Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Jinxed P, modified 9 Years ago.

Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/29/11 Recent Posts
I am a little confused about the level of concentration advised to begin insight practice.

In MCTB Daniel describes it as 'access concentration'. Is access concentration the 10th stage of Shamatha practice?

As outlined here by Upasaka Culudasa

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:26R_EHQyBTcJ:dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShv4hAx3BRSq_4fYcP5puTk7Y4Fe8PEJxy4jJJNSu-uQDcLkl4l4JOks497bPY9qRknNa2faSLGYErMA607npz-5fBntlggHmAx8nvQbBrb8MFsq_7oxMyvQvxvkJ8xYrcBT46e&sig=AHIEtbTDchQEY2nS28t7VATisbMQBnkJcg


Or is access concentration a lower stage (say stage 5)?
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Jinxed P,


I happened to sit down tonight and read Ajhan Thanissaro's interview with Richard Shankman in Shankman's book The Experience of Samādhi. I highly recommend that essay - it is incredibly clear and accessible and practical in a few short pages; I wish I could provide the essay to you freely, but that's not possible and it would probably be a copyright violation. Maybe you can order the book or request it from the local library.

Or is access concentration a lower stage (say stage 5)?

Therein Thanissaro calls access concentration "threshold", making the analogy that in going into and out of a house one passes through the threshold. Thanissaro also makes a great distinction (which he attributes to Ajahn Boowa) about how analytical personalities approach anapansati (needing the focus of a small space above the lip and lots of such close engagement) whereas non-analytical personalities take up anapansati as whole body breathing. I experienced this change recently (departure from the lip-nostril area) and was wondering why the body was so pleasantly experiencing the breath. It's been one of the best ways to go to bed in the evening.


I am a little confused about the level of concentration advised to begin insight practice.

Basically, one clear point that many teachers make is that insight and concentration are not separate practices. Another interviewee in the Shankman book describes Ajhan Chah [here I am paraphrasing from memory] holding up his hand, palm forward, and asking his student, "Do you see my palm?" And, of course, the student replies, "Yes". Then Ajhan Chah shows the back side of his hand and he asks the student, "Do you see the back of my hand?" and the student says, "yes". Then Ajhan asks, "When you see the palm of the hand you know the back of the hand is still there, right?" The student agrees. "And when you see only the back of this hand, you know that the palm is still there, right?" Yes. So Ajahn Chah concludes that this how insight and concentration are related: two aspects.

So what are you doing now in terms of practice? Ajhan Thanissaro is near to San Diego, at the Metta Forest Monastery, if that can be helpful to you.
Jigme Sengye, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
If you note out loud and you have a good and flexible noting technique, such as noting your physical sensations, reaction to them (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), the emotions you're feeling and the types of thoughts, then assuming you're noting as much as possible (let's say once a second), your mind generally isn't going to wander that much until you get to the point where you're really good at noting (you'll probably have passed the A&P before then). To the extent that it does wander, you'll be noting it, so it will be valid meditation from an insight perspective. You don't need any sort of special preliminary concentration practice in order to start doing this, though it does help to also do samatha.

Also, it seems that people who do samatha practice tend to achieve the ñanas of the progress of insight map. I'm guessing that until you consistlently get absorbed in a jhana, you're still experiencing moment-to-moment concentration when doing the earlier stages of samatha practice, which is the same style of concentration as is used in vipassana. Predictably, these people do pass the A&P and do get to the dukkha ñanas despite doing "concentration practice" instead of "insight practice". Consequenly, if you work hard at achieving access concentration or jhanas before starting "insight practice", you might find yourself near the end of the dukkha ñanas, feeling the vibrations, wondering why your concentration was really good a few weeks or months ago, but not so continuous now and wondering if you should take up a different meditation technique. That's more or less what happened to me, though I was doing a samatha-like qigong technique at the time.
Jinxed P, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/29/11 Recent Posts
What are the Dukka Nanas?

And what exactly is "Access Concentration"? -- I guess that is my main question here.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
And what exactly is "Access Concentration"? -- I guess that is my main question here.
Check out page 97, here, in Bhante Gunaratana's book on Jhanas (A Critical Analysis...)

What are the Dukka Nanas?
I don't know who coined that phrase, but I take it to refer to stages 5-10 in the Progress of Insight.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Level of Concentration needed to begin Insight Practice?

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Jinxed P:
And what exactly is "Access Concentration"? -- I guess that is my main question here.


Access concentration in MCTB is not the same as Culadasa's 10th stage. I'm not sure where on Culadasa's set of stages it is. But it isn't 10...it's likely to be quite far away from 10, actually.

If you want to begin insight practice (especially in the style of MCTB ), you do not need to be at Culadasa's 10th stage to start out. Just get to a point where you can follow your breathing reasonably well, without losing track of it for a good stretch of time; that's sufficient. This level of concentration isn't anything spectacular, though you'll probably have a fair sense of having reached it when it happens; perhaps when following your breath suddenly starts to seem more natural and less forced. (More concentration than this is better, but you can still accomplish a lot with a more basic level of concentration.)

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