or buy a paper copy.
While he has some rather unorthordox views in some areas (notably to do with realisation http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=843&start=40), his discussion of meditation and what is and isn't important, is largely in line with the teachers and books that I rely on. Of course, that's not surprising, since his preferred technique is Mahasi-style practise...
There have been various discussions here about conceptual and non-conceptual, concentration and insight, etc, and I think that the following passages are quite helpful in clarifying how one might make sense of such things. There is nothing there that I have not gleaned from other sources, but it hard to find it summarised in one place. A key point is that one needs to know when working with concepts is appropriate, when it is not appropriate, and be careful not mix them up.
My observation is that a lot of disagreements, here and elsewhere, come from applying conceptual or non-conceptual approaches in inappropriate circumstances.
Page 52 The Three trainings revisited.
Just to review, the scope of the first training, which I call morality, is
the ordinary world, the conventional world, the world that we are all
familiar with before we even consider more specialized topics such as
meditation. The goal is to act, speak and think in ways that are
conducive to the welfare of yourself and others. The scope of the
second training, concentration or depths of meditation, is to focus on
very specific and limited objects of meditation and thus attain to specific
altered states of consciousness. The scope of the third training, that of
insight or wisdom, is to shift to perceiving reality at the level of
individual sensations, perceive the Three Characteristics of them, and
thus attain to profound insights into the nature of reality and thus realize
stages of enlightenment.
This goes to the heart of conceptual/nonconceptual in meditation:
Another reason that students often fail to make progress is that they
confuse content and insight. I suspect that they are confused because
they have spent their whole lives thinking about content, learning about
content, and dealing with content in a context where content matters,
i.e. when one is not doing insight practice. You can’t take a spelling test
in first grade and say that all that is important is that words come and go,
don’t satisfy and aren’t you. This just won’t fly and wouldn’t be
appropriate. Just so, when practicing morality, the first and most
fundamental training in spirituality, content is everything, or at least as
far as training in morality can take you. You can’t be a mass murderer
and rationalize this by thinking, “Well, they were all impermanent,
unsatisfactory and empty, so why not kill ’em?” This just won’t fly
either, and so content and spirituality get quite connected. This is good
to a point: see the chapter called Right Thought and The Aegean
Fixation on content even works well when practicing the second
training, training in concentration. When meditation students are
learning to concentrate, they are told to concentrate on specific things,
like the breath, a Green Tara (a tantric “deity”), or some other such
thing. This is content. There is no such thing as the breath or a Green
Tara from the point of view of insight practices, as these are just fresh
streams of impermanent and absolutely transitory sensations that are
crudely labeled “breath” or “Green Tara.” But for the purpose of
developing the second training, concentration, this is ignored and these
impermanent sensations are crudely labeled “breath” or “Green Tara.”
Thus, even for pure concentration practice, what you are concentrating
on, i.e. content, matters. Thus, the idea that content is everything is
However, when it comes to insight practice, content will get you
nowhere fast. In insight practice, everything the student has learned
about being lost in the names of things and thoughts about them, i.e.
content, will be completely useless and an impediment. Here the
inquiry must turn to impermanence, suffering and no-self. These
characteristics must be understood clearly and directly in whatever
sensations arise, be they beautiful, ugly, helpful, not helpful, skillful, not
skillful, holy, profane, dull, or otherwise. Anything other than this is just
not insight practice, never was and never will be.
It doesn’t matter what the quality of your mind is, or what the
sensations of your body are, if you directly understand the momentary
sensations that make these up to be impermanent, unsatisfactory and
not self, then you are on the right path, the path of liberating insight.
However, as mentioned before, off the cushion the quality of your
mind, your reactions, your words and deeds all matter. These are not in
conflict. Insight practice is about ultimate reality, the ultimate nature of
reality, and thus the specifics don’t matter. Morality and concentration
are about relative reality, and thus the specifics are everything. Learning
to be a master of both the ultimate and the relative is what this is all