seeing that is according to reality and the knowing that is according to reality.”

Else?

For developing of non-distractiveness association with people collected in mind, avoiding restless people and mindfulness of arising and ceasing of phenomena in general according to Buddhagosa s commentary

I think this is it for your concentration problem OP, dont think i have to state the seemingly obvious in regards to your leaks:)

In regards to feeling inferior,

there is no competition in search for peace

i heard that

Also this

Sarakaani Sutta:

"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But perhaps he has these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. And the things proclaimed by the Tathaagata are moderately approved by him with insight. That man does not go to the realm of hungry ghosts, to the downfall, to the evil way, to states of woe.

"Take the case of another man. He is not even endowed with unwavering devotion to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha. He is not joyous and swift in wisdom and has not gained release. But he has just these things: the faculty of faith, of energy, of mindfulness, of concentration, of wisdom. Yet if he has merely faith, merely affection for the Tathaagata, that man, too, does not go to... states of woe.

On Vi:

When training Satipatthana it is not the objective to get well-concentrated, the concentration comes in succession and has its role and appropriate function. IE it also is involved as a causal condition for people attaching to certain states and that hinders progress.

Sati as a factor of Enlightenment, translated as mindfuless has function of remembering or keeping in mind, re-cognizing. Mindfulness of physical and mental states arising of and within a body is a single theme for the mind, which will develope concentration faculty no problem.

It seems to me that you could try paying more attention to arising and passing of states of "disliking", "wanting/liking", "sadness/despair", "judging/evaluating", "doubting" and "thinking/wondering" as well as "knowing", knowing ie when your concentration is low you can know it as "my concentration is weak", then maybe "disliking?;)" or "wanting" for it to be better or "evaluating" that it makes you a bad meditator, should note that your are thinking at this point and see where it goes from there. You see it will keep you within the theme of mindfulness of the body, conditioning victory.

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  • you also say that you have been to a course, assuming you kept precepts and still failed to attained what you expected in terms of concentration. I would not take that as a proof of moral restrain not leading to concentration. Id point out the numerous enviromental factors that weigh in as well as case specific issues that need resolvement, like worries, doubts etc. Also suspecting psycho active drug use maybe, generally speaking not you in particular. – deadmanposting Jan 23 '18 at 14:34
  • Ānanda, if someone were to be concentrated, he would readily attain the seeing that is according to reality and the knowing that is according to reality.” ----> what is reality here? Pls tell – user12919 Jan 23 '18 at 14:56
  • give me some time ill post the rest; "Bhikkhus, I declare [that there is] the extinction of āsavas in one who knows and sees,[3] and not in one who does not know and see. Bhikkhus! What is known and what is seen by one in whom I declare [that there is] the extinction of āsavas? The right perception of phenomena[4] and the wrong perception of phenomena. – deadmanposting Jan 23 '18 at 15:20
  • basicly seeing wrongly is not looking at the unattractive side – deadmanposting Jan 23 '18 at 15:24
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    to summarize my answer is that "reality" in that sentence can be said to mean the mundane reality of concepts and experiences and/or supramundane reality which is the unconditioned state. – deadmanposting Jan 23 '18 at 15:33
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Whenever anyone has a problem like this, I'm always reminded of Dutiya Anuruddha Sutta (AN 3.128/130/131 in different versions):

Then venerable Anuruddha came to venerable Shariputra and said:

-- As much as I, friend Shariputra, look at things with purified Heavenly Eye, see things with thousandfold-superhuman vision, train in confidence unmovable, in awareness undimmable, in tranquillity imperturbable, and in focused mind unscattered, still I can't "having stopped maintaining intoxication, achieve liberation of mind".

-- All these thoughts, friend Anuruddha, of the kind "I look at things with purified Heavenly Eye, I see things with thousandfold-superhuman vision" -- this is your conceit.

And the thoughts of the kind "I train in confidence unmovable, in awareness undimmable, in tranquility imperturbable, and in focused mind unscattered" -- this is your pathological restlessness.

And the thoughts of the kind "still I can't "having stopped maintaining intoxication, achieve liberation of mind" -- this is your remorse.

You'd better, friend Anuruddha, these three thoughts abandon; To these three thoughts not attending, to The Unconditional point your mind.

The point being, these instances of worry and inferiority are the exact problems we are supposed to solve in Buddhism. The Buddhist path is not to heap on more goals and expectations and worries - but to in fact let go of them, to have less of them - in order to attain peace of mind. The element of Sila or morals in Buddhism exists to help one be free of regrets, not to have more reasons for regret! The element of "concentration" (I'd rather say "attention control") is practiced to make one free from worry, not to worry even more about one's inability to control attention. So just remember that everything in Buddhism is done with peace as its goal, dispassion as its goal, liberation as its goal - not to torture oneself. This way all your practice and meditation becomes an act of healing and rest, not an act of fighting.

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I was talking to my friend a few years back. She is a yoga instructor and we got on the subject of meditation. She asked how many hours a day I meditated and was taken a little aback by my answer. "How can you sit so long! I much rather be working in the garden or hiking. That's my meditation and I can do that all day!"

In a rare instance of wisdom, I refrained from explaining to her that what she was doing wasn't really meditation. It's a good thing I did, because looking back, I now realize that I would have been completely and utterly wrong. Meditation doesn't have to be sitting meditation. Not at first anyway. Buddhist samatha and vipassana practice are simultaneously a mental and a somatic exercise. For some people, this is not an issue. Mind and body soften and settle together. But some people need a little something extra. You seem to be in that camp. Instead of rushing right into sitting, why not try a bodily practice first? Do something like hiking or walking, tai chi, or yoga. You could even do an immersive activity like gardening or woodworking. Practices like this go a long way to calm the mind. They do it almost completely by accident in a way that is on the same spectrum as seated meditation. The practice itself doesn't matter. How good you are at it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you let allow the physical discipline to tame your mind. It will all on its own.

Most importantly, however - and if you take away nothing else, let it be this -my friend can garden all day because she loves it. I can meditate as much as I do because I feel the same. It doesn't sound like you love your meditation practice. And why should you? It's clearly causing you frustration. But it doesn't have to. Think back to when you were a kid and were playing with your toys. Did you really care if you were good at playing? Were you sad if one play session didn't go as well as another? Was playing some sort of transactional system that you thought would have yields proportional to the time you invested in it? Of course not. You played because you loved it. I'd even go so far as to say that you played just to play. Meditation is no different. Approach it with the same spirit.

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I believe it is important to not judge your practice. Simply continue, and use these feelings you are experiencing as something to observe. What you are dealing with is much more common than you may realize, and has nothing to do with whether you are "good" or "bad" at meditation. Don't fight these thoughts of inferiority, but practice seeing if you can let them come and go without overwhelming you.

When it storms outside, feel free to watch, but do not open the window.

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I'm not a Buddhist as such however I would like to weigh in here, if you don't mind that is.

Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with your mind wandering especially when one is starting out in meditation. It takes time and practice, I've been slowly improving my meditations over the last three years, my mind still wanders a lot especially during my longer sessions.

My approach has been to accept that my mind will wander and to treat myself with kindness, in the same way you would with a child who gets distracted. When I find that my mind is wandering I gently let go of the thought and call myself back to the task at hand.

While meditiating, when your mind wanders the moment you realise as much don't get upset with yourself, just relax, smile at your wayward mind and call yourself back to your meditation. If you get upset with yourself you will completely break down your attempt to meditiate.

If it helps you can take the mindfulness approach and treat the thoughts that come into your mind as leaves on a breeze or floating on water, imagine th thought as a leaf and let drift away from you until they're out of site.

With practice you'll be able to focus and concentrate for longer and longer. I've a VERY active mind, even at rest, so even after these years I'm only able to hold focus or concentrate for 10-15 minutes :)

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This advice from Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu may be helpful to you:

Since certain bodily and verbal acts are intrinsically tied to negative qualities of mind, they are considered ‘contraindicative’ to the meditation practice; they have an effect opposite to what is desired, cultivating defilement instead of purity. Meditators who insist on engaging in such behaviour will face great difficulty in their practice, developing habits that are detrimental to both meditation practice and personal well-being. To ensure the mind is perfectly clear and capable of understanding reality, certain behaviours must be taken out of one’s “diet”, so to speak.

First, there are five kinds of action from which one must refrain completely, as they are inherently unwholesome:

  1. One must refrain from killing living beings. In order to cultivate one’s own well-being, one must be dedicated to well-being as a principle, refraining from killing any living being, even ants, mosquitoes and other living beings.

  2. One must refrain from theft. In order to find peace of mind, we must grant it to others as well; stealing is a denial of this basic right to security. Further, if we wish to be free from addiction, we must be able to control our desires to the extent of respecting the possessions of others.

  3. One must abstain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct. Romantic relationships that are emotionally or spiritually damaging to others, due to existing commitments of the parties involved, are a cause for stress and suffering and based on perversion of the mind.

  4. One must refrain from telling lies. If one wishes to find truth, one must avoid falsehood; intentionally leading others away from the truth is harmful both to oneself and others and incompatible with the goals of meditation.

  5. One must refrain from taking drugs or alcohol. Any substance that intoxicates the mind is obviously contraindicative to meditation practice, as it is the antithesis of a natural, clear state of being.

Complete abstention from these activities is necessary if one wishes for meditation practice to be successful, due to their inherently unwholesome nature and the invariably negative effect they have on the mind.

Further, there are certain activities that must be moderated or they will interfere with meditation practice. These are activities that are not necessarily unwholesome in and of themselves but will nonetheless inhibit clarity of mind and lessen the benefit of the meditation practice when undertaken in excess.

One such activity is eating; if one wishes to truly progress in the meditation practice, one must be careful not to eat too much or too little. If one is constantly obsessed with food, it can be a great hindrance to progress in meditation since not only does it cloud the mind, over-eating leads to drowsiness, both in the body and mind. One should eat to stay alive rather than stay alive simply to eat. During intensive meditation courses, meditators eat one main meal per day and suffer no negative physical consequences as a result; whereas the positive effects of such moderation are clarity of mind and freedom from obsession over food.

Another activity that interferes with meditation practice is entertainment – watching movies, listening to music, and so on. These occupations are not inherently unwholesome but can easily create states of addiction when undertaken in excess.

Addiction is a form of insobriety in a sense, since it involves chemical processes in the brain that inhibit clear thought and clarity of mind. Since the pleasure that comes from entertainment is momentary and unsatisfying while the addiction and obsession carry over into one’s life, a serious meditator should determine to make the best use of their short time in this life by cultivating peace and contentment, rather than wasting it on meaningless activities that don’t lead to long term happiness and peace. If one wishes to find true happiness, one must therefore moderate one’s engagement in entertainment. Socializing on the Internet and similar activities should be undertaken in moderation as well.

The third activity one must moderate is that of sleeping. Sleeping is an addiction that is often overlooked; most people don’t realize how attached they are to sleep as a means of escape from reality. Still others become insomniac, obsessed with the thought that they are not getting “enough” sleep, leading to increased stress levels and further difficulty in falling asleep.

Through the meditation practice, one will find that one needs less sleep than before since one’s mind will become calmer. Insomnia is not a problem for meditators since they are able to meditate even in the lying position and keep their minds free from stress. People who have difficulty falling asleep should train themselves to watch the stomach rise and fall, noting “rising”, “falling”, all night if necessary. Even if they are not able to fall asleep (which is unlikely, given the calm state of mind while meditating) they will find themselves as rested as if they had slept soundly through the night.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that to truly gain results in the meditation practice, a meditator should set aside at least a period of time to remain entirely celibate, not just avoiding immoral sexual activity, since all sexual activity is invariably intoxicating and will be a hindrance towards attainment of mental clarity and peace.

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  • I don't watch movies and all. Not consume liquor. Don't have sexual misconducts But sometimes watch Porn & Masturbate and also eat non vegetarian food. Am I breaking the precepts? – user12919 Jan 23 '18 at 17:17
  • Non-vegetarian food is OK in the Theravada school as long as you didn't directly cause an animal to have its life deprived. If you bought frozen or cooked meat, that's fine. Porn can be considered an addiction. Masturbation doesn't break the precept on sexual misconduct to my understanding. – ruben2020 Jan 23 '18 at 18:28
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You would not call a two-year-old child a failure because the child throws tantrums. You would say the child is being true to its nature. The mind lives up to its nature always, and never misses a chance to try to make you (soul) then feel guilty about it. Contemplation can be an approach more suited to the active mind.

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I also went on a Vipassana 10 day retreat. The first was wonderful. On the second, though, I had so much trouble (physical and family) at the time, in my life, that I just couldn't quiet inside, the whole 10 days.

At the end, the person leading the retreat - who had obviously seen this - asked me how I was and what I thought.

I told him (as near as I can remember), that these were body sensations and mental sensations going on. I noticed them, and let them happen, and kept gently pulling my mind back to quiet, whether or not I was successful, and without anger or upset, just gently repeating as long as it took.. which was in the event longer than the 10 days I was there, it would seem.

Sometimes it's easy to perceive it in a mistaken way. The inner still and quietness of meditation flows from not being attached. It isn't a cause of not being attached, or even really a requirement to achieve it. It may not help to seek a kind of "proof" of some kind that you are "correct" or that you should be attached to "good" and "bad" marks from some teacher-figure or inner critic in your mind.

You don't actually need stillness to be meditating (although certainly it's hard to realise this without experience!). You are what you are, you cannot not be that, much like there cannot not be weather in the atmosphere or sensation in a living mind. "This too is just a thought... this too is just a sensation... this is a breath happening..."

Pause. Know these things, and understand these are also truths. If your body fidgets, your mind scurries, your anxieties trigger and your stress happens, thoughts pass, you can say "aha", and focus on the real truths that they show (as all things show) - that these things are sensations... these things are not "you"... these things arise... and - if you watch them, they also fall away. This is what sitting teaches - but you can see it without sitting, as well.

When you see that this is the nature of sensation, and the nature of mind, and you watch without attachment, it is the difference between anger and upset, and equanimity and acceptance. Perhaps you have a mind that is hard to rein in, a mind that circles around to judgments of inferiority and incapability, a mind that finds stillness hard. Then - let it! Do not become trapped in the trick that, in trying to reach detachment, your first action is to get attached to that which is in your way! Notice your mind is doing these things.. as it has before.... as it surely will again... and see it gently as it is. Your mind is in circles, but - you are not. You can pause, and rest outside that mind.. outside that circle of frenzy suffering and attachment.. outside attachment... and watch that this is what your mind does. How curious! I wonder what it will do next? Oh look, it's trying to rope me in! Remind yourself, 'This is watching of a mind at play', and bring yourself back to equanimity, not belief..... focus on what mental sensations are happening down there and not on going there or believing in them,. See how soon one unpleasant sensation follows and leads to another, like a reel unwinding.

When you feel drawn in, remember about watching, and settle yourself, and watch with equanimity, that this is what your mind seems to be doing. But you need not follow it or succumb to its temptations to indulge and go there yourself. Watch, be still, notice, and see mental and physical sensations of your mind, like so much cotton candy/candy floss, pass you by......

If you succumb, one time, a dozen times, a thousand times, that's also just a sensation. When you notice you did so, don't attach, just resume watching how sensations play out - inferiority, thoughts about what you "must do" or "should have done", anger, distress.... notice how they flicker across. Meditate on their passing, their rising, and their vanishing, rather than engaging with it. In this way, you take what you heard in Vipassana, and you bring it into your own life.

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Answers

I've tried hard

That's a heavy part of your problem. Don't try hard.

To quote Yoda: "Do or do not, there is no try."

I just can't concentrate on my breath

You are not supposed to "concentrate", but to "note" your breath. This is different. You are just noting that you are breathing.

  • Sit down, relax, notice your breath.
  • Sit for 5 seconds.
  • Now, your mind starts racing. It starts to think about StackExchange. It starts to think about whatever you hear outside, etc.
  • Now, you notice that you do not "concentrate" on the breathing anymore.
  • Now, you get angry, etc., and force yourself to concentrate on your breath for a few seconds.

And so on and so on.

All of this is completely normal. This is what is supposed to happen. The point is not that you control yourself - you are supposed to let go of the control. Noticing that you are slipping is good. It means you are able to note things about your own mind! This is great.

What you are supposed to do now is this:

  • Look at what your mind is doing. Look, and enjoy, how your thoughts are racing, how your blood pressure starts to rise, how ... you get what I mean.
  • Just look at it. What you are seeing is real, it is happening, and the point of your meditation is to train yourself to see what is.
  • Enjoy, and take good note of how crazy your mind is. Google "shimpanzes" or "apes" in regard to Buddhism, there are some nice stories about how the thoughts flitter around like a crazy bunch of animals.

When you get bored, just look at your breath occasionally, and be happy.

The actual problem is when you are not noting anything anymore. That is, when your mind is racing, and you are fully involved in the racing. When you note that you are not "noting" anymore, then you take the breath as a hook and consciously, but gently, move your attention to the breath.

get rid of my inner problems/ sufferings

You never want to get rid of anything during meditation.

I feel as if peace or enlightenment or eradication of suffering is not for me.

Meditation does not necessarily need to be peaceful. I mean this literally; even if you feel absolutely awful afterwards, it is still good.

Don't look for enlightenment or eradiation of suffering. You won't find it. It may or may not happen at some point, but looking for it is a sure-fire way to make 100% sure that you never find it.

What are necessary & sufficient condition to get enlightened?

Patience, young padawan.

If I don't have those qualities how can I develop those qualities? What I would have to do?

Sit down for 15-30 minutes every day, shut your eyes and mouth, and watch what happens.

How to concentrate provided I have tried my best to concentrate

Stop trying to concentrate. Stop trying to control anything.

but mind wanders away in no time

This is good. Let it wander, it's what minds do. A major part of the exercise is to learn this.

It is making me sick thinking I don't posses qualities to eradicate my own sufferings.

Who or what gave you the thought that you will eradicate your sufferings? You will never do that. The point is to accept them.

Anyone help me.

There's an australian western buddhist called Ajahn Brahm who does great Youtube videos. Google and watch them (you know that you found him when he doesn't talk like some weird mysterious guy, but like a really enjoyable, normal fellow with a lot of laughing).

Addendum

Two minor points might crop up, which in fact you need to do something about:

  • Being able to physically sit for 15-30 minutes. This is very hard for some people, because muscles are shortened and/or weakened. You can do whatever you need to do to be able to sit comfortably (cussions, sitting on a chair instead of on the floor, moving around if something really hurts, etc.). Take special care of your knees, you do not want to damage them out of stubborness.
  • Avoiding to falling asleep. If your mind stops racing, you still need to stay alert. That is one reason why most people sit, and do not lie down, to meditate.

But you see, those are rather mundane issues, you surely can tackle them if and when they occur.

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  • Thanks for the reply, I've added an Addendum, @user12919. – AnoE Jan 24 '18 at 16:00
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Many Westerners market meditation as a cure-all & easy path so they can make money. In Asia, meditation is generally not taught to lay people. Meditation is not an easy path; relatively few Buddhists attain profound results; therefore, you should not judge yourself against meditation results. For example, according to the monks Vinaya, jhana concentration is a "supernormal" state of mind. Therefore, comparing yourself to 'jhana' is like comparing yourself to Michael Jordan. It will only lead to suffering over what is rare; like girls who have psychological disorders because they believe they should look like a certain movie star or supermodel.

As for hindrances to concentration, there are five, namely: (i) sensual desire; (ii) ill-will; (iii) restlessness & remorse; (iv) sloth & torpor; and (v) doubt/fear.

The two major obstacles to concentration are sensual desire & fear. For example, many men become monks but cannot develop samadhi or abide in emptiness because fear arises in the mind if ego or self is abandoned. Such monks spend their life scolding & bullying laypeople & praying for a better reincarnation (they believe will exist).

As for sensual desire, to dissolve this requires wisdom about sex. If a person cannot discern the incredible harm that is caused by heedless & uncommitted sex, including what occurs in the 'entertainment industry', it is unlikely they can develop samadhi.

As for ill-will, remorse, etc, such hindrances generally require spiritual friendship & discussion about past issues, so some genuine understanding can arise about past relationship issues.

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  • Then what should I do? – user12919 Jan 23 '18 at 10:43
  • Hi. As I posted, you can ask questions here about your specific problem or problems. Its an anonymous site. Nobody knows you. Kind regards. – Dhammadhatu Jan 23 '18 at 10:46
  • So you mean I can't expect any progress from myself? – user12919 Jan 23 '18 at 11:31
  • Why do your answers, most of the time, seem to discourage people? – user4878 Jan 24 '18 at 14:20
  • The questioner wrote in a comment they watch pornography. The law of kamma & Dhamma does not reward people who watch pornography. It is not possible that any person who watches porn can attain jhana (non-sensual happiness). Please refer to MN 115, which explains what is possible & what is impossible. – Dhammadhatu Feb 4 '18 at 1:45