There are 2 dimensions to meditation
1. Shamatha Calming/stabilizing/tranquility meditation
Because it calms the mind down and stabilizes it, allows it to reach tranquility.
Here, you focus the mind on 1 object and you let go of everything else for the time being.
This anchors the mind so that it doesn’t keep wandering off everywhere – it stays put much like a boat stays put when you anchor it.
The strong winds of the restlessness can no longer randomly buffet the waters of the mind every which way because now, it’s anchored down and the mind can start to calm down. This allows the waters of the mind to settle down, quieten down. The water is now peaceful, tranquil and will be clearer so that it will be easier to see through it.
2. Vipashyana Insight meditation
Because once your mind is calm enough (through shamatha), because it is no longer caught up in things – you will be able to gain a greater perspective on things and see things with greater clarity. Whereas with Shamatha, you are closing the mind down to a single point of focus, with Vipashyana, you are opening the mind up again to accept whatever comes and investigate things with wisdom.
So Insight meditation allows you to be able to understand the nature of things better, allows you to be able to penetrate things and see through to the meaning.
Why do we need to develop skill in both aspects?
Ajahn Brahm gives us a good analogy. Imagine someone is waving a piece of paper around and you’re trying to read what’s on the piece of paper:
- You need the paper to be still (calm) before you can read it properly (insight). The stiller the paper is, the easier it is to read.
- The stiller the mind is, the clearer it is. And when you see things with greater clarity, this is when the insights develop.
And if you get good at both, you can do both at the same time (as they’re not mutually exclusive) as one enhances the other. You can even switch between the two back and forth whenever you want – so there’s really no rules as to how you use them. As everyone is different, you can experiment and see what works well for you – experiment and evaluate the results for yourself.
As for how to do Shamatha and Vipashyana… stay tuned…