The Sutta Pitaka consists mainly of discourses delivered by the Buddha himself on various fitting occasions and farm one of the three Baskets of the Law known as "Tipitaka. Other famous Suttas translated into English language are in process of publication. He ranks among the foremost for his Sila, Samadhi and Panna. Through constant practice and perseverance since his first initiation into priesthood at the age of twelve, the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, Mahathera, Sasana dhaja-siri-pavara dhanamacariya, Agga Maha Pandita, Chattha-sangiti-pucchaka, has risen to great heights as an illustrious teacher and guide in the field of practical vipassana. The Venerable Sayadaw has taken pain to write in common language for easy understanding by his disciples in general the highly difficult philosophy of dhamma with particular emphasis on the practical vipassana exercise as to how they should begin and then proceed step by step for the ultimate attainment of Wisdom panna. In translating the selected Suttas into English, the Translation Committee has put its best efforts to maintain the essence contained in the sutta and the scholarly accuracy of its author and also to make it a readable translation.
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To develop mindfulness and gain insight-knowledge, the following points must be borne in mind: Recognize correctly all physical behavior as it arises. Recognize correctly all mental behavior as it arises. Recognize every feeling, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, as it arises. Know, with an analytical mind, every mental object as it arises. For only seeing is believing, and their skepticism is due to their lack of experience.
I myself was a skeptic at one time. I did not then like the Satipatthana method as it makes no mention of nama, rupa, anicca, anatta and so forth. But the Sayadaw who taught the method was a learned monk, and so I decided to give it a trial. At first I made little progress because I still had a lingering doubt about the method which, in my view, had nothing to do with ultimate reality.
It was only later on when I had followed the method seriously that its significance dawned on me. I realized then that it is the best method of meditation since it calls for attentiveness to everything that is to be known, leaving no room for absent-mindedness. So the Buddha describes the Satipatthana method as the only way: Ekayano-maggo.
If the pain and suffering remain in your body, the meditational practice can render relief to your mind. But if you are angry or irritated by the physical suffering, your mind will suffer, too. The Buddha compared this dual suffering to being pierced by two thorns at the same time.
Let us say a man has a thorn in his flesh, and he tries to extract the thorn by piercing another thorn into his flesh. The second thorn breaks into the flesh without being able to extract the first thorn. Then the man suffers the pain from two thorns at the same time. So also, the person who cannot make a note of the physical pain in a meditational manner suffers both physical and mental pain.
But if he can ponder well upon the physical pain, he will suffer only that pain, and will not suffer mental pain. This kind of suffering — only physical pain — is like that suffered by the Buddha and arahants, for they, too, suffer physical pain.
They suffer from ill-effects of heat and cold, insect bites, and other kinds of discomfort. Though they suffer from the physical dukkha, their minds remain stable, so they do not suffer mental pain.
The meditational method is a very effective remedy for physical pain and suffering. The best remedy in a crisis is the practice of samatha or Vipassana. If sorrow, grief, or depression afflicts us, during meditation hours such unwholesome states of consciousness must be noted and removed.
The Buddha describes the Satipatthana method as the only way to get over grief and end all suffering. So long as we keep ourselves mindful according to Satipatthana teaching, we never feel depressed, and if depression arises, it passes away when we focus our attention on it. So the meditator may benefit by his despair at this stage. According to the commentaries, we should welcome the despair that results from non-fulfillment of desire in connection with renunciation, meditation, reflection, and jhana.
We should welcome such sorrow for it may spur effort and lead to progress on the Path. It is not, however, to be sought deliberately. The best thing is to have wholesome joy in the search for enlightenment. Leaving aside meditation practices, even the keeping of the moral precepts which may entail some physical discomfort and abstention, is not to be regarded as a practice of self-mortification.
In the practice of concentration and insight meditation, patience, and self-control khanti-samvara khanti-sa. Therefore unpleasant physical discomfort should be borne with patience. Eating food which should be normally eaten, wearing clothes which should be normally worn, contributes to easeful practice of Dhamma, thus avoiding the extreme austerity of self-mortification. Necessary material goods such as food, clothing, medicine, and shelter should be used, accompanied either by reflective contemplation or the practice of concentration or insight-meditation.
Every time contact is made with the five sense objects, they should be noted as objects of insight-meditation. By adopting a reflective mood or by noting these sense objects as objects of insight-meditation, partaking of necessary food, clothing, etc. The Blessed one declared, therefore, that "Having avoided these two extremes parts, practices , I have come to understand the Middle Path. It is a mistake to think that one can attain it only when one enters meditative absorption jhana.
Purity of mind based on jhana is due to the continuous stream of jhanic consciousness. Purity of mind through Vipassana is the purity that emerges at the moment of attaining insight. Both kinds of consciousness are alike in respect to purity of mind and freedom from hindrances. It is not attained simply by casual observation but by in-depth observation of the actions as they are happening, without leaving any one of them unobserved.
Thus the observation should be on all actions such as seeing, hearing, smelling, eating, etc. If you watch it at the moment lightning strikes, you will see it for yourself. If you are imagining in your mind as to how lightning strikes before or after the event, you may not be regarded as having seen the flash of lightning. So try to know things for yourself by actual observation of things as they happen. Such statements are not conducive to the practice of insight-meditation, without which our Buddhasasana would be like any ordinary teaching.
You will practice mindfulness only if you believe that it will help to develop insight-knowledge. But faith in itself will not do. You need, too, a strong will and unrelenting effort to attain the path and Nibbana. Possession of these qualities is essential to success in the practice of mindfulness and for gaining security in the abode of the Noble.
To this end we should avoid sensuous joy and seek wholesome joy in good deeds and contemplation. Likewise we should welcome wholesome sorrow stemming from frustration on the holy path and avoid unwholesome sorrow. In the same way we should avoid unwholesome equanimity of the sensual world and seek wholesome equanimity of the holy path. We should concentrate on wholesome joy, wholesome sorrow, and wholesome equanimity.
For the cultivation of these wholesome states of consciousness means the elimination of their negative, unwholesome counterparts. We should also eliminate wholesome sorrow through wholesome joy. This means that if we are depressed because of the failure to make much progress on the holy path, we must overcome the depression by exerting effort for Vipassana-insight. Likewise, wholesome joy must be rejected through wholesome equanimity. Thus "equanimity about formations" sankharupekkha insight with joy or with equanimity is only a step removed from the holy path and fruition.
When you personally watch people going through a gate, you will notice for yourself their goings and comings; you need not depend on others to know at second-hand that they are going in and out of the gate.
In the same way if you yourself watch and note the six sense-doors, the eye-door, the ear-door, etc. Take another example. Place a mirror at the roadside. All pedestrians and vehicles will be reflected in the mirror in their true nature.
If you watch and note them, you will see them as they really are. In the same way if you watch and note with mindfulness all that appears at the six sense-doors, you will notice the sense-objects which have no consciousness arising while the mind the subject that possesses the consciousness is taking cognizance of such arising. Then both the object and the subject pass away. Then this process is renewed. The meditator will then come to realize that this is the phenomenon of nama and rupa arising and passing away.
Consciousness and corporeality are, after all, not everlasting. They are not permanent. They are suffering. They are unsubstantial. When you note the working of nama and rupa, you will come to know their true nature. Having known their true nature, what remains there to be thought of and considered? So one does not get at the nature of things by merely thinking about nama and rupa, without actually noting how they arise and pass away.
Having come face to face with them, are you going to argue their existence? And it does not stand to reason if one merely recites, "Arising! Passing away! The knowledge acquired by this method of thinking or reciting is not intrinsic but mere second-hand knowledge gained through books. The essence of insight-meditation, therefore, is to note personally all dhammas and phenomena as they occur.
All this happens in this way. As one begins to reach the stage of mindfulness and subsequently of purity of mind, one will be able to distinguish the knowing mind from the object known. For instance, when one is meditating on the rising and falling of the abdominal wall, one may be able to distinguish the phenomenon of rising and falling from the mind that knows it.
In much the same way, in the process of walking, one may notice that the act of raising the foot, extending forward, and putting it down is different from the mind motivating the movement. In this way nama, the knower, can be distinguished from rupa, the known. This can be effected without any preconception.
One recognizes the phenomena without giving any thought to them. In other words, recognition is spontaneous. As the power of concentration of the meditator gains strength, and his wisdom gets sharpened thereby, he will come to realize the fact that his knees bend because he wishes them to bent.
He walks because he wants to. He sees because he has eyes to see, and the object to be seen is there. He hears because he has ears to hear, and the object to be heard is there. He enjoys life because his kamma is favorable.
Practical Insight Meditation Basic and Progressive Stages
Mindfulness and Insight