It Sounds Very Simple!

by Friends of Godwin


I’d like to say something about the connection between samadhi, deep concentration, and vipassana, insight. One practical thing which you can do is that when the mind is reasonably calm and stable, then you can investigate, explore any situation in life. So in everyday life when suffering arises – when conflicts arise, when unpleasant emotions arise – you can learn about it, you can explore it, you can investigate it and see how it is created by yourself. And then you can discover tools, how to work with these emotions, how to learn to be free of them.

So the idea is that when you have these pleasant, calm states of mind, not to hold onto them, not to identify yourself with them, but rather to use them in developing insight. I came across a very interesting quotation in one of the Buddhist texts where it says that sometimes calm can come first and insight later, sometimes insight can come first and then calm comes later; that’s a very interesting point. They can also sometimes come together. So sometimes this strong distinction we draw between calm and insight doesn’t seem to apply because they are really interconnected, interrelated.

What does it mean that when there is insight, calm can come? One way of understanding this in relation to developing insight is that you can allow any thought to arise, any emotion to arise, any sensations to arise; and whatever arises, you just observe, you just watch, you just know. So from that practice sometimes calm can come naturally without your wanting to have calm and tranquility. And sometimes if calm is not there and you are unable to really develop insight in that way, then you can focus your attention on the breath and try to develop some calm and clarity and again start investigating and developing insight.

And in relation to insight, according to the Buddha’s teachings there are three characteristics, three important aspects which we have to develop if we are cultivating insight. The first is to develop the understanding, to realize, how things are impermanent, how things are changing from moment to moment. So while we are sitting now, your thoughts are changing from moment to moment; there is one thought, then another thought arises. So there is this continuous change taking place in relation to your thoughts. Sensations in your body are also changing from moment to moment. Your state of mind too is changing from moment to moment; sometimes you may feel happy, sometimes you might feel restless, sometimes you may feel calm. So whatever your state of mind, that is also changing.

It is a very important step to be open to the changes that you are experiencing internally, and then whatever changes take place in your mind and body, if you learn not to resist them and if you learn to be open to them and realize what is happening, there can be any changes taking place but there will be no suffering.

In the same way, externally, the world out there, the life out there is also always changing from moment to moment; sometimes good things happen to us, sometimes bad things happen to us, sometimes unexpected things happen to us. But here again, whatever is happening externally, if you can realize the fact of change, of impermanence, and be open to it, any changes can take place but you can still be free because you recognize that we have no control. Now I am told that very soon a typhoon will come here. Can you prevent that typhoon from coming to Hong Kong? But what we can do is to understand it, to be open to it and as it is said in the Buddha’s teachings, to see it just as it is. This is the teaching: I know it sounds very simple!