|Venerable Burmese scholar-monk Mahasi Sayadaw|
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Fundamentals of Vipassana (Insight) Meditation
Ven. Mahāsi Sayādaw, Fundamentals of Vipassanā Meditation, Maung Tha Noe (trans.) via palikanon.com; Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Crystal Q. (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
This is a very important question. There are two kinds of Buddhist meditation -- meditating to develop calm and meditating to develop insight.
Meditating on the ten meditative devices only gives rise to calm rather than insight. Meditating on the ten foul things (i.e., an unsightly swollen corpse), too, only gives rise to calm, not insight.
The Ten Recollections, like remembering the Buddha, the Dharma, and others, too, can develop calm but not insight.
Meditating on the 32 parts of the body -- like hair, nails, teeth, skin -- these too are not insight. They develop only calm concentration.
Mindfulness (sati) of breathing is also concentration-developing, but one can develop insight from it as well. The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), however, includes it in the concentration subjects, so we will call it as such here.
Then there are the Four Divine Abidings (brahma-viharas) -- love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity -- and the Four Formless States leading to formless meditative absorptions (jhānas).
Then, there is the meditation on the loathsomeness of food. All of these are subjects for concentration-meditation.
When one meditates on the Four Elements inside the body, it is called the "analysis of the Four Elements." Although this is a concentration-meditation, it helps develop insight as well.
All of these 40 subjects of meditation are subjects for developing concentration. Only mindfulness of breathing and analysis of the Four Elements have to do with insight.
The others will not give rise to insight. If one wants insight, one will have to work further.
To come back to the question, How do we develop insight? The answer is that we develop insight by meditating on the Five Aggregates of Clinging.
The mental and material ("name-and-form," nama-rupa) qualities inside beings are aggregates of clinging. They may be grasped with delight by craving, in which case it is called "grasping of the sense objects" -- or they may be grasped wrongly by wrong views -- in which case it is called "clinging through wrong views."
One has to meditate on them and see them as they truly are. If one does not, one will grasp them with craving and wrong views.
Once we see them as they truly are, we will no longer cling to them them. In this way one develops insight. We will discuss the Five Aggregates of Clinging in detail. More