Went to a speech by Insight Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg tonight.
My understanding of how Insight Meditation works is that practitioners can use it to work with their own minds. The essence of Buddhism teaching is that people’s minds are often stuck with one side of the view. So I can see it might be helpful to use Insight Meditation to work on the other side of the view as a way to offset the habitual way of viewing things. That is how I see the function of wishing other people peacefulness. In term of this, I would be curious to know how the teachers in Insight Meditation apply various wishes or guidelines to various kinds of practitioners. But I don’t know how deep practitioners of Insight Meditation is able to reach with this method. Personally, I feel that to reach a deep level it has to rely on the practitioners’ own potential to find out about things by themselves. So I don’t know how Insight Meditation works this out.
But to say that sending wishes to other people does really have a physical effect (or sending out a form of energy) (hope my phrase is right) on those recipient people appears to be of no difference from superstition. (If you know any difference, I will be very glad to hear about it.) The reason I say there is no difference is because both don’t have any evidence to support their believes. So I don’t know why people would believe in something they never see any evidence.
If it is true that by wishing other people peace you can send out positive energy to those people, I think perhaps I can suggest something here: let’s gather all the Insight Meditation teachers around the country or the world together, ask them to sincerely wish Mr. Bush real happiness. If it doesn’t work much in one day, maybe we can do it continuously for a year. That should be a lot of positive energy sent out to Mr. Bush. If that is true, it is definitely very beneficial to the world peace, and it can really be a very peaceful and powerful way of changing the world. If that is true, it is really very good news to us meditation practitioners because it will become much easier for us to change the world in the most direct way (without even understanding the world, which is really hard!).
I feel it shouldn’t be hard to do some experimentation to find out if wishing other people happy in Insight Meditation really can really have positive effect on those people. We can just do some control group study. Two control groups for our comparison. One group of people are constantly wished happiness by real Insight Meditation masters sincerely. The other group is not. Then we can compare if there is any difference. There are many other ways to do this kind of experimentation. Generally it shouldn’t be hard to carry out, and I feel we should really do that study as it might be the most effective and easiest way to change the world peacefully according to my knowledge (if it is verified as true).
I guess in the tradition of Insight Meditation to emphasize that it has real merit for the recipient people of the wishes is to let the prayers to feel that they really are doing something positive for the other people and thus provide some meaning to their practice. But I feel without that this practice can still be meaningful. When I was in China, I did wish some people to be happy every day. Such wishes were sincere. There are nothing wrong with it. It motivated me to work really hard to make the real world better for everyone to live in. It can offset many random thoughts or habitually situated views.
Buddhism is about pursuing of truth. In this sense, I don’t feel it will be ultimately helpful for our practice if we accept something unconditionally as truth. Anything, as long as it is truth, has endless beauty. So in this sense, I also don’t see it necessary to stick to something that is not true for just the benefit of practice. Doing activities is the only truth. In doing activities, you can learn everything.
Just my personal view on this. If you say that Insight Meditation has been really helpful for you or can be very helpful, I don’t disagree. I can see it can be helpful to a degree, and practicing it in a certain stage can be beneficial. Especially if you do feel it is really helpful to you, there is no reason to stop practicing it, and I do encourage you to keep practicing it. But I don’t know if it can deliver you to the other shore of the river as Buddhism is supposed to.
I don’t know much about Insight Meditation. So please be aware that my view above might be very wrong.
Note: Just rushed through some material on wikipedia on Insight Meditation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassana ). It seems to be a lot more than just merely praying, and seems to be quite interesting. I certainly will spend more time reading it later. I don’t know why from Sharon’s speech, my impression of Insight Meditation is mostly praying.