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I have read some articles and book, it says that you need to develop some basic level of concentration before you can start practicing vipassana(insight) meditation.

What are the criteria to know if I already reached that basic level of concentration?

Thank you very much!

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In Tibetan tradition, before you can do Vipashyana, you have to practice Shamatha-type meditation until you learn to attain so-called "Calm Abiding" or "Fully Pacified Stable One-Pointed Effortless Meditative Equipoise".

According to a traditional presentation, Calm Abiding is considered attained when a meditator can effortlessly focus on a chosen object of observation, without getting distracted and without falling into lethargy, for a substantial period of time.

  • "substantial period" is a subjective measure. Some say it is 2 minutes, some say 10 or 15.

  • "object of observation" means any object or theme, like a flame of a candle, flower, a far away mountain peak -- or a visualized/imaginary object of any kind, the most popular being an image of Buddha statue. (With imaginary objects it is best to use something very familiar that you remember very well.)

  • "without getting distracted" means without forgetting about meditation and getting carried away in thoughts.

  • "without falling into lethargy" means, without getting sleepy or even losing clarity of mind.

  • "effortlessly" means without fighting with oneself over distractions and lethargy.

Here is a set of more detailed guidelines on achieving Calm Abiding: an excerpt from a lecture given by Gelug meditation master Lati Rinpoche.

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    Hi Andrei, thank you very much for answering my question on point and even made it in bold. Sometimes whenever I meditate, I always start with samatha and then proceed to vipassana. But I didn't have any clue when should I switch, so I sometimes switch in between samatha and vipassana. Whenever I feel like I can't concentrate anymore I switch back to samatha, is it right to do that way? – r721n3lmn May 7 '18 at 13:08
  • Yes, that is absolutely right, to switch to samatha when you lose concentration in vipassana. In fact, in my understanding the Buddha meant these two meditation aspects to be practiced together, one supporting the other. Learning to tranquilize the mind is a source of insight into how mind works, and insight into mind workings leads to an increased ability to tranquilize the mind. So even though for absolute beginners they are taught separately, eventually it becomes one meditation that has elements of both. @r721n3lmn – Andrei Volkov May 7 '18 at 14:45
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    Your reply and comment cleared much of my confusions. Thanks a lot, much love. – r721n3lmn May 8 '18 at 0:17
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I recently did a 10 day Silent Retreat based on Vipasanna Meditation by S. N. Goenka. https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index

There are no prerequisites for the course and it is given in many centers around the US, Canada and other parts of the world. I recommend it highly.

I did read a recommended book, Art of Living by William Hart (The Art Of Living as Taught by S.N. Goenka from Amazon). I also practiced meditating on my own for two months before I did the course – there is usually a pretty long wait list for the course at least here in Texas.

You will be minimally qualified to do Vipassana meditation when you leave the course and follow up practice on your own or through a Vipassana Sangha is recommended.

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To practice Vipassana, what you need is right mindfulness or Samma-sati. Concentration comes as you develop right mindfulness. There are actually four ways of doing it. You can develop concentration first and then switch to Vipassana or develop both concentration and Vipassana in tandem or develop Vipassana first and then switch to concentration. Whoever claims that developing concentration first is the only way is misinformed. Read the Yuganaddha Sutta for details.

  • In SN Goenkas course we spend first 4 days developing concentration of breath called anapanasati. The sutta you have referenced is addressed to monks. I think it is safe to assume that 99% of those monks all had developed basic concentration skills. How can you practise Vipassana without developing concentration first. I mean you need to concentrate on the sensation on body. – user13135 May 7 '18 at 0:40
  • @BodhiWalker "I think it is safe to assume that 99% of those monks all had developed basic concentration skills." This is a wrong assumption. I don't believe even SN Goenka claims that his technique is the only way :) – Sankha Kulathantille May 7 '18 at 3:59
  • if you can teach people Vipassana without developing faculty of concentration I will be deeply impressed. Let me know exactly who teaches and where is this taught...I will try my best to attend that retreat or course. – user13135 May 7 '18 at 4:03
  • I suggest you to study the Mahasi Sayadaw technique. Concentration comes as you develop mindfulness. Also read the Bāhiya Sutta. See the technique taught there by the Buddha himself. – Sankha Kulathantille May 7 '18 at 4:09
  • I've read somewhere, that those people who can go practice vipassana directly are people that already have some basic concentration. In the article I read, it says that those people are for example: people who are living in country side that aren't used to fast paced lifestyle like those who lives in a big city, so when they learn to practice vipassana they can learn it directly. – r721n3lmn May 7 '18 at 13:05

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