Sunday, July 18, 2021

A Path, Part II

(You can read Part I either before or after you read this article.)

The Buddha taught that samatha and vipassana should be developed together.

The following is a way to practice both that has worked well for me.


  • Prepare for meditation with relaxation exercises.

    Relaxation = letting go = equanimity.

    You should experience great benefit each day from this practice alone.

  • Do a form of relaxing meditation to make the mind quiet and peaceful.

    Again, just practicing this way should provide great benefits to your well being each day you practice by increasing serenity and equanimity.

    The relaxed mind/body is in a condition where you can use it to study itself. You can be mindful without getting carried away by thoughts, emotions, impulses, and sensations and without being drawn into them so you forget to be an observer.

When you do the following forms of vipassana practice while meditating and in daily life, don't forget to maintain the pleasant relaxed state of mind produced by samatha practice. That state of pleasant abiding is the platform from which you should practice vipassana.


  • While meditating, and most importantly in daily life, observe the activity of the mind. Notice thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations coming into awareness and fading out of awareness. Observe the mind as suffering (unpleasant emotions, emotional anguish, stress) arises and fades away. Notice the physical sensations in your body that accompany emotions.

    You will see that thoughts, emotions, impulses and sensations arise from unconscious processes. You don't create them, they are not you or yours. Every time you notice your mind wandering during meditation you are reminded that you don't control your mind. You are not your mind.

    You may seem to be just an observer of the activity in your mind and of events in your environment.

  • Try to observe the observer. You will see that this observer, the self, the concept of self, is just like everything else in the mind. It arises from unconscious processes. It is not you or yours. The self is a mirage.

  • Keep observing the observer,

    Observing the activity of the mind and observing the observer, produces a detachment toward thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations, and to things, events, and to the self.

    This detachment can help you learn to surrender - to learn to stop resisting cognitive dissonance, to accept thoughts you don't want to think and emotions you don't want to feel. Often these thoughts and emotions are about the self. Surrender produces more detachment. You begin to give up attitudes, poses, prejudices, aspects of your personality (including pride, vanity, arrogance) that are extra, that you took on in an attempt to create a satisfactory self.

  • Sense of self - When you see from the point of view of a detached observer, that the activity of the mind, including the sense of self, arises from unconscious processes and they are not you or yours, you realize that it is this lack of detached observation that led you to develop your sense of self. It is getting carried away by thoughts and emotions, being a participant rather than an observer, that allowed that sense of self to arise.

  • Separation - You also can see that craving and disliking led you develop a sense of separation between self and not-self. You considered things you like to be you and yours (your body, your mind, your thoughts, your family, your favorite sport team, your car). And you considered things you don't like to not be you and yours. This is what caused you to make a separation between self and non-self. As your equanimity and detachment develop, you will find that craving and disliking diminish and the feeling of separation fades.

  • Keep observing the observer to work this understanding into your world view, into those unconscious processes that produce thoughts emotions impulses and thoughts of self.

Additional Comments

The type of non-attachment this path produces does not cause you to ignore problems or make you callous. It allows you to act with reason and compassion and prevents out-of-control emotions and impulses from influencing your judgement.

Some people go through this process gradually without experiencing a big sudden change at any point in time. Other people do feel they experience a big sudden change at certain points. This has created a lot of confusion. So understand that a "big sudden change" is not necessary, does not occur for everybody, and expecting it can be unhelpful for some people. Just relax, quiet the mind with meditation, observe the activity of the mind: thoughts emotions, impulses, and sensations. Notice suffering arising and ending. Observe the observer. Surrender. Notice how observing the activity of the mind undermines the sense of self, and how detachment reduces liking and disliking and that undermines the sense of separation.

The Buddha likened consciousness to a magicians trick.

"Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?

"Seeing thus, the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he grows dispassionate.

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