(e) How to be certain about their order
Santideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds says:
Insight possessed of serenity
Destroys the afflictions. Knowing this,
Seek serenity (止) at the outset.
According to this statement, you first achieve meditative serenity (止) and then cultivate insight on that basis.
Qualm: Kamalasila’s first Stages of Meditation says, “Its object of meditation is indeterminate,” meaning that the object of meditation of meditative serenity (止) is indeterminate. As explained above, the object of meditation of serenity (止) may be either reality itself or a conventional phenomenon possessed of reality. If you first understand the meaning of selflessness, and then meditate while focusing on this, it should be enough to simultaneously produce both the serenity (止) of an undistracted mind and insight focused on emptiness. Why, then, is it said that you first seek serenity (奢摩他) and then cultivate insight?
Reply: The way in which serenity (止) precedes insight is as follows. You do not need to have serenity (止) already in order to develop an understanding of the view that knows that there is no self, for we see that even those who lack serenity (止) develop this view. Nor do you need to have serenity (止) already in order to experience mental transformation in regard to the view, for nothing precludes mental transformation being brought on by the practice of repeated analysis with discerning wisdom, even in the absence of serenity (止). If you claim that the absence of serenity (止) precludes mental transformation in regard to the view, then the very same reasoning forces you to the extremely absurd conclusion that serenity (止) is required even to experience mental transformation when meditating on impermanence, the faults of cyclic existence, or the spirit of enlightenment.
So, why is serenity (止) required for insight? According to the Sutra Unravelling the Intended Meaning, as long as the practice of discrimination and special discrimination with discerning wisdom cannot generate physical and mental pliancy, it constitutes a type of attention which approximates insight; when it generates pliancy, then it is insight. Thus, if you have not attained serenity (止), then no matter how much analytical meditation you do with discerning wisdom, in the end you will not be able generate the delight and bliss of physical and mental pliancy. Once you have attained meditative serenity (止), then even the analytical meditation of discerning wisdom will culminate in pliancy. Hence, insight requires meditative serenity as a cause. This will be explained below.
Discerning wisdom becomes insight when, without focusing on a single object, it can generate pliancy through the power of analysis. So generating pliancy by setting your attention on a single object of meditation – even if the object is emptiness – is nothing more than a way to achieve serenity (止); that alone does not count as attaining insight. Why? If you thus first seek an understanding of selflessness, analyzing its meaning again and again, it will be impossible to achieve serenity (止) on the basis of this analysis since you have not previously achieved serenity (止). If you do stabilizing meditation without analysis, you will achieve serenity (止) on that basis. However, as there is no way to sustain insight except by sustaining serenity (止), you have to seek insight later. Hence, this does not fall outside the pattern in which, having previously sought serenity (止), you cultivate insight based on it.
Accordingly, the way insight develops is that discerning analytical meditation generates pliancy. If this were not so, there would not be the slightest good reason to seek serenity (止) first and then cultivate insight based on it. Failing to do these meditations in this order is quite inappropriate because the Sutra Unravelling the Intended Meaning states in a passage cited above that you cultivate insight on the basis of having attained serenity (奢摩他). Also, the order of meditative stabilization and wisdom among the six perfections of which it is said that “the latter develop based on the former“as well as the sequence in which training in higher wisdom is based on training in higher concentration (定) are in agreement with the sequence in which, having previously cultivated serenity (止), you later cultivate insight. Asanga’s Bodhisattva Levels (cited earlier) and his Sravaka Levels indicate that insight is cultivated on the basis of meditative serenity (止). Also, Bhavaviveka’s Heart of the Middle Way, Santideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, Kamalasila’s three Stages of Meditation, Jnanakirti, and Ratnakarasanti all state that you cultivate insight after previously seeking serenity (奢摩他). Some Indian masters claim that, without seeking serenity (奢摩他) separately, you generate insight from the outset through analysis by discerning wisdom. Since this view contradicts the texts of the great trailblazers, the wise deem it to be untrustworthy.
Lamrim Chenmo Pg23LL10-Pg25LL15