On Basic Meditation [Dhamma Talks by Sayadaw U Candima (Sandima)]


We’ll start the meditation each day five times per hour. The reason for each hour is that in the beginning we’re not skilled in the practice. (Sayadaw prefers the yogis to sit for at least two hours.) We’ll start from an hour of practice. The yogis need to understand the disciplines which have to follow. You can’t do the practice as whatever you want it to be. I will start from the basic points. You can’t attain the ultimate essence of Dhamma in nine days. (i.e., in a nine days retreat, usually he gives a nine days retreat). Practice meditation is taking off the concepts (paññattis) which cover reality (paramatā).

There are three stages—purification of the precepts or virtue (sīla), mind (citta), and views (diṭṭhi) [i.e., sīla visuddhi, citta visuddhi, and diṭṭhi visuddhi] Discerning of the paramatā mind, and form analytically is called purification of view.

To take off the defilement, and hindrance which cover on the paramatā dhamma is called sīla, and samādhi practice. The main points are sīla, samādhi, and paññā (virtue, concentration, and wisdom). There are differences in the establishment of sīla, and samādhi. Of the three sīla, samādhi, and paññā, sīla, and samādhi are more basic. Even though we’re talking about sīla, and samādhi, there are differences between samādhi based sīla practice, and insight (vipassanā) based sīla practice. If not knowing these things, people are confused in the practices of samatha yānika, and vipassanā yānika.

(This is distinguished by the commentary—it can be said samatha based, and insight based. It becomes two ways dependent on the characters of person—some are easily to concentrate with an object, and develop very strong samādhi, e.g., on ānāpānasati. Some have use reflection or contemplation to develop samādhi, e.g., loathsomeness of the body.)

Requirement in practice (i.e., insight meditation—vipassanā) is ultimate reality (paramatātha dhamma, Paramattha) and does not include the concepts (paññatti). The objects of paramatā don’t have greed (lobha), anger (dosa), and delusion (moha) or 1500 of defilements (kilesa). Giving names (designate) to objects is stuck in concepts, and does not arrive at paramatā objects. At the moment of insight, contemplation does not include impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). Because these are the concepts of anicca, dukkha and anatta or the perceptions of anicca, dukkha and anatta (i.e., saññā). Paramatā dhamma does not include perceptions (saññā). If they include concepts during the insight practice, then the mind of the insight yogi does not become a vipassanā mind, instead, it is still taking the conceptual objects of the mind. It’s still not arriving at the insight province.

Another point is during the vipassanā contemplation, you can’t have lobha, dosa and moha or 1500 kilesa—which can be only abandoned by arahant.

Now we strip off 1500 kilesa with sīla and samādhi (i.e., temporarily strip off during the insight), and in the end, abandon with path knowledge. In the beginning of the practice, we strip off kilesa with sīla and samādhi. What is the fundamental process of sīla and samādhi to strip off kilesa? To establish sīla and samādhi to have a meditation subject (kammaṭṭhāna) and base on it for practice. It’s a work place for sīla and samādhi. A place for the mind to stay on.

Samādhi is calmness or stability. Lobha, dosa and moha dhammas in the khandha are making the contemplative mind restless, and can you contemplate it? It’s impossible that it needs to focus the mind. For this, focus of attention is that you find a place for it.

This place is called kammaṭṭhāna (meditation subject) or the working place. A place controlling the mind not to become distracted. There are differences in how to keep it there. Some keep the mind at the rising and falling of the abdomen—when the abdomen is rising up with the breathing, note it as rising, and when it’s falling down note it as falling. The mind can’t run away anywhere by noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. (i.e., Mahāsi System). Some are mindful of the physical sensations (vibrations) on the center of the head, and the mind can’t run away. (i.e., U Ba Khin’s System, but for them is at the stage of insight practice because they develop strong enough samādhi with ānāpānasati, and with this samādhi power observing the physical sensations of the whole body). If the mind is distracted, bring it back to the same place.

(This is U Chandima’s view.) Some use ānāpānasati, knowing the in-breath and out-breath, every time the air is touching the nostril, you have to know it.

Another way is contemplating the preceding mind with the following mind. This is mind with mind meditation subject (kammaṭṭhāna). Be mindful of the mind which is thinking about one’s own son, then the thinking mind will cease. This is not cittānupassanā yet. This is mind with mind kammaṭṭhāna.

(i.e., refer to Mogok Sayadaw’s cittānupassanā. U Chandima has his own way of interpretation. If we study the satipaṭṭhāna Suttas, and Satipaṭṭhāna-saṃyutta—satipaṭṭhāna had three stages, satipaṭṭhāna, satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā, the end of satipaṭṭhāna-bhāvanā.)

It’s mind with mind or with one of the objects to bind the mind on an object, and not letting it run away is kammaṭṭhāna (meditation subject). The places and objects keeping the mind are different, but not letting it run away has the same purpose. Therefore, the main point here is to keep the mind in good shape. Some keep the mind outside (e.g., kasiṇa objects, mostly as circular disks prepare by the yogis—such as earth kasiṇa, water, color kasiṇas etc.) The objects before are keeping the mind on the body.

Keeping the mind wherever it may be, the first task is not letting the mind run away. Controlling the mind not to be in distraction is called sīla (virtue). Not letting the mind be distracted at the original place, if it’s distracted; and controlling it with the mind—is sīla. (Here U Chandima’s interpretation on sīla factors in meditation is different from others. Actually mindfulness—sati practice covers sīla, samādhi and paññā. Indriya-saṁvara sīla—restraint of the sense faculties need sati—mindfulness. Mindfulness purifies the mind, and attaining samādhi; with samādhi, one can develop paññā.) It’s samādhi if the mind is not running away, and staying with the object. At the place defilements (kilesa) calm down is called samatha—tranquility. Freedom from defilements and hindrances (kilesa and nīvaraṇa) is samatha (i.e., temporary freedom of defilements). Some are confused with samatha, samādhi, and jhāna. I will explain these things.

The mind concentrated on the object is called jhāna—absorption. The kilesa (defilement) is calmed down with the object which is called samatha object (samatha ārammaṇa). Keeping the mind from distraction is called sīla. All these are sīla, and samādhi. At the abdomen of rising and falling—free from kilesa with every rising and falling is samādhi. If you concentrate on the rising and falling, it is called jhāna. Burning with kilesa is also called jhāna (concentrate on the pleasant object). I will elaborate about them.

We practice Dhamma, but still not yet (i.e., insight meditation). Clearing of the distractions of the mind is called practice kammaṭṭhāna (kammatham ??) (i.e., samatha or samādhi practice). Later I’ll explain why it’s called jhāna and samādhi. If Mahāsi yogis are here they can keep the mind at rising and falling of the abdomen. If the mind is staying, there is kammaṭṭhāna. The fact that his system is different from mine means that the purpose is not understood. You can keep your mind wherever is good for you. If you want to keep the mind on proceeding mind with following mind or the sensations on the head, etc. you also can do it.

(Here the readers should not be confused with U Chandima’s interpretation. He separates samatha, and vipassanā practices. Some systems can’t separate like this, e.g., Mahāsi System. They use satipaṭṭhāna sati-mindfulness as the main practice from mindfulness develops samādhi, i.e., vipassanā samādhi from there develop wisdom).

In ānāpāna there are two ways of breathing, someone breathes lightly, and someone breathes strongly. Should breathe lightly, and not strongly is wrong. In the text, the Buddha didn’t say you shouldn’t breathe strongly. This is without trying it out, and speaking with one’s supposition. It is a lack of understanding of the text (sutta).

It must calm the breath, meaning there is no calmness to make it calm. (This referred to the 4th stage of 16 stages of ānāpānasati, see the sutta).

In the Paṭisambhidāmagga (a commentary) it gave the example of striking a copper bell. The sound of “dong” becomes smaller, and smaller, and then disappears.

This is passambhaya-kāyasaṅkhāra—from strong breathing to become lighter. (this referred to the 4th stage of ānāpāna in Pāḷi). The words of rough breathing do not mean to breathe like cutting a log with a saw (i.e., using force). This means using a strong breathing which is suitable to oneself. The saying of strong breathing is not dhamma means speaking without practice. You’ll know about them later with the practice. I am not rejecting your own way of practice because it’s reasonable (some methods, as mentioned before). Later you’ll become clear of them. In collecting the mind, you can do it with the method which you like.

You can also breathe ānāpāna slowly or lightly. Here I’ll show you the method which is not slow, and fast, not soft, and strong breathing. You use this method or not up to you (i.e., his system). Why I allow this, you will understand it by practicing. You’ll know later how to practice is the best way. Now, you have to practice with the method you prefer.

The four great elements change, and when you encounter dukkha vedanā you don’t allow changing your postures, either moving or lifting your limbs. Why I don’t allow it will explain the reason during the practice. Now, we start with an hour sitting for each sitting, and later with two hours for each sitting. With The-inn Gu method we practice ānāpāna for three or four days (U Ba Khin’s method also the same, but they are 10 days' retreat. Here is nine days’ retreat.) After that you don’t use it, not practice ānāpāna for nine days. From then onwards, we practice for two hours each sitting. If dukkha vedanā arises, moving, lifting and correcting the body is not allowed in this center. I’ll explain why the reason is. I will show only what is necessary in the practice. Another point is there are no two ways, and only one way, you’ll also know about it. Samatha-yānika and vipassanā-yānika are only ways (i.e., as the Noble Eightfold Path). There are no two methods, and you can learn about them through practice (i.e., samatha-based or insight-based).

Yogis who want to practice with my method there are rules have to be followed—

  1. You should not rest during the determined hour. Should not change or correct your postures during the sittings.
  2. Yogis using ānāpāna should not breathe by moving the body, like sawing a log.
  3. During the sittings should not make the body very straight, and tense. Should not breathe by stiffening, and tightening the body to control it (when the pain becomes unbearable).

If you sit with other methods you also have to follow these rules. You should not make corrections during the restriction of the hour (1 or two hours). In the ānāpānasati sutta asking to sit with the straight body is not stiffening the body. For example, you can’t lift the hand up for a long period of time, and will become tired. Can you sit longer by stiffening, and tightening the body? This is one of the reasons most centers make restrictions for an hour sitting. This is one of the reasons why the mind cannot rest on the object of meditation. Wrong interpretation of the Pāḷi meanings that the teacher can’t teach the student for longer period. The right sitting is natural sitting—in a normal way, not letting the body to incline any sides. It means the body has to be straight.

With ānāpāna you should not stop it again, and breathe it again, should not breathe strongly, and then lightly (i.e., breathe in the constant way). Here the machine will teach you how to breathe (There is a recording machine with The-inn breathing system, during the sitting is playing a record of the breathing sound, and the yogi’s try to breathe according to the sound.) You have to breathe equally according to the machine. This is referring to yogis who can follow it. For older yogis who can’t breathe according to the machine can breathe stronger with one’s own ability. You all note it carefully. Later you’ll say I can’t breathe according to the machine.

It doesn’t mean you have to follow the machine exactly. It will be better if you can breathe according to the rate of the machine. Even though you can breathe it, but you don’t follow it, and it will be a mistake (i.e., miss the benefit of results which is overcoming pain, and go into samādhi). Older people, and some who have heart disease (problems) breathe with one’s good breathing, but must have acceleration (power, and force), and in accordance with the rules (as mentioned all above). You should breathe more than ordinary breathing (i.e., once or twice more). If you can breathe in accordance with the machine, it should be the same as it. In the beginning, it’s not used to this mind of breathing that it becomes tired or tight in the chest, because the lungs’ area is not opening up, or you are used to the normal slow breathing. With a little strong breathing the lungs’ area opens up, and it becomes tired and tight. Without concern about it, and if you continue to breathe regularly, the lungs’ area opens up, and blood circulation becomes good even if it is possible to treat the disease. If you can breathe in accordance with the machine it is better. If you can’t do it with one’s own breathing rate the long breaths, and short breaths have to be in equal lengths, slow breathing, and fast breathing have to be right, strong breathing, and soft breathing have to be right, etc.

Its meaning is breathing rhythmically with constancy (without any changes, and it is important). Sometimes the breath is long and short, strong and weak, and there is a pause when breathing. ??) In this case, it doesn’t develop samādhi. Weak and strong, slow and fast have to be right. Later, pain (vedanā) will give you the answer. If vedanā arises, your own original meditation object is unreliable (i.e., other methods as mentioned above). Unreliable doesn’t mean these methods are wrong—Later you’ll understand them. Still not practicing, you don’t know the answer yet. The answer will come out during the practice.

If you are correcting, and lifting the body during the designated determination or resolution (adhiṭṭhāna) later the practice can’t go forward (can’t develop samādhi, and can’t go forward to vipassanā, and stuck with samādhi practice only.) I don’t ask you to do something which is not out of your ability. Within an hour you can do it (with patience, and endurance). You have to try it, and can’t get it for free.


revised on 2022-04-22


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