‘I’m Not Getting Anywhere with my Meditation…’

Effort, Contentment and Goal-directedness in the Process of Mind-training


  • Ajahn Amaro Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Hemel Hempstead




Right Effort, right and wrong striving, expectation, contentment, goal-directedness, passivity, chanda, bhava-taṇhā, vibhava-taṇhā, dhammānudhamma-paṭipatti, iddhi-pāda, bojjhaṅga


This article draws on the teachings of the Pali Canon and the contemporary lineages that are guided by its principles. In particular, reference is made to the author’s mentors in the Thai Forest Tradition. It explores the respective roles of goal-directed effort and contentment in the process of meditative training, and skilful and unskilful variations on these. Effort is needed, but can be excessive, unreflectively mindless, unaware of gradually developed results, or misdirected. Contentment can be misunderstood to imply that skilful desire has no role in practice, and lead to passivity; though it is needed to dampen down an over-energized mind, or motivation rooted in aversion or ambition, and comes from insight-based non-attachment. Right effort avoids the craving to become or to get rid of, but is associated with a skilful chanda/desire that is an aspect of the iddhi-padas, the Bases of Spiritual Power. Mindfulness aids the balance of energy and concentration in the Five Faculties, and the energizing and calming qualities in the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. In the end, from practising Dhamma in a way that is truly in accordance with Dhamma (dhammanudhamma-patipatti), progress naturally flows from seeing and becoming Dhamma.

Author Biography

Ajahn Amaro, Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Hemel Hempstead

Amaro Bhikkhu is a Theravāda Buddhist monk and abbot of the Amaravati monastery in Hertfordshire. He has taught all over the world and is author of several books published by the monastery or associated ones: Small Boat, Great Mountain (2003), Rain on the Nile (2009) and The Island - An Anthology of the Buddha's Teachings on Nibbāna (2009) co-written with Ajahn Pasanno, and a guide to meditation called Finding the Missing Peace (2011).


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How to Cite

Amaro, A. (2018). ‘I’m Not Getting Anywhere with my Meditation…’: Effort, Contentment and Goal-directedness in the Process of Mind-training. Buddhist Studies Review, 35(1-2), 47–64. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.36752