Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part IV by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(61) Impermanence (Anicca), characteristic of Impermanence & the contemplation of Impermanece – Aniccanupassana

Aniccam veditabbam – anicca must be known or understood. Aniccata veditabba – the characteristic of anicca must be noted and known as impermanent. Aniccdnupassana veditabba – Vipassana knowledge which contemplates and knows that it is impermanent or not lasting should be understood. It has been stated as such in the Commentary. Now let us recite:

“Anicca must be known. The characteristic of anicca must be known. Aniccanupassana must be known.”

It has been expounded that: “Anicca means aniccanti ,khandha-pan-cakam and that is, what is impermanence called `anicca’ is nothing but the aggregate of Five Khandhas.

Please recite the following Motto:

“You should remember the Five Khandhas as Anicca – impermanence.”

These Five khandhas which are transient by nature are rupas and namas – matter and mind – which have existed at the moment of the occurrence of the Jhanic-mind. These are mentioned in the Pali Text as “rupagatam, vedanagatam, etc.” This is the Dhamma which should be correctly and vividly known as anicca – impermanence – when contemplation is carried on after arising from jhana. It is similar to what is clearly known by the meditator with personal insight knowledge of the rupas and namas at the moment of seeing, hearing and imagining, in the course of their contemplation and noting as: “seeing”, “hearing” and “imagining”, with awareness. Anicca, possessing the characteristic of ‘impermanence’ realised through contemplation and noting, may be explained thus :

Hutva – Originally what has not yet existed before, has occurred, and then abhavakaro – suddenly disappears and vanishes. This transient nature of aniccalakkhanam – is to be noted and understood as the characteristic of anicca. Hence, it has been expressed in the form of a motto as stated below, and this may be recited:

“Vanishing after occurrence is the characteristic of anicca.

All things are impermanent if they arise instantly followed by dissolution. For example, a house is constructed in an open field. Is it not a house which has sprung up anew though it has not existed before? Yes, it is. Is it not subjected to decay for the simple reason that one day or the other, or with the passage of time, it will meet with destruction? Shall we therefore say it is everlasting, or impermanent? If a thing appears and then again disappears, it is undoubtedly impermanent and transitory. In ‘the same way, a person is born into this world as what is called his life existence. He has come into being afresh, but will one day pass away or die. He, as a living being, is no doubt impermanent and not lasting. Likewise, it resembles a flash of lightning which appears and vanishes all of a sudden. These are the examples of the transient nature or the characteristic of anicca.

A Yogi who is contemplating and noting will perceive the manifestations of the sensations of touch, thoughts and imagination, sound and sight constantly arising and vanishing, and then appearing again followed. by dissolution at every moment of his noting when his power of concentration (samadhi) becomes strong. Such happenings will be realised with his own personal insight-knowledge. He will become elated with joy that everything which occurs, passes away instantaneously. This is the characteristic of anicca. When awareness takes place while contemplating that things have arisen and disappeared all at once, he will come to realise that these are all “Impermanence”. This knowledge or awareness is “aniccanupassana-nana.”

This is Vipassana insight knowledge through contemplation and noting and not the knowledge of reflective thought gained by Sutamaya.

When a person is said to be absorbed in metta-jhana, he is actually developing his mindfulness praying as “May all be happy, etc.” While immersing himself thus, the metta Jhanic-mind occurs wishing others happy. This Jhanic-mind may last for a second, or a few minutes. When this Jhanic-mind ceases, then usual sensuous thoughts or desires will appear or arise. This is to be called as “rising from jhana. ” It is something like waking up from a deep slumber. If the Yogi who plunges himself in a trance of jhana bearing in mind or with pre-determination that he will carry on with Vipassana contemplation after rising from jhana, the moment Jhanic-mind ceases, contemplative mind with awareness – Vipassana – consciousness will take place. He knows distinguishably the arising consciousness of Vipassana and the cessation of the Jhanic-mind. It is not that the Jhanic-mind singly is known. The simultaneous arising and dissolution of rupa, vedana, sanna and sankharas are also known and realised. He clearly perceives and understands that everything being (in the process of) arising and dissolving incessantly is, in fact, impermanent, etc.

Applying this method in order to develop Vipassananana, or, insight-knowledge, we shall develop metta. Let’s recite with a feeling of loving-kindness by radiating metta, and at the same time, develop the characteristic of impermanence of the sense-object – the sound (voice) that emanates from our recitation or chanting.

May all beings be happy ” (Repeat three times).