Tranquility and Insight Unified.

An exploration of a small piece of Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s Mahamudra: the Moonlight. I share the text as well as my own thoughts on our author’s thoughts. 

Tranquility and Insight

Tranquility:

Samatha (Pāli) or śamatha (Sanskrit: शमथ; Chinese: 止 zhǐ) is the Buddhist practice (bhāvanā भावन) of calming the mind (citta चित्त) and its ‘formations’ (saṅkhāra सम्स्कार). This is done by practicing single-pointed meditation most commonly through mindfulness of breathing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samatha

Insight:

Vipassanā or vipaśyanā in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the true nature of reality.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassan%C4%81

256px-Dakpo_Tashi_Namgyal.jpg

Some meditators think that in tranquility one does not contemplate anything, whereas in insight one engages in thoughts only. This assertion is not correct.

On one extreme, they imagine an completely empty mind [void of any activity / designation / discrimination]. On the other, they chase after “one pure thought”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlhSztZcsqU

Were it so, it would rule out the existence of tranquil meditation on any creative images such as visualized forms. Why? Because one must then necessarily accept the fact that when engaged in tranquil meditation on the visualized form of the Buddha, one is neither visualizing that image nor analyzing it.

Visualization meditations show us that tranquility and insight are bundled together– one ‘thing’ seen from two perspectives. Like a coin has two faces. They look different, but both faces are on the one coin.

And because they claim that during the meditation of tranquility one neither contemplates nor analyzes anything, this rules out the possibility of a union between tranquility and insight, since– as they maintain– tranquility is nonconceptual  and insight is conceptual.

Visualization *requires* some conceptualization / designation. The next paragraph explains.

According to this position compatibility between conceptual and nonconceptual meditation is not possible. Were it so, it would be held up to ridicule by logicians. If they say that an image merely appears to the perceiving mind but is not discriminative thought, the appearance will be meaningless unless it is designated by discriminative thought. Whatever appears does so because every mental image including visualization is said to be a result of such designation.

By the time you perceive any image, there is already discriminative thought. You are designating the thing as ‘thing’. There is no visualization of the Buddha without some designation: ‘this is that Buddha’.

Their assertion that all insights are conceptual is not correct, because there is insight (mentioned in the Bhavanakrama) without mental activity. Also, nonconceptual awareness is reality perceived through insight, which is perfect insight!

Nonconceptual insights! Like the taste of a fruit someone doesn’t know, you just can’t ever adequately describe the flavor! But! There is certainly a flavor. You have experienced it! There is no doubt. Instead of yammering on about what the flavor is, the wise person hands over the fruit and invites their friends to try it.

Furthermore, their position would deny the possibility of tranquility endowed with differentiating wisdom, as they hold that tranquility endowed discriminative thought is not possible. For them tranquility must necessarily be completely nonconceptual.

If we took the position being described here, there would be no sense in seeking wisdom through any of the meditative practices. Yet, it is obvious to many that tranquility and insight are related. We stop, we calm, we are able to see and think more clearly (we attain insight). If we assert that tranquility is completely devoid of concept and insight is pure concept, we trap ourselves in a painful situation.

Also. this assertion contradicts the fact that tranquility is comprised of four kinds of mental activity. According to their view one would not exercise mindfulness and vigilance while meditating upon tranquility, as the mind in tranquility does not engage itself in mental activity.

Our author now asserts that tranquility can be described in terms of four kinds of mental activity! Looks like two of those four are Mindfulness and Vigilance. What are the other two?

**Now, we leave Mahamudra and dig into ‘Theravada’. We see a similar emphasis on the union of these two states. People with insight should learn from people with tranquility. People with tranquility should learn from people with insight. Check it out:

Samádhi Sutta

Concentration: Tranquility and Insight

“Monks, these four types of individuals are to be found existing in world. Which four?

“There is the case of the individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquility of awareness. Then there is the case of the individual who has attained neither internal tranquility of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment. And then there is the case of the individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“The individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness, but not insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, should approach an individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment and ask him: ‘How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: ‘Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“As for the individual who has attained insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, but not internal tranquility of awareness, he should approach an individual who has attained internal tranquility of awareness… and ask him, ‘How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: ‘the mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquility of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment… and ask him, ‘How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?’ The other will answer in line with what he has seen and experienced: ‘the mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.’ Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

“As for the individual who has attained both internal tranquility of awareness and insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, his duty is to make an effort in establishing (‘tuning’) those very same skillful qualities to a higher degree for the ending of the mental fermentations.

“These are four types of individuals to be found existing in world.”

What’s a Bodhisattva to do?

The Da bore boluomiduo jing comments as follows:

The doctrine is that all dharmas,
whether good or not good,
are immaterial and pure.
This is the doctrine of the bodhisattva.

The doctrine that all dharmas,
whether recordable or unrecordable,
whether phenomenal (āsrava) or nonphenomenal (anāsrava),
whether conditioned (saṃskṛta) or unconditioned (asaṃskṛta),
whether mundane or supramundane,
are immaterial and pure;
this is the doctrine of the bodhisattva.

Because the self-nature of all dharmas is void,
it is far removed (from the phenomenal);
because this self-nature is far removed (from the phenomenal) it is tranquil;
because this self-nature is tranquil it is pure;
and because this self-nature is pure,
the profound prajñā pāramitā is of the utmost purity.

This prajñā pāramitā,
you must know,
is the doctrine of the bodhisattva.

 

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