Dhamma Talk 1.4 – Vipassana Bhumi 4


Faculties (Indriya )

25  August 2004


Indriya can be translated as faculty, or governor. They are categorized in two ways – either as a group of five, or a group of twenty-two.

The group of 5 are faith or confidence, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.    Indriya can be seen as the vipassana practice, as well as the ground/land for vipassana contemplation (bhumi). For example, mindfulness is needed for the contemplation of the body or the mind conditions, but mindfulness itself may also be observed in vipassana practice.

The Faculties(indriya) can be expanded to a broader category of 22.

  1. Eye Faculty. The eye nerve is the main faculty in seeing. It is also listed in the other vipassana bhumi, such as in the group of aggregates, contact bases, elements, etc. It is a type of form ( rupa) dhamma. Seeing only happens in the eyes – we cannot use the other organs to perceive  colors.
  1. Ear Faculty. The ear nerves are the main faculty in hearing. You cannot hear if you don’t have any ear nerves.
  1. Nose Faculty. The nerves of the nose are the main faculty for smelling. The nerves themselves do not smell, but smelling depends on the nerves.
  1. Tongue Faculty. The nerves on the taste bud are the main faculty for tasting. We cannot taste without them.
  1. Body Faculty. The body nerves are the main faculty for touching. They perceive the touching sensation when there is a body contact.
  1. Femininity Faculty. The female form is the main faculty for the female characteristics.

7.Masculinity Faculty. The male form is the main faculty for the male characteristics.

The male and female forms are present in every cell of the body. They appear during the first week after conception and appear before the body shape is formed. They affect the growth, the appearance, behavior pattern, body structure, skin and hair type, etc. The appearance of males and females are different, since they are controlled by different faculties.

  1. Vitality Faculty. This is the nature that maintains the life of material ( form, or rupa) and the mentality( mind, or nama). It works from the time the form arises, to the time it vanishes. It is one of the refined rupa. Cetasika( mind factor) is the other vitality faculty that helps to maintain the nama. It arises and vanishes at the same time with the mind.
  1. Mind Faculty. The dhamma condition is the mind.
  1. Bodily Pleasantness Faculty. It is the faculty that governs pleasant feelings ( sukha vedana) that appear in the body, which result from wholesome kamma.
  1. Bodily Pain Faculty. It is an unpleasant feeling( dukkha vedana) that appears in the body , as a result of the unwholesome kamma.

12. Gladness Faculty. It is the pleasant feeling in the mind( somanassa vedana), such as being happy, joyful, and delightful, and which can be easily recognized.  We can see them as natural processes.

  1. Sadness Faculty. It is the unpleasant feeling in the mind ( domanassa vedana). Anger can have the sadness faculty that needs to be recognized. It can happen by itself or after being led by other things.  The leading can be done by action, speech or thought. For example, we could even lead it ourselves by singing a song that would influence us. Anger can arise when there is pain or when there is a thought of an unpleasant thing. During meditation, we could become angry if we  want the mind to be calm. We can observe the character of the irritated mind, or the uncheerfulness that happens before the sadness or anger arises.
  1. Indifferent Faculty. This is a neutral feeling – it is not sad or happy( adukkhamasukha vedana).
  1. Faith/ confidence Faculty. It is the wholesome mental factor that you can observe.
  1. Energy Faculty. It resides in the effort( viriya).
  1. Mindfulness Faculty. It observes the body and mind conditions that arise at that very  moment. It can also observe itself.

18.Concentration Faculty. This is the calm and stable condition of the mind. The mind will focus on one object. We can contemplate the mind character that is not distracted.

19.Wisdom Faculty. The mind has realized the nature of the ultimate truth, after repeated  observation of the body and mind conditions. The wisdom is the mental factor( panna cetasika) at the mundane level of wisdom.

20.The Assurance Faculty. This is the first realization of the “Four Noble Truths” that has not been realized before. It is the insight experience that happens in the mind of the “Stream Entry” ( Sotapanna) stage of Enlightenment. Clear insight of the suffering( dukkha) has occurred, the defilements have been eliminated and nibbana has been experienced for the first time. This is the first step in the supramundane path( lokuttara magga).

21.The Highest Knowledge Faculty. This is the repeated realization of the ” Four Noble Truths” that had been previously realized. This is the experience that happens in the mind of the ” Once Returner” ( Sakadagami), ” Non Returner” ( Anagami),  and ” Enlightened one”( Arahat) stages of Enlightenment.

  1. The Faculty of He/She Who Knows. This is the nature that governs the insight of the Arahat, who has the clear knowledge that the ” Four Noble Truths” have ended.  The wisdom mind factor ( panna cetasika) is a result of the full enlightenment( arahata phala).

The enlightened one will know about things that can be known. He will know the state of his own mind. Laypeople or ones who have no such experience can contemplate only the worldly faculties. These can be done by using mindfulness to observe the arising/vanishing,  dissatisfaction and nonself characters of all conditions. The Buddha’s teachings includes these to complete the whole scope of the faculties.

When we group them together you can see these patterns.These were listed in the other bhumi as well, but the faculties do not include all the rupa and nama.

Faculties 1-5 are  the materiality or forms ( rupa).

Faculties 6-9 are the mind( nama).

Faculties 10-14 are the feelings(vedana cetasika).

Faculties 15-19 are the faculties used in the practice.

Faculties 20-22 are the higher faculties in magga( paths) and the phala( fruits)

Faculties 15-19 are related to the practice that need to be adjusted for the best result.

Confidence and wisdom should go together, and need to be balanced. When one has too much confidence, he will not have a thorough observation. If he believes easily, but it is the wrong belief, the result will be even worse. On the other hand, having wisdom without confidence will lead to disbelief. That person will think too much, and be unable to accept the teaching. He will have a hard time starting to meditate or, once he starts, he will be too choosy to find the suitable place to meditate.

Effort and concentration need to be at about the same level. Too much effort without concentration can be too tiring and painful. We have to have a peaceful and pleasant effort to keep us going. Lacking effort and having only concentration will result in being unable to observe the body and mind condition.  Wisdom will not arise, or he may be too sleepy during the practice.

Mindfulness is the center of all of the practice. It needs to be present in every situation. Too much mindfulness is not a problem.

Concentration needs to be built up and then released a little. Do not put too much effort into it or  try to overly focus. Concentration will develop if you know the condition and let it go. If there is too much concentration, then try to improve the awareness so that it may catch up.

When all these faculties( confidence, effort, mindfulness,concentration,wisdom) are powerful enough, it will transform into energy( bala). The energy in each faculty such as confidence energy, effort energy,  etc will arouse within us more of an urgency in our meditation practice. Then it will allow us to gain a clearer insight into the dhamma.

Pay particular attention to feelings ( vedana), which can be both body feelings( pleasant or painful)  and mind feelings( gladness, sadness or indifference). Notice it whenever any feeling appears.

In truth, when we practice we do not have to think of or name these faculties as described. We only watch either the body or mind condition that appears at that moment. It does not matter what that condition was called. You only need to understand what they are, and observe the conditions directly. These categories are only for teaching purposes. When you understand and observe them correctly, it will feel like you had not memorized them but you did know what to watch for.  It is the same thing when you watch television – you don’t have to memorize the program. You only watch whatever appears on the screen. When the program changes, you are able to watch the new one that shows up. If you know the program, it will help you to watch the right one.

The basic knowledge can be used as a reference. One who has some background understanding in the dhamma theory will have the advantage in noticing the condition. If you have to feel around on your own, you might overlook certain things. For example, we learn that there are two types of body feelings( vedana), but three types of mind feelings. When you practice you will notice the difference between the body and the mind feelings. The other example is that there are five faculties that are important in the practice, and that each one of them is different from the others. It will make it easier to notice, but you do not need to label them.

Initially, when you start practicing and observe something, you may analyze it first. At times we will project into the future or think about moments that are already gone. This is the conventional process( panyatti) – the object that you have dwelled on has disappeared, so you will not gain any insight no matter how much you think about or analyze it. But it is very hard for meditators to stop thinking.  When they experience any condition, they will usually think, and analyze, etc. They will miss the opportunity to observe the present condition. They will not see the arising and passing away of the condition if they are thinking. This can be compared to having people walk  by you one by one. If you are attracted to one person, there will be many thoughts about him/ her. You will miss seeing the next person, and the one after that, even though they have walked past you. This can happen even with the eyes opened, but not paying attention.

This is why it is important to be attentive at the present moment. If you think about something in the past, know it. When thinking, be aware of that thinking. That is the present moment! While we are meditating and we experience the calm mind, we usually will have a thought about the calmness. The thinking is the condition that should be observed – be mindful of the thinker. Or,  when there is hearing, we will perceive the hearing and then think about what we heard – the shape and the name will follow. At that point the sound is already gone, and the hearing is also gone. If we still dwell in the thought, we will miss the next sound and the next, etc…It will be a while before we wake up and come back to the present moment. So, it is important to ‘remind yourself to know‘ frequently, so that you will be alert. When you know the thinker – the volitional formation – you will be able to come back to the mind ( nama), which is the ultimate truth. We don’t have to pull the mind back and forth from thought. When thinking arises, know it, and it will be back in the present moment by itself.

So we must be diligent, and put the effort into the practice. Be aware of the knowing, and see it  briefly in the present moment. It will appear and disappear very quickly.

This is the  end of the talk. I wish you happiness and progress in the dhamma.


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