pt1 wrote:Thanks for describing your understanding of the terms. I see several problems with the above description, based on how I currently understand theravada (which might not be entirely correct either, of course). Firstly, insight has to do with ultimate realities (dhammas), not concepts. So, if you call being aware of the above "languageless thoughts" as insight (or conceptual insight or whatever), then you might not have a correct conceptual understanding of dhamma, and so the practice (patipatti) you are doing might end up being wrong practice (of course, I might be just misunderstanding what you are trying to say again, or my practice might be wrong, etc, etc).
Yes, technically you are right. It was not insight (vipassana) I described. It was sati-sampajanna (usually translated as: Clear comprehension). But sati-sampajanna leads to vipassana.
Anyway, my understanding is like this - the first stage of (direct) insight is called nama-rupa stage - meaning you are able to detect how a sense-door process turns into a mind-door process and know the difference between them clearly. So here you see ultimate realities, processes of cittas, though not yet clearly individual cittas, cetasikas, etc. Everything that might be called "insight" before that stage is necessarily just thinking and operating with concepts (even if it is without words).
But what does it mean? What is a sense-door process and what a mind-door process. Some consider it to be sense-door when they see or hear something in contrast to when they imagine or remember it or recognize it on a personal level (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu for example). I don't. There is a lot of processing going on way before the sense signal contacts the personality-level, the level of wake. So in normal wake it is, IMO, impossible to be aware of the sense-doors. One needs an awareness that discerns on a very high time scale for that.
So what would be the difference between such thinking (mistaken for some sort of insight and practice) and the correct conceptual understanding of dhamma? Correct understanding is supposed to direct me as soon as possible towards direct insight rather than allowing mistaken views to arise about my practice (e.g. "aha, so I can see how thought arise, and therefore that's is insight, or conceptual analysis or whatever") which often ends up in wrong practice.
Yes, but it is, IMO, not correct understanding. Correct understanding arises from the vipassana experience not other way round. Vipassana, the experience, includes a shift of perspective, a shift of view. This shift of view (namely into supramundane right view) is the fundament of vipassana - can't do nothing without it. The shift is into an impersonal perspective. Consider being absorbed into a fictional character, say in TV or a book or a dream, and then you wake up or the bell rings or the advertisement breaks the absorption. Immediately, we re-absorbed into our normal wake personality. But in-between those two absorptions there is a very short moment of impersonality because we transfer from one personality to another there has to be an Impersonal perspective in between.
Vipassana, the experience, is always impersonal. As long as people retain their personality it might be sati-sampajanna but not vipassana. Vipassana, right view, it is just... different. Has nothing to do with conceptual understanding of dhamma. I don't think one can understand vipassana conceptually. It is one of those things one has to experience, it cannot be imagined, try as hard as one can.
But it is also possible that you are mistaking a concept for dhammas and think that there is insight happening, and this is a common mistake to make (what I know from experience).
Don't underestimate your experience. To develop and prolong and deepen sati-sampajanna is the A and O of the practice. Until vipassana that is. I consider sati-sampajanna as a hybrid state, it has already some aspects of vipassana but not the full shift or depth.
So, since I'm in the same boat and have the same problem, it seems important to keep investigating what's meant by "insight", "dhammas", etc in the tipitaka, to make sure I'm on the right track (i.e. that I'm undertaking a practice which is in line with the dhamma and leads to liberation).
When you know that whatever you observe is not you, is not your kamma, is not relevant to you, won't keep you with it, does not invade or stay, when you know that it does not really matter to you whether that personality (being) you observe will be reborn in hell or heaven, when you see the being as if it was a computer program written in zeroes and ones but you still understand that - then it is vipassana, the Impersonal Witness. This kind of knowing is a shift of view, like waking up from a dream or realising one is just reading a book, it is not something one can prepare for by imagining it, discussing it, reading about it. It is too different. Fortunately, it is also not something one needs to prepare for - when it happens it is a "been there - done that", completely normal, no surprise.