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Vipassana Meditation and Karma

Many of us are devout Buddhist into the hobby of collecting and owning votive tablets.  For some, they take this hobby as a business profession.  We shall deal with the former as a votive tablet hobbyist.  As a hobbyist in this subject matter, we always strive to learn about the purpose of making, material characteristics and compositions, temple background, market value and the usage of that particular type of votive tablet.  However, we seldom pay attention to the Law of Karma and meditation.  This subject of Karma and meditation draws our attention because we always tend to ignore the existence of suffering and seeking happiness and ignore the reality of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and non-self (anatta). 

At first it is difficult to understand the meaning of dukkha, anicca, anatta but slowly through the practice of meditation as prescribed in Vipassana instruction, the profound meaning is clearer over time.  I cannot claim that I have understood all the 3 characteristics but does help in taming the monkey mind.  

Monks that I have come across have advised that no matter how many powerful  amulets a person can hang onto their neck, there is no point if he/she does not know the result of Karma due to ignorance to the 5 Precepts namely killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, wrongful speech and intoxication.  To think about this logically, what is the point of obtaining powerful amulets from holy monks that is supposed to protect a person and yet it was abused by the same person who is using it to commit crimes. 

Because of this repeated advice on the 5 Precepts that is so crucial for attaining virtues and at the same time to ignite the protective properties of amulets, we have put up a Dharma teaching by Luang Po Jaran of Wat Amphawan expounding about Karma topic that will hopefully be of interest to readers.  This is followed by a glimpse into Vipassana meditation method for first timer by referreing to a meditation master, the late Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw.   

Vipassanā (pali) in the Buddhist tradition means insight into the nature of reality. In the Theravadin context, this entails insight into the three marks of existence of anicca, dukkha, anatta.  Vipassana is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation, attributed to Gautama Buddha whom passed away 2,552 years ago (present 2009). It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and introsepction.  In English, vipassanā meditation is often referred to simply as "insight meditation".

I ask for forgiveness from the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha for any mistakes that I may make if any in the contribution of this topic.

VIPASSANA MEDITATION EXPIATES KARMA by LP Jaran, Wat Amphawan, Singburi, Thailand

Summary: This topic is about how Vipassana meditation can defuntion bad Karma in The Law of Karma Vol. 3.

Bless the group from Dhonburi Teachers’ College and all meditators.  May you be happy and prosperous, for you have come here to practice Dhamma.

            Today I am going to teach Dhamma regarding the Law of Karma and how vipassana meditation can help you expiate karma.  Please listen carefully.

             What is the meaning of “Law of Karma”?  This law means pushing.  Karma means intended deed or doing.  The deed is different in each case of for each person.  Pushing towards a good direction is for good deed.  Vice versa, pushing towards a bad direction is for bad things we have done.

             This Law of Karma is the law of nature.  When you press something down, it will push back up.  If we receive good training and are moral, the good deed will push towards wholesomeness and wisdom.

             On the other hand, if we do not behave properly because of an ill-trained mind, it will push towards a bad side and press down until you cannot come back to the surface.

            I have many examples of what has happened according to this law.  Some people do not pay attention to merit and demerit.  They want to have a long life, a fair complexion, good  health and a successful business.  However, they have never performed good deeds to deserve a long life.  Instead, they behave badly.  They kill animals and make them suffer.  They are full of jealousy, revengefulness and malice.  I am sure they will die at a young age.

            Monks teach us that it is very difficult to be born as a human, and more difficult to be born beautiful.  You must have “nana”, wisdom and knowledge that were accumulated from past births.  You must have the virtues of man, that is, morality and the Five Precepts in order to be born with good looks.

             Some did not maintain all Five Precepts, they were born ugly and handicapped or blind or deaf or retarded.  Some become paralyzed when they get old.   Some were generous and made a lot of donations in their past birth.  In this birth, they were born in a wealthy family.  However, they also killed animals in their past birth.  Their health is bad and they have to go to hospital very often.  Money cannot help much.  Some did not build up the base of wisdom.  Even though they were born rich, they are not smart.  They could not finish a graduate degree.  This is because they did     not accumulate enough merit in their past birth.

             We have a story in Thai literature,  “Phra Sangh Thong”.  You should know that this story contains a Dhamma riddle.  A king had six foolish sons-in-law.  I regard them as foolish according to the Twelve Bases.  Their eyes were foolish because they did not acknowledge “seeing” when they saw objects.  They foolishly saw things, but did not see inside others’ habits.  They can not distinguish good from bad people.

             Ancient Thais said, “To know people, you have to look at their face; to know fabric, you have to look at the construction; to know a mat, you have to look at the weave pattern; to know man, you have to look at this father, then you will not be disappointed.”

             For you, new meditators who have just started practicing vipassana meditation, you may not be able to see through another’s habit by looking at their face.  My teacher is not just about merit and demerit, in the sense that merit is for heaven, and demerit is for hell.  We teach and guide you to vipassana meditation principle, and it can help you in expiating you karma.  Whoever utilizes and practices it regularly can expiate his karma.  If you do not  really use it, it is useless.  I compare this to chinaware on display in a cupboard.  It has never been used to serve its function.

            Our body is very useful, but we cannot make full use of it.  We use our body in an unintelligent way, that is not to our advantage.  This is a waste of our birth because we do  not get the best benefits from it.  We all have to die, so we must take merit with us for the next birth and leave noble things behind.  Whoever can practice vipassana meditation and thoroughly understand it, well realize the reason for life.  They can successfully apply it to their everyday life and solve their problem.

             Many people like to visit fortunetellers.  A fortuneteller may tell someone that they will be first in their examination.  But they fail in the examination.  The fortuneteller may tell someone that they will fail the examination.  It turns out that they place first because they had been diligent and studid hard for the examination.  We must make merit for ourselves.  Do not wait for your holoscope to bring good fortune.  We cannot be lucky from doing nothing.  Everything comes from our actions.  This is the Law of Karma.

             To build up goodness, you should keep the precepts, have concentration and develop wisdom.  Make it arise in your mind.  You will be fortunable and successful.  Good and concentrated people are diligent and have wisdom.  A wise person has a very sharp and effective mind.  The sharpness consists of these three characteristics:

             First is the sharpness inside the mind.  It does not show, but it can be revealed when there is a real need.  Second is continuous emprovement.  We go on correcting our flaws.  Third is the need for emphasis.  To make sure everything is in its proper place.  We have the three complete characteristics, that is, sila, samadhi and panna (morality, concentration and wisdom)

            A person who observes the precepts (or sila) can be compared to an architect who designs the foundation and concept of a building so that people will like it.

            A person who has concentration can be compared to an engineer who knows how to weigh and measure.  In this case, it helps us know the status of people’s mind.  We know how to deal with people who have different kinds of mind statuss.  We know the right timing and moment to behave properly.  We know the difference between merit and demerit, good and bad, advantages and disadvantages.  Engineers know the properties of things and can make a proper choice.

             Wisdom can be compared to a constructor who starts building at once.  Therefore, whoever has the quality of an architect, an engineer and a constructor all in one person can survive safely.

            Some people behaved well and had wisdom in their past birth.  For this birth, they can be prosperous, even though they were born poor.  Eventually, they will be successful, or be a minister even, because they have wisdom.

             There are many kinds of humans: cheap and expensive, good and bad, real and unreal.  For example, there is real gold and galvanized gold plate.  There are many deceptive people, but hardly any good people.

             It is diffidult to find very good and moral people, whom we can obviously see. Therefore, we must be petient and practice very hard.  Dear fellows, we can train our mind either ways: to work hard or to be lazy.  Practicing vipassana meditation can help you recall your past and realize the Law of Karma.  You can use it to solve you daily problems.

            If you regularly practice vipassana meditation, make merit, well behave, and treat the right person at the right place and time, you will certainly receive good results.  But you need to do these things continuously and regularly.  You will be good and successful in this birth without having to wait for the next birth.

            It is also important that we should not make merit at the wrong place, to the wrong kind of people and at the wrong time.  For example, doing something when the time is not proper.  It is not the proper time to speak, but you do it.  This is damaging.

            When we sit down, take a deep breath and meditate, we have already rested.  For example, we normally breathe 18 times a minutes, and 15 times a minutes when we sleep.  We also breathe 15 times a minutes during meditation.  Therefore, we can get the same rest.  You will not be tired, but  have strong power of mind.  You can fight with difficulties and problems.

            Therefore, the meaning of vipassana meditation is action that makes the body the base of mindfulness.  When you practice hard enough until you gain Insight Dhamma and your mind is established in morality and concentration, you can have purity of mind.

            You will recall your birth and your parents’ kindness and feel grateful for your father, your mother, your grandparents, your teachers and others who  have been kind to you.

            The wise teach us that we do not have to keep a record when we give something to others, but we have to remember when others give us something.  We must remember even it is just one glass of water and be grateful for it.  This feeling happens to meditators who effectively practice vipassana meditation. 

            When we make merit and do not want anything in return, it will eventually come back to us.  Wealth, success and prosperity will come to you.  Whatever we want to do, we will be successful.  We will have good and happy surroundings.  There will be no quarrel among us.

             This may be difficult for some to do because it is against their habits.  They look good physically but not their habits.  Some understand or believe that people are alike.  That is not true.  We are different from each other because of the Law of Karma.

            We dress diferently because we have different taste.  It is unpleasant to use things that are not of our taste.  If we get used to doing something, and then we have to do something else, we will not be able to do it.  This is normal because the Law of Karma differentiates all beings.

             Where does the Law of Karma come from?  I have reviewed it and want to explain it to you.  We can understand this from acknowledging, such as “perceiving”, “knowing”, “thinking”, “understanding”, and realizing our defilements.  Whether you are clever and foolish, you can realize this fact because it is up to the six sense-fields, that is, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body and the mind.

             Cleverness and wisdom depends on eyes and ears.  Can you acknowledge continuously?  No, you cannot if you do not know what you are acknowledging and do not have real understanding.

            You learn how to practice vipassana meditation here so that you have a foundation and it becomes your habit.  You can continue doing it in the future.  Later, you can solve you problems by acknowledging.  You should set your mind at your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind respectively.  Cleveness or foolishness is up to these sense-fields.  The Five Aggregates, the corporeality and the mentality are also the base here.

            Therefore, we know our actions by looking at ourselves.  We make merit and practice vipassana meditation very hard until we accumulate enough credits.  We know that we used to violate the first precept in the past, that is we had a habit of killing, we definitely have to pay the debt in this birth.

            What kind of debt do we have to pay?  It means that we may be hit by a car or killed or framed for something we did not do.  It will be told to us in advance.  I have had the experience myself.  For example, we used to violate the first precept in the past, and had a habit of killing, we will realize when and how we are going to die.  It may be a car accident or a shooting.  It may be suffering or losing limbs or becoming paralyzed. We will know the event ahead of time.

            If it can tell us, then it can also tell about others.  For example, if we learn English from a school, we can read and understand it.  Therefore, we can read and understand English anywhere else.

            We are able to know the Law of Karma that happens to others from acknowledging “perceiving”.  This man is sinful by killing.  From the Law of Karma, he will later be paralyzed.  He will have an accident.  That man will be hit by a car and die.  This is very useful for anybody who can successfully practice vipassana meditation.

            If we practice vipassana meditation, we will know the Law of Karma when we have vedana.  If a person can deal with vedana and acknowledge it until the vedana passes, he will know the reason for his vedana.  What kind of karma he accumulated.  It will become clear.  There are several examples of which I have known.

            The second precept prohibites us from stealing or taking others’ belongings.  Some people commit killing and stealing.  They steal money and take everything they can.  They accumulate bad habits.  One example is a rich man who picked up everything he could from the houses of others when he visited them.  Even though he had a lot of money,  he stole from others who were poor.

            Like a computer, the Law of Karma will tell us that this person will be robbed whenever he has money or his house will be burnt down.  I have warned some people, and I have never been wrong about it.

            “Have you ever boon robbed?”

            “No, Luang Poh”, she answered.

            Therefore, she should be careful and prepared for fire.  Later, it came true, that her house burnt down are she was also bankrupt.

            This is why you should heartily practice vipassana meditation and you can see the truth.  If you do not practice earnestly, how can you see the truth?  You must see it from inside yourself, then you can see the outside.  When we know our sins or karma that we committed in the past, we will accept the penalty and willingly pay the debt.  The mind can forgive and can accept the penalty.  There is no problem about this.

            The third precept prohibits us from sexual misconduct.  If we meditate and know what that in a past birth we had ever been bad by committing adultery, when there are several thoughts for this kind of event.

            In the birth we suffer because of an unhappy family life.  Our husbands change and become someone else.  Wives commit adultery.  The family breaks apart because of fighting.  Your sprouse becomes your rival.  You have to divorce even though you have children.  You will be separated.  This happens because of our past actions.

            In several past births, a certain man was very bad.  He raped women and made their lives miserable.  In this birth, he was born as a female and become a prositute and died from venereal disease.  There are some true cases that I have noted.

            The fourth percept prohibits us from telling lies.  This precept includes improper speech, such as talking non-sense and using bad words.  All this bad speech clings to the consciousness to the next birth.  It is sure that someone will cheat you out of your money or property.  Who did this thing to you?  They are your relatives or friends who will do the work according to the Law of Karma.  You must not try to recover those things that are taken from you.  You have cheated others in the past.

            The fifth precept prohibits us from drinking alcohol and using addicting substances.  If you meditate, you can recall whether you took those substances in your pass birth.  If you use to violate this percept in the past, and did it on a regular basis, I guarantee that you do not have to study anything because you are not able to.  You will be retarted or will not be able to finish even secondary school.  This is true.

            We have to expiate our karma.  We have the sin of killing that is attached to us from a past birth.  We will have to pay the debt in the future, even though now we are healthy and not paralyzed.  We can help ourselves by making merit and practicing vipassana meditation.

             We make donations, maintain the five precepts and meditate.  We always chant and regularly purify our mind.  Ask that karma be defunct and radiate loving-kindness and virtue from our moral conduct to all beings that we had treated badly in the past.  We may or may not recall our bad actions.  In case we cannot recall them, we ask for forgiveness or ask that karma be defunct.  These actions can relieve the debt.  I myself, am one example of this.

            I knew six months in advance that I would have a fatat accident.  I asked that karma be defunct every day.  I broke the necks of several birds when I was a kid.  I said, “Dear birds, I was young and did not know what was proper.  Please forgive me and decrease the penalty.”  It is like confessing to the court.

            The court will be kind to us because we make their work easier.  So, they decrease the penalty by 60%.  We may not die.  However, I got ready and went on the trip that day and had a near-fatal car accident.  My neck was broken.  I survived.  I vowed that I would finish paying all my debts within this birth.  I came back to pay the debts.  I did not deny the charge, but its severity was less.  This is how vipassana meditation expiates karma.  We have to know it by ourselves.

            Dear fellow meditators, if you have vedana, you must fight it and be able to acknowledge it.  For a stomachche, leg pain, or any pain, acknowledge “pain”.  You must face it even if it is so painful  that you feel like you are going to die.  Soon you will recall the karma that you did in the past to cause it.  You will feel relief and glad that you can expiate that karma by radiating loving-kindness and asking that karma be dufunct.  I did not deny any charge.  This is how vipassana meditation expiates karma.

            If you quit after having vedana, you cannot correct your karma.  Here is an example.  An instructor from Khon Kaen learned to practice vipassana meditation at this temple when she was a student at Ayudhya Teachers’ College.  The vipassana meditation instructor taught her how to acknowledge “pain”.  She did it when she had terrible leg pain.  It did not disappear.  So she told her instructor, Mrs. Yupin, who was my student.  Mrs. Yupin suggested her to keep on acknowledging the pain.  On the third day, she could recall that she had broken the legs of the frogs when she was in second grade.  She did it to living frogs and also put salt on them.  She acknowledged the pain and asked that karma be defunct.  She radiated loving-kindness and the merit from her good deeds to those beings.  Her leg pain became less and eventually disappeared.  This is how vipassana meditation expiates karma.

            She said that she broke the right leg of the frog and her right legs was in pain.  She accepted the cruelty she inflicted that the frogs must have had the same pain.  She had to pay the debt by having the same pain.  She kept on acknowledging that pain and suffered from the pain until the meditation time was up she radiates loving-kindness and asked that karma be defunct.  She did not experience the leg pain anymore.  This is how vipassana meditation expiates karma.

            Another example concerns a seventy-year old man who lived beside this temple.  He practiced vipassana meditation here and had terrible pain in his eyes.  He said that it was like a sharp stick piercing pain in his eyes.  He had terrible pain.  I told him to acknowledge the pain, that there was really nobody stabbing him in the eyes.

           “Think of the virtues of the Buddha, the virtues of the Dhamma and the virtues of the Sangha,” I told him.

            Later he had a mental image.  When he was a healthy young man, he stole bamboo shoots from this temple, and smashing the shoots that he could not take with him.  Those shoots became rotten.  This was why he had so much pain in his eyes.  When he recalled his karma, he asked that kamra be defunct.  The monks heard his pleas and forgive him.  His pain disappeared.  This is how vipassana meditaiton expiates karma.

            Some people do not realize the important of this practice.  They quit when they feel pain.  They love comfort.  I guarantee that they will not know the Law of Karma.  You cannot fault me, that I have not told you the truth.  I have had experience myself.  Therefore, I remind meditators about this important practice.

            Are you working earnestly?  If you practice earnestly, you will get as a good result as the student from Ayudhya Teachers’ College.  She is now making good progress in her career.

            Talking about the Teachers’ College, it is not necessary that you be a teacher after you graduate from the Teachers’ College.  You can work at some other job, apply your knowledge and experience progress in your career.  The courses you take at the Teachers’ College are very important because they are core courses that you should study.

            There was a sergeant who learned vipassana meditation here and practice earnestly.  Later he received a Bachelor’s degree in education and was promoted to a lieutenant.  I had a chance to talk to the Director of the Directorate of Military Education and Training about him.  He is now a captain.

            Vipassana meditation is very useful to you, soldiers, no matter in what division you are.  If you do not practice earnestly, you will not realize its advantages.  Then, I cannot help you.  Vipassana meditation can reveal the Law of Karma.  It helps you expiate your karma.

            A person who owes something to others and cannot repay all the debt will not be successful.  Some earn a lot of money, but cannot save some.  No matter how hard they work, they do not have savings.  They do not know how the money leaks away.

            I looked at such a man and suggested to him to practice vipassana meditation, we knew that he had done so many cruel deeds and karma and still owed for it.  He recalled his debts, asked that karma be defunct and radiated loving-kindness and the merit of his good deeds to his enemies.  After that he could begin to save money and became rich.  This is what I want to tell you.  You cannot be success if you still owe someone and do not pay all the debt.

            “What kind of karma do I have?”, someone asked me.

            “You should practice vipassana meditation and you will know for yourself.”

            “Oh! I don’t have time.  I am very busy.”

             But she could visit her friends and gossip.  She had time to do bad things, but no time to do good things.  I agree that everybody cannot be equally good.  It is up to the virtue that one  has accumulated.  It is difficult for a person who is not endowed with the merits of past deeds to practice vipassana meditation.  I feel sympathy for them.

            It is very difficult to persuade someone to make merit.  I think the reason is because the person does not have virtue and is not endowed with the merits of past deeds.  Do not blame them because they do not have virtue.  You cannot ask them to practice vipassana meditation and they cannot meditate.

            I want to give one more example of how vipassana meditation helped a second lieutenant expiate his karma.  He was married and had two daugthers, but he was womanizer who cheated and took advantage of many women.  In 1957, he was ordained as a monk at this temple.

            “Lieutenant, I want to ask you to stop being a womanizer after you leave the monkhood”, I said to him.

            “Oh! Luang Poh, there is no way I will do that because I do not believe in karma.  I just have fun with them.  There is nothing after we die.  There is no next birth.  I do not have faith in this kind of story.  I ordained here only because of my mother.  She wanted me to ordain after I graduate from the Army Academy.  However, I was married before I could ordain,” he answered.

            “Well! It is all right if you do not believe me.  Listen carefully.  It is all right if you do not have any daughters,” I said.

            “Oh! I have two daughters,” he answered.

            “Note it down, in case you have more daughters.”

            When his time as a monk was over, he left the monkhood.  I did not see him for many decades.  One day,, he and his wife, who was a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, visited me.  He was a colonel.  They had two sons and three daughters.  Please listen carefully and think about his story.

            What happened to his daughters.  They all finished high school, but did not go to college.  They were lost because of the Law of Karma, because of their father.  When they had problems and came to their father, he mistreated them.  They turned to their mother, but she taught them harshly and scolded them.

            They left home and earned a living by singing at hotels and doing other things that were very shameful for the family, though the two sons were all right.  This is the Law of Karma.

            The situation was so bad that the couple could not bear it, so they came to this temple full of tears.  The reason that they came here was he had recalled what I had said in 1957.  He notes that it was up to him to believe in Luang Poh’s warning that he should stop being a womanizer, otherwise his daughters would be deflowered.

            The paid respect to me by making five-point prostration, and told me their problem.

            “Do you want to solve this problem?  If you want to, both of you should take leave from work and practice vipassana meditation for seven days.  Radiate the loving-kindness to your daugthers and request that karma be defunct.  Do it every day.  Never scold them anymore,” I told them.

            “When your daughters came back, do not talk about the past.  Do forget the past and start the new.  Have them continue studying at university,” I asked.

            Later I heard that their daughters come back one after the other.  The parents did not blame them.  They all continued their education at Ramkumhaeng University and graduated with Bachelor’s degree.  Now they have good jobs.  They also learned to practice vipassana meditation here.

            Some make a lot of money but cannot save any.  There is always some cuase for spending their money.  This is because they have not paid their karmic debt.  They constantly have to pay a debt and so can save nothing.  Do not be sorry.

            There is no need to visit a fortuneteller.  We can take charge of our lives by maintaining mindfulness.  Even though the mind is as quick as a monkey, we have Dhamma in our hearts.  We are sincere, good, friendly and respectable.  This is the effect of the virtue that makes our hearts at peace and in serenity.  It comes form our good deeds.  People who do not have virtue cannot do this because it takes a lot of effort to do good deeds.  To be good, you must be able to withstand hardship and be self-control.  If you cannot be self-control, you cannot be successful no matter where you are.  Even though you are ordained, you cannot be a good monk or nun.

            You cannot be good if you cannot be self-control.  You let yourself float along with the wind and the tide.  You have done everything that satisfies yourself for a long time.  Therefore, you cannot get good results.  This is what I mean.

            There are many stories, but the time is up.  I suggest that all meditators work hard and be patient.  Practice walking meditation and continue with sitting meditation.

            One final example is that of Mr. Jalor, a physician who practiced vipassana meditation here at the same time as Mrs, yai, who was my student.  He could recalled his past birth before he reached his eighty-four hour meditative attainment.  He was born at a village in Ratchaburi.  The villagers were a minority tribe called Mon.  In that life, he killed someone at Erawan Water Fall.  After he recalled his past birth, he went into the meditative attainment and forgot about this.  I noted everything down and knew that he would later die at that same place.

            Do not forget the Law of Karma.  In his past birth, Mr. Jalor killed someone at a hut in Tambon Tahpudsa, Amphur Srisawat, Changwat Karnchanaburi.  Later, we heard that he had been killed at the same place.

            Please remember the Law of Karma.  Whatever you do, please do it earnestly.  You will get real and fruitful results according to the Law of Karma that I have explained to you today.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

 

Instructions to Insight Meditation  

by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw

                  

(The following is a talk by the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw Agga Maha Pandita U Sobhana given to his disciples on their induction into Vipassana Meditation at Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre, Rangoon, Burma. It was translated from the Burmese by U Nyi Nyi )

 

 

The practice of Vipassana or Insight Meditation is the effort made by the meditator to understand correctly the nature of the psycho-physical phenomena taking place in his own body. Physical phenomena are the things or objects which one clearly perceives around one. The whole of one's body that one clearly perceives constitutes a group of material qualities (rupa). Psychical or mental phenomena are acts of consciousness or awareness (nama). These (nama-rupas) are clearly perceived to be happening whenever they are seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, or thought of. We must make ourselves aware of them by observing them and noting thus: `Seeing, seeing', `hearing, hearing', `smelling smelling', `tasting, tasting', `touching, touching', or `thinking, thinking.' Every time one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, or thinks, one should make a note of the fact. But in the beginning of one's practice, one cannot make a note of every one of these happenings. One should, therefore, begin with noting those happenings which are conspicuous and easily perceivable.

With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls, which movement is always evident. This is the material quality known as vayodhatu (the element of motion). One should begin by noting this movement, which may be done by the mind intently observing the abdomen. You will find the abdomen rising when you breathe in, and falling when you breathe out. The rising should be noted mentally as `rising', and the falling as `falling'. If the movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Do not alter the manner of your breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not breathe too vigorously, either. You will tire if you change the manner of your breathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note it mentally, not verbally. 1   

In vipassana meditation, what you name or say doesn't matter. What really matters is to know or perceive. While noting the rising of the abdomen, do so from the beginning to the end of the movement just as if you are seeing it with your eyes. Do the same with the falling movement. Note the rising movement in such a way that your awareness of it is concurrent with the movement itself. The movement and the mental awareness of it should coincide in the same way as a stone thrown hits the target. Similarly with the failing movement.

Your mind may wander elsewhere while you are noting the abdominal movement. This must also be noted by mentally saying `wandering, wandering.' When this has been noted once or twice, the mind stops wandering, in which case you go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. If the mind reaches somewhere, note as `reaching, reaching.' Then go back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. If you imagine meeting somebody, note as `meeting, meeting.' Then back to the rising and falling. If you imagine meeting and talking to somebody, note as `talking, talking.'

In short, whatever thought or reflection occurs should be noted. If you imagine, note as `imagining'. If you think, `thinking'. If you plan, `planning'. If you perceive, `perceiving'. If you reflect, `reflecting'. If you feel happy, `happy'. If you feel bored, `bored'. If you feel glad, `glad'. If you feel disheartened, `disheartened'. Noting all these acts of consciousness is called cittanupassana.

Because we fail to note these acts of consciousness, we tend to identify them with a person or individual. We tend to think that it is `I' who is imagining, thinking, planning, knowing (or perceiving). We think that there is a person who from childhood onwards has been living and thinking. Actually, no such person exists. There are instead only these continuing and successive acts of consciousness. That is why we have to note these acts of consciousness and know them for what they are. That is why we have to note each and every act of consciousness as it arises. When so noted, it tends to disappear. We then go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

When you have sat meditating for long, sensations of stiffness and heat will arise in your body. These are to be noted carefully too. Similarly with sensations of pain and tiredness. All of these sensations are dukkhavedana (feeling of unsatisfactoriness) and noting them is vedananupassana. Failure or omission to note these sensations makes you think, ``I am stiff, I am feeling hot, I am in pain. I was all right a moment ago. Now I am uneasy with these unpleasant sensations.'' The identification of these sensations with the ego is mistaken. There is really no `I' involved, only a succession of one new unpleasant sensation after another.

It is just like a continuous succession of new electrical impulses that light up electric lamps. Every time unpleasant contacts are encountered in the body, unpleasant sensations arise one after another. These sensations should be carefully and intently noted, whether they are sensations of stiffness, of heat or of pain. In the beginning of the yogi's meditational practice, these sensations may tend to increase and lead to a desire to change his posture. This desire should be noted, after which the yogi should go back to noting the sensations of stiffness, heat, etc.

`Patience leads to Nibbana', as the saying goes. This saying is most relevant in meditational effort. One must be patient in meditation. If one shifts or changes one's posture too often because one cannot be patient with the sensation of stiffness or heat that arises, samadhi (good concentration) cannot develop. If samadhi cannot develop, insight cannot result and there can be no attainment of magga (the path that leads to Nibbana), phala (the fruit of that path) and Nibbana. That is why patience is needed in meditation. It is patience mostly with unpleasant sensations in the body like stiffness, sensations of heat and pain, and other sensations that are hard to bear. One should not immediately give up one's meditation on the appearance of such sensations and change one's meditational posture. One should go on patiently, just noting as `stiffness, stiffness' or `hot, hot'. Moderate sensations of these kinds will disappear if one goes on noting them patiently. When concentration is good and strong, even intense sensations tend to disappear. One then reverts to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

One will of course have to change one's posture if the sensations do not disappear even after one has noted them for a long time, and if on the other hand they become unbearable. One should then begin noting as `wishing to change, wishing to change.' If the arm rises, note as `rising, rising.' If it moves, note as `moving, moving'. This change should be made gently and noted as `rising, rising', `moving, moving' and `touching, touching'. If the body sways, `swaying, swaying.' If the foot rises, `rising, rising'. If it moves, `moving, moving'. If it drops, `dropping, dropping.' If there is no change, but only static rest, go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. There must be no intermission in between, only contiguity between a preceding act of noting and a succeeding one, between a preceding samadhi (state of concentration) and a succeeding one, between a preceding act of intelligence and a succeeding one. Only then will there be successive and ascending stages of maturity in the yogi's state of intelligence. Magga-Nana and Phala-nana (knowledge of the path and its fruition) are attained only when there is this kind of gathering momentum. The meditative process is like that of producing fire by energetically and unremittingly rubbing two sticks of wood together so as to attain the necessary intensity of heat (when the flame arises).

In the same way, the noting in vipassana meditation should be continual and unremitting, without any resting interval between acts of noting whatever phenomena may arise. For instance, if a sensation of itchiness intervenes and the yogi desires to scratch because it is hard to bear, both the sensation and the desire to get rid of it should be noted, without immediately getting rid of the sensation by scratching.

If one goes on perseveringly noting thus, the itchiness generally disappears, in which case one reverts to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. If the itchiness does not in fact disappear, one has of course to eliminate it by scratching. But first, the desire to do so should be noted. All the movements involved in the process of eliminating this sensation should be noted, especially the touching, pulling and pushing, and scratching movements, with an eventual reversion to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

Every time you make a change of posture, you begin with noting your intention or desire to make the change, and go on to noting every movement closely, such as rising from the sitting posture, raising the arm, moving and stretching it. You should make the change at the same time as noting the movements involved. As your body sways forward, note it. As you rise, the body becomes light and rises. Concentrating your mind on this, you should gently note as `rising, rising'.

The yogi should behave as if he were a weak invalid. People in normal health rise easily and quickly or abruptly. Not so with feeble invalids, who do so slowly and gently. The same is the case with people suffering from `back-ache' who rise gently lest the back hurt and cause pain.

So also with meditating yogis. They have to make their changes of posture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness, concentration and insight be good. Begin therefore with gentle and gradual movements. When rising, the yogi must do so gently like an invalid, at the same time noting as `rising, rising'. Not only this: though the eye sees, the yogi must act as if he does not see. Similarly when the ear hears. While meditating, the yogi's concern is only to note. What he sees and hears are not his concern. So whatever strange or striking things he may see or hear, he must behave as if he does not see or hear them, merely noting carefully.

When making bodily movements, the yogi should do so gradually as if he were a weak invalid, gently moving the arms and legs, bending or stretching them, bending down the head and bringing it up. All these movements should be made gently. When rising from the sitting posture, he should do so gradually, noting as `rising, rising.' When straightening up and standing, note as `standing, standing'. When looking here and there, note as `looking, seeing'. When walking note the steps, whether they are taken with the right or the left foot. You must be aware of all the successive movements involved, from the raising of, the foot to the dropping of it. Note each step taken, whether with the right foot or the left foot. This is the manner of noting when one walks fast.

It will be enough if you note thus when walking fast and walking some distance. When walking slowly or doing the cankama walk (walking up and down), three movements should be noted in each step: when the foot is raised, when it is pushed forward, and when it is dropped. Begin with noting the raising and dropping movements. One must be properly aware of the raising of the foot. Similarly, when the foot is dropped, one should be properly aware of the `heavy' falling of the foot.

One must walk, noting as `raising, dropping' with each step. This noting will become easier after about two days. Then go on to noting the three movements as described above, as `raising, pushing forward, dropping'. In the beginning, it will suffice to note one or two movements only, thus `right step, left step' when walking fast and `raising, dropping' when walking slowly. If when walking thus, you want to sit down, note as 'wanting to sit down, wanting to sit down.' When actually sitting down, note concentratedly the `heavy' falling of your body.

When you are seated, note the movements involved in arranging your legs and arms. When there are no such movements, but just a stillness (static rest) of the body, note the rising and falling of the abdomen. While noting thus and if stiffness of your limbs and sensation of heat in any part of your body arise, go on to note them. Then back to `rising, falling'. While noting thus and if a desire to lie down arises, note it and the movements of your legs and arms as you lie down. The raising of the arm, the moving of it, the resting of the elbow on the floor, the swaying of the body, the stretching of legs, the listing of the body as one slowly prepares to lie down, all these movements should be noted.

To note as you lie down thus is important. In the course of this movement (that is, lying down), you can gain a distinctive knowledge (that is, magga-nana and phala-nana the knowledge of the path and its fruition). When samadhi (concentration) and nana (insight) are strong, the distinctive knowledge can come at any moment. It can come in a single `bend' of the arm or in a single `stretch' of the arm. Thus it was that the Venerable Ananda became an arahat.

The Ven. Ananda was trying strenuously to attain Arahatship overnight on the eve of the first Buddhist council. He was practising the whole night the form of vipassana meditation known as kiyagatasati, noting his steps, right and left, raising, pushing forward and dropping of the feet; noting, happening by happening, the mental desire to walk and the physical movement involved in walking. Although this went on till it was nearly dawn, he had not yet succeeded in attaining Arahatship. Realizing that he had practised the walking meditation to excess and that, in order to balance samadhi (concentration) and viriya (effort), he should practise meditation in the lying posture for a while, he entered his chamber. He sat on the couch and then lay himself down. While doing so and noting `lying, lying,' he attained Arahatship in an instant.

The Ven. Ananda was only a sotapanna (that is, a stream winner or one who has attained the first stage on the path to Nibbana) before he thus lay himself down. From sotapannahood, he continued to meditate and reached sakadagamihood (that is, the condition of the once-returner or one who has attained the second stage on the path), anagamihood (that is, the state of the non-returner or one who has attained the third stage on the path) and arahatship (that is, the condition of the noble one who has attained the last stage on the path.) Reaching these three successive stages of the higher path took only a little while. Just think of this example of the Ven. Ananda's attainment of arahatship. Such attainment can come at any moment and need not take long.

That is why the yogi should note with diligence all the time. He should not relax in his noting, thinking "this little lapse should not matter much.'' All movements involved in lying down and arranging the arms and legs should be carefully and unremittingly noted. If there is no movement, but only stillness (of the body), go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. Even when it is getting late and time for sleep, the yogi should not go to sleep yet, dropping his noting. A really serious and energetic yogi should practise mindfulness as if he were forgoing his sleep altogether. He should go on meditating till he falls asleep. If the meditation is good and has the upper hand, he will not fall asleep. If, on the other hand, drowsiness has the upper hand, he will fall asleep. When he feels sleepy, he should note as `sleepy, sleepy'; if his eyelids droop, `drooping'; if they become heavy or leaden, `heavy'; if the eyes become smarting, `smarting'. Noting thus, the drowsiness may pass and the eyes become `clear' again.

The yogi should then note as `clear, clear' and go on to note the rising and falling of the abdomen. However, perseveringly the yogi may go on meditating, if real drowsiness intervenes, he does fall asleep. it is not difficult to fall asleep; in fact, it is easy. If you meditate in the lying posture, you gradually become drowsy and eventually fall asleep. That is why the beginner in meditation should not meditate too much in the lying posture. He should meditate much more in the sitting and walking postures of the body. But as it grows late and becomes time for sleep, he should meditate in the lying position, noting the rising and falling movements of the abdomen. He will then naturally (automatically) fall asleep.

The time he is asleep is the resting time for the yogi. But for the really serious yogi, he should limit his sleeping time to about four hours. This is the `midnight time' permitted by the Buddha. Four hours' sleep is quite enough. If the beginner in meditation thinks that four hours' sleep is not enough for health, he may extend it to five or six hours. Six hours' sleep is clearly enough for health.

When the yogi awakens, he should at once resume noting. The yogi who is really bent on attaining magga-nana and phala-nana, should rest from meditational effort only when he is asleep. At other times, in his waking moments, he should be noting continually and without rest. That is why, as soon as he awakens, he should note the awakening state of his mind as `awakening, awakening.' If he cannot yet make himself aware of this, he should begin noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

If he intends to get up from bed, he should note as `intending to get up, intending to get up.' He should then go on to note the changing movements he makes as he arranges his arms and legs. When he raises his head and rises, note as `rising, rising'. When he is seated; note as `sitting, sitting.' If he makes any changing movements as he arranges his arms and legs, all of these movements should also be noted. If there are no such changes, but only a sitting quietly, he should revert to noting the rising and falling movements of the abdomen.

One should also note when one washes one's face and when one takes a bath. As the movements involved in these acts are rather quick, as many of them should be noted as possible. There are then acts of dressing, of tidying up the bed, of opening and closing the door; all these should also be noted as closely as possible.

When the yogi has his meal and looks at the meal-table, he should note as `looking, seeing, looking, seeing.' When he extends his arm towards the food, touches it, collects and arranges it, handles it and brings it to the mouth, bends his head and puts the morsel of food into his mouth, drops his arm and raises his head again, all these movements should be duly noted.

(This way of noting is in accordance with the Burmese way of taking a meal. Those who use fork and spoon or chopsticks should note the movements in an appropriate manner.)

When he chews the food, he should note as `chewing, chewing'. When he comes to know the taste of the food, he should note as `knowing, knowing'. As he relishes the food and swallows it, as the food goes down his throat, he should note all these happenings. This is how the yogi should note as he takes one morsel after another of his food. As he takes his soup, all the movements involved such as extending of the arm, handling of the spoon and scooping with it and so on, all these should be noted. To note thus at meal-time is rather difficult as there are so many things to observe and note. The beginning yogi is likely to miss several things which he should note, but he should resolve to note all. He cannot of course help it if he overlooks and misses some, but as his samadhi (concentration) becomes strong, he will be able to note closely all these happenings.

Well, I have mentioned so many things for the yogi to note. But to summarise, there are only a few things to note. When walking fast, note as `right step', `left step', and as `raising, dropping' when walking slowly. When sitting quietly, just note the rising and falling of the abdomen. Note the same when you are lying, if there is nothing particular to note. While noting thus and if the mind wanders, note the acts of consciousness that arise. Then back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. Note also the sensations of stiffness, pain and ache, and itchiness as they arise. Then back to the rising and falling of the abdomen. Note also, as they arise, the bending and stretching and moving of the limbs, bending and raising of the head, swaying and straightening of the body. Then back to the rising and falling of the abdomen.

As the yogi goes on noting thus, he will be able to note more and more of these happenings. In the beginning, as his mind wanders here and there, the yogi may miss noting many things. But he should not be disheartened. Every beginner in meditation encounters the same difficulty, but as he becomes more practised, he becomes aware of every act of mind-wandering till eventually the mind does not wander any more. The mind is then riveted on the object of its attention, the act of mindfulness becoming almost simultaneous with the object of its attention such as the rising and falling of the abdomen. (In other words the rising of the abdomen becomes concurrent with the act of noting it, and similarly with the falling of the abdomen.)

The physical object of attention and the mental act of noting are occurring as a pair. There is in this occurrence no person or individual involved, only this physical object of attention and the mental act of noting occurring as a pair. The yogi will in time actually and personally experience these occurrences. While noting the rising and falling of the abdomen he will come to distinguish the rising of the abdomen as physical phenomenon and the mental act of noting of it as mental phenomenon; similarly with the falling of the abdomen. Thus the yogi will distinctly come to realize the simultaneous occurrence in pair of these psycho-physical phenomena.

Thus, with every act of noting, the yogi will come to know for himself clearly that there are only this material quality which is the object of awareness or attention and the mental quality that makes a note of it. This discriminating knowledge is called namarupa-pariccheda-nana, the beginning of the vipassana-nana. It is important to gain this knowledge correctly. This will be succeeded, as the yogi goes on, by the knowledge that distinguishes between the cause and its effect, which knowledge is called paccayapariggaha-nana.

As the yogi goes on noting, he will see for himself that what arises passes away after a short while. Ordinary people assume that both the material and mental phenomena go on lasting throughout life, that is, from youth to adulthood. In fact, that is not so. There is no phenomenon that lasts for ever. All phenomena arise and pass away so rapidly that they do not last even for the twinkling of an eye. The yogi will come to know this for himself as he goes on noting. He will then become convinced of the impermanency of all such phenomena. Such conviction is called aniccanupassana-nana.

This knowledge will be succeeded by dukkhanupassana-nana, which realises that all this impermanency is suffering. The yogi is also likely to encounter all kinds of hardship in his body, which is just an aggregate of sufferings. This is also dukkhanupassana-nana. Next, the yogi will become convinced that all these psycho-physical phenomena are occurring of their own accord, following nobody's will and subject to nobody's control. They constitute no individual or ego-entity. This realisation is anattanupassana-nana.

When, as he goes on meditating, the yogi comes to realise firmly that all these phenomena are anicca, dukkha and anatta, he will attain Nibbana. All the former Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas realised Nibbana following this very path. All meditating yogis should recognise that they themselves are now on this sati-patthana path, in fulfilment of their wish for attainment of magga-nana (knowledge of the path), phala-nana (knowledge of the fruition of the path) and Nibbana-dhamma, and following the ripening of their parami (perfection of virtue). They should feel glad at this and at the prospect of experiencing the noble kind of samadhi (tranquillity of mind brought about by concentration) and nana (supramundane knowledge or wisdom) experienced by the Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas and which they themselves have never experienced before.

It will not be long before they will experience for themselves the magga-nana, phala-nana and Nibbana-dhamma experienced by the Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas. As a matter of fact. these may be experienced in the space of a month or of twenty or fifteen days of their meditational practice. Those whose parami is exceptional may experience these dhammas even within seven days. The yogi should therefore rest content in the faith that he will attain these dhammas in the time specified above, that he will be freed of sakkaya-ditthi (ego-belief) and vicikiccha (doubt or uncertainty) and saved from the danger of rebirth in the nether worlds. He should go on with his meditational practice in this faith. May you all be able to practise meditation well and quickly attain that Nibbana which the Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas have experienced!

Sadhu! (well said) Sadhu! Sadhu!