Introduction to Lamrim’s Serenity & Insight 广论止观初探
Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment states:
When you lack the elements of serenity,
Even if you meditate assiduously,
You will not achieve concentration
Even in thousands of years.
(5′) Pure ethical discipline
You do not violate precepts, doing deeds that are wrong by nature or wrong by prohibition, either in the case of vows of individual liberation or in the case of bodhisattva vows. If you do violate them through carelessness, you restore them promptly with regret in accordance with the teaching.
Maitreya’s Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras states:
The intelligent practice in a place
Which is accessible, is a good place to live,
Offers good ground and good companions,
And has the requisites for comfortable yogic practice.
The area should have five attributes: (a) easy access, so that necessities such as food and clothing may be readily obtained; (b) being a good place to live, where there are no wild beasts such as predators, no enemies, etc.; (c) being on a good piece of ground, in that it does not breed sickness; (d) offering good companionship insofar as your companions are ethically disciplined and likeminded; and (e) being well-situated inasmuch as there are not many people about in the day and little noise at night.
For Asanga’s Levels of Yogic Deeds says:
Moreover, you can accurately know the reality of the truths from suffering to path, without having attained the first meditative stabilization, etc. As soon as this knowledge of the truths occurs, you stabilize your mind and do not analyze phenomena. Based on this higher wisdom, you pursue the practice of higher states of consciousness.
This means that they have not attained the serenity of the actual first meditative stabilization, or beyond; it does not preclude their having attained the serenity which is included in the access to the first meditative stabilization.
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 first and then cultivate insight based on it.
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.