Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VII by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(108) Contemplating and noting, and how consciousness arises at the moment of seeing

How to contemplate may be explained as follows:

It is to contemplate and note as “seeing”, “seeing” when a sense-object is seen, quite similar to what has been taught as: Gacchanto va – If walking, nay, while walking, gacchamiti – as walking, pajanati – it is known or to be aware of, etc. While walking, one is to become aware as “walking”. When contemplating and noting in the aforesaid manner, awareness of the true nature of rupa and nama which are manifested at the moment of seeing will take place. According to the text of Dhamma, the manifestations of rupas and namas at the moment of seeing may be stated as:

Cakkhunca paticca rupe ca uppajjati cakkhuvinnanam tinnam sanghati phasso, phassa paccaya vedana.

Cakkhunca – Upon the eye also, paticca – depending, rupe ca – upon the visual object also, paticca – depending, cakkhuvinnanam – eye-consciousness, uppajjati – arises or is produced. Tinnam sanghati – The three factors – the eye, and the knowing mind or consciousness the visual object having taken place together or in coalition, phasso – sensation of touch, phassa – has occurred. Phassapaccaya – Because of this contact, vedana – feeling of sensation arises. Depending upon the clear eye and the visual object, the eye-consciousness arises. Of course, seeing takes place because of the presence of the eye-rupa and the sense object of sight-rupa. As such, at the brief moment of seeing, the eye-rupa is obviously present as also the sense – object-rupa, and the eye-consciousness. An ordinary person without the knowledge of Vipassana imagines that the thing that is seen or perceived is “I”. When good things are seen, joy and happiness take place. It is thought as being good. Similarly, the eye and the whole body are considered as being permanent and pleasurable as one’s own “Self” and a living entity. The object of sight is also thought of as being permanent, good and a living entity, an ‘atta’ This is how pleasurable attachment takes place at the time of seeing a sense-object that has life. On the other hand, when a lifeless sense-object is seen, an ordinary person will think it as a material element or an object that is known by name or manifested (pannatti).

A Yogi who is continuously meditating (i.e. contemplating and noting), when his samadhi (concentration) has become strong, every time he sees or hears he will notice distinguishably that the eye-rupa and the material visual object are quite different from his perception and the consciousness of the mind that contemplates. Then the eye, eye-consciousness, the visual object and the awareness which have occurred are all vanishing instantaneously after seeing has taken place. They are, therefore, realised as being impermanent. Thus they are considered as “misery” which cannot be relied upon and also as “unpleasurable”. They are also realised as merely a phenomenon which is not an “atta or a “living entity”. Those who are accomplished with keen intellect will, in the same manner, know that what is seen and what is considered to be a bad or a pleasurable sight are simply ‘impermanent’, suffering and Non-Self.

This knowledge is the real Vipassana insight – knowledge which realises and sees the truth through the characteristics of anicca, etc., on and after contemplating and noting at every moment of seeing. Hence, the expression “vipassana” has been expounded in the commentaries as “aniccadivasena” according to the intention conveyed by the usage of the words – anicca, etc., vividhena akarena – and according to various forms or characteristics, passatiti – for being able to contemplate and realise things, Vipassana – it is known as “Vipassana”. The manner of such a realisation in brief is expressed in the following words. Please follow the recitation.

“At the moment of seeing, the eye and the visible object is rupa (matter) which does not know or rather which has no feeling of the sensation. Seeing and knowing are nama (mind). Consciousness or awareness through contemplation is also nama. For having vanished and ceased altogether immediately after seeing and knowing and becoming conscious through contemplation of what is happening, it is evident that these are the nature of ‘impermanence’, ‘suffering’ and ‘Non-Self’ (anatta).