Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw
Honor to the Fully Enlightened One
On coming across the sasana (teaching) of the Lord Buddha, it is most important for everyone to cultivate in himself the virtues of sila (precepts, moral conduct), samadhi (concentration, meditation), and panna (wisdom). One should undoubtedly possess these three virtues.
Sila is the observance of moral conduct. For layman it is the observance of the five precepts as a minimum measure. For Bhikkhusit is the observance of the Patimokkha-sila (code of monastic discipline). Anyone who is well-disciplined in sila will be reborn in the happy existence of a human being or a deva (god), but this ordinary form of lokiya-sila (mundane morality) will not be a safeguard against relapse into lower states of miserable existence, such as hell, the animal realm or realm of petas (ghosts). It is therefore desirable to cultivate the higher form of lokuttara sila (supramundane morality). When one has fully acquired the virtue of this sila, he is saved from relapse into the lower states and he will always lead a happy life by being reborn as a human being or deva. Everyone should therefore make it his duty to work for lokuttara-sila. There is every hope of success for anyone who strives sincerely and in real earnestness. It would indeed be a pity if anyone were fail to take advantage of this fine opportunity of being endowed with higher qualities, for he will undoubtedly be a victim sooner or later of his own bad karma (intentional or volitional action) which will pull him down to the lower states of miserable existence of hell, animals or petas, were the span of life lasts for many hundreds, thousands or millions of millions of years. It is therefore emphasized here that this coming across the sasana of Lord Buddha is the very opportunity for working for magga-sila (path morality) and phala-sila (fruition morality).
It is not advisable to work for sila alone. It is also necessary to practice samadhi. Samadhi is the fixed or tranquil state of mind. The ordinary or undisciplined mind is in the habit of wandering to other places. It cannot be kept under control. It follows any idea, thought or imagination, etc. In order to prevent this from wandering, the mind should be made to attend repeatedly to a selected object of concentration. On gaining practice, the mind gradually loses its traits and remains fixed on the object to which it is directed. This is samadhi.
There are two forms of samadhi: lokiya-samadhi (mundane concentration) and lokuttara-samadhi (supramundane concentration). Of these two, the practice of samadhi-bhavana (tranquil meditation), anapana (mindfulness of breathing), metta (loving-kindness), kasina (an object for meditation), etc., will enable the development of the states of lokiya-jhana (mundane absorption concentration), such as the four rupa-jhana(absorption pertaining to the world of form) and the four arupa-jhana (absorption pertaining to the world of formlessness) by virtue of which one will be reborn in the plane of Brahma. The life span of Brahma is very long and lasts for one, two, four, eight, up to a limit of eighty-four thousand world cycles, as the case may be. But at the end of his life span, a Brahma will die and be reborn as a human being or a deva. If he leads a virtuous life all the time, he may lead a happy life in a higher existence, but as he is not free from kilesa (defilements-attachment, aversion, and delusion), he may commit demeritorious deeds on many occasions. He will then be a victim of his bad kamma and be reborn in hell or other lower states of miserable existence. Thus lokiya-samadhi also is not a definite security. It is desirable to work for lokuttara-samadhi, which is nothing but magga-samadhi (path concentration) and phala-samadhi (fruition concentration). To possess this samadhi it is essential to cultivate panna (wisdom).
There are two forms of panna: lokiya (mundane) and lokuttara (supra-mundane). Nowadays, knowledge of literature, art, science, or other worldly affairs is usually regarded as a kind of panna, but this form of panna has nothing to do with any kind of bhavana (mental development). Nor can it be regarded as of real merit because many weapons of destruction are invented through these kinds of knowledge, which are always under the influence of attachment (lobha), aversion (dosa) and other evil motives. The real spirit of lokiya-panna, on the other hand, has only merits and no demerits of any kind. Knowledge in welfare organizations and relief work without causing any harm, learning to acquire the knowledge of the true meaning or sense of the Scriptures, and the three classes of knowledge of vipassana-bhavana (mental development for insight), such as suta-maya-panna (knowledge from learning), cinta-maya-panna (knowledge from thinking), and bhavana-maya-panna (wisdom from mental development) are lokiya-panna. The virtue of possessing lokiya-panna will lead to a happy life in higher states of existence, but it cannot prevent the risk of being reborn in hell or other states of miserable existence. Only the development of lokuttara-panna can decidedly remove this risk.
Lokuttara-panna is magga– and phala-panna. To develop this panna it is necessary to carry on the practice of vipassana-bhavana out of the three forms of discipline in cultivating sila, samadhi and panna. When the virtue of panna is duty developed, the necessary qualities of sila and samadhi are also acquired.
The method of developing this panna is to observe materiality and mentality, which are the two sole elements existing in a body, with a view to knowing them in their true form. At present, experiments in the analytical observation of materiality are usually carried out in laboratories with the aid of various kinds of instruments, yet these methods cannot deal with mind-stuff. The method of Lord Buddha does not, however, require any kind of instruments or outside aid. It can successfully deal with both materiality and mentality. It makes use of one’s own mind for analytical purposes by fixing bare-attention on the activities of materiality and mentality as they occur in the body. By continually repeating this form of exercise, the necessary samadhi can be gained and when samadhi is keen enough the ceaseless course of arising and passing away of materiality and mentality will be vividly perceptible.
The body consists solely of the two distinct groups of materiality and mentality. The solid substance of body as it is now found belongs to the former group of materiality. According to the usual enumeration in the terms of pathavi (earth), apo (water), tejo (fire), vayo(air), cakkhu (eye), rupa (form), etc., there are altogether twenty-eight kinds in this group, but in short it may be noted that body is a mass of materiality. For example, it is the same as a doll made of clay or wheat, which is nothing but a collection of clay dust or flour powder. Materiality changes its form under physical conditions of heat, cold etc., and because of this fact of changeableness under contrary physical conditions, it is called rupa (materiality) in Pali. It does not possess any faculty of knowing an object.
In the Abhidhamma, the elements of mentality and materiality are classified as sarammana-dhamma and anarammana-dhamma respectively. The element of mentality has an object, holds an object, or knows an object, while that of materiality does not have an object, does not hold an object, and does not know an object. It will thus be seen that the Abhidhammahas directly stated that material has no faculty of knowing an object. A yogi also perceives in like manner, that is, ‘materiality has no faculty of knowing.’ Logs and pillars, bricks and stones and lumps of earth are a mass of materiality. They do not possess any faculty of knowing. It is the same with the materiality, which makes up a living body – they have no faculty of knowing. The materiality in a dead body is the same as that of a living body – it does not possess any faculty of knowing. People, however, have a common idea that the materiality of a living body possesses the faculty of knowing and object and that it loses this faculty only at death. This is not really so. In actual fact, materiality does not possess the faculty of knowing and object in either a dead or a living body.
What is it then, which knows objects now? It is mentality, which comes into being depending on materiality. It is called nama in Palibecause of the fact that it inclines towards an object. Mentality is also spoken of as ‘thought’ or ‘consciousness’. Mentality arises depending on materiality as will be described in the following. Depending on eye, eye-consciousness (seeing) arises; depending on ear, ear-consciousness (hearing) arises; depending on nose, nose-consciousness (smelling) arises; depending on tongue, tongue-consciousness (tasting) arises; depending on body, body-consciousness (sense of touch) arises. There are many kinds of sense of touch, either good or bad. While it has a wide field of action in running throughout the whole length of the body, inside and outside, the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting can, on the other hand, come into being respectively in its own particular sphere, such as eye, ear, nose and tongue, each of which occupies a very small and limited space of the body. These senses of touch, sight, etc., are nothing but the elements of mind. Also there comes into being mind-consciousness, (i.e., thoughts, ideas, imaginings, etc.) depending on mind-base. All of these are elements of the mind. Mind knows an object, while materiality does not know an object.
People generally believe that in the case of seeing, it is the eye, which actually sees. They think that seeing and eye are one and the same thing. They also think: ‘Seeing is I.’ ‘I see things.’ ‘Eye, seeing, and I are one and the same person.’ In reality it is not so. Eye is one thing and seeing is another and there is no separate entity such as ‘I’ or ‘ego’. There is only the reality of ‘seeing’ coming into being depending on the eye.
To give an example, it is like the case of a person who sits in a house. House and person are two separate things: house is not the person, nor is the person the house. Similarly, it is so at the time of seeing. Eye and seeing are two separate things: eye is not seeing, nor is seeing the eye.
To give another example, it is just like the case of a person in a room who sees many things when he opens the window and looks through it. If it is asked, ‘Who is it that sees? Is it the window or the person that actually sees?’ the answer is, ‘The window does not possess the ability to see; it is only the person who sees.’ If it is again asked, ’Will the person be able to see things on the outside without the window?’ the answer will be, ‘It is not possible to see things through the wall without the window. One can only see through the window.‘ Similarly, in the case of seeing, there are two separate realities of eye and seeing. Eye is not seeing, nor is seeing the eye, yet there cannot be an act of seeing without the eye. In reality, seeing comes into being depending on eye.
It is now evident that in the body there are only two distinct elements of materiality (eye) and mentality (seeing) at every moment of seeing. In addition, there is also a third element of materiality (the visual object). At times the visual object is noticeable in the body and at times it is noticeable outside the body. With the addition of the visual object there will then be three elements, two of which (eye and visual object) are materiality, and the third of which (seeing) is mentality. Eye and visual object and what it looks like. Now it is clear that there exist only two separate elements of materiality and mentality at the moment of seeing, and the arising of this pair of two separate elements is known as ‘seeing’.
People who are without the training in and knowledge of vipassana-bhavana hold the view that seeing belongs to or is ‘self’, ‘ego’, ‘living entity’, or ‘person’. They believe that ‘seeing is I’, or ‘I am seeing’, or ‘I am seeing’, or ‘I am knowing’. This kind of view or belief is called sakkaya-ditthi in Pali. Sakkaya means the group of materiality (rupa) and mentality (nama) as they exist distinctively. Ditthi means to hold a wrong view or belief. The compound word sakkaya-ditthi means to hold a wrong view or belief with regard to nama and rupa which exist in reality. For more clarity, it will be explained further as to the manner of holding the wrong view or belief. At the moment of seeing, the things which actually exist are the eye, the visual object (both materiality) and seeing (mentality). Nama and rupa are reality, yet people hold the view that this group of elements is self, or ego, or a living entity. They consider that ‘seeing is I’, or ‘that which is seen is I’, or ‘I see my own body’. Thus this mistaken view is taken on the simple act of seeing as self, which is sakkaya-ditthi.
As long as one is not free from sakkaya-ditthi, one cannot expect to escape from the risk of falling into the miserable existences of the hells, the animals or the petas. Though he may be leading a happy life in the human or devaworld by virtue of his merits, yet he is liable to fall back into the state of miserable existences at any time when his demerits operate. For this reason, Lord Buddha pointed out that it is essential to work for the total removal of sakkaya-ditthi as follows:
Sakkaya-ditthippahanaya sato bhikkhu paribbaje
It is said: Though it is the wish of everyone to avoid old-age, disease and death, no one can prevent the inevitable submission to them one day. After death, rebirth follows. Rebirth in any state of existence does not depend on one’s own wish. It is not possible to avoid rebirth in the hell realms, the animal realm or the realm of the petas by merely wishing for an escape. Rebirth takes place in any state of existence as the circumstances of one’s own deeds provide; there is no choice at all. For these reasons, the round of births and deaths, samsara, is very dreadful. Every effort should therefore be made to acquaint oneself with the miserable conditions of samsara and then to work for an escape from samsara, for the attainment of Nibbana.
If an escape from samsara as a whole is not possible for the present, an attempt should be made for an escape at least from the round of rebirths in the hell realms, the animal realms, or the peta realms. In this case it is necessary to work for the total removal from oneself of sakkaya-ditthi, which is the root cause of rebirth in the miserable states of the hells, the animals, or the petas. Sakkaya-ditthi can only be destroyed completely by the ariya-magga and phala: the three virtues of sila, samadhi and panna. It is therefore imperative to work for the development of these virtues. How to do the work? That is sato – by means of noting or observing; paribbaje – must go out from the jurisdiction of kilesa (defilement’s). One should practice by constantly noting or observing every act of seeing, hearing, etc., which are the constituent physical and mental processes of the body, till one is freed from sakkaya-ditthi.
For these reason advice is always given here to take up the practice of vipassanameditation. Now yogis have come here for the purpose of practicing vipassana meditation that may be able to complete the course of training and attain ariya-magga in no long time. Sakkaya-ditthi will then be totally removed and security against the danger of rebirth in the realms of the hells, or animals, or petas will be finally gained.
In this respect, the exercise is simply to note or observe the existing elements in every act of seeing. It should be noted as ‘seeing, seeing’ on every act of seeing. (By the terms of note or observe or contemplate is meant the act of keeping the mind fixedly on the object with a view to knowing it clearly.) Because of this fact of keeping the mind fixedly on the object with the view to knowing it clearly by noting it as ‘seeing, seeing’, at times visual object is noticed, at times consciousness of seeing is noticed, or at times it is noticed as eye-base or as the place from which it sees. It will serve the purpose if one can notice distinctly any one of the three. If not, based on this act of seeing there will arise sakkaya-ditthi which will view it in the form of a person or as belonging to a person, and in the sense of nicca (permanence), sukha (happiness, pleasantness), and atta(self), which will arouse attachment and craving: the kilesa will in turn prompt deeds, and the deeds will bring forth rebirth in a new existence. Thus the process of dependent origination operates and the vicious circle of samsara revolves incessantly. In order to prevent the revolving of samsara from this source of seeing, it is necessary to note it as ‘seeing, seeing’ on every act of seeing.
Similarly, in the case of hearing, there are only two distinct elements of materiality and mentality. The sense of hearing arises depending on ear. While ear and sound are two elements of materiality, the sense of hearing is the element of mentality. In order to know clearly any one of these two kinds of materiality and mentality, it should be noted as ‘hearing, hearing’ on every occasion of hearing. So also it should be noted as ‘smelling, smelling’ on every occasion of smelling, and as ‘tasting, tasting’ on every occasion of knowing taste.
Similarly, it should be noted in the case of knowing or feeling the sensation of touch in the body. There is a kind of material element known as kaya-pasada throughout the body, which receives every impression of touch. Every kind of touch, either agreeable or disagreeable, usually comes in contact with kaya-pasada and there arises kaya-vinnana, which feels or knows the touch on each occasion. It will now be seen that at every moment of touching there are two elements of materiality – sense organ and impression of touch – and one element of mentality – knowing touch. In order to know these things distinctly at every moment of touching, the practice of noting as ‘touching, touching’ has to be carried out. This merely refers to the common form of sensation of touch. There are special forms, which accompany painful or disagreeable sensations, such as pain, numb, aches, etc. Because vedana (feeling) predominates in these cases, it should be noted as ‘feeling hot’, ‘feeling tired’, ‘feeling painful’, etc., as the case may be.
It may also be mentioned that there occur many sensations of touch in the hands, the legs, and so on, on each occasion of bending, stretching, or moving. Because of mentality wanting to move, stretch or bend, the material activities of moving, stretching, or bending, etc., occur in series. (It may not be possible to notice these incidents for the present.) They can only be noticed after some time, on gaining practice. It is mentioned here for the sake of suta-maya-nana. All activities in movements and in changing, etc., are done by mentality. When mentality wills to bend, there arises a series of inward movements of hand or leg. When mentality wills to stretch or move, there arises a series of outward movements or movements to and fro respectively. They fall away soon after they occur and at the very point of occurrence. (One will notice these incidents later on.)
In every case of bending, stretching, or other activities, there arises first a series of intending or willing moments of mentality inducing or causing in the hands and legs a series of material activities, such as stiffening (or being hard), bending, stretching, or moving to and fro. These activities come up against other material elements (kaya-pasada), and on every occasion of contact between material activities and sensitive qualities, there arises kaya-vinnana, which feels or knows the sensation of touch. It is therefore clear that material activities are predominating factors. If not, there will surely arise the wrong view of holding these activities in the sense of ‘I’, ‘I am bending’, ‘I am stretching’, ‘my hands’, or ‘my legs’. This practice of noting as ‘bending’, ‘stretching’, ‘moving’, is being carried out for the purpose of removing such wrong views.
As regards thoughts, imaginings, etc., it may be mentioned that depending on mind-base there arises a series of mental activities, such as thinking, imagining, etc., or generally speaking, a series of mental activities arises depending on body. In reality, each case is a composition of mentality and materiality: mind-base being materiality and thinking, imagining, and so forth, being mentality. In order to be able to notice materiality and mentality clearly, it should be noted as ‘thinking’, ‘imagining’, and so forth in each case.
After having carried out the practice in the manner indicated above for some time, there may be an improvement in samadhi(concentration). One will notice that the mind no longer wanders about but remains fixed on the object to which it is directed. At the same time, the power of noticing has considerably developed. On every occasion of noting, one notices only two processes of materiality and mentality: a dual set of object (materiality) and a mental state (mentality), which makes note of the object, arising together.
Again, on proceeding further with the practice of contemplation for some time, one notices that nothing remains permanent, but that everything is in a state of flux. New things arise each time. Each of them is noted as it arises. It then passes away immediately and immediately another arises, which is again noted and which then passes away. Thus the process of arising and passing away goes on, which clearly shows that nothing is permanent. One therefore realizes that ‘things are not permanent’ because it is ‘seen’ that they arise and pass away immediately. This is aniccanupassana-nana (insight of impermanence).
Then one also realizes that ‘arising and passing are not desirable’. This is dukkhanupassana-nana (insight of unsatisfactoriness). Besides, one usually experiences any painful sensations in the body, such as tiredness, feeling hot, painful, aching, and at the time of noting these sensations, he generally feels that this body is a collection of sufferings. This is also dukkhanupassana-nana.
Then at every time of noting it is found that elements of materiality and mentality occur according to their respective nature and conditioning, and not according to one’s wishes. One therefore realizes that ‘they are elements: they are not governable; they are not person or living entity’. This is anattanupassana-nana (insight of impersonality).
On having fully acquired these knowledge’s of anicca, dukkha and anatta, the maturity of magga-nana (knowledge of the path) and phala-nana (knowledge of fruition) takes place and realization of Nibbana is won. By winning the realization of Nibbana in the first stage, one is freed from the round of rebirth in the unhappy life of miserable existence. Everyone should therefore endeavor to reach the first stage as a minimum measure.
It has already been explained that the actual method of practice in vipassana-meditation is to note or to observe or to contemplate the successive occurrences of seeing, hearing, and so on, at the six points of the six sense doors. However, it will not be possible for a beginner to follow up on all successive incidents as they occur because his sati (mindfulness), samadhi (concentration) and nana (knowledge) are still weak. The moments of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking occur very swiftly. It seems to be that seeing occurs at the same time as hearing, that hearing occurs at the same time as seeing, that seeing and hearing occurs simultaneously, that seeing, hearing, thinking and imagining always occur simultaneously, that it is not possible to distinguish which occurs first and which second because they occur so swiftly. In reality, seeing does not occur at the same time as seeing. Such incidents can occur only one at a time. A yogi who has just begun the practice and who has not sufficiently developed sati, samadhi, and nana will not, however, be in a position to observe all these moments singly as they occur in serial order. A beginner need not, therefore, follow up on many things. He should, however, begin with only a few things.
Seeing or hearing occurs only when due attention is given to them. If one does not pay heed to any sight or sound, one may pass the time without any moments of seeing or hearing, taking place. Smelling rarely occurs. The experience of tasting usually only occurs while one is eating. In the case of seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting, the yogi can note them when they occur. Body impressions, however, are ever present. They usually exist distinctly all the time. During the time that one is sitting, the body-impressions of stiffness or the sensation of hardness in this position are distinctly felt. Attention should therefore be fixed on the sitting posture and a note made as ‘sitting sitting, sitting’.
Sitting is an erect posture of body consisting of a series of physical activities, which are induced by the consciousness consisting of a series of mental activities. It is just like the case of an inflated rubber ball, which maintains its round shape through the resistance of the air inside it. The posture of sitting is similar in that the body is kept in an erect posture through the continuous process of physical activities. A good deal of energy is required to pull up and keep it in an erect position such a heavy load as this body. People generally assume that the body is lifted and kept in an upright position by means of sinews. This assumption is correct in a sense because sinews blood flesh bones are nothing but materiality. The element of stiffening which keeps the body in an erect posture belongs to the group of materiality and arises in the sinews, flesh, blood, etc., throughout the body, like the air in a rubber ball.
The element of stiffening is vayo-dhatu. The body is kept in an erect position by the presence of vayo-dhatu in the form of stiffening, which is continually coming into existence. At the time of heavy drowsiness one may drop flat because the supply of new materials in the form of stiffening is cut off. The state of mind in heavy drowsiness or sleep is bhavanga. During the course of bhavanga, mental activities are absent, and for this reason, the body lies flat during sleep or heavy drowsiness. During waking hours, strong and active mental activities are continually arising, and because of these there arises a series of vayo-dhatu in the form of stiffening. In order to know these facts, it is essential to note it attentively as ‘sitting, sitting, sitting’. This does not necessarily mean that the body-impressions of stiffening should particularly be searched for and noted. Attention need only be fixed on the whole from of sitting posture, that is, the lower form in a bending, circular form and the upper from in an erect posture.
It may be found that the exercise of observing the single object of sitting posture is too easy and does not require much effort. In these circumstances, viriya (effort) is less and samadhi (concentration) is in excess, and one will generally feel lazy and not want to carry on the noting as ‘sitting, sitting, sitting’ repeatedly for a considerable length of time. Laziness generally occurs when there is an excess of samadhi and not enough viriya. It is nothing but a state of tinha-middha (sloth and torpor). More viriya should be developed, and for this purpose, the number of objects for noting should be increased. After noting as ‘sitting’, the attention should be directed to a spot in the body where the sense of touch is felt and a note made as ‘touching’. Any spot in the leg or hand or hip where a sense of touch is distinctly felt will serve the purpose. For example, after noting the sitting posture of the body as ‘sitting’, the spot where the sense of touch is felt should be noted as ‘touching’. The noting should thus be repeated using these two objects of sitting, touching, sitting, touching, sitting, touching’.
The terms noting or observing or contemplating are used here to indicate the fixing of the attention on an object. The exercise is simply to note or observe or contemplate as ‘sitting, touching’. Those who already have experience in the practice of meditation may perhaps find this exercise easy to begin with, but those without any previous experience may find it rather difficult to begin with.
A more simplified and easier form of the exercise for a beginner is this: for every breath there occurs in the abdomen a rising-falling movement. This rising-falling movement is easy to observe because it is coarse and therefore more suitable for the beginner. As in schools where simple lessons are easy to learn, so also is the practice of vipassana meditation. A beginner will find it easier to develop samadhi and nana with a simple and easy exercise.
Again, the purpose of vipassana meditation is to begin the exercise by contemplating prominent factors in the body. Of the two factors of mentality and materiality, the former is subtle and less prominent and the latter is coarse and more prominent. At the outset, therefore, the usual procedure for a vipassana-yanika is to begin the exercise by contemplating the material elements.
With regard to materiality, it may be mentioned here that upadana-rupa (derived materiality) is subtle and less prominent while the maha-bhuta-rupa (the four primary physical elements of pathavi, apo, tejo and vayo) are coarse and more prominent and the latter should therefore have the priority of being placed first in the order of objects for contemplation. In the case of rising-falling, the outstanding factor is vayo-dhatu. The process of stiffening and the movements of the abdomen noticed during the contemplation are nothing but the functions of vayo-dhatu. Thus it will be seen that vayo-dhatu is perceptible at the beginning.
According to the instructions of the Satipatthana Sutta, one should be mindful of the activities of walking while walking, of those of standing, sitting and lying down while standing, sitting and lying down respectively. One should also be mindful of other bodily activities as each of them occur. In this connection, it is stated in the commentaries that one should be mindful primarily of vayo-dhatu in preference to the other three elements. As a matter of fact, all four maha-bhuta-rupa are dominant in every action of the body, and it is essential to perceive any one of them. At the time of sitting, either of the two movements of rising and falling occurs conspicuously at every breath, and a beginning should be made by noting these movements.
Some fundamental features in the system of vipassana meditation have been explained for general information (suta-maya-nana). The general outline of basic exercises will now be dealt with.
Outline of Basic Exercises
When contemplating rising and falling, the disciple should keep his mind on the abdomen. He will then come to know the upward movement (expansion) of the abdomen on in breathing, and the downward movement (contraction) on out-breathing. A mental note should be made as ‘rising’ for the upward movement and ‘falling’ for the downward movement. If these movements are not clearly noticed by only fixing the mind on them, one or both hands should be placed on the abdomen. The disciple should not try to change the manner of his natural breathing. He should neither attempt slow breathing by the retention of his breath, nor quick breathing or deep breathing. If he does change the natural flow of his breathing, he will soon tire himself. He must therefore keep to the natural rate of his breathing and proceed with the contemplation of rising and falling.
On the occurring of the upward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of ‘rising’ should be made, and on the downward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of ‘falling’ should be made. The mental notation of these terms should not be vocalized. In Vipassana meditation, it is more important to know the object than to know every effort to be mindful of the movement of rising from its beginning to its end and that of falling from its beginning to its end, as if these movements are actually seen with the eyes. As soon as rising occurs, there should be the knowing mind close to the movement, as in the case of a stone hitting a wall. The movement of rising as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion. Similarly, the movement of falling as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion.
When there is no object of special outstanding nature, the disciple should carry on the exercise of noting these two movements as ‘rising, falling, rising, falling.’ While thus being occupied with this exercise, there may be occasions when the mind wanders about. When samadhi is weak, it is very difficult to control the mind. Though it is directed to the movements of rising and falling, the mind will not stay with them but will wander to other places. This wandering mind should not be let alone. It should be noted as ‘wandering, wandering’ as soon as it is noticed that it is wandering. On noting once or twice the mind usually stops wandering, then the exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. When it is again found that the mind has reached a place, it should be noted as ‘reaching, reaching’. Then the exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be reverted to as soon as these movements are clear. On meeting with a person in the imagination, it should be noted as ‘meeting, meeting’, after which the usual exercise should be reverted to. Sometimes the fact that it is mere imagination is discovered when one speaks with that imaginary person, and it should then be noted as ‘speaking, speaking. The real purpose is to note every mental activity as it occurs. For instance, it should be noted as ‘thinking’ at the moment of thinking, and as ‘reflecting’, ‘planning’, ‘knowing’, ‘attending’, ‘rejoicing’, ‘feeling lazy’, ‘feeling happy’, ‘disgusted’, etc., as the case may be, on the occurrence of each activity. The contemplation of mental activities and noticing them is called cittanupassana.
Because people have no practical knowledge in vipassana meditation, they are generally not in a position to know the real state of mind. This naturally leads them to the wrong view of holding mind to be ‘person’, ‘self’, ‘living entity’. They usually believe that ‘imagination is I’, ‘I am thinking’, ‘I am planning’, ‘I am knowing’, and so forth. They hold that there exists a living entity or self, which grows up from childhood to the age of manhood. In reality, such a living entity does not exist, but occur singly, one at a time, in succession. The practice of contemplation is therefore being carried out with the aim of discovering the true nature of this mind-body complex.
As regards the mind and the manner of its arising, the Buddha stated in the Dhammapadaas follows:
Ye cittam sannamassanti
Faring far, wandering alone,
Formless and lying in a cave.
Those who do restrain the mind
Are sure released from Mara’s
Bonds (the bonds of death).
Durangamam – Faring far. Mind usually wanders far and wide. While the yogi is trying to carry on with the practice of contemplation in his meditation room, he often finds that his mind has wandered to many far-off places, towns’ etc. He also finds that mind can wander to any of the far-off places which he has previously known at the very moment of thinking or imagining. This fact is discovered with the help of contemplation.
Ekacaram – alone. Mind occurs singly, moment to moment in succession. Those who do not perceive the reality of this believe that one mind exists in the course of life or existence. They do not know that new minds are always arising at every moment. They think that the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, knowing usually occur simultaneously. These are wrong views. In reality, a single moment of mind arises and passes away continuously, one after another. This can be perceived on gaining considerable practice. The cases of imagination and planning are clearly perceptible. Imagination passes away as soon as it is noted as ‘imagining, imagining’, and planning also passes away as soon as it is noted as ‘planning, planning’. These instances of arising, noting and passing away appear like a string of beads. The preceding mind is not the following mind. Each is separate. These characteristics of reality are perceptible personally, and for this purpose one must proceed with the practice of contemplation.
Asariram – formless. Mind has no substance, no form. It is not easy to distinguish, as is the case with materiality. In the case of materiality, body, head, hands, legs are very prominent and are easily noticed. If it is asked what matter is, matter can be handled and shown. As for mind, however, it is not easy to describe because it has no substance and no form. For this reason, it is not possible to carry out analytical laboratory experiments on mind. One can, however, fully understand it if it is explained, as it is mind, which knows an object. To understand the mind, it is necessary to contemplate the mind at every moment of its occurrence. When contemplation is fairly advanced, the mind’s approach to its objects is clearly comprehended. It appears as if each moment of mind is making a direct leap towards its object. In order to know the true nature of the mind, contemplation is thus prescribed.
Guhasayam – lying in a cave. Because mind comes into being depending on mind-base and the other sense-doors situated in the body, it is said that it rests in a cave.
Ye cittam sannamessanti mokkhanti marabandhana – those who do restrain the mind are sure released from Mara’s bonds (the bonds of death). It is said that the mind should be contemplated each moment of its occurrence. Mind can thus be controlled by means of contemplation. On his successful controlling of the mind, the yogi will win freedom from the bondage of Death. It will now be seen that it is important to note the mind at every moment of its occurrence. As soon as it is noted, the mind passes away. For instance, by noting once or twice as ‘intending, intending’, it is found that ‘intention’ passes away at once. Then the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling, rising, falling’ should be reverted to.
While one is proceeding with the usual exercise, one may feel that one wants to swallow salvia. It should be noted as ‘wanting’, and on gathering salvia as ‘gathering’, and on swallowing as ‘swallowing’, in the serial order of occurrence. The reason for contemplation in this case is because there may be a persisting personal view as ‘wanting to swallow is I’, ‘swallowing is also I’. In reality, ‘wanting to swallow’ is mentality and not ‘I’, and ‘swallowing’ is materiality and not ‘I’. There exists only mentality and materiality at that moment. By means of contemplating in this manner, one will understand clearly the process of reality. So too, in the case of spitting, it should be noted as ‘wanting’ when one wants to spit, as ‘bending’ on bending the neck which should be done slowly, as ‘looking, seeing’ on looking, and as ‘spitting’ on spitting. Afterwards the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued.
Because of sitting for a long time, there will arise in the body unpleasant feelings of being stiff, being hot and so forth, These sensations should be noted as they occur. The mind should be fixed on that spot and a note made as ‘stiff, stiff’ on feeling stiff, ‘hot, hot’ on feeling hot, as ‘painful, painful’ on feeling painful, as ‘prickly, prickly’ on feeling prickly sensations and as ‘tired, tired’ on feeling tired. These unpleasant feelings are dukkha-vedana and the contemplation of these feelings is vedanupassana.
Owing to the absence of knowledge in vedanupassana in respect of these feelings, there persists the wrong view of holding them as one’s own personality or self. That is to say, ‘I am feeling stiff’, ‘I am feeling painful’, ‘I was feeling well formerly but now I feel uncomfortable’, in the manner of a single self. In reality, pleasant feelings arise owing to disagreeable impressions in the body. Like the light of an electric bulb, which can continue to burn on a continuous supply of energy, so it is in the case of feelings which arise anew on every occasion of coming in contact with disagreeable impressions.
It is essential to understand these feelings clearly. At the beginning of noting as ‘stiff, stiff’ ‘hot, hot’, ‘painful, painful’ one may feel that such disagreeable feelings grow stronger and then one will notice that a mind wanting to change the posture arises. This mind should be noted as ‘wanting, wanting’. Then a return should be made to the feeling and noted as ‘stiff, stiff’ or ‘hot, hot’, and so forth. If one proceeds in contemplation with great patience in this manner, unpleasant feelings will pass away.
There is a saying that patience lead to Nibbana. Evidently this saying is more applicable in the case of contemplation than in any other. Plenty of patience is needed in contemplation. If a yogi cannot bear unpleasant feelings with patience, but frequently changes his posture during contemplation, he cannot expect to gain samadhi. Without samadhi there is no chance of acquiring vipassana-nana (insight knowledge), and without vipassana-nana the attainment of magga (path), phala (fruition) and Nibbana (cessation of suffering) cannot be won.
Patience is of great importance in contemplation. Patience is needed mostly to bear unpleasant bodily feelings. There is hardly any case of outside disturbances where it is necessary to exercise patience. This means the observance of khantisamvaradiscipline (restraint by patience). Posture should not immediately be changed when unpleasant sensations arise, but contemplation should be continued with noting them as ‘stiff, stiff’, ‘hot, hot’, and so on. Such painful sensations are normal and will pass away. In the case of strong samadhi, it will be found that great pains will pass away when they are being noted with patience. On fading away of suffering and pain, the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued.
On the other hand, it may be found that pains or unpleasant feelings do not immediately pass away in spite of noting them with great patience. In such a case, it cannot be helped but to change posture. One must, of course, submit to superior forces. When samadhi is not strong enough, strong pains will not soon pass away. In this circumstances there will often arise a mind wanting to change posture, this mind should be noted as ‘wanting, wanting’, after which it should be noted as ‘lifting, lifting’ on lifting the hand, as ‘moving, moving’ on moving it forward. These bodily actions should be carried out slowly and these slow movements should be followed up and noted as ‘lifting, lifting’, ‘moving, moving’, ‘touching, touching’, in the successive order of the process. Again, on moving as ‘moving, moving’, and on putting down as ‘putting, putting’. If, when this process of changing posture has been completed, there is nothing more to be noted, the usual exercise of ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. There should be no stop or break in between. The preceding act of noting and the one, which follows, should be contiguous. Similarly, the preceding samadhi and the one which follows should be contiguous, and the preceding nana and the one, which follows, should be contiguous. In this way, the gradual development by stages of sati (mindfulness), samadhi (concentration), and nana (knowledge) takes place, and depending on their full development, the final stage of magga-nana (knowledge of the path) is attained.
In the practice of vipassana meditation, it is important to follow the example of a person who tries to make a fire. To make a fire in the days before matches, a person had to constantly rub two sticks together without the slightest break of motion. As the sticks became hotter and hotter, more effort was needed, and the rubbing carried out incessantly. Only when the fire had been produced was the person at liberty to take a rest. Similarly, a yogi should work hard so that there is no break between the preceding noting and the one, which follows. He should revert to his usual exercise of noting ‘rising, falling’ after he has noted painful sensations.
While being thus occupied with his usual exercise, he may again feel itching sensations somewhere in the body. He should then fix his mind on the spot and make a note as ‘itching, itching’. Itching is an unpleasant sensation. As soon as it is felt, there arises a mind, which wants to rub or scratch. This mind should be noted as ‘wanting, wanting’, after which no scratching or rubbing must be done yet, but a return should be made to the itching and a note made as ‘itching, itching’. While occupied with contemplation in this manner, itching in most case passes away and the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should then be reverted to. If, on the other hand, it is found that itching does not pass away, but that it is necessary to rub or scratch, the contemplation of the successive stages should be carried out by noting the mind as ‘wanting, wanting’. It should then be continued by noting as ‘raising, raising’ on raising the hand, as ‘touching, touching’ when the hand touches the spot, as ‘rubbing, rubbing’ or ‘scratching, scratching’ when the hand rubs or scratches, as ‘withdrawing, withdrawing’ on withdrawing the hand, as ‘touching, knowing’ when the hand touches the body, and then the usual contemplation of ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. In every case of changing postures, contemplation of the successive stages should be carried out similarly and carefully.
While thus carefully proceeding with the contemplation, it is found that painful feelings or unpleasant sensations arise in the body of their own accord. Ordinarily, people change their posture as soon as they feel even the slightest unpleasant sensation of tiredness or feeling hot without taking heeds of these incidents. The change of posture is carried out quite heedlessly just as the seed of pain is beginning to grow. Thus painful feelings fail to take place in a distinctive manner. For this reason it is said that iriyapatha(posture), as a rule, hides painful feelings from view. People generally think that they are feeling well for days and night on end. They think that painful feelings occur only at the time of an attack of a dangerous disease.
Reality is just the opposite of what people think. Let alone try and see how long he can keep himself in a sitting posture without moving or changing it. He will find it uncomfortable after a short while, say five or ten minutes, and then he will begin to find it unbearable after fifteen or twenty minutes. He will then be compelled to move or change his posture by either raising or lowering his head, moving his hands or legs, or by swaying his body either forward or backward. Many movements usually take place during a short time and the number would be very large if they were to be counted for the length of just one day. However, no one appears to be aware of this fact because no one takes any heed. Such is the order in every case, while in the case of a yogi who is always mindful of his actions and who is proceeding with contemplation, body-impressions in their own respective nature are therefore distinctly noticed. They cannot help but reveal themselves fully in their own nature because he is watching until they come to full view.
Though a painful sensation arises, he keeps on noting it. He does not ordinarily attempt to change his posture or move. Then on the arising of mind wanting to change, he at once makes a note of it as ‘wanting, wanting’, and afterwards he returns again to the painful sensation and continues his noting of it. He changes his posture or moves only when he finds it unbearable. In this case he also begins with noting the wanting mind and proceeds with noting carefully each stage in the process of moving. This is why iriyapatha(posture) can no longer hide painful sensations. Often a yogi finds painful sensations creeping from here and there or he may feel hot sensations, aching sensations, itching or he may feel his whole body is a mass of painful sensations. That is how painful sensations are found to be predominant because iriyapatha cannot cover them.
If he intends to change his posture from sitting to standing, he should first make a note of the intending mind as ‘intending, intending’, and proceed with the arranging of the hands and legs in the successive stages by noting as ‘raising’, ‘moving’, ‘stretching’, ‘touching’, ‘pressing’ and so forth. When the body sways forward, it should be noted as ‘swaying, swaying’. While in the course of standing up, there occurs in the body a feeling of lightness as well as the act of rising. Attention should be fixed on these factors and a note made as ‘rising, rising’. The act of rising should be carried out slowly.
During the course of practice it is most appropriate if a yogi acts feebly and slowly in all his activities just like a weak, sick person. Perhaps the case of a person suffering from lumbago would be a more fitting example here. The patient must always be cautious and move slowly just to avoid pains. In the same manner a yogi should always try and keep to slow movements in all actions. The slowest speed is necessary to enable sati (mindfulness), samadhi(concentration), and nana (knowledge) to catch up. One has lived all the time in careless manner and one just begins seriously to train oneself for keeping mind within the body. It is only the beginning and sati and samadhiand nana have not yet been properly geared up while the physical and mental processes are moving at top speed. It is therefore imperative to bring the top-level speed of these processes to the lowest gear so as to make it possible for sati and nana to keep pace with them. It is therefore instructed that slow motion exercises be carried out at all times.
Further, it may be mentioned that it is advisable for a yogi to behave like a blind person throughout the course of training. A person without any restraint will not look dignified because he usually looks at things and persons wantonly. He also cannot obtain a steady and calm state of mind. The blind person, on the other hand, behaves in a composed manner by sitting sedately with downcast eyes. He never turns in any direction to look at things or persons because he is blind and cannot see them. Even if a person comes near him and speaks to him, he never turns round and looks at that person. This composed manner is worthy of imitation. A yogi should act in the same manner while carrying out the practice of contemplation. He should not look anywhere. His mind should be solely intent on the object of contemplation. While in sitting posture he must be intently noting as ‘rising, falling’. Even if strange things occur nearby, he should not look at them. He must simply make a note as ‘seeing, seeing’ and then continue with the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’. A yogi should have a right regard for this exercise and carry it out with respect, so much so as to be mistaken for a blind person.
In this respect certain girl-yogis were found to be in perfect form. They carefully carried out the exercise with all due respect in accordance with the instructions. Their manner was very composed and they were always intent on their objects of contemplation. They never looked round. When they walked, they were always intent on the steps. Their steps were light, smooth and slow. Yogis should follow their example.
It is necessary for a yogi to behave like a deaf person also. Ordinarily, a person, as soon as he hears a sound, turns around and looks in the direction from which the sound came, or he turns round towards the person who spoke to him and makes a reply. He does not behave in a sedate manner. A deaf person, on the other hand, behaves in a composed manner. He does not take heed of any sound or talk because he never hears them. Similarly, a yogi should conduct himself in like manner without taking heed of any unimportant talk nor should he deliberately listen to any talk or speech. If he happens to hear any sound or speech, he should at once make a note as ‘hearing, hearing’, and then return to the usual practice of noting as ‘rising, falling’. He should proceed with his contemplation intently, so much so as to be mistaken for a deaf person.
It should be remembered that the carrying out intently of contemplation is the only concern of a yogi. Other things seen or heard are not his concern. He should not take heed of them even though they may appear to be strange or curious. When he sees any sights, he must ignore them as if he does not see. So too in the case of voices or sounds, he must ignore them as if he does not hear. In the case of bodily actions, he must act slowly and feebly as if he were sick and very weak.
It is therefore emphasized that the act of pulling up the body to the standing posture be carried out slowly. On coming to an erect position, a note should be made as ‘standing, standing’. If one happens to look around, a note should be made as ‘looking, seeing’, and on walking each step should be noted as ‘right step, left step’, or ‘walking, walking’. At each step attention should be fixed on the sole of the foot as it moves from the point of lifting the leg to the point of placing it down. While walking in quick steps or a long walk, a note on one section of each step as ‘right step, left step’ or ‘walking, walking’ will do. In the case of taking a slow walk, each step may be divided into three sections of lifting, moving forward and placing down respectively. In the beginning of the exercise, a note should be made of the two parts of each step as ‘lifting’ by fixing the attention on the upward movement of the foot from the beginning to the end, and as ‘placing’ on the downward movement from the beginning to the end. Thus the exercise which starts with the first step by noting as ‘lifting, placing’ now ends.
Here it may be mentioned that normally what happens is when the foot is put down and is being noted as ‘placing’, the other leg begins to lift to begin the next step. This should not be allowed to happen. The next step should begin only after the first step has been completed, such as ‘lifting, placing’ for the first step and ‘lifting, placing’ for the second step. After two or three days this exercise will be easy and then the yogi should carry out the exercise of noting each step in three sections as ‘lifting, moving, placing’. For the present a yogi should start the exercise by noting as ‘right step, left step’, or ‘walking, walking’ while walking quickly, and by noting as ‘lifting, placing’ while walking slowly.
While one is walking, one may feel the desire to sit down. One should then make a note as ‘wanting’. If one then happens to look up as ‘looking, seeing, looking, seeing’, on going to the seat as ‘lifting, placing,’ on stopping as ‘stopping, stopping’, on turning as ‘turning, turning’, when one feels wanting to sit as ‘wanting, wanting’. In the act of sitting there occur in the body heaviness and also a downward pull. Attention should be fixed on these factors and a note made as ‘sitting, sitting, sitting’. After having sat down there will be movements of bringing the hands and legs into position. They should be noted as ‘moving’, ‘bending’, ‘stretching’, and so forth. If there is nothing to do and if one is sitting quietly, one should then revert to the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’.
In the course of contemplation one feels painful or tired or hot, one should make a note of these and then revert to the usual exercise of noting ‘rising, falling’. If one feels sleepy, one should make a note as ‘sleepy, sleepy’ and proceed with the noting of all acts in preparation to lie down and the bringing into position of the hands and legs as ‘raising’, ‘pressing’, ‘moving’, ‘supporting’, when the body sways as ‘swaying, swaying’, when the legs stretch as ‘stretching, stretching’, and when the body drops and lies flat as ‘lying, lying, lying’.
These trifling acts in lying down are also important and they should not be neglected. There is every possibility of attaining Enlightenment during this short time. On the full development of samadhi and nana, Enlightenment is attainable during the present moment of bending or stretching. In this wise, the Venerable Ananda attained Arahatship at the very moment of lying down.
About the beginning of the fourth month after the maha-parinibbana (complete passing away) of the Lord Buddha, it was arranged to hold the first synod (sangiti). By the term sangayana is meant a council of bhikkhus who collectively classified, examined, confirmed and recited all the teachings of the Lord Buddha. At that five hundred bhikkhus were chosen for this work. Of these bhikkhus, four hundred and ninety-nine were Arahats (perfect saints) while the Venerable Ananda alone was a sotapanna. In order to attend the Council as an Arahaton the same level with the others, he made his utmost effort to carry on with his meditation on the day prior to the first council. That was on the fourth of the waning moon of the month of Savana (August). He proceeded with the contemplation of kaya-gatha-sati (mindfulness of the body) which is also known as kayanupassana-satipatthana, and continued his walking meditation throughout the night. It might have been in the same manner as noting as ‘right step, left step’ or ‘walking, walking’. He was thus occupied with intense contemplation of the process of mentality and materiality in each step until dawn of the following day, but still had not yet attained to Arahatship.
Then the Venerable Ananda thought thus: ‘I have done my utmost. Lord Buddha has said “Ananda, you possess full paramis (perfection’s). Do proceed with the practice of meditation. You will surely attain Arahatship one day.” I have tried my best, so much so that I can be counted as one of those who have ever done their best in meditation. What may be the reason for my failure?’ Then he remembered thus: ‘Ah! I have been over-zealous in keeping solely to the practice of walking throughout the night. There is an excess of viriya (energy) and not enough samadhi (concentration) which indeed is responsible for this state of uddhacca (restlessness). It is now necessary to stop walking practice so as to bring viriya in balance with samadhi and to proceed with the contemplation in a lying position.’ The Venerable Ananda attained Arahatship at the very moment of lying down, or rather at the moment of contemplating as ‘lying, lying’.
This manner of attaining Arahatship has been recorded as a strange event in the Commentaries, because this manner is outside of the four regular postures standing, sitting, lying and walking. At the moment of his Enlightenment, the Venerable Ananda could not be regarded as strictly in a standing posture because his feet were off the floor, nor would he be regarded as sitting because his body was already at an angle, being quite close to the pillow, nor could he be regarded as lying down since his head had not yet touched the pillow and his body was not yet flat.
The Venerable Ananda was a sottapanna and he thus had to develop the three higher stages of sakadagami-magga and phala, anagami-magga and phala, and arahata-magga and phala in his final attainment. This took only a moment. Extreme care is therefore needed to carry on the practice of contemplation without relaxation or omission.
In the act of lying down, contemplation should therefore be carried out with due care. When a yogi feels sleepy and wants to lie down, a note should be made as ‘sleepy, sleepy’, ‘wanting, wanting’; on raising the hand a ‘raising, raising’; on stretching as ‘stretching, stretching’; on touching as ‘touching, touching’; on pressing as ‘pressing, pressing’; after swaying the body and dropping it down as ‘lying’. The act of lying down itself should be carried out very slowly. On touching the pillow it should be noted as ‘touching, touching’. There are many places of touch all over the body but each spot need be noted only one at a time. In the lying posture there are so many movements of the body in bringing one’s arms and legs into position. These actions should be noted carefully as ‘raising’, ‘stretching’, ‘bending’, ‘moving’, and so forth. On turning the body a note should be made as ‘turning, turning’, and when there is nothing in particular to be noted, the yogi should proceed with the usual practice of noting as ‘rising, falling’. While one is lying one one’s back or side, there is usually nothing in particular to be noted and the usual exercise of ‘rising, falling’ should be carried out.
There are many times when the mind wanders while one is in the lying posture. This wandering mind should be noted as ‘going, going’ when it goes out, as ‘arriving, arriving’ when it reaches a place, as ‘planning’, ‘reflecting’, and so forth for each state in the same manner as in the contemplation while in the sitting posture. Mental states pass away on being noted once or twice. The usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. There may also be instances of swallowing or spitting saliva, feeling painful sensations, hot sensations, itching sensations, etc., or bodily actions in changing positions or in moving the limbs. They should be contemplated as each occurs. (When sufficient strength in samadhi is gained, it will be possible to carry on with the contemplation of each act of opening and closing the eyelids and blinking). Afterwards, one should then return to the usual exercise when there is nothing else to be noted.
Though it is late at night and time for sleep, it is not advisable to give up the contemplation and go to sleep. Anyone who has a keen interest in contemplation must be prepared to face the risk of spending many nights without sleep.
The scriptures are emphatic on the necessity of developing the very qualities of catu-ranga-viriya (energy consisting of four limbs) in the practice of meditation. In the hard struggle, one may be reduced to a mere skeleton of skin, bones and sinews when his flesh and blood whither and dry up, but he should not give up his effort so long as he has not attained to whatever is attainable by manly perseverance, energy and endeavor. These instructions should be followed with a strong determination. It may be possible to keep awake if there is strong enough samadhi to beat off sleep, but one will fall asleep if sleep gets the upper hand.
When one feels sleepy, one should make a note as ‘sleepy, sleepy’; when the eyelids are heavy as ‘heavy, heavy’; when the eyes are felt to be dazzled as ‘dazzled, dazzled’. After contemplating in the manner indicated, one may be able to shake off sleepiness and feel fresh again. This feeling should be noted as ‘feeling fresh, feeling fresh’, after which the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. However, in spite of determination, one may feel unable to keep himself awake if one is very sleepy. In a lying posture, it is easier to fall asleep. A beginner should therefore try to keep himself mostly in the postures of sitting and walking.
When the night is advanced, however, a yogi may be compelled to lie down and proceed with the contemplation of rising and falling. In this position he may perhaps fall asleep. While one is asleep, it is not possible to carry on with the work of contemplation. It is an interval for a yogi to relax. An hour’s sleep will give him an hour’s relaxation and if he continues to sleep for two, three or four hours, he will be relaxed for that much longer, but it is not advisable for a yogi to sleep for more than four hours which is ample enough for a normal sleep.
A yogi should begin his contemplation from the moment of awakening. To be fully occupied with intense contemplation throughout his waking hours is the routine of a yogi who works hard with true aspiration for the attainment of magga and phala. If it is not possible to catch the moment of awakening, he should begin with the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’. If he first becomes aware of the fact of reflecting, he should begin his contemplation by noting ‘reflecting, reflecting’ and then revert to the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’. If he first becomes aware of hearing a voice or some other sound, he should begin by noting as ‘hearing, hearing’ and then revert to the usual exercise. On awakening there may be bodily movement in turning to this side or that, moving the hands or legs and so forth. These actions should be contemplated in successive order. If he first becomes aware of the mental states leading to the various actions of body, he should begin his contemplation by noting the mind. If he first becomes aware of painful sensations, he should begin with the noting of bodily actions. If he remains quiet without moving, the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued. If he intends to get up, he should note this as ‘intending, intending’ and then proceed with the noting of all actions in serial order in bringing the hands and legs into position. It should be noted as ‘raising, raising’ on raising the body, as ‘sitting, sitting’ when the body is erect and in a sitting posture, and if there are any other actions of bringing the legs and hands into position, these actions should be noted. If there is then nothing in particular to be noted, the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be reverted to.
Thus far, things relating to the objects of contemplation in connection with the four postures and changing from one posture to another have been mentioned. This is merely a description of the general outline of major objects of contemplation to be carried out in the course of practice. Yet in the beginning of the practice, it is difficult to follow up on all of them in the course of contemplation. Many things will be omitted, but on gaining sufficient strength in samadhi, it is easy to follow up in the course of contemplation not only those objects already enumerated, but also many, many more. With the gradual development of sati (mindfulness) and samadhi (concentration), the pace of nana (knowledge) quickens and thus many more objects can be perceived. It is necessary to work up to this high level.
Contemplation should be carried out in washing the face in the morning or when taking a bath. As it is necessary to act quickly in such instances due to the nature of the action itself, contemplation should be carried out as far as these circumstances will allow. On stretching the hand to get hold of the dipper, it should be noted as ‘stretching, stretching’; on catching hold of the dipper as ‘holding, holding’; on immersing the dipper as ‘dipping, dipping’; on bringing the dipper towards the body as ‘bringing, bringing’; on pouring the water over the body or on the face as ‘pouring, pouring’; on feeling cold as ‘cold, cold’; on rubbing as ‘rubbing, rubbing’, and so forth.
There are so many different bodily actions in changing or arranging one’s clothing, in arranging the bed or bed sheets, in opening the door and so on. These actions should be contemplated in detail serially as much as possible.
At the time of taking a meal, contemplation should begin from the moment of looking at the table and noted as ‘looking, seeing, looking, seeing’; when stretching the hand to the spoon as ‘stretching, stretching’; when the hand touches the spoon as ‘touching, touching’; when bringing the spoon to the plate as ‘bringing, bringing’; when gathering the food as ‘gathering, gathering’; when catching hold of the food as ‘catching, catching’; after lifting when the spoon is being brought up as ‘bringing, bringing’; when the neck is being bent down as ‘bending, bending’ when the food is being placed in the mouth as ‘placing, placing’; when withdrawing the hand with the spoon as ‘withdrawing, withdrawing’; when the spoon touches the plate as ‘touching, touching’; when the neck is being straightened as ‘straightening, straightening’; when chewing the food as ‘chewing, chewing’; while chewing and the taste of the food is known as ‘tasting, tasting’; when he likes the taste as ‘liking, liking’; when he finds it pleasant as ‘pleasant, pleasant’; when swallowing as ‘swallowing, swallowing’. This is an illustration of the routine of contemplation on partaking of each morsel of food till the meal is finished. In this case it is also difficult to follow up on all actions at the beginning of the practice. There will be many omissions. Yogis should not, however, hesitate but must try to follow up as much as they can. With the gradual advancement of the practice, it will be easier to note many more objects than those mentioned here.
The instructions for the practical exercise of contemplation are now almost complete. As they have been explained in detail and at some length, it will not be easy to remember all of them. For the sake of easy remembrance, a short summary of the important and essential points will be given.
Summary of the Essential Points
In taking a walk, a yogi should contemplate the movements of each step. While walking briskly, each step should be noted as ‘right step, left step’ respectively. The mind should be fixed intently on the sole of the foot in the movements of each step. While in the course of walking slowly, each step should be noted in two parts as ‘lifting, placing’. While in a sitting posture, the usual exercise of contemplation by noting the movements of the abdomen as ‘rising, falling, rising, falling’ should be carried out. The same manner of contemplation by noting as ‘rising, falling, rising, falling’ should be carried out while also in the lying posture.
If it is found that the mind wanders during the course of noting as ‘rising, falling’, it should not be allowed to continue to wander but should be noted immediately. On imagining, it should be noted as ‘imagining, imagining’; on thinking as ‘thinking, thinking’; on the mind going out as ‘going, going’; on the mind arriving at a place as ‘arriving, arriving’, and so forth at every occurrence, and then the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should be continued.
When there occur feelings of tiredness in the hands, legs or other limbs, or of hot or prickly or aching or itching sensations, they should be immediately followed up and noted as ‘tired’, ‘hot’, ‘prickly’, ‘aching’, ‘itching’, and so on as the case may be. A return should then be made to the usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’.
When there are acts of bending or stretching the hands or legs, or moving the neck or limbs or swaying the body to and fro, they should be followed up and noted in serial order as they occur. The usual exercise of noting as ‘rising, falling’ should then be reverted to.
This is only a summary. Any other objects to be contemplated in the course of training will be mentioned by the meditation teachers when giving instructions during the daily interview with the disciples.
If one proceeds with the practice in the manner indicated, the number of objects will gradually increase in the course of time. At first there will be many omissions because the mind is used to wandering without any restraint whatsoever. However, a yogi should not lose heart on this account. This difficulty is usually encountered in the beginning of practice. After some time, the mind can no longer play truant because it is always found out every time it wanders. It therefore remains fixed on the object to which it is directed. As rising occurs the mind makes a note of it, and thus the object and the mind coincide. As falling occurs the mind makes a note of it, and thus the mind and the object coincide. There is always a pair, the object and the mind that knows the object at each time of noting. These two elements of material object and the knowing mind only arise in pairs, and apart from these two there does not exist any other thing either in the form of a person or self. This reality will be personally realized in due course.
The fact that materiality and mentality are two distinct, separate things will be clearly perceived during the time of noting as ‘rising, falling’. The two elements of materiality and mentality are linked up in pairs and their arising coincides, that is, the process of materiality in rising arises with the process of mentality, which knows it. The process of materiality in falling falls away together with the process of mentality, which knows it. It is the same for lifting, moving and placing, these processes of materiality arising and falling away together with the process of mentality, which knows them. This knowledge in respect of matter and mind rising separately is nama-rupa-pariccheda-nana. It is the preliminary stage in the whole course of vipassana-nana. It is important to have this preliminary stage developed in a proper manner.
On continuing the practice of contemplation for some time, there will be considerable progress in sati and samadhi. At this high level it will be perceptible that on every occasion of noting, each process arises and passes away at that very moment. But, on the other hand, it is generally considered by uninstructed people that body and mind remain in a permanent state throughout life or existence that the same body of childhood has grown up into manhood, that the same young mind has grown up into maturity and that both body and mind are one and the same person. In reality, this is not so. Nothing is permanent. Everything comes into existence for a moment and then passes away. Nothing can remain even for the blink of an eye. Changes are taking place swiftly and they will be perceived in due course.
While carrying on the contemplation by noting as ‘rising, falling’ and so forth, one will perceive that these processes arise and pass away one after another in quick succession. On perceiving that everything passes away at the very point of noting, a yogi knows that nothing is permanent. This knowledge regarding the impermanent nature of things is aniccanupassana-nana.
A yogi then knows that this ever-changing state of things is distressing (dukkha) and is not to be craved after. This is dukkhanupassana-nana. On suffering many painful feelings, this body and mind complex is regarded as a mere heap of suffering. This is also dukkhanupassana-nana.
It is then perceived that the elements of materiality and mentality never follow one’s wish but arise according to their own nature and conditioning. While being engaged in the act of noting these processes, a yogi understands that these processes are not controllable and that they are neither person nor living entity nor self. This is anatanupassana-nana.
When a yogi has fully developed anicca-nana, dukkha-nana, and anatta-nana, he will realize Nibbana. From time immemorial, Buddhas, Arahats, and Ariyas (noble ones) have realized Nibbana by this method of vipassana. It is the highway leading to Nibbana. Vipassana consists of the four satipatthana (applications of mindfulness), and it is satipatthana, which is really the highway to Nibbana.
Yogis have now come to take up the course of training in this Mediation Center. It should be borne in mind that they are on the highway, which has been taken by Buddhas, Arahats, and Ariyas. This opportunity is afforded them apparently because of their parami or previous endeavors in seeking and wishing for it, and also because of their present mature conditions. They should rejoice at heart for having this opportunity. They should feel assured that by walking on this highway without wavering they will gain personal experience of highly developed samadhi and nana, as has already been known by Buddhas, Arahats an Ariyas. They will develop such a pure state of samadhi as has never been known before in the course of their lives and thus enjoy many innocent pleasures as a result of advanced samadhi.
Anicca (impermanence), dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and anatta(non-self) will be realized through direct personal experience and with the full development of these knowledge’s, Nibbana will be realized. It will not take long to achieve the objective, possibly one month, or twenty days, or fifteen days, or, on rare occasions, even in seven days for those select few with extraordinary parami.
Yogis should therefore proceed with the practice of contemplation in great earnestness and with full confidence, trusting that it will surely lead to the development of magga– and phala-nana and to the realization of Nibbana. They will then be free from sakkaya-ditthi (the view that there is a self) and vicikiccha (doubt) and they will no longer be subject to the round of rebirths in the miserable existences of hell, animals or petas.
May yogis meet with every success in their noble endeavor.