Importance of Habitual Practice

revised on 2021-01-11

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 20th October 1961

[This talk was based on the Assaji Sutta in the Khandhavagga, Saṁyutta Nikāya (SN 22. 88, Assajisuttaṃ). The Buddha was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove. Bhikkhu Assaji was dwelling Kassapaka’s Park, sick afflicted and gravely ill. Because of his illness he lost his attainments of jhāna. The Buddha went to see him and gave encouragement as samādhi practice was not the essence of his teaching. So, the Buddha gave him the instruction on insight practice—vipassanā. At the end of the Buddha’s exposition of the three characteristics, he became an arahant.]

With painful feeling arising, Assaji failed to obtain samādhi, and he was in despair. The Buddha told him: “You carefully note that samādhi is not the essence of Dhamma in my teaching (sāsana). Only insight practice is the essential one.” Maybe you’ll tell me ‘I have been practicing for a while now and I haven't got samādhi yet.’ You should not be in low spirit because of weak samādhi. In the Buddha’s teaching samādhi is not the real essence. Assaji’s mind was uplifted. Samādhi is as a supporting factor and wisdom (paññā) is the main one. “Listen to me what I tell you”, and the Buddha asked him to contemplate with insight. Feelings exist, minds exist and the five khandhas exit.

“I’ll ask you and give me the answers”, the Buddha turned his mind to the objects. Assaji’s samādhi was fallen apart and also with illness; therefore, the Buddha asked him to contemplate the khandha to arrive at the insight knowledge. From now on you all have to practice and become the habitual kamma (āciṇṇaka kamma). Every time feeling arises, you have to contemplate and discern its anicca. The Buddha taught as someone has strong wrong view (diṭṭhi) contemplating the minds (cittānupassanā) and with strong craving (taṇhā) on feeling (vedanānupassanā). At any time, you have to practice it becomes habitual kamma. Āciṇṇa kamma means to exercise it very often. I remind it to all of you. What is the reason for it? The search for something comes with a desire, and you also don’t want to be separated from the family members.

But you have to leave the properties behind and also separate from the family members. So, you can’t deny it that it’ll be difficult for your dying. This is not for the main concern. The main concern is prepared for the habitual kamma which the Buddha has mentioned it. Knowledge (i.e., vipassanā) has to be exercised very often. You need to contemplate a lot on the mind and feeling. Anicca and anicca ñāṇa have to fit in together (i.e., discerning of anicca). It becomes habitual kamma if you practice every day.

With a lot of practice and at the time of near death, the thought which you don’t want to separate from the family members and let go of the properties can be arisen. If I have to give you an example, your habitual kamma of practice is like the strong flowing water current. Your mind states of unwilling to separate and let go of things are like a stick coming in the way of current, with the strong current the stick is moving away from its path. Your vipassanā practice every day is like the strong water current. In this way the wholesome habitual kamma (āciṇṇaka kamma) will give the result and the unwholesome death proximate kamma (āsanna kamma) will give the way or shun away from it. You have to practice urgently for the matter of winning at near death.

Āciṇṇa kamma is the duty of everyday exercise and āsanna kamma is the matter of near-death actions. Āsanna kamma will give the result if you don’t have the insight practice. It’s quite fearful indeed. The clinging to family members will drag one to apāyabhūmi—woeful existences, and the clinging is taṇhā—craving. D.A. process arises and with the clinging and action—upādāna-kamma become woeful birth. Āsanna kamma throws the being down there.

You all have the wholesome merits, but these are not done by you very often. You must do one of the four satipaṭṭhāna very often. The cars and things which you have bought, the houses, buildings which you have built, etc., are your enemies.

It may come at near death. These fearful things and related to āsanna kamma which close to the mind at death (cuti citta). Near the cessation of the mind consciousness it can arise (i.e., near the cessation of death consciousness). Upāsakas (lay supporters) who has built Buddha images and monasteries had been in apāyas—woeful existences were by āsanna kammas. They did not have the insight knowledge, but if they could practice and attained the path knowledge then the āsanna kamma couldn’t obstruct them. You must practice to have the āciṇṇaka kamma. For Queen Mallikā, an āsanna kamma came in at near death, and she fell into painful existence. (She had remorse for a small mistake which had been done before at near death.) She had offered the greatest dāna which could happen at each Buddha’s time. (Sayadaw told the story)

She didn’t attain the path knowledge that her destination of rebirth was unstable. Only the path knowledge had been seen, Nibbāna would be stable, if it wasn’t then it’s unstable. You have to remember it for two points; either you had attained the path knowledge or had practiced to the point of becoming habitual-kamma (see the Channovāda Sutta of Majjhima Nikāya, MN 144).

It’s probable that at near death the matters of family members (wife and children) and businesses can come in. Someone with no insight practice is no easy for him to separate with these things at near death. Āciṇṇa kamma will send one to good destination (sugati) or Nibbāna (i.e., with vipassanā practice). So, don’t be lazy at it. At near death you have to contemplate with all of your energy. Why can you contemplate with all of your energy? It’s because with the power of āciṇṇaka kamma, otherwise if you see the hell sign and have to go accordingly. You’ll become animal if seeing the animal sign. Someone with the āciṇṇaka kamma he can change them by seeing it. If you see hell fire and you know I’ll go there. Because you have heard about them before. At that time, you had to contemplate the khandha with full force and can realize Nibbāna by seeing anicca, its disenchantment and its ending.

There is nothing to be in low spirit about it. Someone who had the āciṇṇaka kamma and at near death he could become arahant (e.g., Ven. Channa). Someone without the āciṇṇaka kamma he has to go accordingly with the sign of rebirth. The Buddha explained the two differences on worshipping him and the insight practice. Having respect and worship in the Buddha can send someone to good destination (sugati), and with the practice arrive Nibbāna.

Reduce the practice of worship the Buddha and with more on Vipassanā practice become āciṇṇaka kamma.

(The commentary gave an example: The old cows stayed near the entrance door of a cow pen. These old cows came out first from the pen when the door was opened in the early morning. Here the old cows represented the āsanna kamma near death. It appears first if there is no habitual kamma. Sayadaw explained about it here.)

You don’t need to listen to this kind of talk just only for merits. Offering of drinking water to travellers is also making merits (In the old days in Burma some Burmese established water pot shelves along the road sides for travellers, usually underneath shady trees and even some had small opened sālā for rest.) The Buddha preferred the cutting off all wholesome, unwholesome and mixed kammas (i.e., mixed with positive and negative actions). The action which cut off all other kammas is vipassanā kamma and maggan kamma (i.e., insight knowledges and path knowledges). Practice for a while and stop for a while, this cannot become habitual.
You have to practice a lot for it. You’re succeeded if the knowledge fit in with impermanence (the contemplating mind discerns anicca).

(Sayadaw continued Assaji’s story)

The Buddha gave an instruction of Dhamma with questions and answers form to Ven. Assaji, and during the instruction he became arahant. Here samādhi was only helping and supporting the practice. Vipassanā practice is leading by wisdom. Vipassanā practice includes samādhi factors. Samādhi factors include in the practice if you discern anicca. During the practice also includes sīla factors.

revised on 2021-01-11

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