What is the most successful insight practice?

Hey all,

I’m just wondering if you have any experience or advice about the most successful method for attaining jhana and which insight practice is most conducive to…insight.

Is it unreasonable to try to reach nibbana the way the Buddha did in lay life by recalling past lives? What if one never gets to be able to recall past lives?

Practically, what way do you recommend yoking Samatha and vipassana together to gain insight? What way does the Buddha recommend for lay people?

What books/articles/Suttas would you recommend on jhana and insight working together and how to attain both?

Just looking for advice based on the experience of those who are being successful in gaining more and more freedom by jhana and using insight after or during meditation.




You can’t reach extinguishment in this very life as a layperson. There’s no basis for such thing in the early discourses. If that were possible, the Buddha and all the perfected ones wouldn’t go forth in the first place. You can, however, aim for non-return.


When learning Zen, I was taught to count breaths. I did that and only that for fifteen years. I found koans distracting. I gradually noticed that with the lengthening of the breath, awareness increased. In the span of a single breath you can see birth and ceasing of sensation, feeling or thought. This awareness leads to personal insight. As breaths lengthen, more is considered. Tanouye Tenshin Roshi once explained that during meditation, breaths can take longer than a minute for a single cycle. Panting and gasping in my own meditation, this gave me hope and guidance to simply sit and count. Eventually, the breath did calm and lengthen both in and out of meditation.

Later, I discovered Satipaṭṭhānasutta. I now no longer count my breaths. The counting is distracting. I find that Satipaṭṭhānasutta is incredibly useful and can be practiced throughout much of the waking day. Sleeping, not so much. I confess to just sleeping.

It is also interesting that Satipaṭṭhānasutta makes no mention of past lives referenced in Bhayabheravasutta. There is a directness about Satipaṭṭhānasutta that may resonate with your quest for ¨the most successful method¨. I am old. And I do appreciate the directness of Satipaṭṭhānasutta even though I am early on that path.



Sutta reference please? :pray:

I know there is one. I think either in SN or MN.

The sutta I am thinking about has the Buddha describing his monastic and lay communities (male/female) and their progress in his despensation to another wondering ascetic who is inquiring. In it he describes male and female lay pratcioners attaining up to non-returner and only monastics up to arahantship.

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MN #73 Mahāvacchagotta Sutta was what I was thinking of.


If you exert yourself trying to enter Jhana you won’t get there. Just focus on the breath and letting go is the advice I have gotten.

Additionally, the remembering past lives in a byproduct, not a object of Jhana at least based on my reading of the Suttas.

Regarding arahantship in lay people, in the canon it does happen but is I believe always either at the moment of death or followed by the lay person dying in some other way, or ordaining as a monastic right after. There isn’t a basis in the canon for a arahant continuing living the lay life.


Would one say some things which have been said in this thread to anyone?

Because in a thread like this, one IS saying it to anyone. How can one know if it is said timely, when anyone might stumble into a thread? How can one avoid being harsh?

Please be thoughtful.


I think it would be timely if it fits well into the conversation and adds positively to it.

Probably by avoiding demeaning or denegrating some one else’s post and choosing your words mindfully with regards to being constructive.

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When my mind had become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, spotless, rid of taints, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—I extended it toward recollection of past lives. I recollected many kinds of past lives.

:pray: Thank you. these are the excerpts for non-returners

Leaving aside Master Gotama, the monks, and the nuns, is there even a single layman disciple of Master Gotama—white-clothed and celibate—who, with the ending of the five lower fetters, is reborn spontaneously, to be extinguished there, not liable to return from that world?” “There are not just one hundred such celibate laymen who are my disciples, Vaccha, or two or three or four or five hundred, but many more than that

Leaving aside Master Gotama, the monks, the nuns, the celibate laymen, and the laymen enjoying sensual pleasures, is there even a single laywoman disciple of Master Gotama—white-clothed and celibate—who, with the ending of the five lower fetters, is reborn spontaneously, to be extinguished there, not liable to return from that world?” “There are not just one hundred such celibate laywomen who are my disciples, Vaccha, or two or three or four or five hundred, but many more than that


Do you read this as meaning recollection of past lives is the object of Samadhi/Jhana?


They are MN 73/SA 964/SA2 198.

There is also MN 71. Even though this discourse has no known parallels, Venerable Analayo does have a note regarding it:

Warder 1970/1991: 137 comments that “we ought probably to admit this sūtra as an authentic part of the earliest Tripitaka, but likely to have been suppressed by most Buddhists of later times as offensive to their traditions of the greatness of their teacher”; a brief survey of MN 71 can be found in Anālayo 2008g.

In MN 26/MA 204, the Buddha himself also has to go forth in order to realise perfection in this very life. If the Buddha himself couldn’t realise perfection in this very life without leaving the lay life behind, why does any of his lay follower think that they can?

I disagree. There's no account of a layperson realising perfection in this very life in the early discourses.

Bahiya in Ud 1.10 isn’t counted since he is an ascetic.

The case of Venerable Yasa also doesn’t hold. While the Theravada Vinaya’s Mahakhandaka and Mahisasaka Vinaya’s Pabbajjakhandhaka agree with each other that Venerable Yasa realises perfection before going forth, that’s not the case for the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya’s Pabbajjakhandhaka at all. The Dharmaguptaka version says that the layman Yasa realises stream-entry before going forth; not long after going forth, Venerable Yasa realises perfection.

Considering that the Dharmaguptaka, Mahisasaka, and Theravada schools are usually doctrinally and texually close to one another, especially the Dharmaguptaka and Theravada (this is especially clear by the comparison between the Gandhari Samyukta Agamas of the Senior Collection, which most likely belong to the Dharmaguptaka school, and the Samyutta Nikayas of the Theravada school where it is shown that among all the extant Samyukta Agamas, they are the closest to each other), it is significant that the Dharmaguptaka version departs from both the Mahisasaka and Theravada’s versions regarding Venerable Yasa’s awakening.

Combining the above information with the fact that the majority of the early discourses point to the direction that perfection in this very life can only be realised by those who have gone forth, it is most likely that the Mahisasaka and Theravada Vinayas’ reciters misplace the event of Venerable Yasa’s ordination.

As for what @amimettalove asked; for serenity, I recommend the holy abodes (Brahmavihara) according to AN 10.219/MA 15. I reckon that a heart full of love, compassion, rejoicing, and equanimity will only lead you further on the noble path. As for discernment, I recommend the ten perceptions according to AN 10.56/EA 46.9. When these ten perceptions are cultivated, they lead you to awakening/extinguishment/deathless. “Perceptions” here mean the things that you should contemplate, or meditate on.


Friendly reminder, afaik D&D is not intended to be a place to discuss, advocate, promote, push for or criticize different practical approaches to what we find in EBTs.

A better way to approach the topic may be to share which aspects of texts inspired and strengthened one’s individual endeavours and exploration of the Dhamma. Of course, that needs to be done in a respectful and civilized way, allowing for differences in views and approaches to be just that, and not cause for discord and suffering!


@Gabriel_L Just to be clear, who do you direct your post at exactly?

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I replied to the opening post, thus everyone. I am no moderator. My friendly reminder comes from a place of understanding as a long member of how crazy the discussions can get when people forget that this forum is not intended and supported enough to have discussions about practice.
And I remember the analogy I once read here : would you consider normal to see a mob forming around or at the gates of a temple or monastery in which people start debating, disagreeing and fighting for whose practice is right and wrong?

@Gabriel_L Ah, so you talked about practice’s discussions. Wait, if there is someone who just simply recommends practices that come straight from the early discourses, would that person break D&D’s rules?

Per my understanding of the quoted text, the Buddha describes extending samadhi towards the recollection of past lives. It is not the goal of samadhi in general, but an example of a specific consideration. Perhaps the Buddha was curious. I do not know. The sutta continues with other such extensions. My own practice is much more mundane and I have no interest whatsoever in chasing past lives since I sometimes forget what or where I was ten minutes ago.

One thing is to have a polite, friendly and relaxed conversation about how EBTs may inspire and guide one’s practice, another is to engage in a heated debate or fight over who is right and who is wrong in terms of how to interpret and practice the path found in EBTs.
I believe that the forum moderation sees no issue with the first option, and my understanding is that the place for that is the Watercooler section.
Even so, it is up to individuals to self regulate and avoid crossing the line between personal views and interpretations.
The second option is what D&D is not a place for. And mind that there are forums elsewhere on the internet aimed at fostering that kind of debate!
I understand that now, more than ever, all members of this online community should be aware of the environment we all build up around here. This is for there is a direct link from SuttaCentral to this forum.
Can you imagine someone who has just had a beautiful reading session of suttas and by mistake or intentionally clicks the icon on the top and end up finding himself/herself here, amidst an endless list of fights and arguments over those very suttas? We would be working against our own cause!


@Gabriel_L Alright. My posts here fit the first type of conversation, at least I think they do.

That would be very bad.