Buddhist Calm Abiding And Special Insight
Within Buddhist meditation practices for eliminating suffering and achieving enlightenment, generally speaking there are two main categories of training: mindfulness and special insight. shamatha and vipassana are the Sanskrit terms for these two categories of meditation. Having success in either will bring great benefit in eliminating mental and emotional suffering and also help reveal the true nature of yourself and the world. The union of the two is the path to complete enlightenment.
Firstly, Buddhist calm-abiding or mindfulness meditation, is predominantly learning the skill to let go of clinging to thoughts and to stabilize attention within the present moment in a non-judgemental way. The method is to let go of the last thought, and be present, especially to let go of thoughts of hate and blame and rest in a peaceful way.
A further component to mindfulness meditation is to relax physical tension so you can be fully comfortable in the here and now with a clear mind and an open heart. This can be done sitting on the meditation cushion focussing on a particluar object like the breath or in daily life focussing in a more general way on the present situation.
Mindfully calm-abiding in the present moment keeps you mentally flexible and helps prevent being bullied around by negative thoughts, disturbing emotions. Your mind becomes flexible or pliable in the sense you can begin to control what you focus on.
Mindfulness broadens your awareness by opening new dimenions of experience, modern mindfulness guru Jon Kabit Zinn says mindfulness opens the door to a whole new relationship with life. This is because more of your awareness is freed from being caught up in thoughts and is available to notice more of the reality of the present moment. This is how insights begin to arise.
See More about how to deepen your mindfulness HERE
The second main category of Buddhist meditation is special insight meditation. This is a type of direct knowledge ‘seen’ in mindfulness meditation. It is special because it has the power to eventually eliminate all disturbing emotions and ignorance of your real nature. It’s the disturbing emotions and ignorance of your full potential that are the root cause of the suffering of being human and exactly what mindfulness and special insight purify over time.
Once your mind is stable and calm through mindfulness practise realizations and insights arise naturally. Initially you start with general realizations and proceed to the most subtle and profound.
I often tell people one of the first insights of meditation training is learning just how crazy your minds is, constantly and obessively following any old thought and continuously getting distracted without any power to focus. This is when people can give up but this is an important realization, this is the start of meditation training and the start of recovering from our an untamed mind and lack of inner freedom. This understanding of how crazy your mind is will eventually lead to the deepest wisdom and ultimately to enlightenment.
See More on mindfulness and how to practice it HERE
The Power Of Special Insight
After you have tamed your mind and can steadily and easily focus on your breath in meditation or simply the present situation during daily life, one of the first special insights to arise is the wisdom of knowing intimately that everything changes. Mindful of the constantly changing thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations we directly understand that no thing stays the same.
This type of wisdom realizes the fleeting nature of experiences. It helps to realise that everything is energy and there is no permanent self. The body and mind we usually use as a bases for our selves is experienced as the ever changing composite that it is.
An even subtler type of wisdom understands that things present themselves like an illusion. In other words, appearances are deceiving in their nature. For instance, we are often tricked into thinking our perspective is the only perspective, but that is not the case. There can be many ways to view a situation or event among different people, not to mention the differences in the way animals perceive their surroundings.
Robert Anton Wilson says that:
“We don’t really see anything as it is, but rather as we are.”
We interact and navigate the world using preconceived projections and fail to see the world as it actually is. With a clear and objective view through stabilising mindfulness meditation we can see clearly that our perspectives and opinions are only relative, can change at any moment and are not ultimately real. Our experience of the world is actually completely mental. We never really touch the outside world we merely create a mental representation of it and live our lives believing that the representation is really what exists.
After all these insight sink in the next startling realisation is the special insight of discovering no-self. Having seen the changing nature of things and the deceptive nature of appearances we see directly there is no separate permanent ego. When we examine ourselves with a stable and clear attention we cannot find such a fictitious ego entity. Upon introspection all you can seemingly find is an ever-shifting body/mind and an ever-present unbounded clear awareness noticing all of that. There is no fixed or separate or definable ego person to be found.
Buddha taught that it’s the union of the mindfulness and special insights which have the power to create perfect enlightenment. The power of the union of mindfulness and the most subtle special insight removes the blockages and obscurations to reveal an enlightened essence which has always been there.
The union of Calm-Abiding and Special Insight is the union of a stable clear attention with the simultaneous wisdom of recognizing appearances as shifting, illusory and with no- self. It is the power of this union that can eliminate the ego, destroy clinging and uncover a divine nature within.
The highest realisation and the ultimate meditation is the stable and direct realisation that our nature is actually an ever present empty clarity which has unconditional sensitivity for the suffering of others and the ability to intuitively know how to act appropriately for your own and other’s benefit. In other words our pure awareness is fully endowed with perfect love and wisdom of its own. Resting effortlessly in the recognition of an enlightened luminous essence is actually counted as the highest and most powerful insight meditations.
The highest union is expressed in the instructions: there is nothing to meditate on, but don’t get distracted.
Written by Chad Foreman
Chad Foreman has been teaching meditation since 2003 and is determined to bring authentic meditation practices into the lives of millions of people. Chad is a former Buddhist monk and spent 6 years living in a retreat hut studying and practising meditation full time. He is now a fully qualified meditation teacher with the Australian Institute of Meditation and has designed a unique 21 day meditation challenge to guide people gradually from the basics of mindfulness and relaxation to profound states of awareness. Click Here to learn more about the 21 Day Meditation Challenge.