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Steps of Vipassana Practice

STEPS OF VIPASSANA PRACTICE

This dhamma talk is aimed at helping the meditators to have a better understanding about the vipassana practice. I will outline these steps from the beginning, so that beginners can use them. The experienced meditators can skip to the more advanced steps.

The First step is by using the conventional condition(pannatti) for contemplation.

The word for the practice in pali is “kamma thana“. Kamma means the action, thana means the base. Mindfulness( sati) is the actor, which focuses on the base where the object or condition for contemplation is located. During the practice, the mind and the mental factor ( cetasika – the mindfulness that arises at the same time with the mind) will work together on contemplation. Mindfulness cannot arise by itself without the mind.

The beginner may have difficulty with concentration and so his mind may be very busy. It will be difficult to focus on the ultimate condition( paramattha), which is more difficult to locate. They
will need to contemplate on the conventional conditions first to gain concentration. The mind will then be less distracted, and therefore peaceful and stable.

The conventional condition that the Buddha taught was the focusing on the in and out breath. “In” and “out” is us thinking about the meanings.This is an inbreath, or an outbreath. This is a long
inbreath, or a long outbreath. This is the beginning of the inbreath, during the inbreath, the end of inbreath, or the beginning of outbreath, during the outbreath and the end of outbreath. These are
the conventional conditions because there are meanings of “in” and “out”. There may be an imagination, or the shape as a stream of air is coming in, then going out. The meditator may also use
the words “in” and “out” as a mantra along with the breath. Some may use the word “buddho” – “bud” with the breathing in, “dho” with the breathing out. Some meditation masters may instruct using
counting along with the breath by counting in pairs. While breathing in count one, breathing out count one; breathing in count two, breathing out count two, until reaching five. Then start from one to six, one to seven, until reaching ten. If you miscount you have to start from one to five again. The mind has to be focused in order to avoid making mistakes. Thoughts will subside, the mind will stay with the breath and become stable, and concentration will develop.

After counting in pairs, you can count in sequence. Upon breathing in count one, breathing out count two, until reaching five. Then, count to six and so on, until reaching ten. The thoughts will stop, the mind will concentrate, and samadhi will develop. The Buddho mantra is one tool that was taught by the meditation masters in the old time (Luang Poo Sao or Luang Poo Mun). The Buddha’s teaching was mainly to develop a clear awareness of the breath going in and out, notice whether it is short or long, and follow the whole breath cycle. Samadhi will develop after sticking to the breath. Some people cannot catch the breath at the nose, but they can observe the abdomen that rises and falls.  Some will use the words “rising” and “falling” along with the breath, which gives them meaning as language. Walking meditation can also be used with the conventional condition by saying or thinking of “bud” with the right foot, “dho” with the left foot, or naming “right” with the right foot, “left” with the left foot. This will anchor the mind to the walking. Other minor movements can also use pannatti along with them and naming the action: touching, lifting, turning, bending, stretching  etc. This is like using the mantra. The things that we use which have language or meaning will anchor the mind to the body – mindfulness will be working at every moment, samadhi will develop, and the mind will be stable. After this, you can continue to step two.

The Second step. Contemplate on the ultimate( paramattha) condition in one local area..

Paramattha is the real nature, it is the condition of the body( rupa) and the mind( nama). 

Contemplation on the body will clearly show us this nature. See what sensation is happening in the body. These can be cold/ hot, soft/ hard, tense/relaxed, pleasant/unpleasant. Start with one area. Focus on the foot and leg while walking. When taking a step the muscles will be tense or relaxed,  when putting the foot down there will be a hard or soft, cold or hot, pleasant or unpleasant sensation. It is easier to observe only a small area at first.

When watching the minor movements such as touching, use the same sensation of cold/ hot, soft/hard. If you use pannatti, you will know only that you are touching which is the action, and not the sensation. When bending down, you will feel the tension on the neck. When extending the leg, there will be relaxation, tension, vibration, etc.

When sitting down and observing the breath, we can also watch the sensations and how the breath is cool when breathing in, warm when breathing out. The chest will expand and become tensed when breathing in, relaxed when breathing out. Some times there may be pannatti  mixed in, such as naming breathing  in and breathing out along with the sensation. This method is a combination of pannatti and paramattha. After you gain experience in watching the paramattha locally, then you can move to step 3.

The Third step. Contemplate on the ultimate(paramattha)conditions to cover the whole body, not only at any particular location. This is the way to train the mind to perceive any sensation and not to stay at one spot. First we focus on the foot and leg while walking, and then start observing some other movements that take place during walking as well. It can be the movement in the upper torso or the whole body. While sitting, also observe the sensation on the face, the mouth, the neck, inside the head, inside the abdomen, and along the muscle. Feel the cold breeze that touches the skin, etc. In general, learn to know the whole body.
After gaining more experience from observing the body, the next thing is to start observing the mind. What you can observe is the thought, the feeling, or the mind action, and the knowing ability or the knower. When thinking, know it. When feelings arise, such as a pleasant or unpleasant one, know it. Learn the character of the pleasurable or unpleasurable mind. Know the distracted mind, the moody one, the one with faith, the loving friendliness, the compassionate one, the one with sympathetic joy, mindfulness, concentration, etc. These are the actions of the mind that we need to recognize when they appear – know it as it is.

If you have difficulty finding the mind, you can follow the Buddha’ s instruction on how to contemplate the mind according to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness ( mindfulness of the mind- cittanupassana). He taught us to observe if the mind is with greed or without greed, with anger or without anger, with delusion or without delusion, distracted or calm, etc. Use this practice first to learn how your mind is feeling.

Know that the knowing mind is the mind that is knowing, is watching, or is mindful and comprehending. This concludes the general contemplating of the paramattha to cover the whole body and mind.

With this way of contemplating, the concentration will be weaker because you are not focusing on one particular object. The samadhi may be gone. You may want to return to step one to build up samadhi first or go to step two to use paramattha contemplation in one area until your concentration improves.

Eventually, you will have to let go of pannatti – leave out the mantra, name, recitation, meaning, and shape. You need to use only the paramattha conditions. Be mindful of the paramattha without using any wording. 

Why do we need to leave the name and other pannatti conditions? When you have gained more experience with the generalized contemplation of paramattha, there will be so many body and mind conditions that you can observe. They will be in a constant motion. You will feel a cold sensation here, a tension there, etc. It appears and changes so rapidly that you are unable to name them. When you spend time labeling them with names, it will limit your ability to observe and the mindfulness cannot get sharper. When there is a pause, you will miss a lot of conditions that are arising  and vanishing very quickly.

We need to drop the name and language in order to allow the mindfulness to work freely
, so that it can catch up with the rapidly arising conditions. You will witness the ability of the well trained mindfulness, and you will be amazed by it’s power – that it can be very fast in catching the body and mind conditions.

When the mindfulness increases you may be exhausted from observing these conditions. It is like receiving many guests continuously. Initially, it was ok when only a few showed up. You have to change your strategy after greeting too many of them. So you can stay inside and wait for the guests to come to you, without going outside to greet them, but at the same time keeping the doors open.

How many living doors do we have?

We have six doors – these are the eye doors, the ear doors, the nose door, the tongue door, the body door, and the mind door. Our “guests” are the colors that come through the eyes, sound that comes through the ears, odor that comes through the nose, flavor that comes through the tongue, touch that comes through the body, thought and mental factors (cetasika) that come through the mind. Some times the guest is already in the house so you have to know him and know yourself. If you greet the guests but are not aware of yourself, you may run after the guest. So you need to keep yourself still. If you are not mindful,  you may like the guest and follow him all the way to his house.

For example: you like a sound – it is sweet and you think about it. This may be a sound of a bird that can sing well, so what kind of bird is it? This is how you follow the guest! When you see a beautiful picture, your thought will follow that picture. You smell a nice odor, you will follow it. This is why it is important to be aware of yourself. So besides knowing the objects that come into contact with your sense  doors, you will have to know yourself also. Stay put, hold still. You can greet the guests and let them go. Know when they come or go. Be happy to be still.

Vipassana practice is the same way, hold the mind still. Do not run after the objects. Beginners will tend to run after all the objects that come through the door and study them. But after you learn about them, you don’t have to follow them. You can stay in your place and the guests will come to you. Keep the mind still, pretend as if you are not looking for anything or not greeting any guest. But the guests will still come to you. Keep the knower inside and let go of the objects, there will be many inputs that you can see , hear, touch etc.

The Fourth step.

After more practice, you will reach the level of knowing and letting go. Practice letting go with detachment. When mindfulness is more powerful, it will work by itself. There will be no need to control or force it, since it will become automatic. The meditator has to learn to observe until this happens. You practice until you feel that you can receive a lot of input, even when you pretend not to watch anything. Stay put and it will be neutral. If you follow the object, it will be more than neutral because there is an intention. You will manage it or be overly focused on it. If you stay still the overly focusing  will reduce, and the mind will be lighter. This is the neutral state, the right balance that we need. But if you let go too much and become sleepy, then you have to focus and follow more input. Practice until the mindfulness is stronger and sharper. Then try to be still before knowing and letting go again.

If you have a tendency to be tense, try to let go from the beginning. You may feel the tension in the brain, on the forehead, or in the chest. The more you focus the more tension will develop. When you are aware of it, try to release the tension. If you notice it carefully, you will feel some change in the degree of the tension. So, do not resist it – let the change take place, then the tension will release. The one who is used to being in control will have more tension, so learn to let go more from the start. Take care of your headache first. After it is relieved, then progress will follow.

When you reach this stage, you will see that mindfulness is able to catch up with the condition that is arising. This is the present moment. Adjust and let the mind be neutral, then you will see the arising and vanishing of the body and mind conditions. When you are mindful on the paramattha ( ultimate truth), it will show the arising and vanishing characters. It will happen whether or not you watch it. It did not show because you were not mindful on it. This is the natural phenomenon, which depends on the cause and the factor. Whenever there is an arising, the vanishing will follow in an instant. Since this happens very rapidly, it would appear as if it
was permanent and stable.

When the mindfulness is well trained, it will be stronger and can pick up the body and mind conditions faster. The interval in between will be clearer. The arising and vanishing will be clearer. The impermanence is more apparent. Any impermanent condition will not be able to sustain the old status. Whenever it appears, it will disappear, wherever it appears, it will disappear. You will get the sense of it being out of control. It will appear and disappear by itself. There is nothing above the nature which is impermanent, and is out of control. You can not control the body and mind to make it not to appear or not to disappear. This is the condition of anatta(nonself). These conditions are not self, there is nothing that is us or belongs to us. The insight into the truth of life will become thus clear to the meditator. The feeling that we used to have – that the body and mind are us – is not there anymore. They do not belong to us. They are merely elements, or natural phenomena that normally appear and disappear, and are not under our control. This is vipassana insight (nana) that clearly understands the truth of nature. After seeing more arising and vanishing of the body and mind ( rupa and nama), you will gain more understanding of the three characteristic of anicca, dukkha and anatta. 

When the vipassana insight(nana) gradually becomes stronger, the insight will step up into the unworldly level (lokuttara). Eventually when all the eight noble paths reach the perfect level, there will be a unification which makes them strong enough to eradicate the defilements. This is when one reaches the vimutti or being liberated, or reaching the magga, phala and nibbana. The first level of enlightenment is Sotapattimagga , follow by Sotapattiphala . Nibbana will be the object of contemplation. These are the steps that you need to practice, so that you can clearly see the path.

The one who has been meditating for a while can skip the first and second steps and start to observe the generalized paramattha and let go of the conditions. Some new meditators who lack experience but have some understanding can go ahead and observe the paramattha from the beginning. They can observe the feelings without naming or using language. The samadhi will be weak this way, so hindrances may appear. These are lust, hatred, distraction, irritation, doubt, etc. If you use the generalized paramattha, you can use the hindrance as an
object of meditation. When lust arises know it, when hatred arises know it, when distraction arises know it, when doubt arises know it, etc….Know without being involved. It is a way to practice mindfulness, even though concentration may not develop. Know it moment by moment. When the mindfulness is stronger, peace will arise without using any pannatti !

Some people cannot start doing anything without using pannatti . So they can start by using pannatti, such as buddho, counting, breathing in and out first, before observing the paramattha.

Some people may start  from observing  paramattha in a small area first, or watching the sensation on the foot when doing walking meditation.

So we have to understand clearly what is pannatti, or paramattha, which is the ultimate truth or the condition of this body and mind. It is the reality of nature that can be observed through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, depending on what you are doing. The majority will be through the body, mind, ears and eyes( if you keep them open). The lesser will be through the nose and tongue. The sound through the ears will be constant. For some who are not stable yet, receiving too much sound will be too distracting and will cause confusion. They should let the sound go and pay attention to developing samadhi first.  They can ignore the sound and focus the attention on the body. Be aware only in the body, pretending not to pay attention to anything else. The mind will calm down. This can be compared to when you receive too many guests and become tired – you will have to go inside and settle in a room. In the practice, you may focus only on the breath without observing anything, until concentration develops. You can also watch only the mind and let go of the other conditions.

So there are many methods of practice to help you to face a variety of conditions. You need to do it with understanding and then let go of them. If you are not stable yet, go back to samadhi, let go of the other objects and stay with only one at first. Later on you can start observing the other conditions. This is the guideline for the practice that will lead you along the steps.

Dhamma Talk – Vipassana Bhumi 1.6

VIPASSANA BHUMI 6

DEPENDENT ORIGINATION (PATICCA SAMUPPADA)

When one listens to a dhamma talk, the
BuddDhamma Wheelha’s teachings will enhance mindfulness and wisdom. It will help one in the gaining of happiness. The highest goal is the freedom from all defilements, or the ending of suffering. It is important to practice without any wanting – to do it naturally. Even though our goal is the path, the fruits of practice, and nibbana, there is no need for craving. Try to do your best at the present moment – it will help to accumulate the factors of enlightenment. When you practice sila( morality), samadhi( concentration) and panna( wisdom) correctly in each moment, they will lead us closer to nibbana and eventually we will reach that goal.

Today’s dhamma talk title is “ Dependent Origination or Paticcasamuppada in Pali”, which is the 6 th Vipassana Bhumi. This will conclude this section of Vipassana Bhumi. It begins with the first one, the Five Aggregates, the second one which is the Contact Bases, the third one which is the Elements, the fourth one which is the Four Noble Truths, and the fifth one which is the Faculties.

The sixth one is Dependent Origination, which is hard to describe and hard to understand. It cannot be discussed in detail here, so I will try to summarise and focus the talk about the content that can be applied along with the practice.

The Pali word ” Paticcasamuppada” means the dhamma that is the cause and the factors. All of the dhamma does not occur by accident – it happens because there is a cause that makes it happen that way. The result also does not happen by chance – there was a reason for it. There is a factor for that to happen, which effects the next event and continues on and on, just like a chain reaction. It creates the ongoing cycle of birth.

The origin of Paticcasamuttapada arises from the ignorance ( avijja), which creates the volitional formations( sankhara).

DEPENDENT ON IGNORANCE, VOLITIONAL FORMATION ARISES.

(Avijja paccaya sankhara).

The ignorance is the situation of not knowing, having delusions, or knowing about things that are not important , or not knowing about things that are important. For example, the knowledge about how to build war weapons or all worldly knowledge is conventional, which do not lead to the end of suffering.

These ignorances( avijja) are:

1. Not knowing about suffering. Life is suffering or is unsatisfactory, but the ignorance can cover that up. The majority of people see that being born is not suffering. Because of the ignorance, they could not see that the cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death happening all the time is suffering.

2. Not knowing the cause of suffering, which is craving ( tanha). Without knowing it, one will accumulate the craving or do anything under the influence of craving. What they are accumulating is suffering.

People who have a wholesome job may even work with that underlying craving. They may want to become rich and famous, so they struggle and suffer from having the underlying craving. They are not happy with what they have. There is no end for the craving. They do not see that the craving is the real cause of suffering, which leads them to create more unwholesome acts. It can occur by being aggressive, misleading , bullying others, etc. The result is suffering in the present and in the future.

If one is not aware of his craving for pleasant sight, sound, odor, taste or touch, that person will keep on searching for more to satisfy himself. He may not get it, or lose what he has gotten, or he may have a fear of change. All of these are suffering. It can be compared to a drug addict who only seeks more of his drug. Since the craving does not stop, he will seek for more of his drug until he dies. He thinks that it is the way to end his suffering, but instead it creates more suffering because the craving has increased. It is the same way when a person is attached to pleasant sights, sounds, odors, tastes or touches. He will struggle because of the craving. So suffering will go on without an end because of not knowing that the craving is the cause of suffering.

3. Not knowing the end of suffering. This is not knowing what can really truly end suffering. Very few people have interest in meditation in order to reach nibbana because they do not know that it can end suffering.

4. Not knowing the way to end suffering. This is when they do it incorrectly, especially doing the unwholesome acts which create more suffering. When doing something wholesome that is still very worldly, it can not really end suffering. It does not matter how much money, power, or status they have – millionaires or even billionares still suffer. People will have more interest in entertainment than practicing mindfulness or vipassana. They do not realize that entertainment will create more suffering rather than end it. Like for instance with insects, they are attached to the light and die from it. Human beings who are attached to sensual pleasures will continue to suffer since they don’t know the way out.

The majority of people do not know about the past aggregates(khanda), contact bases( ayatana), or elements( dhatu) that they have been born with in the past. They don’t know how to be born again in the future. They don’t know about the past and the future life. They don’t know about Dependent Origination( paticcasamuppada). They don’t know the dhamma that is the cause and the effect. The only way to see the elements or contact bases to be the cause and the effect of suffering is by developing mindfulness and wisdom. If not, they will continue to suffer.

Avijja( ignorance) is not knowing about the subjects that one should know about, or knowing the subjects that one should not know. The ignorance creates the volitional formations( sankhara). There are three types: meritorious volitional formations( punnabhisankhara), demeritorious volitional formations( apunnabhisankhara), impurturbable volitional formations( anenjabhisankhara).

Demeritorious volitional formation is rather straightforward. The unwholesome act is due to ignorance, which can be done through speech – for example, using harsh words – or false speech. It can be done by bodily actions, such as killing, stealing, or having sexual misconduct. It can also be done by the mind by having bad thoughts, or wishing others harm, etc. Ignorance is the cause for having intention(cetana) that creates unwholesome acts through the body, speech and mind.

Meritorious volitional formation creates meritorious acts by having the right act, right speech and right mind. These are performing merit, doing dana, keeping precepts(sila), meditation( bhavana), being humble, listening to the dhamma, helping others, rejoicing in the another’s wholesome deed, etc. However, these meritorious acts can have an underlying ignorance as well. Doing dana with a wish for being born rich and beautiful, or being born in the heavenly realms is a wish for suffering. Every birth is suffering, no matter which realm you are born into. All births and deaths are suffering. Deva realm does not experience aging, but their lives also end in death. So they, too, cannot escape suffering. You can be born rich or with beauty, but you still suffer from aging, sickness and death. The ignorance will cover this up so that you do not see what is suffering, and do not see the danger in the cycle of birth. The Buddha did not praise the benefit of birth, no matter which realm you were born into. It is compared to the feces which is dirty. It may be the product of good food, but it is still dirty, smelly, and loathsome. Every realm of existence is suffering, so the one who wishes for birth is wishing for suffering. This is because he did not know the truth, and did not have the right understanding about nibbana. So they are not interested in practicing the dhamma in order to liberate themselves. Most people still do merit making while having avijja( ignorance). This lasts until they gain some wisdom and see that their merit making was done to liberate themselves from the cycle of birth, and from suffering.

People who practice vipassana have their aims at the liberation from suffering. Even when they offer dana or keep precepts, they aim at detaching from defilement and rebirth, which is the opposite from the majority of people who do it with avijja( ignorance).

Impurturbable volitional formations will result in being reborn in the immaterial brahma realm. There is ignorance behind it also, since there is a need to get out of suffering but they don’t know how. Being born in the brahma realm is still suffering because they will be there only for a period of time. After death there is a chance to be born again, maybe in the lower realms. When practicing jhana, they will see that the body is the source of suffering. They will try to detach from the body, but they still have the mind. The power of immaterial jhana will result in being born with the mind only. They still have ignorance as a cause behind it.

DEPENDENT ON VOLITIONAL FORMATIONS, CONSCIOUSNESS ARISES.

(Sankhara paccaya vinnanam)

Whenever there is ignorance of any kind, there will be two kinds of consciousness. The first one arises at conception (patisandhi vinnana), followed by the sustaining consciousness( pavatti vinnana). Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching consciousness will arise and continue to arise, depending on where the birth occurs.

Demeritorious volitional formation will result in being born in the lower realms, including being born in a hell realm, being a hungry ghost, a titan, or an animal.

Meritorious volitional formation will result in being born as a human, a deva or a material brahma.

Impurturbable volitional formation will result in being born as an immaterial brahma .

Birth will be accompanied by the resultant kamma (vipaka vinnana), which allows us to see, hear, smell, taste and touch, according to our meritorious or demeritorious acts. As a human, seeing bad sights, hearing bad sounds, tastes or smells of unpleasant things are the result of previous unwholesome kamma. The opposite is true – wholesome acts will result in positive experiences.

DEPENDENT ON CONSCIOUSNESS, MENTALITY AND MATERIALITY ARISE.

( Vinnana paccaya nama rupam)

After conception, the first mind (citta) or consciousness that arises will be accompanied by the materiality (rupa). This is the first form as a result of the kamma. In humans, it appears as a drop of clear liquid where the mind locates (hadaya rupa) along with the form that specifies male or female characters (bhava rupa). This happens according to the past kamma.

The mentality is the mental factor (cetasika) that arises at the same time as the mind.

DEPENDENT ON MENTALITY AND MATERIALITY, THE SIXFOLD BASE ARISES.

(Nama rupa paccaya salayatanam)

The material forms the nerves in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body. The mind will perceive through these inner contact bases.

DEPENDENT ON THE SIXFOLD BASES, CONTACT ARISES.

( Salayatana paccaya phasso)

When the outer contact bases come into contact with the inner contact bases, then contact will arise.

Seeing arises when the color comes into contact with the eye nerve. There is a gathering of color, eyes, and eye consciousness. Hearing arises when the sound comes into contact with the ear nerve. There is a gathering of sound, ear, and ear consciousness. Smelling arises when the odor comes into contact with the nose nerve. There is gathering of odor, nose, and nose consciousness. Tasting arises when the flavor comes into contact with the tongue nerve. There is a gathering of flavor, tongue, and tongue consciousness. Body sensation arises when body contact ( hard, soft, cold, hot, tension, relaxation) comes into contact with the body nerve. This is the gathering of body contact, body, and body consciousness.

DEPENDENT ON CONTACT, FEELING ARISES.

(Phassa paccaya vedana)

Feeling arises when there is a contact through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. It can be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

DEPENDENT ON FEELING CRAVING ARISES.

(Vedana paccaya tanha)

Craving (tanha) is the wanting or the attraction to the pleasaurable, unpleasurable or neutral feeling that arises from the six sense doors. These are called kama tanha which is the craving of the form, sight, sound, smell, taste, body contact and thought. The other two cravings are bhava tanha and vibhava tanha.

Bhava tanha is the attraction to the state of being that they were born into, which is usual for most beings. For example, a worm is attracted to being born a worm without knowing about the suffering that comes with it. There is a wrong view of permanency (sassataditthi). These are the persons who are attached to the self, that this life is one’s self or that it belongs to us. When death arrives, the self will leave the body and seek another birth and continue, on and on. So the self is seemingly permanent, which is the wrong view.

Vibhava tanha is the attraction to being gone. Some people understand that there is a real self while being alive, but there is nothing left after death. This is related to the wrong view of total loss (ucchedaditthi). The satisfaction and attraction are due to being gone.

All these tanha are from vedana.

DEPENDENT ON CRAVING, CLINGING ARISES.

( Tanha paccaya upadanam)

Craving creates clinging. Strong craving will make a person hold on to the condition. When we love someone, there is tanha. When we cling on to that person to be ours, that is upadana. The degree is stronger, or it can be the wrong view or wrong clinging.

There are four types of clinging:

1. Kamupadana is clinging to the sensual pleasures.

2. Ditthupadana is clinging to the wrong view. For example, clinging to the wrong belief that there is no kamma, no merit or demerit, your good actions may not bring good results.

3. Silappadupadana is clinging to the wrong rules or precepts. For example, some may believe in behaving like animals, or following the wrong precepts.

4. Attavadhupadana is clinging to the wrong view related to self, that the five aggregates( khanda) are self. They would cling onto these body, feeling, perception, volitional formation, and consciousness – that they are self.

This is the basis for Sakkaya ditthi, or having wrong view that the form is us, we have a body, or that the body is in us. Feelings of happiness or unhappiness are in us, that they belong to us. Perception is us, belongs to us. To like or dislike is us, that they belong to us. To believe thought and consciousness are ours, etc.

There is no way of escaping from these wrong views if we do not practice vipassana ( insight meditation), especially concerning sakkaya ditthi. Laypeople usually have this wrong view when they perform merit making or do any wholesome act where they would want this self to be well. The vipassana meditator will observe the form and mentality ( rupa and nama or body and mind). These are paramattha dhamma (ultimate truths), so they will appear and vanish. After repeated observation, the meditator will realize that there is no permanent self in this body and mind. So they can get rid of the wrong view one moment at a time. When they continue to practice mindfulness and observe, they will have a chance to progress until reaching enlightenment. This is when the wrong views are totally eradicated. Sotapanna (Stream entry) is the first stage of enlightenment in which the personal wrong view (sakkayaditthi) will be completely gone.

DEPENDENT ON CLINGING, BECOMING ARISES.

( Upadana paccaya bhavo)

Becoming allows us to perform wholesome or unwholesome acts.

DEPENDENT ON BECOMING, BIRTH ARISES.

( Bhava paccaya jati)

Becoming creates the materiality and mentality( rupa and nama or body and mind).

DEPENDENT ON BIRTH, AGING, AND DEATH ARISE, AND SORROW, LAMENTATION, PAIN, GRIEF, AND DESPAIR.

(Jati paccaya maranam soka parideva dukkha domanass upayasa sambhavanti)

After birth, the whole mass of the suffering in the body and mind will follow.

Living beings usually carry the deep fundamental defilements (asavas) which flow out from the mind. There are three types of asavas, they are kama sava, bhavasava and ditthasava. All these three deep defilements are the factors for the outflow of ignorance (avijjasava), which creates the cycle of birth and death that keeps on repeating. We have been born into uncountable lives, so we have repeatedly suffered from birth, old age, illness, and death. If collected, the tears from crying can be more than the sum total of water in the oceans. We still have to go through the same cycle again and again, without an end in sight.

Vipassana practice is the way to cut through the cycle. We can start developing mindfulness by following the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, or following the Eightfold path. The well developed awareness will help us observe the input that comes through the six sense doors where the contacts arise. Know it when seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, contacting, and thinking occurs. Watch the feelings(vedana) that arise with the contact, then craving and clinging will follow. It is especially important to observe when there is contact. If you cannot catch it, then observe the next step which is the feeling that follows. It can be pleasant, unpleasant, gladness or sadness, etc. Craving will follow those feelings. So know it when you like the taste of what you eat, catch it and let go. If you try to have the awareness when contact arises, craving will not follow. There will be no like or dislike.

The mindful mind is wholesome because it can end the cycle of birth. When mindfulness occurs frequently, insight will develop one day. It will become clear to us that these are merely form and mentality dhamma ( rupa and nama or body and mind). They are not us, and do not belong to us. Insight (panna) is the knowledge that can eradicate the ignorance (avijja), just like the light that dispels darkness. But insight has to depend on mindfulness – there is no other way. Studying or acquiring any kind of knowledge will not help us to gain wisdom. Even practicing tranquility meditation (samatha samadhi) does not lead to vipassana insight. You will attain samadhi (peaceful mind) by focusing on the signs, the crystal ball, or light, etc. The mind will be peaceful, but insight will not develop.

In order to gain insight the mind has to focus on the ultimate dhamma( paramattha), which is the rupa( form) and nama ( mentality) that appears at each moment. There are only six contact bases that need to be watched. These are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind – they present themselves as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, body contact, feeling/ thought. Watch what appears at the present moment, not the seeing or hearing that has already passed. Insight cannot develop from watching things in the past or in the future. We can think, imagine or investigate, but the knowledge will only be at the thinking level ( cintanana). The true insight( bhavananana) only depends on the mindfulness that is used to observe the present condition. We have to be aware during the moment that the action is taking place. What was seen is in the past and what will be seen is in the future. These are the same with other sensations as well. Each condition will appear in a very short duration, so we need to let go of it right away. Do not wait for it to happen, either. Know only the one that appears. The truth can be revealed in a fraction of a second. Sometimes the feeling may appear to be continuous, but in fact it appears and then vanishes quickly. When watching carefully we will see that interruption. When seeing these repeatedly the insight will develop and avijja (ignorance) can be eradicated.

Through the entire cessation of this ignorance, the volitional formations cease.

There is no volitional formation left in the mind of the arahat ( enlightened ones). They will give dana, keep precepts, meditate, but it will not be meritorious volitional formation (punnabhisankhara). There is no demeritorious (apunnabhi sankhara) either. The mind will be an acting mind (kiriya citta), volitional formation is also the acting one. There will be no continuing process that can bear fruit. They can do wholesome acts without any result.

It is different in laypeople that meritorious deed can result in birth in the higher realms, which still is suffering. Demeritorious act will result in being born into the opposite direction. So being above the merit and demerit means being free from suffering. There is only an acting mind ( kiriya citta). So there is no more volitional formations( punnabhi sankhara, apunnabhi sankhara, anenjabhi sankhara) left.

Through the cessation of volitional formation, consciousness ceases.

There is no consciousness to arise at conception.

Through the cessation of consciousness, mentality and materiality ceases.

There is no form (rupa) or mentality(nama) to be formed.

Through the cessation of mentality and materiality, the sixfold base ceases.

There will be no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind to receive any contact.

Through the cessation of the six fold base, contact ceases. Through the cessation of contact, feeling ceases. Through the cessation of feelings, craving ceases. Through the cessation of craving, clinging cease. Through the cessation of clinging, becoming ceases. Through the cessation of becoming, birth ceases. Through the cessation of birth, aging and death cease, and sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Thus, there is a cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

When ignorance ceases the whole cycle comes to an end. The enlightened one ( Arahat), while being alive, still has the contact through the six contact bases.This is the result of the past, which will not continue in the future. The mind will not be disturbed by these contacts. The suffering will be gone. There is no wholesome or unwholesome mind, only the mind of activity.

The Dependent Origination ( paticca samuppada) ends when ignorance( avijja) is destroyed. This is the result of vipassana insight. The practice starts from being mindful, being aware of every movement. There is no other way to be liberated. If we do not start now, there are many possibilities of danger awaiting us in the future.

1. Birth into the lower realms: born in hell, being a hungry ghost, a titan or an animal. It is very scary to be born into these realms.

2. Birth into the human realm is still uncertain because of the delusion. If we were born as an animal it will be very difficult to escape and come back to being human again. It is very likely to be born into many lifetimes as animals. Even being a human, we may have the wrong views from listening to the incorrect teachings. It will lead us to do or believe wrongly. There is no way to guarantee that we will not break the precepts, such as taking others’ lives, or cheating others.

We have to remind ourselves of the dangers that are awaiting for us, so that we see the necessity to build up the mindfulness and wisdom as much as we can in this life. If we can attain the first stage of enlightenment ( Sota panna), it will guarantee the certainty of closing the door to the lower realms. Rebirth into the higher realms will be secured, and the full enlightenment can be possible within seven life times.

If, for some reason, we cannot reach that level, it is worth it to gain some wisdom such as seeing the rising and vanishing of the rupa and nama or see the impermanent natures( anicca), unsatisfactoriness( dukkha ) and nonself( anatta). This can be called Cula Sotapanna. It is not an ordinary effort to reach this level, since it is the main entry to the right path, or is the right direction that can be followed all the way to reach nibbana. Mindfulness is needed in order to observe the rising and vanishing of the rupa and nama to see the three characteristics. Even knowing what is the rupa and the nama, or knowing the difference between the conventional dhamma ( panyatti) and the ultimate dhamma ( paramattha), is better than not knowing it at all. We are used to living in the conventional world, and not knowing that it is not real. Even that, if we can focus on the conventional condition, but stay with it long enough, we can gain some tranquility. This is also a wholesome mind, which is much more beneficial than people who had never meditated or have the unwholesome mind that is full of greed, hatred and delusion. Worse than that is one who did not realize that what he did was an evil act.

We are very lucky to be born as human beings and to have found the path that can lead to the end of suffering. More than that, we are fortunate to have started on the dhamma path. So we must pay our full attention and continue to put full effort into the practice.

I wish you happiness and progress in the dhamma.

Guided Meditation 3

Guided Meditation #3Photo Jan 08, 9 06 33 AM

Be mindful and spread the awareness to cover the whole body. Know the contact on the skin, or the sound that contacts the ear. The knowing is in the mind. There may be a cold contact on the body, know the cold sensation. Then vedana(feeling)will arise, either a pleasant or unpleasant feeling. The mind can be happy, unsatisfactory, or neutral. Whenever there is a contact and feelings arise, watch the mind that knows. Craving and attachment can arise, or we can just know, without having any greed or hatred.

Both the sound and the hearing are parts of nature. The ear perceives the sound, but the knowing of hearing is in the mind. The feeling in the mind can be satisfaction, unsatisfaction, or neutral. Notice the nature of the mind, which has the knowing ability. The mind can receive the feelings through the other contact bases. It also has feelings and it can think. Note that the feelings of like or dislike, pleasant or unpleasant will arise and vanish. It comes and goes. There is nothing that is stable or persistent. Notice the process of deterioration, disappearance, the impermanence of all natures.

The coldness, the cold feeling will change. The mind that knows the cold feeling also will vanish.

Practice letting go of all conditions. Whatever appears, let it be. Whatever disappears, also let it be. Practice being an observer without getting involved. Unsatisfaction can arise but you do not have to suffer. In other words, knowing the unsatisfaction without being suffered. Let the nature be its’ own way. We know them and let go. When letting go, the mind will be lighter, clearer, and brighter. The body also will be lighter. The mind will be ready to expand, it will be clear and luminous. Observe this clear mind which does not want anything, does not hold on to anything, and does not do anything. Accept whatever is going to happen, and let it happen. Only let it go, know it, and observe it.

Let the mind dwell on the sensation – there is no figure, arm, leg, or face. These so called ‘ arms, legs, face’ are the conventional labels that were made up. They are not real. They disappear when the mind stops creating or composing. What is left is only sensation. Like coldness, pleasant feeling without shape or form. Knowing the sensation is the world of the ultimate truth( paramattha). The mind that knows are not the self, it is only the knowing condition. In the world of the ultimate realities( paramattha), there is no self. The body and mind are natural processes that have no us, they do not belong to us..

The mind that learns to let go will be stable, and will become concentrated( samadhi). The concentration that added up will help the mind to be more calm and get deeper into the samadhi. The mind will become peaceful, and the mindfulness will also be sharper and more secured. The knowing mind will stay inside the body without being controlled. Mindfulness and clear comprehension will be stronger. Awareness will cover the whole body and the mind.

Sometimes underneath the quiet peacefulness, you will note some changes. The knowing mind will also change. Sometimes perception, volitional formation and consciousness will create something in the mind. Just know it and let it be. The mind that can let go will be empty of the conventional thoughts which have name, language, shape and meaning. It is also free from defilements. The mind will be clear and luminous, without any taint. It is not depressed, not cloudy. All the unwholesomeness is gone. When there is no defilement the mind will appear to be luminous.

For lay people, the mind will be empty from time to time. When you are not mindful, the mind will start creating new thoughts again. Defilement will add on to this. All the greed, hatred, conceit, and wrong view will pop up in the mind. So, the mind will be tainted again. The depressed, cloudy mind will come back. Be aware of these mental conditions and let them go. This is how you clean the mind. The bright, free, relieved feeling will return.

When the mind is free from defilements and free from craving, it will be luminous and expansive. When craving starts, the luminousness will be gone. The more you crave, the more attachment you will have, and then you will struggle more. Letting go will make you free from self, so you will be liberated. Nibbana is when the mind has no craving. Learn to stop the mind from creating. When the mind has no craving, it will reach the end of suffering. If the mind continues to create, the conventional thoughts will arise. You will need to catch that creating mind. There will be a process of applying thought, sustaining thought, and doubt going on. Know it in time so that you can stop that process. Observe it frequently. Know when you are not mindful. Once you know, the mindfulness will return. When being mindful, also know it – try to recognize the character of the mindful mind, which is different from the unmindful mind. The creating mind is also different from the empty mind. When you are on top of it, the creating mind will be empty again.

Take care of your mind by practicing letting go. Do not overly focus – be aware of the focusing and release it, without controlling. Totally accept what it is without any resistance. Alternate knowing with letting go. Observe the disappearance with the mind that can let go. Whatever is arising or disappearing, let it be. Stop, know, and accept it. Briefly note it, being in the present moment. It passes very quickly. It is the natural process depending on the causes and supporting conditions.

Whatever is arising, will be vanishing. It is normal for change to take place. When there is a cause, it will arise. When the cause is gone, it will vanish. So impermanence, or anicca, is normal. Unsatisfactoriness, or dukkha, is also normal. Being out of control, or anatta, is normal as well. It has to be that way.

Watch the mind that changes from being alert, to slipping, to somnolence, then being alert again. When watching closely and you see these changes, it will allow the mind to be awake , alert, bright and expansive….

(Continue the practice until the end of the period.)

Guided Meditation 2

Guided Meditation #2

Be aware of the whole body – noting and Photo Jan 08, 9 06 24 AMcontemplating the body in the body, feeling in the feeling, mind in the mind and the dhamma in the dhamma.

What is the body in the body? One is the breath. Be mindful of the in-breath, be mindful of the out- breath. Try to relax when following the breath coming in and going out. Adjust the breath so that it is comfortable. Sometimes the breath is long and deep. Mindfully release the breath. Notice the feeling and learn how to breathe comfortably. The breath can be long or short – it is out of our control. Be relaxed, and watch it.

Note the feeling( vedana) – it may be pleasant, unpleasant, happy or unsatisfactory. The mind is the knower. It can sense all the feelings in the body and in the mind. Notice the mind – all the wholesome and unwholesome dhammas are in the mind.

Notice that the breath comes in on its’ own. When breathing in and out, we can feel the movement, vibration, shakiness, tension, and relaxation around the chest and the abdomen. There may also be a pleasant or unpleasant feeling along with the breath. Know them and let the feeling pass by and try to be neutral. Note the feeling of the coldness or the pleasantness on the body. The coldness/ pleasant feeings on the body and the mind that knows them are two separate things. The coldness is on the body, the knower of the coldness/pleasant feeling is the mind. The mind also has feelings. It can be peaceful, not peaceful, can be clear, depressive, or happy. It can also think. We can observe the process of applied thought, sustained thought, investigating and creating. These are all functions of the mind.

Be mindful of the mind and let go of everything – do not hold onto or become attached to anything. Notice all the body and mind conditions that arise, such as the hearing, the thought, the cold feeling, the pleasant feeling, the unpleasant feeling, etc . Notice them along with letting go.

It is important to practice letting go. Once we can let go of the thought, feeling, and knowing, the mind will become light, bright, clear, and expansive. Try to not make comments and not want anything. When realizing that the mind is overly focused, try to relax. Note the mind softly, pretending as if you are not watching to know it. Keep the mind still and not have it running after any condition. Let the mind be natural. When you stop the mind from thinking, the mind will then know itself.

Notice any feeling that may appear anywhere on the body, or in the mind. Mindfulness means knowing any condition at any time. Note the change, the appearing and vanishing, the uncontrollable nature of these conditions. When mindfulness of the mind becomes strong, it will know the condition in the present moment. The mind will not wander into the past or into the future.

When the mind starts to drift off, know it. When being mindful, know it, and when thought arises, know it. Know the pleasant feeling. When you drop all conventional conditions, the shape, name and meaning will disappear. There is no arm, leg, or trunk anymore. The only thing left is the sensation that has no shape or meaning. Watch the sensation on the body, which will expand to knowing the mind…..

( Continue the practice until the end of the period.)

Guided Meditation 1

Guided Meditation #1

Photo Jan 08, 9 05 50 AM

We are sitting with body and mind composed. Relax your body. Let go of what is in your mind.

We note it lightly without expecting to gain anything – the main practice is trying to let go.

Be aware of the inbreath and outbreath. When breathing in, know the in-breath. When breathing out, know the out-breath. Follow every moment of the breath. Know it clearly – when the in-breath is long, or the out-breath is long. Know it clearly, when the in-breath is short, or the out-breath is short.

We are noting the whole breath.

Notice every period of each cycle.

Be aware of the breath from the beginning of breathing in, during breathing in, and end of breathing in.

Be aware of the breath from the beginning of breathing out, during breathing out, and end of breathing out.

Observe any changes.There is a pause after the end of the in-breath – after that the out-breath starts. There is a pause after the out-breath – after that the in-breath starts.

Adjust the breath so that the in-breath and out-breath are smooth, relaxed, soft, and refined. After breathing in fully, gently breathe out slowly. The breath will become more soft and subtle.

When you follow the inbreath and outbreath continuously, concentration will develop. The breath will be lighter, quieter, and sometimes it appears to stop. Continue to watch at the same spot without reacting – you will notice the change in the breath.

Continue to observe the breath with effort, mindfulness, and clear comprehension. But at the same time, also let go of the pleasure or dissatisfaction that arises. Watch the breath without controlling it. Notice that during breathing in and breathing out either pleasant or unpleasant feelings may occur. Happiness or unsatisfactoriness also may arise. When  breathing in the tension in the chest will increase, when breathing out it will relax. You will see it as a vibration.

Expand the awareness of the sensation to cover the whole body – starting from the upper, going to the middle, and continuing to the lower part. The sensation can be felt on the skin, in the muscle, or inside the body. It can be hot/ cold, soft/ hard, tense/relaxed, pleasant/ unplesant.

To be aware of the upper body part, focus on the head, face, eyes, mouth, neck, etc. All these parts have sensations of tension, vibration, aching, hot, cold, etc.

The middle body part is from the neck to the abdomen. Observe the movement during breathing-in and breathing-out. Also, note the beating of the heart around the chest area. There may be heat and vibration that can be felt inside the abdomen or other sensations on the arms,  hands, trunk etc.

The lower part is from buttocks down to the hips, legs and feet. There may be a sensation of hard/ soft , heat/ cold  where the buttock touches the seat, or the legs touch each other. You can feel the weight of the body pressing down, or feel the tension and the heaviness. There may be some uncomfortable feelings such as pain, or aching at any body part that you will be able to notice.

Expand the awareness from the lower part of the body to the middle and upper part. Spread your clear awareness to cover the whole body. Observe whatever sensation that shows up on the body, and at the same time notice the feeling that appears in the mind. Notice the ongoing mental processes. It can be feeling, perception, volitional formation and consciousness that creates a  variety of emotions. There are many of them ranging from feeling happy, unhappy, irritated, peaceful, a calm/busy mind, depressed mind, etc. Notice and then release them.

Learn to live without making comments or having control over whatever is going on. If you hear any noise, just know it. You do not have to reach out to the sound. You still can hear, even when you focus on the body sensation. You will feel the vibration inside the body, and also see the mind. Don’ t send the mind outward. Let the mind be settled, and keep the focus on the mind. Allow the noise to reach the ear. The mind is the knower, the watcher, and the receiver. There will always be a knower and the one being known. Feeling, thought and proliferation will follow the knowing. Watch the thinking and let go of it.

Note what is going on inside the brain as well. It may be sleepy or exhausted, which will affect the mind and make it dull and sleepy. Carefully notice these feelings. Learn to know what an unaware mind is like. Contemplate all physical and mental conditions – these are the real life nature.The rupa( form) and nama( mind) are elements that come together and then separate according to the cause and the condition. What you need to do is to note them. Train the mind to let go – not wanting anything, not commenting on anything. After noting, put them down and let go.

(Continue the practice until the end of the period.)

 

Dhamma Talk 1.5 – Vipassana Bhumi 5

Vipassana Bhumi 5

The Four Noble Truths (Ariya Sacca)

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After attending the retreat for the past few days, some of you may have gained mindfulness, concentration, and some wisdom. This is not by accident, but it can be the result of previous merit that has allowed us to be born as human beings. But better than that, we also have a chance to attend the meditation retreat, where we can learn the way  to cultivate our mind. This is the highest merit, so continue to apply maximum effort to your practice.

Among the Four Noble Truths, there is the one that the meditator should know – the one that the meditator should let go, the one that the meditator should reach, and the one that the meditator should cultivate.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ARIYA SACCA?

“Ari” means enemy, and “Ya” means to go. So Ariya means to go away from the enemies. What are our enemies?  They are the defilements! When we realize the ariya sacca, our mind will be freed from these defilements. Ariya can also mean wonderful, or being far away. Sacca means the truth.

Ariya sacca is the truths that free our mind from defilements, or the truths that belong to the enlightened one. Laypeople will not have a clear understanding of the ariya sacca – it is only an enlightened one who will. In the other words, when the layperson understands the ariya sacca clearly, he will be transformed into an enlightened person( ariya puggala).

The Buddha was the first one to realize the Ariya sacca. What did he realize when he became enlightened? He realized the Ariya sacca. All the enlightened ones from the stream enterer( Sota panna) and onward have also realized the Ariya sacca.

The meaning of Ariya sacca is the truth that cannot be changed into any other thing. It maintains the same characteristics. It is different from the conventional truth( sammutti or panyatti) that comes from being chosen or from a certain agreement. Some examples of the conventional truth are the words that we use to label, such as man, woman, dog, house, tree, etc. In reality, a tree is only a form, and human or animal are also forms. So there is no certainty in the conventional truth – it depends on how we want to name them. The ultimate truth is Ariya sacca. The dhamma condition is the paramattha dhamma that does not change.

Dukkha is the real suffering .
Samudaya is the real cause of suffering.
Nirodha is the real ending of suffering.
Magga are the real paths to end suffering.

Each condition also maintains its’ own characteristic. These are some examples:
Fire maintains the heat, eyes only perceive colors, ears only perceive sounds, hearing  only happens when the sound contacts the ear, etc. All the rupa ( form) and nama( mind) will maintain their own characteristic.

Ariya sacca is the truth that does not change. They are:
Dukkha sacca( the truth of suffering).
Samudaya sacca ( the truth of the cause of suffering).
Nirodha sacca ( the truth of the end of suffering).
Magga sacca( the truth of the paths to end suffering).

The first Noble truth is Dukkha sacca( the truth of suffering).
Dukkha is a wonderful truth. What makes this truth wonderful? It is because when one contemplates dukkha,  wisdom will develop and one will escape from suffering. This is the real truth that does not change.

The dhamma conditions in this group are all the forms( rupa) and all the worldly minds and mental factors(cetasika), except the mind with greed( lobha citta).

The worldly mind is the mind that gets involved in the conventional world.  It makes us cling on to the self, thinks of the body and mind as being us, or ours. There are both  wholesome and the unwholesome minds that create the kamma. This clinging (upadana) will bind us to the cycle of birth and rebirth, which brings us suffering.

Dukkha needs to be understood, not ignored or destroyed. We are used to getting rid of it. For example when we have pain, we want it to go away, which is not the right practice. Pain is for us to contemplate, to watch without controlling.  Some people commit suicide because they are tired of the suffering in the body. That was not the way to end suffering. We need to contemplate suffering so that insight can develop. We cannot cut off the suffering, but we can cut off the cause of it. This will be the only way to end suffering.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO CONTEMPLATE?

We need to contemplate all the rupa( materiality/form) and nama(mentality/mind).

Rupa: We need to contemplate all of the forms: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, color, sound, odor, flavor, and body contact( heat/ cold, soft/ hard, tension/ relaxation), to see that they are unsatisfactory. Every part that forms into the body and every single cell inside the body has the  ‘ dukkha characteristic’. It means that they cannot be sustained in the same condition – it will vanish. When the body feels good, that feeling also will change. It will not stay the same, and will vanish. The eyes, the color, the sound, the heat/cold, etc., will disappear after the contact. The truth is that all of the forms have the dukkha characteristic, which means that nothing can remain in the same condition. This is why all of the forms are unsatisfactory.

Nama: Vedana (feeling) also needs to be observed, since it also displays the ‘dukkha characteristic’, which means that it cannot be sustained. One vedana that occurs frequently is pain. It arises, vanishes, and then arises again. If we did not look at it closely, it would appear to be continuous. It may come and go very rapidly in a split second. When watching the pain carefully, we will see that that pain can be very sharp, and then disappears. When the mind does not observe it, it will be gone. When we focus back on it, the pain will return. Or when the mind focuses on another location, the pain also will appear to be gone. The mind can ‘know or perceive’ only one thing at a time. When it perceives the sound, it cannot perceive the pain.  So the mind will not know the pain at that moment. If the mind perceives input from other contacts, the same thing will happen. It can switch back and forth very quickly. When observing closely, we will see this pattern of interruption, appearing and disappearing, and changing. We will see that the pain stops momentarily.

During meditation, you need to observe the unpleasant feeling, the pleasant feeling, and all the forms that appear at the present moment. Observe them without having any attachment or any control. We have to learn about suffering in order for the insight to gradually arise,  until a “clear understanding” develops, or until we can see the real nature of suffering. This is when we see the characteristic of  anicca( impermanence) , the dukkha( unsustainable) and anatta( uncontrollable- nonself).

There are dukkha characteristics in the forms(rupa), in the mind( citta) and in the mental factors( cetasika). All the defilements such as greed, hatred, and delusion, and the mind that sees, hears, touches, and thinks, are not permanent. The wholesome mind also changes. All the mental factors also change but they are harder to watch, since they arise and vanish very quickly.

Initially, you can contemplate on life situations first by considering that birth, aging and sickness are suffering. Sadness, separation from loved ones, and facing something that you don’t like are also suffering. The mind suffers because of the attachment. Contemplate repeatedly, until you feel saddened in the cycle of birth and death in the life. These still involve conventional thinking. You will not understand the dukkha clearly, until you observe the rupa and nama while they are arising and disappearing. The process of seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, etc., will show us the reality that they are impermanent, that they will change and that they are out of our control.

The second Noble truth is Samudaya Sacca (the truth of the cause of suffering).
This is another wonderful truth, or the truth that belongs to the enlightened one.
The dhamma condition is the lobha cetasika( mental factor of craving and clinging), that  is the cause of suffering.

There are 3 kinds of craving:
Craving for sensual pleasure( kama tanha)
Craving for existence( bhava tanha)
Craving for nonexistence( vibhava tanha)

All three kinds of craving have the same mental factor, which is the lobha cetasika. It is the natural process of wanting and getting attached to the conditions. This is the cause of suffering, and it is the cause for us to be born again. It can be compared to the seed, which will sprout whenever there is the  suitable combination of water, soil, fertilizer, light, etc. The way to stop it from growing is to cook that seed or to let it burn in the sun.

The craving and clinging in the mind that is still full of defilement will be the reason of the rebirth or another life. Such mind can be compared to a house builder. Life is compared to a house – we were born with this body that is the result of craving. The Buddha contemplated this issue after his enlightenment and compared the craving to the house builder. After discovering the truth, his house was destroyed and was not built again.

Keeping the five precepts allows one to be born as human being, but we still carry the craving with us. One who was born as a deva from the good merit performed in the past life also has craving. Sometimes we have habits driven by craving where we want to gain wealth, good status, or good appearance from our good deed. So when we make dana offerings or keep the precepts, we have these wanting to have or wanting to be hidden in the back our mind.

When we face unpleasant feelings, we want them to disappear. During meditation, we want the mind to be calm and peaceful. We are used to not being this and that, or not having this and that. Wanting to reach nibbana can be vibhava tanha, because the self wants us not to exist or not to endure suffering. That self also wants to do good things, which is bhava tanha. The other cravings are wanting to see nice things, hear sweet sounds, taste delicious foods and have a nice feeling of touch. All of these are kama tanha.

The underlying factor that creates new birth and new life is avijja( ignorance). It covers up the truth about this body and mind. So craving is the cause of suffering. When we meditate, the mind will crave peacefulness – it does not want the busy mind or the having of any pain, etc. – we love to be in control. If things are not going the way we want, anger will arise, followed by boredom, and finally we will stop meditating altogether.

Watch the mind carefully and notice any wanting or craving that may arise. People may question if there is no wanting, will we meditate? We can practice without wanting. We do not need to want to be mindful. Continuous awareness of the body and mind can be done without wanting. During the practice, thoughts will interrupt. Just be aware of it, without getting upset. If you want it to not appear, that will be vibhava tanha again. When you know that there is a ‘ wanting’, learn to be neutral and letting go will follow. Remember that tanha is the cause of suffering.

The third Noble truth is Nirodha Sacca( the truth of the end of suffering).
The dhamma condition is Nibbana, which is the end of suffering. Peace is the character of nibbana. It is peaceful from the disappearance of defilement, peaceful from the nonattachment to the forms and mentality. Peace from letting go of the Five Khandas is Parinibbana. If the enlightened one eradicates all the defilements, but is still alive, that nibbana is called sa-upadisesa nibbana. He still has the suffering of the body, such as having the sensations of cold, hot, hunger, thirst, etc., but the mind is free from any unsatisfactoriness. The mind will be peaceful – completely cool, because there is no more fire from greed, hatred, or delusion. The mind cannot be stirred up anymore. The other three groups of enlightened persons may still have an occasional recurring of some residual  defilements. When the fully enlightened person passes away, he will reach the  parinibbana state which is free from the materiality and mentality (anupadisesa nibbana). What is left in the fully enlightened person is the functioning mind, (kiriya citta) which is free from defilement and kamma. There is no continuation and no rebirth. The suffering is ended completely.

The fourth Noble truth is Magga sacca (the truth of the paths that lead to the end of suffering).
This is the Eight Noble Paths. We start from knowing the suffering, then eliminate the cause of suffering. The realization of the end of suffering occurs when the eight noble paths are fully perfected. That is when the deeper clinging is cut off.

The Noble Eightfold paths that need to be improved to perfection are:

1. Right View. The mental factor ( cetasika) is the insight that sees things as they are. It starts from observing the rupa and nama to arise and disappear. The mind knows from repeated observation until it clearly sees the impermanence, suffering, and nonself.

2. Right Intention. The intention of renunciation, free from craving, aversion and cruelty. The mental factor is vitakka cetasika, which is the applied thought. The practice is bringing mindfulness and clear comprehension to observe the rupa and nama that are arising and disappearing.

3. Right Speech. It is in the morality group. The key is having the intention to avoid using wrong speech. These are abstaining from false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech, and useless speech. Keeping noble silence is also part of the right speech.

4. Right Action. This includes abstaining from taking life, from stealing and from sensual misconduct.

5. Right Livelihood. This is giving up the wrong livelihood.

6. Right Effort. Initially you may need to make the effort, and arouse the energy to do sitting or walking meditation. After doing it more, the effort will be stronger and can overcome the laziness. After regular practice, the effort will be more spontaneous and the energy will increase.
We also have to put effort into abandoning the unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen and prevent the new ones from arising. On the other hand, we need to maintain and perfect wholesome states of mind that have already arisen. For example, when we are more mindful we will avoid evil acts, or when we are mindful of the anger it will decrease or disappear. When more effort develops,  the mindfulness, concentration and wisdom will follow. This is the result of the right effort.

7. Right Mindfulness. Being mindful on the Four Foundations: body, feeling, mind, and phenomena. Ultimately being aware of the rupa (form ) and nama( mentality), which are the ultimate truth that appear in the present moment. Mindfulness has to work alongside morality and wisdom, and not by itself. Initially you have to understand the difference between conventional truth( panyatti) and the ultimate truth( paramattha), so that you can be mindful on the conditions that display the three characteristics. Vipassana (insight) will develop from seeing that rupa and nama are two separate conditions, they are the cause and effect for each other to arise, they will appear and disappear, etc. Mindfulness is the leader, after continually observing it over and over, wisdom will arise.

8. Right Concentration. There are several levels of concentration. Momentary concentration is sufficient for observing the body and mind condition, and it can lead to deeper concentration.

While attending the meditation retreat you live a clean and pure life, and the Noble Eightfold Paths are completely followed.

The morality part includes path number 3( Right Speech), number 4( Right Action) and number 5( Right Livelihood).
The concentration part includes number 6( Right Effort), number 7( Right Mindfulness) and number 8( Right Concentration).
The  wisdom part includes number 1( Right View) and number 2( Right Intention).

The insight will develop when all of the 8 noble paths are completed, especially when they are perfected at the same moment. The only way to perfect them is to practice diligently. When it will happen also depend on the past merit, and the virtue of each individual. The Eight Noble Paths, when perfected, will occur in the moment of magga citta( enlightened mind), which results in transforming a  layperson’s mind into the enlightened mind( ariya puggala).

The Four Noble Truths can be classified as origin and result.
Samudaya is the unwholesome origin, the result is dukkha.
Magga is the wholesome origin, the result is nirodha.

Magga is the origin of getting out of dukkha.
Nirodha is the result of the end of suffering.

There are both good origins and bad origins. The practice is contemplating on dukkha, both in the body and the mind, that it is unsatisfactory. Samudaya needs to be let go of, because it is the cause of suffering. Nirodha needs to be realized, and maga needs to be perfected.

Ariya Sacca( Four Noble Truths) is one of the Vipassana Bhumi. You need to understand and use it in practice by perfecting the Eightfold Paths and following the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. In brief, being mindful on the forms and the  mentality( rupa and nama), or the Five Khanda( Five Aggregates) that is appearing and disappearing, until all the paths are clear and perfected. It means that the dukkha is known, the samudaya is eradicated, and the nirodha is realized. This is the end of suffering.

Dhamma Talk 1.4 – Vipassana Bhumi 4

VIPASSANA BHUMI 4

Faculties (Indriya )

25  August 2004

ariyasacca

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.

 

Dhamma Talk 1.3 – Vipassana Bhumi 3

Vipassana Bhumi 3

24 August 2004

3657971640_4537fbbb76_zElements (Dhatu)

18 Elements (dhatu) are the third vipassana bhumi (land). The meditator can use contemplation of the elements to be the ground for developing vipassana insight.

The term “dhatu” means maintain, or the nature that can maintain its own condition or character. Whatever conditions they have, they will maintain them without changing to others. They are groups of ultimate dhammas or paramattha dhammas. When one mindfully contemplates the elements, they will show their own natures that these elements are merely elements, not living beings, not self or us.

The elements are the natures that form the body and mind of all living beings. They are not us, they do not belong to us. They are able to maintain their own characters.

There are three groups for each of the 6 sense doors, thus in total 18 elements:

The receiving elements.

The contacting elements.

The knowing elements.

Group 1.  The receiving element is the eye element. It has the transparent character to receive the colors. It is the rupa (form) dhamma which is the eye nerve behind the pupil. It can only receive the color, not other input.

The contacting element is the color that can only contact the eye nerve, not the others. It is also the rupa (form) dhamma. It will vanish after the contact. It has no knowing ability.

The knowing element is the eye consciousness that can “see”.

Vipassana practice is contemplating the element when it arises. When the color comes in contact with the eye nerve, seeing arises. Be mindful of seeing. Repeating observations will show the truth that what appears through the eyes are only the color elements that contact the eyes, then seeing arises and vanishes. It is not us, it does not belong to us. Human beings usually do not see this condition. They usually think and interpret the meaning of what they saw as animal, or person, etc. We did not see it as element. We will get attached to the self that “we see”. What is seen is a person, not merely colors. When contemplating the seeing and  the colors we will find that they appear and vanish. They are not us. They are elements, or nature. When color, eye nerve, light, intention, come together, seeing arises. When these factors disappear, seeing will also disappears.

GROUP 2. The receiving element is the ear element.  It has the transparent character which can receive the sound. It is the form (rupa) dhamma which is the ear nerve inside the ear. It will deteriorate after arisin;, it does not have the knowing ability.

The contacting element is the sound. It can only contact the ears. It is also a form (rupa) dhamma that will vanish after the contact.

The knowing element is the ear consciousness that can “hear”. It is the mind (citta or nama) that has the knowing ability. There are two types of mind due to the effects of the previous acts. One is the wholesome act which results in hearing pleasant sounds. The other is the unwholesome act which results in hearing unpleasant sounds.

When hearing, it is just hearing. We will see that these are only the components of elements that arise and vanish. They are not us, they do not belong to us. If we are not mindful and do not have wisdom, the attachment will hold on to the hearing as “our hearing”. When wisdom arises we will realize that hearing is not us, it does not belong to us. These elements will appear and disappear. This is vipassana insight which will happen after repeated observations at the moment of hearing. After that moment, it will progress into perception of sound, attach the meaning of sound and make it into a story, etc. It becomes pannatti (conventional) dhamma. The paramattha is the sound or other elements that are present right now.

This is the vipassana practice. We will realize that the ear, the sound and hearing are merely elements, they are not self, they do not belong to us.

GROUP 3. The receiving element is the nose element. It has the transparent quality that allows the odor to contact. It is the form (rupa) dhamma which is the nerve in the nasal cavity.

The contacting element is the odor element that can only contact the nose, it cannot contact the others. It is the form (rupa) dhamma that will disappear after the contact.

The knowing element is nose consciousness that can “smell”. It has the knowing ability and is composed of two types of mind. One is from the wholesome act which results in pleasant smell, the other from the unwholesome act that results in unpleasant smell.

When knowing this mindfully, we can benefit from unpleasant smells. The smell will pass away, it is only an element. If we do not get angry and understand the nature of it, we will gain the insight about the smell. It is not us and it does not belong to us. It arises when there is cause and support. So we can turn the effect of past unwholesome acts into a new wholesome kamma, since a mind with mindfulness and clear comprehension is a wholesome mind.

Without training, people with react negatively to bad smells and get angry, which is another unwholesome mind on top of the previous one. So it is important to be mindful all the time so insight can develop.

GROUP 4. The receiving element is the tongue element. It has the transparent quality that allows the taste to contact. It is a form (rupa) dhamma which is the taste buds on the tongue that contain the nerve endings.

The contacting element is the flavor element that comes in contact with the taste bud. It is the form (rupa) dhamma that will vanish after the contact.

The knowing element is the taste consciousness that can taste. It is the mind (nama) that has the knowing ability. It also can be the result of previous wholesome or unwholesome acts that results in perceiving good taste or bad taste.

When food comes in contact with the tongue, tasting will occur. Vipassana practice is observing the knowing of taste. If we are not mindful it will be followed by feeling of liking or disliking . If it is liking we will crave for more. If it is disliking we may be angry. All are unwholesome processes.

But when we are mindful of the taste even if it is a bad taste we can still develop the wholesome mind. Frequent observation will result in insight that tasting is only made of elements that will change; they are not ours and do not belong to us. There is no greed or hatred, only knowing, and they will disappear. So we will not cling to taste.

GROUP 5. The receiving element is the body element. It has the transparent quality that allows the contact. It is the rupa (form) dhamma which is the sensory nerves that cover the whole body.  It has no knowing ability.

The contacting elements are the three elements that create varieties of sensation depending on the quantity of each. These are earth element (soft/hard), fire element (cold/heat), wind or motion element (tension/relaxation). The water element which creates cohesiveness cannot be felt on the body, it will need the mind to interpret that sensation (will be in Group 6).

The knowing element is body consciousness that can “feel the touching” (soft/hard, cold/heat, tension/relaxation). The feeling can be pleasant or unpleasant depending on the effect of wholesome or unwholesome acts. It can be too hot or too cold, if there is too much tension it will cause pain, etc.

The painful sensation can be from accident, injury or illness. These may be the result of the unwholesome acts. The vipassana practice is done by focusing on these sensations or the sensations in the internal organs. When breathing in the air is cool, but the heat will be generated after the air is used so the outbreath air will be warm. When breathing in the air will create tension in the lungs, relaxation will occur with breathing out. When you make a fist and then open the hand, you will feel the tension and relaxation as well.

The body sensations are clear and easier to contemplate. It is recommended to start with being mindful with the body. Observing seeing and hearing are harder. The smelling and tasting do not occur all the time, but body sensation is there all the time when you are awake. The earth and fire elements are also major forms (mahabhuta rupa) so they are more prominent. They  are easy to observe. Seeing and hearing are  harder because they will rapidly progress into perception/cognition(sanna) and interpretation (sankhara), etc.

After you gain more experience with observing the body, you can continue to observe the mind which also is a paramattha dhamma. Focus on where the touching is, knowing the sensation is the nama (mind) dhamma. The body elements, the contact elements as well as the sensation will arise and vanish right there. There will be new contacts arising to replace the old ones but not  at the same time. For example, the cold sensation at the wrist and the elbow happens at different moments. If you are not mindful you will think that the whole arm is cold. In fact, they are multiple tiny spots of contact and feeling that occur spontaneously and quickly. So the mind interprets it as a mass that we presume to be our arm, and  our body. If we look at only one spot or one location we will see that one arises and vanishes, then the other arises and vanishes. It does that all the time no matter whether you look at it or not. So we need to watch these sensations often until clear understanding develops.

GROUP 6 . The receiving element is the mind element. The previous groups 1-5 are form (rupa) dhamma that do not have the knowing ability. The mind element is composed of three different types of mind. One is the mind that perceives the sensations from the other five door senses (the previous 5 groups). They are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. The other two are the minds that process the information afterward. One is the result of wholesome acts,  another is the result of unwholesome acts.

The contacting elements are the mind factors (cetasika) that appear within the mind. These are 52 kinds of cetasika (mind factors), 16 refined forms (sukhuma rupa) and nibbana. Cetasika is the dhamma element that can belong to the wholesome group, the unwholesome group or both.

The refined forms cannot be perceived through the other sense doors. Water is one example. It has the quality of “cohesiveness” that can be felt only by the mind. If you look at the water, what you see is the color not the cohesiveness. When you pour the water on the body you feel the cold sensation that flows from one spot to the other spot. It is the heat/cold element. The mind is that which interprets it as the flowing character of water. The others are living form, nutrient form, etc. The mind has to be concentrated enough to perceive these refined forms. But it does not matter, we can first contemplate the body sensation which is easier.

The knowing element is the mind consciousness. It has vast knowledge that can perceive the contacts from the 6 sense doors. It can interpret what is what. It can tell that what is seen is a human, is a man or woman, etc. It can progress into conventional interpretation. At the other end, when insight develops it is also the function of the mind consciousness. So they  include all the wholesome and unwholesome minds, the jhanic minds, the activity minds (kiriya citta), etc.

When thought arises, know that there is a thought. When feeling is pleasant or unpleasant, know it. All the wholesome and unwholesome mental states are mind elements. When the mind is peaceful know it, when it is unpeaceful also know it. When applied thought, sustained thought, doubt, satisfaction arise, know it. The mind with mindfulness also know the mindfulness, or also know that insight arises. It is the nature that has the knowing ability. “The knower can know the knower”.

The knowing mind is the mind with mindfulness and clear comprehension as mind factors (cetasika). So it does not only know the others, it also knows the other knower that just passed by. This is called the continuation of present moment (paccupanna-santati). The real truth is that these are all natural processes, these are not beings, not persons. There is nothing else in life beside these natural processes.

Our whole life can be divided into three different elements: 6 receiving, 6 contacting and 6 knowing elements. These elements appear and vanish. Without insight we proclaim them to be us, belong to us. With frequent observation, we will gradually gain understanding and clear comprehension that these are natural processes. They arise, change and disappear. Seeing disappears, hearing disappears, smelling disappears, taste disappears, touching disappears. The same process also occurs with the mind. Thought disappears, scattered or concentrated mind disappears, etc. They are impermanent, they change all the time. Whatever is impermanent, is it pleasant or unpleasant? The answer is, “It is suffering” , because it cannot be sustained (dukha character). Whatever is suffering, should we hold onto it as self? Whatever cannot be sustained, will vanish, should it be held onto as us?

Insight will see that thing that is out of control, arises and vanishes according  to the cause, that is not self (anatta). This insight will reduce the attachment and can let go of it. These dhamma conditions will go on the way they are and we have no control over them. So we should stop, know, and accept that it is out of our control. The practice is to observe it very briefly, try to be in the present moment, and then let go of it. Contemplate the vanishing with the neutral mind. This is the way of vipassana practice that can be done after listening to the dhamma and understanding about the elements.  It is one of the vipassana bhumi (land) as taught by the Buddha.

This concludes the talk. I wish you happiness, prosperity and progress in the dhamma.

Photo courtesy of Nick Kenrick.

Dhamma Talk 1.2 – Vipassana Bhumi 2

Vipassana Bhumi 2

23 August 2004

Buddha in the lightContact Bases (Ayatanas)

Vipassana practice depends on contemplating the dhamma condition(s) present at the moment. Mindfulness has to be directed at that present condition, and insight develops when the truth is seen. Contemplating conventional (pannatti) conditions is not the real truth; conventional conditions may manifest as signs, lights, colors or even the body shape, and the result would usually be samatha (concentration). We need to sort these out of the mind and focus on the conditions that are paramattha. The way of practicing this is by directing our attention towards sensations such as cold or the feeling of cold after having contact. This will lead to the understanding of the form (rupa) and the mind (nama).

The second bhumi is what is known as the contact bases (ayatana). It is one of the foundations of vipassana practice.If you hear about the khandas and do not yet understand, there are other bhumis. So, depending on the listener, the dhamma talk can be from different choices in order to benefit that listener. You can try to understand the other bhumis to help with your practice.

Ayatana (contact bases) means to connect, or where something arises, or a connector.

There are two kinds – one is internal, the other external .

The internal ayatana is called ajjhattika ayatana. The external is called bahira ayatana.

When there is contact between the two, there will be an arising of the mind, feeling, etc. The mind process will then continue to move on to wholesome and unwholesome thoughts, speech and action. There will be an arising of varieties of the mind – vedana, craving (tanha), and clinging(upadana).

The internal contact base (ayatana) is only a condition – it belongs to nature, it is not us, it does not belong to us.

There are six inside (internal) contact bases and six outside (external ) contact bases that may be paired together.

Internal                     External

eye nerve                        color

ear nerve                      sound

nose nerve                       smell

tongue nerve                   flavor

body nerve              body contact (heat/cold, soft/hard,tension /relaxation)

mind                       mental factors, refined form (sukhuma rupa), nibbana

In summary, all external contact bases are the mind (citta), mental factors(cetasika), form(rupa) and nibbana.

The inside contact bases are rupa dhamma (all the nerves) and the nama (citta/mind/consciousness).

The outside contact bases are also rupa dhamma (color, sound, smell, taste, body contact). The outside bases of mind contact may be either rupa or nama.

When contemplating the contact bases (ayatanas), we are contemplating the rupa (form) and the nama (mind). We will need to direct our observation to the contact point. When color contacts the eyes, then seeing arises. When sound contacts the ears, then hearing arises, etc. If we are not mindful at the moment of contact, thoughts will arise and expand what we have perceived into shape, followed by name, feeling, etc. This is when all defilements take place. The process through these contact bases occurs in the same way in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.

Contemplation will allow us to realize the truth that the process at the inside and outside contact bases arise by nature. There is no self, they are not us, and they do not belong to us. We will see the process of arising nature happen after the inside contact base comes into contact with the outside contact base. This process will deteriorate and disintegrate on its own. Ignorance (avijja) covers it up and attachment (upadana) holds on and presumes that they are us, that they belong to us, that the eyes and ears are ours. When colors or sounds come into contact, we would say that we “saw” or we “heard”. The mental factors help to proliferate this further. We can understand this if we watch closely and repeatedly.

This  body and mind process is not a person, and does not belong to us. It arises from several factors, including past actions (kamma), weather, food, etc. Past wholesome kamma will reflect in being born as a human with good eyes. Unwholesome kamma may bring not good results, such as being born with blindness or deafness. These forms are the ones affected by kamma (kammaja rupa). What outside contact one may experience is also the result of the kamma. Wholesome kamma will result in pleasant colors, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. The unwholesome ones will result in unpleasant contacts.

We need to observe the rising of the contact base and, when contact arises, how it is followed by consciousness. The moment of contact is crucial, since it will show the disappearing. After colors contact the eye, they will disappear. The sounds that contact the ear will disappear. The same thing happens with thought. All the contact bases exhibit impermanence – they cannot be sustained, they are out of our control, and they are nonself. We, as human beings, have wrong views and hold on to them as if they are permanent, they are pleasant, they are self, they are us and belong to us. To see this requires mindful observations on both inside and outside contacts at the time they occur. Know it where it happens: the sound contacts the ears, the color contacts the eyes, touch contacts the body, etc. It happens all the time, so observing it frequently will allow us to see the cause and effect.

The various nerves (pasada) are forms (rupa) that are transparent. They are located in the eyes, in the ears, on the tongue, and on the skin. They are not self and they interact with the outside contact base. After that occurs, perception and other mental processes follow.

The mind is the cause for the next mind to arise. It also causes the form to arise. So, the mind is one of the causes for the form (rupa) and other mind(nama) to arise. Weather (hot and cold) and food are other factors. The form needs food in order to replenish it. Food also has an effect on the mind. If the food is toxic, the mind will suffer as well. Or, if not given enough food, the mind will become weak. When one becomes unhappy and stops eating, the body will suffer. As well, when body is sick the mind will be depressed, contracted, or irritable. These usually happen when we are not mindful. The experienced meditator will know how to take close care of the mind. So, when his/her body gets sick, the mind will not be bothered. The ones who do not have much training will suffer both in the body and the mind. The suffering will bounce around back and forth between them, from one to the other. The scattered mind also has an effect on the body. For example, the brain would become tense. Also, the other organs would be affected, including the immune system. This would lead to other illnesses which might appear. In conclusion, both the body and mind have a cause and effect on each other.

Vipassana practice is the way to study life so that we reduce our clinging – we have already seen the impermanence and the suffering, which is inescapable. When we have this body, we have contact bases that occur both inside and outside. They will come together then deteriorate, disintegrate and disappear. Each form and each mind will carry that suffering.

Contemplate this life that is suffering. From the moment that you are born, you will encounter aging, sickness and death, as well as  the separation from loved ones, and not getting what you want, etc. When you suffer, if you do not train your mind, you will suffer more. Be diligent with the practice while you are still healthy. When sickness arrives, you will be able to handle it. If you wait until that moment to train your mind, it will be too late. Contemplate the suffering that you get from the cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death – this cycle will keep going, on and on.

When one person suffers, the others around him/her will also be unhappy. Suffering will occur to everyone and it cannot be substituted or delegated. It is your own suffering – one who has ended suffering has achieved it by oneself, and others cannot do it for them. It will all depend upon his/her own effort, mindfulness and wisdom that he/she has developed. We may want to try blaming our suffering on other things, but ultimately it comes from us. We may ask, why must we face this or that – it all came from our past actions (kamma), which determine what happens to us.

It is very important to do wholesome acts in this life. Some people are born in good physical health, with a good family and with wealth. But, despite that, they may have wrong views and do only unwholesome things. It does not matter how long they will live if bad kammas are the only things they have accumulated. In this way, their lives will end with debt. Some are born into a bad situation and still continue to do bad things – for them, nothing was gained in this life. Those who are born poor may realize that it was because of their past action, and thus would start to make more merit. There are ways to make merit without spending money. You can help others by doing good deeds, keep the precepts, and gain even more merit by practicing meditation. Those fortunate ones who have wealth, power and status can make even more merit if they have the right view and right intention. They can use what they have to extend their abilities to help others.

We have to put effort into training our habits and our mind. We can build up faith by listening to dhamma talks or reading dhamma books. We need to remind ourselves not to become lazy in our practice. We are lucky to have an interest in meditation. If it isn’t done now, when will we do it? Time passes by very quickly – every moment we are closer to death. Old age and sickness will make it harder for us to practice. We will also lose the opportunity to do it when we die.

Death is a good reminder for anyone who wants to end suffering. The Buddha taught us to reflect upon death to prevent heedlessness from occurring. Look at the people around you – your relatives, friends, and people you know – they will get sick and die. We too, will have to face that one day as well. Frequent reflection on death will lead you to become disenchanted with life and have more of an urge to put effort into your practice. Sickness will always be waiting for us. Our past kamma can catch up to us at any moment. Very few people are lucky enough to never get sick. When someone does get sick, they will suffer. With that in regard, we actually cannot help them much except in reminding them to keep the dhamma, to make merit, and guide them so they can reduce suffering in the mind. Usually, when the body suffers the mind will become irritated. If they have never practiced before, it will be hard for them to calm the mind or let go of the pain. When a person dies, the family will also experience suffering. Life itself is full of suffering, and it is always the same in this world.

Why do people still dwell in sensual pleasures in spite of this suffering? This seems very pitiful! The comparison can be made to chickens that are ready to be killed. They still fight each other and still compete for space or food in their pen. Human society is like that: we fight to eat, to live, to have power, etc. But eventually everyone will die, so no one gains anything!

We are lucky to have the chance to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. We have practiced mindfulness and have some wisdom so we should not be heedless. Before the Buddha passed away, his last sermon given was about heedlessness.

All conditioned things deteriorate and vanish. Perform your duties without heedlessness.

Our life is uncertain, it could change and end at anytime, and we would have no way of knowing it. Therefore, we should contemplate death at every moment. We would die if we breathed in but did not breathe out. The breath works nonstop, and the heart is beating at all times. This body, it is very fragile. It can be compared to earthenware, which breaks when it comes into contact with something hard. We would die if the breath stopped for a few moments. The body would then fall apart and would face another rebirth in the next mother’s womb. We all have to go through this cycle of suffering again and again, with no end in sight. Every birth then, is also suffering!

The Buddha gave us a path that can lead us out of suffering. Vipassana meditation is that path with which we should be interested in. The wealth, the family, etc. does not follow us – we have to leave them all behind. We arrive alone and will also depart alone. No one can help us – our salvation is only achievable by ourselves. The merits that we have done and the mindfulness and wisdom that we have developed are the only things that we can depend upon.

We can avoid heedlessness by contemplating the contact bases (ayatanas). Observe the moment of contact between inside and outside – the eyes contact the color, the ears contact the sound, the nose contacts the smell, the tongue contacts the flavor, the body contacts the sensation and the mind contacts the thought. Watch where the contact takes place. We all have these within us, so there is no need to look outside. Suffering is here, so ending of suffering is also here. After seeing the process repeatedly, mindfulness and wisdom will arise. This is the path, the way to end suffering. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body suffer because they change all the time. The color, sound, smell, taste, touch and thought also suffer because they too change. Some of them are causes of suffering such as craving and hatred. They are the mental factors that arise within the mind. The practice and the end of suffering also reside in the mind. They are all right here, inside this body and mind!

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

Photo courtesy of Tom Sparks.

Dhamma Talk 1.1 – Vipassana Bhumi

Vipassana Bhumi

21 August 2004

20140909180014Five Aggregates (Khandas)

Vipassana practice must depend on the object of meditation that is paramattha (ultimate) dhamma. It can be compared to farmers, who need to have land on which they grow their crops. This land is called “Bhumi” in Pali. Therefore,  vipassana needs to have a land of sorts to work on – that is why it is called “Vipassana Bhumi”. This is the foundation used by vipassana meditators to develop insight.

The Buddha described six of the Bhumi and categorized them, which are:

  1.  Aggregates (khanda), of which there are 5.
  2.  Sense Bases (ayatana), of which there are 12.
  3.  Elements (dhatu), of which there are 18.
  4.  Faculties (indriya), of which there are 22.
  5.  Noble Truths (ariyasacca), of which there are 4.
  6.  Dependent Origination (paticcasamuppada), of which there are 12.

Any of these objects can be used for contemplation to develop vipassana insight. In fact, they are the same paramattha dhammas but categorized differently.

Five Aggregates (Khandas)

Khandha means a group or a pile. This life is only composed of the five khandhas. In this sense it is not a literal pile like a pile of sand, but instead a group. What this means is that each of the five khandhas is different. There are khandas in the past, in the present and in the future. Some are inside our body, and some are outside others’ body. Some are coarse, and others are fine. Some are near (can be understood easily), and some are far (hard to understand).

There are five kinds of aggregates (five khandas). One of them is  commonly called “rupa” (one) and the other four are known as “nama” (four). 

Form (Rupa) 

There are 28 kinds of rupa, or form. The form will “disintegrate” when coming into contact with negative factors, such as heat, cold, hunger, thirst, etc. If the body faces too much cold or heat, exhaustion, or trauma, etc., it will fall apart or age quicker. Every  person does not get old at the same rate. It depends on how well you take care of your body and how you limit contact with the causes of destruction. Food and stress also has an effect. 

In reality, the deterioration  and disintegration are happening all the time. We start to get old from the moment we were born. Aging means that the body deteriorates. We do not see it because it is covered up. Children grow into young adults and may even become attractive. When you are older though, the changes will be clearer. The hair turns grey, teeth break off, skin becomes wrinkled, etc. In fact, one form (rupa) appears and will deteriorate and disintegrate, but then there is another form that replaces it. So it appears as if the body is growing because more new ones keep appearing when we are younger. Some will also keep on disintegrating. Form (rupa) is the condition that deteriorates and disintegrates, and it does not have the knowing ability. 

Examples of forms are the eyes, the nerves of the eyes, the ears, the nerves of the ears, the nose, the nerves of the nose, the tongue, the nerves of the tongue, the body and the nerves of the body. The elements–earth, water, wind, fire–can also be forms that become different body parts. Examples of outside forms are light, sound, smell, taste, sensations (cold/hot, soft/ hard, tension/vibration). When there is contact between the forms, they will deteriorate and disintegrate. 

When you mindfully contemplate the body you will see this process. The hot/cold, soft/hard, tension/vibration sensation will contact the body and disappear. The sound will contact the ears and disappear. The color will contact the eyes and disappear. The taste will contact the tongue and disappear. The smell will contact the nose and disappear. It is very hard to catch them because there are new replacements occurring very quickly.

The form (rupa khanda) belongs to nature, and has the specific characteristics of arising, no ability to know itself, and then disappearing. It is not “us”, does not belong to “us”, is not in “us”, and there is no “us” in the form. This is the ultimate truth. But ignorance (avijja) has covered it up and clinging (upadana) holds on to those forms and presumes that they are what we consider the “self”. We believe the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and every organ are us – they belong to us, are inside us, and we are in these body parts. This is one of the the wrong views, called sakkayaditthi (personality-view). When we practice vipassana and develop some insight (yana), we will come to realize that these are not self. We cannot say that they are us, or belong to us. They are one part of nature that arises and passes away after contact. We will see that the body sensations – hot/cold, soft/hard, tension/vibration and color, sound, smell, taste, etc. – contact the body and then disappear. This is vipassana insight – knowing of the impermanence and eventually the nonself nature. 

Knowledge from listening is called suttamayapanna. Knowledge from thinking is called cintamayapanna. The real knowledge is from observing the body and mind repeatedly until bhavanamayapanna develops. It is clear understanding that arises in the mind that yields wisdom. This does not depend on anyone telling you. When you see that the form (rupa) is only form, and not anyone’s self, it will deteriorate and disintegrate by it’s own nature. 

Feelings (Vedana)

Feeling is the mental factor that arises within the mind (vedana cetasika), and it is in every mind. Every mind will have the feeling factor when it arises. 

There are 3 feelings in the mind: joy (somanassa vedana), grief (domanassa vedana), and neutral (upekkha vedana).

There are only two body feelings : pleasant (sukha vedana) and unpleasant (dukkha vedana).

There is no neutral feeling in the body – less pain equates to pleasant feelings.

When we contemplate feeling, we will see that feeling is not us, and does not belong to us. It is only the mental factors that arise at the same time within the mind. Whatever condition the mind experiences, the feeling also experiences the same. The body is a form (rupa), but feeling (vedana) is not a form. When your knee is aching, the one who experiences the pain is not the knee because the form (rupa) does not have the knowing ability. The knowing one is the feeling (vedana), which receives the sensation from the body’s nerves. When a body nerve comes into contact with cold/hot, soft/hard sensation there will be feeling. So the body contact creates feeling. Vedana is not the body but it depends on the body and the body contact. We need the form in order to experience vedana. We have to observe it at the time of contact, then we will see that vedana arises and disappears. When we are not watching it often, pain seems to last continuously. By watching it carefully, we will see that pain starts and then stops, or it decreases. There is a break in between.

If you focus on the pain, it will appear to increase because the mind is paying full attention there. After watching it for a while, you will be able to tolerate it more. You will see changes which will help you to tolerate it better. It is the same as with facing a hot stove. Initially, it will be very hot. If you turn sideways briefly, it will be less hot. If you face it repeatedly, you will get used to it. Most farmers have to work in the heat, so they are not bothered by it. Others however, who are not used to the heat will suffer more. 

While meditating, you will be faced with pain. If you are brave enough you can endure it. You may use other tactics such as not paying attention to the pain or not focusing on it too much. You can switch the focus by looking at the mind and trying to not be disturbed by the pain. The pain usually shows itself even if you do not intend to look at it, because it is a strong mental input which draws the mind to it. If the mind changes the focus to another body part, the pain would be interrupted. The fact is that the mind can only perceive one thing at a time. If the pain is in the leg, but the mind focused on the head, it would not sense the leg pain. Or, if you listened to some noise, the leg pain also would be interrupted. But when the pain pulls the mind to the leg, then it would be sensed again. So we tend to think that the pain is there all the time. However, what actually occurs is that the mind perceives other inputs and the pain is interrupted, so you are relieved and do not suffer as much. You can alternate by watching the vedana, and then watching the mind – watching the thought and other sensations. You can also train the mind to not be bothered by pain and finally let go of it.

 After repeating the practice you will realize that the pain (vedana) is one thing and the mind is another. You will begin to separate the nature of the body and the mind. Pain on the leg is one thing, and the irritated mind is another. The practice will train you not to react and not become irritated. You may experience pain, but you will not have to suffer. The beginner often becomes irritated by minor pain, but it will lessen after repeated practice. If the pain increases to the point that it is unbearable, then you can change your posture. 

This is how you learn about vedana and gain insight. You will see that vedana is another aspect belonging to nature, not a self. We tend to cling onto vedana, thinking that it is us, that it belongs to us, and that it is in us, or we are in vedana. When we are sick, we truly believe it is us who is sick. When you have more insight you will see that vedana is only vedana – it is not self, and it does not belong to us. The pain is real, but it is only one kind of nature – it changes all the time, it cannot be controlled, and it is non-self. 

Perception/Cognition (Sanna)

Perception is another mental factor that arises with the mind (sanna cetasika). It is the natural process that recognizes conditions, form, sound, meaning, story, etc. It allows the mind to perceive and understand what it is perceiving. 

Sanna (perception) is also occupied by clinging – we presume it to be our self who can or cannot perceive. This is also the personality view (sakkayadhitti) which is the wrong view.

Insight will arise from repeated observation when you see that perception appears and disappears quickly. It seems to be there but it is not,  just like a mirage. It disappears when you examine it closer. It is another mental factor that accompanies the mind so it appears whenever the mind appears and disappears quickly as well. It also changes, cannot be controlled, and is non-self.

Volitional Formation (Sankhara)

After excluding the vedana and sanna from the 52 total cetasikas, there are the  50 mental factors (cetasikas). These factors form the characters of the mind. The wholesome ones will make a wholesome mind, and the unwholesome ones will make an unwholesome mind. Some may be neither wholesome nor unwholesome. There are 14 unwholesome, 25 wholesome, and 13 that can be both (including vedana and sanna).

The unwholesome sankhara are delusion, lack of shame for unwholesome acts, no fear of consequence of evil deeds, restlessness, greed, wrong view , conceit, anger, jealousy, worry, sloth and torpor, and doubt. 

When these mental formations arise, be aware of them in order to see that they are not us. They do not belong to us. If you have no insight, the clinging will continue to presume that they are ours. When greed arises, we will believe it is our greed. In fact, greed and  hatred are not us, they are not self. After repeated contemplation we will realize that these appear and disappear – they change, they are not us, and they do not belong to us. These characteristics can be applied to all mental formations. 

The sankhara arises in the mind, through the mind door. The location of the mind is close to the left breast. Defilements will arise at the same moment as mind consciousness. If the anger is severe, we will feel the tightness or heaviness. This shows that the defilement is toxic – it burns that area and the surrounding areas. It is like a bad person who has bothered people around him. When the anger arises in the mind , the mind will be boiling. The body parts around the mind will also be affected from being tense, and can also spread upward and affect the brain. This manifests as headache and stress. The brain usually works alongside the mind. If the thoughts are wholesome, the brain will work well. If bad thoughts arise, the brain will follow suit. It is akin to having a good or bad boss. If the mind is peaceful and clear, then the brain will be relaxed and work efficiently. 

When the mind is affected by unwholesome mental formations, be aware of it. Vipassana meditation is the study of the truth. This is the way that we can learn about these mental formations. We need to observe them until we can see that they are not self, not ours. Greed, hatred, and delusion are not self. They appear and disappear, they change all the time, and they are out of our control. This can give us insight, so defilement can be valuable to us. This is the process called dhammanupassana (mindfulness of the dhamma) in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta. Defilements are the paramattha dhamma, which means that they are real. They change and are not self, and they are out of our control.  Watching  them will lead to the gaining of vipassana insight. 

What we usually tend to do when focusing on our anger, is to control it instead of study it. We do the same with our thoughts. We want our anger to be gone, and want our mind to be quiet. When we cannot control it, we become more irritated, which leads to more added defilement. The Buddha taught us just to know, without adding any comments. If the mind is floating, know that it is floating. We learn by watching – no matter how it feels. Pretend that it does not bother us. If we watch and ignore it, without being irritable, the unwholesome mental factors will change to wholesome ones. Mindfulness and clear comprehension – both of which are wholesome mental factors – will replace them. The two may alternate. We did not add fuel to the defilements, and there is no additional  craving nor ignorance. The anger will die down and be replaced by wholesome mental factors. These factors are: mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, faith, shame of evil deeds, fear of the consequences of evil acts, non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion, loving friendliness, and appreciative joy. These wholesome mental factors sometimes occur even without doing meditation. Giving dana, keeping precepts, being humble, paying respect to the Buddha and chanting can also create wholesome mental factors. Vipassana practice is done by observing the mental factors that appear; faith, joy, and samadhi will follow. Be aware of these factors.

Consciousness (Vinnana)

These are the 89 minds (citta, consciousness, vinnana) in short, or 111 when included with the jhanic minds. Each mind is only an aggregate that we need to observe, because the clinging will presume that it is ours and that it belongs to us. When mindfully contemplating the mind, vipassana insight will develop. We will see that the mind is impermanent, and that it does not belong to us. 

It is easier for people to accept that the body is not ours. It will get old, get sick and die – after which the body will rot and degenerate. Yet it is almost impossible to accept that the mind is not ours. Upon death we still exist – we do not die with the body. The mind will leave the body and seek another rebirth. This is the way we cling on to the mind (vinnana) – that it is self, and is permanent. This wrong view is called sakkayadhitti (personality view). 

Vipassana meditation will be the way to develop clear insight and release the clinging on the vinnana by seeing that it is impermanent, it is not self. To develop the vipassana yana, one has to contemplate repeatedly at the time it arises: 

  • Eye consciousness arises when seeing.
  • Ear consciousness arises when hearing.
  • Nose consciousness arises when smelling.
  • Tongue consciousness arises when tasting.
  • Body consciousness arises when touching.
  • Mind consciousness arises when thinking, knowing.

The mind will be named differently depending on the location. When it arises in the eyes, it will be cakkhuvinnana, in the ear will be sotavinnana, in the nose will be ghanavinnana, in the tongue will be jivhavinnana, body will be kayavinnana, and in the mind will be manovinnana.

We can observe how the mind is. Many mental factors can occur together from feeling (vedana), perception (sanna), volitional formation (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana). The area of focus will depend on the mindfulness. It can focus on the mental factors (cetasika) to see the character of the mind or focus on the knowing which is the quality of the mind. 

The mind has only one ability which is “knowing” or perceiving the dhamma condition. It was categorized into 121 different minds because of the mental factors (cetasika) that accompany the mind. To focus directly on the mind is to look at the knowing ability. During meditation, as we know the inbreath and outbreath, the mind will slip and know other things. It may come back and know the breath again, or it may wander off to hear or to think. This is how the mind perceives. If the mind is not centered, it will switch around often. After watching repeatedly we will see the nature of the mind – that it arises and disappears, and does not stay permanent. It disappears quickly, which means that it has no self.

The practice is not choosing to focus solely on one object. It has to observe everything, depending on where the mindfulness is. Sometimes the mindfulness is on the form (rupa), sometimes on the feeling (vedana) , sometimes on the memory (sanna), sometimes on the volitional formation (sankhara) or consciousness (vinnana). We may observe the knowing, but then it will move on to thought, then body contact, then feeling etc. There is no order or definite pattern. Initially when starting meditation, we may begin by focusing on the body first, or by focusing on one location. After becoming more experienced, there will be no pattern. We observe whatever arises and see as many conditions as we can quickly observe.

Human beings have delusion, so we are attached to these five aggregates (khandas) and presume that they are us, that they are ours. This is why we continue to suffer. If we still have defilements we will continue to create kamma (action). This will bring about rebirth. Once we are born, suffering will follow. The five aggregates are the ones that will suffer, experience aging, sickness, death, separation from loved ones, etc. When there is a form, illness will take place. Even without diseases, the form itself has suffering since it will deteriorate and disintegrate by nature. The disease lets us see suffering in life clearer.

The ones who have the right view (sammadhitti) will see that the five aggregates are a mass of suffering. They will become disenchanted (nibbida) with the suffering and try to find a way to escape from it. Ones will see that, if we stay in such a way, then we will not be able to get out. The degeneration, aging, and suffering of the khandas are like this. If it happened only once, it would not be so bad, but the birth and death cycle has been going on and on, without any end in sight. We don’t  know when it will end, and we should contemplate this suffering repeatedly. When vipassana insight becomes clear concerning the five aggregates, vipassana yana develops until one reaches nibbana.

The other word for nibbana is khandavimutti or free from the khandas. Nibbana is neither form (rupa), nor vedana, nor sanna, nor sankhara and nor vinnana, but instead is free from all of them. This is why there is no more suffering – because there is no arising and disappearing . It is not affected by change, and there is no condition to deteriorate and disintegrate. It is extreme happiness, without any bit of suffering. This is the end of suffering, and there is no suffering left. It is khandavimutti.

There is no other way to be free from the five aggregates except to practice vipassana. While the enlightened one is still living, the mind that knows nibbana will know the state in which suffering ends. If it is the arahat’s nibbana, when he passes away it is parinibbana. It is a complete nibbana, or anupatisesanibbana. None of the five aggregates are left. If the enlightened one is still alive, he still has the five aggregates but they are the aggregates without any defilements. The sankhara is only the activity of the mind, without wholesome or unwholesome intention. It is above merit or evil acts. 

If there are still some fetters left, they will be the learned ones, but not yet fully enlightened (sekha puggala). These stages of enlightenment are the stream entry (sotapanna), once returner (sakadagami), and nonreturner (anagami ). They will have only the wholesome mind since there is no unwholesomeness left in them. They will have a chance to be reborn only into the higher realms. The door to the lower realms has been completely closed to them. If one is totally cut off from the five khandas, there will only be the functional mind (kiriya citta) or inoperative consciousness, which will not be reborn as there is no suffering left. 

If there is a rebirth, no matter where, there is still suffering. Being born as a deva or bhrama still affords a lifespan. At the end, there is still a chance of descending to the lower realms. So the only way of ending suffering and reaching the khandavimutti is to practice vipassana.

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