Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VII by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(107) The manner of practising meditation to gain Vipassana-kusala

At the present time, people are being ridden with the evils of akusala such as greed, anger, etc., based upon the sensations obviously arising from the six sense-doors (dvaras) at every moment of seeing, hearing, contacting and knowing. These have so happened for not truly realising the characteristics of anicca, etc. – the natural phenomena that manifest at the moment of seeing, etc. Hence, indulging in the practice of contemplating Vipassana is to prevent any opportunity for the probable occurrence of loba (greed), and so on. If the true characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta are really known, the Dhamma that has been so realised will deter lobha, dosa, etc., from arising. This deterrent effect or the subduing of greed, anger, etc., is caused by the faculty of Vipassana-kusala – merits derived from Vipassana meditation. The realities of rupa-nama Dhamma are conspicuous only for a very brief moment, as and when they occur. This is why contemplation should be made while they are in the process of arising and becoming. Only when contemplation is carried on at the moment of their arising, the true nature of their characteristics can be known and realised. I have composed a motto in brief in this regard. This is: “Real awareness of the phenomena can take place only when contemplation is made at the moment of their arising.” This may be recited.

To cite an example: A flash of lightning only occurs and is seen at the moment it flashes. Therefore, if desirous of seeing the gleam of lightning, it must be observed while it flashes. The brilliant light is not visible and noticeable after the flash has vanished. Nor could it be seen by mere imagination before the electricity is discharged to product a flash called lightning. The genuine paramattha of rupa and nama is obvious only when it is in the process of arising. When it has vanished after arising, it no longer exists. Before it arises, it was not yet in existence. As such if it is contemplated after dissolution, the reality or the truth cannot be known. Also before it arises the truth cannot be known by contemplation or imagination. Only when contemplated while it is occurring, it’s true nature in its originality can be realised. Only after knowing its phenomenal nature, awareness comes as to how it begins to occur and how it dissolves instantaneously. This is composed in a motto which may be recited:

“Only when it’s true nature is known, the initial arising or the beginning (udaya) and final dissolution or the end (vaya) can be perceived.”

“Udaya” means “arising” or “appearance”. Vaya means “dissolution” or “disappearance”. Therefore, it is usually stated as “arising and dissolution”. When awareness becomes sharp and active while contemplating the phenomenal nature of rupa and nama at every moment of their arising and dissolution, the real paramattha of rupa and nama will be clearly perceived with insight-knowledge as to how they begin to occur and end in dissolution. This cannot be perceived and known by merely uttering as “arising and dissolving”. Only when the truth is known, personal knowledge and realisation of these rupa and nama are achieved, in fact, they are impermanent, since they vanish immediately after arising. This phenomenal occurrence is described in the form of a motto in brief:

“Awareness of the nature of anicca (impermanence) takes place only when “arising and dissolution” is perceived by the sense.”

When ‘anicca’ is seen and realised, ‘dukkha’ and ‘anatta’ are known. Contemplation of the phenomenal nature of rupa and nama with the characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta is the genuine Vipassana meditation. It is therefore essential to contemplate and note continuously the arising phenomena of rupa and nama at every moment of “seeing”, “hearing”, “contacting” and “knowing”, in order to bring about the development of genuine Vipassana knowledge. Contemplating and noting as such is to be regarded as practising Vipassana meditation.