Three Steps of Mindfulness

revised on 2024-06-09

Dhamma Talks by Mogok Sayadaw; 30th August 1961

Today, I’ll talk about the process of vipassanā. People with wealth and good reputations rely on their work and jobs. In the same way if you want to arrive at Nibbāna of no ageing, no sickness and no death the practice will be sent there.

If you practice, you will surely arrive there. You also complete the rare things. [(here dullabha dhamma)-these are: the manifestation of a Buddha, a person (here Sayadaw) who teaches the Dhamma, a person who understands it (Sayadaw’s disciples), a person who practices in accordance with the Dhamma, and a grateful and thankful person.] If you practice with perseverance you are sure to realise it. You have to make this determination. The Buddha also in the Aṅguttara Nikāya mentioned the same way with the process of the practice which was not requesting by anyone.

You’ll realise by yourself the Nibbāna of no ageing, sickness and death, the Nibbāna of all the cessation of dukkha and the 1,500 kilesas extinction of Nibbāna.

You have to dispel your doubt; remember what I taught and do the practice.

There are four establishments of mindfulness. First, do the satipaṭṭhāna; second, satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā and the third, the ending of satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā (from Saṁyutta Nikāya). For example, knowing every time a feeling (vedanā) arises is satipaṭṭhāna. (from—kāya, mind—citta, and dhamma—mental phenomena—are also known as the same.)

Knowing both of the arising and passing away (i.e., anicca) becomes satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā. The ending of them (anicca) or when the Path Knowledge arises marks the ending of satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā (from the five path-factors become the eight path-factors). This was mentioned in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya it starts from satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā. If you combine all the feelings, you will only have three kinds, and they don’t arise together; only one of them does.

The disciple of a noble one (i.e., sutavā ariya sāvaka) contemplates it thinking, "This is not feeling, only anicca" (aniccānupassī viharati), applied to rūpa, citta, etc. You have to follow it seeing it as anicca and not as vedanā. Contemplate using the perception of anicca (anicca-saññī). Note it as only anicca—i.e., contemplate, note, and know it as anicca. Don’t mix these dhammas with permanent (nicca), happiness (sukha), self (atta) and beautiful (subha) dhammas. Contemplate them as anicca, perceive them as anicca and know them as anicca. (i.e., don’t note them as form, vedanā, citta, etc.) And then what happens with this contemplation? It’s anicca that remains as anicca and will lead to the realization of only anicca. Because you make an effort with the contemplation of these three points, and knowledge will develop. Vipassanā paññāya—you make this decision with vipassanā wisdom. Before you contemplate, perceive and know only and can’t make the decision yet. You make the decision not heard from others. After making the decision your knowledge (ñāṇa) falls into anicca and not mix-up with anything. Note this point carefully. The Buddha himself gave this instruction.

If you ask me, how do I make my mind fall into anicca? Listen to me a little bit. You have to do it consistently — five minutes, 10 minutes, etc., always practicing. Let the knowledge continuously stay with it. If the knowledge persists, even if a telegram about your parent (one of them) death comes in, don't give it up. Don’t give up because āsava (here is diṭṭhāsava) is nearly extinct. If you ask why the Buddha and I tell you like this? At this place if kilesas come in will destroy it. Kilesas coming in (i.e., near the end of the practice) is quite a terrible thing. It can come in during the important time of the practice at that time some special matters and reasons (causes) can arise. I remind you because it could happen. Don’t mix it up with other matters and not let them come in. You have to remind this matter to other people also; “When I am practising don’t come to me, if I finish my sitting you can tell me” (Sayadaw gave the example of layman Pessa at the time of the Buddha. See the Kandaraka Sutta, Sutta No. 51, Majjhima Nikāya.) Even if you don't show the telegram which informs the death of a parent, you’ll also know it later. Is it not better after the practice? The causes for concerning, responsibility, all are kilesas. Finishing the practice is only important. Don’t be foolish at that time to harm yourself. Kilesas are coming to obstruct you.

Except the zero world aeon (i.e., suñña kappa) in which no Buddhas appear. Even Buddhas have appeared, between each Buddha the bones of a living being could be piled up 1 yojana high (i.e., 1 yojana = approximately 13 miles). At the time if you discern a lot of anicca, don’t get mixed up with other kilesas.

They come to obstruct the Path and Fruit. This is very important. I’ll give you how to deal with it. Also don’t be afraid if it comes in your practice. Take it as—ehi-passiko—"come and see," inviting the dhamma to test and ñāṇa to respond. Ñāṇa is staying with anicca, but after a long time, the mind wanting, to get up arises (i.e., indolent mind). That is a mind that prevents the path mind from arising; it’s a weak dosa mind. Contemplate it as anicca. Every time a kilesa comes in, you have to contemplate it as anicca. If you do not contemplate, D.A. process continues. Therefore, it forbids the path and fruit. The arising mind of wanting to go to the toilet also must be contemplated. Contemplate pains and aches. If kilesas not coming in within the short period you will realise Nibbāna. If ñāṇa is sharp, you will realize it in a short period, and if not sharp, then at sometime in this life. This is what the Buddha said, you do not have to be discouraged. You don’t have to think about being a two-rooted or three-rooted person) (a person does not have the seed of wisdom and a person has the seed of wisdom). If you can listen to the Truth of Dhamma (sacca-dhamma) and discern aniccas, then you can consider yourself as having the seed of wisdom. You’ll realise it.

If you don’t do the practice and you have to pay your debts (i.e., unwholesome kammic debts) with DEL-OHH (this is the Burmese word for the hell cauldron / wok which we often seen in the HELL SCENES. Some western scholars take the hells as fairy tales. If they can develop the light nimitta, they will see it. The Buddha mentioned the existence of hells very clearly in the Devadūta Sutta— the Divine Messengers Discourse, Sutta No. 130, Majjhima Nikāya).

Some reflections on the three steps of mindful practice

[In the Mahāsi mindful system it starts from satipaṭṭhāna, contemplate rūpa (form) and it developing into later two steps one by one. The mind becomes refined by developing samādhi and discerning anicca refinedly. The objects of contemplation are becoming subtler-from rūpa, vedanā, citta and dhamma it covers the four satipaṭṭhāna.

In this Mogok Sayadawji talk he mentioned starting from the 2nd step which was also mentioned by the Buddha. But, some Mahāsi teachers reject this view. According to them you can’t discern anicca in the beginning, so have to contemplate only the arising phenomena (i.e., according to their system). How do we understand them? In fact, we can recognize ordinary impermanence (anicca) with ordinary mindfulness (sati). Only through direct practice can we know the results.

In Sayadaw U Candima’s teaching of Bhavaṅga Meditation, he also mentioned observing the changing nature (anicca) of arising minds to develop the 2nd bhavaṅga samādhi. With this samādhi one can discern the refined anicca.]

revised on 2024-06-09

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