The ancient path of Buddhist mind training is designed to lead us towards the cessation of suffering and unsatisfactoriness (dukkha). Through ceaseless practice empirical knowledge and wisdom arises, awakening the mind from its misperceptions and concomitant suffering.
Whit Hornsberger has been studying and practicing various forms of Buddhist meditation from different lineages for over a decade. His primary practice and teachings stem from the Mahasi Method, a revered Burmese lineage of vipassana meditation passed down by the Burmese meditation master, Mahasi Sayadaw. Whit's depth of study and experiential understanding supports students from all walks of life and all corners of the globe in their compassionate inquiry into the heart and mind.
The practice of loving-kindness (metta) meditation cultivates deep levels of concentration and opens the heart-mind, cleansing our embodiment from the defilements of anger, hatred and aversion. Metta practice is the training of the mind to not dwell in aversion towards the physical and mental challenges we experience in this life, both on the cushion and off. From painful mind states to aches and pains within the body, developing the heart-mind through metta meditation enables each of us to rest with greater equanimity in the face of discomfort, no longer compounding our suffering by way of aversion.
Samatha or calm-abiding/tranquility meditation is applied for the purpose of cultivating deep states of concentrative absorption referred to as the jhanas. In the practice of samatha the practitioner focuses attention upon one object, be it the breath, a mantra or an image within the mind. Repeatedly bringing the mind back to this object when it wanders will eventually lead to a mental state referred to as samadhi or simply, concentration. From this refuge of mental stability, peace and equanimity arise and the power of the concentrated mind can now be applied to all realms of our lives, including the development of insight through the practice of vipassana.
Whereas the practice of samatha leads us to deep states of concentration and the arising of peaceful tranquility, samatha it is said, cannot lead us to the insight and wisdom necessary to arrive at the cessation of suffering. Nonetheless samatha is an incredibly powerful tool and often a prerequisite for the practice of vipassana / insight meditation.
Insight meditation is the effort put forth by the meditator to truly understand the ultimate reality of the psycho-physical phenomena that compose one's embodied existence. It is said that our suffering arises out of a misperception and the concomitant misunderstanding of our embodied experience (mind and matter). Vipassana practice offers the practitioner tools to develop one's own empirical understanding of this gift of life, rectifying the misperceptions and misunderstandings, resulting in the cessation of suffering.
In vipassana meditation there are an infinite number of meditation objects. Anything arising at the six sense doors: eyes (sights), ears (sounds), nose (smells), tongue (tastes), body (sensations), mind (mind states) is a potential object for contemplation and it is these phenomena that are of interest to the practitioner, probing scientifically into the true nature of these sensory experiences.
From the refuge of witness consciousness, vipassana enables the practitioner to observe how all psychophysical phenomena behave when unadulterated by the conditioned mind. It is from this perspective that true understanding and wisdom arises, replacing the conditioned misperceptions of the mind and resulting in the cessation or at the least the diminishing of suffering and unsatisfactoriness.