Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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archaic
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Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by archaic » Wed Sep 27, 2017 11:30 pm

Hello, I am new here.

From my readings I know that Buddha discussed many objects of concentration meditation (ie/. breath, kasinas, mantra, etc.), and practices to promote the development of insight/prajna wisdom.

When I did two ten day Goenka Vipassana silent retreats, they were a great experience, but I found the tone rather authoritarian. The Goenka school seems to insist that wisdom/insight/prajna must be developed by Vipassana body scans.

I thought this was a very narrow view; in my opinion there must be some overlap to concentration and insight meditations?

Since there are many different definitions of concentration and insight meditations, would concentrating on the rising and the falling of the breath at the lower abdomen/dantien/hara be considered a combination of insight and concentration practice?

I think that Buddha even specified specific how specific concentration objects (ie./ kasinas, corpses) could be used to develop insight into different aspects of reality. As well the jhana states seem to me like they would be tools for both concentration and insight development?

Thanks in advance for any wisdom others may provide, as this topic has been on my mind lately.

Saengnapha
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by Saengnapha » Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:40 am

archaic wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 11:30 pm
Hello, I am new here.

From my readings I know that Buddha discussed many objects of concentration meditation (ie/. breath, kasinas, mantra, etc.), and practices to promote the development of insight/prajna wisdom.

When I did two ten day Goenka Vipassana silent retreats, they were a great experience, but I found the tone rather authoritarian. The Goenka school seems to insist that wisdom/insight/prajna must be developed by Vipassana body scans.

I thought this was a very narrow view; in my opinion there must be some overlap to concentration and insight meditations?

Since there are many different definitions of concentration and insight meditations, would concentrating on the rising and the falling of the breath at the lower abdomen/dantien/hara be considered a combination of insight and concentration practice?

I think that Buddha even specified specific how specific concentration objects (ie./ kasinas, corpses) could be used to develop insight into different aspects of reality. As well the jhana states seem to me like they would be tools for both concentration and insight development?

Thanks in advance for any wisdom others may provide, as this topic has been on my mind lately.
I think there are different pov's regarding this topic. Different schools also propose different supports, objects for concentration. Personally, the dantien area of the lower abdomen has always featured in my contemplation. Breathing into this area and keeping the attention there has always been an easy way for me to calm the body & mind (samatha practice). Perhaps some people are more disposed towards the nostrils where the breath enters/exits. The point seems not so important which support one uses, but the calming feature which very much encompasses bodily feelings without disturbance from your discursive mind. At some point, there is a natural release of the support and thoughts begin to come up. This to me is the Vipassana phase of satipatthana, the mindfulness of noting that thoughts are there. Allowing the thoughts to come and go through mindfulness. Not trying to manipulate or further think about them can lead to insight about their nature and a deeper meditative state. I am intentionally oversimplifying this. There is an awful lot of stuff between the lines.

archaic
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by archaic » Sat Sep 30, 2017 8:52 pm

I appreciate your thoughtful answer, I found it insightful. Considering your reply, I have a follow up question:

When doing my meditation on the breath at the nostrils/tip of nose, I find that I can obtain jhana more easily than meditation on the dantien/hara...
Any small fluctuations of my breathing are much more noticeable when I am concentrating on the abdomen... So I find deep states of concentration harder to obtain when focusing on the abdomen compared to concentrating on the nose.

Do you notice this as well? Or would you say these are basically both similar methods (just on a different object of attention)?

Thanks for your time.

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mikenz66
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:06 pm

Hi archaic,

I'm no expert in jhana, but I do find that the nose-tip and the abdomen are quite different objects. As you say, the abdomen is more complex and does not lead to such one-pointed concentration, as it keeps one busy following the myriad variations. That is likely why many "insight oriented" techniques make use of the abdomen as the grounding object. In my opinion what you used depends on what you are trying to achieve - there are a variety of approaches...

:heart:
Mike

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L.N.
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by L.N. » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:08 am

archaic wrote:
Wed Sep 27, 2017 11:30 pm
The Goenka school seems to insist that wisdom/insight/prajna must be developed by Vipassana body scans. I thought this was a very narrow view; in my opinion there must be some overlap to concentration and insight meditations?
Didn't you get the sense that there was a bit more to it than what you have described?
There is a pretty clear intersection among sila, samadhi and panna, no?
See also "Relevance of Vedana to Bhavana-maya Panna."
Sire patitthitā Buddhā
Dhammo ca tava locane
Sangho patitthitō tuiham
uresabba gunākaro


愿众佛坐在我的头顶, 佛法在我的眼中, 僧伽,功德的根源, 端坐在我的肩上。

Saengnapha
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:52 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:06 pm
Hi archaic,

I'm no expert in jhana, but I do find that the nose-tip and the abdomen are quite different objects. As you say, the abdomen is more complex and does not lead to such one-pointed concentration, as it keeps one busy following the myriad variations. That is likely why many "insight oriented" techniques make use of the abdomen as the grounding object. In my opinion what you used depends on what you are trying to achieve - there are a variety of approaches...

:heart:
Mike
I'm no expert either, but I don't sit to experience jhana or do any particular manipulation other than follow my breath, particularly in the beginning of sitting down. When I'm relaxed, my breath flows from the nostrils to the abdomen naturally. At either point, focused, jhana or equanimity can occur. Perhaps different people are naturally drawn to different objects of meditation. I don't think it's that important a topic. I do think that the abdominal area is a seat of feeling/emotion. The sense of 'being' is most associated when the abdomen is released from tension. This can also lead to energetic practices and experiences that some Buddhist schools engage in. I'm not sure about the statement of 'trying to achieve'. This would be a form of manipulation, no?

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mikenz66
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:27 am

Hi Saengnapha,
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:52 am
.... I'm not sure about the statement of 'trying to achieve'. This would be a form of manipulation, no?
I'm not sure why you would not expect some manipulation. Isn't setting up the conditions to "enter the nth jhana" a manipulation? That happens quite a lot in the suttas...

:heart:
Mike

Saengnapha
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by Saengnapha » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:45 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:27 am
Hi Saengnapha,
Saengnapha wrote:
Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:52 am
.... I'm not sure about the statement of 'trying to achieve'. This would be a form of manipulation, no?
I'm not sure why you would not expect some manipulation. Isn't setting up the conditions to "enter the nth jhana" a manipulation? That happens quite a lot in the suttas...

:heart:
Mike
Oh, I wasn't trying to imply that there is no manipulation. I often find myself contemplating how I manipulate myself to achieve or expect something out of all of this. This is what we are conditioned to do. I bring it up because it is an essential element in feeding the deception of 'achieving' and 'becoming'. This to me is more relevant than jhanas or insight much of the time. I call it wrong effort. But this is something that each of us needs to work out for themselves. :)

paul
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Re: Intersection of concentration and insight in meditation

Post by paul » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:20 pm

Contemplating the fabrications is a sign the practitioner is on the right path and all advancement up to the final emancipation is reliant on mental nutriment of some kind, in a stepped progression. The most basic discernment is between feelings of the flesh and feelings not of the flesh as a source of nutriment for the mind. Feelings of the flesh are opposed by developing revulsion through contemplation of impermanence, then later in the practice, the dispassion of equanimity. Feelings not of the flesh are cultivated through overcoming perceptions related to human society and establishing the perception of wilderness as a basis. To do this successfully requires attention to sila, as required by the responsibilities of a more refined level.

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