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 & matter (nāmarūpa pariggaha ñāna) & the discernment of the conditions of mind & matter (paccayapariggaha ñāna). In purifications, it referred to ditthivisuddhi & kankhāvitaranavisuddhi (No. 3 & 4 visuddhis).
For these two basic insight knowledge or purities in view & overcoming doubt, the yogis need to do two things. These are; 1. Study or soil of knowledge or field of knowledge (paññā-bhūmi), 2. Developing or exercising (Ñāna-pariseyya).
For doing the practice rightly has to do the study. The yogis need to study about the five khandhas (aggregates), āyatanas (sense bases), dhātu (elements), indriyas (faculties), the four noble truths & dependent co-arising (paticcasamupuda). To have this learning knowledge (sutamaya paññā) need to study many times. Mogok Sayadaw’s Dhamma talks were a very good example for this purpose. After learning & developing or exercising them by practice.
The Pali word ditthi meaning is view. In the suttas using by itself usually means the wrong view. Right view is adding sammā in front of ditthi, i.e., sammā-ditthi. Wrong views are many; the main one is the identity view (sakkāya-ditthi). 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, volitions & consciousness) as I, me & mine. Therefore we can also take each one of the khandhas as me & 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 take the mind as a self situated in the form (the body), as like a jewel is in a casket. When a person dies & its mind not dies. After death, it leaves the old (dead) body behind & takes a new body, as like changing new clothes. Even some Buddhists believe in this way (including Buddhist monks & it is no need to say other faiths). It is a soul existed theory & view.
It seems they misinterpret or misunderstand the Buddha Dhamma. They are the followers of Bhikkhu Sāti (See – Mahātanhāsankhaya Sutta). The notion obsesses people life: I am forming, the form is mine. As they are living & obsessing by these notions & when any one of the khandhas changes & alters, with these there arise in them sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief & despair.
Identity view is one of the first three fetters (samyojanas) to be eradicated by the first path (sotāpattimagga). This is the most important fetter has to be eradicated first. With this, self-view or selfishness and beings are easily committing unwholesomeness & 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 & craving (tanhā) are the two basic causes for dukkha or the round of existence (saṁsāra). Identity view is ingrained with the coarsest ignorance & craving. With this fetter latent in the heart (mind) the other higher paths of realization are impossible. The most terrible dangers & 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 (samjoyana) urgently in the two discourses; The Clothes & The Hundred Spears Discourses (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 & will die again & again. Worse than that is will born in hells, as animals & 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 hundred years & could live up to it. And then someone comes to him & say; “Everyday in the morning I’ll strike you with a hundred spears, also at noon & 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 & the first point cannot be discerned of the blows by spears & swords for each living being. (Later Buddhist philosophers postulated some theories on the beginning of saṁsāra & the first point of it & they neglected the Buddha’s words).
After study & learning for the field of knowledge on khandhas, āyatana dhātus, etc. & for developing knowledge to exercise or practice them. Here the satipatthāna practice comes in. For purification of view to arise must repeatedly contemplate again & again, until the wrong thinking of me & mine disappear. Only in this way become purity in view. Self-view (atta ditthi) & identity view (sakkāya ditthi) 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 & then matter (rūpa). It is easier for him because with samādhi power easy to discern the mind. For vipassanā yanika, the yogi must contemplate the matter first. There are many yogis do not have a clear distinction between concept (paññātti) & ultimate reality (paramattha).
A venerable Sayadaw met with Mahasi Sayadaw at his center. At that time Mahasi 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 & it became particles. And then the yogi took it as the insight practice (vipassanā).
Mahasi Sayadaw asked him; “What do you think, this is the concept or ultimate reality?” The Sayadaw answered it as a concept, and Mahasi Sayadaw was agreed with him. And then Mahasi 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 & 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 (ditthivisuddhi) to purification by knowledge & vision (Ñānadassana-visuddhi); i.e., stage 3 to 7.
According to the suttas, Yathābhūta Ñāna – the knowledge of phenomena as it is the discernment of mind & matter (Nāma-rūpapariggaha ñāna). This was taught by the Buddha in the Discourse of the Characteristics of Not-self (Anattalakkhana Sutta). 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 they had studied many commentarial textbooks. Even some of them were self-learning of the Pali & Suttas by themselves without a teacher.
Ven. Buddhagosa had written details on the purification by knowledge or paññā-sarira (body of knowledge) in his Visuddhimagga text book. These were not his ideas. It was based on the old Pali textbooks handed down from the old generations, he studied & took notes of them, & produced this very important commentary on the practice. Understanding the mind & matter is still not enough yet also have to know about the causes & conditions for them. If not with all the wrong reasoning & speculations will be in the wrong directions.
For some examples; God creates the mind & 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 & conditions; e.g. the past & the present causes & conditions, supporting & producing causes & conditions from the surroundings, etc.
We must know or understand the different causes & conditions from different angles. Knowing only one cause is not complete (Some Buddhists had this idea). Knowing the causes & conditions thoroughly is paccayapariggaha ñāna – discernment of the conditions of mind & 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, e.g. trees were existed in the past by the causes of soil, water & sunlight, etc. in the present & future also in this way. Knowing the causes & conditions clearly is kankhavitarana visuddhi – purification by overcoming doubt. The level of knowledge increases.
Continuing with the insight contemplation & similar fake dhammas of knowledge arise, or encounter. Because of the samādhi power that some of the phenomena are looking like path & fruit. So yogis can take it as attainments. Yogis cannot distinguish between the real & the fake. So they are making the wrong conclusion & judgments. E.g., the body light comes out.
Because of samādhi, the body disappears & only the mind exists. The whole body & 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 will be overturned. And then it cannot go forwards. If the yogi can distinguish between the fake & the real is the purification of path & not-path (maggāmagga ñānadassanavisuddhi). This is the 5th purity.
If the yogi is in the right direction & with the practice, knowledge develops step by step. This is the purification of the way (patipadā ñānadassanavisuddhi). This is the 6th purity. From ditthi-visuddhi to patipadā-ñānadassana-visuddhi are the four purification processes by insight. When arriving at the climax, there is an attainment which is not by producing.
This is the purification by knowledge & vision (Ñānadassana-visuddhi). This is the 7th purity. This Pali word is different from the others 5th & 6th purifications & without prefixes, such as maggā-magga & patipadā. The yogi knows that he is on the right direction is the purification of the way. If he continues forwards will arrive at the ending & which is the goal. This is knowledge & vision or knowing & seeing (Ñāna & dassana). What the yogi knows & sees?
Knowing is function & seeing is power. Here not included the prefix words, what were the knowing & seeing? In the patipadā ñānadassana, knowing & seeing the process of the path. Ñānadassana here is knowing & seeing the four noble truths. It is also called Dhamma Eye – Dhamma Cakkhu.
In the Buddha’s First Discourse (Turning the Wheel of Dhamma); the descriptions were, cakkhuṁ udapādi-ñānaṁ udapādi, etc. (There arose in me vision, knowledge, etc.) was referred to the 7th purity or this level. This is knowing & 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) & see the truth of the cessation of dukkha.
It happens at the same time. With one functioning & finishing the four tasks. Using of one description; it is knowing & seeing Nibbāna. Therefore, ñānadassana is not vipassanā knowledge & referring to path & fruit (magga & 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;
Tipitaka master Mahā Siva practiced for 30 years. Ven. Anuruddha with samatha practice, he attained divine eye. And then he continued the insight not attained this knowledge & vision. After with the help of Ven. Sariputta & realized it. Attainments are not our concerns. It was like planting a fruit tree. Flowers & 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 & never again, then it becomes dirtier & dirtier. If we practice always, & it will be in progress. It was also like always washing clothes & 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 3rd) to knowledge & vision (the 7th purity) which have mentioned above are in general.
For the practice, firstly we have to study & learn the Buddha-Dhamma with textbooks or Dhamma talks. Practice under a learned experienced teach is better. If we have doubts & not clear about the Dhamma & practice should ask the teacher. In this way will get the knowledge by learning & listening (sutamaya ñāna).
After this, start with the practice of purification in sīla & mind (samādhi). With the purity in virtue & mind, & develop the insight practice (vipassanā). Some think these processes were Ven. Buddhagosa’s ideas. In the Ratha-vinita Sutta, questions & answers between Ven. Sariputta & Ven. Punna was about these seven purifications.
It was also sure that not all of 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 & the 18 elements.
Here can be divided into two groups of a yogi; samatha-yanika (samatha based yogi) & vipassanā-yanika (insight-based yogi). If the yogi is samatha-yanika starts with the contemplation of the mind & then later with matter (rūpa). If a vipassanā-yanika he should start with the matter. These were the instructions in the Visuddhimagga. It was handed down by the old generation of teachers.
Teaching is right or wrong; we cannot only confirm by the records. But also we have to take the yogis’ accounts of experiences & 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/Mahā-hatthipadopama Sutta (From Majjima Nikāya), Ven. Sariputta taught the monks on practice was including the four great elements; earth (patthavi), liquid or water (āpo), fire (tejo), wind (vayo) properties & including space (ākāsa) element.
In the sutta, the venerable started with the four noble truths, which were like the footprint of an elephant encompassed 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 (Paticcasamupada). In this sutta, we can find about the five khandhas, āyatana & 18 dhātus. In other suttas, we found the six elements, added with consciousness (viññāna) (e.g., An Analysis of the Properties Discourse, Sutta No. 140, Majjima 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 & sustained by craving (tanhā); head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, etc. Both the internal & 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 & makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.
Nowadays, in Burma, most yogis talk about between concepts (paññatti) & 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 & passing away of phenomena (udayabbaya ñānam) will penetrate the ultimate reality (paramattha). At the beginning of the practice, talk about the paramattha will not get to the point. And then some of the 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 (yathabhūta).
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 & the external water elements are simply water element. That should be seen as it is with right discernment. This is not mine, not me & not myself. When one sees it thus as it is with right discernment, & one becomes disenchanted with the water element & makes the mind dispassionate towards the water element.
The internal fire element in oneself is; by which the body is warmed, aged & consumed with fever, what is eaten, drunk, chewed & 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 & 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 & with the piles of flesh, the concept of the cow disappeared.
With the great four elements, there are other four elements: color, smell, taste & 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. Can see the color with the eye, its smell can be smelled with the nose, can know the taste or flavor, & after eating it, the body receives the nutrient (such as protein, vitamins, etc.). Combined them all are eight matters (rūpa). If they are separated, it does not exist anymore. We have to contemplate this nature.
By doing the exercises & the view of a being will disappear. With 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 & 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.
cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36992#p36992 (posted on 2019-11-22)
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