Shamatha is generally held to mean abiding in the state of bliss, clarity, and nonthought after conceptual thinking has naturally subsided. Vipashyana means to see nakedly and vividly the essence of mind that is self-cognizant, objectless, and free from exaggeration and denigration. Put another way, shamatha is said to be the absence of thought activity, and vipashyana is recognizing the essence of thought.
Numerous other such statements exist, but, in actuality, whatever manifests or is experienced does not transcend the inseparability of shamatha and vipashyana. Both stillness and thinking are nothing but the display of the mind alone; to recognize your essence at the time of either stillness or thinking is itself the nature of vipashyana.
Shamatha is not to become involved in solidified clinging to any of the external appearances of the six collections, while vipashyana is the unobstructed manifestation of perception. Thus within perception the unity of shamatha and vipashyana is complete.
Vividly recognizing the essence of a thought as it suddenly occurs is shamatha. Directly liberating it within natural mind, free from concepts, is vipashyana. Thus within conceptual thinking shamatha and vipashyana are also a unity.
Furthermore, looking into the essence without solidly following after a disturbing emotion even when it arises intensely is shamatha. The empty and cognizant nakedness within which the observing awareness and the observed disturbing emotion have no separate existence is vipashyana. Thus the unity of shamatha and vipashyana is complete within disturbing emotions as well.
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol
quoted in the book Jewels of Enlightenment: Wisdom Teachings from the Great Tibetan Masters
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