Monday, March 18, 2019

Ajahn Chah: Insight or Serenity?

Ajahn Chah ( via Ven. Sujato; Ellie Askew, Dhr. Seven (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly
Reflection pool, the Buddha in Thailand (Sasin Tipchai as Bugphai/flickr com)
Yes, I get it! (bugphai/flickr)
Meditation is like a single stick of wood. Insight (vipassanā) is one end of the stick, serenity (samatha) the other. If we pick up a stick, does only one end come up or do both?

When we pick up a stick, both ends rise together. Which part then is insight, which part serenity? Where does one end and the other begin? They are both the "mind."

As the mind becomes peaceful, initially the peace will arise from serenity. We focus and unify the mind in states of progressively peaceful meditative absorption (samādhi).

However, if the peace and stillness of samādhi fades away, and suffering arises in its place. Why is that?

This is because the peace afforded by serenity-meditation alone is still based on attachment. This attachment can then be a cause of pain (disappointment, unfulfillment, suffering). Serenity is not the end of the path. The Buddha saw from his own experience that such peace of mind was not the ultimate. (Nirvana is the ultimate).

The causes underlying the process of continued wandering on through existence (bhava) had not yet been brought to cessation (nirodha). The conditions for rebirth still existed. His spiritual work had not yet attained perfection. Why?

This is because there was still suffering (dukkha, disappointment). So based on the serenity of (samatha-) meditation, he proceeded to systematically contemplate, investigate, and analyze the conditioned nature of reality until he gained freedom from all entanglements, encumbrances, attachments, traps, bonds, hooks, catches -- even attachment to serenity itself.

Where can one find insight? (
Serenity is still part of the "world" of conditioned existence and conventional reality. Clinging to this type of peace is clinging to conventional reality, and as long as we cling, we will be mired in conditioned-existence and rebirth.

Delighting in the peace of serenity still leads to further rebirth. Once the heart/mind’s restlessness and agitation calms down, one often clings to that resultant peace. [It is better to let go and be completely free of it all, for letting go, which is what vipassana/insight meditation is for].

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