The Open Buddhist University

Tranquility and Insight

A short course on part of the Madhyama Āgama held in 2013, the sutras covered (MA 72-86) revolve around the interdependence of samatha and vipassana meditation and their co-creation of wisdom. Bhikkhu Anālayo makes the difficult subject accessible in his inimitably methodical style.


What are tranquility and insight?

Tranquility and insight are the two proximate goals of Buddhist meditation. When you meditate on a single thing itself the mind will eventually become calm and collected. We call this samatha or tranquility meditation. If you meditate on the three characteristics—that things are impermanent, unsatisfying, and not our own—wisdom will arise. We call this vipassana or insight meditation.

These two kinds of practice and results support each other. Insight requires tranquility because the mind must be stable and clear to see and accept the truth. But tranquility requires wisdom which is what lets go of our thinking and worrying long enough to meditate and stabilize the mind.

So, as with mindfulness itself, we have to start where we are. We use whatever tranquility we have to remind ourselves what is real and we use whatever insight we have to let go of what is bothersome. As we let go more and more, we become calmer and calmer and as we become more and more calm we are able to see more and more clearly. In this way, tranquility and insight form the two wings which together lift us out of delusion.


This course assumes a familiarity with meditation and the Pāli Canon. Prior knowledge of the Āgamas or Chineseis not required.

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