I. Meditating while in the sitting position
I will first explain about meditating while in the sitting position. First you must pick a quiet and peaceful place. Then, choose the most comfortable posture which will enable you to sit for quite some time. You may sit with your knees bent under you or you may sit cross legged, but you must choose a posture which will enable you to meditate for a long time. After you are satisfied with your sitting posture, keep your back and head straight. Then, close your eyes and focus your attention on you abdomen.
When you inhale or breathe in, the abdomen Rises or Expands. You must note this rising with close concentration so that your mind is pinpointed on it from the start of the Rising, as it rises in stages, to the end of the rising without your mind wandering anywhere and note as: "Rising".
When you exhale or breathe out, the abdomen Contracts or Falls gradually. You must also note this from the beginning of the falling, in stages, to the end of the falling, with pinpointed precision so that your mind does not wander anywhere and note as: "Falling".
When noting the Rising and Falling of the abdomen, you should try not to concentrate on the physical form of the abdomen. You should try to concentrate on how the air, when inhaled, affects some tension and pressure that pushes up from the inside. You must try to feel and know or realize this pushing up of the air from the inside, the tension and pressure, etc., and not the physical form of the abdomen. The abdomen is so called only for its namesake, "Pannat" (Concept or Convention). Vipassana is not for Pannat (Concepts) but for the true nature, "Paramat" (Reality). The nature of air pushing up from inside, the tension, pressure, etc., is "Paramat", the real thing that is happening when you breathe in. Thus you must concentrate closely and precisely to try to know this Reality.
You must note as carefully when breathe out. You must try not to concentrate on the form or shape of the abdomen, but on the gradual and slow movement, vibration and recession of the air as you breathe out.
Thus you must keep noting these 2 movements as "Rising, Falling"; concentrating on the gradual force of air that makes the abdomen rise and the gradual contraction of the abdomen as you breathe out.
If you feel that you cannot keep your calm by noting these 2 movements as "Rising, Falling", you may add another object and note "Rising, Falling, Touching."
When concentrating on "Touching", you should not allow yourself to be carried away by the form or shape of your limbs touching the floor/mat or each other, but concentrate on the hardness or tension of the touch.
If you still cannot concentrate enough and your mind tend to wander with these three movements, then you can add another and note "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching".
When you concentrate on the "Sitting", try to concentrate by encompassing from the upper part of your body down and try to feel the stiffness and tension on your body (from the force of air element that has pushed you up into the sitting position). You should not concentrate on the shape or form of the head, hands, legs or body. The "desire to sit" has set in motion the air element that supports and props up the body into this position called "Sitting". You must try to feel the stiffness, tension, pressure, etc. of this support and not the form of body, hands or legs.
So now you have 4 objects to note: "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching". When you note with 4 objects as such, your mind will usually become calm. If you find noting as "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching" with the 4 objects is helpful, you may continue with such noting. However, if you find that noting with 4 objects as such puts your mind in so much strain and worry that you cannot concentrate well, you may want to note with just 3 objects as: "Rising, Falling, Touching". If you still find that noting even with 3 objects is not helping you, you can note with just 2 objects as "Rising, Falling". The main objective is to calm the mind and develop concentration.
As a beginner, while noting "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching", your mind may wander here and there - to the pagoda, monastery or temple, to the shopping centers, to the house, etc. When this occurs, you must also make note of your wandering mind as "Wandering, Imagining, Planning, etc." As your concentration becomes strong and your Insight progress, you will find that your wandering thoughts disappear after a few notings. You will come to realize for yourself that the thoughts pass away with a few continuous notings by observing precisely and closely in a meticulous manner.
As you progress in you concentration and reach the Insight knowledge known as "The Knowledge of Dissolution" (Bhanga Nyana), you will find the thoughts disappear with each noting.
With further progress in your Insight, you will come to see not only the thoughts disappear with each noting, but the noting mind (or awareness) also disappears with the noting. Thus you will come to realize that: "The thoughts are not everlasting. Also the noting mind (or the awareness of them) is not everlasting - Anicca."
Being so oppressed by such rapid succession of Arising and Passing away, the yogi comes to realize their Unsatisfactory nature or Suffering. At the same time, the yogi finds that this Arising and Passing away as well as the resulting Suffering cannot be warded off in any way or by anyone. One cannot do anything about it. It is Uncontrollable - Anatta. There and then you come to the realization or Insight into the truth about: "All conditioned things being Transient (Anicca), being objects of Suffering (Dukkha) and being Uncontrollable (Anatta)". Thus, a yogi comes to a clear Insight or knowledge of Anicca (Impermanence), Dukkha (Suffering) and Anatta (Uncontrollability).Mindfulness on the pain
As you go on concentrating "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching" for about an hour or 45 minutes, you will notice that your limbs start to ache, become painful or numb. When this occurs, you have to change your concentration from "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching" onto the pain, and concentrate your mind on the pain.
There are 3 ways of being mindful or fixing your concentration regarding the pain:
The first is to concentrate on the pain with the objective of making the pain disappear.
The second is to make a strong determination to make the pain disappear within this one sitting or within one day, and to fight it all out in an aggressive manner.
The third is to concentrate so as to know the true nature of the pain.
Method #1. Concentrating with the objective of "wanting to be relieved of the pain". The first way means that the yogi is actually craving for the pleasure of having no pain. That means the yogi is having greed for pleasure. Mindfulness Meditation is to rid oneself of greed, to stop being greedy. Instead, this greed (Lobha) now becomes an obstacle to the progress and realization of the true nature of things. Thus, a yogi should not contemplate in this way.
Method #2. The second way, where you determine yourself to get rid of this suffering, is not good either, because there is anger (Dhosa) in the determination to fight. In other words, the determination is colored with anger. One will not be able to make progress if one allows anger to creep in. That is why one should not adopt this method.
Method #3. The third way is to concentrate your mind on the pain so that you will come to know the "true nature" of the pain. Only when one comes to know the true nature (of pain, in this case), Udaya Vaya (the Arising and Passing away) will be revealed or known.
When pain occurs, yogis usually tend to become tense both in body and mind. One should not tense up like that, but try to relax both in body and mind. You should also try not to worry about whether you will have to endure the pain the whole time or during this whole hour. You must try not to have such worries.
You should keep yourself calm and adopt the attitude that: "Pain will come and go at its own will, and my duty is to keep mindful of the pain". You must also adopt the attitude that you will practice "patience with the pain". Patience is the most crucial element in dealing with pain. The saying that "Patience leads to Nibbana" is the most useful maxim in Mindfulness Meditation.
After making a determination that you will be patient, keep both your body and mind calm and relaxed. Dont be taut. Then, pinpoint your mind on the pain and try to concentrate on the intensity of the pain ("How painful is it?") and on where the pain is most crucial ("On the flesh or skin, in the muscles or right down in the bones or marrow?").
You must try to concentrate on the intensity of the pain with each noting, then note as: "Painful, Painful; Aching, Aching; etc.", and know exactly where they occur and how painful it is. Mindfulness on the pain should be deep and penetrative, and not superficial. As you keep noting, if you are deeply mindful, you will notice very clearly that after 4 or 5 notings, these pains and aches become more and more severe and unbearable.
After reaching the peak, the pain will tend to lessen and subside following its own course. When this occurs, you should not relax your concentration. Instead, you should earnestly and enthusiastically continue being mindful. You will then experience for yourself the pain becoming less and less after every 4 or 5 notings and the pain shifting to another location.
Thus seeing the changing nature of pain, the yogi becomes interested in the practice. Continuing in this way, as the mind gets more and more steep in concentration, you will find that the pain increases with each noting.
After reaching a peak, the pain usually subsides. One must not relax the intensity of ones noting when the pain starts to subside. Instead, one must continue with the same intensity of effort, and one will find the pain subsiding with each noting, and the pain changing locations. Thus the yogi will come to realize that pain is not everlasting; it is always changing. It increases as well as decreases. In this way, the yogi comes to know more about the real nature of pain.
Continuing noting in this way, when a yogi reaches the stage of Insight known as "The Knowledge of Dissolution" (Bhanga Nyana), he/she will realize, as if seeing clearly by his own eyes, that the pain disappears completely with each noting, as if suddenly plucked away. In this way, the yogi comes to realize that: "Pain is not permanent. It is Impermanent." The yogi is now gaining the upperhand on the pain.
With further deepening of Insight, those yogis whose Insight Knowledge of "Bhanga Nyana - Knowledge of Dissolution" are sharp, are able to experience that: "with each noting, not only the pain but also the noting mind (or consciousness) disappears with it".
In the case of yogis whose Insight knowledge are exceptionally sharp, they will see distinctly 3 phases disappearing, that is: the passing of the pain, the consciousness that recognizes or becomes aware of the pain, and the noting mind registering the pain.
Thus the yogi comes to realize that pain is not everlasting or permanent, neither does the consciousness (or feeling of the pain), nor the noting mind.
Being oppressed by such quick succession of Passing away or Dissolution, the yogi feels that it is Unsatisfactory - Suffering or Dukkha. As these cannot be warded off, it is Uncontrollable - Anatta.
Thus, the yogi comes to realize that:
When such knowledge become very distinct and clear, progress will be made into further Insights.Mindfulness on Hearing
While meditating, you may hear sounds, see things or smell things that are around you. You may especially hear the sounds of corks, birds, hammering and beating sounds, sounds of people, cars, etc. When you hear such sounds, you must note as: "Hearing, Hearing." You must try to pay only "bare attention" to the sounds. That is, you must try not to let your mind follow these sounds or let your imagination get you about them.
When your concentration gets relatively strong, as you note "Hearing, Hearing", the sounds may become indistinct as if from far away, or as if being carried far away, or getting nearer, or hoarse and not clear. That means you are getting better concentration on your noting. You are progressing in your noting.
As you go noting in this way and your concentration get better, you will find that as you note "Hearing, Hearing", the sounds disappear syllable by syllable and the noting mind also disappear after hearing each syllable. Yogis, whose Insight knowledge are sharp, are able to experience this very clearly and distinctly.
Even yogis, who are beginners in noting "Hearing, Hearing", will be able to experience distinctly that the sounds disappear in disjointed syllables, without being connected to each other to make any sense.
For example, when one hears the sound of the word "Gentleman" and note it as "Hearing, Hearing." You will notice hearing the sound of the syllable "Gen" first and then pass away. You will next hear the sound "tle" and pass away, and finally the sound "man". The sounds arising and passing away in such broken sequence that the meaning of the word becomes obscure and unintelligible. Only the Passing away of the sounds in broken sequences becomes evident.
When you experience the sounds disappearing, you will come to realize that the sound is not permanent. When you experience the noting mind also vanishing or passing away, you will realize that the noting mind is also not permanent. Thus you will realize further that the sound being heard is not permanent nor is the noting mind permanent. Thus it is Anicca [Impermanent].
Being oppressed by the quick succession of such passing away means Unstisfactoriness or Dukkha.
Since one cannot stop or ward off this oppression of passing away, it is Uncontrollable (Anatta).
Thus while noting "Hearing, Hearing", one will come to realize the Insight knowledge of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta, and progress to further Insight knowledge.Mindfulness in the sitting position
Noting during the sitting position as "Rising, Falling, Sitting, Touching" has to do with the physical body, it is known as Kayanupassana Satipatthana.
Noting as "Painful, Numb or Aching" has to do with the feelings, it is known as Vedananupassana Satipatthana.
Noting as "Wandering, Wandering, Planning, Planning, Thinking, Thinking, etc." has to do with the mind or acts of consciousness, it is known as Cittanupassana Satipatthana.
Noting as "Seeing, Seeing, Hearing, Hearing, Smelling, Smelling, etc." has to do with the dhammas, it is known as Dhammanupassana Satipatthana.
So we see that while practicing in one sitting of Mindfulness Meditation, as instructed by our benefactor, the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, there is included all the 4 practices of Satipatthana.II. Meditating while walking
There are 4 ways of noting Walking Meditation; they are:
Method #1. The first way is to make note of the step as one movement as: "Left step, Right step". When you note "Left step," you must keep your mind closely pinpointed on the movement, from the beginning of the step to the end of the step. You must concentrate closely on the gradual forward movement of the step. Try not to concentrate on the physical form of the foot. Similarly with the "Right step," you must concentrate on the gradual forward movement of the step, movement by movement. You must not concentrate on the physical form of the foot.
Method #2. The second way is to make note of the step as 2 movements as: "Lifting, Dropping, Lifting, Dropping". You must be aware of the nature of the gradual upward movement of the foot, movement by movement, and again not the physical form of the foot, as you note: "Lifting." Similarly, when you note "Dropping," you must keep aware of the nature of the foot dropping slowly, movement by movement, and not the physical form.
The name of the physical form, such as "foot", is so called for its namesake only. They are "Pannat", Concepts or Conventions. Concepts are not objects of Vipassana. The element of motion or movement is "Paramat", Reality. Only Realities are the objects of Vipassana.
It is the element of Vayo dhatu (the air element or the element of motion), "Paramat" (Reality) that is making the movement possible. You must concentrate closely and precisely to know this element of Vayo dhatu.
Method #3. The third way is to note 3 movements as: "Lifting, Pushing Forward, Dropping". When you are Lifting your foot, you must keep aware of the gradual upward movement of your foot as explained above. When you note as "Pushing Forward," you must keep aware of the gradual movement of the foot forward. When you note "Dropping," you must pay careful attention to the dropping gradually of the foot downward.
All these movements must be closely and keenly observed so that you are with the "present moment" of the movement of your foot as well as the "knowing" of the nature of the movement itself, which is Paramat. When your concentration is strong, as you note "Lifting", you will come to realize for yourself not only the gradual upward movement, movement by movement, but also that it becomes lighter and lighter as it moves upward.
As you note "Pushing Forward," also you will come to realize not only the gradual forward movement, movement by movement, but also that it becomes light as it moves forward. When you drop your foot and note ["Dropping"] as such, you will again realize not only the downward movement, movement by movement, but also that it becomes heavy as it goes down. Such realization results in the yogis becoming interested in their practice. It means the start of the emergence of the Insight (Penetrative) Knowledge for the yogi.
Experiencing Lightness means experiencing the characteristics of Tejo dhatu - element of heat and cold, and V¬yo dhatu - element of motion or movement.
Experiencing Heaviness means experiencing the characteristics of Pathavi dhatu - element of extension, toughness or hardness, and Apo dhatu - element of cohesion and fluidity.
The knowledge or awareness of such mental and physical phenomena is the beginning of Insight knowledge into the intrinsic nature of mental and physical process as it really is.
Method # 4. The fourth way is to make note as 6 movements [and there are 3 techniques.]
1) Noting 6 movements as: "Beginning to Lift, End of Lifting; Beginning to Push Forward, End of Pushing Forward; Beginning to Drop, End of Dropping".
Actually, this is just dividing the 3 movements into 6 as "beginning and ending".
2) Another way is to note as: "Wanting to Lift, Lifting; Wanting to push forward, Pushing forward; Wanting to drop, Dropping." In this type of noting, the mental phenomena (Wanting to...) and physical phenomena (Lifting, etc.) are noted separately.
3) Still another way is to note as: "Lifting, Raising; Pushing Forward; Dropping, Touching, Pressing."
Thus you will note as "Lifting, Raising, Pushing Forward, Dropping, Touching, Pressing" in 6 movements. Yogis can make real progress by noting with such 6 movements and gain further Insight.
"Mindfulness on the General Details" means being mindful of the little details in the daily activities as one goes through the daily routine. It is not the time for Sitting Meditation or Walking Meditation. They are little details that you do when you return to your living quarters, such as: opening the door, closing the door, making the bed, changing clothes, washing clothes, preparing meals, eating, drinking, etc. You must keep aware and note all these little details, too.Mindfulness while having a meal
The above instructions are in accordance with the way our benefactor, The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, who practiced and noted while taking a morsel of food. You should also be mindful or aware of such movements, closely, precisely and energetically.
It will not be easy in the beginning to be aware of all the movements. You will forget to note many of the movements, but you must not be discouraged. When your concentration deepens, you will be able to note all the movements.
At the beginning of the practice of such mindfulness, you must first try to focus on the most distinctive movement to you as your main object. What is the most distinctive movement to you? If stretching your hand is the most distinctive movement, then you must try to note "Stretching, Stretching" without missing or forgetting. If bending your head is most distinct, try to note "Bending, Bending" without missing or forgetting. If chewing is most distinct, try to note "Chewing, Chewing" without missing or forgetting. You should thus try to note at least one distinctive movement as your main object without missing or forgetting.
Once you can focus your mind on one object closely and precisely and gain in concentration, you will be able to focus and note the other movements and sustain your concentration. In this way, you can make progress in the various stages of Vipassana Insights while taking your meal.
The chewing movement is especially more distinctive. Our benefactor, The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, has once said that: "Of the 2 jaws, it is the lower jaw that is involved in the chewing movement. This movement of the lower jaw is actually what we call Chewing ".
If you can note this gradual movement of the jaw well and have good concentration, you will find noting on the chewing movement to be quite well and good. Beginning with this chewing movement, you will be able to note all the movements involved in taking food.Mindfulness on the motion of sitting down
Noting "Sitting, Standing, Bending, Stretching" are also part of "Noting the General Details". If one really keeps keenly aware, one will realize that there arises first the "Desire to sit" before the actual act of sitting. This awareness is usually experienced by those yogis whose concentration is basically good. Thus one must start with noting this desire as "Wanting to sit, Wanting to sit". Only when the actual movement of sitting begins, one will note as "Sitting, Sitting".
When you note "Sitting, Sitting", try also not to concentrate on the forms of head, body, legs, etc. You must concentrate closely on the "nature" of the gradual downward movement, movement by movement. You must concentrate in such a way that your mind stays pinpointed on the "present moment" of the downward movement, movement by movement.
You have to concentrate very closely and precisely so that you can realize the "real nature" (Paramat) of the movement. If you can concentrate in that way on the movement and your mind also is able to stay with the "present moment", you will realize for yourself clearly that you are not only aware of the gradual downward movement but also able to feel it getting heavier and heavier as it moves downwards.Mindfulness on the motion of standing up / getting up
When you want to stand up, if you keep closely and keenly aware, you will be aware of the "Desire to get up" first. You must note this as "Wanting to get up, Wanting to get up". The desire to get up sets in motion Vayo dhatu (the element of motion) which pushes you up. As you bend forward to collect your energy to get up, note as "Collecting energy, Collecting energy". If you stretch your hand to the side for support, note "Supporting, Supporting".
When the body becomes filled with energy, it will gradually rise upwards. This movement is what we call "standing up" or "getting up". We note this as "Standing up, Standing up". These "phrases" are used just for its namesake (Concept). Again, we must try to realize the nature of the gradual upward movement. Thus we must concentrate closely and precisely on the nature of the upward movement as well as to be with the "present moment" as it rises upwards.
If you can make your mind stay pinpointed on the "present moment" as well as closely and precisely aware of the nature of the upward movement (the Reality; Paramat), you will come to realize that as you reach higher and higher up, the body becomes lighter and lighter as it rises upward.
Thus you come to realize for yourself the heaviness with the gradual movement downwards, and the lightness with the gradual movement upwards. Realizing the "Lightness" means seeing the nature of Tejo dhatu [the Fire element] and Vayo dhatu [the Wind element]. Realizing the "Heaviness" means the nature of Pathavi dhatu [the Earth element] and Apo dhatu [the Water element].Seeing the Arising and Passing away
After coming to know the nature of the particular phenomena, one will come to know Udaya (the Arising) and Vaya (the Passing away). One will come to see the Arising and Passing away from moment to moment. There is one arising and passing away; then another arising and passing away; another arising and passing; and so on. Seeing clearly the Arising and Passing away is Sankhata Lakkhana (mark or sign of Conditionality of Arising and Dissolution).
Continuing noting in this way after seeing the Arising and Passing away, if ones concentration becomes strong and advanced, you will find the Arising not so distinct, but the Passing away becoming more prominent. Experiencing the Passing way more distinctly, the yogi come to realize that no phenomena is permanent.
When the yogi becomes clearly aware that the noting mind also passes away, he/she will come to realize that the noting mind is also not permanent, that both mental and physical phenomena are Impermanent (Anicca).
Being oppressed by such rapid succession of Passing away means Suffering (Dukkha). Such Dissolution cannot be stopped or warded off; it is taking place at its own will means Uncontrollable (Anatta). When your Insight knowledge of this Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta becomes very clear and thorough, one can progress to further Insights.
Thus while noting the process of sitting down and standing up, one will come to realize the "characteristics of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta" (Sannanna Lakkhana). When one is clear and thorough about this Sannanna Lakkhana, one will gain further Insights that one has been aspiring for.Mindfulness on bending and stretching
Noting the bending and stretching are also part of "Noting the General Details" of daily activities. When you are about to bend your arm, if you keep attentively aware, you will find that there is first the "desire to bend". Thus you must note as "Wanting to bend, Wanting to bend". Next, you must concentrate closely and attentively to know the nature of the gradual movement of the bending of the arm. Here also one will be able to experience the lightness of the arm as it moves upward by paying very close and precise attention.
When you want to stretch the arm back after taking care of whatever need to be taken care of by bending, the "desire to stretch" will also become distinct. Then you must note as "Wanting to stretch, Wanting to stretch". When the actual movement of stretching occurs, note as "Stretching, Stretching". This outward and downward movement of the arm, we call "stretching". As you note "Stretching, Stretching", you will also notice it becomes heavier and heavier as it falls downwards.
The characteristics of Lightness and Heaviness are known as "Sabhava Lakkhana" (Specific or Particular mark or characteristic).
Continuing noting in this way, one will come to realize that the nature of Lightness and Heaviness arise and pass away, and thus comes to know the "Sankhata Lakkhana" (Compound or Conditioned characteristic which has a beginning, middle and end [or dissolution]).
As one reaches the stage of Insight of "Bhanga Nyana" (Knowledge of Dissolution), one sees the Dissolution of the bending and stretching phenomena more clearly and distinctly. Thus one comes to realize that: "The act of bending is not everlasting, and the noting mind on the bending is also not everlasting. The act of stretching is not everlasting nor the noting mind on the stretching everlasting."
Thus, while bending and stretching, one can have a clear and thorough knowledge of the "characteristics of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta" and progress to the higher knowledge or Insight that one have been aspiring for.Blessings by Sayadaw
Having listened to the 3 aspects of the Basic Exercises on Vipassana Meditation, may you be able to practice accordingly and acquire that knowledge which you have been searching for with ease and realize the peace of Nibbana, the extinction of all suffering, soon.
- May we be fulfilled with the Venerable Sayadaws blessings.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!Metta (Loving Kindness)
Recitation for radiating thoughts of Metta (Loving Kindness) used at the Saddhammaransi Meditation Center:
Maxims for recollection
For a Vietnamese translation by Doan Ngoc Bach-Yen, click HERE
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