This article is part of a series of articles on Buddhist insight meditation that began with the article Meditation – Method, Effects and Purpose within Buddhism.

Very valuable changes in a person can occur as an effect of a calm abiding mind. There is a deepening of morality along with a clarity of mind with the ability to concentrate on an object long enough to investigate it properly. Through this practice we can become both better able to let go and better prepared for the potentially disturbing insights that arise in insight meditation.

However, in Kamalasila’s Stages of Meditation reference is made to the Unraveling of the Thought Sutra which says: ‘Even if you meditate with single-pointed concentration you will not destroy the misconception of the self and your disturbing emotions will disturb you again. When the selflessness of phenomena is examined specifically, and meditations are performed on the basis of that analysis, that is the cause of the resultant liberation; no other cause can bring peace.’

As you can see calming meditation alone cannot lead to Nirvana. For while it can temporarily suspend, and thus weaken, attachment, hatred, and delusion, but it cannot destroy them; only insight combined with calm can do this.

In spite of our best efforts to concentrate solely on the breath at the rim of the nostrils the mind will wander away. To begin with you can suddenly find oneself in the middle of remembering past places visited, people you have met, friends not seen in a long time, or a bill that needs paying.

As soon as you notice the mind in no longer on the breath mindfully bring it back and anchor it there. It is not in any way unusual if in a few minutes to find yourself caught up again thinking about laundry that needs doing, a shopping list, or a holiday you would like to go on.

Again as soon as you notice the mind has wondered mindfully bring it back to the breath. The beauty of this process lies in the fact that each wondering of the mind is not a cause for frustration but rather happiness that you have had another opportunity to practice and strengthen your mindfulness.

In the next article in this series we will answer the question – What does Insight Mean?


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