Day 1: 17th October, 2002 (Eighteen Days in Solitude-- Instructional Dhamma Talks in Retreat)


revised on 2019-12-05


By Venerable U Ādiccaramsī ; The translator: Ven. Uttamo


Namo tassa Bhagvato arahato Samma sambuddhassa

This is the first time of international vipassanā retreat in Rangoon. In the beginning of the practice, the point you should know is you can’t do things as you like to. There’re programmes. The first thing to do is satipaṭṭhāna practice. It’s based on mindfulness (sati). Sati is important for attaining Path and Fruit. Why we’re doing satipaṭṭhāna? Human beings are alive without knowing. People have been listened Paṭiccasamuppāda (Dependent Arising) before knowing this point. What is not knowing? Not knowing is avijjā (ignorance). Human beings are alive without knowing themselves. They don’t know what will happen tomorrow. They don’t know where to die. During sleeping, eating and moving around anytime even don’t know they are alive with their breathings. They don’t know the breathing with the right or left nose. It’s living without knowing anything if we think about it.

We have to know them exactly if we do vipassanā. We have to know it with the practice. The Buddha reflected as why people were doing things without knowing. They’re doing things without any sure for tomorrow. Needless to say tomorrow, they don't even know what will happen next hour; living the whole life without knowing and also dying without knowing. The Buddha reflected with his perfect wisdom (sabbaññuta ñāṇa); “Why don’t people know?” “No mindfulness (sati), so that they don’t know it.” His last words before passing away was: “Monks! Don’t be in heedlessness. Always stay with sati.” After satipaṭṭhāna, it change to vipassanā and arrive to the stage of satipaṭṭhāna bhavana. So, the whole practice has three parts. (In all these talks, sometimes he mentioned about Mogok Sayadaw’s talks. Because in the retreat he used some of Sayadaw’s teaching.)

For the first part, start from the satipaṭṭhāna. Be with sustained mindfulness to know them at the time of breathing practice. Be with the sustained sati to do the going, eating, bathing and at the toilet, etc. What are the benefits you’ll get from it? The mind becomes purified. First, giving you the eight precepts and must have the purification of the precepts (sīla). Second, with only purified sīla is not enough yet, and also make the mind to be purified (sīla only control verbal and bodily actions, so it needs to control the mind). In the mind there are lobha (greed), dosa (hatred), kilesa (defilement) exist. It has to use satipaṭṭhāna for making them reduced and purified. You can’t do vipassanā with the polluted mind.

Before it, you have to do the four stages for the purification of precept, mind, view and doubt respectively (sīla, citta, diṭṭhi and kaṅkhāvitaraṇa visuddhis). For the purification of the mind, you have to do the satipaṭṭhāna to purify the kilesa of lobha, dosa, mana and diṭṭhi. You must know the breathing with it. With practice, the yogi finds out that his mind is in a random state and begins to know about him / herself. Human mind is like a monkey mind. We before took it as we could control the mind; with the practice, and knowing that we can’t. It wants to go anywhere, so it loses control.

You have to overcome and make it calm down. For example, stabilizing a glass of water with the sediments in it, the water slowly becomes clear. It’s like binding the mind at a post and making it calming down is satipaṭṭhāna. In Burma there are two ways of practice. A yogi after arriving to the centre and teach him vipassanā method. This is not wrong and also right. Ledi Sayadaw called it sukkha vipassanā method (i.e., not practice samatha separately). It’s good for people who have the strength of sharp knowledge and strength of effort (viriya). For ordinary people who require guidance – neyya, this method is not very good. (A neyya person who was born with three wholesome roots, i.e., non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion can attain realization in this life, if practicing properly with right effort.) Ledi Sayadaw was the first person letting vipassanā well-known in Burma. I am following his system, this is vipassanā based on samatha.

Our method is samatha yānika-vipassanā. We will do the vipassanā after making the mind having strength and purified, we’ll do it with ānāpāna method. There are also other ways of using rosary beads, concentration on discs (kasiṇas), contemplation on loathsomeness (asubha), etc. Here is no need for outside objects; only to know the in breaths and out breaths. We do it with all the four postures. There are centres doing with sitting, walking, and with both. But not doing with the standing and lying down postures. We’re doing all these for balancing the postures. With walking, make the body healthy, digest the foods and strong Samādhi (Samādhi lasts longer). At first, how to contemplate in sitting? There are many kinds of sitting (āsanas) postures. You can sit comfortably as you like. With the posture you can sit longer and comfort.

Second point is straightening the back. This is important. It will become tired and painful if the spinal cord and back bones are bending (i.e., without ease and relax). It becomes comfortable and also you can sit longer if the bones are in the state of like the ice cream cone cups overlap each other systematically. After that, don’t let the head incline downwards or upwards. Put one hand on top of the other or both on the knees or on the laps with comfort. Don’t put it on the floor and will destroy the yogi’s posture. Close the eyes and pay attention at the entrance of the nose. You can also open your eyes and pay attention to the tip of the nose. When breathing in knowing the air comes into the nose. With breathing some are short and some are long breathing, each person is not the same. After the coming in air ends and wanting to breathe out arises, breathe naturally.

Is it with the right or left nose? One of the noses is usually closed. There is few to breathe with both noses. Only with one side is more often. After knowing the touching and again know the knowing mind. The mind wanting to breathe out arises. When breathing out and know it from the beginning to the end. These are touching and knowing with mindfulness (sati). What kind of problem can arise? Sometimes we don’t know about it because the mind is running away. Not staying at where we want to be. The mind is playing around on kilesa objects. It doesn’t like the normal kinds of object and following the objects it prefers.

The mind will run away if without sati. Staying with sati and not let the mind running away. If it runs away, then pull it back on to the object. Mediation is pulling back the running away mind on to the object again and again. This is called applied thought (vitakka). Practicing to know it all the time is satipaṭṭhāna and you don’t need to search for it. With sati and it comes back again. This is practising with one of the jhanic factors vitakka. Bhāvita means contemplating again and again (If not happen and make it happens and after happen make it develops). Only do this and make it stay at the spot. Making the mind calming down is called samatha (In the practice of mind development, there are two factors involve. These are bhāvita and bahulīkata. Bahulīkata means making it happening for many times. The combination of the two is similar to right effort).

For standing meditation, two feet should be nearly one foot (30 cm) or at least six inches (15 cm) apart. Two hands shouldn’t be at the sides; overlapping your two hands in front of you; holding your both arms also not good. Close your eyes and knowing the in and out breaths as before.

For lying down posture in contemplation, the body has to be flat and straight on the floor. You can lie down your back or to the side (mostly to the right side). It’s better with your back in contemplation. Two big toes must touch each other. If not touching, bind them with rubber ring. This will get it point. Place the hands at both sides or on the stomach with two hands overlap lightly. Don’t use the pillow under your head, instead a folded cloth. With sati, note the touching of the breath.

During the walking meditation, noticing of the touching and knowing of the breath at the entrance of the nostril is not possible. (In the beginning it may be difficult. Webu Sayadaw’s teaching included all postures with ānāpāna. People can try it out by themselves.) Contemplate it on the feet. It is not just walking. Normal walking is out of mindfulness (not concerning with the practice). The distance should be 20 or 30 paces (similar to the Thai forest tradition). Walk to and fro from this side to the other side. The mind concentrates on the feet. What have to do in the beginning? Every time the feet touching the ground have to know it. You must know the every touching of the right and left feet. Later you will separate them and do the contemplation. Now, just do it both together.

Sitting meditation is like climbing the mountain. For someone looking at nearby it seems to be nothing happened to the yogi. Pain and aches will arise. Should the yogi react if tormented by painful and /or hot sensations? One shouldn’t torture oneself as I don’t care about it; also shouldn’t change it very often. One shouldn’t follow one’s desire and self-mortification. You have to be in the middle way (majjhima paṭipadā). The Buddha had practiced for six years with self-mortification and didn’t realize the Dhamma. This Dhamma is not for self-mortification and must have ease with the body and mind. If following with one’s desire also can’t get Samādhi.

How to be in the balance? For example, sit for half an hour. If the time is not arriving yet, I’ll not change it. After half an hour, the mind wants to change. When the mind wants to change and it stays away from the tip of the nose. Wanting to change is taṇhā. For an hour sitting and change two times. By developing the sitting slowly and can bear the pain.

There will be worrying in standing posture. Will the body fall off or become trembled? The under feet will be hot like fire; lift it slightly if they become very hot. You do it mindfully. Shouldn’t do it very often, like moving the body this and that side. How long could you stand? Even can’t stand for an hour. If you can’t bear it anymore, sit down and contemplate. Slowly increase the time for the standing. Even after sometimes, standing is better for some people. With standing not much pain and aches and become more convenient. Lying down also has problem. Don’t think that sleeping posture is easy. It's even worse because you can’t move. At normal time we’re changing and moving that not knowing the torture of the body. If become unbearable and want to turn the body, then incline to the right side.


revised on 2019-12-05; cited from https://www.oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?t=4021#p35451 (posted on 2018-12-14)


  • Content of "Eighteen Days in Solitude"

  • Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo

According to the translator— Ven. Uttamo's words, this is strictly for free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma—Dhamma Dāna. You may re-format, reprint, translate, and redistribute this work in any medium.