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Buddhist Meditation

Bhikkhu Pyadassi Mahathera

 [Part 2]

 Beauty is Skin Deep

As the discourse explains, the meditator reflects on this very body encased by the skin and full of impurities from the soles up and from the hair of the head down thinking thus: "There are in this body, hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, flesh, sinews, bones, etc. Thus he lives contemplating foulness in this body."

This may not be a subject of meditation quite agreeable to the Westerner. The young in the East or West, in particular, do not like to regard the body as foul. However, whether we like it or not, if we dispassionately review this "fathom-long body" we will not see anything beautiful in it such as pearls and gems, etc., but only a heap of repulsive parts. "Beauty is skin deep." Young or old it is good to understand the real nature of this body, and the fact that we all confront birth, ageing and death. We live, love and laugh, yet our life is dark with ageing, smothered with death, bound up with change, and these qualities are so inherent in it -- even as greenness is to grass, and bitterness to quinine that not all the magic and power of science can ever transform it.

"Like as the damask rose you see,
Or like the blossom on the tree,
Or like the dainty flower of May
Or like the morning to the day
Or like the sun, or like the shade,
Or like ground which Jonas had-
Even such is man, whose thread is spun,
Drawn out, and out, and so is done.
The rose withers, the blossom blasteth,
The flower fades, the morning hasteth,
The sun sets, the shadow flies,
The gourd consumes; and man he dies.
Even such is man, who lives by breath,
Is here, now there: so life and death.
Even such is man, who heaps up sorrow,
Lives but this day and dies tomorrow.
The song is short, the joumey's so,
The pear doth rot, the plum doth fall,
The snow dissolves, and so must all
" [1]

This view of life is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. Do not think that the Buddhist outlook on life and the world is a gloomy one, and that the Buddhist is in low spirits. Far from it, he smiles as he walks through life.

From the contemplation of the body (kayanupassana) let us now proceed to contemplation of feelings or sensations (vedananupassana). In this meditation we are expected to become mindful of our feelings: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. When experiencing a pleasant feeling, the meditator knows that it is a pleasant feeling because he is mindful of the feeling. The same with regard to all other feelings. He tries to experience each feeling as it really is.

Generally, people are depressed when they are experiencing unpleasant feelings and are elated by pleasant feelings. This mental exercise of mindfulness helps a man to experience all feelings with a detached outlook, with equanimity and to avoid becoming a slave to sensations. Through insight meditation (vipassana) he also learns to realize that there is only a feeling, a sensation. That, too, is not lasting and there is no permanent entity or "self" that feels.

The contemplation of mind (cittanupassana), which is the third type of mindfulness, speaks to us of the importance of studying our own mind, of being aware of our diverse thoughts. Thoughts in this context are those of lust, hatred and delusion, which are the root causes of all wrong doing, and their opposites that counteract those unwholesome states of mind. Rather than thoughts of lust it concerns lust as a state of mind (saragam cittam, etc.).

The meditator tries to know through mindfulness both the wholesome states of mind and the unwholesome states of mind. He sees them without attachment or aversion. This kind of dispassionate discernment of the mind makes a man understand the real function of his mind, its real nature and behaviour. Those who practise contemplation of the mind learn to control the mind.

A feature of the modern world is its superficiality. Modern man will object, but if he makes an impartial introspection, he cannot deny this. Modern man does not pause to think deeply. External appearance goes a great way with him. See the extent to which modern man is influenced by advertisements and shopwindow exhibitions. If these did not influence him, shopowners would not spend the enormous sums they do on advertisements. Buddhist meditation has a cure for this superficiality: cittanupassana, mindfulness of thought or contemplation of mind.

Modern man does very little independent thinking. He seldom forms his own views. The style of dress he adopts, the brand of articles he buys, is decided for him by advertisers. How easily he is moved by the shouting of slogans. Slogans and political propaganda mould man's mind, and life tends to be mechanical; man has become a puppet controlled by others.

Modern man has become enmeshed in all sorts of ideas, views, opinions and ideologies both wise and foolish. He is film-fed, television-minded, and radio-trained. Today what is presented by the newspapers, radio, television, some novels and pictures, by certain literature on sex, psychology and by sex-ridden films tend to confuse man, and turn him from the path of rectitude and understanding. But the man who practises mindfulness will be protected from the subtle persuasive power of advertisement or the shouts of the propagandists, or the dramatic effects of mass movements.

Another weakness of modem man is his desire for change and for quick results. The absence of calm in him is a great deficiency. Calm begets mental strength. Absence of calm begets impatience and the impatient man is never satisfied. He always wants something new and startling. He is disappointed if he takes up the morning newspaper and finds no banner headlines.

Modem man craves for variety. He craves for sensations, he is fed on sensations. He continually yearns for something fresh, for new methods, new machinery, new drugs, a new way of life, a new ideology. There is no end to this. This modern attitude is symptomatic of a disease -- the disease of mental unrest.

Here again the practice of mindfulness is the much needed cure. Mindfulness leads to calmness, and calmness gives an even tone to one's life. Trained in calmness, he will shed a host of unnecessary desires. He will "walk through the uneven with an even stride" (visame samam caranti). [2]

The contemplation of the mind also makes us realise that what we call mind is only an ever-changing process consisting of changing mental factors and that there is no abiding entity called ego or self.

The fourth and the last type of mindfulness is the contemplation of mental objects or mind contents (dhammanupassana). This covers all the essential Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha, most of which are discussed in The Buddha's Ancient Path by the present writer.

The contemplation of mental objects is not mere thinking or deliberation -- rather it goes hand in hand with mindfulness in discerning mind objects as and when they arise and cease (samudayavaya). When, for example, sense desire is present in him the meditator knows: "There is sense desire in me," or when sense desire is absent, he knows: "There is no sense desire in me," and so on. The same with regard to the other hindrances (nivaramani).  [3]

In the same manner he discerns with mindfulness the five aggregates of clinging (panca-upadanakkhandha) -- body or material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

He discerns with mindfulness the six internal and the six external sense-bases. Herein the meditator knows well the eye, the visible form and the fetter [4] that arises dependent on both (the eye and form); he knows well the ear and sounds ... the nose and smells ... tongue and savours ... the body and tactile objects ... the mind and mind objects, and knows well the fetter arising dependent on both. He also knows the ceasing of the fetter.

Similarly he discerns the seven factors of enlightenment (sattabojjhanga)  [5] and the Four Noble Truths (cattari ariyasaccani). The Four Noble Truths in this context are not intellectual categories to be cogitated upon, but palpable illustrations of them which the meditator comes across and identifies.

"Thus he lives mindfully investigating and understanding the mental objects. He lives independent, clinging to nothing in the world". The fourfold mindfulness is a teaching (Dhamma) on which all aspects of the Dhamma converge.

The description of each type of mindfulness in the discourse ends with the words: "He lives independent clinging to nothing in the world"; for "everything when clung to fails." [6] This is the result aimed at by the meditator to be achieved by the earnest and ever zealous. "Lives independent" means aloof from craving and wrong views (tanha, ditthi). Here "world" means the world of being, one's own psycho-physical organism. He does not cling to this process of mind and body and regard it as a permanent ego entity or self.

The Simile of the Raft

It is because of our greed, our craving, that we cling to people and things. If we can practise the art of dealing with things with a detached outlook, then we learn to let go. Our bonds are not in the sense organs or in sense objects. They are due to our greed that arises when the sense organs come in contact with sense objects. [7] So the problem and solution, the malady and the remedy, lie within. Learn the art of giving up. It is hard to live clinging to nothing in the world and our efforts to reach such spiritual heights may appear impossible. Yet it is possible and worth striving for again and again; for by dint of effort and hard work, many have attained those heights in this very life. "Sow a thought and you reap a deed. Sow a deed, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny -- for character is destiny."

In this connection it is interesting to know the Buddha's simile of the raft. [8] Let us listen to him:

"Using the simile of a raft, monks, I teach the Dhamma designed for crossing over and not for retaining. Listen and attend carefully to what I say."

"Yes, Venerable Sir," the monks replied. The Buddha continued:

"Monks, a man sets out on a journey and comes to a vast stretch of water. The near bank is beset with fears and dangers, the far bank is safe. But no boat goes to the further shore and there is no bridge. He thinks: 'Vast, indeed, is this stretch of water, the near bank is unsafe but the further one is without danger. I had better collect grass, leaves, branches and wood to make a raft and with its aid using my hands and feet, ferry myself across to the further shore.'

"Then, monks, that man having made a raft crosses over safely to the further shore striving with his hands and feet. Having crossed he thinks: 'This raft has been very useful, for with its aid I have reached the further bank safely. I had better carry it on my head or back and go wherever I want.' "What do you think, monks, if he does this is he acting rightly about the raft?" "No, indeed, Lord."

"Suppose that man who has crossed over to the further bank should think:

'This raft has been very useful, with its aid I have reached the further bank safely. I had better beach it, or let it float down the vast stretch of water and go wherever I want.' If he acts thus, monks, he would be acting rightly about the raft. Even so, monks, using the simile of a raft have I taught the Dhamma designed for crossing over, and not for retaining. You, monks, who understand the Dhamma taught by using the simile of the raft, have to give up good things (dhamma); how much more the evil things (a-dhamma)." It is interesting to note that the word "dhamma" here, according to the Commentary, means calm or concentration of mind (samatha) and insight (vipassana). Clinging even to such high mental attainments as these should be given up. Need one speak of evil things?

Subjective and Objective Looking

In the Satipatthana Sutta mindfulness is specially concerned with just four things: body, feelings, mind and mental objects. The contemplation of the body makes us realise the true nature of the body, without any pretence, by analysing it right down to its ultimates, its fundamental elements. This mental scrutiny of our own body helps us to understand that it is a process without any underlying substance or core that may be taken as permanent and lasting.

A special feature of this all-important mental factor of mindfulness is that it involves a method of looking at things objectively rather than subjectively. So it is important to know the difference between objective and subjective looking. The practice of all the four types of meditation on setting up of mindfulness is done objectively without any subjective reaction. One should not be an interested observer, but a bare observer, to practise mindfulness. Then only can one see the object in its proper perspective, as it really is, and not as it appears to be.

When you observe a thing subjectively, your mind gets involved in it, you tend to identify yourself with it. You judge, evaluate, appraise and comment on it. Such subjective looking colours your observation. So in the practice of the four types of mindfulness, that is, mindfulness of body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mental objects, one should contemplate it without any biases, prejudices, likes and dislikes and other preconceived considerations and notions. In other words, mindfulness should be practised in an objective way as if you are observing the object from outside.

When "contemplating the body in the body" (kaye-kayanupassi) you do not contemplate feelings, states of mind, or mental objects conceming your body, but only the body itself. In this connection we should take to heart the precise and clear way the Buddha taught Bahiya. Bahiya was the leader of a religious sect who assumed himself to be an Arahat, a consummate one. But later, on the advice of another, he went to the Buddha to learn the technique, the process, whereby one can become an Arahat. Knowing that Bahiya was a man of understanding, the Buddha taught him the technique in these words:

"Bahiya, thus should you train yourself: 'In what is seen there should be to you only the seen; in the heard there should be only the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste and touch) there should be only what is sensed; in the cognizing there should be only the cognizing.' "

Here the idea of "I am seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognizing" is removed. The "I" concept, the ego-illusion, drops away. This kind of attention removes tension, it calms and relaxes the mind, and that is the reason why meditators do not need much sleep. Let alone deep meditation, many do not know the art of seeing even a natural phenomena; for they have not trained themselves in observing things objectively.

Suppose you are gazing at a gorgeous sunset. If you start commenting, judging, and observing it subjectively, then you are not seeing the sunset, you do not really see its beauty.

But if you view it objectively with a calm and quiet mind, with complete attention, then you will see the beauty of the sunset in all its fullness, and also that the so called beauty is ephemeral, impermanent and ever changing. This applies to many other things. If you can look at a rose or a lotus objectively without any subjective reaction, then you will see. If you are a lover of music and if you listen to music with undivided attention, you may enjoy the music more than the musician does.

Calm and Insight

Even the higher practice of calming concentration (samadhi) does not place the meditator in a position of security; for the underlying defilements or latent tendencies (anusaya) are not removed. They are in abeyance. At any moment they may re-appear when circumstances permit, and plague his mind if right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration wane. As he still has the impurities, unwholesome impulses latent in his mental make-up, he is not yet in a state of absolute security. He has gained calm of mind through samadhi or concentration. However, it is through vipassana, insight meditation, that the latent defilements are rooted out of his mind. So the meditator training himself in virtue and concentration, develops vipassana or insight.

The development of concentrative calm, samadhi, is thus never an end in itself. It is only a means to something more sublime which is of vital importance, namely, insight, vipassana. In other words, it is a means to gain right understanding, the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. Though only a means to an end, samadhi plays an important role in the path. It is also known as citta-visuddhi, purity of mind, which is brought about by the stilling of hindrances. [9] The Buddha says: "Develop calm, the disciple who has gained calm sees things as they really are" (samadhim bhavetha, samahito yatha bhatam pajanati).  [10]

"Two things (dhamma), monks, should be developed for the understanding of lust, hatred and delusion ... What two? Calm and insight. These two things should be developed for the abandonment, extinction and cessation of lust, hatred and delusion ..." [11]

Further says the Buddha: "Two things, monks, partake of knowledge (vijja-bhagiya): calm and insight; when calm is developed, mind is developed; through developed mind, lust is abandoned. When insight is developed, wisdom is developed. Through developed insight, ignorance is abandoned. The mind polluted with lust is not liberated. When there is pollution through ignorance, wisdom is not developed."

Thus deliverance of the mind (ceto vimutti) is due to the mind being cleansed from lust. Deliverance through wisdom (panna-vimutti) is due to the mind being cleansed from ignorance. [12]

From the foregoing it is obvious that calm and insight, in other words, right concentration and right understanding of the path, cannot be separated. Together they support each other. Without a certain measure of concentrative calm, no insight can be developed and without some measure of insight, no concentration can be developed. They are inseparable; this fact is explained by the Buddha thus:

"No concentration is there for the unwise,
No wisdom in one who lacks concentration;
In whom there is concentration and wisdom,
He truly is in Nibbana's neighbourhood
. [13]

Understanding Ourselves

The meditator who gains deep concentration of mind through mindfulness of in-and-out-breathing, now directs his thoughts to insight meditation (vipassana bhavana). In this context vipassana, or insight, means understanding things as they really are, that is seeing the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and non-substantial (non-self) nature of the five aggregates of clinging. In plain language it is understanding ourselves. It is not easy for us to understand ourselves because of our wrong concepts, baseless illusions, perversions and delusions. It is so diffcult to see the real person. Through vipassana one endeavours to remove the illusions (maya), concepts (pannatti) and perversions (vipallasa) and see ourselves as we really are.

When the meditator has advanced in his breathing meditation, when his mind is calmed through stilling the hindrances, he can see the impermanent nature of his own breath: its rise and fall like the waves of the sea. Now based on the impermanent breath, he endeavours to understand the impermanent nature of the five aggregates of clinging. The analysis of the so called being into the five ever-changing aggregates makes it clear that there is nothing abiding, nothing eternally conserved in this so called being -- this process of mind and body. One has also to take to heart the sequence between mindfulness (sati), analysis of the Dhamma (dhamma-vicaya), effort (viriya) and so forth, in the factors of enlightenment, mentioned in the fourth type of mindfulness (dhammanupassana). Mindfully one analyzes the dhamma. Here "dhamma" means one's mind and body. For this one needs determination and the fourfold effort  [14] to have a clear picture of the function of the mental factors, to overcome the unwholesome and maintain the wholesome thoughts. As the meditator proceeds with indefatigable zeal analysing the mind and body, seeing with insight what is beyond the naked eye, there arises unalloyed joy (araddha viriyassa uppajjati piti niramisa). [15]

Change or impermanence (anicca) is the essential characteristic of phenomenal existence.

We cannot say of anything, animate or inanimate, "this is lasting"; for even while we say this, it is undergoing change. The aggregates are compounded and conditioned, and therefore ever subject to cause and effect. Unceasingly does mind and its factors change, and just as unceasingly, though at a lower rate, the physical body also changes from moment to moment. "He who sees clearly that the impermanent aggregates are impermanent, has right understanding." [16]

The Buddha gives five very striking similes to illustrate the impermanent nature of the five aggregates of clinging. He compares material form or body to a lump of foam, feeling to a bubble, perception to a mirage, mental formations or volitional activities to a plantain trunk which is pithless, without heartwood and consciousness to an illusion. He asks:

"What essence, monks, could there be in a lump of foam, in a bubble, in a mirage, in a plantain trunk, in an illusion?" Continuing, the Buddha says:

"Whatever material form there be whether past, future or present; internal or external; gross or subtle; low or lofty; far or near; that material form the meditator sees, meditates upon, examines with systematic and wise attention (yoniso manasikara), he thus seeing, meditating upon, and examining with systematic and wise attention, would find it empty, unsubstantial and without essence. What essence, monks, could there be in material form?" The Buddha speaks in the same manner of the remaining aggregates and asks: "What essence, monks, could there be in feeling, in perception, in mental formations and in consciousness?"

Thus we see that a more advanced range of thought comes with the analysis of the five aggregates of clinging. It is at this stage that right understanding, insight (vipassana) begins to work. It is through this insight that the true nature of the aggregates is grasped and seen in the light of the three signs or characteristics (ti-lakkhana), namely: impermanence, suffering or unsatisfactoriness and not-self. The Master explains it thus:

"The five aggregates, monks, are impermanent (anicca); whatever is impermanent, that is dukkha, unsatisfactory; that is without self (anatta), that is not mine, that I am not, that is not my self. Thus should it be seen by perfect wisdom (sammappannaya) as it really is. He who sees by perfect wisdom as it really is, his mind not grasping, is detached from taints, he is liberated." [17]

It is not only the five aggregates that are impermanent, unsatisfactory and without a self, but the causes and conditions that produce the aggregates are also impermanent, unsatisfactory and without a self. This point the Buddha makes clear:

"Material form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness, monks, are impermanent; whatever causes and conditions there are for the arising of these aggregates, they too are impermanent. How, monks, could aggregates, arising from what is impermanent be permanent?" [18] "What is impermanent is not worth rejoicing, not worth approval, not worth clinging to ..." [19]

We actually live for one moment only, and the next moment, it is another life. Thus the duration of life, in the ultimate sense, is for one moment only. This is sometimes referred to as the instantaneousness of life. There is a living and dying every moment. Today is the tomorrow we spoke of yesterday. The meditative mind unrelated to the past and to the future is capable of living with clarity and reason in the world.

The essence of vipassana meditation is in the experience, not in sermons and books on meditation, though they have their advantages. Do not cling to any goal or results of meditation. This is a practice without any attachment to anything material, mental or spriritual; for all things when clung to fail. Be ever vigilant and mindful. The Discourse on Setting Up of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta) repeats the saying: "He lives independent, clinging to nothing in the world" (anissito ca viharati na ca kinci loke upadiyati). This is the result a meditator gains.

Removing Perversions

It is always when we fail to see the true nature of things that our views become clouded. Because of our likes and dislikes, we fail to see the sense organs and sense objects objectively and in their proper perspective and go after mirages, illusions and deceptions. The sense organs delude and mislead us and then we fail to see things in their true light as a result of which our way of seeing things becomes perverted.

The delusion of mind mistakes the unreal for the real, the passing shadows for permanence, and the result is confusion, conflict, disharmony and perpetual sorrow.

When a man is caught up in these illusions, he perceives, thinks and views incorrectly.

He perceives permanence in the impermanent; pleasure in pain; self in what is not self; beauty in the repulsive. He thinks and views in the same erroneous manner. Thus each perversion works in four ways, [20] and leads man astray, clouds his vision and confuses him. He is deluded by his own senses. This is due to unwise reflection, unsystematic attention (ayoniso-manasikara). He who cannot see the true nature of this world, its ways, its tendencies, the inevitable fruit of actions, and he who cannot see that life is not permanent and lacking in true happiness, and who, therefore, still clings to the world, is too young yet in life. He has to mature in right understanding before the Buddhadhamma has a message for him. His veils of lust, self-conceit and delusion are thick and strong. The terrible dangers of the world of life lay in the understanding of life; for everything here pertaining to world changes; there is no exception, one can rely on nothing.

Right understanding or insight alone removes these illusions and helps man to cognize the real nature that underlies all appearance. It is only when man comes out of this cloud of illusions and perversions that he shines with true wisdom like the full moon that emerges brilliant from behind a black cloud.

When discussing the three-fold training: virtue, concentration and wisdom, leading to final deliverance and complete mental purity, it is important to understand how man's latent or underlying tendencies function.

When the defilements lie dormant in the recesses of man's mind, they are called latent, underlying or hidden (anusaya). [21] "They are dormant so long as they are not fed. The five sense organs with the mind as the sixth, provide the necessary food in the form of visible objects, sounds, smell, taste, touch and mental objects. These six kinds of food can be either agreeable or offensive. In either case, sense objects act as stimulants, and no sooner are the latent tendencies thus stimulated than they rise to the surface. This uprising of the tendencies is known as pariyutthana or samudagata. When they are thus awakened and aroused, they tend to escape, and seek an outlet. If man fails to exercise systematic wise attention (yoniso-manasikara) and calm down the risen tendencies, they escape either through the doors of speech or deed or through both, and that is called transgression or going beyond (vitikkama).

Of these three stages of the tendencies, the third, that is the "transgression stage," is coarse, the second, the "risen stage,"is fine, and the first, or the "latent stage," is still finer. The three weapons to overcome them and to deliver the mind from their grip are virtue, concentration and wisdom.

Through virtue or sila all bodily and verbal ill actions are brought under control, and the transgression stage is checked. It is true, even for training verbal and physical acts a certain measure of mental discipline is needed, though not necessarily intense and serious meditation.

Man may, through sila, be calm and composed verbally and physically, but not in mind; he lacks concentration, samadhi. Virtue cannot control the mind, though it is an asset to mental calm. Concentration with the aid of wise attention subdues the second type of tendencies thus preventing them from escaping. Concentration, however, is incapable of removing the latent tendencies. It is through wisdom, which is insight, vipassana, that all impulses, all tendencies are completely eradicated. And then no more can a man be confused by the terrible, or swept off his feet by the glamour of things ephemeral. No more is it possible for him to have a clouded view of phenomena; for he has transcended all capacity for error through perfect immunity which vipassana alone can grant. And this is deliverance (vimutti), the stepping out (nissarama) from the vicious circle of samsara, repeated existence.

Let us now call to mind the proclamation of the Buddha in the opening lines of the Satipatthana Sutta:

Satipatthana is the one and only way for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the abandoning of pain and grief, for reaching the right path and realising Nibbana.

Summing Up

As we discussed earlier, the starting point in the Dispensation of the Buddha (Buddha-sasana) is sila, virtuous behaviour. Standing on the firm ground of sila, the meditator should endeavour to discipline the fickle mind. The Buddha pointed out to his disciples ways and means of overcoming verbal and physical ill behaviour. By taming his tongue, controlling his bodily actions, and making himself pure in the way he earns his living, the meditator establishes himself well in moral habits. While thus restraining himself in word and deed, he tries to guard the doors of the senses; for if he lacks control over his senses, unhealthy thoughts are bound to fill his mind. He maintains his balance putting away all likes and dislikes. This control of the senses he practises with zest. He eats moderately and mindfully and is devoted to wakefulness.

Now if he is earnest and mindful, he will advance without faltering and start the more difficult task of meditation. Taking up a subject of meditation that suits his temperament and continuing with it without stopping, he gains concentrative calm by overcoming the hindrances which obstruct the meditation. Thus the meditator who strives mindfully gains control over his fickle mind. With his speech, actions and sense organs subjugated and his mind under control, he has now gained self-mastery.

Thus training himself in virtue and concentration (sila-sikkha and samadhi-sikkha), he now tries to gain true wisdom or insight by seeing all things as they really are (yathabh|tam). Viewing things as they really are implies, as we have discussed above, seeing the transient, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all conditioned and component things. To such a meditative disciple of the Buddha, the "world" is not the external or empirical world, but the human body with its consciousness -- the world of the five aggregates of clinging. It is this that he tries to understand as impermanent, unsatisfactory and without self or ego entity. It is to this world of body and mind that the Buddha referred when he said to Mogharaja: "Ever mindful, Mogharaja, see the world as void (sunna) –having given up the notion of a self (underlying it) -- so may one overcome Mara (death.)" [22]

The vipassana method implies gaining knowledge by direct observation. It goes beyond the intellect, beyond theory, beyond conceptual interpretation, to the actual experiencing of life itself.

Thus comprehending things as they really are, thus realising the true nature of the five aggregates of clinging, by washing out the impurities of his mind, he "lives independent, clinging to nothing in the world."

The reader will note that in this self-purification and self-mastery for final deliverance, there is no coercion or compulsion by any external agency, there are no rewards or punishments for deeds done or left undone. Deliverance from mental taints lies absolutely and entirely in one's own hands, not in someone else's -- be it human or divine. The door is free of all bolts and bars except those that man himself has made. Not even a supreme Buddha can deliver a man from the fetters of existence except by showing him the path. The path is virtue, concentration and wisdom.

All life's problems can be reduced to one single problem, that of dukkha, suffering or unsatisfactoriness. And the solution put forward by the Buddhas or Enlightened Ones of all ages is the Noble Eightfold Path. The efficiency of this path lies in the practice of it. The Buddha's meditation path, which is the Noble Eightfold Path, still beckons the weary pilgrim to the haven of Nibbana's security and peace. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" and as the old saying goes: "Some run swiftly; some walk; some creep painfully; but all who keep on will reach the goal."




Thus Have I Heard

Then a certain monk visited the Buddha, saluted him and sat on one side. Having saluted, he said to the Buddha: "They say, Lord, 'Living according to the Dhamma' (dhamma-vihari). Lord, how does a monk live according to the Dhamma?"

1. "Here, 0 monk, a monk masters the Dhamma (the teaching of the Buddha) and spends the day in that mastery, does not go into solitude, does not practise mind concentration. That monk is said to be intensely bent on study, but he lives not according to the Dhamma.

2. "Again, 0 monk, a monk teaches others the Dhamma in detail as he has heard it, as he has mastered it; he spends the day convincing others of the Dhamma, does not go into solitude, does not practise concentration of mind. That monk is said to be intent on convincing others, but he lives not according to the Dhamma.

3. "Again, 0 monk, a monk repeats the Dhamma in detail as he has heard it, as he has mastered it, he spends the day in that repetition, does not go into solitude, does not practise mind concentration. That monk is said to be intent on repeating, but he lives not according to the Dhamma.

4. "Again, 0 monk, a monk turns his mind to the Dhamma, ponders over it, reflects on it, as he has heard it, as he has mastered it; he spends the day in thinking about the Dhamma, but he lives not according to the Dhamma.

5. "But, 0 monk, a monk masters the Dhamma, but does not spend the day in that mastery; he goes into solitude and practises mind concentration. Verily, 0 monk, such a monk lives according to the Dhamma.

"O monk, thus, indeed, have I declared: one intent on study, one intent on convincing others, one intent on repeating, one intent on thinking and one who lives according to the Dhamma.

"What should be done by a teacher for his disciples out of love and compassion, that has been done by me for you. Here are tree-roots, empty places; meditate, 0 monks, do not be heedless, do not have any regrets afterwards: This is my exhortion to you"

(Anguttara Nikaya, Pancaka Nipata 73).



The Art of Noble Living

Brahma-vihara is another subject of meditation that is beneficial to practise. The word "brahma" can be rendered as excellent, lofty, sublime or noble, and vihara, "as states of living." Brahma-vihara, therefore, means sublime states; some call it "divine abodes." It can also be called "the art of noble living."

There are four brahma-viharas, namely:

Loving-kindness or universal love (metta),
Compassion (karuma),
Sympathetic joy, altruistic or appreciative joy (mudita),
Equanimity (upekkha).

These are excellent virtues conducive to noble living. They banish selfishness and disharmony and promote altruism, unity and brotherhood. They are also known as boundless states or illimitables (appamannayo) because they are virtues to be extended towards all beings, without exception, irrespective of race, caste, colour, community, creed, East or West.

Subha-vimokkha is another term by which these qualities of the heart are known. It means deliverance of the mind (vimokkha) through recognition of the good (subha) in others. Instead of seeing the evil in others, the meditator sees the good in them and cultivates the four sublime states.

Latent in the human mind are defilements of diverse type, so it is natural for man to entertain unwholesome thoughts. However, each and every defilement has its opposite virtue; thus it is possible to develop a virtue to overcome and eliminate a defilement. When developing the sublime states no living being is to be excluded. These qualities make no distinction between man and man as high and low, rich and poor, strong and weak, wise and unwise, dark and fair, brahmin and candala, or as Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.; for these sublime states, as we saw above, are boundless, and no sooner do we try to keep men apart on the basis of false distinctions, than the feeling of separateness creeps in and these boundless qualities become limited, contrary to the high ideals they represent.

The brahma-vihara can also be taken as subjects of meditation, then they are called "brahma-vihara bhavana," "the meditative developments of the sublime states." By cultivating these positive virtues one can maintain a calm and pure mind.

When practising meditation on the brahma-viharas, it is easier to start with oneself. For instance, when meditating on love, proceed thus: "May I be well, may I be happy; may I be free from illness, may no harm come to me," and so forth. Then think of a teacher, a friend, an indifferent person and lastly an enemy (if any, but one should not create an enemy), and radiate thoughts of love towards them. It may appear very difficult to extend love to an enemy, but this difficult thing one has to do to remove discrimination. Love should be extended to all without any compromising limitations.

You may ask why love should be radiated to oneself. Is it not selfish to do so? Seemingly it may be, but by doing so it becomes easier to extend our love to others: "I like to be well and happy, so let other beings also be well and happy." "As I am so they are: as they are so am I," thus comparing self with others cultivate love towards all. [23]

Verse number 130 of the Dhammapada reads:

"All tremble at punishment,
To all life is dear.
Comparing others with oneself,
One should neither kill nor cause to kill."

I- Loving-kindness (Metta)

Metta (Skt. maitri) is the wish for the welfare and happiness of all beings, making no restriction whatsoever. It has the character of a benevolent friend. Its direct enemy is ill will or hatred while the indirect or masked enemy is carnal love, sensual attachment or selfish affectionate desire (pema) which is quite different from metta. Carnal love when disguised as metta can do much harm to oneself and others. We have to be on our guard against this masked enemy, sensuality and greedy possessiveness. If the feeling of love is the direct result of attachment and clinging, then it is not really metta.

To love someone means to develop an attachment to the loved one, and when the latter is equally fond of you, a bond is created, but when you are separated or when the dear one's affection towards you wanes, you become miserable and may even behave foolishly. In his formulation of the Noble Truth of Suffering, the Buddha says: "Association with the unloved is suffering, separation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering." Metta, however, is a very pure sublime state which, like quicksilver, cannot attach itself to anything.

It is difficult to love a person dispassionately, without clinging, without any idea of self, me and mine; for in man the notion of "I" is dominant, and to love without making any distinction between this and that, without barriers between persons, to regard all as sisters and brothers with a boundless heart, may appear to be almost impossible. But those who try even a little will be rewarded; it is worthwhile.

Vicious thoughts of animosity and hatred are most detrimental and harmful to those who harbour them. When people are angry, they can behave very much as the other animals do. They growl and bite, or cringe and fawn. This is due to man's ignorance. This is as true on the personal as it is on the international level.

Metta is the best antidote for anger in ourselves. It is the best medicine for those who are angry with us. Let us extend love to all who need it with a free and boundless heart. Love is the language of the heart, a language that comes from the heart and goes to the heart. Love is a force linking heart with heart to heal, and uniting us in true companionship. Highly developed thoughts of metta seem to possess magnetic power. By radiating such sublime thoughts it is possible to influence and win over people.

Through love one adds to the fund of human happiness, one makes the world brighter, nobler and purer and prepares it for the good life better than in any other way. There is no ill-luck worse than hatred it is said, and no safety from others' hostility greater than the heart of love, the heart in which hate is dead. Love is an active force. Every act of metta is done with the stainless mind to help, to succour, to cheer, to make the paths of others easier, smoother, and more adapted to the conquest of sorrow, the winning of the highest bliss.

The way to develop love is through thinking out the evils of hate, and the advantages of non-hate; through thinking out according to actuality, according to kamma, that really there is none to hate, that hate is a foolish way of feeling, which breeds more and more darkness, that obstructs right understanding.

Hatred restricts; love releases. Hatred strangles; love liberates. Hatred brings remorse; love brings peace. Hatred agitates; love quietens, stills, calms. Hatred divides; love unites. Hatred hardens; love softens. Hatred hinders; love helps. Thus one can use a correct study and appreciation of the effects of hatred and the benefits of love, as a basis for developing the meditation on loving-kindness.


As a mother loves her child,
An only child,
With love that knows no limit,
Spreading wide,
Measureless and immense --
And, for it, will sacrifice
Her very life --
So let your love for all beings,
East and west, north and south,
Below, above --
Extending and extending wide,
Be immeasurable, exhaustless. Unfathomable.
Chaste is such love,
Not clinging -- and so to fools
'Tis incomprehensible;
But the Seers understood,
And understanding, knew full well
Its golden worth.
(after Metta Sutta, trans. Kassapa Thera)

II- Compassion (Karuma)

Karuma is defined as "the quality which makes the heart of the good man tremble and quiver at the distress of others," "the quality that rouses tender feelings in the good man at the sight of others' suffering." Cruelty or violence is the direct enemy of karuma while homely grief is the indirect or masked enemy. Though the latter may appear in the guise of a friend, it is not true karuma, but false sympathy; such sympathy is deceitful and one must try to distinguish true from false compassion. The compassionate man who refrains from harming and oppressing others and endeavours to relieve them of their distress, gives the gift of security to one and all, making no distinction whatsoever.

Karuma is loving-compassion. It is that sublime quality which makes the hearts of the noble quiver at the suffering of the world. Karuma has the characteristic of a mother whose thoughts, words and deeds tend to relieve the distress of her babe. It has the property of not being able to tolerate the sufferings of others, and the manifestation of perfect non-violence. Its consummation is the eradication of all cruelty. Its proximate cause is the sight of the forlorn state of those in distress.

By precept and example the Buddha was the Great Compassionate One (Mahakarumika). He radiated his great compassion towards all beings, and never encouraged wrangling, animosity and violence. Addressing the disciples he once said: "I quarrel not with the world, it is the world that quarrels with me. An exponent of the Dhamma does not quarrel with anyone in the world." [24] The entire dispensation of the Buddha is permeated with this sublime quality of karuma.

Goodness and violence cannot co-exist; goodness constructs while violence destroys. Compassion cannot be cultivated by one who is obsessed with thoughts of selfishness. It is the self-sacrificing man who fills his heart with pure thoughts of pity and wishes to help and serve others. The selfish cannot be of real service to others for their selfish motives prevent them from doing good. No sooner do they become selfish and self-possessed than they fail to soften their hearts. Hard-heartedness is overcome by pity, by sympathy. If you remove compassion from the teachings of the Buddha, you remove the heart of Buddhism; for all virtues, all goodness and righteousness have compassion as their basis, as their matrix (karuma nidhanam hi silam).

All the virtues (paramita) that a Bodhisatta, one bent on Enlightenment, cultivates are initiated by compassion. Compassion is guided by wisdom and wisdom by compassion. They go hand in hand, they are the backbone of Buddhism, the guiding principles.

Compassion is surely not a flabby state of mind. It is a strong enduring thing. When a person is in distress, it is compassion that spurs us to action and incites us to rescue the distressed. And this needs strength of mind.

People are fascinated by a study of the various types of machinery which science has invented. What is urgently needed is a study of the machinery of the human mind. It is this study that can help to clear the misunderstanding between man and man.

As the poet says:

"Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone:
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in our own."

III- Sympathetic Joy (Mudita)

Gladness at others' success is the third sublime state, known as mudita. It is not mere sympathy but sympathetic, altruistic or appreciative joy. Its direct enemy is jealousy and the indirect enemy is exhilaration. Jealousy is a vice that defiles our hearts and makes us unhappy.

When others are in distress we show our compassion, we sympathize with them and try to relieve them of their distress. But to appreciate another's success we need sympathetic joy. It is this quality of the heart that makes us rejoice over the success of others as we rejoice over our own. Jealous people cannot feel happy when others are progressing, but they rejoice over the failures and misfortunes of others. Some parents feel jealous when others' children are doing well while their own are not successful. This is meaningless, and bears unpleasant fruit.

Jealousy is a vice shared by people of different walks of life -- intellectuals, politicians and even men of large calibre. If that is so, need one speak of the poor and the illiterate? However, at times, the latter are more co-operative and unselfish.

Instead of entertaining thoughts of jealousy, we should work hard with determination to surmount obstacles and fulfil our hopes. Let us also bear in mind that our kamma, or moral causation also has a role to play in our lives.

Mudita is the congratulatory attitude of a person, it removes aversion. Through meditation and the study of the vicissitudes of life, we can cultivate this sublime virtue of appreciating others' happiness, welfare and progress. When we learn to rejoice with the joy of others, our hearts get purified, serene and lofty.

Seeing a starving man we offer him food out of compassion (karuma). When we see that he has eaten, that his hunger has ceased, and that he feels happy, then we too feel happy and pleased. Such selfless action really brings us unalloyed joy, sympathetic joy (mudita). You will now see how these sublime states function together supporting one another.

IV- Equanimity (Upekkha)

The fourth and the last sublime state is equanimity, upekkha. It is "even-mindedness," mental equipoise and not hedonic indifference. Equanimity is the result of a calm concentrative mind. The four sublime states are interrelated and interdependent, but it is equanimity that guards the rest: love, compassion and sympathetic joy. Equanimity is the most essential quality, deep and difficult to cultivate.

Life is not a bed of roses. One needs much patience, energy and determination to cultivate these qualities without being selfish or partial. Equanimity or balance of mind guides the other three qualities and keeps the meditator in a place of security. It brings about self-reliance.

We are all confronted with the eight vicissitudes of life (attha loka dhamma): gain and loss, good repute and ill repute, praise and censure, pain and pleasure. It is hard to be undisturbed when touched by this welter of experience. But the man who cultivates equanimity is not upset. He does not waver. Amidst blame and praise, success and failure, he is firm as a solid rock. This, of course, is the attitude of the Arahats, the Consummate Ones. Of them it is said: "Truly the good give up longing for everything. They prattle not with thoughts of craving. Touched by pain or happiness, the wise show neither elation nor depression. [25]

People of lesser attainment who understand the nature of human life and its ups and downs, who cultivate equanimity, can also face the vicissitudes of life with a brave heart. They see things in their proper perspective, how things come into being and pass away. Free from anxiety and restlessness, they can see the fragility of the fragile. Quiet minds ... go on, in fortune or misfortune, at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. [26]

The proximate cause of equanimity is the understanding that all beings are the result of their actions (kamma). The direct enemy of upekkha is attachment and the indirect or the masked enemy is callousness or unintelligent indifference.

Understanding the working of kamma, action or moral causation, and how kamma comes to fruition (kamma-vipaka), is very necessary to cultivate equanimity. In the light of kamma one will be able to keep a detached attitude toward all beings, even inanimate things.

Upekkha puts aside both attachment (anurodha) and resentment (virodha). They are two extremes. The meditator who follows the Middle Path is neither attracted by the pleasant nor repelled by the unpleasant. He keeps a balanced mind without temper, tantrums, depression or anxiety.

As Wordsworth observed: "Strongest minds are often those of whom the noisy world hears least," and 2,500 and more years ago the Buddha said:

"Yes, emptiness is loud, but fullness calm;

The fool's a half-filled crock; the sage a lake." [27]

Metta embraces all beings; karuma embraces those who are suffering; mudita embraces the prosperous; and upekkha embraces both the good and bad, the loved and the unloved, the pleasant and the unpleasant, the ugly and the beautiful, without making any discrimination.

"... The meditator experiences joy, being joyful, the mind is concentrated. He dwells suffusing one direction with his heart filled with loving-kindness (metta). Likewise the second, the third, and the fourth direction, so above, below and around; he dwells suffusing the whole world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with loving-kindness, abundant, grown great, measureless, without enmity, without ill will. He dwells with a heart full of compassion (karuma) ... sympathetic joy (mudita) ... equanimity (upekkha) ... without enmity, without ill will.

"It is as if there were a lovely lotus pond with clear water, sweet water, cool water, limpid, with beautiful banks; and a man were to come along from the east, west, north or south, overcome and overpowered by the heat, exhausted, parched and thirsty. On coming to that lotus pond he might quench his thirst with water and quench his feverish heat. Even so ... one who has come into this doctrine and discipline (dhamma-vinaya) taught by the Buddha, having thus developed loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, attains inner calm -- I say it is by inner calm that he is following the practices fitting for recluses (meditators)." (M. 40/I, 284)



Right Effort

The function of right effort is fourfold: to prevent, abandon, develop and maintain. [28]

1. What is the effort to prevent?

"Herein a meditator puts forth his will to prevent the arising of evil, of unwholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen. He strives, develops energy and strengthens his mind (to this end).

"Herein a meditator, seeing a form, hearing a sound, smelling an odour, tasting a flavour, feeling some tangible thing or cognizing a mental object, apprehends neither signs nor particulars (that is, he is not moved by their general features or by their details). In as much as coveting and dejection, evil and unwholesome thoughts break in upon one who dwells with senses unrestrained, he applies himself to such control, he guards over the senses, restrains the senses. This is called the effort to prevent."

2. What is the effort to abandon?

"Herein a meditator puts forth his will to abandon the evil, unwholesome thoughts that have already arisen. He strives, develops energy and strengthens his mind (to this end).

"Herein a meditator does not admit sense desires that have arisen, but abandons, discards and repels them, makes an end of them and causes them to disappear. So also with regard to thoughts of ill will and of harm that have arisen. This is called the effort to abandon."

3. What is the effort to develop?

"Herein a meditator puts forth his will to produce and develop wholesome thoughts that have not yet arisen. He strives, develops energy and strengthens his mind (to this end).

"Herein a meditator develops the factors of enlightenment based on seclusion, on dispassion, on cessation that is deliverance, namely: mindfulness, investigation of the Dhamma, energy, rapturous joy, calm, concen-tration and equanimity. This is called the effort to develop."

4. What is the effort to maintain?

"Herein a monk maintains a favourable object of concentration (meditation). This is called the effort to maintain."

These then are the four efforts:

The unwholesome thoughts referred to here are the three root causes of evil namely: thoughts of lust (craving), hatred and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha). All other passions gather round these three root causes, while wholesome thoughts are their opposites.

The sole purpose of this fourfold effort is success in meditation. The four right efforts are the requisites for concentration. As we saw above, right effort is included in the groups of samadhi or concentradon. As such, right effort functions together and simultaneously with the other two factors of the group, namely right mindfulness and right concentration. Without right effort the hindrances [29] to mental progress cannot be overcome. Right effort removes the evil and unhealthy thoughts that act as a barrier to the calm of absorption, and promotes and maintains the healthy mental factors that aid the development of concentration.



Hindrances (Nivarama)

"There are, monks these five hindrances which cause blindness, loss of vision, and non-knowledge, which take away one's insight, are associated with pain and do not lead to Nibbana." [30]

"Nivarama" means those states which hinder and obstruct mental development. They are called hindrances because they completely close in, cut off and obstruct. They close the door to deliverance. What are the five?

1. Sense desire (kamacchanda),
2. Ill will (vyapada),
3. Sloth and torpor (thina-middha),
4. Restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca)
5. Sceptical doubt (vicikiccha).

1. Kamacchanda is lust for sense objects. Sensual thoughts definitely retard mental development. They disturb the mind and hinder concentration. Sensuality is due to non-restraint of the senses, which when unguarded gives rise to thoughts of lust so that the mind-flux is defiled. Hence the need for the meditator to be on his guard against this hindrance which closes the door to deliverance.

2. The next is ill will. As in the case of sense-desire, it is unwise and unsystematic attention that brings about ill will. When not checked, ill will propagates itself, saps the mind and clouds the vision. It distorts the entire mind and thus hinders awakening to truth, blocks the path to freedom. Lust and ill will, based on ignorance, not only hamper mental growth, but act as the root cause of strife and dissension between man and man and nation and nation.

3. The third hindrance is sloth and torpor, a morbid state of the mind and mental properties. It is not, as some are inclined to think, sluggishness of the body; for even the Arahats, the Consummate Ones, who are free from this ill, also experience bodily fatigue. This sloth and torpor, like butter too stiff to spread, makes the mind rigid and inert. It thus lessens the yogi's enthusiasm and earnestness for meditation so that he becomes mentally sick and lazy. Laxity leads to greater slackness until finally there arises a state of callous indifference.

4. The fourth hindrance is restlessness and worry, another disadvantage that makes progress difficult. When the mind becomes restless like flustered bees in a shaken hive, it cannot concentrate. This mental agitation prevents calmness and blocks the upward path. Worry is just as harmful. When a man worries over one thing and another, over things done or left undone, and over misfortunes, he can never have peace of mind. All this bother and worry, this fidgeting and unsteadiness of mind, prevent concentration. Hence these two drawbacks, restlessness and worry, are included in the five hindrances that retard mental progress.

5. The fifth and the last hindrance is sceptical doubt. The Pali word "vi + cikiccha" means literally "without (vigata) medicine (cikiccha)." The commentators explain this hindrance as the inability to decide anything definitely; it includes doubt with regard to the possibility of attaining the jhana, mental absorption. Perplexity is really a dire disease, and unless we shed our doubts, we will continue to suffer from it. As long as we continue to take a sceptical view of things, sitting on the fence, this will be most detrimental to mental development.

The mind that is obsessed by these five hindrances cannot concentrate successfully on any object of a wholesome nature. It is true that a man can concentrate on an object with thoughts of lust or ill will, etc.; but that is wrong concentration (micchasamadhi). As long as impurities or passions (kilesa) exist in man, evil and unwholesome thoughts will continue to arise. The meditator who practises samadhi, however, is incapable of committing any evil; for the hindrances are under control.

To overcome the hindrances, one has to develop five psychic factors known as factors of jhana (jhana~ga). They are: vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha, and ekaggata. It is these psychic factors that raise the meditator from lower to higher levels of mental purity. The consciousness that is associated with them becomes known as jhana. These psychic factors, in order, step by step, subdue the hindrances that block the path of concentration. Each is the exact opposite of a specific hindrance.

Sense desire is subdued by ekaggata, one-pointedness or unification of the mind; ill will, by joy (piti); sloth and torpor, by applied thought (vitakka); restlessness and worry, by happiness (sukha); and doubt, by sustained thought (vicara).

When placed side by side, they stand thus:

Kamacchanda <--> Ekaggata
Vyapada <--> Piti
Thina-middha <--> Vitakka
Uddhacca-kukkucca <--> Sukha
Vicikiccha <--> Vicara



Sona, the Earnest Meditator

There is the story of a monk, the Venerable Sona-kolivisa, [31] who was making a violent but unsuccessful effort to exert himself physically and mentally. Then the following thought occurred to him while in solitude: "The disciples of the Blessed One live with zealous effort and I am one of them. Yet my mind is not free of taints. My family has wealth; I can enjoy my riches and do good; what if I were to give up the training and revert to the low life, enjoy the riches and do good?"

The Blessed One reading his thoughts approached him and asked: "Sona, did you not think: 'The disciples of the Blessed One live with zealous effort (as before) ... and do good?' "Yes, Venerable Sir."

"And what do you think, Sona, were you not skilful at the lute before when you were a layman?" "Yes Venerable Sir."

"And, what do you think, Sona, when the strings of your lute were overstrung, was it then in tune and playable?" "No, indeed, Venerable Sir."

"And what do you think, Sona, when the strings of your lute were too slack, was it then in tune and playable?" "No, indeed, Venerable Sir."

"But when, Sona, the strings of your lute were neither overstrung nor too slack but keyed to the middle pitch was it then in tune and playable?" "Surely, Venerable Sir."

"Even so, Sona, effort when too strenuous leads to flurry and when too slack to indolence. Therefore, Sona, make a firm determination thus: Understanding the equality of the faculties," I shall grasp at the aim by uniformity of effort." "Yes, Venerable Sir."

The Venerable Sona followed the instructions of the Blessed One and in due course attained perfection and was numbered among the Arahats. [32]



The Removal of Distracting Thought

The twentieth discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya (Vitakka-samthana Sutta) gives practical instructions on how to keep away distracting thoughts, and is indispensable to a meditator. The gist of it is as follows. [33] The Buddha addressing his disciples said:

"Monks, the meditator who is intent on higher thought should reflect on five things from time to time. What five?

1. If through reflection on an object, evil, unwholesome thoughts associated with desire, hate and delusion arise in a meditator, he should (in order to get rid of them) reflect of another object which is wholesome. Then the evil, unwholesome thoughts are removed; they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm and becomes calm, unified and concentrated within (his subject of meditation).

"As a skilled carpenter or his apprentice knocks out and removes a coarse peg with a fine one, so should the meditator get rid of that evil object by reflecting on another object which is wholesome. Then the evil unwholesome thoughts associated with desire, hate and delusion are removed, they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm ... within.

2. "If the evil thoughts still arise in a meditator who reflects on another object which is wholesome, he should consider the disadvantages of evil thoughts thus: 'Indeed, these thoughts of mine are unwholesome, blameworthy, and bring painful consequences.' Then his evil thoughts are removed, they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm ... within.

3. "If the evil thoughts still arise in a meditator who thinks over their disadvantages, he should pay no attention to, and not reflect on those evil thoughts. Then the evil thoughts are removed, they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm ... within.

4. "If the evil thoughts still arise in a meditator who pays no attention to and does not reflect on evil thoughts, he should reflect on removing the root of those thoughts. Then the evil unwholesome thoughts are removed, they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm ... within.

5. "If the evil thoughts still arise in a meditator who reflects on the removal of their root, he should with clenched teeth, and tongue pressed against his palate restrain, overcome and control the (evil) mind with the (good) mind. Then the evil thoughts are removed, they disappear. By their removal the mind stands firm ... within.

"If through a meditator's reflection on a wholesome object, thinking over disadvantages of evil thoughts, paying no attention to and not reflecting on evil thoughts, reflecting on the removal of their root, restraining, overcoming, and controlling the (evil) mind with the (good) mind with clenched teeth and tongue pressed against his palate, evil thoughts are removed, and the mind stands firm and calm, becomes unified and concentrated within (its subject of meditation) that meditator is called a master of the paths along which thoughts travel. He thinks the thought that he wants to think; he thinks not the thought that he does not want to think. He has cut off craving and removed the fetter fully; mastering pride he has made an end of suffering."


[1] From The Centuries Poetry. Vol. 2, pp 153-155.

[2] Samyutta Nikaya i, 4

[3] See Addendum IV

[4] There are ten fetters: 1, sense desire, 2. ill will. 3. pride, 4. speculative opinion or wrong view, 5. doubts, 6. lust for existence, 7. indulgence in wrong rites, rituals and ceremonies, 8. envy, 9. avarice, 10. ignorance. These fetters arise depending on both eye and forms, ear and sounds, etc. The Commentary explains how these fetters arise. Read Soma Thera, The Way of Mindfulness (Kandy BPS) p. 132.

[5] 1) Mindfulness, 2) investigation of the dhamma (mind and matter), 3) energy, 4) rapture, 5) calm, 6) concentration, 7) equanimity.

[6] Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesayati, Majjhima Nikaya i. 251

[7] Samyutta Nikaya, i, 39.

[8] Majjhima 22

[9] See Addendum IV

[10] Samyutta Nikaya ii, 13.

[11] Anguttara Nikaya, i. 100

[12] Anguttara, i. 61

[13] Dhammapada v.372

[14] See Addendum III

[15] Majjhima Nikaya 118/ III 85.

[16] Samyutta Nikaya iii, 23

[17] Samyutta Nikaya iii, 44.

[18] Samyutta Nikaya iii, 23.

[19] Majjhima Nikaya 106/ II. 263

[20] Anguttara Nikaya ii, 52, Catukka Nipata 49; Anguttara Nikaya, Part I translation by Nyanaponika (Kandy: BPS) Wheel 155/158, p. 86

[21] There are seven latent tendencies: 1. sense desire, 2. ill will, 3. wrong view, 4. doubt, 5. pride, 6. lust for continued existence, 7. ignorance (kama-raga, patigha, ditthi, vicikiccha, mana, bhava-raga, avijja) -- D.iii, 11.12.

[22] R. L. Stevenson

[23]   Sutta-Nipata v.721.

[24] Majjhima Nikaya 40/ I. 284.

[25] Dhammapada, v. 83.

[26] R. L. Stevenson.

[27] Sutta Nipata v.721

[28] Samvara, pahana, bhavana, anurakkhana

[29] See Addendum IV.

[30] Samyutta Nikaya v. 97.

[31] Vinaya Pitaka II. I ff; Anguttara Nikaya iii 374-5.

[32] This episode occurs in the Commentary to the Theragatha: "He received a subject of study from the Master, but was unable to concentrate, owing to his meeting people while he stayed in Cool Wood. And he thought: "My body is too delicately reared to arrive happily at happiness. A recluse's duties involve bodily fatigues.' So he disregarded the painful sores on his feet gotten from pacing up and down, and strove his utmost but was unable to win. And he thought: 'I am not able to create either path or fruit. Of what use is this religious life to me? I will go back to lower things and work merit. Then the Master discerned, and saved him by the lesson on the Parable of the Lute, showing him how to temper energy with calm. Thus corrected, he went to Vulture's Peak, and in due course won Arahatship." Psalms of the Brethen by Mrs Rhys Davids (PTS) p. 275.

[33] For brewity's sake all the similes but one are omitted. For a detailed account read: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts, trans. by Soma Thera (Kandy: BPS), Wheel 21.

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  revised: 27-08-2003