revised on 2021-07-28
- On Mind Development
- Vipassanā Bhāvanā (By Sayadaw Puññananda)
On Mind Development
In the Dhammapada Verse-183, the Buddha replied to Ānanda on the instructions given by all the Buddhas was: “Not to do evil, to cultivate merit and to purify one’s mind. This is mind development for all humans, as training in sīla, samādhi and paññā. In the Theravada tradition we see more meditation systems than other traditions. One of the main reasons is Theravada bhikkhus have the strong tradition of study the Dhamma, Vinaya and their commentaries. There are some western scholars rejected the commentaries as not authentic. An internationally well-known Burmese teacher asked this question, “How many commentaries have they studied before?” Asian Buddhist tradition has a very long history with commentaries it even can be said as it started from Ven. Mahākaccāna. This tradition was handed down by teacher to teacher. It also had a long history of study and practice. The Buddha-Dhamma always requires a teacher to teach the Dharma and its practice, unlike other worldly knowledges. We can only decide whether a teaching and system is authentic or not by its practice and results, not by thinking and its proliferation.
Among the Theravada Buddhist countries, there are more meditation systems in Burma than in other countries because of the strong tradition of study and practice.
When talking about meditation systems, we should not look down on them. These were not coming from thinking and speculation of the suttas and its commentaries or not mere theories. These systems were the outcomes of study and practice with a lot of trials, and not easy to come by. I can give a lot of examples for these systems and its teachers.
The original teacher of the well-known Mahāsi system was not Mahāsi Sayadaw—U Sobhana, whose teacher was Thathom Jetavun Sayadaw U Nārada (1868–1955). Sayadaw U Nārada was a well-known scholar monk of his time and wrote 22 text books. In the beginning he did not know how to start the practice. So, he had to ask a practised monk for advice. The monk only said to him for looking in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. He read the sutta and its commentaries about satipaṭṭhāna and did the practice with a lot of trials. After his practice and started to teach people but most of them had doubt in the system, because it was so simple and direct. It took some time for him to get people to try on his practice. Now Mahāsi system is becoming well-known around the world. Even we can find some records on children (young boys and girls) had good results with this system (not the 21st-century children who are very restless). So, the practice does not result from conceptualising and playing games of thought, which is the way of the world.
The following two examples are very good evidences. The first teacher was Soon Loon Sayadaw U Kavi (1877-1952) who had very little education and a farmer. One time he was listening to the Dhamma discussions of among some men for 3-4 days but mostly he did not understand them (including Abhidhamma and Ānāpānasati). One night, U Ba San (a disciple of Ledi Sayadaw) came to his house and he asked him the following questions.
Q: U Ba San, I am illiterate, Can I practise your Dhamma? A: Literate or illiterate is not a necessary thing. The important thing is having true belief and really doing it. You need saddhā (faith) and viriya (perseverance).
Q: Then, please tell me how to do it. A: Just noting the in-breath and out-breath.
After U Ba San answered U Kyaw Din’s questions (i.e., Soon Loon Sayadaw’s lay-name) and he went into the groups of people for Dhamma discussion. (these Dhamma discussions were done at U Kyaw Din’s house.) With that much instruction U Kyaw Din started to do his practice. After practising for two or three days, his in-breath and out-breath became smooth.
Then his friend U Shwe Lok came to his house. (U Shwe Lok had practised satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā before.) He told him about his practice. U Shwe Lok corrected him by saying; “You have to follow with knowing.” U Kyaw Din asked him again; “How to follow it with knowing?” He answered him very easily as; “Just knowing, knowing.” “What will happen if I follow with knowing?” “You’ll get merit.” “I’ll do it if I get merit.” In this way U Kyaw Din did the practice diligently with strong determination and faith. He also did his daily chores with sati and knowing. His daily chores were finished smoothly and easily with mindfulness practice. His samādhi developed and seeing light nimitta. With sati, samādhi and viriya he observed the physical sensations of touching (i.e., paṭhavī—earth element) in his whole body with his daily activities. Even he could make the meditation dictum on the practice as—Touching, Knowing, Sati “U Kavi became a tevijja arahant as a novice after four months with the practice.
(Sayadaw’s realization of Dhamma came by each stage exactly a month each. In the 3rd month he became an anāgāmi and could not live with his wife Daw Shwe Yi, so he asked permission from her to let him ordained as a novice. But his wife did not let him go. At last, with the help of the village folks he became a novice.)
Soon Loon Sayadaw’s arahantship was confirmed by some famous scholar monks and practising monks by testing his knowledge with the suttas and commentaries—all these difficult and profound questions were not easy to answer by even a scholar monk. Sayadaw was illiterate about the texts, but he had the wisdom (paññā) to answer these profound questions on practice (jhānas and Nibbāna) in ease with common language.
The second teacher was Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw U Okkhatha (1913-1973). At a young age he had no interest in learning. He was married four times and living his life as an alcoholic, a gambler, a thug and a bandit leader. He committed some crimes and had been in prison. One time while living in Rangoon with one of his wives he had a chance to read the biography of Soon Loon Sayadaw and his practice. The book belonged to his wife who practised meditation. He thought; “If he could become an Arahant; then if I practise, I will also become an Arahant.”
At the age of 46, he and two others went to rob a house, and he was attacked by a man in it with a long knife. His head was hit with the knife, and they ran out for their lives. He was very lucky because of wearing a hat, which saved his life. With strong saṃvega, he took medication for his head injury for seven days, and then took the book on Soon Loon Sayadaw’s life and his way of practice to the village monastery. He observed the nine precepts and shut himself up in the room of the monastery sīmā for practice (sīmā is a monastery building for ordination purpose and reciting of monastic rules.) He made the following strong determination—“Either I die or kilesa dies!”
(For modern man it may be the opposite—Please let me and kilesa not die! See the global pollutions and severe climate problems.)
He did the ānāpānasati by observing the in-breath and out-breath at the tip of the nostril with continuous sati. He was quite often falling down to the ground from a sitting position due to the intense and unbearable painful feelings that arose. (it maybe related to his negative kammas). Without losing sati and with unremitting effort, he contemplated each of the vedanā with patience and endurance to their ending. On the 6th day (12th September 1959) realized the first Path knowledge. Realized the 3rd Path knowledge on 15th March 1960 with the divine eye. He ordained as a monk on 12th March 1961 and became arahant on 20th May 1961. (see Soon Loon Sayadaw’s way of practice in Jack Kornfield’s book—Living Buddhist Masters).
From the three teachers above, we see the importance and benefits of the system, especially for someone who has no teacher to guide him. Also, we can select anyone of the systems to suit our nature and interest. Even though we cannot find anyone of the systems exactly in the suttas it does not mean that it is not authentic. It was also not possible for a Buddha to teach all the possible systems in his teachings, but we can find general outline and view in these systems (i.e., a true system). Each teacher taught his students according to his practice and experiences. Only the Buddha knows how to teach each person according to his own character and maturity. The other people find a teacher or study the suttas and existing systems to find out their ways with trials.
The Buddha-Dhamma is simple and direct but profound. Only with a qualified teacher (skill in pariyatti and paṭipatti—having both skills) to understand them clearly (e.g., Ledi Sayadaw). This was one reason we can see young yogis (i.e., children) in the Buddha’s time and even today. (there were some young yogi’s records in Burmese systems.) The records of the illiterate teachers and illiterate yogis support the important role of a teacher. Here I am not exaggerating on any meditation systems. There are some people who look down on systems and reject them. Meditation systems are unavoidable for most people. They need it. Even there are learned monks who do not know the practice.
The meditation systems of Burma and Thailand are well known in both Asia and the West. But they do not know each other very well because of the differences in their modes and ways of practice. The Burmese systems were based on the suttas and commentaries and the Thai on the suttas. Most of the Burmese systems were discovered by the monks, and very few by laymen (e.g., Anagam Saya Thet who was Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s teacher. Saya Thet’s life was quite interesting. His main teacher was Ledi Sayadaw, but he had studied and practised under many teachers of his time.). Much of the Thai tradition is associated with forest monks. What I know from the Thai forest tradition they did not pay much attention to the commentaries, but they had some knowledge about the suttas.
Some Thai forest monks thought that without jhāna samādhi and insight was impossible. I do not know how many Burmese know about the Thai forest tradition vice versa. Some years ago, I had met a well-known Abhidhamma teacher in Burma. (He was a lay Buddhist.) He showed me a small booklet, the English translation of Ajahn Cha’s talk and made a critical comment. I thought he did not find any evidences of the suttas, commentaries and Abhidhamma in it. Then I responded him by referring to We-bu Sayadaw’s teaching and system. People who know Sayadaw’s teaching will understand what I mean. It was very simple. The best way to justify any teaching and system is only by practise, its result and time. Inauthentic Dhamma will disappear very quickly and cannot last long.
Mogok Sayadaw’s talks are quite unique. By listening many times with contemplation, it can lead to dispassion with the khandhas and the external world. A Dhammakathika has this quality to teach people, and this was also mentioned by the Buddha. It was like listening to the teachings of the Buddha and his great disciples.
There were some monks who had learned and were trained under Mogok's teachings and since became meditation teachers to teach others. Each teacher had a different style, but the perspective and rules were the same. There are also some misinterpretations to Sayadaw’s talks. Some think Sayadaw’s system was pure satipaṭṭhāna practise like the Mahāsi System (i.e., sukkha-vipassanā). Sayadaw himself never gave a complete system and guidance as Mahāsi System. He was pointing the way and it process generally with many talks based on suttas, commentaries and from his own wisdom. From the many talks we can know the overall view of his insight practice.
Here I want to present the meditation instruction of Sayadaw Puññananda's from his talks but not a complete translation and only a general outline. It seems to me the teaching is very clear and easy to practise. Anyone who is interested can give it a try.
By Sayadaw Puññananda
It is important to have the right view on the meditation object (i.e., one of the satipaṭṭhāna object—kāya, vedanā, citta, dhamma). Following with the talk, you will know what it is.
How to relate to the object (arom or ārammaṇa)?
During the contemplation becoming nicca diṭṭhi means instead of seeing anicca (impermanent) the yogi sees the existing object (nicca—permanent).
During the contemplation becoming not existing concept means the yogi contemplates on the not existing object.
The practice is not developing because of wrong contemplation. First using the ānāpānasati develop the vipassanā samādhi. Observing the breath coming in and going out around the nostril. First exercise to find out your touching point of the breath. Feel the sensation there without any concept. It will become samatha practise with the concepts. After getting samādhi, when observe the whatever arising dhamma (phenomenon)—it must be free from nicca-diṭṭhi and do not become abhāva concept.
For example, when dukkha vedanā arises, and it is not vanishing because of the continuous concept (santati-paññatti) in the yogi’s mind. Another factor is the concept of solidity (ghana-paññatti) stuck in the yogi’s mind. Therefore, the yogi cannot cut off the continuous process of the concept (santati-paññatti).
Therefore, without seeing anicca directly and noting at it as (anicca, anicca, etc.) is wrong. Because the yogi is noting the arising dhamma that it becomes nicca—permanent (because only seeing the arising and not passing away). It becomes abhāva concept means after the arising dhamma passes away and the yogi observes it late or only knowing it after the reflection and not in the present moment. Therefore, it becomes abhāva concept (i.e., not seeing it as really exist). The yogi must see the arising dhamma from its existence to non-existence.
(This is what Mogok Sayadaw mentioned very often in his talks as—anicca/magga have to be fit together).
The point here is during the contemplation should not see the place and its form (e.g., the pain in the leg). With the place and its form will become nicca-diṭṭhi. After it passing away for some time and contemplate will become abhāva concept. Both of them are unwise attention (ayoniso). Nicca concept and abhāva concept have connection to each other.
The yogi has to understand about the two kinds of knowing—the normal or common knowing and the knowing with contemplation.
First do the exercise by contemplating at the nostril with the in-breath and out-breath. This is normal knowing of the object, and the yogi will feel the sensation at the nostril. After some time he will know the nature (sabhāva) of the object (here it is rūpa—a form or the four elements) and without aware of the nostril. And then whatever object arises in the body follow it with contemplation. Here are three stages for knowing the object to determine a place (here nostril). To know the nature of the object (i.e., sensations) without the concept of the place (here the concept of nostril). After developing the second stage, the yogi has no difficulty to contemplate wherever the object is arising without the concept of the places. (e.g., leg, arm, body, etc.)
From then on, with the contemplation, the yogi discerns the mind/body process. For example, the physical sensations appear at the nostril is form (rūpa). Knowing of the arising sensations is mind (citta), etc.
Sayadaw talked about the simile of spider meditation (It seems to me it was from the Milindapañhā. In a sutta there was a simile how to catch a lizard which is hiding in an earth-mount with six holes.) We experience the internal and external phenomena (dhamma) from the six sense doors—i.e., eye, nose, …mind doors. Among them the mind is the main knowing. The mind door or base is at the heart. It was like the centre of the spider web. A spider stays at the centre of the web quietly waiting and watching any insect caught up in any part of the web. In the same way the yogi’s mind stays at the heart to observe whatever arises in the body.
Sayadaw continued to talk about the differences between wisdom knowing (paññā) and consciousness of knowing (viññāṇa). The mind at the heart observes any phenomenon arises in the body will know it vanishing. This is paññā knowing or developing of knowing (bhāvetabba). With development of the practise the yogi knows the arising and vanishing of phenomena as dukkha. This penetration of dukkha is viññāṇa knowing. Actually, these two kinds of knowing are inseparable. They are working together.
The importance of vedanā:
Many yogis stuck at dukkha vedanā (painful feeling); their practice did not develop because they did not understand vedanā or contemplated it in the wrong way. This is reacting to vedanā wrongly with unwise attention. (One also cannot overcome it with wrong view.). Should not contemplate on vedanā (dukkha) in the unbearable way.
(It seems to be without understanding of how to contemplate, only advanced yogis and very few overcome it, e.g., The-inn Gu Sayadaw mentioned above. He was a very rough character and a tough guy as layman with the strong determination of that I would die if kilesa not died.)
There are four faults if dealing with dukkha vedanā unbearably.
- Dukkha vedanā becomes stronger. 2. Samādhi falls down 3. Wanting it to disappear (i.e., taṇhā) 4. Vedanā covering the mind and delusion (moha) comes in, and does not know one’s situation.
If it becomes unbearable with dukkha vedanā change the posture with mindfulness (sati). In this way Samādhi is not destroyed with the meditation. The yogi only knowing of vedanā is satipaṭṭhāna (knowing of the arising dhamma) and concept does not disappear (for example, if we ask someone: “Whose pain is it?” He will answer as my pain.) Seeing impermanent (arising and vanishing) becomes bhāvanā (satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā).
There are two kinds of khandhas:
- Original khandha (the body) 2. Arising khandha
It can be called the concept khandha and paramattha khandha. The yogi has to contemplate the arising khandha. If one does not overcome the pains when dukkha vedanās arise, the mind also becomes painful because we mix up the two khandhas. We see the pains with normal eye; this is seeing with self-view—attatho anupassati. Have to contemplate the arising khandha with knowledge eye (ñāṇa eye). When discern anicca, only the body is aching and not affecting the mind. The mind can bear with the painful feeling.
Sayadaw gave a simile for it. Dropping a stone into the lake, and it goes down to the bottom. After it reaching to the bottom water bubbles are rising up to the surface one by one. When we are looking at each of a bubble arising to the surface, and it will burst open and disappear. If we look at all the air bubbles inside the water, they are mixed together; we cannot see them separately from each other as we can on the surface of the water. Continuity of the concept creates solidity and permanent (when the yogi discerns anicca at that moment the contemplating mind becomes upekkhā. This is a middle way—not reacting as, like or dislike.)
Ārammaṇa (object), Vedanā (feelings) and how to deal with them (i.e., sukha and dukkha)?
The physical body (rūpakkhandha) has the nature of ruppati which means to be deformed, afflicted, disturbed, oppressed, broken, or it changes. When it is changed, dukkha vedanā arises. The mind goes and feels it dukkha; without getting rid of the concept it becomes unbearable. The yogi can contemplate with upekkhā will not go and feel it with dukkha vedanā. It becomes only upekkhā vedanā because of seeing anicca. (This is called equanimity of insight—vipassanupekkhā). It is difficult to see this kind of refined vedanā. It cannot be free from concept if seeing it as sukha and dukkha (to the arising pleasant and unpleasant feelings). Likewise, it is only in satipaṭṭhāna and it becomes satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā by seeing anicca.
(All these teachings are mentioned in the commentaries; therefore, if one has not studied them, one should not blindly criticize them only from one's own point of view. Some Westerners even reject the teachings of Abhidhamma completely on the basis of a little second-hand knowledge, without having studied them, which is a very extreme approach. Only those who have really studied the commentaries and the teachings of Abhidhamma will know their value.)
It needs to differentiate between the concept (paññatti) and reality (paramattha).
There are two signs (nimittas): 1. Samādhi sign and 2. Satipaṭṭhāna nimitta.
Sayadaw explained with the simile of rain drops fall on the water surface. For example, the nostril and air are concepts while contemplating on the in-breath and out-breath. The arising phenomena of these two contacts—such as warmness, coolness, etc., are paramattha dhamma or rūpa paramatā—the reality of form. Head, body, hand, feet, etc. are concepts, and forms (rūpa) arise on them are paramattha (the direct experience of the four elements—such as coolness, warmness, etc.). The heart is concept, and the minds arise on the heart are paramattha—such as feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā), volition, etc. With the above simile—the water surface is like the concept when rain drops fall on it and the arising bubbles are like paramattha. Every time when paramattha dhamma arises, knowing it is samādhi nimitta and knowing the passing away of it is Satipaṭṭhāna nimitta. (Behind all these words there are delicate and profound meanings which are good for contemplation.)
The water surface of body, head, hand, etc. does not disappear, only the bubbles of paramattha dhammas (do) disappear.
During the contemplation the importance of letting go the concepts.
There are some concepts coming in during the contemplation, such as compactness, shapes, solidity, continuity, noting (making notes). With the noting concepts which cover up the reality (paramattha dhamma). The yogi cannot see clearly of the anicca will only end up with Satipaṭṭhāna and not become Satipaṭṭhāna bhāvanā. Because anicca and magga are not fitting together. The arising and vanishing dhamma is happening quicker than the noting process that it comes in later (i.e., the contemplation mind). With the disappearance of the concept by observing the arising dhamma will see anicca. If the yogi still seeing the particles of form or shape it was still not free from the concepts.
① With the happiness of samādhi and the disappearance of the body; ② the disappearance of the body and the intrinsic khandhas or dhamma khandhas; ③ two ways of the disappearance of the intrinsic khandhas.
① With the happiness of samādhi
Developing of samādhi by watching the breath (i.e., āṇāpāṇa-sati) or focused contemplation on the arising dhamma the yogi attains samādhi. Because of samādhi the whole body or some parts of it disappear. At that time the yogi does not have dukkha vedanā and can contemplate it with happiness.
② the disappearance of the body and the intrinsic khandhas or dhamma khandhas
If the yogi can contemplate the arising khandhas without fail, both of the body and dhamma body disappeared or all the concepts disappeared (all concepts refer to body and dhamma khandhas)
③ two ways of the disappearance of the intrinsic khandhas.
Two ways of the disappearance of the dhamma khandha.
- Disappearance of the khandha without knowing.
- Disappearance of the khandha with knowing.
- Without knowing the yogi contemplates the arising khandhas and instantly lost his sati (i.e., the mind flicks away) and after sati coming back, he does not see the dhamma khandha. Another possibility is yogi’s contemplating mind comes in late, and he does not see the arising khandha. This means anicca and magga not fit in together. (This was reminded by Mogok Sayadaw very often.)
- With knowing the yogi discerns anicca or it fits in with magga (anicca/magga). All the concepts disappeared. Body concepts and the names of the khandha concept disappeared.
Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bojjhaṅga)
When people are sick, they look for something to rely on, because they want to cure the oppressive diseases. There is Dhamma we can relied on it, not by listening only. You have to try on the khandha dhamma to become the bojjhaṅga dhamma. There are seven bojjhaṅga dhamma: ① Mindfulness ② Discrimination of phenomena ③ persistent effort ④ Rapture ⑤ Tranquility ⑥ Concentration ⑦ Equanimity
Mindfulness, discrimination of phenomena, persistent and concentration are the four working factors of enlightenment—karaka sambojjhaṅga. With these four factors of completion, rapture, tranquility and equanimity will arise by themselves. Without completion of the first four factors will not get it. We must know that it is not right with the first four factors if the last three factors does not arise.
There is sati-sambojjhaṅga every time with the knowing of the arising phenomenon. For examples, every time vedanā arises, mind arises, etc. the yogi knows it. When the yogi observes the arising phenomenon, he will see the change of from its existence to non-existence. For examples, vedanā arises, after it arises and see its not-existing. Every time the object of contemplation arises observing with ñāṇa and seeing the arising and vanishing or birth and death. These khandhas are called guest khandhas. Because it does not exist all the time. The knowledge of seeing anicca is called the factor of discrimination of phenomena—dhamma vicaya bojjhaṅga.
Every time dhamma arises with the persistent effort to discern impermanence is viriya bojjhaṅga. At the moment of discernment of anicca the mind not running away anywhere and calmly staying with the object is samādhi- bojjhaṅga. If the yogi can contemplate anicca with stability—rapture, tranquility and equanimity will complete slowly. If not developing then mindfulness, discrimination, persistent effort and samādhi- any one of them is lacking. Rapture (pīti-bojjhaṅga) will arise if four of them can work together successfully, .
The mind is free from defilements (i.e., the hindrances—nīvaraṇa) by discerning of anicca, then rapture starts arising. Five kinds of rapture arise successively.
- Khuddaka-pīti (minor rapture): gooseflesh starts arising—the hairs on the skin stand up so that it is covered with tiny bumps. It is very weak and quick that some yogis know about them, but some are not. With khuddaka pīti increasing and it leads to—
- Khaṇika-pīti (momentary rapture) arises so that the hairs on the skin stand up longer and clearer with tiny bumps. Here which the yogi has to be careful is the process happening longer does not mean it was stable. It means becoming clearer. Pīti also arises and vanishes with continuing. With more increasing of pīti –
- Okkantika-pīti (showering rapture) arises, and it breaks over the body repeatedly in surges, like one is riding on a chair in the Ferris wheel. With the increasing of pīti which leads to—
- Ubbega-pīti (uplifting rapture) arises. It was like the experience of riding on a wave going up and down. The body becomes light and moving up from the floor. From here it develops to—
- Pharaṇa-pity (pervading rapture). The yogi can sit longer and with happiness in mind and body. It was like a cotton soaked with full of oil and no painful feeling any more. Every yogi arriving at this stage has fondness in the Dhamma.
It continues to develop arriving at ⑤ Passaddhi—tranquility, mind and body become happy and peaceful. Because it does not have the fire of greed and anger of defilements. Yogi who arrives to this stage making more effort in the practise, and he does not want to mix with anyone. He has joy and pleasure in his own Dhamma. With more development than that the yogi arrives at ⑦ upekkhā-sambojjhaṅga (equanimity). The yogi can contemplate anicca with equanimity as a stranger, at that time the diseases in the body are cured. Lobha fire and dosa fire are extinguished and yogi feels quite happy at that moment. This is not Nibbāna yet (very close to it now).
If we are arriving at this stage and can imagine the great happiness of Nibbāna.
The seven purifications—sign Posts of Dhamma Development.
I will talk about the sign posts of Dhamma development so that yogis can know one’s level of the practise. These levels of sign posts of Dhamma are:
1.) Keeping and looking after one’s sīla. This is sīla-visuddhi.
2.) Pay attention on the in-breath and out-breath at the nostril or contemplate on the arising khandha in the body. If the mind not running away anywhere and staying with the objects of contemplation then the yogi gets samādhi. The mind is free from the hindrances and purified. This is citta-visuddhi.
3.) Contemplation of the in-breath and out-breath at the nostril and discern the warmness, coolness, etc. of the physical sensations is discerning of form (rūpa). Contemplation of the physical sensations arising in the body such as pain, numbness, aches, etc. is discerning of form (rūpa). The nature of rūpa is afflicted, change, deformed, etc. If the yogi can contemplate these rūpa dhamma, identity view sakkāya diṭṭhi falls away by practice. If the yogi can contemplate the knowing mind (consciousness), vedanā—feeling of their arising dhamma sakkāya diṭṭhi falls away by practice. This is the yogi’s discerning of mind and form and purification of view—diṭṭhi-visuddhi.
4.) Purification by overcoming doubt-kaṅkhāvitaraṇa visuddhi
Mind and form dhammas are not arisen by themselves (i.e., causeless). It is also not by any creator (i.e., God or Mahā Brahma). It’s arisen by natural causes or conditioning by natural causes. For an example—when with breathing the air is going in and out from the nostril. Here the physical sensitivity around the nostril (is sense door (dvāra), the air element is object (arom or ārammaṇa), and their contact is phassa. By these three causes the knowing mind-consciousness arises.
5.) If the yogi discern of each arising of mind and form and their passing away, it is the purification of the path and not-path—maggāmagga ñāṇadassana-visuddhi.
The purification of the process starting from 1. to 5. can be known and achieved with the help of a teacher.
(Therefor, a qualified and skillful teacher is very important for a yogi. Mogok Sayadawgyi was such kind of teacher. His teachings or talk are very helpful in practise and profound understanding of Dhamma.)
6.) From here the yogi persistently continues to contemplate anicca will arrive to the level of equanimity to all saṅkhāra dukkha—conditioned dukkha. This is purification of the way—paṭipadā-ñāṇa-dassana-visuddhi.
7.) From here the yogi continues his effort with the practise and all the impermanence (anicca) come to the end. Then the yogi sees the ending of dukkha which is Nibbāna. This is purification by knowledge and vision - ñāṇadassana-visuddhi.
The Ten Corruptions of Insight—Vipassanupakkilesa (vipassañ-ūpakkhilesa)
Every yogi is bound to encounter these corruptions. In these processes, one must not be carried away by them. In the insight process, the objects of contemplation do not have body, form, shape and particles. The paramattha dhammas are arising and passing away. If the yogi can discern impermanence there are no body, head, hands, feet, forms and signs (nimittas) with it. Whatever the khandha arises, if the yogi sees only its arising and vanishing, his mind will be purified from defilement. The contemplating mind becomes clear.
There are not much to talk about the fifth purification of path and not-path. When the yogi arrives at the knowledge of rising and fall of mind and matter (udayabbaya ñāṇa), the ten insight corruptions appear. These are; an aura (obhāsa), rapture (pīti), tranquility (passaddhi), resolution (adhimokkha), exertion (paggaha), happiness (sukha), knowledge (ñāṇa), mindfulness (sati), equanimity (upekkhā) and attachment (nikanti).
If a yogi gets lost in any one of them and become an obstacle to the progress. Because the yogi takes it as the attainment and stops the practice. Ven. Sayadaw Puññananda mentioned them in his talk on the seven purifications. Every yogi must encounter any of these phenomena.
The important point is they should not get lost in these processes. In the insight processes, there are no appearing of bodily form and particles. Paramattha dhammas are arising and passing away by itself and with insight defilement (kilesa) is purified.
The mind becomes clear and bright that:
① aura or light comes out from the body.
If samādhi is strong, it also has light. If you encounter them, do not think about them and not take pleasure in them; otherwise, the practice will go down. By not taking an interest in them and continue with the impermanent process will overcome the problem.
② sharp knowledge:
At the beginning of vipassanā practice, it was led by samādhi, so that knowing them with concepts whatever arises. This was the task of satipaṭṭhāna. Sometimes if the yogi discerned impermanence, the contemplative mind had five path factors (sati, viriya, samādhi, sammā-diṭṭhi and sammā-saṅkappa).
This period was very short. After that, samādhi led the process again. In these ways sometimes led by samādhi and sometimes became knowledge (discern anicca). And then Sati became strong. Sometimes the mind is clear and sometimes not. When it is clear will discern impermanence. If not, clear, only know the arising phenomena with concepts.
This level is still led by samādhi. With samādhi, the yogi develops step by step and only seeing anicca. This is led by discernment (ñāṇa or knowledge). And then, knowledge becomes pure and sharper. With the better and sharper knowledge, the yogi cannot discern anicca as separating one by one.
Instead, the yogi sees the passing away as a whole. When seeing anicca with the strong power of mind or sharp knowledge and he takes it as attainment. At that time, the yogi able to contemplate whatever coarse, middle, refined phenomena without failure. The yogi can take pleasure in it. With pleasure, his knowledge declines.
③ Rapture (pīti):
The important point here is whatever the yogi encounters he can solve the problem. Whatever type of contemplation we do or try when discerning anicca, all phenomena (body, feeling, mind and dhamma) are dhamma arising and dhamma passing away. Only saṅkhāra (all conditioned things or the five khandhas) arises and saṅkhāra passes away. With the mind clear and pure, zest appears.
And then the yogi cannot discern anicca which is covered up by rapture. With strong respect on the three treasures (tiratana—i.e., Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha), rapture can arise. With the pervading rapture (pharaṇa pīti, which is the pīti in jhāna attainment), the yogi cannot see impermanence. Without seeing anicca, the yogi thinks it as the ending of anicca, which is Nibbāna.
At that time, knowledge went down. Even some yogis have tears come out. Instantly when rapture arises if he can contemplate it and no problem arises. If not, the yogi takes it as the path knowledge and stops the contemplation.
④ Tranquility (passaddhi): mind and body become tranquil.
Anyone of the ten corruptions can arise to the yogi. These things are sure to arise for yogis. If not, encounter any of them, the mind still not mature yet. After the encounter, it and cannot solve them the yogi will far from Nibbāna. Normally people are burning with the fire of defilement such as greed, ill-will, delusion, sorrow, etc. the mind is not peaceful.
In the same way the body is oppressing by diseases and pains. But when the yogi discerning anicca with the strong power mind he can bear all the pains with equanimity. When the mind and body become tranquil, the mind can fall into one-pointedness (ekaggatā).
Then the yogi cannot hear any external sounds. And no external object disturbs the mind. It is peaceful. At that time, anicca disappears and the mind sinks in the tranquility and take it as the path knowledge. Each yogi experience is not the same. If the yogi can contemplate the arising fake dhamma (i.e., any of the ten corruptions), then contemplate its anicca. If not, neglecting it and continue with one’s contemplation.
⑤ Happiness (sukha):
From tranquility, it progresses to the level of happiness then the yogi can maintain the posture for a very long time. Without any pain and aching, the mind feels happiness. At that time, sukha replaces anicca and the yogi misses anicca. Also, the yogi does not contemplate the arising happiness that knowledge falls.
⑥ Resolution or faith (adhimokkha):
With the well discerning of anicca better and better, faith increases (i.e., in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha). The whole body becomes cool and happy. This cool and happiness come from the faith which covers up anicca. So, anicca disappears and the yogi took it as the attainment. With faith, if happiness arises, the yogi should not lose sati and contemplate the arising happiness as anicca.
Or without paying attention to it and continue with one’s practice. (There are two ways to solve the problems; contemplate the coming in corruptions as anicca or neglect it by contemplating one’s meditation object.) Therefore, in all these situations, sati is very important.
⑦ Exertion (paggaha or viriya):
With the progress in the practice, the yogi can contemplate without any difficulty with happiness. So, exertion increases and the mind with high spirit. Every time he puts effort and not to miss the point. At that time, he could sink in the exertion and forgot anicca. This is taking pleasure in exertion.
⑧ Mindfulness (sati):
At that time (i.e., insight corruptions period), mindfulness always fell on the object and became very strong whatever dhamma arises. It is the kind of heedful mindfulness that the yogi does not lost his sati even in a dream. If taking pleasure in strong mindfulness, he will miss anicca. Therefore, always alert with sati without letting go of anicca whatever dhamma arises (i.e., do not change the object and not get lost in pleasure).
⑨ Equanimity (upekkhā):
Whatever dhamma arises, it can be contemplated with equanimity. The yogi also can attach to this state and take it as attainment.
⑩ Attachment (nikanti):
All the above nine dhammas, light (obhāsa) to equanimity themselves, are not defilement (kilesa). The problem is the attachment to all these fake dhammas, i.e., nikanti. These are significantly refined dhammas and the signs of progress in practice. Every yogi must encounter them (not all).
The problem here is the yogi’s attachment or pleasure in them. It is nikanti or taṇhā. Therefore, it could hinder the yogi’s practice if they trapped him. So, be careful to the refined and subtle experiences with strong and alert mindfulness.
Here I want to include the same points on anicca mentioned by Dhammaramsi Sayadaw U Sunanda in some of his talks. It will be helpful to the yogi in the discernment of anicca. Discerning of anicca is vipassanā which can be differentiated generally into two kinds - ① immature or weak insight (taruṇa vipassanā) and ② mature or strong insight vipassanā (āraddha vipassanā).
The yogi primary vipassanā object is the breath sensations at the nostril. In the beginning of contemplation on anicca yogi discerns the anicca of coarser objects and not the refined ones. Because his sati and samādhi are weak. If any secondary coarser objects arise at somewhere in the body, he has to contemplate them and then go back to the primary object (breath sensation). This is taruṇa vipassanā.
Continue from the taruṇa vipassanā when sati and samādhi become stronger yogi starting to feel the sensations of the heart beat at the chest area. The yogi then shifts his attention from the nostril area to the chest area where the heartbeat is felt and contemplate there. It becomes the primary object; from there the yogi contemplates whatever dhamma arises in the body.
Because of the strong sati and samādhi, the yogi sees more and more anicca, and it is difficult for the yogi to follow them where it arises. Instead of following them everywhere, he should pay attention at the heart; he knows everything about them.
(Maybe this is the reason commentary mentioned the mind door as hadaya vatthu. Thai forest teachers also mentioned this point.)
The yogi should be aware that if the whole body is seen as anicca through contemplation, then the concept of the whole body disappears and the yogi becomes frightened by focusing on his or her own body. This concern makes him open his eyes and looking or checking his body. It will affect his practise by losing his anicca. We can see this in the case of Channa in the sutta and in some of the present yogis. Some even stopped their practice. I had heard a story that a brahmin listened to the Dhamma in the crowd by the Buddha. He discerned anicca in his body and became frightened. So he got up and ran back to his home. This was one of the key reasons why Mogok Sayadaw often reminded his listeners to dispel wrong view (diṭṭhi) before practising.
Meditation with other postures:
Lying down posture
When lying down, the person's back is in contact with the floor. As a result of these contacts, physical sensations such as tension, warmth, stiffness, etc., are arisen there. All these objects call for the contemplation of the yogi. It arises in the physical body that it is form dhamma (rūpa) and have to contemplate them. By knowing the arising dhamma kilesa cannot come in. If mind and mental states arise, also have to contemplate them—such as thinking, planning, etc. These are mind dhamma. It can also contemplate the in and out breaths sensations or the sensations of rising and falling of the abdomen. Whatever experiences, the yogi has to contemplate them.
When standing don’t let both legs touching together by losing sati can be fallen down. Both legs should be a little distance which can support the upper part of the body. Both hands should put on the side loosely. The yogi will have a more distinctive form (rūpa) dhamma in the area under the ankles, which supports the whole body. In the beginning, yogi can calm his mind by observing the in and out breaths. The body will show its nature of tension, stiffness, aches, pain, etc. At the beginning yogi will know them with concepts together. The yogi will see their paramattha nature with a lot of contemplation. Ñāṇa mind will stay with its intrinsic nature. At first from the feet, legs, waist, body, etc. will know the arising khandhas slowly. Contemplate in details all the arising dhammas. In the beginning, do the exercises at the ankles and toes area. With it slowly, the yogi will know the upper parts and the whole body. As ñāṇa develops, the yoga will become clear about the knowing of object (i.e., ārammaṇas) and the knowing (i.e., mind). After that, the yogi can embrace it as a whole to know it; if he has this knowledge, then it is of value to the yogi.
In walking posture
Every step has to be mindful. In this way in the beginning, every step has awareness. At the touching places of feet and the floor, the yoga will know the nature of form (rūpa). Stepping the left and right feet have to know them. If every step becoming clear let us continue forwards. This time every step will contemplate the three stages—Lifting-knowing, stepping-knowing and putting down-knowing with each step, etc.
When lifting the foot, one must know where the heel and the tip of the foot is being lifted. In these places the yogi will know that the nature of form (rūpa) is heaviness-lightness, tightness-looseness, etc. The yogi will know any one of them. Every stepping also will know the lightness-heaviness. Now I am talking with the concept because it is the beginning of satipaṭṭhāna practise. The yogi will know then with concepts. If the mind becomes clear with knowledge (ñāṇa), yogi will know their paramattha nature. When stepping down the foot and putting down, the yogi will know one of the followings as roughness, hardness, tenseness, warmness, etc. You have to know them whatever is arising. At walking meditation, the yogi contemplates the nature of form (rūpa), and when he discerns its nature (paramattha), he is free from the identity view (sakkāya diṭṭhi).
After being able to contemplate successfully the three stages above, continue with the following stages. In every footstep the mind wanting to lift the foot will arise first for this arising mind have to contemplate at the chest area (i.e., heart area).
When lifting the foot because the mind of wanting to lift it that in the leg will see the movement of the air element. Yogi also will see the nature of material phenomena (rūpa) at the ankle and the tip of the foot with their arising and passing away. At the places of moving forwards and stepping down the foot yogi has to observe them as mentioned above. Where the feet move forwards and step down, the yogi is to observe them as described above. When he reaches the place of stopping, he has to contemplate the mind that wants to stop. At the time of turning the body, practise in the same way. If the practitioner can contemplate in more detail, the kilesas will become less and less with practice. It makes one’s knowledge becomes stronger.
Here I present Sayadaw U Puññananda’s teaching on vipassanā practice is not promoting a system. Let the readers to have the view of how to use Mogok Sayadaw’s talks in our practice. There is another reason—this is for a newcomer and some Buddhists who want to try it out for themselves. It was very interesting to see kāmaṭṭhāna cariyās who followed the same tradition but their styles of teaching had differences, anyhow the basic outlines were the same.
Mogok Sayadaw’s Dhamma talks did not represent any particular systems of practise. He explained the sutta teachings on practice with his own experience and wisdom. Sometimes he also used some commentarial materials to explain them for clarification. If we contemplate on his vedanānupassanā and cittānupassanā even these cannot be called a system. It was directly related to the suttas. We can see its source in the Saḷāyatana Saṃyutta—especially the Kiṃsuka Tree Discourse (SN35. 245 Kiṃsukopamasuttaṃ). There a bhikkhu approached the first arahant to ask how he purified his mind. The arahants answer was—a monk understood as they really were the arising and vanishing of the six bases for contact in this way his vision was purified. The six sense bases and the six sense objects are related to all—the internal and external phenomena—the world. It includes everything except Nibbāna.
In the same way Mogok Dhamma embraces all systems and methods. Another very important factor is that all these teachings are based on D.A. (Paṭiccasamuppāda), which relates to all religions, whether Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, etc.; and to all human races, whether yellow-skinned, white-skinned, brown-skinned, etc. Even I know some Burmese meditation teachers who do not belong to the Mogok traditions using Sayadawji’s Dhamma talks in their training of yogis. They are very successful and become well-known, e.g., Ven. Ādiccaramsī (Sun Lwin) whose practice related to U Ba Khin or Saya Thet and Mya-sein-taung Sayadaw U Jhaneyya whose practice related to Mahāsi Sayadaw.
Mogok Sayadaw had some Dhamma skills of which were very similar to two great disciples of the Buddha. These two great disciples were Puṇṇa-Mantāniputta and Mahākaccāna. The quality of his Dhamma talks is very similar to the Dhamma of these two great disciples. Therefore, every Buddhists if they have the chance to study, reflect and put into practise will have great benefit for them. Here I do not refer it to my translation which does not represent his whole teaching. It is only for practical purpose. For great benefit it needs to translate the full talk (i.e., one hr each talk). To achieve this purpose, we have to use the transcribed talks in book volumes. It also included other essence of Dhamma, representing the Dhamma treasures of Dhamma Nectar.
I have no doubt that if someone reads and reflects on Mogok Sayadaw's talk many times, it will plant the seeds of wisdom faculty which will be latent in his/her heart now and in the days to come. It is for sure that will lead to the ending of dukkha. In the beginning I have mentioned that the Buddha’s teaching on mind development is—not to do evil, to do good and purify the mind. It is important for all humans whatever their believed systems, races and cultural background have to develop them, especially the Buddhists. These are representing the three levels of human—good human; wise human and noble human. The opposites are—bad, foolish, stupid human; unwise, inferior human and ignoble human. I hope nobody wants to become a negative person like rats and cockroaches and disgusted by everyone. Now that we have still encountered Buddha Dhamma, we should not miss the opportunity to develop our minds. To achieve this, we must never forget the Buddha's final exhortation:
“Vayadhammā saṅkhārā, Appamādena sampādetha”
“Decline-and-disappearance is the nature of all conditions. Therefore, strive on ceaselessly, discerning and alert.”
revised on 2021-07-28
- Content of Part 13 on "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"
- Content of "Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw"
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