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Do Real Men do only Vipassana?

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Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 6:17 PM
Despite reading a lot of stuff, and working on noting practice, I still can't get clear on the question as to when/if one should do samatha versus vipassana. And let's assume for simplicity that the ultimate aim is insight.

I doubt I'm the only one to pick up on this, although I'm happy to believe that what I'm picking up is not being laid down intentionally, but there definitely seems to be a vibe (everywhere -- not just DhO) that if you want to attain insight, you should just get on with it -- note, bare insight, whatever. There's just this subtle hint that sure you can do samatha if you really need to, and sure it will help you, but it's kinda for girls and wimps. A "Real Men do only Vipassana" kind of thing. Samatha is training wheels. Vipassana (cue Tim Allen "Arr arr Arr!!") is the Tour De France.

OK, forget the vibe. But to what extent is the above true? If my overall aim is Vipassana, and that can be achieved directly via Vipassana meditation, then why *would* one practice Samatha? I mean, clearly people do. Nik describes his primary Vipassana practice here, but mentions a Samatha addition here. Nik, if you're reading this, what made you choose to stuff in some concentration work even though it looks like you were already fast and furious on the insight route?

Is there an analogy to help here? For example. If you want to do karate, do karate. Train, fight, practice kata and so on. But I have heard of at least one extremely proficient karate-ka who augmented his karate work with ballet. At no point did he plan to dance, but it helped him in his karate. Specifically, he found something like this was true: 10 years of karate training was not as effective as 9 years of karate training plus 1 year of ballet training.

Is samatha (ballet) and vipassana (karate) like that? But if so, then why isn't that the approach de rigeur?

Or does it depend on the person? And here's I guess my primary interest. I have ADHD-PI and I'm wondering if I need to work on that first, before I attempt vipassana. I have of course tried umpteen conventional (i.e. medication) routes, but none really help. As a result, I'm finding Mahasi-noting just *exhausting*. And so this morning, I just said to myself screw it, I'm just going to sit and relax and just focus on breath. And voila, before I knew it my entire sit was over and I felt great.

Should I just forget vipassana for a while, and work on some concentration? Should I accept that I'm just a wimp and be OK with training wheels? emoticon

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 6:27 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
relax and just focus on breath


I strongly consider anapana an insight practice, and even one of the highest grade... keep it up emoticon

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 7:35 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert,

First off, I love your writing style. And you ask pretty much the exact same questions I first asked, and still ask .. Do you have a background in philosophy? I got my B.A in it..

Also, like you I'm ADHD (combined type..but really inattentive)..

As per your question..I researched this a lot..and here is what most traditional teachers..as in monks..say..Do shamatha first..at least for a few months. If you start out trying to note your mind will be too crazy, like a waterfall.

As a side benefit, shamatha really helps with ADHD, so right now I'm going full force shamatha practice 1-2 hours a day.

Daniel Ingram in his book says to go get access concentration first, and then come back and read his book and start doing noting practice. Access concentration is when you can concentrate FULLY on the breath, not missing a moment of the in breath or out breath for a few hundred consecutive breaths. And you can do this repeatedly.

I'm sure other people are different , have different levels of basic concentration and can start off just noting, but for mere mortals, or those even worse off with ADHD like us, doing shamatha until your mind calms the F down is the way to go.

To use your Karate analogy, we are in such bad shape with our ADHD minds , that we first need to do yoga and learn how to stretch out before going to Karate, otherwise we are going to pull a hammy doing a roundhouse kick. Doing Shamatha is making the mind pliable, and concentrated, so that insight practice comes far more easily. You have to walk before you can run.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 8:09 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
FWIW, I do samatha as vipassana. You don't have to note in order to notice. Noting is just the scaffolding for the underlying style of concentration, you don't strictly need it. Unless you're in rock hard jhana and stay in one specific jhana, as long as you let the mind expand and let the breath and mind do their own thing and just follow them, it's hard not to make progress along the insight stages while doing samatha. If the breath makes you feel great, go for it. Remember to have fun while you meditate! Goof off and do what you enjoy, you'll make faster progress that way.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 8:26 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
Robert,

First off, I love your writing style. And you ask pretty much the exact same questions I first asked, and still ask .. Do you have a background in philosophy? I got my B.A in it..

Hey Jinxed, thank-you that's very kind.
My strict undergrad/postgrad background is physics and compsci, but later as an academic I did "dabble" heavily in analytic philosophy, particularly Wittgenstein, Russell, Frege etc. And I have an ongoing interest in the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. Some of my former academic colleagues, now friends, still work professionally in that boundary area so I live vicariously through them while benefiting from an industry salary that's much higher than their academic one emoticon


..Do shamatha first..at least for a few months. If you start out trying to note your mind will be too crazy, like a waterfall.
As a side benefit, shamatha really helps with ADHD, so right now I'm going full force shamatha practice 1-2 hours a day

Good, that helps. And yes, a waterfall. Or a hydrant with the top broke off. Exactly.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 8:25 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
Blue .:
I strongly consider anapana an insight practice, and even one of the highest grade... keep it up emoticon

Thanks Blue. I found this very interesting with respect to anapana. The author explains that, as you say, anapanasati can indeed act as an insight practice. But he says it can also act as a samatha practice instead. Exactly which of the two it is seems to depend on precisely how it's done -- specifically, on exactly what it is we choose to be mindful of: concept of breath, or reality of breath:

"Then as to respiration meditation (ānāpānasati), in the Visuddhimagga it is mentioned as samatha meditation, concentration meditation. In the Mahāsatipatthāna Sutta it is mentioned as vipassanā meditation. Then how can we distinguish it between the vipassanā aspect of respiration and the samatha aspect of respiration? If we are mindful of the absolute reality of respiration, that will be vipassanā meditation. If we are mindful of the concept regarding respiration, then it will be samatha meditation."
Any thoughts on that?

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 8:29 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Also, you used a karate analogy. The criticism that other styles apply to Shotokan is that it looks stiff (I'm sure there's a reason for this, I don't want to criticize a style I don't practice or understand). I've seen other karate styles that look much more relaxed. The kung fu style I do is dependent on whipping power, we have to stay very loose and relaxed to generate force. This is a bit of a metaphor for vipassana vs. samatha. They're two sides of the same coin. Vipassana is just as much concentration meditation as samatha. Unless you meditate in a very rigid or absorbed way, your samatha is bound to have some of the moment-to-moment concentration style that is the essence of any vipassana technique. If you allow your attention to the samatha object (in this case the breath) to change and not be entirely under your control, but rather be curious to see how it wants to work and just lightly follow it without pulling back the reins and get to see the territory it wants to cover and the sort of behavior it wants to exhibit, you will be doing both samatha and vipassana. You'll go through all of the jhanas that way.

Samatha and vipassana can be seen as each other's training wheels. Doing one doesn't matter any more than doing the other, though they are mutually reinforcing. What matters is doing either (or any) style of concentration practice to cover the territory. It's the territory of the ñanas that matters.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 8:43 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Hi Jigme,
Jigme Sengye:
FWIW, I do samatha as vipassana.

OK, you've completely thrown me with that. I thought that although samatha could help you when you finally started to do vipassana, you specifically could *not* do samatha *as* vipassana, no?

For example, in Mahasi Sayadaw's "Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation" it mentions a lot of practices that "help to develop only concentration". And although it does mention two practices that can do both concentration and insight (breath and four elements), I get the impression that even they are practices which can be done in *either* a samatha way, *or* a vipassana way, but not both at the same time.

So when you say you do samatha as vipassana, are you sure you're not just *doing* vipassana?

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/8/12 10:40 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
As long as you are not altering the breathe it is insight meditation. Anytime we watch reality as it is we are progressing in insight. Eckhart tolle's being in the present moment is watching things as they are, Mahasi noting, is noting things as they are, Goenka's sensations are feeling sensations as they are. Just feel the breathe and let it be however it is.

There are different methods of Anapana, where to feel the breathe ect. I am only familiar with Goenka's version. Where they feel the touch of the breathe in and/or around the nostrils. And you just let it be emoticon Done

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 1:07 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
Despite reading a lot of stuff, and working on noting practice, I still can't get clear on the question as to when/if one should do samatha versus vipassana. And let's assume for simplicity that the ultimate aim is insight.

I doubt I'm the only one to pick up on this, although I'm happy to believe that what I'm picking up is not being laid down intentionally, but there definitely seems to be a vibe (everywhere -- not just DhO) that if you want to attain insight, you should just get on with it -- note, bare insight, whatever. There's just this subtle hint that sure you can do samatha if you really need to, and sure it will help you, but it's kinda for girls and wimps. A "Real Men do only Vipassana" kind of thing. Samatha is training wheels. Vipassana (cue Tim Allen "Arr arr Arr!!") is the Tour De France.

OK, forget the vibe. But to what extent is the above true? If my overall aim is Vipassana, and that can be achieved directly via Vipassana meditation, then why *would* one practice Samatha? I mean, clearly people do. Nik describes his primary Vipassana practice here, but mentions a Samatha addition here. Nik, if you're reading this, what made you choose to stuff in some concentration work even though it looks like you were already fast and furious on the insight route?

Is there an analogy to help here? For example. If you want to do karate, do karate. Train, fight, practice kata and so on. But I have heard of at least one extremely proficient karate-ka who augmented his karate work with ballet. At no point did he plan to dance, but it helped him in his karate. Specifically, he found something like this was true: 10 years of karate training was not as effective as 9 years of karate training plus 1 year of ballet training.

Is samatha (ballet) and vipassana (karate) like that? But if so, then why isn't that the approach de rigeur?

Or does it depend on the person? And here's I guess my primary interest. I have ADHD-PI and I'm wondering if I need to work on that first, before I attempt vipassana. I have of course tried umpteen conventional (i.e. medication) routes, but none really help. As a result, I'm finding Mahasi-noting just *exhausting*. And so this morning, I just said to myself screw it, I'm just going to sit and relax and just focus on breath. And voila, before I knew it my entire sit was over and I felt great.

Should I just forget vipassana for a while, and work on some concentration? Should I accept that I'm just a wimp and be OK with training wheels? emoticon


How does one concetrate the mind? It's all over the place, right? It's jumping here and there, not tied down at all to one spot, it's very much a wild elephant trampling through the forest. Without taming the elephant, anchoring it somewhere, that damage continues. Noting in the way I explained in the link seemed to inherently anchor the mind in one direction, i.e. towards a continuous awareness of whatever phenomena was arising in the moment. The mind was directed in that one direction. This alone can lead to a mind more pliant and malleable. And that is the point. A pliant and malleable mind fit for discernment of that which previously was not discerned.

If one's tendencies to have a mind not so pliant and malleable are still hindering efforts to see more clearly, then a technique that aims to train the mind to be more pliant and malleable is in order, and even if one does already have a mind like so to some degree, an even more pliant and malleable mind is even more beneficial. So a technique that has as its main aim to make the mind pliant and malleable can be combined with noting (or some other vipassana approach). This will most likely result in quicker progress as the mind will be trained more continuously to develop such pliancy and malleability.

Kasina practice worked for me, as did 8 years of anapana goenka style to back that up, as did quite a bit of anchoring awareness on one aspect of the field of experience for long periods at a time. One is essentially training the mind to direct 'thought', or flow of thought or flow of mind, if you will, in one particular direction with an anchoring point, whether it be the anapana spot under the nose, or the whole body breathing, or a kasina object or certain sensations, one is directing 'thought' to flow in one direction, and when this is mastered, it becomes 'sustained thought', which means it is unmoving from its anchor object.

These are two defining factors for the 1st jhana, vitakka, and vicara, directed and sustained thought. One is essentially, in my own experience, doing this as well when noting as I explained in the link you posted. The flow of mind or flow of thought is directed in one direction, towards whatever (WHATEVER!!!) phenomena is taking centre stage in the very moment from moment to moment. It is vipassana but it also develops , in my own experience, a malleable and pliant mind, which matures somewhat in the 11th nana/4th jhana territory (though one can really expand and make it even more malleable to fabricate at will what one wishes to). A kasina practice or anapana practice that accompanies the vipassana practice is honing that malleability and pliancy to even greater heights. It can only up the odds of quick advancement.

There is no 'real men' practice in my experience. Only practice that works for one's temperament or a practice that does not. Find out what works for you and take it as far as it can take you. If noting is not working for you, then dedicate practice to lifting one's pliancy and malleability of mind. Kasina worked best for myself. Find out what works best for you to. Pick an object and direct thought towards it until it is sustained thought. From there, the other factors of the 1st jhana will have fertile soil to arise, and then further jhanas as well. Insight within jhanas is ideal in my experience.

The more malleable and pliant the mind, the better the odds of discernment that leads to liberation from stress.

My 2cents

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 4:26 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
Despite reading a lot of stuff, and working on noting practice, I still can't get clear on the question as to when/if one should do samatha versus vipassana. And let's assume for simplicity that the ultimate aim is insight.

I doubt I'm the only one to pick up on this, although I'm happy to believe that what I'm picking up is not being laid down intentionally, but there definitely seems to be a vibe (everywhere -- not just DhO) that if you want to attain insight, you should just get on with it -- note, bare insight, whatever. There's just this subtle hint that sure you can do samatha if you really need to, and sure it will help you, but it's kinda for girls and wimps. A "Real Men do only Vipassana" kind of thing. Samatha is training wheels. Vipassana (cue Tim Allen "Arr arr Arr!!") is the Tour De France.


As you mentioned, your aim is insight, rather than playing to the crowd (in this case, the gung-ho macho-meditator crowd).

You gain insight by looking at things, watching them, seeing them in action. You can watch your breath for this, but there's nothing special about the breath. You can also watch what happens when you try to decide how much vipassana and how much samatha is right for you. Of course, this is best watched by actually doing these and finding out what happens. Listening to opinions about this still works, but can be tricky, because playing around with opinions is second nature to us, while actually watching the opinions fight it out isn't. With the breath, or other "abstract" meditation objects, there are fewer "second nature" tendencies to go against.

OK, forget the vibe. But to what extent is the above true? If my overall aim is Vipassana, and that can be achieved directly via Vipassana meditation, then why *would* one practice Samatha? I mean, clearly people do. ...

Is there an analogy to help here? For example. If you want to do karate, do karate. Train, fight, practice kata and so on. But I have heard of at least one extremely proficient karate-ka who augmented his karate work with ballet. At no point did he plan to dance, but it helped him in his karate. Specifically, he found something like this was true: 10 years of karate training was not as effective as 9 years of karate training plus 1 year of ballet training.


How many skills are there involved in mastering karate? There's endurance, balance, accuracy, discipline, ... you name it. If you only train endurance, you'll still fall over your own feet. If you only train footwork, you'll be panting in no time at all. If your balance is crap, learn ballet! If you don't train your punches, they'll be ineffective no matter how strong you actually are because you are pumping weights all the time.

Think: the least developed factor will limit what you can do with all the other ones. Kenneth Folk explained this to me once, illustrating it with Liebig's Law of the Minimum.

Here's another analogy I like (also by Kenneth): Diving. With Samatha, you train your capacity to hold your breath, so you can stay under for longer periods of time. With Vipassana, you train your ability to dive deep. Do both, and you can go deep and stay there longer, looking at all the strange lifeforms.

Is samatha (ballet) and vipassana (karate) like that? But if so, then why isn't that the approach de rigeur?


It actually is. That's what all the little teachings like the five factors are about. You have to develop more than one skill.

Should I just forget vipassana for a while, and work on some concentration? Should I accept that I'm just a wimp and be OK with training wheels? emoticon


Forget about the "wimp" bit (but there's juicy stuff for investigation - i.e. vipassana - right there - such as "can you spot how your breath changes when you think about being a wimp" or "where in the body are the 'wimp' sensations presenting most clearly"?).

Here's a way to integrate both: Add a bit of samatha to your schedule, just five minutes a day. Use a different object than the one you use for vipassana: if you do vipassana on the breath, use a kasina for samatha. Then, see what happens! This is the integration bit: build up a skill, and watch (vipassana - "see clearly") the results.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 9:45 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
So, first of all, samatha just means calm or calm abiding. It's a quality of mind or a quality of the meditation, not something one "does". And when samatha or vipassana are referred to in the Pali suttas by the Buddha, they're mentioned as qualities that both must be present in meditation leading to awakening. More here.

Samatha should be distinguished from samadhi, which means concentration. In the Pali suttas, this is another aspect of awakening, namely the one that follows upon right mindfulness. In the decades and centuries following the Buddha's death, apparently "concentration practice" became it's own thing, until by Buddhaghosa's time in the 5th century, he's describing two, distinct, maybe even mutually exclusive practices - prajjna and jhana - which lead to different ends. This way of looking at things seems to have been corrected somewhat by the concept of vipassana jhana, though what U Pandita calls "vipassana jhana" is probably just what the Buddha called "jhana", i.e., meditation itself.

Still, if you go to a retreat center like IMS, you might be quickly disabused of the idea that jhana is regarded as feminine. I was told on a retreat there that jhana is the meditation equivalent of authoritarian communism - hardly a goddess-centered, matriarchal image - which, unlike vipassana (= good, feminine, passive, meek), cannot help you in your day-to-day life. And if you want to get better at life, do a practice like vipassana which makes you supple, accepting of your inability to do anything, accepting of your inability to change anything, accepting of your utter defeat as a human being, accepting of your pale, nearly-translucent complexion, on-the-verge-of-death, etc., and don't waste your time doing manly, macho, controlling practices like jhana, which are brutal and don't help anyway.

If you find John Peacock's lectures on dependent-origination, they're otherwise very informative, but he jhana-bashes in there, too. He says things like, concentration just forces the mind to do something, it doesn't help you gain wisdom.

The weirdness surrounding jhana goes all the way back to Buddhaghosa. Open up the Vissudhimagga, and he says only one in a million can enter jhana, so you wonder why you'd even bother. But then you open up the Pali suttas, and Buddha never, ever says "go do vipassana", he always says "go jhana" (as a verb - I can't remember the verb form), which is really the only meditation he ever tells anyone to do. And people are doing the jhanas left and right, getting awakened as a result of doing them, and one is just left wondering how things could have gone so wrong.

But why are you even worrying about this? Have you even gotten over the A&P yet? Where's your actual practice at?

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 12:28 PM as a reply to Florian.
Thanks Florian,

Florian Weps:
Add a bit of samatha to your schedule, just five minutes a day. Use a different object than the one you use for vipassana: if you do vipassana on the breath, use a kasina for samatha. Then, see what happens! This is the integration bit: build up a skill, and watch (vipassana - "see clearly") the results.

So any given sit doesn't have to be either samatha or vipassana but not both? It's OK to mix and match?

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 1:15 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Kasina practice worked for me, as did 8 years of anapana goenka style to back that up...

Actually, I wanted to ask you specifically about that too -- the 8 years part I mean.

Based on what you just said, you're seeing those 8 years as something useful. They contributed to where you are today, right? But another way to look at it could be, to see them as a sub-optimal phase that you would try to help others avoid?

I'll compare it with some comments from Mahasi Sayadaw as he is quoted in an interview. He was asked if he had faith in Satipatthana Vipassana practice when he started and he freely admitted:

“No, frankly I didn’t. I did not initially have full faith in it.
And then later in the interview he was asked if he made very fast progress and he says:

No, I didn’t. I could not appreciate the practice three or four weeks after I had started because I did not yet exercise enough effort. Some of the yogis here, however, even though the practice is new to them, manage to develop enough concentration and mindfulness after a week or so, to see impermanence, suffering, and insubstantiality to some extent. For me, I could not make any remarkable progress in the practice even after a month or so, let alone four or five days. I was then still at zero progress in my practice. This is because my faith in the practice was not strong enough, and I did not make enough effort.
And then he adds (emphasis mine):

At this point, skeptical doubt called Vicikiccha, usually hinders the insight knowledge and Magga- Phala from taking place. So it is very important to do away with such doubt. But, I was wasting my time by mistaking the skeptical doubt for productive analysis.
Putting it all together, he really does seem to be saying that "he could have done it better". And given his status as a teacher, I imagine he's being so open about that, and giving the example of his sub-optimal approach, precisely so that others *do* do it better.

Thoughts on this overall? I mean, I guess the fundamental question is, how does one avoid major blind alleys on this stuff? There's you with *8 years* of work behind you and still you found it took a nudge (in your case MCTB ) to get you motoring.

Actually on the one hand, I do find this kind of thing reassuring because it reinforces the message that this shit is real. It's not some kind of random mumbo jumbo New Age fluff, where pretty much any kind of action on the part of the devotee gets interpreted as being effective. It manages that reinforcement because it's basically saying:

"Remember how we said that if you do X and then Y, then Z will happen? Well I meant it, because I did X and then W, and Z *didn't* happen."

The potential for falsifiability is a very good sign in my book.

But on the other hand, is there any systematic way of avoiding wasting time on W?

R.

P.S. Don't think I haven't noticed that what Mahasi Sayadaw said was a waste of time was "skeptical doubt" and thinking it was the same thing as "productive analysis"emoticon

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 1:58 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
So any given sit doesn't have to be either samatha or vipassana but not both? It's OK to mix and match?


Well, if you do a pure concentration sit, and at any point "check" how good your concentration is, that's investigation, isn't it?

If you do a "pure" investigation sit, and keep investigating the same phenomenon, again and again, that's quite concentrated, isn't it?

I like to see it as a spectrum, with "ideal" concentration and investigation at either end. The actual sits will happen somewhere in between.

Now go and get some mileage out of that cushion, and then come back and tell me if I'm bullshitting your or not.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/9/12 9:57 PM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
Nikolai .:
Kasina practice worked for me, as did 8 years of anapana goenka style to back that up...

Actually, I wanted to ask you specifically about that too -- the 8 years part I mean.

Based on what you just said, you're seeing those 8 years as something useful. They contributed to where you are today, right? But another way to look at it could be, to see them as a sub-optimal phase that you would try to help others avoid?

Thoughts on this overall? I mean, I guess the fundamental question is, how does one avoid major blind alleys on this stuff? There's you with *8 years* of work behind you and still you found it took a nudge (in your case MCTB ) to get you motoring.

Actually on the one hand, I do find this kind of thing reassuring because it reinforces the message that this shit is real. It's not some kind of random mumbo jumbo New Age fluff, where pretty much any kind of action on the part of the devotee gets interpreted as being effective. It manages that reinforcement because it's basically saying:

"Remember how we said that if you do X and then Y, then Z will happen? Well I meant it, because I did X and then W, and Z *didn't* happen."

The potential for falsifiability is a very good sign in my book.

But on the other hand, is there any systematic way of avoiding wasting time on W?

R.



I think I had a alot of 'doubt' in those 8 years and a hell of a lot of 'lack of intent' as well as lots of 'gaps' in momentum. When I came across MCTB and here, doubt in the possibility that one could actually get to the stages talked of here was put to the side, as people were so openly talking about how possible it was. It gave me space to develop and cultivate the intent to do what needed to be done. And at that stage it was filling the 'gaps' in practice so that momentum was continuous. But I must say 8 years of many goenka courses and dedicated goenka style practice did develop quualities that served me well when i decided to up my game, and practice like my hair was on fire. The ability to be 'equanimous' , to observe equanimously as it's taught in the goenka tradition, helped me tremendously when I decideded to use it to get SE as talked of here, not to mention the level of sensitivity that the goenka/u ba khin sweeping technique develops in a yogi.

So the key ingredients in my own case were filling the gaps so momentum was actually a real part of practice, the intent of having the mind aimed in a specific direction (stream entry as talked of here) at all times of practice, which meant at all times so that momentum was flowing unhindered, and finally timing. I got to sit a 10 day course with all of these factors coming together. Previously, i had developed them to a high degree while working day to day. The retreat gave me the space to make sure it was 24/7 awareness at all times awake, which is how I noted throughout the course with quite good results (1st path as talked of here and instant access to jhanic territory/will of mind stuff, calling up fruitions at will, pliancy and malleability like I never had known).

I had sat over a dozen courses beforehand over those 8 years but without ever experiencing the coming together of momentum and intent like I did on the last course I sat 3 years ago. In hindsight, there were many gaps in practice even on previous 10 day courses and so momentum was continuously interrupted even though I found myself (in hindsight) to be traversing the stages of insight all the way up to about mid equanimity (11th nana). The intent to take it further was not there. i would experience the gaps as getting lost in spaced out wandering territory (early to mid 11th nana) mostly. i never knew to become aware of the subtler phenomena. Rather I'd get attached and lost in it. The intent and momentum were absent though other qualities and a certain level of pliancy and malleability were still cultivated. I think intent and momentum were key. Noting practice filled the gaps. With the gaps filled, the intent to go for SE pulled it all together.

Edited a few times for extra info.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/12/12 11:21 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
Hi Jigme,
Jigme Sengye:
FWIW, I do samatha as vipassana.

OK, you've completely thrown me with that. I thought that although samatha could help you when you finally started to do vipassana, you specifically could *not* do samatha *as* vipassana, no?


As others have mentioned, jhanas arise during vipassana practice. At some stages, nothing but jhanas arise. It's quite nice. Various vipassana techniques can be applied to these jhanas. You can also just sit there and enjoy the experience. At some point the mind gets used to it and one is less embedded in the experience, thus allowing for various forms of noticing or noting, despite being in a trance.

Basically, vipassana is a process of dissolving whatever enters into your consciousness by paying attention to it. It will produce sensations and break them down into other sensations. After the 4th ñana, a lot of this process becomes automatic. It just happens if you pay attention. Just by virtue of being conscious some of it is always going on after a certain point. For some parts, the ride is very bumpy and you just need to persevere. Some techniques temporarily break down at these points. A lot people get that far in insight meditation by doing everything in their power to not do "insight" meditation by just doing "samatha". Despite their best efforts to gain strong "concentration" without advancing in the insight stages, they advance anyway and end up at the 4th ñana, which is lovely and then in the dukkha ñanas, which are challenging. I'm sure you've heard this before and seen it in many posts. This doesn't happen in the descriptions in the meditation texts I've read. The distinction between insight and concentration is clear in books. In the real world, insight practice is concentration practice. As others have pointed out and explained far better than I can, it's one style of concentration. If you're interested, I can post links to threads where it happened to other people.


For example, in Mahasi Sayadaw's "Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation" it mentions a lot of practices that "help to develop only concentration". And although it does mention two practices that can do both concentration and insight (breath and four elements), I get the impression that even they are practices which can be done in *either* a samatha way, *or* a vipassana way, but not both at the same time.


If someone mentions to me that they meditate, I tend to ask them if they feel the vibrations, as a way of judging if they've gotten past the A&P (the 4th ñana), just to get a feeling for what their practice is like and what sort of conversation I can have with them. I've actually met one person who was able to do a pure samatha practice and get very absorbed (so he claims) without attaining what I judge is the A&P. He was doing some sort of breath meditation from a yoga practice and a mantra. It's possible that he practices a lot less than he claims and I didn't ask too many details about what absorption feels like for him. Besides for this one guy, I've never met anyone who practiced for a few hours a day for years and didn't feel the vibrations. My sample size is relatively tiny, so I've hardly conducted any sort of systematic scientific survey. All the same, I've gotten the impression that it's difficult as hell to not develop insight from doing "concentration" practice using standard Buddhist concentration instructions for any variety of breath meditation or kasina meditation. I'd love to hear counterexamples to tell me why I'm wrong.

So when you say you do samatha as vipassana, are you sure you're not just *doing* vipassana?


I am doing vipassana. But it's just as much vipassana doing me. There are points in the practice where the sensations are simply very intense. They can show up the moment you start sitting, or even last all day. Sometimes these sensations are not fun, sometimes they are powerful and very pleasant jhanas or very pleasant energetic sensations (I've also had the unpleasant kind), which tend to also accompany some sort of jhana. It's very hard to choose what you meditate on at those points. If today's episode of vipassana is brought to you by the arupa jhanas, you don't have much choice in the matter, and there's no other channel to switch your mind to (though sometimes there are other channels to switch your mind to). There are still things that you can do, but at the same time, it can be an efficient practice to let the thing do itself and see how it works out. This is a very different approach from "doing" concentration vs. "doing" insight. Doing either practice should get you there.

Also, things change a lot, even during one session. Progress doesn't always feel like progress and correct meditation doesn't always feel like valid meditation. One of the beauties of vipassana as a whole and especially the versions of the Mahasi technique described here and on KFD is that it's a meta-meditation that can encompass a wide variety of meditative techniques and tricks for different situations. Once you've dealt with different mental states with different approaches (out loud triplet noting during the dukkha ñanas, riding the jhanic arc when jhanas show up, watching the strobe rate of flickering visuals when visual effects show up, paying attention to the width of attention in kasinas, etc...) as part of one overarching approach to the practice, you can start to do everything by feel, rather than having to think about how to practice. This breaks down again at points, but that just leads to coming up with a new tool to add to the toolbox and getting good at yet another meditative skill.

Very few parts of my practice have conformed to my expectations. Despite the Progress of Insight map, I couldn't have planned out most of what I've done or felt.

RE: Do Real Men do only Vipassana?
Answer
11/12/12 11:16 AM as a reply to Robert McLune.
Robert McLune:
Hi Jigme,
Jigme Sengye:
FWIW, I do samatha as vipassana.

OK, you've completely thrown me with that. I thought that although samatha could help you when you finally started to do vipassana, you specifically could *not* do samatha *as* vipassana, no?


Also, I like doing kasina practice as a combined samatha and vipassana practice. The sensations are going to get vipassanized no matter what I do, so it doesn't really matter what technique what I do. Consequently, I prefer to have my insight practice be as jhanic as possible. It's more fun that way. I can't say that I'm particularly skilled at distinguishing one jhana from another (I find the rupa jhanas less obvious than the arupa ones), but it's worth my time to get better at it.