Why do people even argue for “insight alone?”

I was reading SN12.68 and it seems quite clear that even with a full understanding of the Dhamma, you still need to be fairly advanced in your samadhi to attain nibbana. I honestly get the sense that when it comes to meditation, anything other than striving to attain deeper and deeper states (still with mindfulness established of course) is a waste of time. Anything else is just contemplation, which can be useful, but isn’t really meditation like the Buddha taught. Any thoughts?

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Buddha taught gradual training.
So it is a gradual process.

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SN12.68 the sutta is talking about a monk who has had a ‘glimpse of nibbana’ ie attained the stream (but not arahanthood) yet. The DO is seen in arising and ceasing order. These are the second and third noble truths. The stream entrant sees the Four Noble Truths for the first time, through direct ‘personal’ experience.

The factors required for stream entry are:

  1. association with spiritual (attained) friends/teachers
  2. listening to the true dhamma
  3. contemplation (yonisomanasikara)
  4. practice according to the dhamma (samatha & vipassana/satipatthana)

These four are sequential step of progress.

So, in response to your query, discussion and full understanding is important. Right view is developed by listening to others and yonisomanasikara - contemplation. This then serves as a foundation to erode some ignorance before seeing phenomena. Otherwise mindfulness simply gives rise to Samatha samadhi- ie not right concentration. So discussion and understanding is more important than generally acknowledged. Just sitting and meditating will give rise to temporary blissful state, but not removal of craving and suffering. Discussion will of course, only take you so far, as well.

"Friends, whoever — monk or nun — declares the attainment of arahantship in my presence, they all do it by means of one or another of four paths. Which four?
"There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquility. As he develops insight preceded by tranquility, the path is born…
"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquility preceded by insight. As he develops tranquility preceded by insight, the path is born…
"Then there is the case where a monk has developed tranquility in tandem with insight (Anapanasati samatha & vipassana method). As he develops tranquility in tandem with insight, the path is born…
"Then there is the case where a monk’s mind has its restlessness concerning the Dhamma well under control… AN4.170

In any case, the insight (vipassana) components look like this.

“For a monk practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, what accords with the Dhamma is this: that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to form, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to feeling, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to perception, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to fabrications, that he keep focused on inconstancy with regard to consciousness. As he keeps focusing on inconstancy with regard to form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. As he comprehends form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness, he is totally released from form… feeling… perception… fabrications… consciousness. He is totally released from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is totally released, I tell you, from suffering & stress.” SN22.40

‘In short the five clingable aggregates are suffering…’. is the final summary of the Dependent Origination. IMO, if you’ve seen these five (arising and ceasing -the latter with the glimpse of nibbana) you’ve seen the DO in the arising and ceasing order.

with metta


Are you sure about SN12.68 though? How do you know that? When he says “bodily contact” it sounds very close to “bodily witness” which is another name for those who attain deep states of meditation. What makes you (or whoever you got that from) say that it’s talking about stream entry? It sounds more to me like he’s saying he has the insight, but he doesn’t yet have the depth of meditation to put it to operative use.

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MN70 Kitagiri sutta talks about different stages of attainment. Dhamma follower and Faith follower are at the lowest rung. The next step is Attained to view and released through faith. These ‘having seen through discernment’ are stream entrants. The next higher state is the bodily witness. These maybe , I speculate, those people who have jhana and attained to one of the noble paths and fruits. In fact , attainment of fruit- an immersion in nibbana element, sounds rather like this type of person. To bring in the similie of the well from before it would equivalent to diving into the well and immersing the entire body with nibbana, and is much more than just a glimpse of nibbana. In any case, MN70 is where I would get the bearings from, and seeing that he has seen nibbana, has to be at least a stream entrant.

with metta

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That’s a good sutta, yeah I do get the sense that the monk in SN12.68 is only “attained to view,” and that if you combine that with “bodily witness” you get “liberated in both ways,” but if you only combine it with the first 4 jhanas, you get “liberated by wisdom.”

Although, are there any suttas that say whether the jhanas are necessary for stream entry? Or is that just assumed? I think that’s an important point, and I get the sense that they aren’t necessarily needed for that stream entry (although I’m sure that helps a lot), but anything further probably needs them. I also want to say that I think it’s really important to note that these 7 types of people were never meant to be reified the way they have been. I even think we were never meant to reify the 4 or 8 types of people (stream entry to arahantship). They were just kind of meant to be markers along the way. Kind of how you can slowly turn black to white and it’s hard to say exactly when it’s become grey. I’m not saying it’s always like that, but only that it’s in that same vein.

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Like you said. It’d definitely help a lot but not the prerequisite. See the case of Mahanama in MN 14

I see that says you can experience happiness for up to 7 day’s straight by sitting in jhana, but where does it say it’s not a prerequisite for stream entry? I only ask because most theravadins believe that it is. They have this idea that each stage of awakening is like this map you follow up, like the stages of insight knowledges map, and each time you reach the top you attain the next stage, and to attain each stage you need to be in jhana, they call it supramundane jhana, but jhana nonetheless. I don’t agree with this at all and I think the map itself is total nonsense, but I still wonder if there’s any textual basis for whether jhana is necessary or not for stream entry.

Some background story would help. From Ven. Bodhi’s MN 14 note in “Middle length discourses”:

[Mahanama] Buddha’s cousin and brother of Anuruddha and Ananda. He chose to remain a householder) and group of Jain(Nigantha) ascetics led by Nataputta(AKA Mahavira) on abandoning sensuality and painful austerities; But just by seeing with right discernment about gratification, danger, and escape without attaining joy and happiness from meditation is not enough, then still be tempted by sensuality. [206]Like in the case of Mahanama, who already attain the 2nd fruit of once return but had not attained any jhana state. Once returning only weakens greed, hate, and delusion but does not eradicate them. MA: he had the mistaken notion that greed, hate, and delusion are eradicated by the path of once returner. THus, when he saw they still arose in his mind, he asked the Buddha for the cause of their arising. Noble disciples can be mistaken about which defilements are abandoned by which path

There seems to be a typo in the title; I’ve fixed it for you:

Why do people even argue for “insight alone”?

But seriously, it’s weird how het up people get about meditation. Just be chill, it’ll be fine, folks!


It depends on what you mean by Jhana.
I consider whole Noble Eightfold Path is Jhana (Samadhi)
So Noble eightfold path is a prerequisite for stream entry.

Just do some meditation without get het up about meditation.

Haha, nice.

Yeah I must admit, I forget that sometimes. It’s not always easy being a lay follower!