From vipassana to samatha

John Power, modified 8 Years ago at 9/11/15 2:12 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/11/15 2:11 PM

From vipassana to samatha

Posts: 95 Join Date: 3/16/14 Recent Posts
Hello everyone,

I decided that I want to spend more time developing concentration and so the jhana´s.
Almost all my practice has been vipassana (noting) and focussing on the abdomen but feeling the sensations(elements). Maybe a little information about my current experiences helps. Currently I am in early 4th nana with periods of tention in my chest and intense itching. And also periods that I am feeling calm and joyful. My breath is sometimes very fast and then becomes slower until I can barely sense it. Then it becomes faster again and the proces repeats.
The idea to do more samatha was because I have had some DN and I think that having more joy, tranquility and equanimity during this will help me in keeping my life a little bit more stable.
I read this from a post by Culadasa:
1. Whether or not the Insight Knowledges occur in the same order depends very much upon the method of practice.
occur in the order given in the Vissudhimagga and in Mahasi's Progress
of Insight if a) one is practicing "vipassana (Insight) before samatha
(tranquility)" (cf. the Yuganaddha Sutta, AN 4.170), and
if b) one is using a method that is designed to make Insight into
anicca (impermanence) the first to arise while Insight into anatta
(emptiness of Self) is left to the very end.
[For those who might be
puzzled about the Samatha that follows what they may have thought of as
a "pure" Vipassana practice, please note that the Knowledge of
Equanimity Towards Formations is Samatha.]

With regard to a):
one practices "samatha before vipassana", then the Knowledge of Arising
and Passing Away and the Knowledge and Vision of Path and Not-Path will
come before the
Purification of View and Overcoming Doubt rather than after it. But the
View and Overcoming Doubt must obviously still precede the Insight
Knowledges themselves.
And if one practices "samatha together with vipassana", then even more variability in the order is possible.

With regard to b):
of Dissolution followed by the Dukkha Knowledges is an order that is
quite specific to a practice geared towards anicca as the first Insight.
Knowledge of
Dissolution is the entry into actual Insight with Insight into anicca
being the first, and Insight into dukkha being the second. Practices
oriented towards a different "entry" into Insight will, of course, not
follow this order at all.

2. Insight into Dukkha is a miserable
experience if a) one launches into Insight without the "lubricating
moisture", i.e. piti (joy), passadhi (tranquility), and upekha
(equanimity) of Samatha; and if b) Insights into anicca, sunyatta, and
dukkha precede insight into anatta. Deepening Insight into impermanence
by someone who still has a strong intuitive sense of being a real,
separate Self can be a terrifyingly miserable experience. A "Self" in a
world of impermanent and empty "things" to which that Self tries to
cling is the very definition of dukkha.

With regard to a):
mind imbued with piti, passadhi, and equanimity can navigate this voyage
of discovery with far more... well..., joy, tranquility and
equanimity to mitigate the fear misery and disgust of confronting the
reality of the way things are.

And with regard to b):
course, to the degree to which the emptiness of Self has been both
intellectually realized and intuitively assimilated, to that degree one
is effectively immunized against the experience of dukkha during the process of further deepening of Insight into the nature of dukkha. 

to restate your question, "Who in their right mind would follow a
method that broaches Insight without first cultivating Samatha, or
plunge into the Knowledge of Dissolution and Insight into Impermanence
without first properly addressing the issue of emptiness with regard to
the perceived Self?"

Here are a few answers that come immediately to mind:
With regard to why someone would not first cultivate Samatha;
- Someone might be unaware that there is any other
- Someone might have been taught that Samatha practices are
useless or difficult or dangerous or are to be avoided for some other
reason or combination of reasons. eg. "Concentration practices are a
waste of time. The only real Buddhist meditation is Vipassana."
Someone might have been unsuccessful in Samatha practice due to lack of
proper instruction, and so has abandoned it in frustration.
- Someone
might have practiced Samatha incorrectly in a way that has led to
dullness, and so has abandoned the practice as fruitless.

With regard to why someone would pursue Insight into anicca before anatta;
Anyone who is resistant to and cannot accept the idea that what the
Buddha meant by anatta is that there really is not, never has been, and
never will be a separate Self other than these conditioned, impermanent,
suffering aggregates. This is part of what makes anatta so much more
inaccessible than anicca. There are countless
Buddhists, Western and Eastern alike, who think, "Buddha just meant that
the Self was not in the aggregates, not that there is no Self at all."
They feel like they are a Self, and they fully expect to have the
mystery of the doctrine of anatta solved and their "True" Self revealed
through the practice. You know the one they are thinking of: the Self
who has lived countless previous lives, the one that accumulates merit
and kamma, the one that is going to be reborn in the future. These are
the closet "eternalists".
- Anyone who craves non-existence, who
embraces the Dhamma as the path to an ultimate end to the endless cycle
of suffering and rebirth, but who can only conceive of liberation in
terms of oblivion. The rebirth they wish to escape is, of course, that
of a Self that for them does
exist, although admittedly in a mysteriously relative and
mind-dependent way, but a Self that is all too painfully
and undeniably real none-the-less. Since this Self exists in some
mysteriously mind-dependent way, it is the mind that must put an end to
it. Insights into impermanence and suffering are seen as the path by
which the Self will be destroyed and become a No-Self that will not be
reborn. These are the closet "anihilationists".
- Anyone who is aware that Insight into anicca is in
fact much more readily attained than Insight into anatta. This is quite
true and is perhaps the best of all possible reasons for seeking Insight into Impermanence.

So my question: How can I switch from vipassana to samatha while still having the abdomen as a meditation object?

Many thanks!