“It’s as if your child gets a balloon. Whatever else it’s been playing with, it puts aside. Its interest in other preoccupations grows quiet. It plays as it likes with the balloon. It’s right there. Its mind is quiet. This level of quiet is just the level of quiet of a child with a balloon. Its mind is all tied up in the balloon.

But this level of quiet isn’t enough. The child sees the balloon floating in the air and it’s engrossed, that’s all. It doesn’t think about whether or not the balloon is going to burst. It doesn’t think. It sees the balloon floating in the air and it’s engrossed. This is what’s called samatha, tranquility.

Vipassana or insight is a matter of making your discernment greater than that. You know what’s going to happen to the balloon. Will it eventually burst?

—that sort of thing. Eventually you see in the mind that the balloon is inconstant. It’s sure to burst. Your discernment shoots out to that point.

Tranquility doesn’t have any discernment. It sees the balloon floating in the air and just keeps playing with it. When the balloon bursts—pop!—it cries.

Why doesn’t it think? It doesn’t have the discernment to see that the balloon will burst. It doesn’t look into inconstancy, stress, and not-self. It just sees the balloon floating and it feels satisfied. Engrossed. This is tranquility, the stillness of tranquility.

With concentration, the mind is quiet, but defilements are still there, simply that for the moment no defilements appear in the mind. That’s why it’s not disturbed. It’s quiet like a balloon for the time being. There’s still air in the balloon and it’s still floating. It’s just there to make the child happy over made- up things, that’s all. Tranquility is just like that.”

The Balloon of Tranquility

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