Pain and Samādhi [Dhamma Talks by Sayadaw U Candima (Sandima)]


Practicing Dhamma is to free from the suffering of death. Practicing kammaṭṭhāna is focusing the mind, and you can do it anywhere. Pain aches, numbness arises by sitting long. It needs to understand the nature of the practice. Do the teachers give you painful feelings (dukkha vedanās)? Or the khandha to you? The yogis must be able to investigate what the dhamma can do? Practicing with the meditation objects of rising and falling of the abdomen, the vibrations on the head, etc. the mind focusing at these places moves to the dukkha vedanās (when dukkha vedanās appear). The dhamma shows its own nature, and we can’t do what we like.

For example, from the top of the head the mind moves to the predominant or more noticeable object of dukkha vedanās. These are not created by you or the teachers. We have to solve this problem. What we have to know is the paramatā ārammaṇa—ultimate objects itself have no dukkha, sukha; and no delusion. Dukkha, sukha and delusion (dosa, lobha and moha) are related to the wrong view of I and me which do not exist in mind and form. (This is in the sense of paramatātha dhammas—ultimate reality without concepts).

The contemplative mind on the mind, and form is stuck at dukkha vedanā. How could the mind contemplate the paramatā mind and form? We have to contemplate is mind and form, instead it encounters with lobha, dosa minds (abhijjhā, domanassa). Before, the practice yogis were immersed in lobha, dosa, and moha kilesas, when dukkha vedanās arise they go, and associate or consort with these dhammas. You can’t send the mind to no kilesas of paramatā objects yet. Between them there are minds of distraction—moving here, and there.

The mind noting on the meditation object becomes restless, and moving away from it, and then pulling it back on the object again, etc. So this distracted mind can’t incline on the present painful mind and form. Therefore, sīla, samādhi is not letting the distracted mind, the rough, and coarse mind, the lustful mind, the dull mind, etc. come near the contemplative mind—this is the practice of sīla-samādhi. The distracted mind is running here, and there. Now, do you still run away? (This refers to yogis who have samādhi). Does it stay on the vedanā? Laps, feet, and hands are vatthu-kāma—base of sensuality.

With this body we enjoy sensual pleasure. Therefore, it’s kāma—rūpa form for sensuality. The eye is lustful for pleasant objects—ears, nose, tongue are also the same nature. This tangible body is lustful for pleasant tangible objects (e.g., opposite sex to each other). Therefore, this whole body is the base for sensuality (vatthu kāma).

When vatthu kāma becomes painful, and aching, man, woman, lay people, monk, and nun, etc. are different only in concepts, but they are the same in pain when the four great elements are disturbed or changed. Do they desire to become better? This is also of the same for everyone. At this place, all meditations are the same. Don’t want to experience pain is dosa, domanassa—aversion, distress. Conditioning the body to become better is lobha—desire. You want to lift, and change the body.

Wanting to become something is clinging the body as my body, which is wrong view—diṭṭhi. Not knowing about the mental factor of feeling (vedanā) is moha—delusion.

That I am feeling vedanā is the wrong view. Not knowing the changes of paramatā form is moha, don’t want to feel it is dosa, want to condition it is lobha. In this place lobha is abhijjhā—desire, don’t want to feel is domanassa—distress, uncertain about it is moha—these three points are pulling on the mind, and making it impossible to contemplate.

Therefore, yogis try to free themselves from these three abhijja, domanassa, and moha is practicing Dhamma. In the beginning, kammaṭṭhāna are different, but they are at the same situation with disturbance of the four great elements. The habitual tendency of a worldling is doing things with one’s own thinking, and no reflection on causes, and effects, so it’s puthujjana—worldling. The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures—hīno gammo pothujjaniko anariyo—which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, etc. this is the practice of worldlings (i.e., hedonism—now it brings the earth to the brink of destruction. Beware! Oh! Human beings, you are digging your own grave.)

In towns and villages, people called themselves Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, but when dukkha vedanās arise wanting to change, and adjust them. Even though people have differences in faiths and nationalities, what the khandhas happening is the same. No-one could deny what the Buddha had taught. He didn’t talk about human nationalities, and faiths—he taught about Dhamma. Worldlings do whatever they like by not knowing cause, and effect, good, and bad, etc. If vatthu kāma and kilesa kāma (objects of sensuality and defilement of sensual desire) is not good they make it good and better (i.e., nourishing and increasing of defilements). They desire for comfort, and lifting, and correcting their bodies. So in practice whichever way or method we use khandha dukkha is with us.

Khandha will be disturbed, oppressed by change, then the mind will incline toward the place (The nature of rūpa—form, physical body is to be deformed, disturbed, oppressed, broken, etc. Rūpa=ruppati=deformed, afflicted, etc.).

With no reflection on cause, and effect the worldling will react according to their habitual tendency. They will correct it for comfort. The desire for comfort is abhijjhā, unbearable to pain is dosa, not knowing the nature of mind and form is moha. They meet abhijjhā, domanassa and moha in the same situation. Therefore, meditation is a way to free the mind that is under the control of these defilements by removing them. This is the first thing you have to do.

Do I have the method and system? Meditation objects, and the focal points are different, but when the khandha elements are deformed the mind goes to focus at oppressed places are the same. The mind has to leave the vedanā, and must stay with the original object. This was in the textbook (suttas). You shouldn’t pay attention to vedanā. (vedanā vikkhambhitava-vedanā amanasikāra = suppress and not pay attention to feeling) Do you not suffer by paying attention to pain, aches and numbness? Does the text ask you to correct your body or not pay attention to vedanā? Noting them as pain, pain; vedanā, anicca, dukkha and anatta—doesn’t it become worse? After that, you want to correct it by lifting and changing the body. I’ll explain each one of them.

Vedanā-vikkhambhitava—suppress feeling; vedanā-amanasikāra—not pay attention to feeling, after that, keep the mind on the primary meditation object. With the meditation objects on the tip of head, rising and falling of abdomen, etc. When dukkha vedanā arises could you keep the mind there? For example, with ānāpāna meditation even though you send it (the mind) back to the tip of the nostril it goes down again (vedanā pulls the mind down to its place). Therefore, dealing with the encountered dukkha vedanā is Dhamma practice. Except it, do you have anything to practice? There are no two ways or three ways in practice, it’s only one.

Here, there are two differences between samatha based and insight based (samatha, and vipassanā yānikas) practices. There is only one kind to practice in this place. With regard to Dhamma practice if we look at the Āsīvisopama Sutta—the simile of the vipers, practicing with whatever system Dhamma is only one (see Āsīvisopama Sutta in Saḷāyatana-saṃyutta, Saṃyutta Nikāya). A criminal was sent to the king, and he did not punish him by himself. So the king ordered the criminal to look after the four snakes (viper snakes). Therefore, the criminal looked after and fed them every day. He was happy with the snakes. But a friend of his wanting him to survive said—If bitten by one of the snakes the body would become stiff and tight like a piece of wood. If bitten by another one, the body would become swollen and putrid; bitten by another the body would become black like a charcoal, and if bitten by the last one the body would fall apart into pieces. What the criminal should do was leave them behind, and run away for his life. As he was running away, the four snakes chased him from behind. He was running with all of his strength that they could not follow him to some distance.

(Here the four viper snakes refer to the four great elements of the body).

This was not safe yet, there were five executioners chasing to kill him (This refers to the five khandhas—aggregates). So he had to continue to run for his life, freed from them and resting at a place. And then the intimate companion (a murderer) came, and chasing him again, and he continued to run for his life, and then arriving to an empty village with six houses. (The intimate friend is delight, and lust—nandirāga. The empty village with six houses is six internal sense bases). There were six village-attacking dacoits who came to the village, and attacked the villagers. He went into these houses for foods and drinks, and found it empty.

(In the sutta, it did not mention how many houses and dacoits were there; six dacoits refer to six external sense bases.) He heard the dacoits would soon come to the village, so he continued to run free from them. In front of him, he encountered a river, but there was no boat to cross over to the other side. (This side refers to dukkha, and the other side Nibbāna) So he collected grass, twigs, branches, and foliage, and bound them together into a raft (Raft refers to the vehicle of Noble Eightfold Path). There were no oars so he had to use his hands, and feet as oars crossing the river, and arrived at the other shore. (The raft should be not very wide or longer. So that he could lie with his stomach on it, and use his hands and feet like swimming.) This is the process of the practice.

The Buddha taught the way of a practice and how to practice successively. Number one, the yogis have to encounter the four vipers. Could you be able to practice without running away from them? Did the Buddha mention what kind of system and person should be followed? In the beginning, yogis are bitten by the four snakes, and become painful, aching, and numb. This was bitten by the snakes, and poison arising. This physical body called the khandha has paṭhavī, āpo, tejo, and vāyo elements. Tejo—heat element is hot, and burning. Āpo—water element is trickling or oozing. Paṭhavī—earth element is stiff, and tight with pain, and aches. Vāyo—air element is distention.

If these four poisons of snakes are arising—do you have to embrace them? Or have to run away from them? Now you’re noting them as painful, painful, etc. means embracing them again. When you cannot bear the pain by noting it as paining, aching, anicca, dukkha, anatta, etc. which is not the time for practicing Dhamma yet. This is going to embrace the four snakes that will not allow you to attain Dhamma. The Buddha was asking you to run away from the four snakes. There are different methods, but usage is only one. Yogis who want to keep the mind on the top of their head, just keep it there—The snake down there won't bite you, right?

One had to run away from it. If you don’t run, and are bitten by them, poisons arise. During working with the rising and falling of the abdomen (when pain arises down there), it is like being bitten by the snake, and poison arises, then the mind moves to there. You return it back to rising and falling again. You must send it back there.

How do you send it? You must send it with five strengths. Practicing Dhamma needs strength to do it. For example—you build a house, it requires the strength of money, labour strength, architect, building materials, etc., only then you can do it. Even in worldly matters, we need money, labourers, planning, etc. to get it.

For supramundane matter (lokuttara) without strength, we can’t get it for free. The Buddha asked to run away from the four snakes—Is there anything to correct or change the body? If you correct or change it, it’ll bite you again (by four snakes).

If you continue to change the body, could you go forward? It's like an oarsman—the boat is tied to a post, and the rower can't move forward without taking it down. You can contemplate paramatā mind, and form only with the purified mind (i.e., samādhi mind or citta-visuddhi—purification of mind). If you correct or change it very often could the mind become calm? If correcting the form (rūpa) it becomes kāyasaṅkhāra—conditioning the body form. It destroys kāyindriya and manindriya (bodily and mental sensory faculties). It will destroy the sensory faculties by moving and correcting the body. It was still afflicted by the snake poison, and not free from the danger of snakes.

Yogi living in the forest or in the city or on the sofa etc. wherever he is practicing if with the khandha will suffer its cruelty. If practicing with an unclean mind, it does not arrive at vipassanā (insight). You send the mind back to the primary object every time, does it arrive there? Is it stable? And does it fall down again? What kind of dhamma pulls it down there from the primary object? Is it me or who?

You may have heard of these things—someone had to amputate his hand, and leg or can’t give birth, and has to operate for delivery. Is it painful by using anaesthetic for the operation? It’s not painful, isn’t it? Just think about it. Is it painful when the four elements are in disturbances? It’s not painful by giving anesthetic. In this case, it was wrong to say that it’s painful because of the body.

Do the body have pain and happiness? It does have afflictions. Pain and happiness is happening in the mind. When pain arising, don’t we say the lower part of the body is in pain? Is it right? No! It’s wrong. If with this pain, aches and numbness samādhi is destroyed and how can we attain Dhamma? Is there any torture to the khandha (body) in our method? (There are some refer to. Thae Inn system as rough. Sayadaw refers to them.) If you stay at home—are there no pains, and aches? This body will torture you until your death. Is it because of Thae Inn monks? Or the cause of khandha? You have always been quite concerned about this body! (i.e., not blame the body instead to Thae Inn system.)

We ask yogis to sit for two hours, then they say Thaw Inn monk is rough. When you sit—is there any beating with a stick? Pain arises by itself—is it because of me? If they give you anesthetic—are you still in pain? Pain arises in the mind, and if you accuse the body, will it be true?

When the body disturbed or afflicted, if the mind suffers and keep it at the tip of the nostril. Does it stay where you keep it? (Other methods also in the same way) What is pulling it down and not letting it there? You have to think about it. In practicing Dhamma don’t do it blindly. Is it possible there is no cause to pull it down? You pull it up there (at the nostril), and the other pulls it down (at the pain). So there are two phenomena that arise here. In this way, the nature of the practice appear to us.

It’s not possible to practice randomly. The teacher also can’t teach people his ideas. Between the pulling up force and the pulling down force, the mind follows behind the stronger force. Saddhā—faith or conviction makes one decide that with this meditation system and following the teaching and practice; one can get rid of the dying dhamma. Could you be free from it (i.e., death) if you follow in accordance with the pulling down dhamma? You have to keep it up with the five strengths (i.e., with spiritual faculties).

With this teacher and system, I’ll practice to attain it—strength of conviction—saddhā. You have to put great strength in the primary meditation (e.g., ānāpāna)—strength of effort—viriya. (i.e., not let the mind move away from the object and keep it there. Every time the breath going in, and going out touching the nostril have to know them—strength of mindfulness—sati. For the strength of concentration samādhi—keeping the mind at one’s own place, let it concentrate strongly there.

Only these strengths are great, it’ll stay at the place where you want it to be. Otherwise, it’ll pull down by the pain there. Practicing Dhamma has to be at full strength here. If you take it as painful, aching, and rough—do you have any strength? Do you have any strength if you are giving up? For example, in the abdominal ascent and descent practice, if there is no power, does the mind go back there? The meditation is not wrong, but one has no strength.

(This conclusion is right because there is evidence regarding dealing with pain in the Mahāsi System. In lower Burma, there is a town called Mu-don in Mon state. Taw-koo meditation center is there. Taw-koo is a small village, and Taw-koo Sayadaw was quite well known for his patience, and endurance dealing with pains, and aches with Mahāsi System. Some of his senior disciples also could follow in his footsteps. In this center, they encourage yogis to sit for long hours. Teachers themselves had long sitting experiences.)

One has no power so that it becomes impossible to obtain it (i.e., the power of samadhi). One cannot send the mind back to the main object, and the correction becomes wrong.

Moving the body, and lifting the body is temporary happiness (i.e., free from pain). Could you attain Nibbāna with temporary happiness? (This is defiled happiness). Temporary happiness is the happiness of the worldlings (This creates a lot of problems, and sufferings in today's world). Do you agree with the body, and mind? Or follow their desire? Craving— taṇhā is there if you want to move, and make corrections.

Don’t want to feel (experience) is aversion—dosa. I want to adjust the body is wrong view—diṭṭhi. Not knowing the mind and body is delusion—moha. Correcting and lifting the body becomes the behaviour of defilements—kilesa. Therefore, I tell you not to adjust or correct the body. Do you not encounter difficulty by not allowing you to correct it? Don’t make merit for a corpse who dies with fear by sweating. If the carcass is fed to a dog (i.e. a wild dog), it will still fill its stomach. If I make merit for it, it becomes busy. At last, only the monks get the offerings. The dead person gets nothing. Some people die by sweating out of fear, that is with the process of unwholesome mind, and therefore will reach the destination of suffering (mostly hell). This being can’t get any merits made by others.

[We can’t take Sayadaw’s view as face value. It’s only for this dead person. There are many unseen beings living near humans. They are always waiting for this chance. These beings can share the merits made by others. I once heard a Thai forest ajahn (teacher) say that when he visited the United States, he had seen many hungry shades there. There are many ghosts there, not surprising me. These people are always in competitions for sensual pleasures. Their hedonism can be called American syndrome. There are also not many people making merits, and sharing with them.]

In this area we met a person like this (not far from his center). You can also go there, and ask them. This is at our alms round place. Even before this person died, they were making merit for her. They wanted to make sure of her good destination. They offered robes to the monks. The husband put the monk robes into his wife’s hands, and a monk went to receive it. He asked her to give it to the monk, but she was crying as, “It’s hot! It’s hot!” At that moment, Shwe-hin-tha Sayadaw said to the man; “Dakargyi! You offer the robes yourself, and then pouring merit water; and sharing the merit with her it’s also possible for it.” So the monks gave sīla to the family members, and poured the merit water. The man went near her, and told her to receive the merit of offering, but she could only say; “It’s hot! It’s hot!” Even she couldn’t say a word of “Sādhu!” The family members also was asking her to say “sādhu”, but she couldn’t make it (she was tortured by heat element, which killed her). So, could she say anything about sādhu?

Don’t do just “lifting, moving, etc.”, at near death, it will become “It’s hot.” (This refers to the yogis just noticing to correct the posture.) She had lung cancer that it was like pouring with hot fire, and her mind was stuck with diṭṭhi. Why am I asking you to breathe strongly? It’s not possible with slow breathing. If with slow breathing, the mind moves to vedanā. You can try it out.

In making an effort with the five strengths, if you keep the mind on the top of the head with strong vedanā (strong pain) it’s difficult to put effort. If with great effort it’s possible (Thae Inn Gu Sayadaw was a very good example. He had the perfections of endurance—khanti, persistence—viriya, and determination—adhiṭṭhāna.)

If you use the rising and falling of the abdomen for one hour time it is a bit easy. For two hours it becomes difficult. Meditation systems are not wrong. With ānāpāna using one kilo of strength, and for rising and falling have to use five times of strength (Sayadaw using the Burmese weight). Therefore, you have to breathe with ānāpāna by using strength, and acceleration. The Buddha said—passambhaya kāyasaṅkhāram—at first the sound of brass bell is strong, later becoming soft, and at last it stops. Breathing is also the same, and at last it stops. Now, we are still in breathing exercise. Later with the continuing of breathing which stops, the mind does not suffers.

So you are looking at it with calmness. Before arriving there, you still have to breathe strongly. Yogis’ minds have the strong mind process of lobha (greed), dosa (hatred, aversion), moha (delusion), and diṭṭhi (wrong view), and with these rough states of mind process can’t attain it with slow breathing.

(There are some truths in it. Usually with light or normal breathing most people fall into sloth, and torpor or the breath becomes not clear, and forget the breath. With experiments and exercises, only we can find out our ways.)

Do we ask you to do our ānāpāna meditation, coming from our own invention? Or asking you to overcome vedanā (pains, and aches)? In breathing strongly is not like rowing the boat, sawing the wood, and running a race. We use three factors (sati—mindfulness, ñāṇa—knowledge, and paññā—discernment) to breathe strongly.

Awareness (sati) of the place where the air contacts with the tip of the nostril is sati. Checking of is there any mistakes with the in, and out breaths, the equalizing of short breaths, and long breaths, the rightness of slow breathing, and fast breathing, soft breathing, and strong breathing have to be right, not doing of sometime stop it, and sometime do the breathing etc., reflect on this factor is knowledge (ñāṇa). Discernment (paññā) is tuning these factors to become balanced. Is there any extreme breathing there? (e.g., like in Indian Parayana practice). Yogis have to note that it has to be good breathing, not slow and not fast breathing, it can breathe longer.

You have to choose a good breathing method. After you’re ready, relax the body and mind from any tension. This body is a cruel snake. You practice freeing from the snake that by squeezing and tensing the body, could you send the mind to the nostril? Don’t breathe by squeezing and tensing the body. You can't do that if the pain is following you around. With vedanā increasing, yogis are tensing or tightening their bodies, and it becomes worsening. The habit of worldling is with vedanā increasing, and let it be. Don’t know that they have to let it go. (It means yogis are resisting the pain, and it makes it worse. The right way is non-resistance.)

Don’t control and tense the mind. If happening like this, nyan (ñāṇa) has to know it. Don’t tense the mind, instead releasing or relaxing it. Previously calm and smooth, as vedanā increases, the mind becomes tense and fearful. Don’t do it (i.e., tightening the muscle of the body). At that time, breathing becomes random by doing it (by tensing the body). And then not know the in, and out breaths, short, and long breaths, etc.

This is vinipata-baya—i.e., falling down randomly like fruits and leaves. It is even worse than that at dying! If vedanā is arising, don’t let it be this way. With vedanā starts increasing, and making adjustment to the in, and out breathing. Yogis must breathe in a way not affecting the acceleration of preceding, and following breathing; and also tune the rate of acceleration so as not to destroy it. The slow, and fast breathing; soft, and strong breathing have to be right. With the increase of vedanā, some yogis stop breathing, and not breathe anymore.

It can’t solve the problem by stopping it. So, don’t stop the breathing. You practice the primary object regularly with its long, and short, slow, and fast, and strong, and soft breathing. One of the caused dhammas will pull the mind down to vedanā.

The pulling down element (i.e., mind dhamma) is arising, and don’t be in fear, and continue to contemplate the primary object without wavering (i.e., not let the mind move). You continue to breathe regularly at the chest (here he made a short demonstration with the breathing). Without breathing roughly (i.e., with force) with lobha, and dosa, and continuously with one’s own short, and long breathing, slow, and fast breathing, and soft, and strong breathing the mind will follow you. If vedanā is increasing, could it be possible to react with fear?

Even with fear, you have to stay with this body. Fear or not fear, you have to die with this body. Are you free from it? So, don’t go, and associate with it. You know about its great danger. Lower yourself to gain something for this body. Busy oneself for a livelihood in rain, and sun shine with less sleep is also for this body. At near death, it kills itself. Even though we feed, and look after this physical body—does it bring happiness to you? Why should we continue to follow the body which does not bring benefits to us?

However, you feed and look after the body; decorate it with gold, silver, jewels and perfumes, it will still be cruel to you. Does it reduce its cruelty to you? It doesn't give you any benefit, so let it go. You discard the body, which will kill you to death. So you have to send the mind with the five strengths to the primary object of the air at the nostril. (It’s very important we should reflect very often about the khandha dukkha with the four meanings of dukkha sacca in our daily experiences—i.e., oppressive; burning with fire of defilements; conditioned dukkha;, and disturbances, affliction, change.)

We should not follow behind the khandha process, the dhamma process with desire (for achievement), then do it quickly and fear of pain. No-one will die here and don’t be afraid of it (i.e., to the increasing of pain and aches).

We are doing exercises so that we can actually handle the body when it kills us. (Preparing for death, so to speak). Don’t move or correct the body out of fear of the short arising vedanā (pain).

You must win in pulling the mind to the object of contemplation. If you practice with five strengths on winning it, the mind will follow you. If you are not doing what the teacher has asked you, and instead, making friends with vedanā by following the comfortable way; you will have no benefits and result. However, vedanā is increasing, let it go by itself (like a stranger—prato). The mind will not incline toward vedanā (pain) if you pull the mind or keep the mind with the five strengths at the primary object (mūla-kammaṭṭhāna). In this way there is no suffering, and you are free from the pain (not affected by suffering). Dhamma practice is dealing with this problem (i.e., how to overcome pain, and attain strong samādhi.)

Some reflections on samādhi:

One of Ajahn Mun’s senior disciples—Ajahn Lee Dhammadaro gave an analogy with sīla, samādhi, paññā in a talk. Dhamma practice is like building a bridge across a river. We can divide the bridge into three sections. This side, the middle, and the other side. This side is like sīla, the middle is samādhi, and the other side is paññā or vipassanā. When working with the bridge, the most difficult part is the middle. There are profound, and useful Dhamma in this analogy. No sīla, you can’t get close to samādhi; and without samādhi, you can’t penetrate the true nature of phenomena and see Nibbāna. Therefore, the Buddha emphasized the importance of samādhi practice.

The commentary mentioned two ways of insight practice—i.e., samatha based wet insight, and non-samatha based dry insight (it does not mean no samādhi. It develops in different ways). The commentary gave an analogy for these two practices. Samatha based is like using a boat to cross a river from this side to the other shore. Dry insight is like swimming to cross the river. To cross a river with a boat is pleasant and quicker than by swimming. Here also we can see the importance of samādhi practice.

The Buddha described his Dhamma trainings as sīla, samādhi, paññā, but in the Noble Eightfold Path he described the practice sīla, samādhi, paññā factors—such as:

Paññā factors: ①Right View ②Right Thought

Sīla factors: ③Right Speech ④Right Action ⑤Right Livelihood

Samādhi factors: ⑥ Right Effort ⑦Right Mindfulness ⑧Right Concentration

Here again we can see the wisdom of the Buddha, and he arranged the path factors in a very systematic way. We cannot have correct sīla and samādhi without correct views and thinking or thoughts. Therefore, it is very significant to learn or listen to or study Dhamma before actually practicing it. Mogok Sayadaw's Dhamma talks are for this purpose. In this arrangement, we also see the importance of samādhi. Only we can develop the right samādhi and can develop insight.


revised on 2022-04-22


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