This Dhamma dialogue reviews three levels of awareness related to mindfulness of breathing and how they interact with the practice of vipassana, that is, insight into the impermanent and selfless nature of personal experience. The first level is simply being aware “This is the in-breath, this is the out-breath”. The second level is a cultivated interest in the “textural” quality of the breath sensation, while the third level narrows the focuses the concentrated awareness around a discrete, singular sensation “like noticing the sensation of one nasal hair vibrating”. How each level relates to the practice of vipassana was described and then there was a general discussion of these practices.
During this talk, Peter describes controversies and agreements about the role jhana practice has is cultivating vipassana practice. He explains the progression from “acquiring the nimitta” (a noticeable sensation of touch or light arising from one-pointed concentration on the touch sensation at the nostrils) to the extraordinary state of mind called jhana. The value of the increased mental acuity from jhana practice to the onset of vipassana practice was explained, compared to the advantages of beginning vipassana practice without first entering jhana (called “dry vipassana).
This discussion summarizes the Satipatthana Sutta, focusing on how Mindfulness and the other Awakening Factors affects awareness of the Four Noble Truths, enhancing mental clarity and emotional balance. The relationship between tranquility and insight was associated with development of the jhana states, and how the heightened awareness derives from that practice increases the ability for the mind to be alert and non-attached, supporting awakening.