Rakshasa wrote:What is the relationship between "Calming" (Shamatha), concentration (samadhi/jhana?) I read a Pali sutta once - which I do not recall now - which said that Vippassana can also develop Jhanas.
I believe the object you start with is very important. It has been taught to me that the breath is a bridge linking the conscious mind to the unconscious mind. We begin with anapanasati(awareness of incoming breath and awareness of outgoing breath), we as beginners start with a large area encompassing the entire area from the base of the upper lip to the top of the bridge of the nose, as our mind and awareness sharpen we shrink the area of our focus to a small point the size of a fingertip between the base of the upper lip and the nostrils, one may even further shrink this area to a very small point at the tip of the upper lip. The only job we have to do is observe the breath in this area, the mind is not used to being placed in such a small area and it is described as a powerful elephant and when it gets angry it causes us all sorts of difficulties, we must develope a great deal of patience to train this elephant(mind) and persistantly bring it back to this small area and have it observe the breath.
Initially this is extremely difficult and can be very painful and frusterating, leading many meditators to quit, but if we are patient and persistent the mind will calm down and relax(shamatha) and then you will have a very powerful ally to help with your meditation. With a calm and relaxed mind we hone our concentration skills, developing the ability to keep our attention focused on the breath in this tiny area for longer and longer periods of time, the mind always wanting to cling to a thought(past or future) we keep our focus on the touch of the breath(present). With this practice we develope single pointed concentration (jhana).
With a moral and concentrated mind we have developed right concentration and may begin insight(vipassana) meditation, different traditions have different techniques, but ultimately we are observing the interaction of mind and body. Through the direct experience of insight we gain the highest wisdom(wisdom of experience) this wisdom is what rids us of our defilements. It is important to remain in contact with the body for this process of insight to work, so one should not move past the fourth jhana.
When the meditator is ripe(removed the base defilements that would lead to birth in the lower realms) a death occurs, the 5 body sense doors shut down(4th jhana), then the mind sense door shuts down(arupa jhanas), with the shutting down of the sense doors an experience of Nibbana occurs(9th jhana). This experience gives the meditator the wisdom to cut the lower fetters, returning to the body one is a completely changed individual never will they commit an action that could lead to birth in the lower realms.
Repeating this process will lead to much deeper experiences of Nibbana and the removal of deeper defilements until arahantship has been reached.