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Fundamental of Vipassana
translated by Maung Tha Noe
Meditate Right Now
If you fail to meditate on the rising phenomena and so do not know their real nature of impermanency, suffering and not-self, you may relive them and thus let defilements be. This is a case of latent defilements. Because they arise from objects, we call them "object-latent." What do people cling to and why do they cling to? They cling to things or persons they have seen because they have seen. If you fail to meditate on them as they arise, somehow or other grasping arise. Defilements are latent in whatever we see, hear, taste, etc.
If you meditate, you find that what you see passes away, what you hear passes away. They pass away in no time at all. Once you see them as they really are, there is nothing to love, nothing to hate, nothing to cling to. If there is nothing to cling to, there can be no clinging or grasping.
And you meditate right now. The moment you see, you meditate. You can't put it off. You may buy things on credit, but you cannot meditate on credit. Meditate right now. Only then will the clingings not come up. Scripturally speaking, you meditate as soon as the eye-door process ends and before the subsequent mind-door process begins. When you see a visible object, the process takes place like this: First, you see the object that comes up. This is the seeing process. Then you review the object seen. This is the reviewing process. Then you put the forms seen together and see the shape or material. This is the form process. Last of all, you know the concept of name. This is the name process. With objects you have never seen before, and so you do not know the names of this, naming process will not occur. Of the four, when the first or seeing process takes place, you see the present form, the reality, as it rises. When the second or reviewing process takes place, you review the past form, the form seen -- reality again. Both attend on reality -- the object seen. No concept yet. The difference is between the present reality and the past reality. With the third process you come to the concept of shape. With the fourth you come to the concept of names. The processes that follow are all various concepts. All these are common to people not practised in insight meditation.
There are 14 thought-moments in the process of seeing. If neither seeing, hearing, nor thinking conscious-ness arises, life-continuum goes on. It is identical with rebirth-consciousness. It is the consciousness that goes on when you are sleeping fast. When a visible object or any such appears, life-continuum is arrested, and seeing consciousness, etc., arises. As soon as life-continuum ceases, a thought-moment arises adverting the conscious-ness to the object that comes into the avenue of the eye. When this ceases, seeing consciousness arises. When this again ceases, the receiving consciousness arises. Then comes the investigating consciousness. Then, the conscious-ness that determines whether the object seen is good or not. Then, in accordance with the determination reached, moral or immoral apperceptions arise violently for seven thought-moment. When these cease, two retentive resultants arise. Whenthese cease, there comes subsidence into life-continuum like falling asleep. From the adverting to retention there are 14 thought-moments. All these manifest as one seeing consciousness. This is how the seeing process takes place. When one is well-practised in insight meditation, after the arising of life-continuum following the seeing process, insight consciousness that reviews "seeing" takes place. You must try to be able to thus meditate immediately. If you are able to do so, it appears in your intellect as though you were meditating on things as they are seen, as they just arise. This kind of meditation is termed in the Suttas as "meditation on the present."
"He discerns things present as they arise here and now." -- Majjhima Nikaya iii.227
"Understanding in reviewing the perversion of present states is knowledge in arising and passing away." -- Patisambhidamagga
These extracts from the Suttas clearly show that we must meditate on present states. If you fail to meditate on the present, apprehending arises from life-continuum. This consciousness arises to review what has just been seen. The thought-moments included are: apprehending conscious-ness, apperceptions 7, and registering consciousness 2 -- a total of 10 thought-moments. Every time you think or ponder, these three types of consciousness and ten thought-moments take place. But to the meditator they will appear as one thought-moment only. This is in conformity with the explanations in connection with the knowledge of dissolution in Patisambhida-magga and Visuddhi-magga. If you can meditate beyond the apprehending, you may not get to concepts and may stay with the reality -- the object seen. But this is not very easy for the beginner.
If you fail to meditate even at the apprehending, you get to form process and name process. Then graspings come in. If you meditate after the emergence of graspings, they will not disappear. That is why we instruct you to meditate immediately, before the concepts arise.
The processes for hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, are to be understood along similar lines.
With thinking at the mind-door, if you fail to meditate immediately, subsequent processes come up after the thought. So, you meditate immediately so that they may
not arise. Sometimes, as you are noting "rising, falling, sitting, touching" a thought or idea may come up in between. You notice it the moment it arises. You note it and it ends right there. Sometimes a wandering of the mind is about to arise. You note it and it quiets down. In the words of some meditators, "it is like a naughty child who behaves himself when shouted at 'Quiet!' "
So, if you note the moment you see, hear, touch, or perceive, no subsequent consciousness will arise to bring about graspings.
".... you will simply have the sight of the thing seen, the sound of the thing heard, the sense of the things sensed, and the idea of the thing cognized."
As this extract from Malunkya-sutta shows, the mere sight, the mere sound, the mere sense, the mere idea is there. Recall them and only the real nature you have understood will appear. No graspings. The meditator who meditates on whatever arises as it arises sees how everything arises and passes away, and it becomes clear to him how everything is impermanent, suffering, not self. He knows this for himself -- not because a teacher has explained it to him. This only is the real knowledge.
To arrive at this knowledge needs thorough work. There is no guaranteeing that you will gain such knowledge at one sitting. Perhaps one in a million will. In the days of the Buddha there are people who attained to the Path and Fruit after listening to a stanza. But you can't expect such things today. It was then the Buddha himself who was teaching. He knew the disposition of his listeners very well. The listeners on their part were people of perfections. But today the preacher is just an ordinary person who preaches what little he has learnt. He does not know the disposition of his listeners. It will be difficult to say that the listeners are men and women of perfections. If they had been, they would have gained deliverance in the days of the Buddha. So we cannot guarantee you will gain special knowledge at one sitting. We can only tell you that you can if you work hard enough.
How long do we have to work? Understanding impermanence, suffering and not self begins with the investigating knowledge. But it does not come at once. It is preceded by purity of mind, purity of views, and purity of transcending doubts. To speak from the level of the present-day-meditators, a specially gifted person can achieve this knowledge in two or three days. Most will take five, six, or seven days. But they must work assiduously. Those who get slack at work may not gain it even after fifteen or twenty days have passed. So I will talk about working in earnest in the beginning.
Insight meditation is incessant work -- meditate whenever you see, hear, smell, taste, touch or think, without missing any thing. But to beginners, to note everything is quite impossible. Begin with several. It is easy to observe the moving form in the rising and falling of the abdomen. We have already spoken about it. Note without a let-up rising, falling, rising, falling. As your mindfulness and concentration grow stronger, add the sitting and the touching and note rising, falling, sitting, touching.
As you note on, ideas may come up. Note them, too: thinking, planning, knowing. They are hindrances. Unless you are rid of them, you have not got purity of mind and will not have a clear understanding of mind-matter phenomena. So, don't let them in. Note them and get rid of them.
If unbearable feelings like tiredness, hotness, pain, or itch, appear in the body, concentrate on them and note: tired, tired or hot, hot as they arise. If the desire arises to stretch or bend the limbs, note it too, desire to bend, desire to stretch. When you bend or stretch, every move should be noted: bending, bending, stretching, stretching. In the same way, when you rise, note every move. When you walk, note every step. When you sit down, note it. If you lie down, note it too.
Every bodily movement made, every thought that arises, every feeling that comes up, all must be noted. If there is nothing in particular to note, go on noting rising, falling, sitting, touching. You must note while eating or having a bath. If there are things you see or hear particularly, note them too. Except for the four-five-six hours you sleep, you keep noting things. You must try to be able to note at least one thing in a second.
If you keep on noting thus in earnest, you will, in two or three days, find your mindfulness and concentration quite strong. If not in two or three days, in five or six. Then, very rarely do wanton thoughts come up. If they do, you are able to note them the moment they come. And they pass away the moment you notice them. The object noted like the rising and falling and the mind noting it seem to be well-timed. You note with ease.
These are signs that your mindfulness and concentration have become strong. In other words, you have developed purity of mind.
Things Fall Apart
From now on, every time you note, the object noted and the mind that notes it appear two separate things. You come to know that the material form like the rising and falling is one thing and the mental state that notes it is another. Ordinarily, the material form and the mind that cognizes it do not seem separate. They seem one and the same thing. Your book knowledge tells you they are separate but your personal feeling has them as one. Shake your index finger. Do you see the mind that intends to shake? Can you distinguish between that mind and the shaking? If you are sincere, the answer will be No. But to the meditator whose mindfulness and concentration are well developed the object of attention and the awareness of it are as separate as the wall and the stone that is thrown to it.
The Buddha used the simile of the gem and the thread (D.i.72). Just as when you look at a string of lapis lazuli you know: the gem is threaded on a string; this is the gem, this is the string the gem is threaded on, so does the meditator know: this is the material form, this is the consciousness that is aware of it, which depends on it, and is related to it. The Commentary says that the conscious-ness here is the insight consciousness, insight knowledge, that observesthe material form. The lapis lazuli is the material form and the string is the consciousness that observes. The thread is in the gem as the insight awareness penetrates the material form.
When you note rising, the rising is one thing, the awareness is one thing -- only these two exist. When you note falling the falling is one, the awareness is one -- only these two. The knowledge comes clear to you of its own accord. When you lift one foot in walking, one is the lifting, the other is the awareness -- only these two exist. When you push it forward, the pushing and the awareness. When you put it down, the putting down and the awareness. Matter and awareness. These two only. Nothing else.
As your concentration improves further, you unders-tand how the material and mental things you have been noting keep passing away each in its own time. When you note rising, the form rising comes up gradually and passes away. When you note falling, the form falling comes up gradually and then passes away. You also find that the rising as well as the awareness passes away, the falling as well as the awareness passes away. With every noting you find only arising and passing away. When noting bending, one bending and the next do not get mixed up. Bends, passes away, bends, passes away -- and thus, the intention to bend, the form bending, and the awareness, come and go each in its time and place. And when you note the tiredness, hotness, and pain, these pass away as you are noting them. It becomes clear to you: they appear and then disappear, so they are impermanent.
The meditator understands for himself what the commentaries say, "They are impermanent in the sense of being nothing after becoming." This knowledge comes to him not from books nor from teachers. He understands by himself. This is real knowledge. To believe what other people say is faith. To remember out of faith is learning. It is not knowledge. You must know from your own experience. This is the important thing. Insight meditation is contemplation in order to know for yourself. You meditate, see for yourself, and know -- this alone is insight.
Regarding contemplation on impermanence the commentary says:
".... the impermanent should be
This brief statement is followed by the explanation: "Here, 'impermanent' are the Five Aggregates." You must know that the five aggregates are impermanent. Although you may not understand it by your own knowledge, you should know this much. Not only that. You should know that they are all suffering, all without a self. If you know this much, you can take up insight meditation. This understanding made by learning is given in Culatanha-sankhaya-sutta:
"If, 0 lord of devas, a monk has heard, 'All states are not fit for adherence,' he understands all the truth." -- Majjhima Nikaya i 318
To "understand" means to meditate on the mind-and-matter and be aware of it. It is the basic insight knowledge of Analytical Knowledge of Mind and Matter and the knowledge by Discerning Conditionality. So, if you have learnt that mind and matter are all impermanent, suffering and not-self, you can begin meditating from the analysis of mind and matter.
Then you can go on to higher knowledges like the Investigating knowledge.
"Understanding all the states, he comprehends all of them"
So, the least qualification required of a beginner in insight meditation is that he must have heard or learnt of the impermanent, suffering, and not-self nature of mind and matter. To Buddhists in Burma this is something they have had since childhood.
We say mind and matter are impermanent because they come to be and then pass away. If a thing never comes to be, we cannot say it is impermanent. What is that thing which never comes to be? It is a concept.
Concepts never come to be, never really exist. Take a personal name. It comes into use from the day a child is named. It appears as though it has come to be. But actually people just say it in calling him. It has never come to be, it never really exists. If you think it exists, find it.
When a child is born, the parents give it a name. Suppose a boy has been named "Master Red." Before the naming ceremony the name Master Red is unknown at all. But from the day the boy is named people begin calling him Master Red. But we can't say the name has come into being since then. The name Master Red just does not exist. Let's find it out.
Is the name Master Red in his body? On his head? On his side? On his face? No, it is not anywhere. The people have agreed to call him Master Red and that is all. If he dies, does the name die with him too? No. As long as the people do not forget it, the name will live on. So it is said, "a name or surname never gets destroyed". Only when the people forget it will the name Mastcr Red disappear. But it is not destroyed. Should someone restore it, it will come up again.
Think of the Bodhisatta's names in the Jatakas: Vessantara, Mahosadha, Mahajanaka, Vidhura, Temiya, Nemi... these names were known in the times of the stories but were lost for millions of years until the Buddha restored them. Four asankkeyyas and a hundred thousand kalpas ago the name Dipankara the Buddha and the name Sumedha the recluse were well known. They were lost to posterity afterwards. But our Buddha restored them and the names are known to us again. They will be known as long as the Buddha's teaching lasts. Once Buddhism is gone from earth these names will be forgotten too. But if a future Buddha were to speak about them again, they would become known again. So, concepts, names, are just conventions. They never exist. They have never been and they will never be. They never arise, so we can't say they "pass away." Nor can we say they are impermanent. Every concept is like that -- no existence, no becoming, no passing away, so no impermanence. Nibbana, although it is a reality, cannot be said to be impermanent because it never comes to be or passes away. It is to be regarded is permanent because it stands as peace for ever.
Realities other than Nibbana -- mind and matter -- never were in the beginning. They come into being whenever there arise causes. After coming into being they pass away. So we say these realities of mind and matter are impermanent. Take seeing, for example. In the beginning there was no seeing. But if the eye is good, the object comes up, there is light, your attention is drawn to it -- if these four causes concur, then there is seeing. Once it has risen, it passes away. No more of it. So we say seeing is impermanent. It is not very easy for an ordinary person to know that seeing is impermanent. Hearing is easier to understand. There was no hearing in the beginning. But if the ear is good, the sound comes up, there is no barrier, your attention is drawn to it -- if these four factors concur, then there is hearing. It arises and then passes away. No more of it. So we say hearing is impermanent.
Now you hear me talking. You hear one sound after another. Once you have heard them, they are gone. Listen, sound, sound, sound. When I say so, you hear it, then it is no more. When I say sound, you hear it, then it is gone. That is how they come and pass away. The same is true of other psycho-physical phenomena. They come and go. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking, bending, stretching, moving -- all come and go away. Because they keep passing away, we say they are impermanent.
Of these, the passing away of consciousness is very clear. If your mind wanders while you are noting rising, falling, you note wandering. As you note it, the wandering mind is no more. It is gone. It has not existed before. It comes about just then. Then it is gone in no time at all when noted. So we say it is impermanent. The passing away of unpleasant feelings too, is obvious. As you go on noting rising, falling, tiredness, hotness, or pain, appears somewhere in the body. If you concentrate on it and note tiredness, tiredness, etc., sometimes it disappears completely, and sometimes it disappears at least for the time you are noting. So it is impermanent. The meditator realizes its impermanent characteristic as he notes its arising and passing away.
This realization of the fleeting nature of things is Contemplation of Impermanence. It comes from your own experience. Mere reflection without personally experiencing it is no true knowledge. Without meditating you will not know what things come up and what things pass away. It is just book learning. It may be a meritorious deed, but not real insight knowledge.
Real insight knowledge is what you know for yourself by meditating on things as they come up and pass away. Here in the audience are lots of meditators who have come to this stage of knowledge. I am not speaking from my own experience alone. No, not even from the experience of forty or fifty disciples of mine. There are hundreds of them. Beginners may not have such clear knowledge yet. It is not quite easy. But it is not too difficult to achieve, either. If you work hard enough as we instruct, you can have it. If you don't, you can't. Educational degrees, distinctions, honours -- all are results of hard work. No pain, no gain. The insight knowledge of the Buddha, too, must be worked for.
As your concentration grows sharper, you will be able to see a great number of thoughts in one single act of bending or stretching of the limbs. You will see large numbers of thoughts coming up one after another as you intend to bend or stretch. The same number when you step. There arise a great number of thoughts in the twinkling of an eye. You have to note all these fleeting thoughts as they arise. If you cannot name them, just note "aware, aware." You will see that there are four, five, or ten thousands arising in succession every time you note aware. Sometimes when the awareness is so swift, even the word aware is no longer necessary. Just following them with your intellect will do.
Now a thought arises, now the mind is aware of it; now another thought arises, now the observant conscious-ness is aware of it. It is like the saying "a morsel of food, a stroke of the stick." For every thought that arises there is the observant consciousness to be aware of it. Thus aware, these arisings and passings away are made only too plain to you. The wandering mind that arises as you are noting the rising and falling of the abdomen is caught by the observing consciousness as an animal that falls direct into the snare or an object that is hit by a well-aimed stone. And once, you are aware of it, it is gone. You find it as clearly as if you were holding it in your hand. You find thus whenever consciousness arises.
When tiredness arises, you note tired, and it is gone. It comes up again, you note it again, and it is gone again. This kind of passing away will be made all the more clearer in higher insight. Tired, noted, gone; tired, noted, gone -- they pass away one by one. There is no connection between one tiredness and the next. The same with pain. Pained, noted, gone; pained, noted, gone -- each pain is gone at each noting. One pain does not mix with the other. Each pain is distinct from the other.
To ordinary people there is no interruption in tiredness or pain. It seems to tire or pain you continuously for a long time. In fact, there is no tiredness or pain for a long while. One tiredness and the next, one pain and the next, just very short pieces, very separate ones. The meditator sees this as he notes.
When you note rising, the rising comes up gradually and passes away by degrees. When you note falling, the falling comes up and passes away by degrees. Common people who are ignorant of this fact think of the rising and falling in terms of the absurd abdominal shape. So from their own experience they think the meditators too, will only be seeing the absurd abdominal shape. Some make accusations to this effect. Don't speak by guess, please. Try and see for yourselves, let us warn. If you work hard enough, you will find out.
When you note bending, you see clearly how it moves and passes, moves and passes, one moves after another. You understand now the scriptural statement that realities like mind and matter do not move from place to place. Ordinary people think it is the same hand that moves, that has been before the bending, and that will be after the bending. They think the same hand moves inwards and outwards. To them it is ever-unchanging hand. It is because they have failed to see through the continuity of matter, the way matter rises in succession. It is because they lack in the knowledge to see through. Impermanence is hidden by continuity, it is said. It is hidden because one does not meditate on what arises and passes away. Says Visuddhi-magga:
"Because the rise and fall are not attended to, the characteristic of impermanence does not appear, as long as it is hidden by continuity." -- Visuddhi-magga xxi, 781
Since the meditator is watching every rising, all things mental and material appear to him as separate, broken pieces not as things whole and unbroken. From afar ants look like a line, but nearer you see the ants one by one. The meditator sees things in broken pieces so continuity cannot hide the fact from him. The characteristic of impermanence unfolds itself to him. He is no longer illusioned.
"But when the rise and fall are grasped and continuity is broken, the characteristic of impermanence appears in its true peculiar property." -- Visuddhi-magga xxi, 781
This is how you meditate and gain the knowledge of Contemplation on Impermanence. Mere reflection without meditation will not give rise to this knowledge. Once this knowledge is made become, those on suffering and not-self follow.
"To one, Meghiya, who has perceived impermanence the perception of not-self is established." -- Anguttara Nikaya iii, 169
How will you take what you very well know to be capable of rising and passing away to be self, ego, a being? People cling to the self because they think they have been the same person the whole life. Once it is clear to you from your own experience that life is but made up of things that rise and pass away incessantly, you will not cling as self. Some obstinate persons say that this sutta is meant for Meghiya alone. This is something that should not be said. We fear others will come up who will say what the Buddha said were meant for the people of his days, not for us who live today. But the statement is found not in that sutta alone. In Sambodhi sutta the Buddha says:
"To one, monks, who has perceived impermanence the perception of not-self is established." -- Anguttara Nikaya iii, 165
And, if one realizes impermanence, one realizes suffering, too. The meditator who realizes how things are rising and passing away, can see how the two events, rising and passing away, have been oppressing him. The commentary to Sambodhi sutta says:
"When the characteristic of impermanence is seen, the characteristic of not-self is seen, too, since when one of the three characteristics is seen the other two are seen too."
So, it is very important to understand the one characteristic of impermanence.
In this connection let me tell you a story from my own experience as a preacher. It is about a meditator from my native village Hseipkhun in Shwebo district. He was none other than a cousin of mine. He was one of the first three persons to take up insight meditation in the village. The three of them agreed among themselves to work for a week first. They worked very hard. They had brought to the hermitage cigars and betel quids to be taken one each day. But when they returned from the hermitage they took home all the seven cigars and betel quids -- untouched.
So hard did they work that in three days they attained the knowledge of rising and falling and were overjoyed to experience tranquillity and see brilliance around. "Only at this old age have we discovered the truth," they spoke with great joy. Because they were the first to take up meditation I thought of letting them go with their joys and just told them to go on noting. I did not tell them not to note the joys. So, although they worked for four more days, they did not get any higher.
After a few days'rest they came again for another week of meditation. That cousin of mine then reached the stage of the knowledge of dissolution. Although he was noting rising, falling, sitting, he did not see the abdominal shape, and his body seemed to have disappeared, so he had to touch it with his hand to see if it was still there, he told me. And, whenever he looked or saw, everything seemed to be dissolving and breaking up. The ground he looked at was dissolving and so were the trees. It was all against what he had thought things to be. He began to wonder.
He had never thought such external, season-produced, gross material things like earth, trees, logs, etc, could be incessantly breaking up. He had thought they perished only after aconsiderable length of time. They lasted for quite a long time, he thought. Now, as insight knowledge gained momentum with meditation the rising and passing away of phenomena appeared to him of their own accord without his specially meditating on them. They were passing away, breaking up, there before him. It was all the reverse of his former beliefs. Perhaps his new vision was wrong. Perhaps his eye-sight was failing.
So he asked me. And I told him. The passing away and breaking up he saw in everything were true. As your insight grew sharper and quicker, things appear rising and passing away to you without your meditating on them. These are all true, I explained to him. Later on he again told me about his own findings as he progressed in insight. Today he is no more. He has long been dead.
When insight knowledge has grown really sharp, it will prevail over wrong beliefs and thoughts. You see things in their true light as impermanent, suffering, not-self. An uncultured mind or reflection without meditation cannot give you real insight into the nature of things. Only insight meditation can do that.
Once you realize impermanence, you see how they oppress you with their rising and passing away, how you can derive no pleasure from them, how they can never be a refuge, how they can perish any moment, so how they are frightening, how they are sufferings, etc.
"... ill (suffering) in the sense of fearful."
You thought, "This body will not perish so soon. It will last for quite a long time." So you took it for a great refuge. But now as you meditate you find only incessant risings and passings-away. If no new ones rise up for the mental and material things that have passed away, one dies. And this can happen any moment. To make a self out of these mental and material things that can die any moment and to take refuge in it is as dreadful a thing as sheltering in an old tumble-down house.
And you find that nothing happens as you desire. Things just follow their natural course. You thought you could go if you wished to, sit if you wished to, rise, see, hear, do anything if you wished to. Now as you meditate you find that it is not so. Mind and matter are found to be working in a pair. Only when there is intention to bend is there the form bending. Only when there is intention to stretch is there the form stretching. There is effect only when there is cause. Only when there is something to see do you see. If there is something to see, you can't help seeing it. You hear, when there is something to hear. You feel happy only when there is reason to be happy. You worry when there is cause to worry. If there is cause, there is effect.
You cannot help it. There is no thing that lives and does what it desires. There is no self, no ego, no I. Only processes of arising and passing away.
To understand clearly is the most important thing in insight meditation. Of course, you will come across joys, tranquillities, bright lights in the course of your training. They are not important things. What is important is to understand impermanence, suffering and not-self. These characteristics are made clear to you as you just keep on meditating as explained.
Peace at Last
You make things clear to you yourself. Not believing what others tell you. If any of you beginners have not had such self-made knowledge yet, know that you have not reached that stage. Work on. If others can, you can. It will not take very long. The knowledge comes to you as you are meditating. Only when you know for sure that all are impermanent, suffering and not-self will you not cling to sense objects, as permanent, happy, beautiful, good. Nor will you cling to them as self, soul, the I. All the graspings are done away with. What then? Well, all the defilements are calmed by Aryan Path and Nibbana is realized.
"One who has no grasping does not long after things. One who does not long after things is calmed in himself." -- Majjhima Nikaya ii, 318
Whenever you meditate, you have no obsession with the object noted. So, no grasping arises. There is no grasping to what you see, hear, smell, eat, touch or be aware of. They appear to rise each in its time and then pass away. They manifest themselves as impermanent. There is nothing to cling to. They oppress us with their rise and fall. They are all sufferings. There is nothing to cling to as happy, good, or beautiful. They rise and fall as is their nature, so there is nothing to cling to as self, soul, or I, that lives and lasts. All these are made very plain to you. At that the graspings are done away with. Then you realize Nibbana through Ariyan Path.
We will explain this in the light of Dependent Origination and Aggregates.
"The stopping of grasping is from the stopping of craving; the stopping of becoming is from the stopping of grasping; the stopping of birth is from the stopping of becoming; from the stopping of birth old age and dying, grief, suffering, sorrow, despair, and lamentation are stopped. Thus comes to be the stopping of this entire mass of ill" -- Majjhima Nikaya i, 337; Samyutta Nikaya ii, 1-3
One who meditates on the mental and material objects that appear at the six doors and knows their intrinsic nature of impermanence, suffering and not-self does not delight in them or cling to them. As he does not grasp them, he makes no effort to enjoy them. As he refuses to make an effort, there arises no karma called "becoming." As no karma arises, there is no new birth. When there is no new birth, there is no occasion for old age, dying, grief, etc. This is how one realizes momentary Nibbana through insight path whenever one meditates. We will explain the realization by Aryan Path later.
In Silavanta sutta earlier quoted, the venerable Sariputta explained how, if a monk of moral habit meditates on the five grasping aggregates as impermanent, suffering, and not-self, he can become a Stream-winner; if a Stream-winner meditates, he can become a Once-returner; if a Once-returner meditates, he can become a Never-returner; if a Never-returner meditates, he can become an Arahant. Here, to realize the four Aryan fruitions of Stream-winning, Once-returning, Never-returning, and Arahatship means to realize Nibbana through the four Aryan Paths.
To get to the Aryan Path one starts with insight path. And insight path begins with the analytical knowledge of mind and matter. Then one arrives at the knowledge by discerning conditionality. Then, working on, one gains the knowledge of investigation. Here one comes to enjoy reflecting on things, investigating them, and persons of considerable learning often spend a long time doing so. If you do not want to reflect or investigate, you just keep on meditating. Your awareness now becomes light and swift. You see very clearly how the things noted arise and pass away. You have come to the knowledge of rising and passing away.
At this stage noting tends to be easy. Illuminations, joys, tranquillities appear. Going through experiences unthought of before, one is thrilled with joy and happiness. At the initial stage of his work, the meditator has had to take great pains not to let the mind wander this way and that. But it has wandered and for most of the time he has not been able to meditate. Nothing has seemed all right. Some have had to fight back very hard indeed. But with strong faith in one's teachers, good intentions and determination, one has passed all these difficult stages. One has now come to the knowledge of rising and passing away. Everything is fine at this stage. Noting is easy and effortless. It is good to note, and brilliant lights appear. Rapture seizes him and causes a sort of goose-flesh in him. Both body and mind are at ease and he feels very comfortable. The objects to be noted seem to drop on one's mindfulness of their own accord. Mindfulness on its part seems to drop on the object of its own accord. Everything is there already noted. One never fails or forgets to note. On every noting the awareness is very clear. If you attend to something and reflect on it, it proves to be a plain and simple matter. If you take up impermanence, suffering and not-self, about which you have heard before, they turn out to be plainly discernible things. So you feel like preaching. You think you would make a very good preacher. But if you have had no education, you will make a poor preacher. But you feel like preaching and you can even become quite talkative. This is what is called "the ideal Nibbana" the meditators experience. It is not the real Nibbana of the Aryans. We may call it "imitation Nibbana."
"It is the immortality of the knowers."
Training in meditation is like climbing a mountain. You begin climbing from the base. Soon you get tired. You ask people who are coming down and they answer you with encouraging words like "It's nearer now." Tired, you climb on and very soon come to a resting place in the shade of a tree with a cool breeze blowing in. All your tiredness is gone. The beautiful scenery around fascinates you. You get refreshed for a further climb.
The knowledge of the rising and passing away is the resting place for you on your climb to higher insight knowledge.
Those meditators who have not yet reached this stage of knowledge may be losing hope. Days have passed and no taste of insight yet. They often get disheartened. Some leave the meditation centre with thoughts that meditation is nothing after all. They have not discovered the "meditator's Nibbana." So we instructors have to encourage newcomers to the centre with the hope that they will attain to this knowledge at least. And we ask them to work to attain to it soon. Most succeed as we advise. Then they needn't further encouragement. They are now full of faith and determination to work on till the ultimate goal.
This "meditator's Nibbana" is often spoken of as amanusi rati -- non-human delight or superhuman enjoy-ment. You derive all kinds of delights from various things -- from education, wealth, family life. The "meditator's Nibbana" surpasses all these delights. A meditator once told me that he had indulged in all kinds of worldly pleasures. But none could match the pleasure he derived from meditation. He just could not express how delightful it was.
But is that all? No, you must work on. You go on with your noting. Then, as you progress, forms and features no longer manifest themselves and you find them always disappearing. Whatever appears disappears the moment you notice it. You note seeing, it disappears swiftly. You note hearing, it disappears. Bending, stretching, again it disappears swiftly. Not only the object that comes up, the awareness of it too disappears with it in a pairwise sequence.
This is the knowledge of dissolution.
Every time you note, they dissolve swiftly. Having witnessed this for a long time, you become frightened of them. It is the knowledge of the Fearful. Then you find fault with these things that keep passing away. It is the knowledge of tribulation. Then as you meditate on, you get wearied of them. It is the knowledge of repulsion.
"So seeing all these things, the instructed disciple of the aryans disregards the material shapes, disregards feeling." -- Majjhima Nikaya i, 137; Samyutta Nikaya iii, 68
Your material body has been a delightful thing before. Sitting or rising, going or coming, bending or stretching, speaking or working, everything has seemed very nice. You have thought this material body of yours to be a dependable and delightful thing. Now that you have meditated on it and seen that everything dissolves, you no longer see your body as dependable. It is no longer delightful. It is just a dull, tiresome business.
You have enjoyed both pleasurable feelings of the body and mental pleasure. You have thought, "I am enjoying," "I feel happy." Now these feelings are no longer pleasurable. They, too, pass away as you notice them. You become wearied of them.
You have thought well of your perception. But now it too, passes away as you notice it. You feel disgusted with it as well.
Volitional activities are responsible for all your bodily, mental and vocal behaviours. To think, "I sit, I rise, I go, I act," is to cling to volitional activities. You have thought well of them, too. Now that you see them passing away, you feel repulsion for them.
You have enjoyed thinking. When newcomers to the meditation centre are told that they must not engage in thinking about things, but must keep noting, they are not at all pleased. Now you see how thoughts, ideas, come up and pass away, and you are tired of them, too. The same thing happens to your sense organs. Whatever comes up at the six doors is now a thing to disgust, to be wearied of. Some feel extreme disgust, some a considerable amount.
Then arise desires to be rid of them all. Once you are tired of them, of course you want to get rid of them. "They come and pass incessantly. They are no good. It were well if they all ceased." This is the knowledge of desire for deliverance. Where "they all ceased" is Nibbana. To desire for deliverance from them is to long for Nibbana. What must one do if he wants Nibbana? He works harder and goes on meditating. This is the knowledge of reflection. Working with special effort, the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not-self become all the more clearer to you. Especially clearer is suffering.
After reflection you come to the knowledge of indifference to formations. Now the meditator is quite at ease. Without much effort on his part the notings run smoothly and are very good. He sits down to meditate and makes the initial effort. Then everything runs its course like a clock once wound up goes on ticking of its own accord. For an hour or so he makes no change in his posture and goes on with his work without interruption. Before this knowledge there may have been disturbances. Your mind may be directed to a sound heard and thus disturbed. Your thoughts may wander off and meditation is disturbed. Painful feelings like tiredness, hotness, aches, itches, coughs, appear and disturb you. Then you have to start it all over again. But now all goes well. There are no more disturbances. Sounds you may hear but you ignore them and go on noting. Whatever comes up you note without being disturbed. There are no more wanderings of the mind. Pleasant objects may turn up but no delight or pleasure arises in you. You meet with unpleasant objects. Again you feel no displeasure or fear. Painful feelings like tiredness, hotness or aches rarely appear. If they do, they are not unbearable. Your noting gets the better of them. Itching pains and coughs disappear once you attain this knowledge. Some even get cured of serious illnesses. Even if the illnesses are not completely cured, you get some relief while noting in earnest. So for an hour or so there will be no interruption to your notings. Some can go on meditating for two or three hours without interruption. And yet you feel no weariness in body. Time passes unheeded. "It's not long yet," you think. On such a hot summer day as this it would be very fine to have attained this knowledge. While other people are groaning under the intense heat the meditator who is working in earnest with this knowledge will not be aware of the heat at all. The whole day seems to have fled in no time. It is a very good insight knowledge indeed, yet there can be dangers like excess of worry ambition, or attachment. If these cannot be removed, no progress will be made. Once they are removed, the aryan path knowledge is there to realize. How?
Every time you note rising, falling, sitting, touching, seeing, hearing, bending, stretching, and so on, there is an effort being made. This is the right effort of the Noble Eightfold Path. Then there is your mindfulness. It is right mindfulness. Then there is concentration which penetrates the object noted as well as remains fixed on it. This is right concentration. The three are called Concentration Constituents of the Path. Then there is initial application which, together with concentration, ascends on the object noted. It is the application of the concomitants on the object. Its characteristic is "lifting" of the concomitants to the object (abhiniropanalakkhana), according to the Commentary. This is right thought. Then there is the realization that the object thus attended is movement, non-cognition, seeing, cognition, impermanence and so on. This is right view. Right thought and right view together form the Wisdom Constituent of the Path. The three Morality Constituents, right speech, right action and right livelihood, have been perfected before you take up insight meditation -- when you take the precepts. Besides, there can be no wrong speech, no wrong action, or no wrong livelihood in respect of the object noted. So whenever you note, you perfect the Morality Constituents of the Path as well.
The eight constituents of the Noble Path are there in every awareness. They constitute the insight path that comes up once clinging is done away with. You have to prepare this path gradually until you reach the knowledge of indifference to formations. When this knowledge grows mature and strong, you arrive at Aryan Path in due course. It is like this:-- When the knowledge of indifference to formations has matured and grown stronger, your notings get sharper and swifter. While thus noting and becoming aware swiftly, all of a sudden you fall into the peace that is Nibbana. It is rather strange. You have no prior knowledge of it. You cannot reflect on it on arrival, either. Only after the arrival can you reflect. You reflect because you find unusual things. This is the knowledge of reflection. Then you know what has happened. This is how you realize Nibbana through the Aryan Path.
So, if you want to realize Nibbana, what is important is to work for freedom from clingings. With ordinary people clingings arise everywhere: in seeing, in hearing, in touching, in being aware. They cling to things as being permanent, as being happy, good, as soul, ego, persons. We must work for a complete freedom from these clingings. To work is to meditate on whatever rises, whatever is seen, heard, touched, thought of. If you keep meditating thus, clingings cease to be, the Aryan Path arises, leading to Nibbana. This is the process.
To Sum Up
* How is insight developed?
-- Insight is developed by meditating on the five grasping aggregates.
* Why and when do we meditate on the aggregates?
-- We meditate on the aggregates
whenever they arise in order that we may not cling to them.
These then, are the elements of insight meditation.
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Chân thành cám ơn Bác Phạm Kim Khánh đã gửi tặng bản điện tử (Bình Anson, 05-2003)