- Development of tranquility before development of insight
- Development of insight before development of tranquility
- Tranquility developed in tandem with insight
- Mind's restlessness concerning the Dhamma well under control (I guess this is "dry insight")
Of these four paths, which is the easiest, smoothest and most pleasant to a novice lay practitioner? And why?
Or is this question invalid, because meditation, insight and jhana is not suited to the lay practitioner?
Please provide quotes to support your answer from the Buddha's words, if possible.
I personally suspect that it is tranquility (at least the first jhana) before insight.
The Buddha is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging his disciples to develop jhana. The four jhanas are invariably included in the complete course of training laid down for disciples. ... Though a vehicle of dry insight can be found, indications are that this path is not an easy one, lacking the aid of the powerful serenity available to the practitioner of jhana. The way of the jhana attainer seems by comparison smoother and more pleasurable (A.ii,150-52).
Samatha meditation - these meditations exists. There's no question that there are meditations out there that will not lead you to enlightenment. They can't, because they are not focused on reality. They are creating an illusion in the mind. The only way that they could lead to enlightenment, is as I said, if you use that to gain insight. ... and because of the strength of the mind, you can see it clearer than you would have, otherwise. It's kind of taking a shortcut, but having to do a lot of preparation. So, not gaining anything (during this preparation phase), except for these nice states of peace and calm, and maybe some magical powers along the way, which is probably best suited for someone living in the forest. So, which should be first? It's totally up to you ... if you want to start with just vipassana, it was very clear that ... the Buddha gave this (vipassana) as the quickest way. A monk came up to the Buddha and said, "I'm old and I don't have a lot of time and my memory is not good, I don't want to learn a lot, give me the basics of the path" .....
So, there's obviously two camps out there. On one side, those who promote tranquility first like Ven. Henepola Gunaratana and Ajahn Brahm. But on the other side, you have those who promote insight alone or insight first like Ven. Yuttadhammo or S.N. Goenka.
And then there's the interesting opinion in this answer by Dhammadhatu and this answer by Andrei Volkov, which imply that attainment of Jhana through meditation is not for lay people, which is echoed by Ven. Yuttadhammo's statement that samatha meditation is "probably best suited for someone living in the forest".