revised on 2020-09-08
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
Insight practice (vipassanā) is directly referring to wisdom or knowledge (paññā). There are two basic knowledges for vipassanā practice. These are the discernment of mind and matter (nāmarūpa pariggaha ñāṇa) and the discernment of the conditions of mind and matter (paccayapariggaha ñāṇa). In purifications, it referred to diṭṭhivisuddhi and kaṅkhāvitaraṇavisuddhi (No. three and four visuddhi).
For these two basic insight knowledges or purities in view and overcoming doubt, the yogis need to do two things. These are: 1. Study the soil of knowledge or field of knowledge (paññā-bhūmi), 2. Develop or exercise (tisso) pariññā.
The yogis have to do the study for doing the practice rightly. The yogis need to study about the five khandhas (aggregates), āyatanas (sense bases), dhātu (elements), indriyas (faculties), the Four Noble Truths and dependent co-arising (paṭicca-samuppāda). To have this learning knowledge (suta-mayā paññā) need to study many times. Mogok Sayadaw’s Dhamma talks were a very good example for this purpose. After learning and developing or exercising them by practice.
[ Study on the soil of knowledge and its development
In the path of purification, Buddhaghosa explained the soil of understanding and its development in brief. The soil of understanding was classed as—khandhas (aggregates), āyatanas (bases), dhatus (elements), indriyas (faculties), saccas (truths), paṭicca-samuppāda (dependent origination), etc.
The first two purifications of virtue (sīla) and consciousness (citta) are the roots of soil of knowledge. The other five purification of view, by overcoming doubt, by knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not the path, by knowledge and vision of the way and by knowledge and vision are the trunk.
Therefore, for a yogi who wants to perfect these should first fortify his knowledge by learning and questioning about these things that are the soil. After he has perfected Sīla and samādhi that are the roots. Then he can develop the last five purifications that are the trunk.
Here we can take the development of the last five purifications as bhāvanā contemplation. The three kinds of full understanding (tisso pariññā); i.e., the full understanding of the known (ñāta pariññā), full understating by scrutinization (tīraṇa pariññā) and full understanding by abandoning (pahāna pariññā) are its development. ]
The Pāli word, diṭṭhi means view. In the suttas using by itself usually means the wrong view. Right view is adding sammā in front of diṭṭhi, i.e., sammā-diṭṭhi. There are many wrong views; the main one is the identity view (sakkāya-diṭṭhi). Other wrong views extended from it.
So, here purity in view is purified this identity view. Where is this identity view sticking? It is sticking in the five khandhas. Take the five khandhas (body, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness) as I, me and mine. Therefore, we can also take each one of the khandhas as me and mine. There are 20 types of identity view obtained by posting a self in the four given ways about the five khandhas. Some examples as
There is a very common wrong view to take the mind as a self-situated in the form (the body), as like a jewel is in a casket. When a person dies and its mind does not die. After death, it leaves the old (dead) body behind and takes a new body, as like changing new clothes. Even some Buddhists believe in this way (including Buddhist monks and it is no need to say other faiths). It is a soul-existed theory and view.
It seems they misinterpret or misunderstand the Buddha Dhamma. They are the followers of Bhikkhu Sāti (See Mahātaṇhāsaṅkhaya Sutta). The notion obsesses people life: I am form (rūpa), the form is mine. As they are living and obsessing by these notions and when any one of the khandhas changes and alters, with these there arise in them sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. [I am form means: the form (rūpa or body) is me (I); the same as: I am consciousness means the consciousness is me (I).]
Identity view is one of the first three fetters (saṁyojanas) to be eradicated by the first path (sotāpatti-magga). This is the most important fetter has to be eradicated first. With this, self-view or selfishness and beings are easily committing unwholesomeness and heavy evil kammas. The wrong view is related to ignorance (avijjā) or delusion (moha). Right view is related to knowledge (vijjā) or non-delusion (amoha).
Ignorance and craving (taṇhā) are the two basic causes for dukkha or the round of existence (saṁsāra). Identity view is ingrained with the coarsest ignorance and craving. With this fetter latent in the heart (mind) the other higher paths of realization are impossible. The most terrible dangers and sufferings it can bring to living beings are the four woeful planes of existence (apāyas).
Therefore, the Buddha was strongly urging people to eradicate the first three fetters (saṁyojana) urgently in the two discourses; the Clothes (SN. 56.34 Celasuttaṃ) and the Hundred Spears Discourses (SN. 56.35 Sattisatasuttaṃ) (from Saccasaṁyutta). If one’s clothes or head were ablaze, what should one do about it? It is for sure that everyone will extinguish the fire instantly. But for the Buddha to eradicate, the identity view was more important than the fire burning your body. With this fire, you will only die for this life.
If you are carrying the wrong view with you, you will die again and again. To make matters worse, you will be born in hells, or as animals and hungry ghosts for uncountable times. Because these places are our frequent homes. Now, most of us are only a short visit here. Suppose someone with a life span of a hundred year, he could live up to it. And then someone comes to him and say; “Every day in the morning I’ll strike you with a hundred spears, also at noon and evening times. In this way, I’ll strike you for 100 years. After 100 years have passed, you’ll realize the Dhamma.”
The Buddha told the monks that it fitted for someone intent on his/her good to accept the offer. The reason behind is the round of existence (saṁsāra) is without discoverable beginning and the first point cannot be discerned of the blows by spears and swords for each living being. (later Buddhist philosophers postulated some theories on the beginning of saṁsāra and the first point of it and they neglected the Buddha’s words.).
After study and learning for the field of knowledge on khandhas, āyatana dhātus, etc. and for developing knowledge to exercise or practice them. Here the satipaṭṭhāna practice comes in. For purification of view to arise must repeatedly contemplate again and again, until the wrong thinking of me and mine disappear. Only in this way become purity in view. Self-view (atta diṭṭhi) and identity view (sakkāya diṭṭhi) are the same. They are different only in words.
In the Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga), it suggested the yogi who attained jhānas to contemplate the mind first and then matter (rūpa). It is easier for him because with samādhi power easy to discern the mind. For vipassanā yānika, the yogi must contemplate the matter first. There are many yogis who do not have a clear distinction between the concept (paññatti) and the ultimate reality (paramattha).
A venerable Sayadaw met with Mahāsi Sayadaw at his center. At that time, Mahāsi Sayadawgyi was reading a book on meditation. He said to the Sayadaw that in that book, a yogi was contemplating his body, his head disappeared and it became particles. And then the yogi took it as the insight practice (vipassanā).
Mahāsi Sayadaw asked him; “What do you think, this is the concept or ultimate reality?” The Sayadaw answered it as a concept, and Mahāsi Sayadaw agreed with him. And then Mahāsi Sayadaw said that many yogis had samādhi, but it did not become the insight of reality (vipassanā paramattha).
In the time of before the Buddha and even now samatha practices existed. These yogis could not overcome or transcend concepts. Only the Buddha arose that vipassanā practice came into existence. In these seven purifications; purification of knowledge has five stages. It starts from the purification of view (diṭṭhivisuddhi) to purification by knowledge and vision (Ñāṇadassana-visuddhi); i.e., stage three to seven.
According to the suttas, Yathābhūta Ñāṇa—the knowledge of phenomena as it is the discernment of mind and matter (Nāma-rūpapariggaha ñāṇa). This was taught by the Buddha in the Discourse of the Characteristics of Not-self (Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta, SN. 22.59). An internationally well-known scholar monk said that some western scholars took the Dhamma in the Visuddhimagga textbook as not talked by the Buddha.
He said that it was wrong (speculation) because it was based on the Buddha’s teachings. People should not criticize blindly. If their speculations were true, they must point out the discrepancies between them. If we ask these people: “How many commentarial textbooks had been studied by them”. Even some of them were self-learning of the Pāli and Suttas by themselves without a teacher.
Ven. Buddhaghosa had written details on the purification by knowledge or paññā-sarīra (body of knowledge) in his Visuddhimagga textbook. These were not his ideas. It was based on the old Pāli textbooks handed down from the old generations, he studied and took notes of them, and produced this very important commentary on the practice. It is still not enough to understand, yet you also have to know about the causes and conditions for them. If not, it will be in the wrong directions with all the wrong reasoning and speculations.
For some examples; God creates the mind and matter, or it happened without causes, or by the past causes, etc. All these wrong views will make one stray away from the right direction. There are many different causes and conditions; e.g. the past and the present causes and conditions, supporting and producing causes and conditions from the surroundings, etc.
We must know or understand the different causes and conditions from different angles. Knowing only one cause is not complete (some Buddhists had this idea.). Knowing the causes and conditions thoroughly is paccayapariggaha ñāṇa—discernment of the conditions of mind and matter.
With this knowledge, we do not have any doubts in; “Did I exist in the past?” or “Will I become again in the future?” “Why I am here in the present?” As an example, trees existed in the past by the causes of soil, water and sunlight, etc. in the present and future also in this way. Knowing the causes and conditions clearly is kaṅkhāvitaraṇa visuddhi—purification by overcoming doubt. The level of knowledge increases.
Continuing with the insight contemplation, the similar fake dhammas of knowledge arise or encounter. Because of the samādhi power, some phenomena look like the path and the fruit. So, yogis can take it as attainments. Yogis cannot distinguish between the real and the fake. So, they are making the wrong conclusion and judgments. For example, the body light comes out.
Because of samādhi, the body disappears and only the mind exists. The whole body and mind become tranquil. These are similar to the path that the yogi thinks it as the attainment. And then he is straying away from the path. If a train strays away from the line, it will be overturned. And then it cannot go forwards. If the yogi can distinguish between the fake and the real, it is the purification of the path and not-path (maggāmagga ñāṇadassanavisuddhi). This is the fifth purity.
If the yogi is in the right direction and with the practice, knowledge develops step by step. This is the purification of the way (paṭipadā ñāṇadassanavisuddhi). This is the sixth purity. They are the four purification processes by insight from diṭṭhivisuddhi to paṭipadā ñāṇadassana-visuddhi. When arriving at the climax, there is an attainment which is not by producing.
This is the purification by knowledge and vision (Ñāṇadassana-visuddhi). This is the seventh purity. This Pāli word is different from the others fifth and sixth purifications and without prefixes, such as maggāmagga and paṭipadā. The yogi knows that he is on the right direction is the purification of the way. If he continues forwards, he will arrive at the ending which is the goal. This is knowledge and vision or knowing and seeing (Ñāṇa and dassana). What the yogi knows and sees?
Knowing is function and seeing is power. Here not included the prefix words, what were the knowing and seeing? In the paṭipadā ñāṇadassana, knowing and seeing the process of the path. Ñāṇadassana here is knowing and seeing the Four Noble Truths. It is also called Dhamma Eye—Dhamma Cakkhu.
In the Buddha’s First Discourse (Turning the Wheel of Dhamma, SN 56.11 Dhammacakkappavattanasuttaṃ); the descriptions were, cakkhuṁ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, etc. (there arose in me vision, knowledge, etc.) was referred to the seventh purity or this level. This is knowing and seeing the Four Noble Truths. With the developing of the truth of the path will know the truth of dukkha. With the knowledge of dukkha can abandon the truth of the cause (samudaya) and see the truth of the cessation of dukkha.
It happens at the same time. With one functioning and finishing the four tasks. Using of one description; it is knowing and seeing Nibbāna. Therefore, ñāṇadassana is not vipassanā knowledge and referring to path and fruit (magga and phala). We can say these are the results. How long it takes the yogi to get the attainment? Nobody can say exactly. It depends on each person. As examples;
Tipiṭaka master Mahā Siva practiced for 30 years. Ven. Anuruddha with samatha practice, he attained the divine eye. And then he continued the insight not attained this knowledge and vision. After with the help of Ven. Sāriputta and realized it. Attainments are not our concerns. It was like planting a fruit tree. Flowers and fruits appeared were the work of the tree. Doing practice is only our concern. When the time is ripe, it will appear.
For the spiritual faculties to be matured, the yogi must always do the practice. It was like wiping cloth. Washing it only for one time and never again, then it becomes dirtier and dirtier. If we practice always, and it will be in progress. It was also like always washing clothes and bathing.
If not, even we cannot bear our smells. The mind is also in the same way; only then it can be purified. From the purification of view (the third) to knowledge and vision (the seventh purity) which have mentioned above are in general.
For the practice, first of all, we have to study and learn the Buddha-Dhamma with textbooks or Dhamma talks. Practice under a learned experienced teach is better. If we have doubts and not clear about the Dhamma and practice, we should ask the teacher. In this way, we will get the knowledge by learning and listening (suta-mayā ñāṇa).
After this, start with the practice of purification in sīla and mind (samādhi). With the purity in virtue and mind, and develop the insight practice (vipassanā). Some think these processes were Ven. Buddhaghosa’s ideas. In the Ratha-vinīta Sutta (MN.24), questions and answers between Ven. Sāriputta and Ven. Puṇṇa was about these seven purifications.
It was also sure that not all the Buddha’s teachings could be recorded, and only some of them or the majority of them. If we can accept that the Buddha was the busiest person, his 45 years of teaching could be a lot more. From where we have to start with the purification of view. The objects of insight practice are; the five aggregates, the 12 sense bases and the 18 elements.
Here they can be divided into two groups of a yogi; samatha-yānika (samatha based yogi) and vipassanā-yānika (insight-based yogi). If the yogi is samatha-yānika starts with the contemplation of the mind and then later with matter (rūpa). If a vipassanā-yānika he should start with the matter. These were the instructions in the Visuddhimagga. It was handed down by the old generation of teachers.
We can not only confirm that teaching is right or wrong by the records, but also, we have to take the yogis’ accounts of experiences and results. It is necessary to pay more attention to the important points for contemplation. Starting from the matter is easier because it is more prominent than the mind.
In the Great Elephant Footprint Simile Discourse (MN 28 Mahā-hatthipadopama Sutta, from Majjhima Nikāya), Ven. Sāriputta taught the monks on practice; including the four great elements; earth (paṭhavī), liquid or water (āpo), fire (tejo), wind (vāyo) properties and including space (ākāsa) element.
In the sutta, the venerable started with the Four Noble Truths, which were like the footprint of an elephant, encompassing all the other animals’ footprints. And all the skillful qualities were included in the Four Noble Truths. It started with the four great elements as contemplation (including space element).
And then continued with the Dependent co-arising (Paṭiccasamuppāda). In this sutta, we can find about the five khandhas, āyatana and 18 dhātus. In other suttas, we found the six elements, added with consciousness (viññāṇa) (e.g., An Analysis of the Properties Discourse, MN 140 Dhātuvibhaṅga Sutta, Majjhima Nikāya).
In the Great Elephant Footprint Simile, the earth element was not referred to the intrinsic nature of hardness, softness, etc. But referred to the bodily parts as hard, solid and sustained by craving (taṇhā); head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, etc. Both the internal and external earth elements are simply earth elements.
That should be seen as it is with right discernment. This is not mine; this is not me; this is not myself. When one sees it thus as it is with right discernment. One becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.
Nowadays, in Burma, most yogis talk about between concepts (paññatti) and ultimate reality (paramattha). According to them, the practice has to be on the paramattha. Here in this sutta, the four great elements were using with the concepts of the bodily parts.
Some may think that these are not basic. If the yogis arrive at the level of the arising and passing away of phenomena (udayabbaya-anupassanā-ñāṇa), they will penetrate the ultimate reality (paramattha). At the beginning of the practice, talking about the paramattha will not get to the point. And then some meditations on the four great elements of the Buddha is becoming critical.
Why did the Buddha teach in this way? Humans attach to things are not paramattha dhammas, e.g. my hairs, my face, etc. They do not attach to the hardness, softness, etc. of the earth elements. Therefore, the Buddha was using concepts to dispel the basic concepts. It can be only fallen away by right seeing (yathābhūta).
Whatever internal, belonging to oneself as a liquid or watery element; bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, etc. This is called internal water elements. Both the internal and the external water elements are simply water element. That should be seen as it is with right discernment. This is not mine, not me and not myself. When one sees it thus as it is with right discernment, and one becomes disenchanted with the water element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the water element.
The internal fire element in oneself is; by which the body is warmed, aged and consumed with fever, what is eaten, drunk, chewed and savor gets properly digested or whatever else internal within oneself is fire, fiery. This is called the internal fire element within oneself.
Whatever internal belonging to oneself is wind, windy: up going winds, down going winds, winds in the stomach in the intestines, winds that course through the body, in and out breathing or whatever as internal within oneself is wind, windy. This is called the internal wind element.
In this way, the yogi contemplates the four elements to discern them. And then the concepts of person or beings disappear. It was like cutting a cow into pieces and with the piles of flesh, the concept of the cow disappeared.
With the four great elements, there are other four elements: color, smell, taste and nutrient. These eight matters are indivisible. They all are together. If talking about the matter, always remember these eight qualities.
Example of an external matter, a bread—we can analyze the four great elements in it. We can see the color with the eye; smell its smell with the nose; know the taste or flavor after eating it; the body receives the nutrient (such as protein, vitamins, etc.). They are eight matters (rūpa) with combining them all. If they are separated, it does not exist anymore. We have to contemplate this nature.
By doing the exercises and the view of a being will disappear. With the concept falling away, the yogi penetrates its essence. After the contemplation of matter, the yogi continues the contemplation to know the mind. Using the sense bases (āyatana) with contemplation, it becomes clearer.
With the contact of the eye and the physical form, seeing consciousness arises. This is the arising of the mind (nāma dhamma). The other sense bases also contemplate in this way. Contemplation of the 18 elements is also in the same way.
revised on 2020-09-08; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36992#p36992 (posted on 2019-11-22)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
- 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.