What is the most successful insight practice?


Many thanks for your support although it seems as if your encouragement to study te suttas conflicts with the following kind direction

But I am fortunate to live in a beautiful, quiet place in the country of Enchanted New Mexico, and I am inspired by the teachings of Buddha, and my friends here. So all together I do realize that the imposition of conditions re: my lack of fellowship and personal instruction is more illusion. All is well.

Still wondering: Is it right to count my breath or is it a distraction?
Thanks with Mucho Metta!


When the mind is content it becomes empty naturally, if your mind is still doing the wizzbug thing then parikamma (counting or mantra) can keep it in check but it has to go at some point. In the past I used to say to myself you’re going to die, and it kinda put an end to the papañca.


I haven’t found any mention of counting in the suttas. But it was recommended as initial meditation practice in my Zen lineage. I also am not a monk and would defer to them for official advice. In the beginning it was right to count my breath. Now it is a distraction. But that is just me as a lay practitioner.


It’s not right or wrong but is it helping to calm the citta saṅkhāra (thought formation), if yes then don’t stop, if no then ‘pahatabba’…let it go


Thank you all so much. This helps immensely. Also wondering regarding meditation if there is or should be some eventual closed eye visuals as in colors or shapes which appear. Or is the goal of closed eye meditation the absence of all sense perception?

Thank you, w/Metta


I was a bad Zen student. I was instructed to meditate with my eyes open. Instead, I did prefer to sit eyes closed during meditation. I do open my eyes for walking meditation, etc. Closing my eyes helped my breath awareness. It lent focus. However, sometimes closing eyes can lead to drowsiness. And opening eyes was an aid in staying awake–the eyes could regard this tatami, that tatami, that mosquito, etc.

I’ve encountered visualizations (e.g., flow of Qi) in the context of moving meditation (e.g., Tai Chi) as an aid for initially orienting awareness. As with counting breaths, visual aids often drop away with the development of emerging awareness, especially if such aids are just mental formations.


I meditated with eyes open for many years in Tibetan traditions, and found it less distracting than with eyes closed. It interesting to experiment, since there are pros and cons.


Sadhu. Sadhu. Very well said. I agree.


What ‘evidence’ in the EBTs are available for this?

Commonly mentioned. Are they dissimilar enough to be considered different practices, as a significant lineages consider them as separate and practice them separately?


It’s an interesting question as to whether samatha and vipassana are distinct or paired.

AN10. 54 seems to say that one quality can be developed without the other.

On the other hand SN35. 245 describes serenity and insight as the “swift pair of messengers”, implying that one is always accompanied the other.

In any case, it’s clear that both qualities are essential to progress, and the idea of focussing exclusively on one of them sounds counterproductive.
The question then is how best to develop them.


Thanks for the sutta links, Martin! I’ve long been a fan of Ajahn Maha Boowa’s “Wisdom Develops Samadhi” … nice to have a Canonical reference to back it up!


Overcoming the five hindrances seems a common prerequisite. Developing right view and sila to some degree seems helpful initially. Right effort (overcoming defilements) is also a prerequisite (in practice many of these elements are developed simultaneously). Then to the practice of meditation itself there’s mindfulness during the day and sitting practice. In the sitting practice I would suggest tranquility meditation first to overcome the hindrances. If the tranquility practice is progressing nicely, I would suggest developing it all the way into a jhana. If the first jhana is attained, it’s easy enough to develop the other jhana. I would suggest diverting to insight after this as the mind is well prepared to welcome, absorb and withstand the insight meditation adequately.


Which approach is used depends on environment, but in any case it is only wisdom that eradicates the defilements:

"some types of people do not have much in their environment to burden them and act as a drag on their minds. When they use only a preparatory meditation such as “Buddho”, “Dhammo” or “Sangho”, the citta is able to become calm and peaceful and drop into a state of samādhi. This becomes the basis for the development of wisdom (paññā) and enables them to go ahead with ease – which is called “SAMĀDHI DEVELOPS WISDOM”.

But there are other people who have many things in their environment to burden and oppress their hearts and their natures are such that they like thinking a lot. If they train themselves by using a preparatory meditation as described in the foregoing chapter, they are not able to
cause the citta to drop into the calm of samādhi. They must therefore carefully use wisdom to examine the reasons for this, in order to sever the root cause of their distraction by means of wisdom.
When wisdom has been nagging at those things to which the citta is firmly attached, what the citta knows about them cannot be superior to that which wisdom reveals, so the citta will then drop into a state of calm and attain samādhi. People of this type must therefore train the citta to attain samādhi by
using wisdom, which may be called “WISDOM DEVELOPS SAMĀDHI”—Boowa

This is what is meant in the Satipatthana sutta:

"He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of sensual desire that has been abandoned. "—DN 22, MN 10


In any case, I think it’s clear from the suttas that both tranquillity and insight are required. See AN4.170 for example.


The topic title reminds me of an old saying among photographers: the best camera is the one you have with you.


Ven Amathagavesi a monk I used to know, taught jhana followed by vipassana. He believed that jhana enabled insight to progress.


Not having read the whole thread i will comment on OP.

It is not clear what you mean by Jhana and if you are familiar with the Theravadin Abhidhamma classification of states that are good in regards to the word ‘jhana’. Therefore i won’t get into it.

In general this is how i train to develop insight and other states that are good;)

I develop mindfulness of breathing thus;

as for ‘Insight’ it is also not clear what exactly you mean, i will assume that you mean something like (from Abhidhamma); That which is wisdom, knowing, investigation, deep investigation, investigation of (the nature of) things, discernment, discrimination, differentiation, erudition, skilfulness, subtlety, clarification, thoughtfulness, consideration, breadth, intelligence, guidance, insight, full awareness, examination, wisdom, the Faculty of Wisdom, the Strength of Wisdom, the sword of wisdom, height of wisdom, light of wisdom, lustre of wisdom, flame of wisdom, treasure of wisdom, non-delusion, investigation of (the nature of) things, right view.

For development of this i contemplate thus;

At times i do contemplate during Anapanasati as well, primarly focusing on inconstancy and the 4th tetrad of the standard Anapanasati instruction.

In general i try to adapt the training to what is appropriate, sometimes i have to drop a theme because i can’t rouse the mind with it and mind is unyielding to that particular development so i will try contemplating something else or rouse the mind otherwise, in general i follow this outline for timely & untimely development;

I think the anecdotal books on Anapanasati like those of Ledi Sayadaw and Leigh Brasington are quite useful primarily if one wants to develop concentration leading to the pleasant abidings by tranquilizing the breath.

When signs/sensations do manifest i recommend Upakilesa Sutta and Leigh Brasington’s instruction on how to react or not to react to those phenomena. I am not an expert so make your own experiments:)

ps; the docs are my own notes, primarily meant for personal use, therefore presentation and content might be disagreeable to others.


That’s cool how you’ve grounded your notes in references. I do much the same in my own study and always try to find phrases that will bring up the relevant suttas. For example, here is sluggish to match your notes. It’s fun to find the minimal phrase that recalls the relevant sutta(s).


I find that sluggish mind and the hindrance of sleepiness is quite easily dealt with by reflecting on the drawbacks of sleeping and resolving on following the instruction in the Capala Sutta Capala (Pacala) Sutta: Nodding

In my experiene one can quite easily ‘hype’ oneself to the point where one won’t be able to sleep for days and when one does fall asleep it won’t be for long. The concentration training is quite interesting when one harnesses all that energy into composing the mind.


Do you think factors on the side of concentration or Samatha which belong in the seven factors of enlightenment, are unnecessary?