Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.
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Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby purist_andrew » Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:57 pm

Hi all,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Andrew Levin; I am from the New York City area and this is my second post on the site. I was "alevin," a junior member on E-sangha but am now here after it has shut down. I want to say hi and what's up to all those that are now here from E-Sangha, especially Bhikkhu Pesala, who I am a big fan of.

My question today is on meditation technique. I couldn't find an exact answer to my question in any of my library of Dhamma books exactly, just bits and pieces.

Basically, I want to know how one proceeds meditating with the Noble Eightfold Path as it progresses from right intention through insight meditation. As I understand it, one of the preliminary things to do is develop a mind that pervades loving-kindness and compassion.

I quote Bhikkhu Bodhi twice from his book "The Noble Eightfold Path":

We have to begin by straightening out our views and clarifying our intentions. Then we have to purify our conduct — our speech, action, and livelihood. Taking these measures as our foundation, we have to apply ourselves with energy and mindfulness to the cultivation of concentration and insight. The rest is a matter of gradual practice and gradual progress, without expecting quick results.



With regard to the metta and karuna part of right intention, I quote him again:

metta can be widened by directional suffusion, proceeding in the various directions — east, south, west, north, above, below — then it can be extended to all beings without distinction. In the end one suffuses the entire world with a mind of loving-kindness "vast, sublime, and immeasurable, without enmity, without aversion."


So it seems we are to to develop a mind of lovingkindness and compassion as a first step before practicing the foundations of mindfulness.

However, at what point does this stop? I have read in different works that metta and karuna practice is also a great way of making merit productive for a future fortunate rebirth:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "All the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising (in heaven) do not equal one-sixteenth of the awareness-release through good will. Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles."

Itivuttaka 1.27


So it doesn't seem right to me that we should then give it up after we have expanded it, stop the meditation, and practice only the foundations of mindfulness from then on. Indeed, we read in Itivuttaka 1.22 that the Buddha practiced this for years on end to make a great deal of merit:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Monks, don't be afraid of acts of merit. This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming — i.e., acts of merit. I am cognizant that, having long performed meritorious deeds, I long experienced desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming results. Having developed a mind of good will for seven years, then for seven aeons of contraction & expansion I didn't return to this world. Whenever the aeon was contracting, I went to the realm of Streaming Radiance. "


Certainly this should be a long-term, maybe even life-long contemplation. But do we really want to delay developing wisdom through satipatthana until we have done seven years of metta (assuming we do it an hour or few a day)?

It seems to me that metta meditation should not be put down after a certain amount of time so that we can practice satipatthana instead. Indeed, I glean from the Metta sutta that Metta can be contemplating continuously and even helps for attaining supramundane:

As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. With good will for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart: Above, below, & all around, unobstructed, without enmity or hate. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, as long as one is alert, one should be resolved on this mindfulness. This is called a sublime abiding here & now.

Not taken with views, but virtuous & consummate in vision, having subdued desire for sensual pleasures, one never again will lie in the womb.


I don't know if metta can contribute to insight meditation. I have personally developed some insight with expanding metta, but it seems to me that even if it does not directly lead to the supramundane, we can at least take the sutta's guidance as an ideal or try to keep the "spirit" of it by full-time practice of metta bhavana.

How, then, I ask, when one wants to begin insight practice, after laying the groundwork in renunciation, metta, karuna, and morality, is one to keep the two continuing with each other, such that one can have a continuous practice of insight meditation, while still pervading metta both to keep in spirit with continued pervsation of metta at outlined in the Metta Sutta, and to continue to make use of its potent abillity for generating merit as a means towards a fortunate future birth (we all want to have that to fall back on, don't we)?

On the mindfulness side of things, taking a look at Soma Thera's "The Way of Mindfulness," we see that when one is not practicing on the primary object of (insight) meditation, one is reflecting on the postures and so forth. So, how are we to combine this with metta practice?

Wholetime practice of mindfulness consists in the carrying out of each of the three following activities of contemplation at the proper time: attention to the preliminary object of concentration, reflection on the modes of deportment and clear comprehension. When one is not attending to the preliminary object for one good reason or another, one should be reflecting on the modes of deportment, or be doing clear comprehension.


Should we do, say, an hour of metta a day, to develop a compassionate mind state and merit, and at those times be reflecting in the background on the postures and so forth, should we "put down" satipatthana during time set aside for metta, or should we try to practice metta 'together' with the foundations of mindfulness rather than do one at a time, although it seems this could be a bit challenging (not that we shouldn't do it anyway if that's the correct course of action!)?

So that's my question to the Dhamma Wheel. It's a pretty practical question about technique and procedure. I posed it to a friend on EFNet/#buddhism but was just told this is the type of thing you ask a teacher, but I don't have a teacher and I thought I could get good advice from people who are in the know, such as those of you on this board.

Thanks, and I welcome myself to the board!!

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:11 pm

many people do metta meditation prior to a different mediation practice.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby purist_andrew » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:23 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:many people do metta meditation prior to a different mediation practice.


Certainly some of us want to be able to practice insight meditation outside the confines of our bedroom and meditation cushion, like, all the time. And want a great deal of merit for our next birth-- in keeping with the Buddha's having meditated somewhat continuously for seven years. I practice walking the streets at least 45 minutes most every day, and have the desire to do even more still.
Last edited by purist_andrew on Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby bodom » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:23 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:many people do metta meditation prior to a different mediation practice.


This has worked best in my experience: Metta practice to calm the mind and then switch to anapanasati.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby bodom » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:51 pm

To practice metta in daily life, just think kind thoughts about everyone you come into contact with. "May you have happiness, health etc. the way you would during formal meditation. More importantly than this you can show others kindness through your actions by giving a smile, holding a door for someone, helping a friend move etc. just little things like this. And even more important than that you can show other's kindness through speech. Give a complement, give advice if asked and speak with others happiness and welfare always in mind. This is mindfulness. There is no need to think now im practicing metta, now im practicing sati. Metta is sati in the sense of keeping mindful of others welfare. There is no need to seperate the two.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby purist_andrew » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:58 pm

bodom wrote:To practice metta in daily life, just think kind thoughts about everyone you come into contact with. "May you have happiness, health etc. the way you would during formal meditation. More importantly than this you can show others kindness through your actions by giving a smile, holding a door for someone, helping a friend move etc. just little things like this. And even more important than that you can show other's kindness through speech. Give a complement, give advice if asked and speak with others happiness and welfare always in mind. This is mindfulness. There is no need to think now im practicing metta, now im practicing sati. Metta is sati in the sense of keeping mindful of others welfare. There is no need to seperate the two.

:anjali:


Bodom,

Maybe it will help to understand that when I talk about metta, I mean I am trying to acheive the following. I do believe that a technique like the one used in this post http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4880#p75385 is necessary, not just a single phrase on seeing a person. So, I considering that the kind of metta the Buddha was talking about:

"That disciple of the noble ones — thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful — keeps pervading the first direction[2] with an awareness imbued with good will, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will.


is what he referred to when he mentioned making merit by metta bhavana. This means the directional pervasion of metta in all directions, which can be cultivated only through formal meditation. Although concrete acts of kindness in daily life are very important as expressions of good will and compassion to other beings, to produce the mind of good will for merit, metta bhavana is needed as formal meditation. So, for me it is a consideration of how to work this multi-directional pervasion of metta in with full-time satipatthana practice (not just on the cushion, I have the time at this point in my life, to practice continuously). See the quote from "Way of Mindfulness" in my original post about full-time mindfulness.

So you can see there is more mechanics involved then just a regular meditation practice at home. I want to practice the path with all my heart and time.

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:21 pm

i believe according to the visuddhimagga that that type of metta (actually radiating it out to others) can only be achieved by one with mastery in jhana otherwise you're just practicing wishful thinking.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby purist_andrew » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:30 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i believe according to the visuddhimagga that that type of metta (actually radiating it out to others) can only be achieved by one with mastery in jhana otherwise you're just practicing wishful thinking.


Do you have a reference? The meditation I've been doing at the very least seems to be directional pervasion.

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:44 pm

i would suggest reading this booklet


Metta: Lovingkindness in Buddhism by Sujin Boriharnwanaket

You extend mettå to all beings, but have you attained jhåna
already? If that is not so how can you extend mettå to all beings? When there
is mettå the citta is calm. When you think of a person you dislike, a person you
love or a neutral person and there is no calm at such moments, how can you
extend mettå to all beings? As the Visuddhimagga explains, in the beginning it
is difficult to have mettå for a person one dislikes, a person one loves or a
neutral person. When you recite that you wish happiness for all beings can
you truly extend mettå to all beings? You can only have boundless mettå,
including all beings, no matter where they are, if you have attained jhåna.
People should not believe that they, when they begin to develop mettå, can
truly, wholeheartedly, wish happiness to all beings. When they really know
themselves, they can find out that they do not mean this. When they think of
someone they dislike mettå does not arise. Are they then sincere when they
recite that they wish happiness for all beings? As we have seen, the attainment
of jhåna is necessary in order to be able to extend mettå to all beings


http://www.zolag.co.uk/Mettf5_edited.pdf
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:37 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i would suggest reading this booklet


Metta: Lovingkindness in Buddhism by Sujin Boriharnwanaket

You extend mettå to all beings, but have you attained jhåna
already? If that is not so how can you extend mettå to all beings? When there
is mettå the citta is calm. When you think of a person you dislike, a person you
love or a neutral person and there is no calm at such moments, how can you
extend mettå to all beings? As the Visuddhimagga explains, in the beginning it
is difficult to have mettå for a person one dislikes, a person one loves or a
neutral person. When you recite that you wish happiness for all beings can
you truly extend mettå to all beings? You can only have boundless mettå,
including all beings, no matter where they are, if you have attained jhåna.
People should not believe that they, when they begin to develop mettå, can
truly, wholeheartedly, wish happiness to all beings. When they really know
themselves, they can find out that they do not mean this. When they think of
someone they dislike mettå does not arise. Are they then sincere when they
recite that they wish happiness for all beings? As we have seen, the attainment
of jhåna is necessary in order to be able to extend mettå to all beings


http://www.zolag.co.uk/Mettf5_edited.pdf


I disagree with the above. The author does not seem to recognise what jhana is. I would be careful in obtaining in advice about practice or matters pertaining to practice from this author.

with metta
With Metta

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:45 pm

disagree based on what? the khun Sujin / Nina Van gorkom approach is straight out of the abhidhamma/commentarial tradition so it's classic Theravada.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:48 pm

AN 8.63 PTS: A iv 299
Sankhitta Sutta: In Brief
(Good Will, Mindfulness, & Concentration)
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2010
Translator's note: This discourse is important in that it explicitly refers to the practice of the four frames of reference (the four foundations of mindfulness) as a form of concentration practice, mastered in terms of the levels of jhana.

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "It would be good if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief so that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone in seclusion: heedful, ardent, & resolute."

"But it is in just this way that some worthless men make a request but then, having been told the Dhamma, think they should tag along right behind me."

"May the Blessed One teach me the Dhamma in brief! May the One Well-gone teach me the Dhamma in brief! It may well be that I will understand the Blessed One's words. It may well be that I will become an heir to the Blessed One's words."

"Then, monk, you should train yourself thus: 'My mind will be established inwardly, well-composed. No evil, unskillful qualities, once they have arisen, will remain consuming the mind.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then you should train yourself thus: 'Good-will, as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'Compassion, as my awareness-release... Appreciation, as my awareness-release... Equanimity, as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'I will remain focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should train yourself: 'I will remain focused on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort."

Then that monk, having been admonished by an admonishment from the Blessed One, got up from his seat and bowed down to the Blessed One, circled around him, keeping the Blessed One to his right side, and left. Then, dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus he became another one of the arahants.
With Metta

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:50 pm

bodom wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:many people do metta meditation prior to a different mediation practice.


This has worked best in my experience: Metta practice to calm the mind and then switch to anapanasati.

:anjali:


I do a short daily metta practice followed by some shamata, then vipassana later on.

P
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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby Rui Sousa » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:43 pm

Metta meditation creates the conditions to eradicate ill will and promote good will, which then will make concentration easier (by overcoming the hindrances), which will then make insight easier.

Metta is just one of the forty objects of concentration the Buddha recommended, and each has its own beneficts.

On vipassana exercices metta, as a cetasika, will also be a subjet of meditation, so it all comes together.

I hope this is helpful.
With Metta

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:25 pm

My disagreement is based on the concept of 'mahaggatta' - limitless as a state of mind that can arise before jhanic levels of samadhi ie- boundless metta does not have to be in jhana. This is based on the suttas and it is also my experience. If anyone refutes this based on an analytical understanding of the dhamma then it clearly shows me that this person has no experience with the development of boundless metta and jhana practice. This reminds me of the abhidhamma divising 9 jhanas because it makes sense analytically(one jhana factor disappearing in each rupa jhana + 4 arupa jhana) - but there are only 8 jhanas and that i know is a fact- because the suttas say it and it is my experience.

from the satipatthana sutta:

"When the mind is constricted (sankitta-sleepy), he discerns that the mind is constricted. When the mind is scattered, he discerns that the mind is scattered. When the mind is enlarged (mahaggatta), he discerns that the mind is enlarged. When the mind is not enlarged, he discerns that the mind is not enlarged. When the mind is surpassed (jhana), he discerns that the mind is surpassed. When the mind is unsurpassed, he discerns that the mind is unsurpassed. When the mind is concentrated, he discerns that the mind is concentrated. When the mind is not concentrated, he discerns that the mind is not concentrated. When the mind is released, he discerns that the mind is released. When the mind is not released, he discerns that the mind is not released.

MN99
Here a bhikkhu abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one quarter, likewise the second quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter, and so above, below, around, and everywhere and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world.

IMO Abhidhamma is a confusion an unnecessary burden on the dhamma, tradition or not.
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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby dhamma_spoon » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:30 pm

Hi, RYB -

Your meditation boat is an advanced one [it is equipped with an engine with overdrive gearing, so you don't have to row it!].

I like your linking of MN 99 and MN 10 to MN 117 !

Expanding a little more on MN 117, I think this sutta is unique in the sense that it clearly shows how the mundane 8-fold-path factors may become the supra-mundane factors, e.g. how the mundane right view of an instructed disciple becomes the supra-mundane right view of an Ariya puggala, through repeated applications of right view + right effort + right mindfulness. MN 117 also importantly shows how the four foundations of mindfulness are supported by the previous 6 path factors, and finally how the four jhanas (= right concentration) are supported by supra-mundane right view + right thought (samma-sankappo) + right speech + right actions + right livelihood + right effort + right mindfulness. My discussion of MN 117 over the past several years revealed to me that quite a few Buddhists were confused about the path factors.

So I am glad to finally have found someone who knows what he is talking about! :smile:


With appreciation,


Tep
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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby Goedert » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:19 am

Hello friend,

One who have the tendencie to byapada, its is better to this one use metta meditation first, then his practice will become more easy.

One who have the tendencie to uddhaccakukkuca, it is better to this use anapanasati first, then his pratice will become more easy.

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby dhamma_spoon » Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:37 am

Goedert wrote:Hello friend,

One who have the tendencie to byapada, its is better to this one use metta meditation first, then his practice will become more easy.

One who have the tendencie to uddhaccakukkuca, it is better to this use anapanasati first, then his pratice will become more easy.


That is an important consideration. Well put! :bow:

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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:10 pm

porpoise wrote:
bodom wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:many people do metta meditation prior to a different mediation practice.


This has worked best in my experience: Metta practice to calm the mind and then switch to anapanasati.

:anjali:


I do a short daily metta practice followed by some shamata, then vipassana later on.

P

I do the exact reverse...Vipassana folowed by Metta Bhavana. Horses for courses and all that.

PeterB
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Re: Insight practice and Metta-- at once?

Postby PeterB » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:17 pm

Goedert wrote:Hello friend,

One who have the tendencie to byapada, its is better to this one use metta meditation first, then his practice will become more easy.

One who have the tendencie to uddhaccakukkuca, it is better to this use anapanasati first, then his pratice will become more easy.

and for this reason..

:anjali:


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