Shamatha and Vipashyana
In the Nalandabodhi Path of Meditation, you begin with a basic resting meditation practice called “calm abiding” or shamatha. Several different spiritual traditions teach shamatha meditation, but all forms of shamatha are designed to help calm the mind and bring forth its natural qualities of spaciousness, clarity, and attentiveness. These qualities allow you to work with the meditation practices that build upon the foundation of shamatha later on. Practice Instructors (PIs) work with newer students to determine which technique is most beneficial and at what point to introduce another shamatha practice.
After some months of familiarizing yourself with calm abiding, you begin working with vipashyana, or “clear insight” meditation, which is the next stage in the Path of Meditation. Like shamatha, vipashyana can also take on many forms and techniques. At this stage, however, clear insight involves the practice of analytical meditation: relying on the foundation of a calm and settled mind, you begin to investigate or analyze the true nature of your mind and how it creates its world.
By practicing analytical meditation, you harness and further develop the more active, inquisitive, and penetrating qualities of the mind. This allows you to identify and gradually transform mistaken beliefs about the nature of experience By alternating calm abiding with clear insight, you gain a new certainty and confidence in emptiness (Skt. shunyata), the spacious and open, ultimate nature of reality. You also gain certainty and confidence in “dependent arising,” or the direct connection between the actions we perform and the quality of life we experience. Through this certainty, you gain the ability to lead a life that is of genuine and increasing benefit to yourself and others.
At this stage of the Path of Meditation, your PI encourages you to participate in longer meditation practice periods, to join the intensive weekend sittings at the Nalandabodhi center, or to go on group practice retreats.