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The practical insight meditation exercises

by Mahasi Sayadaw

The practice of Vipassana or Insight Meditation is the effort made by the meditator to understand correctly the nature of the psychophysical phenomena taking place in his or her 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) .

Physical or mental phenomena are acts of consciousness or awareness (na ma). These (na ma-rupa) are clearly perceived to be happening whenever they are seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, or thought of. When we are following the Insight Meditation practice, 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 we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think, we should make a note of the fact. But in the beginning of our practice, we cannot make a note of every one of these happenings. We should, therefore, begin with noting those happenings which are conspicuous and easily perceivable. With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls, which moment is always evident. This is the material quality known as Vayodhatu (the element of motion.

We should begin by noting this movement, which may be done by the mind intently observing the abdomen. We will find the abdomen rising when we breathe in and falling when we 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, we should keep touching the abdomen with the palm of our hand. We should not alter the manner of our breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. We should not breathe too vigorously, either. We will be tired if we change the manner of our breathing. We should breathe steadily as usual, and not mentally, not verbally the rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur.

In the Insight Meditation (Vipassana) , saying doesn’t matter. What really matters is to know or perceive the mental and material qualities of one’s own body. While noting the rising of the abdomen, do so from the beginning to the end of the movement just as if we are seeing it with our eyes. We should do the same with the falling movement. Note the rising movement in such a way that our 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 falling movement.

Our mind may wander elsewhere while we 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 we should 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 we imagine meeting somebody, we should note as ‘meeting, meeting’. Then go back to the rising and falling. If we imagine meeting and talking to somebody, we should note as ‘talking, talking’.

In short, whatever thought or reflection occurs should be noted. When we imagine, note as ‘imagining’; when we think ‘thinking’; when we plan ‘planing’; when we perceive, ‘percei-ving’; when we reflect, ‘reflecting’; when we feel happy, ‘happy’; when we feel bored, ‘bored’; when we feel glad, ‘glad’; when we feel disheartened, ‘dishear-tened’. Nothing 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 an individual. We tend to think that it is ‘I’ who is imagining, thinking, planning, knowing (or percei-ving). 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 each and every act of consciousness as it arises. When so noted, it tends to disappear. We then should go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

How to react to the painful sensation

When we have sat meditating for long, sensation of stiffness and heat will arise in our body. These are to be noted carefully too. Similarly with sensations of pain and tiredness. All of these sensations are Dukkha vedana (feeling of unsatisfactoriness) and noting them is Vedananupassana . Failure or omission to note these sensations makes us think, “I” am stiff, I am feeling warm, 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 our meditation practice, these sensations may tend to increase, and lead to a desire to change our posture. This desire should be noted, after which we should go back to noting the sensations of stiffness, heat, etc.

No pain no gain

“Patience leads to Nibbana”, as the Burmese saying goes. This saying is most relevant in the meditation practice. We must be patient in meditation practice. If we shift or change our posture too often because we 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 practice. 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. We should not immediately give up meditating on the appearance of such sensations, and change our body posture. We should go on patiently, just noting as “stiffness, stiffness,” or “hot, hot”. Moderate sensations of these kinds will disappear if we go on noting them patiently. When concentration is good and strong, even intense sensations tend to disappear. We then should revert to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

Change, but with mindfulness

We will, of course, have to change our posture if the sensations do not disappear even after we have noted them for a long time, and if, on the other hand, they become unbearable. We should then begin noting as ‘wishing to change, wishing to change’. If the arm rises, we should 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’.

When the body sways, we should note as ‘swaying, swaying’; when the foot rises, ‘rising, rising’; when it moves, ‘moving, moving’; when it drops, ‘dropping, dropping’. If there is no change, but only static rest, we should go back to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. There must be no inter-mission in between, only contiguity between a preceding act of noting and a succeeding one, between a preceding Samadhi (sate 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 state of intelligence. Magga-nana and Phala-nana (knowledge of the Path and of 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 Insight Meditation (Vipassana) 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 we have a desire 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 we go on perseveringly noting thus, the itchiness generally disappears, in which case we should revert to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

If the itchiness does not in fact disappear, we have, 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, pushing and scratching movements, with an eventual reversion to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen.

Every time we make a change of posture, we should begin with noting our 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. We should make the change at the same time as noting the movements involved. As our body sways forwards, note it. As we rise, the body becomes light and rises. Concentrating our mind on this, we should gently note as ‘rising, rising’.

We should behave as if we 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. In the same manner, we have to make our changes of posture gradually and gently; only then will mindfulness concentration and insight be good. Begin, therefore, with gentle and gradual movements. When rising, we must do so gently like an invalid, at the same time noting as ‘rising, rising’. Not only this; though the eye sees, we must act as if we do not see. Similarly we must act when the ear hears. While meditating, our concern is only to note. What we see and hear are not our concern. So whatever strange or striking things we may see or hear, we must behave as if we do not see or hear them, merely noting carefully.

When making bodily movements, we should do so gradually as if we 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, we should do so gradually, noting as ‘rising, rising’. When straightening up and standing, we should note as standing, standing’, When looking here and there, we should note as ‘looking, seeing’.

When walking, we should note the steps, whether they are taken with the right or the left foot. We must be aware of all the successive movements involved, from the raising of the foot to the dropping of it. We should note each step taken, whether with the right foot or the left foot. This is the manner of noting when we walk fast.

It will be enough if we 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. We must be properly aware of the raising of the foot. Similarly, then the foot is dropped, we should be properly aware of the heavy falling of the foot. We must walk, noting as ‘rising, dropping’ with each step. This noting will become easier after about two days, Then we should go on to noting the three movements as described above, as ‘rasing, 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 ‘rasing, dropping’ when walking slowly. If when walking thus, we may want to sit down, we should note as ‘wanting to sit down, wanting to sit down’.

When actually sitting down, we should note the ‘heavy falling of our body. When we are seated, we should note the movements involved in arranging our legs and arms. When there are no such movements, but just a stillness (static rest) of the body, we should note the rising and falling of the abdomen. While noting thus and if stiffness of our limbs and sensation of heat in any part of our body arise, we should go on to note them. Then we should go back to ‘rising, falling’. While nothing thus and if a desire to lie down arises, we should note it, and the movements of our legs and arms as we lie down. The rasing of the arm, the moving of it, the resting of the elbow on the floor, the swaying of the body, the stretching of the legs, the listing of the body as we slowly prepare to lie down, all these movements should be noted.

Knowledge can be gained

To note as we lie down thus is important. In the course of this movements (that is, lying down,) we can gain a distinctive knowledge (that is, Magga-nana and Phala-nana (the knowledge of the Path and of 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 Arahant.

The Venerable Ananda was trying strenuously to attain Arahantship overnight on the eve of the first Buddhist Council. He was practising the whole night the form of Vipassana meditation known as Kayagatasati, 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 the attaining Arahantship. Realizing that he had practised the walking meditation to excess and that, in order to balance Sama-dhi (concentration) and Viriya (effort), he should practice meditation inthe 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 Arahantship in an instant.

We should also note when we wash our face or take 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 we have our meal and look at the meal-table, we should note as ‘looking, seeing, looking, seeing’. When we extend our arm towards the food, touch it, collect and arrange it, handle it and bring it to the mouth, bend our head and put the morsel of food into our mouth, drop our arm and raise our head again, all these movements should be duly noted.

ශුද්ධ වෙසක් පුර පසළොස්වක පෝය

ශුද්ධ වෙසක් පුර පසළොස්වක පෝය මැයි මස 27 වන දා බ්‍රහස්පතින්දා පූර්වභාග 05.18 ට ලබයි.
28 වන දා සිකුරාදා පූර්වභාග 04.37 දක්වා පෝය පවතී.
සිල් සමාදන්වීම මැයිමස 27 වන දා බ්‍රහස්පතින්දාය.

මීළඟ පෝය ජූනි මස 04 වන දා සිකුරාදා ය.

පොහෝ දින දර්ශනය

Full Moonපසෙලාස්වක

මැයි 27

Second Quarterඅව අටවක

ජුනි 04

New Moonඅමාවක

ජුනි 12

First Quarterපුර අටවක

ජුනි 19

2010 පෝය ලබන ගෙවෙන වේලා සහ සිල් සමාදන් විය යුතු දවස

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