Ebook buddhist meditation - practical vipassana exercises
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Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.
Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw
Practical Vipassana ExercisesPractical Vipassana Exercises
Part 1 — Basic PracticePreparatory Stage 2Basic Exercise I 5Basic Exercise II 6Basic Exercise III 8Advancement in Contemplation 16Basic Exercise IV 18Summary 19
Part II — Progressive Practice 20
Practical VipassanāMeditation Exercises 30
Venerable Mahāsī SayādawA Biographical Sketch 45
AppendixTechniques of Meditation 57Rising and Falling Movementof the Abdomen 58
Mahāsī Sāsana YeikthaMeditation Centre 61
PPaarrtt II •• BBaassiicc PPrraaccttiiccee
PPrreeppaarraattoorryy SSttaaggeeIf you sincerely desire to develop contemplation and
attain insight in this your present life, you must give upworldly thoughts and actions during the training. Thiscourse of action is for the purification of conduct, theessential preliminary step towards the properdevelopment of contemplation. You must also observethe rules of discipline prescribed for laymen, (or formonks as the case may be) for they are important ingaining insight. For lay people, these rules comprise theeight precepts which Buddhist devotees observe onSabbath days (uposatha) and during periods ofmeditation.1 An additional rule is not to speak withcontempt, in jest, or with malice to or about any of thenoble ones who have attained states of sanctity.2 If youhave done so, then personally apologize to him or her or 1 The eight Uposatha precepts are: abstention from 1) killing, 2) stealing, 3) all sexualintercourse, 4) lying, 5) intoxicants, 6) taking food after noon, 7) dance, song, music,shows (attendance and performance), the use of perfumes, ornaments, etc., and8) using luxurious beds.2 There are four noble individuals (ariya-puggala). They are those who have obtaineda state of sanctity:a. The stream-winner (sotāpanna) is one who has become free from the first three ofthe ten fetters which bind him to the sensuous sphere, namely, personality belief,sceptical doubt, and attachment to mere rules and rituals.b. The once-returner (sakadāgāmi) has weakened the fourth and fifth of the tenfetters, sensuous craving and ill-will.c. The non-returner (anāgāmi) becomes fully free from the above-mentioned fivelower fetters and is no longer reborn in the sensuous sphere before reaching nibbāna.d. Through the path of holiness one further becomes free of the last five fetters:craving for fine material existence (in celestial worlds), craving for immaterial (purelymental) existence, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance.
make an apology through your meditation instructor. Ifin the past you have spoken contemptuously to a nobleone who is at present unavailable or deceased, confessthis offence to your meditation instructor orintrospectively to yourself.
The old masters of Buddhist tradition suggest that youentrust yourself to the Enlightened One, the Buddha,during the training period, for you may be alarmed if ithappens that your own state of mind producesunwholesome or frightening visions duringcontemplation. Also place yourself under the guidance ofyour meditation instructor, for then, he can talk to youfrankly about your work in contemplation and give youthe guidance he thinks necessary. These are theadvantages of placing trust in the Enlightened One, theBuddha, and practising under the guidance of yourinstructor. The aim of this practice and its greatestbenefit is release from greed, hatred and delusion, whichare the roots of all evil and suffering. This intensivecourse in insight training can lead you to such release. Sowork ardently with this end in view so that your trainingwill be successfully completed. This kind of training incontemplation, based on the foundations of mindfulness(satipaññhāna), had been taken by successive Buddhasand noble ones who attained release. You are to becongratulated on having the opportunity to take thesame kind of training they had undergone.
It is also important for you to begin your training with abrief contemplation on the ‘four protections’ which theEnlightened One, the Buddha, offers you for reflection. Itis helpful for your psychological welfare at this stage to
reflect on them. The subjects of the four protectivereflections are the Buddha himself, loving-kindness, theloathsome aspects of the body, and death. First, devoteyourself to the Buddha by sincerely appreciating his ninechief qualities in this way:
Truly, the Buddha is holy, fully enlightened, perfect inknowledge and conduct, a welfarer, world-knower,the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, teacherof gods and mankind, the awakened one and theexalted one.
Secondly, reflect upon all sentient beings as thereceivers of your loving-kindness and identify yourselfwith all sentient beings without distinction, thus:-
May I be free from enmity, disease and grief. As I am,so also may my parents, preceptors, teachers,intimate and indifferent and inimical beings be freefrom enmity, disease and grief. May they be releasedfrom suffering.
Thirdly, reflect upon the repulsive nature of the body toassist you in diminishing the unwholesome attachmentthat so many people have for the body. Dwell on some ofits impurities, such as stomach, intestines, phlegm, pus,blood.3 Ponder on these impurities so that the absurdfondness for the body may be eliminated.
The fourth protection for your psychological benefit isto reflect on the phenomenon of ever-approachingdeath. Buddhist teachings stress that life is uncertain, 3 The thirty-two parts of the body as used in body contemplation are: head-hair,body-hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, dia-phragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach, excrement, bile, phlegm, pus,blood, sweat, lymph, tears, serum, saliva, nasal mucus, synovial fluid, urine and brain.
but death is certain; life is precarious but death is sure.Life has death as its goal. There is birth, disease,suffering, old age, and eventually, death. These are allaspects of the process of existence.
To begin training, take the sitting posture with the legscrossed. You might feel more comfortable if the legs arenot inter-locked but evenly placed on the ground,without pressing one against the other. If you find thatsitting on the floor interferes with contemplation, thenobtain a more comfortable way of sitting. Now proceedwith each exercise in contemplation as described.
BBaassiicc EExxeerrcciissee IITry to keep your mind (but not your eyes) on the
abdomen. You will thereby come to know themovements of rising and falling of it. If these movementsare not clear to you in the beginning, then place bothhands on the abdomen to feel these rising and fallingmovements. After a short time the upward movement ofexhalation will become clear. Then make a mental noteof rising for the upward movement, falling for thedownward movement. Your mental note of eachmovement must be made while it occurs. From thisexercise you learn the actual manner of the upward anddownward movements of the abdomen. You are notconcerned with the form of the abdomen. What youactually perceive is the bodily sensation of pressurecaused by the heaving movement of the abdomen. So donot dwell on the form of the abdomen but proceed withthe exercise. For the beginner it is a very effectivemethod of developing the faculties of attention,
concentration of mind and insight in contemplation. Aspractice progresses, the manner of the movements willbe clearer. The ability to know each successiveoccurrence of the mental and physical processes at eachof the six sense organs is acquired only when insightcontemplation is fully developed. Since you are only abeginner whose attentiveness and power ofconcentration are still weak, you may find it difficult tokeep the mind on each successive rising movement andfalling movement as it occurs. In view of this difficulty,you may be inclined to think, “I just don’t know how tokeep my mind on each of these movement.’ Then simplyremember that this is a learning process. The rising andfalling movements of the abdomen are always presentand therefore there is no need to look for them. Actuallyit is easy for a beginner to keep his or her mind on thesetwo simple movements. Continue with this exercise infull awareness of the abdomen’s rising and fallingmovements. Never verbally repeat the words, rising,falling, and do not think of rising and falling as words. Beaware only of the actual process of the rising and fallingmovements of the abdomen. Avoid deep or rapidbreathing for the purpose of making the abdominalmovements more distinct, because this procedurecauses fatigue that interferes with the practice. Just betotally aware of the movements of rising and falling asthey occur in the course of normal breathing.
BBaassiicc EExxeerrcciissee IIIIWhile occupied with the exercise of observing each of
the abdominal movements, other mental activities may
occur between the noting of each rising and falling.Thoughts or other mental functions, such as intentions,ideas, imaginings, are likely to occur between eachmental note of rising and falling. They cannot bedisregarded. A mental note must be made of each as itoccurs.
If you imagine something, you must know that youhave done so and make a mental note, imagining. If yousimply think of something, mentally note, thinking. Ifyou reflect, reflecting. If you intend to do something,intending. When the mind wanders from the object ofmeditation which is the rising and falling of theabdomen, mentally note, wandering. Should youimagine you are going to a certain place, note going.When you arrive, arriving. When, in your thoughts, youmeet a person, note meeting. Should you speak to him orher, speaking. If you imaginarily argue with that person,note arguing. If you envision or imagine a light or colour,be sure to note seeing. A mental vision must be noted oneach occurrence of its appearance until it passes away.After its disappearance continue with Basic Exercise 1, bybeing fully aware of each movement of the rising andfalling abdomen. Proceed carefully, without slackening.If you intend to swallow saliva while thus engaged, makea mental note intending. While in the act of swallowing,swallowing. If you spit, spitting. Then return to theexercise of noting rising and falling.
Suppose you intend to bend the neck, note intending.In the act of bending, bending. When you intend tostraighten the neck, intending. In the act of straighteningthe neck, straightening. The neck movements of bending
and straightening must be done slowly. After mentallymaking a note of each of these actions, proceed in fullawareness with noticing the movements of the rising andfalling abdomen.
BBaassiicc EExxeerrcciissee IIIIIISince you must continue contemplating for a long time
while in one position, that of sitting or lying down4, youare likely to experience an intense feeling of fatigue,stiffness in the body or in the arms and legs. Should thishappen, simply keep the knowing mind on that part ofthe body where such feelings occur and carry on thecontemplation, noting tired or stiff. Do this naturally;that is, neither too fast nor too slow. These feelingsgradually become fainter and finally cease altogether.Should one of these feelings become more intense untilthe bodily fatigue or stiffness of joints is unbearable, thenchange your position. However, do not forget to make amental note of intending, before you proceed to changeyour position. Each movement must be contemplated inits respective order and in detail.
If you intend to lift the hand or leg, make a mental noteintending. In the act of lifting the hand or leg, lifting.Stretching either the hand or the leg, stretching. Whenyou bend it, bending. When putting it down, putting.Should either the hand or leg touch, touching. Performall of these actions in a slow and deliberate manner. Assoon as you are settled in the new position, continue
4 It is not advised that the meditator should use the lying posture except when it istime to sleep.
with the contemplation in another position keeping tothe procedure outlined in this paragraph.
Should an itching sensation be felt in any part of thebody, keep the mind on that part and make a mentalnote, itching. Do this in a regulated manner, neither toofast nor too slow. When the itching sensation disappearsin the course of full awareness, continue with theexercise of noticing the rising and falling of theabdomen. Should the itching continue and become toostrong and you intend to rub the itchy part, be sure tomake a mental note, intending. Slowly lift the hand,simultaneously noting the actions of lifting; andtouching, when the hand touches the part that itches.Rub slowly in complete awareness of rubbing. When theitching sensation has disappeared and you intend todiscontinue rubbing be mindful by making the usualmental note of intending. Slowly withdraw the hand,concurrently making a mental note of the action,withdrawing. When the hand rests in its usual placetouching the leg, touching. Then again devote your timeto observing the abdominal movements.
If there is pain or discomfort, keep the knowing mindon that part of the body where the sensation arises. Makea mental note of the specific sensation as it occurs, suchas painful, aching, pressing, piercing, tired, giddy. It mustbe stressed that the mental note must not be forced nordelayed but made in a calm and natural manner. Thepain may eventually cease or increase. Do not bealarmed if it increases. Firmly continue thecontemplation. If you do so, you will find that the painwill almost always cease. But if, after a time, the pain has
increased and becomes unbearable, you must ignore thepain and continue with the contemplation of rising andfalling.
As you progress in mindfulness you may experiencesensations of intense pain: stifling or choking sensations,such as pain from the slash of a knife, the thrust of asharp-pointed instrument, unpleasant sensations ofbeing pricked by sharp needles, or of small insectscrawling over the body. You might experience sensationsof itching, biting, intense cold. As soon as youdiscontinue the contemplation you may also feel thatthese painful sensations cease. When you resumecontemplation you will have them again as soon as yougain in mindfulness. These painful sensations are not tobe considered as something wrong. They are notmanifestations of disease but are common factors alwayspresent in the body and are usually obscured when themind is normally occupied with more conspicuousobjects. When the mental faculties become keener youare more aware of these sensations. With the continueddevelopment of contemplation the time will come whenyou can overcome them and they will cease altogether. Ifyou continue contemplation, firm in purpose, you willnot come to any harm. Should you lose courage, becomeirresolute in contemplation and discontinue for sometime, you may encounter these unpleasant sensationsagain and again as your contemplation proceeds. If youcontinue with determination you will most likelyovercome these painful sensations and may never againexperience them in the course of contemplation.
Should you intend to sway the body, then knowinglynote intending. While in the act of swaying, swaying.When contemplating you may occasionally discover thebody swaying back and forth. Do not be alarmed; neitherbe pleased nor wish to continue to sway. The swayingwill cease if you keep the knowing mind on the action ofswaying and continue to note swaying until the actionceases. If swaying increases in spite of your making amental note of it, then lean against a wall or post or liedown for a while. Thereafter proceed withcontemplation. Follow the same procedure if you findyourself shaking or trembling. When contemplation isdeveloped you may sometimes feel a thrill or chill passthrough the back or the entire body. This is a symptom ofthe feeling of intense interest, enthusiasm or rapture. Itoccurs naturally in the course of good contemplation.When your mind is fixed in contemplation you may bestartled at the slightest sound. This takes place becauseyou feel the effect of sensory impression more intenselywhile in a state of concentration.
If you are thirsty while contemplating, notice thefeeling, thirsty. When you intend to stand, intending.Keep the mind intently on the act of standing up, andmentally note standing. When you look forward afterstanding up straight, note looking, seeing. Should youintend to walk forward, intending. When you begin tostep forward, mentally note each step as walking,walking, or left, right. It is important for you to be awareof every moment in each step from the beginning to theend when you walk. Adhere to the same procedure whenstrolling or when taking walking exercise. Try to make amental note of each step in two sections as follows:
lifting, putting, lifting, putting. When you have obtainedsufficient practice in this manner of walking, then try tomake a mental note of each step in three sections; lifting,pushing, putting; or up, forward, down.
When you look at the tap or water-pot on arriving atthe place where you are to take a drink, be sure to make amental note, looking, seeing.
When you stop walking, stopping.When you stretch out the hand, stretching.When you touch the cup, touching.When you take the cup, taking.When dipping the cup into the water, dipping.When bringing the cup to the lips, bringing.When the cup touches the lips, touching.When you swallow, swallowing.When returning the cup, returning.When withdrawing the hand, withdrawing.When you bring down the hand, bringing.When the hand touches the side of the body, touching.If you intend to turn round, intending.When you turn round, turning.When you walk forward, walking.On arriving at the place where you intend to stop,
intending.When you stop, stopping.
If you remain standing for some time continue thecontemplation of rising and falling. But if you intend tosit down, note intending. When you go to sit down,walking. On arriving at the place where you will sit,
arriving. When you turn to sit, turning. While in the actof sitting down, sitting. Sit down slowly, and keep themind on the downward movement of the body. Youmust notice every movement in bringing the hands andlegs into position. Then resume the practice ofcontemplating the abdominal movements.
Should you intend to lie down, note intending. Thenproceed with the contemplation of every movement inthe course of lying down: lifting, stretching, putting,touching, lying. Then take as the object of contemplationevery movement in bringing the hands, legs and bodyinto position. Perform these actions slowly. Thereafter,continue with noting rising and falling. Should pain,fatigue, itching, or any other sensation be felt, be sure tonotice each of these sensations. Notice all feelings,thoughts, ideas, considerations, reflections; allmovements of hands, legs, arms and body. If there isnothing in particular to note, put the mind on the risingand falling of the abdomen. When sleepy, make a mentalnote, sleepy. After you have gained sufficientconcentration in contemplating you will be able toovercome drowsiness and you will feel refreshed as aresult. Take up again the usual contemplation of thebasic object. If you are unable to overcome the drowsyfeeling, you must continue contemplating drowsinessuntil you fall asleep.
The state of sleep is the continuity of sub-consciousness. It is similar to the first state of rebirthconsciousness and the last state of consciousness at themoment of death. This state of consciousness is feebleand therefore, unable to be aware of an object. When you
awake, the continuity of sub-consciousness occursregularly between moments of seeing, hearing, tasting,smelling, touching, and thinking. Because theseoccurrences are of brief duration they are not usuallyclear and therefore not noticeable. Continuity of sub-consciousness remains during sleep — a fact whichbecomes obvious when you wake up; for it is in the stateof wakefulness that thoughts and sense objects becomedistinct.
Contemplation should start at the moment you wakeup. Since you are a beginner, it may not be possible yetfor you to start contemplating at the very first moment ofwakefulness. But you should start with it when youremember that you are to contemplate. For example, ifon awakening you reflect on something, you shouldbecome aware of the fact and begin your contemplationby a mental note, reflecting. Then proceed with thecontemplation of rising and falling. When getting upfrom the bed, mindfulness should be directed to everydetail of the body’s activity. Each movement of thehands, legs and rump must be performed in completeawareness. Are you thinking of the time of day whenawakening? If so, note thinking. Do you intend to get outof bed? If so, note intending. If you prepare to move thebody into position for rising, note preparing. As youslowly rise, rising. Should you remain sitting for anylength of time, revert to contemplating the abdominalmovements.
Perform the acts of washing the face or taking a bath indue order and in complete awareness of every detailedmovement; for instance, looking, seeing, stretching,
holding, touching, feeling cold, rubbing. In the acts ofdressing, making the bed, opening and closing doors andwindows, handling objects, be occupied with every detailof these actions in sequence.
You must attend to the contemplation of every detail inthe action of eating;
When you look at the food, looking, seeing.When you arrange the food, arranging.When you bring the food to the mouth, bringing.When you bend the neck forwards, bending.When the food touches the mouth, touching.When placing the food in the mouth, placing.When the mouth closes, closing.When withdrawing the hand, withdrawing.Should the hand touch the plate, touching.When straightening the neck, straightening.When in the act of chewing, chewing.When you are aware of the taste, knowing.When swallowing the food, swallowing.While swallowing the food, should the food be felt
touching the sides of the gullet, touching.
Perform contemplation in this manner each time youtake a morsel of food until you finish your meal. In thebeginning of the practice there will be many omissions.Never mind. Do not waver in your effort. You will makefewer omissions if you persist in your practice. When youreach an advanced stage of the practice you will also tobe able to notice more details than those mentionedhere.
AAddvvaanncceemmeenntt iinn CCoonntteemmppllaattiioonnAfter having practised for a day and a night you may
find your contemplation considerably improved. Youmay be able to prolong the basic exercise of noticing theabdominal movements. At this time you will notice thatthere is generally a break between the movements ofrising and falling. If you are in the sitting posture, fill inthis gap with a mental note of the fact of sitting in thisway: rising, falling, sitting. When you make a mental noteof sitting, keep your mind on the erect position of theupper body. When you are lying down you shouldproceed with full awareness as follows: rising, falling,lying. If you find this easy, continue with noticing thesethree sections. Should you notice that a pause occurs atthe end of the rising as well as at the end of the fallingmovement, then continue in this manner: rising, sitting,falling, sitting. Or when lying down: rising, lying, falling,lying. Suppose you no longer find it easy to make amental note of three or four objects in the above manner.Then revert to the initial procedure of noting only thetwo sections; rising and falling.
While engaged in the regular practise of contemplatingbodily movements you need not be concerned withobjects of seeing and hearing. As long as you are able tokeep your mind on the abdominal movements of risingand falling it is assumed that the purpose of noticing theacts and objects of seeing is also served. However, youmay intentionally look at an object; two or three times,note as seeing. Then return to the awareness of theabdominal movements. Suppose some person comesinto your view. Make a mental note of seeing, two or
three times and then resume attention to the rising andfalling movements of the abdomen. Did you happen tohear the sound of a voice? Did you listen to it? If so makea mental note of hearing, listening and revert to risingand falling. But suppose you heard loud noises, such asthe barking of dogs, loud talking or shouting. If so,immediately make a mental note two or three times,hearing, then return to your basic exercise. If you fail tonote and dismiss such distinctive sounds as they occur,you may inadvertently fall into reflections about theminstead of proceeding with intense attention to risingand falling, which may then become less distinct andclear. It is by such weakened attention that mind-defilingpassions breed and multiply. If such reflections do occur,make a mental note reflecting, two or three times, thenagain take up the contemplation of rising and falling.Should you forget to make a mental note of body, leg orarm movements, then mentally note forgetting, andresume your usual contemplation on abdominalmovements. You may feel at times that breathing is slowor that the rising and falling movements are not clearlyperceived. When this happens, and you are in the sittingposition, simply move the attention to sitting, touching;or if you are lying down, to lying, touching. Whilecontemplating touching, your mind should not be kepton the same part of the body but on different partssuccessively. There are several places of touch and atleast six or seven should be contemplated.5
5 Some of these points where the body sensation may be observed are: where thighand knee touch, or where the hands are placed together, or finger to finger, thumb tothumb, closing of the eyelids, the tongue inside the mouth, the lips touching whenthe mouth is closed.
BBaassiicc EExxeerrcciissee IIVVUp to this point you have devoted quite some time to
the training course. You might begin to feel lazy afterdeciding that you have made inadequate progress. By nomeans give up. Simply note the fact, lazy. Before yougain sufficient strength in attention, concentration andinsight, you may doubt the correctness or usefulness ofthis method of training. In such a circumstance turn tocontemplation of the thought, doubtful. Do youanticipate or wish for good results? If so, make suchthoughts the subject of your contemplation;anticipating, or wishing. Are you attempting to recall themanner in which the training was conducted up to thispoint? Yes? Then take up contemplation on recollecting.Are there occasions when you examine the object ofcontemplation in order to determine whether it is mindor matter? If so, then be aware of examining. Do youregret that there is no improvement in yourcontemplation? If so, attend to the feeling of regret.Conversely, are you happy that your contemplation isimproving? If you are, then contemplate the feeling ofbeing happy. This is the way in which you make a mentalnote of every item of mental behaviour as it occurs, andif there are no intervening thoughts or perceptions tonote, you should revert to the contemplation of risingand falling. During a strict course of meditation, the timeof practice is from the first moment you wake up untilthe last moment before you fall asleep. To reiterate, youmust be constantly occupied either with the basicexercise or with mindful attention throughout the dayand during those night hours when you are not asleep.
There must be no relaxation. Upon reaching a certainstage of progress with contemplation you will not feelsleepy in spite of these prolonged hours of practise. Onthe contrary, you will be able to continue thecontemplation day and night.
SSuummmmaarryyIt has been emphasized during this brief outline of the
training that you must contemplate on each mentaloccurrence, good or bad; on each bodily movement largeor small; on every sensation (bodily or mental feeling)pleasant or unpleasant; and so on. If, during the courseof training, occasions arise when there is nothing specialto contemplate upon, be fully occupied with attention tothe rising and falling of the abdomen. When you have toattend to any kind of activity that necessitates walking,then, in complete awareness, each step should be brieflynoted as walking, walking or left, right. But when you aretaking a walking exercise, contemplate on each step inthree sections; up, forward, down. The student who thusdedicates himself or herself to the training day and night,will be able in not too long a time, to developconcentration to the initial stage of the fourth degree ofinsight (knowledge of arising and passing away)6 andonward to higher stages of insight meditation (vipassanābhāvanā).
6 Taruna-udayabbaya-ñāõa - On the degrees of insight knowledge see the Progress ofInsight by the Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw (Published by The Forest Hermitage,Kandy, Sri Lanka).
PPaarrtt IIII •• PPrrooggrreessssiivvee PPrraaccttiicceeWhen as mentioned above, by dint of diligent practice,
mindfulness and concentration have improved, themeditator will notice the pairwise occurrence of anobject and the knowing of it, such as the rising andawareness of it, the falling and awareness of it, sittingand awareness of it, bending and awareness of it,stretching and awareness of it, lifting and awareness of it,putting down and awareness of it. Throughconcentration attention (mindfulness) he knows how todistinguish each bodily and mental process: “The risingmovement is one process; the knowing of it is another”.He realises that each act of knowing has the nature of‘going towards an object.’ Such a realisation refers to thecharacteristic function of the mind as inclining towardsan object, or cognising an object. One should know thatthe more clearly a material object is noticed, the clearerbecomes the mental process of knowing it. This fact isstated thus in the Visuddhimagga:
“For in proportion as materiality becomes quitedefinite, disentangled and quite clear to him, so theimmaterial states that have that materiality as theirobject become plain of themselves too”. (‘The Path ofPurification’, translated by Bhikkhu Ñānamoli).
When the meditator comes to know the differencebetween a bodily process and a mental process, shouldhe be a simple man, he would reflect from directexperience thus: “There is the rising and the knowing it;the falling and knowing it, and so on and so forth. Thereis nothing else besides them. The words ‘man’ or
‘woman’ refer to the same process; there is no ‘person’or ‘soul’.” Should he be a well-informed man, he wouldreflect from direct knowledge of the difference between amaterial process as object and a mental process ofknowing it, thus: “It is true that there are only body andmind. Besides them there none such entities as man orwoman. While contemplating one notices a materialprocess as object and a mental process of knowing it;and it is to that pair alone that the terms of conventionalusage ‘being’, ‘person’ or ‘soul’, ‘man’ or ‘woman’ refer.But apart from that dual process there is no separateperson or being, I or another, man or woman”. Whensuch reflections occur, the meditator must note“reflecting, reflecting” and go on observing the rising ofthe abdomen, and its falling.7
With further progress in meditation, to the consciousstate of an intention is evident before a bodily movementoccurs. To the meditator first notices that intention.Though also at to the start of his practice, he does notice“intending, intending” (for instance, to bend an arm), yethe cannot notice that state of consciousness distinctly.Now, at this more advanced stage, he clearly notices tothe consciousness consisting of to the intention to bend.So he notices first to the conscious state of an intentionto make a bodily movement; then he notices to theparticular bodily movement. At to the beginning,because of omission to notice an intention, he thinksthat bodily movement is quicker than to the mindknowing it. Now, at this advanced stage, mind appears to 7 The preceding section describes the ‘analytical knowledge of body and mind’(nāmarūpa-pariccheda-ñāõa), belong to the ‘Purification of View’.
be to the forerunner. To the meditator readily notices theintention of bending, stretching, sitting, standing, going,and so on. He also clearly notices to the actual bending,stretching, etc. So he realises to the fact that mindknowing a bodily process is quicker than to the materialprocess. He experiences directly that a bodily processtakes place after a preceding intention. Again he knowsfrom direct experience that to the intensity of heat orcold increases while he is noticing “hot, hot” or “cold,cold.” In contemplating regular and spontaneous bodilymovements such as to the rising and falling of to theabdomen, he notices one after another continuously. Healso notices to the arising in him of mental images suchas to the Buddha, an arahat, as well as any kind ofsensation that arises in his body (such as itch, ache,heat), with attention directed on to the particular spotwhere to the sensation occurs. One sensation has hardlydisappeared, then another arises, and he notices them allaccordingly. While noticing every object as it arises he isaware that a mental process of knowing depends on anobject. Sometimes, to the rising and falling of to theabdomen is so faint that he finds nothing to notice.Then, it occurs to him that there can be no knowingwithout an object. When no noticing of to the rising andfalling is possible one should be aware of sitting andtouching or lying and touching. Touching is to benoticed alternatively. For example, after noticing“sitting”, notice to the touch sensation at to the right foot(caused by its contact with to the ground or seat). Then,after noticing “sitting”, notice to the touch sensation atto the left foot. In to the same manner, notice to thetouch sensation at several places. Again, in noticing
seeing, hearing, to the meditator comes to know clearlythat seeing arises from to the contact of eye and visualobject and hearing arises from to the contact of ear andsound.
Further he reflects: “Material processes of bending,stretching and so on, follow mental processes ofintending to bend, stretch and so forth. He goes on toreflect: “One’s body becomes hot or cold because of tothe element of heat or cold; to the body exists on foodand nourishment; consciousness arises because thereare objects to notice: seeing arises through visual objects;hearing through sounds, and also because there are tothe sense organs, eye, ear etc., as conditioning factors.Intention and noticing result from previous experiences;feelings (sensations) of all kinds are to the consequencesof previous kamma in to the sense that materialprocesses and mental processes take place ever sincebirth because of previous kamma. There is nobody tocreate this body and mind, and all that happens hascausal factors”. Such reflections come to the meditatorwhile he is noticing any object as it arises. He does notstop doing so to take time to reflect. While noticingobjects as they arise these reflections are so quick thatthey appear to be automatic. To the meditator, then,must note: “Reflecting, reflecting, recognising,recognising”, and continue noticing objects as usual.After having reflected that material processes and mentalprocesses being noticed are conditioned by to theprevious processes of to the same nature, to themeditator reflects further that body and mind in to theformer existences were conditioned by to the precedingcauses, that in to the following existences body and mind
will result from to the same causes, and apart from thisdual process there is no separate ‘being’ or ‘person’,only causes and effects taking place. Such reflectionsmust also be noticed and then contemplation should goon as usual.8 Such reflections will be many in to the caseof persons with a strong intellectual bent and less in tothe case of those with no such bent. Be that as it may,energetic noticing must be made of all these reflections.Noticing them will result in their reduction to aminimum, allowing insight to progress unimpeded by anexcess of such reflections. It should be taken for grantedthat a minimum of reflections will suffice here.
When concentration is practised in an intensivemanner, to the meditator may experience almostunbearable sensations, such as itching, aches, heat,dullness and stiffness. If mindful noticing is stopped,such sensations will disappear. When noticing isresumed, they will reappear. Such sensations arise inconsequence of to the body’s natural sensitivity and arenot to the symptoms of a disease. If they are noticed withenergetic concentration they fade away gradually.
Again, to the meditator sometimes sees images of allkinds as if seeing them with his own eyes; for example, tothe Buddha comes into to the scene in glorious radiance;a procession of monks in to the sky; pagodas (dagobas)and images of to the Buddha; meeting with belovedones; trees or woods, hills or mountains, gardens,buildings; finding oneself face to face with bloated deadbodies or skeletons; swelling of one’s body, covered with 8 The preceding section refers to ‘knowledge by discerning conditionality’ (paccaya-pariggaha-ñāõa), belonging to to the ‘Purification by Overcoming Doubt’.
blood, falling into pieces and reduced to a mere skeleton,seeing in one’s body to the entrails and vital organs andeven germs; seeing to the denizens of to the hells andheavens. These are nothing but creatures of one’simagination sharpened by intense concentration. Theyare similar to what one comes across in dreams. They arenot to be welcomed and enjoyed, nor need one be afraidof them. These objects seen in to the course ofcontemplation are not real; they are mere images orimaginations, whereas to the mind that sees thoseobjects is a reality. But purely mental processes,unconnected with fivefold sense impressions, cannoteasily be noticed with sufficient clarity and detail. Henceprincipal attention should be given to sense objectswhich can be noticed easily, and to those mentalprocesses which arise in connection with senseperceptions. So whatever object appears, to themeditator should notice it, saying mentally, “seeing,seeing” until it disappears. It will either move away, fadeaway or break asunder. At to the outset, this will takeseveral noticings, say about five to ten. But when insightdevelops, to the object will disappear after a couple ofnoticings. However, if to the meditator wishes to enjoy tothe sight, or to look closely into to the matter, or getsscared of it, then it is likely to linger on. If to the object beinduced deliberately, then through delight it will last along time. So care must be taken not to think of orincline towards extraneous matters while one’sconcentration is good. If such thoughts come in, theymust be instantly noticed and dispelled. In to the case ofsome persons they experience no extraordinary objectsor feelings and, while contemplating as usual, become
lazy. They must notice this laziness thus: “lazy, lazy”,until they overcome it. At this stage, whether or not tothe meditators come across extraordinary objects orfeelings they know clearly to the initial, to theintermediate and to the final phases of every noticing. Atto the beginning of to the practice, while noticing oneobject, they had to switch onto a different object thatarose, but they did not notice clearly to thedisappearance of to the previous object. Now, only aftercognising to the disappearance of an object, they noticeto the new object that arises. Thus they have a clearknowledge of to the initial, to the intermediate and to thefinal phases of to the object noticed.
At this stage when to the meditator becomes morepractised he perceives in every act of noticing that anobject appears suddenly and disappears instantly. Hisperception is so clear that he reflects thus: “All comes toan end; all disappears. Nothing is impermanent; it istruly impermanent”. His reflection is quite in line withwhat is stated in to the Commentary to to the Pali Text:“All is impermanent, in to the sense of destruction, non-existence after having been”. He reflects further, “It isthrough ignorance that we enjoy life. But in truth, thereis nothing to enjoy. There is a continuous arising anddisappearing by which we are harassed ever and anon.This is dreadful indeed. At any moment we may die andeverything is sure to come to an end. This universalimpermanence is truly frightful and terrible”. Hisreflection agrees with to the commentarial statement:“What is impermanent is painful, painful in to the senseof terror; painful because of oppression by rise and fall”.Again, experiencing severe pains he reflects thus: “All is
pain, all is bad”. This reflection agrees with what to theCommentary states: “He looks on pain as a barb; as aboil; as a dart”. He further reflects: “This is a mass ofsuffering, suffering that is unavoidable. Arising anddisappearing, it is worthless. One cannot stop its process.It is beyond one’s power. It takes its natural course”. Thisreflection is quite in agreement with to the Commentary:“What is painful is not self, not self in to the sense ofhaving no core, because there is no exercising of powerover it”. To the meditator must notice all thesereflections and go on contemplating as usual.
Having thus seen to the three characteristics by directexperience, to the meditator, by inference from to thedirect experience of to the objects noticed, comprehendsall to the objects not yet noticed as being impermanent,subject to suffering, and without a self.
In respect of objects not personally experienced, heconcludes: “They too are constituted in to the same way:impermanent, painful and without a self”. This is aninference from his present direct experience. Such acomprehension is not clear enough in to the case of onewith less intellectual capacity or limited knowledge whopays no attention to a reflection but simply goes onnoticing objects. But such a comprehension occurs oftento one who yields to reflection, which, in some cases,may occur at every act of noticing. Such excessivereflecting, however, is an impediment to to the progressof insight. Even if no such reflections occur at this stage,comprehension will nevertheless become increasinglyclear at to the higher stages. Hence, no attention shouldbe given to reflections. While giving more attention to to
the bare noticing of objects, to the meditator must,however, also notice these reflections if they occur, buthe should not dwell on them.9
After comprehending to the three characteristics, to themeditator no longer reflects but goes on with noticingthose bodily and mental objects which presentthemselves continuously. Then at to the moment whento the five mental faculties, namely, faith, energy,mindfulness, concentration, and knowledge, areproperly balanced, to the mental process of noticingaccelerates as if it becomes uplifted, and to the bodilyand mental processes to be noticed also arise muchquicker. In a moment of in-breathing to the rising of tothe abdomen presents itself in quick succession, and tothe falling also becomes correspondingly quicker. Quicksuccession is also evident in to the process of bendingand stretching. Slight movements are felt spreading allover to the body. In several cases, prickly sensations anditching appear in quick succession momentarily. By andlarge, these are feelings hard to bear. To the meditatorcannot possibly keep pace with to the quick successionof varied experiences if he attempts to notice them byname. Noticing has here to be done in a general manner,but with mindfulness. At this stage one need not try tonotice details of to the objects arising in quicksuccession, but one should notice them generally. If onewishes to name them, a collective designation will besufficient. If one attempts to follow them in a detailedmanner, one will get tired soon. To the important thing is
9 The preceding paragraphs refer to to the ‘knowledge of comprehension’samasana-ñāõa.
to notice clearly and to comprehend what arises. At thisstage, to the usual contemplation focused on a fewselected objects should be set aside and mindful noticingshould attend to every object that arises at to the sixsense doors. Only when one is not keen on this sort ofnoticing, then one should revert to to the usualcontemplation.
PPrraaccttiiccaall VViippaassssaannāā MMeeddiittaattiioonnEExxeerrcciisseess
The following is a talk by the Ven. Mahāsī Sayādaw(Aggamahāpaõóita) given to meditators on theirinduction at Mahāsī Meditation Centre, Rangoon,Burma. It was translated from the Burmese byU Nyi Nyi, and edited in 1997 by Bhikkhu Pesala.
The practice of Vipassanā or Insight Meditation is theeffort to understand correctly the nature of the mentaland physical phenomena within one’s own body.Physical phenomena are the things or objects that oneclearly perceives around and within one. The whole ofone’s body constitutes a group of material qualities(rūpa). Mental phenomena are acts of consciousness orawareness (nāma). These are clearly perceived wheneverthings are seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, or thoughtof. We must make ourselves aware of these mentalphenomena by observing them and noting thus: ‘Seeing,seeing’, ‘hearing, hearing’, ‘smelling, smelling’, ‘tasting,tasting’, ‘touching, touching’, or ‘thinking, thinking’.
Every time one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, orthinks, one should make a note of the fact. However, inthe beginning of one’s practice, one cannot make a noteall of these events. One should, therefore, begin withnoting those events which are conspicuous and easilyperceivable.
With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls— this movement is always evident. This is the materialquality known as the element of motion (vāyodhātu).
One should begin by noting this movement, which maybe done by mentally observing the abdomen. You willfind the abdomen rising when you breathe in, and fallingwhen you breathe out. The rising should be notedmentally as ‘rising’, and the falling as ‘falling’. If themovement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keeptouching the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Donot alter the manner of your breathing. Neither slow itdown, nor make it faster. Do not breathe too vigorously,either. You will tire if you change the manner of yourbreathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the risingand falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note itmentally, not verbally.
In vipassanā meditation, what you name or say doesn’tmatter. What really matters is to know or perceive. Whilenoting the rising of the abdomen, do so from thebeginning to the end of the movement just as if you areseeing it with your eyes. Do the same with the fallingmovement. Note the rising movement in such a way thatyour awareness of it is concurrent with the movementitself. The movement and the mental awareness of itshould coincide in the same way as a stone thrown hitsthe target. Similarly with the falling movement.
Your mind may wander elsewhere while you are notingthe abdominal movement. This must also be noted bymentally saying, ‘wandering, wandering’. When this hasbeen noted once or twice, the mind stops wandering, inwhich case you return to noting the rising and falling ofthe abdomen. If the mind reaches somewhere, note as‘reaching, reaching’. Then return to the rising and fallingof the abdomen. If you imagine meeting somebody, note
as ‘meeting, meeting’. Then return to the rising andfalling. If you imagine meeting and talking to somebody,note as ‘talking, talking’.
In short, whatever thought or reflection occurs shouldbe noted. If you imagine, note as ‘imagining’. If youthink, ‘thinking’. If you plan, ‘planning’. If you perceive,‘perceiving’. If you reflect, ‘reflecting’. If you feel happy,‘happy’. If you feel bored, ‘bored’. If you feel glad, ‘glad’.If you feel disheartened, ‘disheartened’. Noting all theseacts of consciousness is called cittānupassanā.
Because we fail to note these acts of consciousness, wetend to identify them with a person or individual. Wetend to think that it is ‘I’ who is imagining, thinking,planning, knowing or perceiving. We think that there is aperson who, from childhood onwards, has been livingand thinking. Actually, no such person exists. There areinstead only these continuing and successive acts ofconsciousness. That is why we have to note these acts ofconsciousness and know them for what they are. So wehave to note each and every act of consciousness as itarises. When so noted, it tends to disappear. We thenreturn to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.
When you have sat meditating for a long time,sensations of stiffness and heat will arise in your body.These are to be noted carefully too. Similarly withsensations of pain and fatigue. All of these sensations aredukkhavedanā (feeling of unsatisfactoriness) and notingthem is vedanānupassanā. Failure or omission to notethese sensations makes you think, “I am stiff, I am feelinghot, I am in pain. I was alright a moment ago. Now I amuneasy with these unpleasant sensations.” The
identification of these sensations with the ego ismistaken. There is really no ‘I’ involved, only asuccession of one new unpleasant sensation afteranother.
It is just like a continuous succession of new electricalimpulses that light up an electric lamp. Every timeunpleasant contacts are encountered in the body,unpleasant sensations arise one after another. Thesesensations should be carefully and intently noted,whether they are sensations of stiffness, of heat, or ofpain. In the beginning of one’s meditation practice,these sensations may tend to increase and lead to adesire to change one’s posture. This desire should benoted, after which the meditator should return to notingthe sensations of stiffness, heat etc.
There is a saying, “Patience leads to Nibbāna.” Thissaying is particularly relevant in meditation practice.One must be patient to meditate. If one shifts or changesone’s posture too often because one cannot bear thesensation of stiffness or heat that arises, goodconcentration (samādhi) cannot develop. Ifconcentration cannot develop, insight cannot result andthere can be no attainment of the path (magga), the fruitof that path (phala) or nibbāna. That is why patience isneeded in meditation. It is mostly patience withunpleasant sensations in the body like stiffness, heat,pain and other unpleasant sensations. On theappearance of such sensations one should notimmediately change one’s posture. One should continuepatiently, just noting as ‘stiff, stiff’ or ‘hot, hot’.Moderate unpleasant sensations will disappear if one
notes them patiently. When concentration is strong,even intense sensations tend to disappear. One thenreverts to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.
One will, of course, have to change one’s posture if thesensations do not disappear even after noting them for along time, or if they become unbearable. One shouldthen begin by noting ‘wanting to change, wanting tochange’. If one raises the arm, note as ‘raising, raising’. Ifone moves, note as ‘moving, moving’. This changeshould be made gently and noted as ‘raising, raising’,‘moving, moving’ and ‘touching, touching’.
If the body sways, note ‘swaying, swaying’. If you raisethe foot, note ‘raising, raising’. If you move it, note‘moving, moving’. If you drop it, note ‘dropping,dropping’. When there is no more movement, return tonoting the rising and falling of the abdomen. There mustbe no gaps, but continuity between a preceding act ofnoting and a succeeding one, between a preceding stateof concentration and a succeeding one, between apreceding act of intelligence and a succeeding one. Onlythen will there be successive and ascending stages ofmaturity in the meditator’s understanding. Knowledge ofthe path and it fruition are attained only when there isthis kind of accumulated momentum. The meditativeprocess is like that of producing fire by energetically andunremittingly rubbing two sticks of wood together togenerate enough heat to make fire.
In the same way, the noting in vipassanā meditationshould be continuous and unremitting, without anyinterval between acts of noting, whatever phenomenamay arise. For instance, if a sensation of itchiness
intervenes and the meditator desires to scratch becauseit is hard to bear, both the sensation and the desire to getrid of it should be noted, without immediately getting ridof the sensation by scratching.
If one perseveres, the itchiness will generallydisappear, in which case one reverts to noting the risingand falling of the abdomen. If the itchiness does notdisappear, one may eliminate it by scratching, but firstthe desire to do so should be noted. All the movementsinvolved in the process of eliminating the itch should benoted, especially the touching, pulling and pushing, andscratching movements, eventually returning to the risingand falling of the abdomen.
Whenever you change your posture, begin by notingyour intention or desire to change, and note everymovement closely, such as rising from the sittingposture, raising the arm, moving and stretching it. Youshould note the movements at the same time as makingthem. As your body sways forward, note it. As you rise,the body becomes light and rises. Focus your mind onthis, you should gently note as ‘rising, rising’.
A meditator should behave like a weak invalid. Peoplein normal health rise easily and quickly, or abruptly. Notso with feeble invalids, who do so slowly and gently. Thesame is the case with people suffering from backachewho rise gently lest the back hurts and causes pain. Soalso with meditators. They shoud make changes ofposture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness,concentration and insight be clear. Begin, therefore, withgentle and gradual movements. When rising, themeditator must do so gently like an invalid, at the same
time noting as ‘rising, rising’. Not only this: though theeye sees, the meditator must act as if blind. Similarlywhen the ear hears. While meditating, the meditator’sconcern is only to note. What one sees and hears are notone’s concern. So whatever strange or striking things onemay see or hear, one must behave as if one does not seeor hear them, merely noting carefully.
When making bodily movements, the meditator shoulddo so slowly, gently moving the arms and legs, bendingor stretching them, lowering the head and raising it up.When rising from the sitting posture, one should do sogradually, noting as ‘rising, rising’. When straighteningup and standing, note as ‘standing, standing’. Whenlooking here and there, note as ‘looking, seeing’. Whenwalking, note the steps, whether they are taken with theright or the left foot. You must be aware of all thesuccessive movements involved, from the raising of thefoot to the dropping of it. Note each step taken, whetherwith the right foot or the left foot. This is the manner ofnoting when one walks fast.
It will be enough if you note thus when walking fastand walking some distance. When walking slowly orpacing up and down, three stages should be noted foreach step: when the foot is raised, when it is pushedforward, and when it is dropped. Begin with noting theraising and dropping movements. One must be fullyaware of the raising of the foot. Similarly, when the footis dropped, one should be fully aware of the ‘heavy’falling of the foot.
One must walk noting as ‘raising, dropping’ with eachstep. This noting will become easier after about two days.
Then go on to noting the three movements as describedabove, as ‘raising, pushing forward, dropping’. In thebeginning, it will suffice to note one or two movementsonly, thus ‘right step, left step’ when walking fast and‘raising, dropping’ when walking slowly. If when walkingthus, you want to sit down, note as ‘wanting to sit down,wanting to sit down’. When actually sitting down, noteattentively the ‘heavy’ falling of your body.
When you are seated, note the movements involved inarranging your legs and arms. When there are no suchmovements of the body, note the rising and falling of theabdomen. If, while noting thus, stiffness or sensation ofheat arise in any part of your body, note them. Thenreturn to ‘rising, falling’. If a desire to lie down arises,note it and the movements of your legs and arms as youlie down. The raising of the arm, the moving of it, theresting of the elbow on the floor, the swaying of the body,the stretching of the legs, the listing of the body as oneslowly prepares to lie down — all these movementsshould be noted.
To note thus as you lie down is important. In thecourse of this movement (that is, lying down), you cangain distinctive knowledge (i.e. knowledge of the pathand its fruition). When concentration and insight arestrong, distinctive knowledge can come at any moment.It can arise in a single ‘bend’ of the arm or in a single‘stretch’ of the arm. That was how Venerable Ānandabecame an arahant.
Venerable Ānanda was trying strenuously to attainArahantship overnight on the eve of the First BuddhistCouncil. He was practising the whole night the form of
vipassanā meditation known as kāyagatāsati, noting hissteps, right and left, raising, pushing forward anddropping of the feet; noting, event by event, the mentaldesire to walk and the physical movements involved inwalking. Although this went on until it was nearly dawn,he had not yet attained Arahantship. Realising that hehad practised walking meditation to excess and that, inorder to balance concentration and effort, he shouldpractise meditation in the lying posture for a while, heentered his room. He sat on the bed and then lay down.While doing so and noting, ‘lying, lying’, he attainedArahantship in an instant.
Venerable Ānanda was only a stream-winner(sotāpanna) before he lay down. From the stage of astream-winner he reached the stages of a once-returner(sakadāgāmi) a non-returner (anāgāmi) and an arahant(the final stage of the path). Reaching these threesuccessive stages of the higher path took only a moment.Remember this example of Venerable Ānanda’sattainment of Arahantship. Such attainment can come atany moment and need not take long.
That is why meditators should always note diligently.One should not relax one’s effort, thinking, “this littlelapse should not matter much.” All movements involvedin lying down and arranging the arms and legs should becarefully and unremittingly noted. If there is nomovement, return to noting the rising and falling of theabdomen. Even when it is getting late and time for sleep,the meditator should not stop the noting. A really seriousand energetic meditator should practise mindfulness asif forgoing sleep altogether. One should go on meditating
until one falls asleep. If mindfulness has the upper hand,one will not fall asleep. If, however, drowsiness isstronger, one will fall asleep. When one feels sleepy, oneshould note as ‘sleepy, sleepy’, if one’s eyelids droop, as‘drooping’; if they become heavy or leaden, as ‘heavy’; ifthe eyes smart, as ‘smarting’. Noting thus, thedrowsiness may pass and the eyes may become clearagain. One should then note as ‘clear, clear’ andcontinue noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.However determined one may be, if real drowsinessintervenes, one does fall asleep. It is not difficult to fallasleep; in fact, it is easy. If you meditate in the lyingposture, you soon become drowsy and easily fall asleep.That is why beginners should not meditate too much inthe lying posture; they should meditate much more inthe sitting and walking postures. However, as it growslate and becomes time for sleep, one should meditate inthe lying position, noting the rising and fallingmovements of the abdomen. One will then naturally fallasleep.
The time one is asleep is the resting time for themeditator, but the really serious meditator should limitsleep to about four hours. This is the ‘midnight time’permitted by the Buddha. Four hours sleep is quiteenough. If the beginner thinks that four hours sleep isnot enough for health, one may extend it to five or sixhours. Six hours sleep is clearly enough.
When one wakes up, one should immediately resumenoting. The meditator who is really intent on attainingthe path and its fruition should rest from meditation onlywhen asleep. At other times, in all waking moments, one
should be noting continually and without let up. That iswhy, as soon as one awakens, one should note theawakening state of mind as ‘awakening, awakening’. Ifone cannot yet be aware of this, one should begin withnoting the rising and falling of the abdomen.
If one intends to get up from the bed, one should noteas ‘intending to get up, intending to get up’. One shouldthen note the movements one makes as one moves one’sarms and legs. When one raises one’s head and rises, onenotes as ‘rising, rising’. When one is seated, one notes as‘sitting, sitting’. If one makes any movements as onearranges one’s arms and legs, all of these movementsshould also be noted. If there are no such changes, oneshould revert to noting the rising and falling movementsof the abdomen.
One should note when one washes one’s face andwhen one takes a bath. As the movements involved inthese acts are rather quick, as many of them should benoted as possible. There are then the acts of dressing, oftidying up the bed, of opening and closing the door; allthese should also be noted as precisely as possible.
When one has one’s meal and looks at the table, oneshould note as ‘looking, seeing, looking, seeing’. Whenone extends one’s hand towards the food, touches it,collects it and arranges it, handles it and brings it to themouth, bends one head and puts the morsel into one’smouth, drops one’s arm and raises one’s head again, allthese movements should be duly noted. (This way ofnoting is in accordance with the Burmese way of taking ameal. Those who use fork and spoon or chopsticksshould note the movements in an appropriate manner.)
When one chews the food, one should note as‘chewing, chewing’. When one comes to know the tasteof the food, one should note as ‘knowing, knowing’. Asone relishes the food and swallows it, as the food goesdown one’s throat, one should note all these events. Thisis how the meditator should note when taking eachmorsel of food. As one takes soup, all the movementsinvolved such as extending the arm, handling the spoon,scooping with it and so on, should all be noted. To notethus at meal-times is rather difficult as there are so manythings to observe and note. The beginner is likely to missseveral things that should be noted, but one shouldresolve to note them all. One cannot, of course, helpoverlooking some, but as one’s concentration deepens,one will be able to note all of these events precisely.
I have mentioned so many things for the meditator tonote, but in brief, there are only a few things toremember. When walking fast, note as ‘right step’, ‘leftstep’, and as ‘raising, dropping’ when walking slowly.When sitting quietly, just note the rising and falling ofthe abdomen. Note the same when you are lying down, ifthere is nothing particular to note. While noting thus andif the mind wanders, note the acts of consciousness thatarise. Then return to the rising and falling of theabdomen. Note also the sensations of stiffness, pain,aching and itchiness as they arise. Then return to therising and falling of the abdomen. Note also, as theyarise, the bending, stretching and moving of the limbs,the bending and raising of the head, the swaying andstraightening of the body. Then return to the rising andfalling of the abdomen.
As one goes on noting thus, one will be able to notemore and more of these events. In the beginning, as themind wanders here and there, one may miss manythings, but one should not be disheartened. Everybeginner encounters the same difficulty, but as onebecomes more skilled, one becomes aware of every act ofmind-wandering until, eventually, the mind does notwander any more. The mind is then rivetted onto theobject of its attention, the act of mindfulness becomingalmost simultaneous with the object of its attention. Inother words, the rising of the abdomen becomesconcurrent with the act of noting it, and similarly withthe falling of the abdomen.
The physical object of attention and the mental act ofnoting occur as a pair. There is in this occurrence noperson or individual involved, only the physical objectand the mental act of noting it, occurring in tandem. Themeditator will, in time, actually and personallyexperience these occurrences. While noting the risingand falling of the abdomen one will come to distinguishthe rising of the abdomen as physical phenomenon andthe mental act of noting it as mental phenomenon;similarly with the falling of the abdomen. Thus themeditator will distinctly realise the simultaneousoccurrence in pairs of these psycho-physicalphenomena.
With every act of noting, the meditator will come toknow clearly that there are only this material qualitywhich is the object of awareness or attention and themental quality that makes a note of it. Thisdiscriminating knowledge is called analytical knowledge
of mind and matter (nāmarūpa-pariccheda-ñāõa), whichis the beginning of insight knowledge (vipassanā-ñāõa). Itis important to gain this knowledge correctly. This will besucceeded, as the meditator continues, by knowledge bydiscerning conditionality (paccaya-pariggaha-ñāõa).
As one goes on noting, one will see for oneself thatwhat arises passes away after a short while. Ordinarypeople assume that both the material and mentalphenomena persist throughout life, that is, from youth toadulthood. In fact, that is not so. There is nophenomenon that lasts for ever. All phenomena ariseand pass away so rapidly that they do not last even forthe twinkling of an eye. One will come to know thispersonally as one goes on noting. One will then becomeconvinced of the impermanency of all such phenomena.Such conviction is called aniccānupassanā-ñāõa.
This knowledge will be succeeded bydukkhānupassanā-ñāõa, which realises that all thisimpermanency is suffering. The meditator is also likelyto encounter all kinds of hardship in the body, which isjust an aggregate of suffering. This is alsodukkhānupassanā-ñāõa. Next, the meditator will becomeconvinced that all these psycho-physical phenomena areoccurring of their own accord, following nobody’s willand subject to nobody’s control. They constitute noindividual or ego-entity. This realisation isanattānupassanā-ñāõa.
When, as one continues meditating, one comes torealise firmly that all these phenomena are anicca,dukkha and anatta, one will attain nibbāna. All theformer Buddhas, Arahants and Ariyas realised nibbāna
by following this very path. All meditating meditatorsshould recognize that they themselves are now on thissatipaññhāna path, in fulfilment of their wish forattainment of knowledge of the path, it fruition andnibbāna, following the ripening of their perfections(pāramī). They should feel glad at the prospect ofexperiencing the noble kind of tranquillity brought aboutby concentration and the supramundane knowledge orwisdom experienced by the Buddhas, Arahants andAriyas, which they themselves have never experiencedbefore. It will not be very long before they experience thisknowledge for themselves. In fact, it may be within amonth or twenty days of meditation practice. Thosewhose perfections are exceptional may have theseexperiences within seven days.
One should therefore be content in the faith that onewill attain these insights in the time specified above, andthat one will be freed of personality-belief and doubt,and thus saved from the danger of rebirth in the lowerworlds. One should continue one’s meditation practiceoptimistically with this faith.
May you all be able to practise meditation well andquickly attain that nibbāna which the Buddhas, Arahantsand Ariyas have experienced!
Sādhu! Sādhu! Sādhu!
Well done! Well done! Well done!
The name befitted his courageous features and hisdignified behaviour. He was a bright pupil, makingremarkably quick progress in his scriptural studies.When U Ādicca left the Order, Shin Sobhana continuedhis studies under Sayādaw U Parama of Thugyi-kyaungMonastery, Ingyintaw-taik. At the age of nineteen he hadto decide whether to continue in the Order and devotethe rest of his life to the service of the Buddha Sāsana or
TThhee VVeenneerraabblleeMMaahhāāssīī SSaayyāāddaawwA Biographical Sketch
The Venerable MahāsīSayādaw was born in the year1904 at Seikkhun, a large,prosperous and charmingvillage lying about seven milesto the west of the historicShwebo town in Upper Burma.His parents, peasant proprietorsby occupation, were U Kan Tawand Daw Oke. At the age of sixhe was sent to receive his earlymonastic eduction under UĀdicca, presiding monk ofPyinmana Monastery atSeikkhun. Six years later, he wasinitiated into the monasticOrder as a novice (sāmaõera)under the same teacher andgiven the name of Shin Sobhana(which means Auspicious).
to return to lay life. Shin Sobhana knew where his heartlay and unhesitatingly chose the first course. He wasordained as a bhikkhu on the 26th of November 1923,Sumedhā Sayādaw Ashin Nimmala acting as hispreceptor. Within four years Ven. Sobhana passed allthree grades of the Pāëi scriptural examinationsconducted by the Government.
Ven. Sobhana next went to the city of Mandalay, notedfor its pre-eminence in Buddhist learning, to pursueadvanced study of the scriptures under Sayādaws well-known for their learning. His stay at Khinmakan-westMonastery for this purpose was, however, cut short afterlittle more than a year when he was called to Moulmein.The head of the Taik-kyaung monastery inTaungwainggale (who came from the same village asVen. Sobhana) wanted him to assist with the teaching ofhis pupils. While teaching at Taungwainggale, Ven.Sobhana went on with his own studies of the scriptures,being especially interested in the MahāsatipaññhānaSutta. His deepening interest in the satipaññhāna methodof vipassanā meditation took him next to neighbouringThaton where the well-known Mingun Jetavan Sayādawwas teaching it. Under the Mingun Jetavan Sayādaw’sinstruction, Ven. Sobhana took up intensive practice ofvipassanā meditation. Within four months he had suchgood results that he could teach it properly to his firstthree disciples at Seikkhun while he was on a visit therein 1938. After his return from Thaton to Taungwainggale(owing to the grave illness and subsequent death of theaged Taik-kyaung Sayādaw) to resume his teaching workand to take charge of the monastery, Ven. Sobhana satfor and passed with distinction the Government-held
Dhammācariya (Teacher of the Dhamma) examinationin June 1941.
On the eve of the Japanese invasion of Burma, Ven.Sobhana had to leave Taungwainggale and return to hisnative Seikkhun. This was a welcome opportunity forhim to devote himself wholeheartedly to his ownpractice of satipaññhāna vipassanā meditation and toteaching it to a growing number of disciples. The MahāsīMonastery at Seikkhun (whence he became known asMahāsī Sayādaw) fortunately remained free from thehorror and disruption of war. During this period theSayādaw’s disciples prevailed upon him to write the‘Manual of Vipassanā Meditation’, an authoritative andcomprehensive work expounding both the doctrinal andpractical aspects of satipaññhāna meditation.
It was not long before the Mahāsī Sayādaw’s reputationas a skilled meditation teacher had spread throughoutthe Shwebo-Sagaing region and came to the attention ofa devout and wealthy Buddhist, Sir U Thwin. U Thwinwanted to promote the Buddha Sāsana by setting up ameditation centre directed by a teacher of proven virtueand ability. After listening to a discourse on vipassanāgiven by the Sayādaw and observing his serene andnoble demeanour, Sir U Thwin had no difficulty indeciding that the Mahāsī Sayādaw was the meditationteacher he had been looking for.
On the 13th of November 1947, the BuddhasāsanaNuggaha Association was founded at Rangoon with Sir UThwin as its first President, and with scriptural learningand the practice of the Dhamma as its object. Sir UThwin donated to the Association a plot of land in
Hermitage Road, Rangoon, measuring over five acres, forthe erection of the proposed meditation centre. In 1978,the Centre occupied an area of 19.6 acres, on which avast complex of buildings and other structures had beenbuilt. Sir U Thwin told the Association that he had founda reliable meditation teacher and proposed that the thenPrime Minister of Burma invite Mahāsī Sayādaw to theCentre.
After the Second World War, the Sayādaw alternatedhis residence between his native Seikkhun andTaungwainggale in Moulmein. Meanwhile, Burma hadregained independence on 4th January 1948. In May1949, during one of his sojourns at Seikkhun, theSayādaw completed a new nissaya translation of theMahāsatipaññhāna Sutta. This work excels the averagenissaya translation of this Sutta, which is very importantfor those who wish to practise vipassanā meditation butneed guidance.
In November of that year, on the personal invitation ofthe then Prime Minister, U Nu, Mahāsī Sayādaw camedown from Shwebo and Sagaing to the Sāsana Yeikthā(Meditation Centre) at Rangoon, accompanied by twosenior Sayādaws. Thus began Mahāsī Sayādaw’sguardianship of the Sāsana Yeikthā at Rangoon. On 4thDecember 1949 Mahāsī Sayādaw personally instructedthe very first batch of twenty-five meditators in thepractice of vipassanā. As the meditators grew innumbers, it became too demanding for the Sayādaw togive the entire initiation talk to all the meditators. FromJuly 1951 the tape-recorded talk was played for each newbatch of meditators with a brief introduction by the
Sayādaw. Within a few years of the establishment of theSāsana Yeikthā at Rangoon, similar meditation centreswere inaugurated in many parts of the country withMahāsī-trained members of the Saügha as meditationteachers. These centres were not confined to Burmaalone, but extended to neighbouring Theravādacountries like Thailand and Sri Lanka. There were also afew centres in Cambodia and India. According to a 1972census, the total number of meditators trained at allthese centres (both in Burma and abroad) had exceededseven hundred thousand. In recognition of hisdistinguished scholarship and spiritual attainments,Mahāsī Sayādaw was honoured in 1952 by the thenPresident (‘Prime Minister’) of the Union of Burma withthe prestigious title of ‘Aggamahāpaõóita’ (the ExaltedWise One).
Soon after attaining Independence, the Government ofBurma began plans to hold a Sixth Buddhist Council(Saügāyanā) in Burma, with four other TheravādaBuddhist countries (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia andLaos) participating. For this purpose the Governmentdispatched a mission to Thailand and Cambodia,composed of Nyaungyan Sayādaw, Mahāsī Sayādaw andtwo laymen. The mission discussed the plan with thePrimates of the Buddhist Saügha of those two countries.
At the historic Sixth Buddhist Council, which wasinaugurated with every pomp and ceremony on 17thMay 1954, Mahāsī Sayādaw played an eminent role,undertaking the exacting and onerous tasks of Osāna(Final Editor) and Pucchaka (Questioner). A uniquefeature of this Council was the editing of the
commentaries (Aññhakathā) and sub-commentaries(ñīkā), as well as the canonical texts. In the editing of thiscommentarial literature, Mahāsī Sayādaw wasresponsible for making a critical analysis, soundinterpretation and skilful reconciliation of several crucialand divergent passages.
A significant result of the Sixth Buddhist Council wasthe revival of interest in Theravāda Buddhism amongMahāyāna Buddhists. In 1955, while the Council was inprogress, twelve Japanese monks and a Japaneselaywoman arrived in Burma to study TheravādaBuddhism. The monks were initiated into the TheravādaBuddhist Saügha as novices while the laywoman wasmade a Buddhist nun. Then, in July 1957, at the instanceof the Buddhist Association of Moji, the Buddha SāsanaCouncil of Burma sent a Theravāda Buddhist mission toJapan. Mahāsī Sayādaw was one of the leadingrepresentatives of the Burmese Saügha in that mission.
Also in 1957, Mahāsī Sayādaw undertook the task ofwriting an introduction in Pāëi to the VisuddhimaggaAññhakathā, to refute certain misstatements about itsfamous author, Ven. Buddhaghosa. The Sayādawcompleted this difficult task in 1960, his work bearingevery mark of distinctive learning and depth ofunderstanding. By then the Sayādaw had also completedtwo volumes (out of four) of his Burmese translation ofthis famous commentary and classic work on Buddhistmeditation.
At the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, a specialmission headed by Sayādaw U Sujāta, an eminentdeputy of Mahāsī Sayādaw, went there in July 1955 to
promote satipaññhāna meditation. The mission stayed inSri Lanka for over a year doing admirable work, settingup twelve permanent and seventeen temporarymeditation centres. Following the completion of ameditation centre on a site granted by the Sri LankanGovernment, a larger mission led by Mahāsī Sayādaw leftBurma for Sri Lanka on 6th January 1959, via India. Themission was in India for about three weeks, during whichits members visited several holy places associated withthe life and work of Lord Buddha. They also gavereligious talks on suitable occasions and had interviewswith Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, President ofIndia Dr. Rajendra Prasad and vice-president Dr. S.Radhakrishnan. A notable feature of the visit was thewarm welcome received from members of the depressedclasses, who had embraced Buddhism under theguidance of their late leader Dr. Ambedkar.
The mission flew from Madras to Sri Lanka on 29thJanuary 1959 and arrived at Colombo on the same day.On Sunday 1st February, at the opening ceremony of themeditation centre named ‘Bhāvanā Majjhañhāna’,Mahāsī Sayādaw delivered an address in Pāëi after PrimeMinister Bandaranāyake and some others had spoken.The members of the mission next went on an extendedtour of the island, visiting several meditation centreswhere Mahāsī Sayādaw gave discourses on vipassanāmeditation. They also worshipped at famous sites ofBuddhist pilgrimage like Polonnāruwa, Anurādhapuraand Kandy. This historic visit of the Burmese missionunder the inspiring leadership of Mahāsī Sayādaw wassymbolic of the ancient and close ties of friendshipbetween these two Theravāda Buddhist countries. Its
benefit to the Buddhist movement in Sri Lanka was arevival of interest in meditation, which seemed to havedeclined.
In February 1954, a visitor to the Sāsana Yeikthā mighthave noticed a young Chinese man practising vipassanāmeditation. The meditator in question was a Buddhistteacher from Indonesia by the name of Bung An who hadbecome interested in vipassanā meditation. Under theguidance of Mahāsī Sayādaw and Sayādaw U Ñānuttara,Mr Bung An made such excellent progress that in littlemore than a month Mahāsī Sayādaw gave him a detailedtalk on the progress of insight. Later he was ordained abhikkhu and named Ven. Jinarakkhita, with MahāsīSayādaw as his preceptor. After he returned as aBuddhist monk to Indonesia, the Buddha Sāsana Councilreceived a request to send a Burmese Buddhist monk topromote missionary work in Indonesia. It was decidedthat Mahāsī Sayādaw, as the preceptor and mentor ofAshin Jinarakkhita, should go. With thirteen otherTheravāda monks, Mahāsī Sayādaw undertook suchprimary missionary activities as consecrating sīmas(ordination boundaries) ordaining bhikkhus, initiatingnovices and giving discourses, particularly talks onvipassanā meditation.
Considering these fruitful activities in promotingBuddhism in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, we might describeMahāsī Sayādaw’s missions to these countries as‘Dhamma-vijaya’ (victory of the Dhamma) journeys.
As early as 1952, at the request of the Thai Minister forSaügha Affairs, Mahāsī Sayādaw had sent Sayādaws UĀsabha and U Indavaµsa to Thailand for the promotion
of satipaññhāna vipassanā. Thanks to their efforts, MahāsīSayādaw’s method gained wide acceptance in Thailand.By 1960, many meditation centres had been establishedand the number of Mahāsī meditators exceeded ahundred thousand.
It was characteristic of the Venerable Sayādaw’sdisinterested and single-minded devotion to the cause ofthe Buddha Sāsana that, regardless of his advancing ageand feeble health, he undertook three more missions tothe West (Britain, Europe and America) and to India andNepal in the three years (1979, 1980 and 1981) precedinghis death.
Abhidhajamahāraññhaguru Masoeyein Sayādaw, whopresided over the Saüghanāyaka Executive Board at theSixth Buddhist Council, urged Mahāsī Sayādaw to teachtwo commentaries to the Saügha at Sāsana Yeikthā. Ven.Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga Aññhakathā and Ven.Dhammapāla’s Visuddhimagga Mahāñīkā deal primarilywith Buddhist meditation theory and practice, thoughthey also offer useful explanations of important doctrinalpoints, so they are vital for prospective meditationteachers. Mahāsī Sayādaw began teaching these twoworks on 2nd February 1961, for one and a half or twohours daily. Based on the lecture notes taken by hispupils, the Sayādaw started writing a nissaya translationof the Visuddhimagga Mahāñīkā, completing it on 4thFebruary 1966. This nissaya was an exceptionalachievement. The section on the different views held byother religions (samayantara) was most exacting sincethe Sayādaw had to familiarize himself with ancientHindu philosophy and terminology by studying all
available references, including works in Sanskrit andEnglish.
Up till now Mahāsī Sayādaw has to his credit 67volumes of Burmese Buddhist literature. Space does notpermit us to list them all here, but a complete up-to-datelist of them is appended to the Sayādaw’s latestpublication, namely, ‘A Discourse on Sakkapañha Sutta’(published in October 1978).
At one time, Mahāsī Sayādaw was severely criticised incertain quarters for his advocacy of the allegedlyunorthodox method of noting the rising and falling of theabdomen in vipassanā meditation. It was mistakenlyassumed that this method was an innovation of theSayādaw’s, whereas the truth is that it had beenapproved several years before Mahāsī Sayādaw adoptedit, by no less an authority than the mūla (original)Mingun Jetavan Sayādaw, and that it is in no waycontrary to the Buddha’s teaching on the subject. Thereason for Mahāsī Sayādaw’s preference for this methodis that the average meditator finds it easier to note thismanifestation of the element of motion (vāyodhātu). It isnot, however, imposed on all who come to practise atany of the Mahāsī meditation centres. One may, if onelikes, practise ānāpānasati. Mahāsī Sayādaw himselfrefrained from joining issue with his critics on this point,but two learned Sayādaws brought out a book each indefence of the Sayādaw’s method, thus enabling thosewho are interested in the controversy to judge forthemselves.
This controversy arose in Sri Lanka where somemembers of the Saügha, inexperienced and
unknowledgeable in practical meditation, publiclyassailed Mahāsī Sayādaw’s method in newspapers andjournals. Since this criticism was voiced in the Englishlanguage with world-wide coverage, silence could nolonger be maintained and so Sayādaw U Ñānuttara ofKabā-aye (World Peace Pagoda campus) forcefullyresponded to the criticisms in the pages of the Sri LankanBuddhist periodical ‘World Buddhism’.
Mahāsī Sayādaw’s international reputation hasattracted numerous visitors and meditators from abroad,some seeking enlightenment for their religious problemsand others intent on practising meditation under theSayādaw’s personal guidance. Among the firstmeditators from abroad was former British Rear-AdmiralE.H. Shattock who came on leave from Singapore andpractised meditation at the Sāsana Yeikthā in 1952. Onhis return to England he published a book entitled ‘AnExperiment in Mindfulness’ in which he related hisexperiences in generally appreciative terms. Anotherforeigner was Mr. Robert Duvo, a French-born Americanfrom California. He came and practised meditation atthe Centre first as a lay meditator and later as a bhikkhu.He subsequently published a book in France about hisexperiences and the satipaññhāna vipassanā method.Particular mention should be made of Anagārika ShriMunindra of Buddha Gayā in India, who became a closedisciple of Mahāsī Sayādaw, spending several years withthe Sayādaw learning the Buddhist scriptures andpractising vipassanā. Afterwards he directed aninternational meditation centre at Buddha Gayā wheremany people from the West came to practise meditation.Among these meditators was a young American, Joseph
Goldstein, who has written a perceptive book on insightmeditation titled ‘The Experience of Insight: A NaturalUnfolding’.
Some of the Sayādaw’s works have been publishedabroad, such as ‘The Satipaññhāna Vipassanā Meditation’and ‘Practical Insight Meditation’ by the Unity Press, SanFrancisco, California, USA, and ‘The Progress of Insight’by the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.Selfless and able assistance was rendered by U Pe Thin(now deceased) and Myanaung U Tin in the Sayādaw’sdealings with his visitors and meditators from abroadand in the translation into English of some of Sayādaw’sdiscourses on vipassanā meditation. Both of them wereaccomplished meditators.
The Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw is profoundly reveredby countless grateful disciples in Burma and abroad.Although it was the earnest wish of his devoted disciplesthat the Venerable Mahāsī Sayādaw might live for severalmore years and continue showering the blessings of theBuddhadhamma on all those in search freedom anddeliverance, the inexorable law of impermanenceterminated, with tragic suddenness, his selfless anddedicated life on the 14th of August 1982. Like a true sonof the Buddha, he lived valiantly, spreading the word ofthe Master throughout the world and helped manythousands and tens of thousands onto the Path ofEnlightenment and Deliverance.
U Nyi Nyi (Mahāsī Disciple and Meditator) Member ofthe Executive Committee Buddhasāsana NuggahaAssociation Yangon, Myanmar. 18th October 1978
AAPPPPEENNDDIIXXBelow is a concise excerpted translation from the Pāëi
of the Mahāsatipaññhāna Sutta accompanied by acommentary from the author, Mahāsī Sayādaw. This isoffered as an expanded aid in this meditation technique,a reference to the source from which all Satipaññhānameditation arose, the words of the Buddha.
TTeecchhnniiqquueess ooff MMeeddiittaattiioonnThe Mahāsatipaññhāna Sutta states:
“And moreover, monks, a monk, when he is walking, isaware of it thus: ‘I walk’; or when he is standing, orsitting, or lying down, he is aware thereof.”
“And moreover, monks, a monk, when he departs, orreturns, when he looks at or looks away from, when hebends or stretches (his limbs), when he puts on the lowerrobe, the upper robe, or takes the bowl, when he iseating, drinking, chewing, savouring, or when he isobeying the calls of nature - he is aware of what he isdoing. In going, standing, sitting, sleeping, watching,talking, or keeping silence, he knows what he is doing.”
“And moreover, monks, a monk reflects upon this verybody, however it be placed or disposed, with respect tothe four elements.”
“Herein, monks, when affected by a feeling of pleasure,a monk is aware of it as ‘I feel a pleasurable feeling’.Likewise, he is aware when affected by a painful feeling.”
“Herein, monks, if a monk has a lustful thought, he isaware that it is so, or if the thought is free from lust, is
aware that it is so. Herein, monks, when a monk is awareof sensual desire he reflects ‘I have sensual desire’.”
In accordance with these teachings of the Buddha, ithas been stated in colloquial language thus: “rising”while the abdomen is rising; “falling” while the abdomenis falling; “bending” while the limbs are bending;“stretching” while the limbs are stretching; “wandering”while the mind is wandering; “thinking”, “reflecting”, or“knowing” while one is so engaged; “feeling stiff, hot,” or“in pain” while one feels so; “walking, standing, sitting,”or “lying” while one is so doing. Here it should be notedthat walking and so on are stated in common wordsinstead of “being aware of the inner wind elementmanifesting itself in the movement of the limbs,” as isstated in the Pāëi texts.
RRiissiinngg aanndd FFaalllliinngg MMoovveemmeenntt ooff tthheeAAbbddoommeenn
It is quite in agreement with the Buddha’s teachings tocontemplate on the rising and falling movements of theabdomen. Such rising and falling is a physical process(rūpa) caused by the pressure of the wind element. Thewind element is included in the material group of the fiveaggregates (khandhā); in the tactile object of the twelvesense bases (āyatana); in the body impression of theeighteen elements (dhātu); in the wind element of thefour material elements (mahābhūta); in the truth ofsuffering of the four noble truths (sacca). The materialaggregate, a tactile object, a body impression and thetruth of suffering are certainly objects for insightcontemplation. Surely they are not otherwise.
The rising and falling movement of the abdomen istherefore a proper object for contemplation, and whileso contemplating, being aware that it is but a movementof the wind element, subject to the laws ofimpermanence, suffering and unsubstantiality, is quitein agreement with the Buddha’s discourses onkhandhas, āyatanas, dhātus and saccas. While theabdomen is rising and falling, the pressure andmovement experienced thereby is a manifestation of thewind element which is tactile, and perceiving that rightlyas such is quite in accordance with what the Buddhataught as briefly shown below.
“Apply your mind thoroughly, monks, to body andregard it in its true nature as impermanent.”
“Monks, when a monk sees the body which isimpermanent, as impermanent, this view of his is rightview.”
“Herein, monks, a monk reflects: ‘Such is materialform, such is its genesis, such its passing away’.”
“Apply your minds thoroughly, monks, to the tactileobjects and regard their true nature as impermanent.”
“Monks, when a monk sees tactile objects which areimpermanent, this view of his is right view. However, byfully knowing and comprehending, by detaching himselffrom and abandoning the tactile objects, one is capableof extinguishing ill.”
“In him who knows and sees tactile objects asimpermanent, ignorance vanishes and knowledgearises.”
“Herein, monks, a monk is aware of the organ of touchand tangibles.”
“Whatever is an internal element of motion, andwhatever is an external element of motion, just these arethe element of motion. By means of perfect intuitivewisdom it should be seen of this as it really is, thus: ‘Thisis not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’.
Thus it will be seen that the contemplation of the risingand the falling movement of the abdomen is in accordwith the above discourses and also with theMahāsatipaññhāna Sutta (Dhātumanasikārapabba —section on attention to the elements), Again, the windelement that causes the movement and pressure of theabdomen, comprised in the corporeality group, is thetruth of suffering.
MMaahhāāssīī SSāāssaannaa YYeeiikktthhaa MMeeddiittaattiioonnCCeennttrree,, YYaannggoonn,, MMyyaannmmaarr
IInnffoorrmmaattiioonn ffoorr FFoorreeiiggnn MMeeddiittaattoorrss
Buddha Sāsana Nuggaha OrganisationNo 16, Sāsana Either RoadYangon, (Rangoon) 11201 Myanmar(Burma)
Telephone: (+95) 01 541971, 552501
Fax: 289960, 289961President: U Hla Kyaing
The Meditation Centre: This meditation centre wasopened in 1950, with the Most Venerable MahāsīSayādaw as its Principle Preceptor. The most VenerableMahāsī Sayādaw started the teaching of the Mahāsīmethod of insight in 1947 and taught for 33 years untilhis death in August, 1982. The centre has prospered withup to 500 meditators (yogis) practicing intensivemeditation daily at the centre. It is located onapproximately twenty acres of quiet pleasant gardenland in Hermitage. There are over one hundred buildingson the ground for housing the meditation teachers and
meditators both monks, nuns and laity, men as well aswomen and providing complete retreat facilities.
Location: The centre is only about 20 minutes by taxifrom Yangon’s Mingaladon Airport, or about 20 minutesby taxi from the Tourist Centre in downtown Yangon. Itis shown on tourist guide maps and there is a prominentsign board at the junction of Kaba-Aye Pagoda Road withSāsana Yeiktha Road.
Accommodation: Boarding and lodging are free toforeign meditators for the period of their practice at thecentre. Accommodation for Bhikkhus (monks),Thilashins (nuns) and women meditators is separate andassigned on arrival. All rooms have bedding andmosquito nets. Wherever possible single rooms areprovided for foreigners, but they may have sometimes toshare. You should provide your own toiletries, towels,vitamins and medicines, and cushions if you need them.
Medical Care: There is a dispensary at the Centre fortreatment of minor ailments open every Monday,Wednesday and Friday from 4 to 6pm. Cases needingspecial attention will be treated at the State Hospital.Meditators preferring treatment at a private clinic willthemselves have to bear the necessary expenses.
Programme of Meditation:There is no periodicallyscheduled or weekend Courses, but the Centre is openthroughout the year to receive those who are prepared toundertake full-time Satipattana Vipassanā meditation forsix to twelve weeks.
All lay Yogis (meditators) are expected to observe theEight Precepts throughout the length of their stay, and
these will be explained by the Meditation Teacher at thetime of induction. The observance of these moralPrecepts conduces to the development of Vipassanāinsight knowledge. At the time of their induction, a tape-recorded talk on Satipattana Vipassanā Meditation, itspurpose, method of practice and benefits derived there-from is played for the new meditator.
The Daily Programme of Meditation Practice: The daystarts at 3 am and continues until 11pm with breaks formeals, bath, etc. Almost the entire day is spent in silentindividual meditative practice alternating with groupsittings in a meditation hall.
Individual interviews with the meditation teacher arescheduled at regular intervals to enable the meditators toreport their meditational experiences and to receivenecessary guidance by their teacher for further progress.In addition, Dhamma talks will be given from time totime to the practising meditators by the seniormeditation Teachers.
In this way each meditator will receive personalattention and guidance throughout the entire course ofmeditation and will have the opportunity of gainingpersonal knowledge and experience of SatipattanaVipassanā Meditation through all stages of progressivevipassanā insight.
N.B. All instruction and discourses for foreignmeditators will be through the medium of English whichthe prospective meditator should have at least at workingknowledge.