This week in Rita Gross’s Tricycle Retreat, Rita has been talking about what aspects of the Buddhist teachings already existed in the time of the Buddha and what aspects were unique and new. After discussing the Buddha’s view on whether or not people have an eternal soul, the Buddhist teachings on egolessness, and the truth interdependence, Rita addresses the Buddha’s innovative views on meditation practice. She explains,
In terms of meditation, disciplines for calming, stilling, and stabilizing the mind were already in place in the time of the Buddha, but one of the things the Buddha said was that meditation alone is fundamentally not enough. A calm mind that has been produced through meditation techniques will only bring a temporary state of peace. What we need beyond that is actual insight into how things work, how things are. This is the term vipassana, or “clear seeing.”
In terms of Buddhist meditation, we talk about the need for the basic foundation of calm-abiding, and then using a mind that calmly abides to turn and look at the hard questions. With a mind of calm-abiding we can truly study dependent arising, how things come into being, and how they could cease. We can look at our tendencies to cling. We can look at our tendencies to want to want to exist forever, and we can look at the utter unrealistic absurdity of the proposition that we are eternal beings. We can look at all of these hard things that people ordinarily don’t want to look at.
We need the foundation of the stable mind that is brought about by shamatha, or calm-abiding meditation. Shamatha gives us the ability to see clearly into the nature of things as they are, which is that they do not have the kind of reality that we have always attributed to them. They simply do not have that level of enduring reality.
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