As this Sutta is almost word for word the same as the Sâmañña-phala, the question arises why it was considered advisable to include it in our collection as a separate Sutta. The chief difference is that the states of mind enumerated in the Sâmañña-phala as fruits of the life of a recluse are here divided under the three heads of Sîla, Samâdhi, and Paññâ (Conduct, Concentration, and Intelligence).
Samâdhi has not yet been found in any Indian book older than the Pitakas. And, as in them, it is used exclusively of a mental state, never in a concrete sense, its meaning is not easy to fix exactly. It is not the same as Ghâna, which is a pre-Buddhistic term applied to four special forms of meditation, culminating in self-induced ecstasy. Samâdhi on the other hand is a constant habit, or faculty, of mind. The oldest Sanskrit text in which it occurs is the Maitrî Upanishad; and it probably has there the same meaning as it has in the Pitakas.
In our prescnt Sutta--and the principal reason for its existence as a separate Sutta is that it points out just this--it is pointed out that Samâdhi includes, it is true, the Ghânas, but also other, and very different things. These are the habit of guarding the doors of one's senses; constant mindfulness and self-possession; and the faculty of being content with little. From the negative point of view it is said to include emancipation from ill-temper, inertness of mind and body, worry, and perplexity; from the positive point of view it is said to include a constant state of joy and peace.
Wilson's Sanskrit Dictionary (1819) gives the meaning 'devout meditation'; and the rendering 'meditation' has been used for it in subsequent works in English by Western scholars. It is quite clear that this would be a very inadequate and misleading rendering in our Sutta. But exigencies of space preclude the discussion here, either of the meaning, or of the very interesting and suggestive history of the word in India.
How far was the word (literally 'allocation') invented or adopted by the Buddhists, or by their immediate spiritual forerunners, to express 'self-concentration' with implied coordination, harmonisation, of the mental faculties--an idea they wanted, in the statement of their most essential and ethical doctrines, to be used in preference to the more limited, more physical, notion of Ghâna? (It is Samâdhi, and not Ghâna, that we find in the Four Truths, in the Noble Path, and in the thirty-seven constituent parts of Arahatship.) How far, through the constant association of the two ideas, did the larger, as ethical feeling died away, become swallowed up by the smaller? At what date, in what circles, and under what reservations, did the word Samâdhi come to mean nothing more than meditation? The history of the two ideas, Samâdhi and Ghâna, has constant analogies with the history of the two similarly related ideas of Tâpasa and Bhikshu, and, like it, is of the first importance in following the evolution of philosophical and religious thought in India.
I have made some detailed contributions to the discussion of such questions in my 'Yogâvacara Manual' (Pâli Text Society, 1896, pp. xiv-xxviii); and must confine myself, here, to referring to those pages.