The following are a collection of passages relating to the practice of tranquility and insight meditation (S. shamatha vipashyana; P. samatha vipassana; C. chih-kuan; J. shi-kan).

The following two passages are taken from the Writings of Nichiren Shonin Doctrine 2 edited by George Tanabe Jr., compiled by Kyotsu Hori. The first passage is from “A Treatise on the Ten Chapters of the Great Concentration and Insight” (J. Jissho-sho) in which Nichiren recommends contemplation and chanting for “wise men” while lay followers should simply recite Odaimoku. The second passage is from “A Treatise on Establishing the Right Way of Meditation” (J. Rissho Kanjo) in which Nichiren equates the realization of the profound teaching of the Lotus Sutra that transcends concepts with the contemplations taught in T’ien-t’ai Buddhism.

What we should chant all the time as the practice of the perfect teaching is “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,” and what we should keep in mind is the way of meditation based on the truth of “3,000 worlds contained in one thought-moment.” Only wise men practice both chanting “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” and meditating on the truth of “3,000 worlds contained in one though-moment.” Lay followers of Japan today should recite only “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.” (p. 4)

Since the Great Concentration and Insight preaches the way of practicing the spiritual contemplation according to the doctrine of “3,000 worlds contained in one thought-moment” in the Lotus Sutra, the way to practice the “threefold contemplation in a single thought” is nothing but recognizing the Wonderful Dharma to be beyond conceptual understanding. Therefore, monks who belittle the Lotus Sutra and make too much of spiritual contemplation commit the grave sin of slandering the True Dharma, are men of false view, or are as devilish as a heavenly devil. This is because according to Grand Master T’ien-t’ai’s “threefold contemplation in a single thought,” “concentration and insight” means the unique state of mind in which one is awakened with the truth of the One Buddha teaching through steadily maintaining the mind in tranquility by the Lotus Sutra. (p. 219)

The following passages are from The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation of T’ien-t’ai Chih-i as translated by Bhikkhu Dharmamitra. In these passages, practical instructions for beginning the practice of tranquility and insight meditation are given:

As for the dharma of nirvana, there are many paths of entry into it. However, if we discuss those that are crucially essential, they do not go beyond the two dharmas of calming and insight.

How is this so? Calming constitutes the initial method through which one is able to suppress the fetters. Insight is the primary essential through which one is able to cut off delusions. Calming then is the wholesome provision with which one kindly nurtures the mind and consciousness. Insight then is the marvelous technique that stimulates the development of spiritual understanding. Calming is the supreme cause for the manifestation of dhyana absorption. Insight is the origin of wisdom.

If a person perfects the two dharmas of meditative absorption and wisdom, then this amounts to the complete fulfillment of the dharma of benefiting both oneself and others. (p. 31)

One should realize that these two dharmas are like the two wheels of a cart or like the two wings of a bird. If the cultivation of them becomes one-sided, one immediately falls into error-ridden inverted views. (p. 33)

Now when the practitioner first takes up the study of dhyana meditation, as one who wishes to cultivate the Dharma of the Buddhas of the ten directions, and the three periods of time, he should first make the great vows to bring all beings to liberation. In vowing to pursue the unsurpassed way of the Buddhas, he makes his mind as solid as vajra and resolves to be industrious and courageous to the point that he will not even spare his own life and will never retreat from his quest to perfect all buddha dharmas.

Next, seated in meditation and employing right mindfulness, he deliberates on the true character of dharmas. …. [He observes that] they all exist solely on the basis of mind.

…If one realizes that mind is devoid of [any inherently existing] nature, then [one realizes as well that] all dharmas are not genuinely real. If the mind becomes free of defiling attachment, then all of the karmic activity in the sphere of birth-and-death comes to a halt. (p. 77)

Later, when one enters into dhyana, it is essential to be skillful in stabilizing the body properly. When one first arrives at the sitting cushion, one must first establish oneself in the sitting location in such a manner that all is peaceful and secure so that nothing will interfere with remaining for a long time.

Next, one should arrange the feet correctly. If one is sitting in the half-lotus posture, one places the left foot so that it is on top of the right leg and then pulls it in so that it is close to the body proper. In doing so, one causes the toes of the left foot to become aligned with the right thigh while the toes of the right foot become aligned with the left thigh. If one wishes to sit in full lotus, one next corrects the arrangement of the right foot so that it rests atop the left leg.

Next, one should arrange the hands. One lays the open left hand on top of the right hand so that they fit together and rest atop the left foot [in the case of the half lotus]. One then draws them in toward the body so that they are centered and stable.

Next, one should properly arrange the body, first making sure that the body is erect, and then seeing also that the limbs are set symmetrically, moving them back and forth as many as seven or eight time, as if massaging them into place. One must not allow the hands or feet to slip out of correct posture. Having done this, one then sits up perfectly straight, ensuring that the spine is neither slumping nor thrust forward.

Next, one should straighten up the head and neck so that the nose and the naval are lined up and so that the head is not tilted to the side, held at an angle, drooped downward, or raised upward. One faces forward and remains straight.

Next one should expel the turbid breath…

Next, one should close the mouth such that the lips and teeth are held together, while the tongue is held up against the hard palate. Then one should close the eyes only enough that they block off the light from outside. One should straighten up the body and sit upright like a stele. One cannot allow the body, the head or the four limbs to move about even slightly.

This is the technique for making physical adjustment as one first proceeds to enter dhyana absorption. To speak of what is most essential, being neither too loose nor too tight is the mark of correct physical adjustment.

Fourth is the technique for making adjustments in the breath when first entering dhyana meditation. The breath may possess any of four characteristics: first, windy breathing; second, uneven breathing; third, normal breathing; and fourth subtle respiration. The first three are indications of inadequate adjustment, whereas the last one is characteristic of correct adjustment.

If one wishes to correct them, one should rely on three techniques: First, stabilize the mind by anchoring it below, [at the navel]; second, relax and release the body; and third, visualize the breath penetrating through to all of the pores, going forth and coming in without any obstruction whatsoever. If one makes the mind subtle, one causes the breath to become very fine. If the breath becomes regulated, then the manifold disorders do not arise. One’s mind easily enters meditative absorption. (excerpts from the full instruction on pp. 81-87 and 103-137)

Next, there are masters who say that one-inch below the navel is a location known as the udana. This refers to what we know as the dantian. If one is able to bring the mind to a halt and preserve its point of focus at this location such that it does not become scattered, then after one has done this for a long time, in most cases, there will be that which is remedied. (p. 177)

Below are passages from The Six Dharma Gates to the Sublime of T’ien-t’ai Chih-i as translated by Bhikkhu Dharmamitra. These passages give the core instruction for each of the Six Dharma Gates. The first three Dharma Gates are basically different methods of concentration or tranquility practice. The last three Dharma Gates are different methods of insight practice.

As for the cultivation of counting, the practitioner regulates and harmonizes the breath so that it is neither too rough nor too subtle. One proceeds in an unhurried fashion, slowly counting, going from “one” on up to “ten.” One focuses the mind on the counting and does not allow it to run off and become scattered. This is what is meant by the “cultivation” of counting. (p. 37)

As for the cultivation of following, one relinquishes the previous dharma of counting. One then relies single-mindedly on following the coming in and going out of the breath. One focuses the mind, taking the breath as an object. One becomes aware of the coming in and going out of the breath. The mind abides in the objective conditions associated with the breath, remaining free of any distraction or scattering of one’s point of attention. This is what is meant by cultivating following. (p. 39)

As for the cultivation of stabilization, one puts to rest all thought taking anything as an objective condition. One does not engage in either counting or following. One fixes his mind and makes it still. This is what is meant by the cultivation of stabilization. (p. 39)

As for the cultivation of contemplation, in the midst of the mind immersed in absorption, one employs wisdom to make distinctions. One contemplates the fine and subtle features of the breath as it goes forth and comes in. It is like a wind in the midst of space. The skin, the flesh, the sinews, the bones, and the thirty-six categories of things [making up the body] – are all just as devoid of substantiality as the [coreless] plantain. Even the consciousness of one’s mind is impermanent. It does not abide even for a ksana. Neither oneself nor anyone else exists. The dharmas of the body, feeling, and the mind are all devoid of any inherently existing nature. One is unable to ultimately apprehend [the existence of] any person or any dharma. On what then could meditative absorption [possibly] depend? This is what is meant by the cultivation of contemplation. (p. 41)

As for the cultivation of turning, once one has realized that contemplation itself arises from the mind and once one has also understood that, if one continues to follow along with analysis of the objective sphere, this does not by itself directly bring about convergence with the original source, one should then turn back the direction of one’s contemplation so that one now contemplates the very mind that is engaged in contemplation. (p. 43)

As for the cultivation of purification, through realizing the purity of the form [aggregate], one refrains from generating false thoughts about it and does not course in discriminations regarding it. “The same is true with respect to [the aggregates of] feeling, perception, formative factors, and consciousness.”

One puts to rest the defilement of false thinking. This constitutes the cultivation of purification. One also puts to rest the defilement of coursing in discriminations. This too qualifies as the cultivation of purification. One puts to rest the defilement of grasping at a self as well. This is also what is intended by “the cultivation of purification.”

To state what is essential: If one is able to bring it about that his mind conforms to its fundamental purity, this qualifies as the cultivation of purification. If one does not ultimately apprehend any subjective entity that is able to cultivate, any objective sphere that is cultivated, or anything that qualifies as either “pure” or “impure,” this qualifies as the cultivation of purification. (p. 47)

The last passage is from the introduction written by Kuan-ting to the Great Concentration and Insight (J. Maka Shikan) of T’ien-t’ai Chih-i. The passage describes the Perfect and Sudden Tranquility and Insight practice and is recited at times by the priests of Nichiren Shu.

The perfect and sudden tranquility and insight from the very beginning takes ultimate reality as its object. No matter what the object of insight might be, it is seen to be identical to the middle. There is here nothing that is not true reality. When one fixes [the mind] on the Dharma-realm [as object] and unifies one’s mindfulness with the Dharma-realm [as it is], then there is not a single sight nor smell that is not the Middle Way. The same goes for the realm of self, the realm of Buddha, and the realm of living beings. Since all aggregates and sense bases [of body and mind] are thusness, there is no suffering to be cast away. Since ignorance and the afflictions are themselves identical with enlightenment, there is no origin of suffering to be eradicated. Since the two extreme views are the Middle Way and false views are the right view, there is no path to be cultivated. Since samsara is identical with nirvana, there is no cessation to be achieved. Because of the [intrinsic] inexistence of suffering and its origin, the mundane does not exist; because of the inexistence of the path and cessation, the supramundane does not exist. A single, unalloyed reality is all there is – no entities whatever exist outside of it. That all entities are by nature quiescent is called “tranquility”; that, though quiescent, this nature is ever luminous, is called “insight”. Though a verbal distinction is made between earlier and later stages of practice, there is ultimately no duality, no distinction between them. This is what is called the “perfect and sudden tranquility and insight.” (The Great Calming and Contemplation translated by Neal Donner and Daniel B. Stevenson, pp. 112-114)