Insight Practice in a Nutshell

by Charles Batchelder

Insight practice is fundamentally about removing the obstacles of greed, hatred and delusion from our lives. We all struggle, perhaps even to the point of obsession, with attaining what we want, avoiding what we don’t want, and endlessly trying to make sense of it all. But, there is no satisfaction in this behavior. Whether or not we get the outcomes we want, deep down we know that there will always be more wanting and more avoiding and more confused thoughts and feelings no matter what. This is the nature of our existence in the everyday world and it is a big, big problem. Insight practice tells us what to do about this problem in three liberating steps.

First, an effort must be made not to act out our thoughts, feelings and intentions of greed, hatred and delusion through what we do and say. We need to learn and accept that bad actions and bad speech bring bad results and good actions and good speech bring good results. As we live in accordance with this truth, conditions are sure to arise in our lives that will facilitate further progress toward relinquishing greed, hatred, and delusion for good. Therefore, it is imperative to make a commitment to certain fundamental standards of behavior.

Second, just as we attempt to live better lives outwardly, we need to clean things up inwardly as well. We need to bring the same standards to bear in our thoughts, feelings and intentions that we do in our actions and speech. Furthermore, we need to train the mind so that it becomes a powerful ally rather than a traitor and saboteur. Through mindfulness and concentration, we must train the restless, obsessive, and controlling everyday mind to become an open, spacious, calm and silent mind that can experience without response and thereby free itself from greed, hatred, and delusion for at least a duration.

Third, we need to use this powerfully trained mind to penetrate the ultimate nature of reality, to deeply understand the uselessness of greed, hatred and delusion and to abandon them once and for all. A well trained mind will see clearly and deeply that, whether we like it or not, the essential nature of all that is, including ourselves, is empty and unsubstantial, like a glob of foam, a bubble in water, a shimmering mirage, or a magic trick. Through this insight we become dis-enchanted with wanting and not wanting. We become dis-illusioned with our false perceptions of what matters. Then and only then do we have the opportunity to once and for all relinquish greed, hatred and delusion and step into freedom.

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