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What is the reason? It seems to be to train concentration while avoiding one pointedness? Might the lack of one pointedness be counter productive at some point?

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Any type of meditation that is worth the name will increase concentration in a beginner.

The body is a good first object of vipassana meditation because it is inescapable and we identify with it so strongly, so automatically all kinds of thoughts also get faced.

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The goal of the Mahasi method is 'vipassana', namely, seeing the arising & passing of phenomena. Therefore, beginners watch the rising & falling of the breath at the abdomen.

Often unskilled meditators force or suppress the mind when trying to practise Anapanasati (awareness of breathing), which results in a 'wrong one-pointedness', which blinds the mind & makes the mind sleepy & foggy.

Genuine or right one-pointedness occurs in jhana, which only meditators skilled in letting-go can genuinely reach.

Jhana cannot be reached by suppression or force, even though many Buddhists claim it can.

Such Buddhists are over-estimating their meditation because a suppressed/forced mind can generate calm & rapture but such momentary rapture is not the true rapture of true jhana.

Therefore, the Mahasi method aims for beginners to keep the mind 'open & awake' rather than 'suppressed, sleepy & foggy', which more closely represents the path taught by the Buddha.

In conclusion, it is forced/wrong 'one-pointedness' that is counter productive.

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