Review of the technique

Ten days are over. Let us review what you have done during
these ten days. You started your work by taking refuge in the
Triple Gem, that is, in Buddha, in Dhamma, in Sangha. By doing
so you were not being converted from one organized religion
to another. In Vipassana the conversion is only from misery to
happiness, from ignorance to wisdom, from bondage to
liberation. The entire teaching is universal. You took refuge
not in a personality, dogma, or sect,but in the quality of
enlightenment. Someone who discovers the way to
enlightenment is a Buddha. The way that he finds is called the
Dhamma. All who practise this way and reach the
stage of saintliness are called Sangha. Inspired by such
persons, one takes refuge in Buddha,Dhamma, and Sangha in
order to attain the same goal of purity of mind. The refuge is
actually in the universal quality of enlightenment which one
seeks to develop in oneself.

At the same time, in any person who progresses on the path
there will arise a feeling of gratitude and also a volition to
serve others without expecting anything in return. These two
qualities were notable in Siddhattha Gotama, the historical
Buddha. He had achieved enlightenment entirely by his own
efforts. Nevertheless, out of compassion for all beings, he
sought to teach the technique he had found to others.

The same qualities will appear in all who practise the
technique and who eradicate, to some extent, the old habit of
egotism. The real refuge, the real protection, is the Dhamma
that you develop in yourself. However, along with the
experience of Dhamma there is bound to grow a feeling of
gratitude to Gotama the Buddha for finding and teaching this
technique, and gratitude as well to those who selflessly strove
to maintain the teaching in its original purity through
twenty-five centuries to the present day.

With this understanding you took refuge in the Triple Gem.

Next you took five precepts. This was not a rite or ritual. By
taking these precepts and following them you practised sila,
morality, which is the foundation of the technique. Without a
strong foundation the entire structure of meditation would be
weak.Sila is also universal and nonsectarian. You undertook
to abstain from all actions, physical or vocal, that would
disturb the peace and harmony of others. One who breaks
these precepts must first develop great impurity in the mind,
destroying his own peace and harmony. From the mental level
the impurity develops and expresses itself vocally or
physically. In Vipassana you are trying to purify the mind so
that it becomes really calm and peaceful. You cannot work to
purify the mind while you still continue to perform actions that
agitate and defile it.

But how are you to break out of the vicious cycle in which the
agitated mind performs unwholesome actions that agitate it
still further? A Vipassana course gives you the opportunity.
Because of the heavy programme, the strict discipline, the
vow of silence, and the strongly supportive atmosphere, there
is hardly any likelihood of your breaking the five precepts.
Thus during the ten days you are able to practise sila, and with
this base you can develop samadhi; and this in turn becomes
the base for insight, with which you can penetrate to the
depths of the mind and purify it.

During the course you undertook to observe the five precepts
in order to be able to learn this technique. Having learned it,
one who then decides to accepts and practise Dhamma must
observe the precepts throughout life.

Next you surrendered to the Buddha and your present teacher
for the ten days of the course. This surrender was for the
purpose of giving a fair trial to the technique. Only someone
who has surrendered in this way can work putting forth full
efforts. One who is full of doubts and scepticism cannot work
properly. However, surrendering does not mean developing
blind faith; that has nothing to do with Dhamma. If any doubt
arose in the mind, you were encouraged to come to the
teacher as often as necessary for clarification.

The surrender was also to the discipline and timetable of the
course. These were designed, based on the experience of
thousands of previous students, to enable you to work
continuously so as to derive the greatest possible advantage
from these ten days.

By surrendering you undertook to work exactly as you were
asked. Whatever techniques you might have been practising
previously you were asked to lay aside for the period of the
course. You could obtain the benefit and judge the value o the
technique only by practising it exclusively, in the proper way.
Mixing techniques, on the other hand, could have led you into
serious difficulties.

Then you started your work by practising Anapana meditation
in order to develop mastery of the mind, concentration--
samadhi. You were told to observe mere, natural breath
without adding any word, shape, or form. One reason for this
restriction was to preserve the universality of the technique:
breath is common and acceptable to everyone, but a word or
form may be acceptable to some and not to others.

But there is a more important reason for observing mere
respiration. The whole process is an exploration of the truth
about oneself, about the mental-physical structure as it is, not
as you would like it to be. It is an investigation of reality. You sit
down and close your eyes. There is no sound, no outside
disturbance, no movement of the body. At that moment the
most prominent activity within yourself is respiration. You
begin by observing this reality: natural breath, as it
enters and leaves the nostrils. When you could not feel the
breath, you were permitted to breathe slightly hard, just to fix
your attention in the area of the nostrils, and then once again
you came back to natural, normal, soft breathing. You started
with this gross, apparent truth, and from it you moved further,
deeper, in the direction of subtler truths, of ultimate truth. On
the entire path,at every step you remain with the truth that
you actually experience, from the grossest to the subtlest. You
cannot reach ultimate truth by starting with an imagination.
You will only become entangled in greater imaginations, self-
deceptions.

If you had added a word to the object of respiration, you might
have concentrated the mind more quickly, but there would
have been a danger in doing so. Every word has a particular
vibration. By repeating a word or phrase, one creates an
artificial vibration in which one becomes engulfed.

At the surface level of the mind a layer of peace and harmony
is created, but in the depths impurities remain. The only way to
get rid of these deep-lying impurities is to learn how to observe
them, how to bring them to the surface so that they may pass
away. If one observes only a particular artificial vibration, one
will not be able to observe the various natural vibrations
related to one's impurities, that is, to observe the sensations
arising naturally within the body.Therefore, if one's purpose is
to explore the reality of oneself and to purify the mind, to use
an imaginary word can create obstacles.

Similarly visualization--mentally picturing a shape or form--can
become a barrier to progress.The technique leads to the
dissolving of apparent truth in order to reach ultimate truth.
Apparent,integrated truth is always full of illusions, because at
this level sanna operates, perception, which is distorted by
past reactions. This conditioned perception differentiates and
discriminates, giving rise to preferences and prejudices, to
fresh reactions. But by disintegrating apparent reality, one
gradually comes to experience the ultimate reality of the
mental-physical-structure: nothing but vibrations arising and
passing away every moment. At this stage no differentiation is
possible,and therefore no preferences or prejudices can
arise, no reactions. The technique gradually weakens the
conditioned sanna and hence weakens reactions, leading to
the stage in which perception and sensation cease, that is,
the experience of nibbana. But by deliberately giving
attention to a shape, form, or vision, one remains at the level
of apparent, composed reality and cannot advance beyond it.
For this reason, there should be neither visualization nor
verbalization.

Having concentrated the mind by observing natural breath,
you started to practise Vipassana meditation in order to
develop panna--wisdom, insight into your own nature, which
purifies the mind. From head to feet, you began observing
natural sensations within the body, starting on the
surface and then going deeper, learning to feel sensations
outside, inside, in every part of the body.

Observing reality as it is, without any preconceptions, in order
to disintegrate apparent truth and to reach ultimate truth--this
is Vipassana. The purpose of disintegrating apparent reality is
to enable the meditator to emerge from the illusion of "I". This
illusion is at the root of all our craving and aversion, and leads
to great suffering. One may accept intellectually that it is an
illusion, but this acceptance is not enough to end suffering.
Regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs, one remains
miserable so long as the habit of egotism persists. In order to
break this habit one must experience directly the insubstantial
nature of the mental-physical phenomenon, changing
constantly beyond one's control. This experience alone can
dissolve egotism, leading to the way out of craving and
aversion, out of suffering.

The technique therefore is the exploration, by direct
experience, of the real nature of the phenomenon that one
calls "I, mine". There are two aspects of this phenomenon:
physical and mental, body and mind. The meditator begins by
observing the reality of the body. To experience this reality
directly, one must feel the body, that is, must be aware of
sensations throughout the body. Thus observation of body--
kayanupassana--necessarily involves observation of
sensations --vedananupassana. Similarly one cannot
experience the reality of the mind apart from what arises in the
mind. Thus, observation of mind--cittanupassana--necessarily
involves observation of the mental contents--
dhammanupassana.

This does not mean that one should observe individual
thoughts. If you try to do that, you will start rolling in the
thoughts. You should simply remain aware of the nature of the
mind at this moment; whether craving, aversion, ignorance,
and agitation are present or not. And whatever arises in the
mind, The Buddha discovered, will be accompanied by a
physical sensation. Hence whether the meditator is exploring
the mental or the physical aspect of the phenomenon of "I",
awareness of sensation is essential.

This discovery is the unique contribution of the Buddha, of
central importance in his teaching.Before him in India and
among his contemporaries, there were many who taught and
practised sila and samadhi. Panna also existed, at least
devotional or intellectual wisdom: it was commonly accepted
that mental defilements are the source of suffering, that
craving and aversion must be eliminated in order to purify the
mind and to attain liberation. The Buddha simply found the way
to do it.


What had been lacking was an understanding of the
importance of sensation. Then as now, it was generally
thought that our reactions are to the external objects of
sense--vision, sound, odour,taste, touch, thoughts. However,
observation of the truth within reveals that between the object
and the reaction is a missing link: sensation. The contact of an
object with the corresponding sense door gives rise to
sensation; the sanna assigns a positive or negative valuation,
in accordance with which the sensation becomes pleasant or
unpleasant, and one reacts with craving or aversion. The
process occurs so rapidly that conscious awareness of it
develops only after a reaction has been repeated many times
and has gathered dangerous strength sufficient to
overpower the mind. To deal with the reactions, one must
become aware of them at the point where they start; they start
with sensation, and so one must be aware of sensations. The
discovery of this fact, unknown before him, enabled
Siddhattha Gotama to attain enlightenment,and this is why he
always stressed the importance of sensation. Sensation can
lead to reactions of craving and aversion and hence to
suffering, but sensation can also lead to wisdom with which
one ceases reacting and starts to emerge from suffering.

In Vipassana, any practice that interferes with the awareness
of sensation is harmful, whether it is concentrating on a word
or form, or giving attention merely to physical movements of
the body or to thoughts arising in the mind. You cannot
eradicate suffering unless you go to its source, sensation.

The technique of Vipassana was explained by the Buddha in
the Satipatthana Sutta, the "Discourse on the Establishing of
Awareness." This discourse is divided into sections examining
the various aspects of the technique; observation of body, of
sensations, of mind, and of the mental contents. However,
each division or subdivision of the discourse concludes with
the same words. There may be different points from which to
begin the practice, but no matter what the starting point, a
meditator must pass through certain stations, certain
experiences on the path to the final goal. These experiences,
essential to the practice of Vipassana, are described in the
sentences repeated at the conclusion of each section.

The first such station is that in which one experiences arising
(samudaya) and passing away (vaya) separately. At this stage
the meditator is aware of consolidated, integrated reality in
the form of gross sensations within the body. One is aware of a
sensation, perhaps a pain, arising. It seems to stay for some
time and ultimately it passes away.

Going further beyond this station, one penetrates to the stage
of samudaya- vaya, in which one experiences arising and
passing away simultaneously, without any interval between
them. The gross, consolidated sensations have dissolved into
subtle vibrations, arising and falling with great rapidity, and
the solidity of the mental-physical structure disappears.
Solidified, intensified emotion and solidified, intensified
sensation both dissolve into nothing but vibration. This is the
stage of bhanga--dissolution--in which one experiences the
ultimate truth of mind and matter: constantly arising and
passing away, without any solidity.

This bhanga is a very important station on the path, because
only when one experiences the dissolution of the mental-
physical structure does attachment to it go away. Then one
becomes detached in the face of any situation; that is, one
enters the stage of sankhara -upekkha. Very deep lying
impurities--sankhara--buried in the unconscious now start
appearing at the surface level of the mind. This is not a
regression; it is a progress, for unless they come to the
surface, the impurities cannot be eradicated. They arise, one
observes equanimously, and they pass away one after
another. One uses the gross, unpleasant sensations as tools
with which to eradicate the old stock of sankhara of aversion;
one uses the subtle, pleasant sensations as tools with which
to eradicate the old stock of sankhara of craving. Thus by
maintaining awareness and equanimity towards every
experience, one purifies the mind of all the deep-lying
complexes, and approaches closer and closer to the goal
of nibbana, of liberation.

Whatever the starting point, one must pass through all these
stations in order to reach nibbana.How soon one may reach
the goal depends on how much work one does, and how large
an accumulation of past sankhara one has to eradicate.

In every case, however, in every situation, equanimity is
essential, based on an awareness of sensations.Sankhara
arise from the point of physical sensation. By remaining
equanimous towards sensation, you prevent new sankhara
from arising, and you also eliminate the old ones.Thus by
observing sensations equanimously, you gradually progress
towards the final goal of liberation from suffering.

Work seriously. Do not make a game of meditation, lightly
trying one technique after another without pursuing any. If you
do so, you will never advance beyond the initial steps of any
technique, and therefore you will never reach the goal.
Certainly you may make trials of different techniques in order
to find one that suits you. You may also give two or three trials
to this technique, if needed. But do not waste your entire life
merely in giving trials. Once you find a technique to be
suitable, work at it seriously so that you may progress to the
final goal.May suffering people every where find the way out of
their misery.

May all beings be happy!


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