The factors of concentration
The commentators illustrate the interdependence of the
three factors within the concentration group with a simple
simile. Three boys go to a park to play. While walking
along they see a tree with flowering tops and decide they
want to gather the flowers. But the flowers are beyond
the reach even of the tallest boy. Then one friend bends
down and offers his back. The tall boy climbs up, but still
hesitates to reach for the flowers from fear of falling.
So the third boy comes over and offers his shoulder for
support. The first boy, standing on the back of the second
boy, then leans on the shoulder of the third boy, reaches
up, and gathers the flowers.
In this simile the tall boy who picks the flowers represents
concentration with its function of unifying the mind. But to unify
the mind concentration needs support: the energy provided by right
effort, which is like the boy who offers his back. It also requires
the stabilizing awareness provided by mindfulness, which is like
the boy who offers his shoulder. When right concentration receives
this support, then empowered by right effort and balanced by right
mindfulness it can draw in the scattered strands of thought and
fix the mind firmly on its object.