I’ve recently been contemplating a brief discourse in the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (A. 4.170) on four combinations of tranquility and insight. This subject arose as part of an on-line course led by Venerable Analayo that I am auditing. The discourse presents four combinations of tranquility and insight: 1) the development of insight preceded by tranquility, 2) the development of tranquility preceded by insight, 3) the development of insight and tranquility in pairs, and 4)  the mind gripped by agitation before realizing liberation.

I’ll share some of my reflections here:

I find the 4th mode of approaching awakening (A. 4.170) quite intriguing as it may point to the powerful effect of urgently wanting liberation. The desire for liberation can be so strong that the force of this desire, rather than sustained tranquility, effectively dispels all distractions and hindrances. When we want one thing (nibbana), we don’t want other things. And when nothing else interests the mind, a profound dispassion toward mental and material phenomena may arise. There would be no conflict, no pull to anything except the deathless liberation. But until nibbana is realized, the mind may be desperately agitated by that single pointed desire. Then when the conditions come together—whether through an encounter with the Buddha, his teachings, a guru, a meditative state, unexplained conditions, or whatever it might be—that single remaining agitating desire is quenched. Since there is no craving present for anything else, and having already established dispassion toward mundane phenomena, cessation is known, and the mind may realize the deathless.