At the time of discussion of “The Two Paths” I was attempting to accommodate an intellectual Path; even whilst doing so I was uncomfortable with it. I tried to focus on the “shift” as described by HHDL but the intellect I was discussing with did not engage with the word – presumably because it was a non-intellectual process. Now that I have accepted mu it is clear that what I am aiming for is beyond intellect, and this whole rationalising of “Two Paths” was just an engagement with intellect. I am keeping this series of discussions on Two Paths on my blog as a warning as to how much the intellect can drag you in the wrong direction.
What is the difference between contemplation and insight?
This comes from a consideration of analysis and insight. Now what is analysis? The dictionary definitions of reason and analysis fit it in with my mathematical perspective but they are not what is considered as analysis by others. Previously I have considered this as intellect not knowing its place but what is clear is that needs reconsidering?
So what needs considering. Let’s start with analysis, and to do that I am going to consider analysis of variance (ANOVA). Now anova examines a statistical model of the form y=a+bx+cy+dz+e where x,y,z are factors that contribute to the observation y. What anova does is analyse the importance of e the error term. This is analysis built up from the ground, taking factors seeing what effect those factors have on the observation and considering how important is the information that the factors do not explain. I extrapolate this process to analysis of Buddhist concepts.
What is wisdom? To attain wisdom there has to be information, knowledge, consideration, reason. Does this explain the whole of wisdom? Do all people we consider wise demonstrate these four characteristics or is there something else? I correlate this with analysis of the error term. With wisdom what is the error term?
For an appropriate statistical model we are dealing with numbers, and the error term whilst important is percentage-wise small. With regards to Buddhism I consider the error term very important. We can all understand the mundane factors (that might correlate with the factors in the statistical model), but how important is the supramundane error? For me it is the quality of the supramundane that is so significant.
For the example I have chosen this supramundane quality is what turns the information, knowledge, consideration and reason into wisdom; for me that supramundane quality is insight. Where does this insight come from? By being detached we stand back and perceive the contributory factors. Through this detachment we are separated from the factors themselves, and so they have an opportunity to fit together cohesively. Once they fit together there is a “Eureka” moment, a realisation of how they fit together. The detachment together with the “Eureka” moment is an example of insight. Standing back with detachment allows the supramundane quality to be recognised, a recognition I suggest could not be determined by summating the contributing factors (as suggested by the statistical model).
Could this be considered contemplation? “Look at thoughtfully; observe deep in thought” or “Think intently and at length, as for spiritual purposes” are Wordweb definitions of contemplation. Is thinking intently and at length a sufficient condition? I personally have rejected this type of process (intently and at length), and so find it difficult to consider. My reason for rejection is this. Thinking intently can just be like chasing the thoughts around in a circle of reason like the chattering mind, how does one break the circle? It is the breaking of the circle that comes from the detachment that produces the insight. Can this occur with contemplation? When this contemplation becomes understanding, has this detachment occurred because of the intensity of contemplation? I don’t know because it is not my method. Can the continuing chasing of a thought by rational development produce the understanding? I would contend no, but that is not for me to say, that is for those who think it can to justify.
Where does enquiry come in? Does analysis as analytical meditation include enquiry? I am suspecting that it does:-
“Our minds are filled with confused thoughts and beliefs; often, even when we recognize logically that our beliefs are wrong, they are so embedded that they are virtually impossible to shed. By employing vigorous analytical methods and reasoning, we can deconstruct these beliefs, actively examining the concepts we cling to and questioning whether they really exist. With practice, logic becomes more sustainable, and understanding gains force, leading to wisdom.” This is pure enquiry “we can deconstruct these beliefs, actively examining the concepts we cling to and questioning whether they really exist”. No more enquiry necessary on this!!
Does enquiry produce the detachment that can give the insight? Sometimes with persistent questioning the questioning itself opens up the quality, and the answer is automatic. What happens if there is no answer? Can we concentrate and get an answer? In my view yes. By concentrating and clearing the mind an answer comes. This might be broadly termed an analytical process but it is not by reasoning – rational development. So what is there when we concentrate and clear the mind? I have always considered this opening up a channel to consciousness, and consciousness provides the answer as an insight. Is this the same process that might be called contemplation?
Here is where I talk about the two directions of learning, analysis (mathematical) provides the process from outer to inner, and insight provides the process from inner to outer. In a method that broadly is termed analysis consisting of contemplation, enquiry, analysis and reason, contemplation and enquiry might provide the inner to outer. Contemplation and enquiry has to provide some form of detachment or insight that perceives the answer to the question.