This article is part of an article series on Buddhist Insight Meditation that started with Meditation – Method, Effects and Purpose within Buddhism.

It is my argument that the effects of insight meditation go a long way in explaining the role of such meditation within Buddhism as a whole. According to one sutra it was by the method of calm and then insight based on the breath that the Buddha attained enlightenment.

The full realization by the Buddha of dependent origination as a profound truth is, according to early sources, the moment when the Buddha attained enlightenment. The most common illustration of dependent origination describes twelve stages or links that show how suffering (duhkha) and entrapment in samsara arises. Notably the very first link is ignorance.

Insight Meditation is a method of developing the concentration and mindful powers of the mind so as to be able to pierce through the veil of conditioned thought to see to the very heart of things. Such a thing implies a putting an end to ignorance. With the cessation of the very first link in the chain of dependent origination (the causative flow resulting in birth, old age, death and rebirth) insight meditation allows us to strike at the very heart of dependent origination and suffering.

According to the Dali Lama ‘wisdom alone is the direct opponent that enables us to eradicate the obscurations to knowledge and liberation such as disturbing emotions. Neither ethical discipline nor single-pointed concentration can confront them directly. Wisdom here refers to the wisdom derived from meditation not that derived from listening and contemplation.’

The fourth and final noble truth is an explanation of how suffering may be caused to cease and how the transition from immersion in samsara to nirvana is made. The fourth noble truth is of course the Eightfold Path. The eight factors of the Path can be divided into three categories which are wisdom (prajna) which includes right view and right resolve, morality (sila) which includes right speech, right action, and right livelihood and meditation which includes right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.

These three areas of the Eightfold Path can be considered to function in the form of a triangle. Morality forms the base of the triangle with self-discipline and virtuous behavior. Meditation is the process of calming and of self-integration that gives rise to insights. Insight refers to the knowledge and understanding of the nature of reality and the ability to see how awakening can be achieved is wisdom.

Morality is the foundation for meditation while wisdom is in tern strengthened by the inner calm and clear understanding of meditation. We then come full circle with wisdom producing a heightened moral sensibility. Meditation boosts the mental powers which make wisdom stronger and more penetrating and finally wisdom supports meditation by making clearer and more intelligible the experience of the meditative states. Morality is very important when one considers that a supremely calm and single pointed mind could be used to silence the internal voice of conscience.

In the next and final article in this series on Buddhist Meditation we will complete the consideration of The Role of Meditation Within Buddhism, Part 2 and conclude.


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