In a Weekend Wisdom Video I quickly touched on on samatha and vipassana. I received many questions on those two topics, so just what are samatha and vipassanā?

Two qualities, calm and insight, are said to be needed to be in balance for the Buddhist path. Some teachings stress the insight aspect of their path; seeing unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and the absence of an abiding self in events that arise in life and in the mind. This is called insight, and links to the bulk of buddhist teachings. Samatha is in its most basic description – calm, and refers to jhāna practice. It emphasizes peace and deeper stages of meaning and insight, leading to a serene equanimity and balance.

We need calm and insight for most things in life this is basically what we call vipassana. We need some happiness and tranquillity in things we do, or else we simply do not enjoy them, and feel unhappy and unfulfilled. Many people utilize meditation to help bring calm and peacefulness. But we also need to have a sense of the ‘three signs’: that nothing can be perfect, that things change, and that we change too. In fact this is good news: if a piece of work is not exactly as one wanted it to be – it is unsatisfactory. If one gets up in a bad mood it is helpful to reflect that this is not necessarily an abiding self, but one we happened to find in the morning, and do not have to keep!

These concepts are connected and can provide meaningful reflections on the possibilities of an awake mind, the teaching that can bring this, and others who have followed and teach the path to freedom.

Peace and Love, Jim

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