SuttaCentral

Insight vs Serenity


#1

Dear Learned Friends

Can a person has insight but not serenity?

Ben


#2

“Ajahn Chah never played that game. He always said you can’t separate them: when the mind is made calm, that brings clarity: without calm and concentration, how could there be clarity and insight? …It’s like a single log of wood, he said. One end is samatha, the other end is vipassana. When you pick up the log, you are picking up both ends.”

Excerpt from Venerable Father (by Paul Breiter).


#3

This question is addressed in AN 9.4, perhaps that might help you.


#4

No, the patient needs to be tranquillized (serenity) before the surgeon can conduct the operation (insight) to remove the hindrance. Also sila is the basis for both (AN 11.1) as it is necessary for tranquillity.

This operation of insight to remove the hindrances is described in the fourth foundation of the Satipatthana sutta (MN 10, DN 22):

“He understands how the arising of the non-arisen sensuality comes to be; he understands how the abandoning of the arisen sensuality comes to be; and he understands how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sensuality comes to be.”

Agitation is a condition in every unwholesome state, and serenity is an antidote to that. But only insight can penetrate the wrong views which cause them to arise.


#5

I think this sutta answers the “serenity without insight” question, while the OP asked about its opposite: “insight without serenity.” :pray:


#6

How about AN4.94 SuttaCentral?

“Mendicants, these four people are found in the world. What four?

One person has internal serenity of heart, but not the higher wisdom of discernment of principles. One person has the higher wisdom of discernment of principles, but not internal serenity of heart. One person has neither internal serenity of heart, nor the higher wisdom of discernment of principles. One person has both internal serenity of heart, and the higher wisdom of discernment of principles.


#7

Oops, yes, also AN 10.54.


#8

First some preliminary remarks. If serenity and insight are necessarily yoked together, this leads to the following:

  1. The eastern and western samana traditions do not have serenity OR
  2. They have both serenity and Buddhist insight.

I do not take this to be true and in my view it also ignores the EBTs, e.g. the 62 wrong views predominately come into being through deep meditation. The tenfold path also makes it clear that:

  1. Right knowledge depends on right immersion AND
  2. Right immersion depends on right view.

But “just serenity” does not presuppose Buddhist right view. Therefore they are not yoked. But where insight is, there is serenity.

I take it that AN4.94 needs to be interpreted in light of the tenfold path and especially MN24. Here the purification of view and so forth - which is in my view another expression of insight - requires purification of mind.

To conclude: insight needs at least a modicum of serenity.


#9

For some reason I’ve been studying AN4.170 this week…

Note that there are four paths. The first path is as expected and discussed above:

AN4.170:2.1: “Reverends, all of the monks and nuns who declare in my presence that they have attained perfection, did so by one or other of four paths. What four?
AN4.170:3.2: Take a mendicant who develops serenity before discernment. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

The second path emphasizes discernment (i.e., insight):

AN4.170:4.1: Another mendicant develops discernment before serenity. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

Different people have different balances of insight and serenity and would require practice emphasizing one or the other. Here is the balanced path:

AN4.170:5.1: Another mendicant develops serenity and discernment in conjunction. As they do so, the path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

Here is the fourth path, which is quite remarkable:

AN4.170:6.1: Another mendicant’s mind is seized by restlessness to realize the teaching. But there comes a time when their mind is stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. The path is born in them. They cultivate, develop, and make much of it. By doing so, they give up the fetters and eliminate the underlying tendencies.

May we all be restless and impatient dashing helter-skelter along the path not getting stuck either in serenity or insight. :rofl: :pray:


#10

Insight (discernment) and serenity (concentration) become two factors of the five mental faculties in the view of the path as dynamics (SN 48.10).

In the practice the five mental faculties of faith, persistence, mindfulness, concentration and insight should be developed in a balanced way according to temperament:

“And what do you think: when the strings of your vina were neither too taut nor too loose, but tuned[1] to be right on pitch, was your vina in tune & playable?”

“Yes, lord.”

“In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness. Thus you should determine the right pitch for your persistence, attune[2]the pitch of the [five] faculties [to that], and there pick up your theme.”—AN 6.55

“Then if the energy (persistence) faculty is too strong, the faith faculty cannot perform its function of resolving, nor can the rest of the faculties perform their several functions. So in that case the energy faculty should be modified by developing tranquillity, and so on.” —Vism IV 46