BuddhaSasana Home Page
Translated by U
Htin Fatt (Maung Htin)
Buddhasasana Nuggaha Organization Mahasi Thathana Yeiktha Rangoon
First Published September, 1981
Malukyaputta Sutta supplies us with the fundamental knowledge about the principles and practice of Vipassana, insight-meditation. It has been incorporated in the Pali Canon as Samyutta Nikaya, and the twenty-four stanzas given in it can also be found in Visati Nipata of Thera Gatha. It was preached by Buddha at the request of bhikkhu Malukyaputta, the son of a female devotee by the name of Malukya, or Malunkya, if we go according to the Ceylonese texts. His request is in the following words.
"Sadhu me bhante bhagava samkhittena dhamman detesu. Yamaham bhagavato dhammam sutva e ko vnpakattho appamatto atapi pahitatto vihareyam."
"Reverend Sir! I stand to be benefited by your preaching of the Dhamma in brief. Having heard its essence I will abide in it in solitude, practising it with vigilance, right exertion and singleness of purpose."
In effect Malukyaputta was asking the Blessed One to prescribe for him succinctly any of the subjects of meditation, //kammatthana//, as he was bent on practising it in the right way in a quiet place. Solitude is very essential for meditation, for it rewards one with //samadhi//, power of concentration, which may be disturbed if one lives in the company with others. But when one can hardly hope to get it, one should mind one's own business while others theirs. Under such circumstances it will do well for one if one does not speak to them or even look at what others are doing, fixing the mind on the dhamma.
In the Text the word //appamatto// occurs. It means "vigilant". This is also very important. Yogis who meditate in this Yeiktha may be ordinarily held to be vigilant, never forgetting for a moment that they are striving after the realization of the dhamma. When they see an object they note it with vigilance. When they hear, when they smell, when they taste, when they touch or when they think, they are always mindful of hearing, smelling, tasting, touching or thinking. Their slightest behaviour or movement never goes unnoticed or unobserved. They keep their minds alert, never allowing forgetfulness to get the better of them.
The Text also mentions //atapi// the root meaning of which is to heat up. When one is fired with enthusiasm, //atapi// may be said to be at work feverishly. Heat causes the evaporation of water or moisture. Enthusiasm causes the evaporation of all //kilesas//, a collective term for all kinds of defilements. No flies can hover around a piece of hot iron. Defilements may be compared to flies and enthusiasm to red-hot iron. Where enthusiasm is wanting, defilements gain entry into the inner self via the six sense-doors and torment ordinary folks who fail to note the phenomena of arising and passing away of all conditioned things. Defilements have no place for a meditating yogi. In the scriptures wetness is attributed to //kilesa//. When meditational exertions take place with the utmost zeal and enthusiasm, it disappears leaving one's mind absolutely dry and clean.
FOUR RIGHT EXERTIONS
There are four categories of right exertion called //sammappadhana//.
(1) Firstly, there is exertion to prevent unwholesome actions that have not arisen from arising. Its application is for the purpose of preventive action comparable to that taken by medical and health personnel in their campaigns against contagious diseases. As you are wont to encounter evil in your everyday life, you must be wary of contact with it and take especial care to prevent yourself from being contaminated by it.
(2) Secondly, there is exertion to prevent unwholesome actions that have already arisen from arising again. This is to deter evil from recurring. Besides, we must exert ourselves to have nothing to do with //anusayas// or inclinations towards //kilesa//, for, even though you can avoid evil for the moment, if you still have predispositions to it, you may be overpowered by it in the long run. The act of seeing or hearing prompts the arising of inclinations for sense-objects and such inclinations are known as //arammananusayas//, which are the root causes of //kilesa//. With the meditating yogi they are incompatible. When he treads the Path all prototypes of //kilesa// called //santananusaya// that infest the inner self cease altogether.
(3) Thirdly there is exertion for the accomplishment of wholesome actions which have not yet been taken up. If you have not done good as yet do it now. //Kusala dhammas//, good deeds, must be acquired through the practice of charitableness, morality and mental culture. I urge you especially to practise insight-meditation if you have not as yet done it. If you are doing it with a mind to vipassana nana, insight-knowledge, continue doing it till the Path is attained.
(4) Lastly there is exertion for the development of accumulated wholesome actions till the Path is trodden. Usually a yogi is accomplished in all these four kinds of exertions to safeguard himself from committing evil, avoiding the recurrence of it, acquiring merit where he has not yet acquired it and developing it when it has been acquired.
Old writers usually render the word, //pahitatto//, as "with a mind despatched to Nibbana." Taking it in its literal sense, some would like to put forward the proposition that there is no need for a yogi to practise the dhamma once he has despatched his mind to the concept of Nibbana. This is contrary to the tenets of Buddhist teaching expounded in the Texts. What the word connotes is exertion in the practice regardless of life and limb in the effort, fixing the mind on the Path, the Fruition and Nibbana. This agrees with the commentaries on Silakkhandha Sutta regarding the subject of mental culture.
Buddha acceded to Malukyaputta's request saying:
"How now, Malukyaputta! What shall I say to other bhikkhus when you are thus making this request? You are old; you have gone far advanced in age; you have reached the last half of the span of human life. Even so you ask for a gist of the dhamma as my admonition!"
Buddha's words can both mean reproach and approbation. The old monk had not striven for the dhamma while young. Only when he was one foot in the grave he spoke of abiding in it. If Buddha's admonition were to be taken in that light, Malukyaputta may be held to have been censored.
But here is Malukyaputta to lead the life of a recluse in search of truth in spite of his senility. What would young Bhikkhus say to it? They would certainly emulate him. In this context it may be interpreted that Buddha was full of praise for him. Today if a young man encounters old men and women striving strenuously for the realization of the dhamma he should follow in their footsteps.
As Malukyaputta repeatedly made the request, the Blessed One preached him the fundamentals of the practice of insight meditation by posing a series of questions which, when answered, could reveal the method relating to vipassana.
* * *
"Tam kim mannasi Malukyaputta. Ye te cakkhuvinneyya rupa adittha aditthapubba, na ca passati. Na ca te hoti passeyyant; atthi te tattha chando va rago va pemam va."
"How do you answer this, Malukyaputta? Answer me as best you can. There are certain visible objects which you have never previously seen either in the immediate or remote past, or even at the present moment or in the future. Can such objects arouse desire, lust and affection in you?"
The //rupa//, form, which one can see with one's naked eyes are a reality or //paramattha//. But there may also be others which present a verisimilitude of reality to the mind without being real, for instance, objects that appear in one's imagination or dreams. They are all known as //pannatti//, conceptual image. In the Text reference is made of objects of the past existence which are remembered in the present. In Buddha's days there was a woman by the name of Patipujika, who could recall her past. In her previous existence, her husband was a deva called Malabari. She kept on remembering him in the present existence. It was with reference to persons like her that remote past is mentioned in the text.
That man can develop attachment to things dreamt of or imagined is understandable. But no attachment can arise in relation to objects which cannot be dreamt of or imagined. No love develops in man for a woman he has never thought of or met in his imagination; and the same applies to woman.
To Buddha's question Malukyaputta replied: "Surely, Reverend Sir, no desire, or lust, or affection can be developed in me for objects which I have never seen in the remote or immediate past, or in the present, or for objects which I can never hope to see in the future."
THE STORY OF ANITTHIGANDHA KUMARA
In the Dhammapada Commentary there is mentioned a story about Anitthigandha Kumara in whom love developed for the kind of feminine beauty which he worked up in his mind. This means that if one can visualize an image in one's dreams or thoughts, desire, lust and affection can arise in one's mind. The story goes as follows.
Anitthagandha Kumara was born in Savatthi. He was a Brahma in his previous existence. While in the plane of the Brahmas, he was free from the shackles of sensual desire and lust. Reborn a human being, he had no tendency to have anything to do with the opposite sex. When he came of age, his parents told him to marry. But the misogamist refused saying, "I do not want a wife." As the parents insisted him on his taking a wife, he devised a stratagem by which he hoped to evade marriage. He sought the services of sculptors to make a golden image for him of a beautiful girl and, that having been done, he told his parents that he would marry anyone who looked like his golden image. The parents, being rich and capable, hired the services of brahmins to go about the world and search for a bride whose beauty conformed to what their son had conceptualised in his sculpture done in gold.
When the brahmins got to Sagala City in Madda Kingdom they heard the people talk of the beauty of a sixteen-year-old girl kept in seclusion in a seven-tiered tower. Having traced her, they requested her parents to allow them to assess her beauty; and were amazed by the fact that her beauty far excelled that of the golden image.
The go-betweens then disclosed their true intentions to the parents and asked for the hand of the beauty-queen to be given in marriage to Anitthigandha Kumara. Gaining consent, the emissaries gave the information to the parents of the bridegroom, who, on hearing the news that the bride was more beautiful than the figurine he had caused to be sculptured, was all agog to have her brought to his native town as quickly as possible. This is an instance of the kind of attachment that arises out of one's pure imagination.
Sagala and Savatthi are more than five or six hundred miles apart; and in those days the system of transportation was very much antiquated. Perhaps she was brought in a horse-drawn carriage. She became utterly exhausted during the journey, and when, unfortunately, she fell ill, she died.
When Anitthigandha Kumara heard this news, he became sorely distressed for having missed the opportunity even just to see her renowned beauty. He could not eat or sleep. On knowing this Buddha took pity on him and so came to his house during the rounds for alms. The parents respectfully offered meals to Buddha and produced their son before the Enlightened One.
The root of sorrow and anxiety lies in //raga//, lust and the five constituents of sensual desires. Explaining this, Buddha said:
"Kamato jayate soko; Kamato jayate bhayam; Kamato vippamuttassa; Natthi soko kuto bhayam."
"Because of sensual desires, grief arises and so does fear or anxiety. He who has been released from their dominance know neither grief nor fear."
Having heard this the young man attained to the stage of //sotapatti magga//, the path of a stream-winner. Previously he was against women, and thought that he would be able to hoodwink his parents with the impossible. Now that the impossible had been made possible with the discovery of a beauty who surpassed his own creation, attachment grew in him to torment his innocent mind.
Malukyaputta answered Buddha's question to the effect that no desire, nor lust, nor affection can arise from sense-objects that one has never experienced before, or from those that one is not experiencing for the moment, or from those that one can never hope to experience in the future even in one's imagination. The meditating yogis here in this Yeiktha understand this; but this may be a puzzlement to those who have not had the experience in insight-meditation. In 1313 B.E. I preached Malukyaputta Sutta in Thaddhamma Thitagu Yeiktha in Bassein, when the Thaddhamma Thitagu Sayadaw's sister was one among the audience. She confessed that she became confused when mention was made of //rupa// which one had not been seeing or which one had not been able to visualize in the mind. She wondered what sort of //rupa// that might be. She was an intelligent person but her mind was unreceptive before she had practised insight-meditation. After she had, she became convinced of the truth of the dhamma. She was so pleased with the discourse that she disseminated the knowledge she gained from what had been preached to other devotees.
But I thin every thoughtful person can accept the fact that unseen sense-objects cannot incite //raga//. Is it possible for you to conceive affection for an individual whom you have never met before? Not only affection, but also hatred cannot arise in such a case. Neither can delusion or wrong views. I have laid down the following aphorisms relating to this subject to aid your memory.
(1) Where visible objects remain unseen, there //kilesa// ceases by itself.
(2) Where visible objects are seen there //kilesa// lies in wait.
(3) Recollect with mindfulness whatever is seen and dispel //kilesa// that lurks in the mind.
(4) The question posed by the Buddha for Malukyaputta to answer formulates the work-programme for insight-meditation.
It may now be clear that objects which one has never before encountered cannot bring up desire, lust and affection that arouse //kilesa//. From this statement can be adduced the fact that objects previously seen or known excite //kilesa//. Buddha intended to draw Malukyaputta's attention to it by formulating the question. But this is not the end of the matter. He wanted him to know that //kilesa// continues to arise every time the sense-object is recalled. Having seen a picture of someone smiling or scowling, you may recall it to mind, and every time you do it, the smiling or scowling face reappears. At each reappearance your mind reacts to it according to the impression that it creates. In the same way when you recall to mind the objects you have seen, they incite lust, and you become lustful. Anger and delusion may similarly be aroused. Failure to note each phenomenon of seeing tends to produce unmindfulness of impermanency and unsubstantiality of conditioned things, when //kilesa// gets stuck to your inner self. If you diligently note it, you will come to the realization that it arises just to get dissolved; and when the nature of //anicca//, impermanency, becomes known, it can no longer torment you.
So whenever you look at a thing note what you see, mindful of its impermanency, giving no chance for //kilesa// to assert. It does not usually reside in your body, but, characteristically, it lies in wait for the opportunity to possess you. If you are mindful of its nature by noting the phenomenon of seeing, you will realize its transience; and it will subside. And your mind will remain unperturbed as if it has never perceived the object.
And this understanding will enable you to formulate for yourself how best to perform the task of insight-meditation. That is why I say that Buddha's catechism reveals a working plan for vipassana. Anon you shall hear more about Buddha's questions in regard to ear-object and ear-basis. Meanwhile I shall give you a brief account of insight-meditation exercises as instructed by the Buddha.
A Brief Work-Programme
"Ettha ca te Malukyaputta dittha suta muta vinnatesu dhammesu ditthe ditthamattam bhavissati; sute sutamattam bhavissati. mute mutamattam bhavissati; vinnate vinnatamattam bhavissati."
"Malukyaputta! As dhammas are seen, heard, thought or known, just let them be as they are seen, heard, thought or known at the moment. When you see, you just see it; when you hear, you just hear it; when you think, you just think it; and when you know, you just know it."
In the foregoing it has been shown that //kilesa// is denied the opportunity to arise when sense-objects cannot gain entry through the six sense-doors. The question now arises as to how to exert in repelling it when sense-objects do appear at the six sense-doors. Hence Buddha lays down the gist of the task of insight-meditation in relation to four modes of seeing, hearing, thinking and knowing. Here it may be noted that sense-fields of smell, taste and touch are included for brevity's sake in the category of //muta// or thought. Meditation on the Three Marks of impermanence, suffering and unsubstantiality centres on the four modes of seeing, hearing, thinking and knowing. These senses and the sense-objects are not "I", not "Mine", not "My ego-entity". The objects just appear for a moment at the sense-doors and the subject just see or hears them for that moment, and nothing more. This is the gist of the method of insight-meditation.
THE STREAM OF EYE-CONSCIOUSNESS
Seeing is the phenomenon of contact between the eye-object and the eye-basis which brings about //cakkhuvinnana//, visual consciousness or eye-consciousness which is usually rendered into plain Burmese as literally seeing-knowing suggesting perception by the eye. Let me begin with the sequences of a thought-process that operate as a visible object presents itself to the eye-basis through the eye-door. Several thought-moments occur in their psychic order in each thought-process. Firstly, when the eye-basis receives the image of the eye-objects, //bhavanga// consciousness, life continuum, wakes up and starts working the process of seeing in three thought-moments. This excites //cakkhudvaravajjana//, eye-door consciousness, that turns towards the eye-object. The image that is cast on the eye-basis by the eye-object in this manner is cognized by //cakkhuvinnana//, eye-consciousness, which, on its first arising, remains unperturbed by //kilesa//. It is immediately followed by //sampathiccha na// which receives or accepts the image. After the acceptance, //santirana// takes over and investigates it so that //votthapana// can determine who is who and what is what. Till now, //kilesa//, which has been lying in wait for the opportunity to rear its head, is as yet unable to operate. But as soon as the determining consciousness has made the verdict that the object is agreeable or disagreeable to the senses, affinity or repulsion develops accordingly when //javana//, impulsion, is brought into play. Normally it runs its full course of seven thought-moments. At this stage action is judged according to the moral or immoral tendencies; and now //kilesa// makes its debut as greed, anger and ignorance and shows its true colour. Then the two thought-moments of //tadarammana// occur. This thought-process describes the working of the mind on seeing an object. It is called //vithi//, the path or course that consciousness takes in establishing itself.
THE STREAM OF EAR-CONSCIOUSNESS
(All repetitious statements are re-arranged for better understanding and translated, supplemented by Narada Thera's explanations on //vithi// and //bhavanga//).
The stream of consciousness that flows when hearing or tasting or smelling or touching or thinking is the same as that explained so far regarding that of eye consciousness. But I shall here review the whole process at the risk of repetition.
//Bhavanga// is a state of mind that works during sleep. (The closest English equivalent for it is life continuum, for, it is an essential condition for continued subjective existence). It does not turn itself towards sense-objects contacted in the present existence, but towards sense-objects to which the subject was attached at the time of death-consciousness in his previous existence. It is in contiguity with //patisandhi citta//, rebirth-linking consciousness, of the present existence, which is the first and foremost that arises at conception. It is assumed to be arising continuously, but, being passive, it subsides whenever thought-moments of other varieties of consciousness emerge. For instance, when a sense-object enters the stream of consciousness through one of the six sense-doors, //bhavanga// is arrested to make room for //dvaravajjana//, sense-door consciousness, which at once takes up the function of reflection on the nature of the image cast by the sense-object that passes through the sense-doors. Then //cakkhuvinnana// or //sotavinnana// (ear-consciousness), as the case may be, occurs to be followed in its wake by //sampaticchana//, receiving consciousness, which hands over charge of the image to //santirana// that investigates into its nature. On the result of this investigation //votthapana//, determining consciousness, makes the decision as to who is who or what is what. At the end of the process, //javana//, impulsion, vibrates for seven thought-moments in an effort to deliver, as it were, the report of the decision to //tadarammana//, registering consciousness or retentive resultant, which vibrates for two thought-moments (when it is running its full cycle) and subsides into //bhavanga//; and this subsidence is compared to the state of falling asleep.
When //votthapana// determines that an object is worthy of affection and love, immoral actions like anger and greed are aroused at the instance of desire for that object. This is the working of the unwholesome //javanas//. But this may not always be the case. At times the object may be adjudged repugnant when the subject might become inclined to doing wholesome deeds in order to avoid the consequences of unpleasurable experiences. At other times a beautiful object may be viewed by the subject with compassion and benevolence when moral actions are brought into play. In such cases //javanas// lend themselves to morality. It may be noted that there are 14 thought-moments from //avajjana// to //tadarammana//. When sense-objects are weak and not impressionable, the thought-moments of //javana// may end up with only five or six impulsions although normally they run to seven.
When the phenomenon of seeing occurs you just see it; do nothing more. The Text says: "Ditthe ditthamattam bhavissti," (On seeing, let seeing be). The working of the thought-process on hearing or tasting a sense-object is the same as that of seeing. So when the phenomenon of hearing occurs, you just hear it. On hearing, let hearing be; do nothing more. This agrees with the saying: "Sute sutamattam bhavissati". You shall hear more about it later, but now I shall deal with the abstract knowledge to be gained from noting eye-objects.
SEEING ABSTRACT REALITY
When all thought-moments of eye-consciousness, sense-door consciousness, determining consciousness, impulsions and registering consciousness have all done their part in the process of seeing, the abstract reality of the form and shape of the sense-object (or sense impressions) becomes manifest. Here the subject who is looking at the thing has not bent his mind on the concept of masculinity or femininity. At this juncture, //akusala javana//, impulsion towards immoral actions, may, perhaps, take place. But as it is weak it is unable to cause strong reactions. That is to say, the results of immoral actions may not be so prominent. If, therefore, at this initial stage, when action-results have not yet gathered momentum, you will be able to take note of the object just as you see it, or in other words, just as your eye-cognition occurs. You will then experience the abstract reality of both the subject that sees as well as the object that is seen. The subject is, of course, //nama// and the object //rupa//. You have now come face to face with //namarupa// in the //paramattha// (abstract) sense. Thus far you have not yet ruminated in your mind as to the masculinity or femininity of the object you are looking at. It means that you have not yet gone to the length of gaining conceptual knowledge or //pannatti// of what you see. So, at this stage, although it is true that you are seeing a thing, you can leave seeing alone as it is, as you have not started a-thinking. This agrees with the statement: "When you see, just see it".
FROM EYE-DOOR TO MIND-DOOR
It is no easy matter to stop short at seeing just as it happens. A beginner will not be able to catch up the thought-moments that make up the thought-process. Not being able to take in the phenomenon instantaneously as it arises, he has to think over the object that appears in his mind's eye if he really wants to know it. What passes through the mind-door needs normally to be identified, but the novice finds difficulty in adjusting his eye-consciousness to the object he is looking at in his efforts to identify it. So he has to fall back upon his mind-consciousness to do some thinking for him relating to what his eye-consciousness has encountered. This is how //vithi// relating to mind-consciousness arises which may be elaborated as follows. First, //avajjana// sets itself in motion prompting the seven impulsions or //javanas// that report the findings to two //tadarammanas//. Thus there are now altogether ten thought-moments in this part of the process. But if the sense-object is able to create only weak impressions, //javana// vibrates for less than seven moments. Mind-consciousness may be cut off only after five or six vibrations. When eye-consciousness has done its part, mind-consciousness takes over the former's job; but even then the latter is yet unable to distinguish the visible object into male and female. This stage is still in the realm of //paramattha// as before when eye-consciousness was working. But here note this one difference: whereas eye-consciousness cognizes the visible object of the present moment, mind-consciousness cognizes it as it recedes into the past. That is to say that mind-consciousness has to recall the past image as previously seen by eye-consciousness. Even now the image still remains //paramattha//. It is, therefore, extremely difficult for a beginner to be able to note the visible object as it passes through the first //vithi// of mind-consciousness.
THE BIRTH OF CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE
Failure to note with mindfulness the object as it enters the avenue of sense at the first //vithi// of mind-consciousness prompts the arising of the second //vithi//. At this stage, //pannatti//, conceptual knowledge regarding the shape and form of the visible object, begins to emerge, which, at the following third //vithi//, becomes firmly established. The subject is now able to distinguish it into male and female. This clear cognition relates to both form and name. So //rupa pannatti// and //nama pannatti// are conceived. This concept comes naturally in quick succession during the second and third //vithi//; but it is a concept gained through //avijja//, delusion, which covers up the true nature of things. The commentaries say that delusion has the tendency to hide. //Satipatthana//, basic exercise in mindfulness, exhorts a yogi to observe and note every time he sees an object, because such observation and noting enable him to come face to face with //paramattha// reality before delusion works him up with //pannatti// concept. In the beginning, however, he will find it difficult to grasp the reality as he has not mastered enough strength in mindfulness, concentration and understanding. But when these three qualities become firmly rooted in him, he will be quick to realize the true nature of things even at the moment of the lapse of the first //vithi// of eye-consciousness. When he is able to establish himself in //bhanga nana//, knowledge of dissolution, and //sankhaupekkha nana//, knowledge of equanimity towards conditioned things, he will find that it is not imperative for the stream of mind-consciousness to flow up to //javana//, and that after two or three //votthapanas// he can realize insight relating to //chalangupekkha vipassana nana//, six qualities of equanimity towards all the senses of seeing, hearing etc. Thus it has been shown in Mula Pannasa Commentary; for fuller details please refer to my discourse on Vipassana Practice.
At the time of Buddha there was an elder monk named Potthila who was learned in the Three Baskets of the Law. But as he neglected the practice of mind-culture, Buddha used to chide him calling him Tuccha Potthila -- vain and useless Potthila. Realizing his shortcomings in the field of mind-culture, the monk visited the monastery of 30 Arahats in a forest and requested them to prescribe meditation exercises for him. A senior Arahat knew his pride of learning and refused to give him personally any advice, but directed him to approach other Arahats, who, likewise, told him to go to other juniors. So in the end he had only a seven-year old Arahat to rely on for the //kammatthana// he was seeking.
The young samanera told him that he was young and inexperienced; but Potthila would have none of it. So the former gave him this instruction.
"Reverend Thera! There are six openings in a mound which an iguana makes his home. If you want to catch the animal, close up the five exits of the mound, and wait for it to come out from the last exit. There are six mind-doors through which six sense-objects can enter. If you close five of them and keep the mind-door open, you task will be accomplished."
What the young Arahat suggested was for Potthila not to allow //javana// merely to hang on to the five sense-doors of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and touch, but to shut them up and note only the mind-door so that impulsion could lead him on to insight-meditation. This gave the learned monk a clue to the method of vipassana-practice. When one sees, one must stop at the thought-moment of //votthapana// and note all phenomena with mindfulness. It is the same as saying: When you see, you just see it. Having practised meditation as suggested, Potthila attained Arahatship.
SEIZE THE RIGHT MOMENT
Here one must seize the critical moment when sense-door consciousness first arises. If one fails to do so one stands to be deluded by conceptual knowledge. If you fail to note seeing as it happens, you shall live in the world of //pannatta//. For easy understanding, let me summarize the four stages of the process that I have explained.
1. First //avajjana// reflects as the object enters the avenue of mind-door consciousness.
2. That moment of reflection constitutes the first //vithi// which tries to gain cognition through consciousness.
3. Then concept is formed in the next //vithi//.
4. Finally the nature of the object is known by its name or //pannatti//.
//Nama// and //rupa// in the //paramattha// sense can be known through meditation on the nature of the phenomenon as soon as it arises. As one knows instantly what is actually happening, one gains conviction in the Three Marks of //anicca, dukkha and anatta//. The following four points should also be noted.
1. Seize the first moment in the act of seeing.
2. Arrest the flow of consciousness at the first //vithi// (to conform to the requirement of //ditthe ditthamattam bhavissati//).
3. Differentiate //nama//, mind, from //rupa//, matter. (This is knowing the reality that mind is distinct from matter.)
4. Recognize the Three Marks of //anicca, dukkha and anatta//.
As development of insight-knowledge sets the pace, //rupa paramattha//, form or matter in the abstract, will be rendered distinguishable from //nama paramattha//, name or mind in the abstract. At this stage dissolution becomes clearly manifest. Progressively, as //bhanga nana// gets sharpened, the mind is able to appreciate dissolution arising in a state of flux when both the seeing subject and the seen object pass away together at tremendous pace. A yogi contemplating dissolution may even have the feeling of actually seeing mind-consciousness a-fluttering as it resolves into nothingness. The image of dissolution thus created is so hazy that he might have thought something is wrong with his eyesight. Now that he has gained the experience of seeing how dissolution works, he stands to be benefited by his first-hand knowledge about //anicca//. This knowledge will lead him on to the revelation that what is not permanent is unsatisfactory and unsubstantial as he has virtually no control over his //nama// and //rupa//. It is the nature of //namarupa// just to happen. This, indeed, is reality.
If we are mindful of the phenomena of seeing, hearing etc., according to Buddha's instructions, we may realize that they just occur and nothing more can be said about it. Things just happen. The meditating yogi need not go any further beyond seeing or hearing to examine whether what he has seen or heard is a male or a female. His mind does not dwell on //pannatti// or concepts.
ANSWERING A CRITIC
Among those not used to contemplation or meditation there are doubting Thomases who question the propriety of noting the phenomenon. Some of them even advance the proposition that the whole process of contemplation is wrong. While at Chauk a man approached me with the criticism that //cakkhuvinnana//, eye-consciousness, fails to recognize the genesis, //upada//, and dissolution, //bhanga//, on the arising and passing away of //nama// and //rupa//. It can recognize only the visible object that enters its avenue. It cannot appreciate how that visible object is behaving. His criticism runs on the following lines; "As //cakkhuvinnana// fails to see the visible object actually happening, how can observation and noting it contribute to the knowledge of genesis and dissolution of matter?"
According to the Commentaries and Abhidhamma, //rupa//, form, comes into being four or five instants of //citta// before the event of eye-consciousness, and dissolves twelve, or at least ten or nine, instants after its subsidence. It is, therefore, correct to say that the eye-consciousness fails to notice the genesis and dissolution of the eye-object at the moment of seeing. But here //sati//, mindfulness or recollection, comes in. It has the ability to recall the genesis and dissolution of the actual phenomenon perceived by the eye-consciousness. According to //sutta desana//, if the phenomenon is made known by virtue of //sati//, the genesis and dissolution of the sense-object may be said to have been cognized by the eye-consciousness too.
Jhana Sutta in Anguttara Nikaya mentions the fact that, when a yogi arises from //jhanic// trance, he is able to recall the //jhanic citta//, mind, //cetasika//, its concomitant, and //nama//, aggregate of mind, which he meditated upon during the state of //jhana//. He was aware of them with perspicacity as if he were observing them actually with his own eye-consciousness. However, the genesis and dissolution of //rupa// could not be distinctly perceived for he had not concentrated his mind on it during the trance. But when //jhanic citta//, //cetasika//, and //nama// have been clearly understood, the nature of //rupa// that depends upon //jhana//, or that arises because of //jhana//, can be understood by inference.
So on the authority of the same Sutta it may be shown that, when one is noting the phenomenon of seeing, one is aware of the genesis and dissolution of //rupa// that forms the eye-object and that depends on the eye-consciousness. When a yogi meditates on //rupa//, he sees its arising and disappearance just as he sees lightning. So it has been said:
"Mental formations renew their appearance, and just as they are renewed they perish in much the same way as a flash of lightning appears and disappears."
Now consider that flash of lightning. Who can truly say that he can see its //upada// and //bhanga//, although it is a fact that he sees the whole phenomenon. Certainly he cannot see its beginning nor its end. But actually he sees it happen. To a yogi who possesses //bhanga// and //sankhaupekkha nanas//, the fact is clear that the eye-object makes its appearance to vanish at the next instant in the same way lightning appears and disappears. This is all the more evident when sounds or tactile sensations form the subjects of meditation. When he realizes the Three Marks of //anicca, dukkha and anatta// through first-hand knowledge of the phenomenon of arising and passing away of //nama// and //rupa//, he may be certain that he has acquired vipassana-knowledge.
Furthermore, if he continues to meditate in the way now suggested, //nibbida nana//, knowledge of baneful things as disgusting, will be developed in him. When he gets bored with the aggregates, craving will be expelled; and in the absence of craving, the Noble Path can be reached, when he will become a //sotapanna//.
//Rupa// that is cognized by eye-consciousness arises simultaneously with //atita bhavanga//, passive consciousness inherited from the past. It also dissolves simultaneously with the second thought-moment of //tadarammana// during the formation of the thinking-process. It is not, however, possible for one to be directly aware of these two aspects of consciousness called //upada// and //bhanga//. They can only be understood through applied knowledge or //sutamaya//. Learning things at second hand, however, may not contribute to the awakening of insight-knowledge, and consequently to the realization of //nibbida nana//. Ordinarily no one can actually say precisely how or in what manner //rupa// arises whether along with the first, second, or third aspect of //atita bhavanga//, or dissolves, whether along with the second thought-moment of //tadarammana//, or with the seventh thought-moment of //javana//. If insight-knowledge were to mean strict accuracy in regard to these types of thought-process, a yogi can hardly hope to attain it. But what the Commentaries on Abhidhamma aim at is for the yogi to gain knowledge through applied methods if necessary. Such details do not matter in the practice of insight-meditation. Suffice it to say that it is essential for a meditating yogi to note the phenomenon as it arises in the same way as he notes the phenomenon of lightning. This agrees with the instruction: Note your going as you go.
MEDITATING ON HEARING, ETC.
Malukyaputta undertook to apply mindfulness to the activities of the six senses. If one is constantly mindful, one will just hear what appears on his ear-door, and no more. Now as I am delivering this discourse, you are hearing each sound or syllable of the words that I am uttering. If you concentrate your mind on each syllable that I am pronouncing, you will certainly miss the import and meaning of what I am trying to convey to you. If you just stop short at cognition of the sounds that I make, you will not be able to note them in the //pannatti// way. That is to say you will not be able to form any concept of what you hear. In like manner if you sniff a smell, you just end up with that smell. The stream of consciousness will not flow further than the sense of smell. When you receive tactile sensations and stop short at receiving them, you will just feel that you have touched something or something has touched you, and you will not go beyond that feeling.
In the phenomenon of ideation, too, you will just stop at the point where mind-consciousness arises without proceeding to arrive at formulating concepts. In that case //kilesa// will be denied the opportunity of rearing its head. You shall hear more about it later.
Now let me bring to your mind the passage cited earlier regarding the phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc. "When you see, you just see it; when you hear, you just hear it; when you think, you just think it; and when you know, you just know it." This is insight-meditation put succinctly and it means that when consciousness of sense-objects arises, note the arising so that it just stops there. You may not be able to do so without noting the phenomena with mindfulness. Even when you are trying to note them in this way, it may so happen that your mind deviates from its main objective to investigating whether the object observed is a male or a female, especially when you are just a beginner in meditation. Some would like to assert that, by merely making an introspection into the characteristics of the Three Marks of //anicca, dukkha and anatta//, one can render consciousness remain as it is as it arises. Some go so far as to maintain that the mind should be kept as it is when it will automatically stop itself at cognition of things seen or heard. That amounts to saying that the mind should be allowed to go free without any agency to watch over it. This means that mindfulness will be discarded. To such dissenters let me ask this question: How would your mind react to harsh words that grind your ears, or to trash that inflames you, or to physical and mental pain that undermine your equanimity? Without noting the psyche with mindfulness, how can anyone keep it as it is? Let these people judge for themselves the true worth of their own asseverations.
When a yogi meditates constantly on the phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc., he will realize //bhanga nana// which will reveal to him the moment when dissolution occurs. If he abides in that moment, insight-knowledge will be established showering on him its benefits.
BENEFITS OF INSIGHT-KNOWLEDGE
Such benefits are shown thus:
"Yato kho te Malukyaputta ditthasutamuta vinnatabbesu dhammesu ditthe ditthamattam bhavissati, sute sutamattam bhavissati, mute mutamattam bhavissati, vinnate vinnatamattam bhavissati; tato tvam Malukyaputta na tena."
"Malukyaputta! If, when you see, you just see it, when you hear, you just hear it, when you think, you just think it, and when you know you just know it, then you will arrive at the understanding that the objects of sense that you perceive have nothing to do with you."
This means that you can in no way get involved with the sense-objects whenever you perceive them. You wash your hands of //raga//, lust, //dosa//, anger, and //moha//, delusion, that the sense-objects generate. When you fail to stop short at seeing, hearing, etc., your mind will cling to those passions, and whenever you recall them they will lead you all over again to //raga, dosa and moha//. Those failing to note the phenomena of seeing, hearing, etc., get heavily involved in sights, sounds, etc., with which they come into contact. Those who have developed //bhanga// and //vipassana nana// with the practice of meditation realize the nature of the dissolution of both the objects of sense and the mind that takes note of them, and are able to grasp the mind that takes note of them, and are able to grasp the significance of the Three Marks. As sense-objects fail to generate attachment during meditation, no occasion arises for the meditator to recall them; and consequently //kilesa// becomes discarded. Inclination to //kilesa// caused by sense-object is known as //arrammananusaya//.
The Commentaries enjoin a meditator to give a wide berth to unwholesome //javanas//. In fact abandoning such kind of impulsions comes naturally to him, for he requires no special effort in shunning evil. When insight-knowledge becomes keen and sharp, //javanas// fail to arise as the stream of consciousness flows only up to //votthapana// and no more. In other words, subsidence of the flow of consciousness occurs at the determining stage of //votthapana//, before impulsions can start operating.
"Yato tvam Malukyaputta na tena, Tato tvam Malukyaputta na tattha."
"Malukyaputta! When you have nothing to do with the sense-objects that you perceive, you will get no foothold on them."
INCLINATION TO NIBBANA
Commentaries on Udana Katha elaborate on the word, "foothold". When a yogi loses hold of craving and egoistic views, absolving himself from the ideas of "I", or "Mine", or "My ego-entity", he cannot get rooted in sense-objects. About this Buddha has this to say:
"Yato tvam Malukyaputta na tattha, tato tvam Malukyaputta neviaha, na huram, na ubhayamantarena, esevanto dukkhassa."
"Malukyaputta! When you lose your foothold on the objects of sense, your //namarupa// (aggregates of mind and matter) will neither be here in this world, nor there in the other world. And this being not anywhere in both worlds means the end of suffering."
When ego-entity has no standing //namarupa// ceases to exist in all possible worlds either in this or the other world; and this cessation means the end of suffering. It becomes apparent when the yogi's mind gets inclined to Nibbana through the realization of the Noble Path. When an Arahat enters Nibbana no vestiges of //namarupa// remain. As soon as death consciousness occurs at the time of //parinibbana//, he achieves //anupadisesa nibbana//, all strata of existence not remaining. Regarding this the Commentaries say that when a yogi loses his foothold on //rupa//, he is neither here in the six organs of the senses, nor there in the six sense-doors nor anywhere in the six types of consciousness.
This agrees with the actual experience of the meditating yogi who has acquired //bhanga// and //sankhaupekkha nana//. No //kilesa// can arise in him on his realization of the truth of the nature of matter in a state of flux. He takes a highly impersonal and objective view of the sights and sounds that he sees and hears. After that the attainment of //anuloma nana//, knowledge of adaptation, will qualify him for the higher path. Then he enters the stream of //gotrabhu// consciousness that exalts him to a sublime stage, overcoming the Sense Sphere lineage. On the abandonment of the Sphere of the Senses, he actually realizes Nibbana.
Regarding this, Milinda Panha has this to say:
"Tassa tam cittam aparaparam manasikarota pavattam samatikkamitva appavattam okkamati, apavattamanuppatto maharaja sammapatipanna nibbanam sacchikarotiti vuccati."
"A yogi, developing mindfulness step by step reaches the stage of non-occurrence (of //namarupa//) having crossed over the stage of continual occurrence. O King! One who has entered the stage of non-occurrence with correct meditational practice may be said to have come face to face with Nibbana."
A SUMMARY OF THE SUTTA
The following is a summary of what Buddha taught Malukyaputta with regard to meditation.
1. When you note with mindfulness what you see, or hear, or think, or know, you remain just conscious of your seeing, hearing, thinking and knowing, and nothing more.
2. If thus, you just see or hear or think or know what you are seeing, hearing, thinking or knowing you shall not get yourself involved in those phenomena.
3. Since you have nothing whatever to do with them, you shall have no foothold on the sense-objects that you perceive.
4. As you have no foothold on them, you are neither here nor there, nor anywhere, and the very fact that you exist nowhere means that you have realized Nibbana where all sufferings end.
When Malukyaputta had had the benefit of Buddha's advice, he expressed his satisfaction in 24 stanzas. Saying "Well done, Malukyaputta!" Buddha elaborated on them himself stanza by stanza, and I shall now make an exposition on them part by part.
FAILURE TO MEDITATE ON RUPA WHILE SEEING
1. Rupam disva sati muttha, Piyam nimittam manasi karoto. Sarattacitto vedeti, tanca ajjhosa titthati.
1. Having seen rupa, form, one loses mindfulness, and getting absorbed in the charms created by it, one feels the onset of desire that tries to imbibe it.
It is human nature to get attracted to objects that appeal to the senses. You look at a thing because you derive pleasure out of it. At the moment of looking at it you forget the practice of the dhamma. Even a meditating yogi may be moved by visible objects that give pleasurable sensations; and his attention may be diverted from his noble purpose. Those not used to meditational practice would easily give themselves away to alluring //rupa//. As soon as the concept of beauty and loveliness overpowers them, they will be forgetful of the dhamma. //Rupa//, therefore, makes one forgetful or unmindful.
A pleasing smile usually gets ingrained in the heart of the subject who sees it. It is always a pleasure to recall it. He, therefore, keeps remembering it for days, months and years. His mind is now taking in //rupa// as if trying to ingest or imbibe it.
I am speaking about this reaction to //rupa// in general terms. Of course there are occasions when a man feels repugnant towards the object that he sees. At times he may be indifferent to it. Whatever be the case, the crux of the matter is that //rupa// generates various kinds of feelings such as pain, pleasure, greed, anger and the like which bring about kamma-actions, action-results and eventually rounds of suffering.
Suffering brought about by //rupa// is shown hereunder:
2. Tassa vaddhunti vedana, aneka rupasambhava; Abhijjha ca vihesa ca, cittamassupahannati. Evam acinato dukkham, ara nibbana vuccati.
2. A multitude of passions such as covetousness and rage, springing from //rupa//, torments him who takes a firm hold of it, with the consequence that his mind becomes burdened with vexation. Nibbana, therefore, remains far away from him who would carry the load of suffering rather than meditate.
All //rupas// give rise to //vedana//, feeling or passion. When an agreeable object is presented to an individual, he delights in it; but it is after all //sukha vedana//. When a repugnant object is presented to him, he feels miserable, and that is //dukkha vedana//. Such //vedanas// are the cause of vexation that torments him. If he sees a beautiful object, desire to possess it arises in him. He will get annoyed if he thinks that someone is thwarting his wishes to acquire it. Such dispositions of the mind are the results of the working of greed and anger. They worry him, and so he is forever busily engaged in malevolent activities against people whom he thinks are opposing him in the fulfilment of his desires. Prompted by greed and anger, he becomes almost worn out in his efforts to counter the opposition of his adversaries, real or imaginary.
Most people are not used to mindfulness throughout their lives. For them a change over from an unmindful to a mindful state will be difficult of achievement. One who cannot accept mindfulness will be accepting defilements which bring about the round of suffering. In that case Nibbana remains far removed from him.
Failure to meditate will deprive one of the knowledge about the Three Marks of //anicca//, etc., inviting //kilesa// to add miseries to suffering, in the same way as adding fuel to the fire.
I give below a summary of these points relating to //rupa//.
(A) //Rupa// engenders tender passions that send mindfulness into oblivion.
(B) The impassioned mind imbibes //rupa//.
(C) //Rupa// gives rise to feelings of pain and pleasure.
(D) Conditioned by greed, anger arises causing anxiety and worry.
(E) He who thus accepts conditions that create suffering will always have suffering as his companion.
(F) The round of suffering keeps Nibbana away.
MEDITATING ON RUPA BRINGS NIBBANA NEAR
The foregoing stanzas paint a darker side of the issue; but I shall also give you the brighter side of it.
3. Na so rajjati rupesu, rupam disva patissato; Virattacitto vedeti, tanca najjhosa titthati.
3. Passion remains undeveloped in him who recollects with mindfulness the //rupa// that he has seen. Thus freed from lust, he refuses to imbibe it.
This stanza reveals the essence of the practice of insight-meditation. It enjoins the yogi to recollect with mindfulness the object he has seen and to meditate on it. From this it is clear that insight-meditation means noting the object that he has actually seen, and not the object that he has not. It can be accomplished only through practical wisdom and not through //sutamaya// or knowledge acquired from hearing what others say.
The Commentaries on Thera Gatha say that a meditator must try to recollect the eye-object that he perceives as it presents itself through his eye-door to his eye-consciousness being mindful of the four factors of enlightenment or //sampajannas//, namely, knowing what is beneficial, what is proper, what is objective and what is free from delusion.
Earlier I have told you about the //vithi// relating to eye-consciousness. What I am speaking about now is the same thing. If you miss noting the process of seeing just as it occurs, try to catch up with the thought-moment of the mind-consciousness. One who can seize that moment and recollect the absolute reality of form or //rupa paramattha//, may notice the dissolution of both the sense-object and the eye-consciousness at the moment of seeing. When one concentrates only on the act of seeing without thinking over what one has seen, visual perception will last only for an instant. This agrees with the saying: Ditthe ditthamattam bhavissati. In that case defilements will have no time to assert themselves. In the absence of defilements lust or craving subsides.
Desire works up //vedana//, sensations, or passions in this case, which begets craving, //tanha//, by means of which the individual embraces //rupa//. A non-meditator, although fully aware of seeing the object, fails to note it with mindfulness, and he permits craving to arise. But a meditator does not actually see what he sees; and so he gives no chance for desire or craving to arise, for he has always been mindful of the dissolution. In that state, delusion is eliminated and wisdom arises. In the absence of defilements such as craving, kamma-actions, action-results and new becoming cannot be formed. He will be emancipated from suffering. This fact is emphasised in the next stanza.
4. Yathassa passato rupam, sevato capi vedanam; Khiyati nopaciyati, evam so caratissato. Evam apacinato dukkham, santike nibbana vuccati.
4. Looking at an eye-object, a yogi just sees it and just feels that he sees it, without assimilating //rupa//, form cast by it. With him suffering ceases. He should practise meditation in this way; and if he so practises it, he is said to be within sight of Nibbana.
As the yogi has not been assimilating //rupa// which he notes with mindfulness, he is not inviting //kilesa// which brings about kamma-actions and action-results.
Commentaries on Thera Gatha emphasise the fact that "seeing the form (//rupa//)" means seeing it with the strength of conviction that what one sees is //anicca//, impermanence. Eye-consciousness brings about sensations of seeing which mind-consciousness takes to heart. The mind collects them and stores them up in the same way as a greedy person amasses wealth. The result is the upsurgence of abhijjha, covetousness, one of the manifestations of //kilesa// on which kamma-actions and action-results depend. A meditating yogi refuses to accept eye-consciousness and its consequences in this way. In other words, he abstains from assimilating defilements that lead him to rounds of suffering. Each time he meditates on the phenomenon of seeing, insight-knowledge is developed. Each time insight-knowledge is developed, defilements are discarded. So he is said to be enjoying //tadanga nibbana// -- peaceful bliss attained at the instant when pollution of the mind is eliminated.
A meditator, who is living in the world of realities or //paramattha//, will gradually realize insight-knowledge stage by stage. He will proceed from //namarupa pariccheda nana//, knowledge of distinction between mind and matter, to //gotrabhu nana//, knowledge of higher lineage, through //anuloma nana//, knowledge of adaptation. According to the sayings of Patthana, this will ultimately lead one to the knowledge of the Path and its Fruition. It must be noted that //anuloma nana// is the highest of the ten stages of insight-knowledge. Aspirants to Nibbana must therefore engage themselves in the practice of vipassana.
The following is a summary of the points discussed so far.
* * *
Now I shall deal with the second question posed by Buddha for Malukyaputta to answer.
"Ye te sotavinnaeyya sadda assuta assutapubba, na ca sunasi, na ca te hoti suneyyanti, atthi te tattha chando va rago va pemam va."
"How do you answer this, Malukyaputta? Answer me as best you can. There are certain audible objects which you have never heard previously, either in the immediate or remote past, or at the present moment. Neither can you hope to hear them in the future. Can such objects arouse desire, lust and affection in you?"
Malukyaputta replied that no desire or lust or affection could possibly arise out of sounds or voices that one had never heard before in the recent or remote past, or that one had not been hearing at present, or that one could not hope to hear in the future. This answer is appropriate. On hearing a pleasant voice and cognizing the individual who makes it, the hearer develops affection or attachment for the owner of the voice. As attachment is developed //kilesa// is brought into play and the consequences mentioned before follow. If one meditates on hearing, //kilesa// will be kept away. Reference is invited to what I have previously spoken about the phenomenon of seeing.
PANNATTI AND PARAMATTHA
What has been discussed earlier about the //vithi// relating to eye-consciousness applies //mutatis mutandis// to the stream of consciousness that I am now talking about; and so I give below the gist of the //vithi// relating to ear-consciousness.
In the phenomenon of hearing an audible object enters the avenue of the ear-door; and we say that the sound is heard. This is the first //vithi// relating to ear-consciousness.
Then the ear-consciousness makes due investigation as to the nature of the sound it receives. This is the first //vithi// relating to mind-consciousness.
In the second //vithi// of mind-consciousness, //nama//, name, suggested by the sound is cognized.
In the last //vithi// of mind-consciousness, //pannatti//, concept conveyed by the name given to the sound, is apperceived.
As an object makes the sound, the ear just hears it. If you note this with mindfulness not going beyond it, you call a halt to the process of hearing. The stream of ear-consciousness stops flowing then and there. But if you are unmindful, your mental formations and activities will be brought into play when you may recall the sound you hear and think over it. That means the stream of mind-consciousness has taken over. Even then, this //vithi// of mind-consciousness is only aware of the sound. //Pannatti//, concept, has not yet formed. If you can note this with mindfulness, your apperception ends here, stopping at the stage of the abstract (//paramattha//) idea of sound. If you fail to call a halt to further mental activities, the second //vithi// would apperceive the concept of the individual making the sound, and furthermore, the third //vithi// will proceed to distinguish the sex of the individual, and this will be followed by the development of affinity or repulsion that he instils in your mind. In this way //vithi// conjures up //kilesa//. It is, therefore, imperative that you meditate on hearing just as you hear. I have summarised these statements as follows:
If you fail to note the phenomenon with mindfulness, you end up with //pannatti// knowledge.
To obtain //paramattha// knowledge the following should be borne in mind.
Note with mindfulness the instant you hear. (Note as soon as the //vithi// of ear-consciousness occurs. Or, failing that, note as soon as the //vithi// of mind-consciousness occurs).
Stop the flow of the process of thought at hearing. (If you can do this, the second //vithi// of mind-consciousness cannot arise.
This is in accordance with the saying: Sute Sutamattam bhavissati.
Then you can distinguish //nama//, mind, from //rupa//, matter. (What you hear is matter at work. When you are noting, mind is at work. Mind and matter are thus distinguished. Both the hearing and the noting appear to dissolve at the next instant.)
In the end you will recognize the Three Marks of //anicca, dukkha and anatta//.
FAILURE TO MEDITATE ON SADDA ON HEARING
5. Saddam sutva sati muttha, piyam nimittam manasi karoto. Sarattacitto vedeti, tanca ajjhosa titthati.
5. Having heard Sadda, sound, one loses mindfulness, and, getting absorbed in the charms created by it, one feels the onset of desire that tries to imbibe it.
When an audible object presents itself at the ear-door, the hearer tries to appreciate it, generally expecting it to be sweet and agreeable. But it usually tends to induce unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions. While he is paying attention to what he is hearing, he loses mindfulness. Desire arises in him if it is a pleasant sound. He takes in what he hears as if he is ingesting or imbibing it. Whenever he recalls it, desire re-appears and torments him again. The story of Prince Nanda illustrates this point.
Prince Siddhattha and Prince Nanda were half-brothers, the former being born of Maha Maya, and the latter of Maha Pajapati Gotami, both being sisters wedded to King Suddhodana. Prince Nanda is four or five days younger. When Maha Maya died seven days after the birth of her son, Maha Pajapati Gotami left her own son in the care of royal wet-nurses and brought up Siddhattha breast-feeding him herself.
Prince Siddhattha became Buddha after enlightenment, and came to Rajagaha to spend the first Retreat there. Three days after his arrival King Suddhodana arranged a wedding feast for his second son, Prince Nanda, betrothed to Princess Janapada Kalyani. As Buddha was invited, he came to the palace where he had his meals offered to him. When he was about to return to the monastery, he told Prince Nanda to take his (Buddha's) bowl and come with him. The Prince, out of fear and awe for his elder brother, did as he was told, expecting that Buddha would take back his bowl and discharge him at any time. As he was about to leave the palace, Princess //Janapada Kalyani// called out to him requesting, "My Lord Prince, come back quickly!"
But, once at the monastery, Buddha asked his younger brother if he would become a monk. The Prince had no mind to don the yellow robe, but overwhelmed by awe he said, "Yes." So he was ordained. But he was never happy. So, one day, he complained, "I am not happy in the practice of this noble conduct. I can no longer abide in it. I shall revert to laymanship."
Now it came to the knowledge of Buddha that Nanda Thera was not happy in his monkhood. The Enlightened One, therefore, asked him why. The newly-ordained monk told him that Janapada Kalyani's words calling him to come back soon were ringing in his ears.
Buddha took his younger brother by the hand and led him to a desolate field, recently burnt out by forest fire, and showed him a maimed old hag of a monkey sitting by the side of a smouldering log. From there he went to Tavatimsa, the abode of the first Plane of Devas, and introduced the love-lorn Prince to a bevy of five hundred beauties, all deities. Then Buddha asked for Nanda Thera's opinion as to who was beautiful, Princess Janapada or any one of the deities. "Reverend Sir!" he replied, "Janapada Kalyani, when compared to the deities, is very much like that old monkey I saw previously."
"Nanda", said Buddha, "Remain happy as a bhikkhu! I promise you that you shall win one of the beauties you are seeing now." When the two came back from the abode of the Devas, Nanda Thera became diligent in the practice of priestly conduct in the fond hope that one day he would have his desire for a deity fulfilled.
Now words went round the monastery that Nanda Thera was practising the dhamma with an eye to getting a beautiful deity for a wife. He was likened by his associates to a daily wage earner, or even a bonded slave, who worked for material benefits. He became greatly mortified. He secluded himself, bent his mind on the object of //kammatthana// and with the utmost effort and determination practised meditation till all //kilesas// dried up in his inner self. Ultimately he won the Path and its Fruition and became an Arahat.
The lesson to be gained from this story is that, before being able to note with mindfulness the sound that one hears, one tends to hear it again and again as one recalls it. Then it gets stuck to the mind. The mind takes in all //vedana//, sensations, conjured up by //tanha//, craving.
6. Tassa vaddhunti vedana, aneka saddasambhava. Abhijjha ca vihesa ca, citta massupahannati. Evam acinato dukkham, Ara Nibbana vuccati.
6. A multitude of passions such as covetousness and rage, springing from //sadda//, sound, torments him who takes a firm hold of it, with the consequence that his mind becomes burdened with vexation. Nibbana, therefore, remains far away from him who would carry the load of suffering rather than meditate.
This needs no further elucidation as enough has been said about the attitude of mind on seeing, which, in the present context, may be substituted by hearing.
MEDITATING ON SADDA BRINGS NIBBANA NEAR
7. Na so rajjati saddesu, sadda sutva patissato. Virattacitto vedeti, tanca najjhosa titthati.
7. Passion remains undeveloped in him who recollects with mindfulness the //sadda// that he has heard. Thus freed from lust, he refuses to imbibe it.
8. Yathassa sunato saddam, sevato capivedanam. Khiyati nopaciyati, evam so caratissato. Evam apacinato dukkham, santike nibbana vuccati.
8. Listening to an ear-object, a yogi just hears it and just feels that he hears it, without assimilating //sadda//, created by it. With him suffering ceases. He should practise meditation in that way; and if he so practises it, he is said to be within sight of Nibbana.
All these stanzas need no further elucidation, What has been said about seeing applies //mulatis mutandis// to hearing, and this also applies to summaries given in the form of aphorisms.
* * *
Buddha posed the following third question for Malukyaputta to answer.
"Ye te ghanavinneyya gandha aghayita aghayitapubba, na ca ghayasi, na ca te hoti ghayeyyanti, atthi te tattha chando va rago va pemam va."
"How do you answer this, Malukyaputta? Answer me as best you can. There are certain odorous objects, //gandha//, which you have never smelled previously, either in the immediate or remote past, or even at the present moment. Neither can you hope to smell them in the future. Can such objects arouse desire, lust and affection in you?"
Malukyaputta replied that it was impossible for desire, or lust, or affection to arise out of //gandha// which had never been smelled or which one could never hope to smell in the future. As desire cannot be developed out of an unknown quality, it is not necessary for a yogi to meditate on it. But those failing to meditate on nose-object and nose-consciousness will remain removed from Nibbana.
FAILURE TO MEDITATE ON GANDHA ON SMELLING
Buddha, satisfied with Malukyaputta's answer, said, "Sadhu!" and uttered the four stanzas in the same manner as before.
9. Gandhim ghatva sati muttha, Piyam nimittam manasi karoto. Sarattacitto vedeti, tanca ajjhosa titthati.
9. Having smelled //gandha//, odour, one loses mindfulness, and getting absorbed in the charms created by it, one feels the onset of desire that tries to imbibe it.
Meditating yogis can rarely enjoy fragrant smell. They are mainly concerned with disagreeable odour which they receive with repugnance. Therefore it is quite usual for them to have a longing for fragrance. This is attachment which makes one forgetful of the dhamma.
10. Tassa vaddhunti vedana, aneka gandhasambhava; Abhijjha ca vihesa ca, cittamassupahannati. Evam acinato dukkham, ara nibbana vuccati.
10. A multitude of passions such as covetousness and rage, springing from //gandha//, odour, torments him who takes a firm hold of it, with the consequence that his mind becomes burdened with vexation. Nibbana, therefore, remains far away from him who would carry the load of suffering rather than meditate.
Here, as previously, the emphasis is on the fact that failure to meditate keeps Nibbana away.
MEDITATING ON GANDHA BRINGS NIBBANA NEAR
11. Na so rajjati gandhesu, gandham ghatva patissato; Virattacitto vedeti, tanca najjhosa titthati.
11. Passion remains undeveloped in him who recollects with mindfulness the //gandha// that he has smelled. Thus freed from lust, he refuses to imbibe it.
12. Yathassa ghayato gandham, sevato capi vedanam; Khiyati nopaciyati, evam so caratissato. Evam apacinato dukkham, santike nibbana vuccati.
12. Smelling a nose-object, a yogi just gets the smell and just feels that he gets it, without assimilating //gandha// created by it. With him suffering ceases. He should practise meditation in this way; and if he so practises it, he is said to be within sight of Nibbana.
To wash your hands of //dukkha//, suffering, note with mindfulness everytime the sense of smell presents itself to your mind. Now I shall go onto the next subject relating to the sense of taste. It will show you how to practise Vipassana.
Dhamma books reprinted for free distribution by this author are available from:
Selangor Buddhist Vipassana Meditation Society
No.29-B, Jalan 17/45,
46400 Petaling Jaya Selangor,
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