Vapassana Meditation Workshop
by Chanmyay Sayadaw
Practical Exercises in Mindfulness
Today we continue the discourses on practical exercises of Mindfulness meditation. Yesterday I explained systematic walking and also the systematic sitting.
Sometimes when you sit for meditation, after you have meditated about fifteen or twenty minutes you have a desire to change your position because of the severity of the painful sensation or any mental distraction. When you know that it’s not good to change your position and your sitting then you do not change it. But though you do not change your position your hands are moving here and there. Sometimes the hand touches the face or the head. Without any sensation of itching you may rub the face or the hand. While your hand is placed in the lap, when you feel restless or when you feel severe pain, then you do not change the position but the hand lifted itself and then touched the knee, and so on.
So what I mean is that in systematic sitting for meditation you mustn’t move even the hands. You should sit like a statue so that your concentration doesn’t break but becomes deep and stable. When you move your hand from one place to another then the mind goes with the hand and concentration breaks. So you mustn’t move the hand. So when you sit for meditation please be careful. You must remind yourself of this statue. [Say to yourself]: I must sit like a statue of the Buddha, here.
Unconsciously you moved your hand. But even when we say it’s an unconscious movement, actually your mind goes with the hand. Without intention to move, you don’t move. Because you have intention to move, you do move. That one thing – wishing, intention – is mental process. The concentration of the mind is also mental process. And when you move your hand then your mind goes with the hand and concentration breaks. So please be careful not to move even your hands from one place to another.
Then in walking meditation the most important thing is not to look round here and there. Once you look round, then the mind goes with the eye and concentration breaks. You have to control your eyes not to look round. The best way to control your eyes is noting the desire to look round. Without desire or tendencies you won’t look round here and there. Because of the desire to look round you do it. So that desire or tendency must be noted until it has disappeared. When the desire has disappeared, you won’t look round. So please be careful to watch the desire to look round. If the desire is watched and if the desire’s stopped you won’t look round and your concentration doesn’t break.
In walking meditation yesterday I explained to you how you experienced the movement of the foot when your concentration’s good enough. But here what I want to tell you is there are two levels of understanding, right understanding of the physical process and mental process.
First of all, what you should know is that there are five mental faculties a yogi must be possessed of. The first one is saddha. Saddha is Pali; sradha is Sanskrit. It means faith or confidence of belief. Here faith is not blind faith. It is faith through right understanding of the truth. Because you have some knowledge of the truth then you believe in it. That belief is known as saddha, faith.
So faith through right understanding is one of the mental faculties a yogi must possess. Without faith or belief in the Dhamma or the truth you do not follow it, you do not practise it. Because you have some degree of faith or belief in the truth, you follow it, you practise it. So faith or confidence of belief in the Dhamma is a very important mental factor to enable a meditator to practise systematic meditation strenuously. Without firm or strong faith in Dhamma or the truth you won’t practise any Dhamma.
The second one is viriya, in Pali. Viriya is effort or energy. When you believe in any Dhamma you make enough effort to practise it or follow it. So faith or belief or confidence is the cause, strenuous effort is the effect. When you put enough effort into your practise you will be able to be mindful of each and every activity of your body and mind for the whole day. When you can be mindful of all mental and physical phenomena in nature, then mindfulness becomes continuous, constant and powerful. Then here viriya, effort or energy, is the cause mindfulness is effect.
Mindfulness is called sati. Because of strenuous effort mindfulness becomes continuous, constant and powerful. When sati, mindfulness, becomes constant and powerful then your mind is well concentrated on any mental process or physical process which is observed. Unless mindfulness is continuous and powerful you won’t gain any deep concentration. Only when mindfulness becomes continuous and constant and powerful then your concentration becomes better and better, deeper and deeper.
Then concentration is called samadhi in Pali. The Lord Buddha said, “Oh bikkhus, cultivate concentration of the mind. The mind which is concentrated gives rise to realisation of phenomena.” In other words: cultivate the concentration of the mind. One who is well concentrated realises the phenomenon as it really is. That’s what the Buddha said. Here the concentration is the cause and realisation or right understanding is effect. Without deep concentration you are not able to realise any phenomena and their true nature as they really are.
So samadhi, concentration, is the cause, realisation or right understanding, panna, is effect. Panna is Pali. Here panna means right understanding of mental and physical phenomena. Panna is translated into wisdom, insight, enlightenment. So here what we need in this context, panna means penetrating knowledge, right understanding of body-mind processes. Without deep concentration you are not able to rightly understand any mental or physical phenomena and their true nature. Only if your mind is concentrated to a larger extent, then you are able to rightly understand body-mind processes and their true nature. Here samadhi, concentration, is the cause, panna, right understanding or penetrating insight, is effect.
When bodily and mental processes are fully realised then you don’t have any mental defilements such as greed, desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, anger, ignorance, jealousy, false view, and so on. These are called mental defilements because when the mind is full of these undesirable mental or emotional states the mind gets defiled. They are called kilesas in Pali, in Sanskrit kelayasas and are translated as mental defilements or mental impurities. So long as you have any of these mental defilements in your mind you are sure to suffer.
Suppose you are angry with someone or with something. That anger is mental defilement. When you get angry your mind gets defiled, and you suffer because of that anger. When you have anger you get suffering. Do you agree with me on this point? Then should you have or should you abandon it? Should you have the anger or should you welcome the anger?
Pali for anger is dosa. But dosa has two aspects, the dosa which is increasing and the dosa which is decreasing. So when you are angry with someone or something your dosa is progressive dosa. And again when you are unhappy or when you are dejected or depressed that state of mind is also called dosa. This dosa is depressive dosa. What I mean is whether you have anger or depression or unhappiness your mind is full of dosa, defilement. Then you are unhappy. You get a great deal of suffering. That’s why we called dosa a mental defilement, or mental impurity.
So then we take another mental state, lobha. Lobha is Pali. It has very wide meaning. It means desire, greed, acquiring, lust, attachment. All the senses of these words are covered by that of lobha. So when we want to say lobha we use the word attachment as the equivalent to lobha, because attachment is an English word which covers all the senses of desire, craving, lust, greed, and so on.
When you have lobha you are sure to suffer. Say when you are greedy to be wealthy then you have to do many works to earn a great deal of money and you get a great deal of dukkha suffering. That lobha, greed, is the cause of suffering. If you are attached to your wealth you would have a great deal of suffering. Because when you are attached to your wealth you try to maintain it, or you try to make it double. Then that attachment to your wealth is because of suffering, dukkha. If you are attached to your wealth you’ll protect yourself from thieves, or robbery, undesirable relatives, especially sons and daughters. Then you have dukkha, suffering. The cause of suffering or dukkha is attachment. Even if you are attached to your good experiences and meditation it’s dukkha.
Meditation is the thing which you should experience, not the thing which you are attached to. If you are attached to your good experiences you had yesterday, today if your concentration is poor you get restless because you want to re-experience those good things you had yesterday. The more effort you put in and your noting, then the more distractions you have, and the more restless you become. Then the more suffering, the more dukkha you have. That is not because of meditational experience but because of attachment to it. That’s why the Buddha said attachment is samodhyasacca. Samodhya is the cause or the origin, sacca is the truth. Samodhyasacca means the truth of the cause of suffering. So attachment is the cause of suffering.
This lobha, attachment, is also one of the mental defilements which is because of suffering, dukkha. Then should you be attached to anyone or anything? If you are attached to anyone or anything, what would happen to you? Yes, you would be surrounded by a great deal of suffering. When you are attached to your beloved friend, then when he gets into any trouble you feel sorry and unhappy. That sorrow and unhappiness, is it desirable or undesirable. Then it’s dukkha, yes. Where does the dukkha comes from? It comes from attachment to your friend.
Then if you are attached to your son or daughter or parent then you have more dukkha. The result of the attachment is dukkha. So whatever you are attached to or whoever you are attached to, it’s sure you suffer, you have dukkha. Then should you have the attachment or shouldn’t you have attachment? No. Yes, why? Because you are afraid of dukkha. Everyone, including me, is afraid of dukkha.
Then if we are afraid of dukkha what should we do? We should destroy the cause of dukkha, the attachment. If we are able to destroy attachment, the cause of dukkha, suffering, then there won’t arise any dukkha at all. Then we are free from dukkha. The attachment is a mental defilement which must be destroyed by one who wants to get free from all kinds of dukkha. When the attachment has been completely destroyed you won’t have any dukkha at all.
Say all of you are working at home or at the office or at the company or any place. Though you come here to meditate sometimes your mind goes back to work. Why? Because you are attached to it. When you have less attachment to the work you have less dukkha. When you have a great attachment to your work you have a great deal of dukkha even though you are meditating. So attachment is the cause of suffering. The Buddha said it is the second truth, the truth of the cause of suffering, dukkha.
You know there are the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is the Noble Truth of Suffering, dukkha. The second is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering, attachment. The third is the Truth of the Cessation of suffering.
Do you want to destroy dukkha or not? When you have dukkha you’re suffering. You are afraid of suffering so you want to destroy dukkha. If you want to exterminate this dukkha what should you do? You have to eradicate the attachment. You have to uproot attachment, the cause of dukkha. When attachment has been destroyed then your dukkha, suffering ceases to exist. Then you have attained the state of the cessation of suffering. This State of Cessation of Suffering is called Nibbana. This is the Third Truth, the Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.
Then the fourth one is the Truth of the Way leading to the Cessation of Suffering. That means if you follow this Way then you’ll be able to destroy all kinds of mental defilement and there won’t arise any dukkha at all. The Truth of the Way leading to the Cessation of Suffering is called Magga-sacca, in Pali. The third one is called Nirodha-sacca, the truth of the cessation of suffering.
Have you heard of the way leading to the cessation of suffering? The Noble Eight-fold Path. You may not have some knowledge of this Noble Eight-fold Path theoretically, but practically you have it. This noting of your bodily-mental process comprises the Noble Eight-fold Path. When you know rising, falling, rising, falling. When you watch, pain, pain. When you are aware of the movement of the foot, lifting, pushing, dropping, touching, and so on. When you are aware of a bending movement, stretching of the arms, sitting down and rising from the seat. All this awareness or mindfulness or noting consists of the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Noble Eight-fold Path
So this is the way you are following which leads you to the cessation of suffering. This is the fourth truth. And when you note the lifting movement, pushing movement, dropping movement, touching sensation of the foot, then you have to make a mental effort to be aware of the movement. That mental effort or energy is one of the eight mental factors of the noble path. It’s called Right Effort, or Right Energy or Samma-vayama in Pali.
Because of that right effort you are aware of the lifting movement, pushing movement, dropping movement of the foot. That awareness is sammasati. Right Mindfulness. When you are aware of the movement of the foot precisely and attentively your mind is concentrated on the movement momentarily. That concentration is known as samma samadhi, Right Concentration. Why is it right? Because it causes the right insight, penetrating insight, to arise. Or because it’s the cause of realisation of the mental and physical phenomena and their true nature, and eradication of all mental defilements. So that samadhi, is samma-samadhi, right concentration.
Though you put enough effort in the practise, in the noting, or in awareness, the mind doesn’t stay with the object always. Sometimes the mind goes out, wanders. Then one of the mental factors which arises together with mindfulness directs the mind to the object of meditation, to the movement of the foot. That mental factor is called Right Thought, samma-sankhappa.
In this way, whenever you observe the movement of the foot these four mental factors are working on the movement and gradually right concentration becomes deeper and deeper. Then you come to realise the movement of the foot without conscious awareness of your bodily form or yourself. When you are realising these movements very clearly you are not aware of yourself, your body. What you are realising at that moment is just movement. Then with the deeper concentration you come to the higher state of insight which penetrates into the movement and realises its rising and passing away.
When you note the lifting movement then you know you come to realise a series of many broken movements one after another, arising and passing away. Before you come to realise this state you think the movement is only one and the same. Before that you think, my foot, I lifted, I am pushing it forward, I dropped it down. There you have I or me. You think, who does lifting, pushing, dropping, and so on. But when you are able to realise a series of broken movements rising and passing away one after another, then you don’t have that idea of I or you, myself or a person, a being.
What you are understanding is a series of broken movements which are arising and passing away in an ever-changing process. Then that realisation or that right understanding destroys the false idea of an I or a you, a person, a being, which is the seat of all kinds of mental defilement. When you have done with this false idea of a person there won’t arise any defilement because mental defilements arise depending on this false idea of a person, a being, a self or a soul. When that idea has been exterminated you won’t have any mental defilement, because its seat has been destroyed. Then when you do not have mental defilements there won’t arise any suffering at all.
So you have attained the cessation of suffering by way of cultivating the Noble Eight-fold Path by being aware of the movement of your foot. If you are able to realise, this is not me, this is not my foot, this is just a natural process of movement which is rising and passing away, that understanding is Right Understanding, samma-ditthi, one of the eight mental factors of the Noble Path.
The Five Mental Factors
Then here you have developed the five mental factors. The first one is mental effort, Right Effort, samma-vayama. The second is awareness or mindfulness, Right Mindfulness, samma-sati, The third is samadhi, Right Concentration. The fourth is samma-sankhappa, Right Thought. The fifth is Right Understanding, samma-ditthi. Here samma-ditthi, Right Understanding is the most important factor because it penetrates into the true nature of body-mind processes and their true nature, as they really are.
So you have cultivated five mental factors of the Noble Path. The Noble Path consists of eight factors. The other three are samma-vaca, Right Speech, samma-kammanta, Right Deed, and samma-ajiva, Right Livelihood. Right Speech here means abstention from unwholesome or immoral speech. That’s samma-vaca. Samma-Kammanta means abstention from unwholesome or immoral deeds or actions. Samma-ajiva means abstention from unwholesome livelihoods.
When you are meditating and concentrating your mind very well on the object of meditation, the movement of the foot, do you abstain from bad speech or right speech? You are abstaining from immoral speech. Then you have samma vaca, Right Speech. And also abstaining from immoral deeds or actions. Then you have samma kammanda, Right Deed. Then when you are meditating having this Right Understanding do you take what’s not given by the owner? Then are you killing some living being? No. And you are not smuggling goods? So abstention from bad livelihood.
These three – samma-vaca, samma-kammanta, samma-ajiva – Right Speech, Right Deed, Right Livelihood – are connected with moral conduct, precepts. When you fully observe the precepts you have these three. So when you note or are mindful of the movement of the foot how many mental factors you have? Eight. This eight is the Noble Eight-fold Path. When you have fully developed this Noble Eight-fold Path you are sure to destroy those mental defilements which are the causes of suffering beginning with attachment. Then you are free from all kinds of suffering.
First of all I would like to explain how you can make powerful and strong the five mental faculties. The first is saddha, faith. The second is viriya, effort or energy. The third is mindfulness. The fourth is concentration. The fifth is right understanding, panna. Because I wanted to explain to you how you can develop right understanding my talk went astray.
Please remember these five mental factors are very important for the yogi because he must be endowed with all of them. The first, saddha, faith; the second, viriya, effort or energy; the third, sati, mindfulness; the fourth, samadhi, concentration; the fifth, panna, right understanding. You have all of these five but sometimes it’s weak. Sometimes it’s strong. So you have to make it strong all the time. May all of you have these five mental factors stronger and stronger and achieve your goal.