Wednesday, December 16, 2009

INTRODUCTION TO INSIGHT MEDITATION



The aim of this booklet is to serve as an introduction to the practice of Insight Meditation as taught within the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. You need not be familiar with the teachings of the Buddha to make use of it, although such knowledge can help to clarify any personal understanding you may develop through meditation.

The purpose of Insight Meditation is not to create a system of beliefs, but rather to give guidance on how to see clearly into the nature of the mind. In this way one gains first-hand understanding of the way things are, without reliance on opinions or theories - a direct experience, which has its own vitality. It also gives rise to the sense of deep calm that comes from knowing something for oneself, beyond any doubt.

Insight Meditation is a key factor in the path that the Buddha offered for the welfare of human beings; the only criterion is that one has to put it into practice! These pages, therefore, describe a series of meditation exercises, and practical advice on how to use them. It works best if the reader follows the guide progressively, giving each sequence of instructions a good work-out before proceeding further.

The term 'Insight Meditation' (samatha-vipassana)* refers to practices for the mind that develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through reflection. A fundamental technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally, this is practised while sitting or walking. The guide begins with some advice on this.

Reflection occurs quite naturally afterwards, when one is 'comfortable' within the context of the meditation exercise. There will be a sense of ease and interest, and one begins to look around and become acquainted with the mind that is meditating. This 'looking around' is called contemplation, a personal and direct seeing that can only be suggested by any technique. A few ideas and guidance on this come in a later section.

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* Knowledge of terms in Pali - the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism - is not necessary to begin the practice of meditation. It can be useful, however, to provide reference points to the large source of guidance in the Theravada Canon, as well as to the teaching of many contemporary masters who still find such words more precise than their English equivalents.

(to be continue..)

Copyright by Amaravati Publications 1988

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