SAMADHI

JOURNAL OF THE LONDON BUDDHIST VIHARA
THE FIRST AND THE FOREMOST BUDDHIST VIHARA OF THE WESTERN WORLD
ESTABLISHED IN 1926 BY THE ANAGARIKA DHARMAPALA

 

ISSUE No. 24                                                    MAY 2004                                     B. E. 2548                             ISSN 1368-1516

  INSIDE THIS ISSUE


WISDOM AND MEDITATION

by Most Venerable Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana,
Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain, Head of the London Buddhist Vihara

 

From meditation arises wisdom. Without meditation wisdom wanes. Knowing this twofold path of gain and loss, let one conduct oneself that wisdom may increase." This Dhammapada stanza (282) emphatically states that meditation is indispensable in achieving wisdom which is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist way of life.

In gaining experience in practice, the meditators are guided through The Seven Stages of Purification (Sattavisuddhi). They are first described in the Rathavinita Sutta which is a dialogue between Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Punna Mantaniputta. Ven. Sariputta, the foremost disciple of the Buddha, questions his friend on the prominent features of living the holy life according to the Buddha’s teachings. One noteworthy feature of the instructions given by Ven. Punna Mantaniputta is his colourful simile of a relay of chariots. He made it clear that to advance along the Path of Purity one must follow the Seven Stages in sequence as would a king to get from one point to a distant destination by organising a relay of chariots. He would mount the first chariot at point A and energetically drive to point B. By this time he fully understands the potential of both horses and vehicles. At point B he mounts a fresh chariot to point C, and so on until he arrives at the gate of his destination. Each stage must be energetically experienced until he arrives at the goal - the Seventh Stage - Nibbana.

The first two stages are likened to the roots of a great tree. The whole of the holy life pivots upon these two. They must become an integral part of the character of the aspirant. The Purification of Virtue consists of ever-deepening stages of moral excellence. Beginning with the five basic moral laws – not to kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, lie and become intoxicated, through their expansion into the Eight and then Ten Precepts, they reach their refinement in the Monastic Code, the Patimokkha. In this way the necessary moral foundation is laid for the development of the Five Spiritual Faculties (Indriya) of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and understanding.

The second stage is the Purification of the Mind by which is meant the attainment of the eight jhanas - absorptions. This is the development of Tranquillity Meditation, Samatha Bhavana, which removes the more subtle obstacles within the mind, known as the Five Hindrances. In this way, the mind is cleared of all impediments and apart from the blissful nature of such states, the meditator gains in confidence (saddha), and in energy (viriya) and concentration (samadhi). But these meditative experiences do not in themselves lead to the understanding necessary for enlightenment. They are not final accomplishments, but momentary interludes. There is, however, a second method of meditation which leads not to the suppression of these defilements but to their complete eradication. This is known as Insight Meditation (Vipassana Bhavana) and its further importance lies in the fact that it leads to spiritual enlightenment and, therefore, must now become the dominant method in the subsequent purifications. It is generally understood that a combination of these two methods - Samatha and Vipassana produces the quickest results.

At the third stage of Purification of View, the meditator begins to clarify his understanding of reality. Here the differences are discerned between the body (rupa) and the mind (nama), and their separate natures. On the one side is insentient matter and on the other sentient mind. For instance, the meditator clearly sees and knows the separation between the physical body (breathing) and the mind that knows it. This insight is important as it is the first step on the path of gnosis that will lead the meditator to the central doctrine of the Buddha’s teaching, that of Non-Self (anatta). It marks the first break from speculative views of self and leads to an appreciation of the insubstantial nature of all animate and inanimate "things".

The next stage, the Purification of Overcoming Doubt, draws the understanding to the relationship between the body and the mind - that of cause and effect. The meditator comes to realise that consciousness never arises unless there arises a particular sense faculty coupled with a sense object. One of the exercises to draw out this understanding is noting one’s intention before an act such as ‘intending to walk’ (a mental phenomenon) and walking as such (a physical phenomenon). Such an action arises dependent on the intentional thought. Whereas knowing the sensations caused at the nostrils by the passage of air in breathing is an effect, the cause of it is the physical body. This relationship of cause and effect is extended to the whole universe.

The fifth stage, the Purification of Knowledge and Vision of What is the Path and Not-Path, again changes the perspective - this time to observe the Three Characteristics of Existence (Tilakkhana) - impermanence (anicca), dissatisfaction (dukkha), insubstantiality (anatta). For instance, the meditator experiences the momentary nature of the breath. "All formations of existence ever and again arise as something new". Such insights are a delight to the meditator who now begins to experience all sorts of wonderful states brought about by the purity and concentration of the mind. However, because they all hold the danger of attachment and can easily be mistaken for true spiritual insights, they are known as the Ten Impurities (upakkilesa). Abandoning such indulgence, the meditator comes to see them as Not-Path. The way to Nibbana is not one of indulgence in pleasure, not even the most refined, ecstatic experiences.

The meditator now enters into the Insight Knowledge Stage of Purification of Knowledge and Vision of Path Progress that leads through a process of nine lesser stages to the supra-mundane experience of Nibbana. In brief they are: the knowledge consisting in Contemplation of Rise and Fall (Udayabbayanupassana). The meditator turns with added zeal and clarity to observe the three Characteristics of which transiency (anicca) becomes uppermost and there comes a more direct experience of the momentariness of all phenomena. From this point, the understanding suddenly catches more prominently the vanishing part of this momentary creation and this is the knowledge in Contemplation of Dissolution (Bhanganupassana). This experience of the continuing destruction of the world, brings the meditator face to face with the insubstantiality of life (anicca) - and indeed death.

Now the mood radically changes towards negative modes and in the next three stages the meditator experiences the terror, the danger and the horror of living in such an evanescent world. These knowledges, called the Contemplation of the Fearful (Bhayat’upatthana), of Misery (Adinavanupassana) and of Aversion (Nibbidanupassana), lead the meditator on to a great desire to escape, and great restlessness and often despair beset them. This is the stage of the Knowledge of Desire for Deliverance (Muncitukamyata). Here comes the understanding that liberation does not come with running away from suffering. Free of the desire to escape, the meditator can re-establish the quality of his Insight Meditation and reach the stage called the Knowledge in Reflecting Contemplation (patisankhanupassana), wherein the Three Characteristics of Existence are once again penetrated but more deeply; and any one of up to eighteen principal insights can be experienced. This is greatly encouraging, and renewed energy and determination arise in the meditator. This new-found mental stability and strength allow the meditator to continue to observe the Three Characteristics with calm awareness. This is the stage of Knowledge Consisting in Equanimity, delving deeper into the universal quality of emptiness (sunnata). At its maturity, the last of the lesser nine stages of Knowledge in Adaptation of Truth (Saccanulomikanana) arises naturally wherein again one of the Three Characteristics is penetrated but this time at the most profound level. This knowledge leads immediately into the supra-mundane experience and here the Seventh and Final Stage of Purification is begun.

This stage, the Purification of Knowledge and Vision (Nanadassana Visuddhi), begins with what is called a Change of Lineage Consciousness (Gotrabhunana) because the understanding takes "as object the unconditioned, the standstill of existence, the absence of becoming, cessation, nibbana". Again immediately following comes the full experience of Nibbana known as the Path and Fruit Consciousness (Maggaphalacitta). This experience is then reviewed, again immediately afterwards - called Retrospective Knowledge (paccavekkhana nana) and this finally brings to an end the whole progress of the Seven Stages of Purification.

However, this is not the end of the practice! These stages must be repeated at more and more profound depths until all four Paths and Fruits are attained. And as each Path and Fruit is attained so the Fetters (Samyojana) that bind the meditator to the wheel of existence (samsara) are broken and absolute freedom is at last achieved.

So it is that through the Seven Stages of Purification, the Sattavisuddhi, the spiritual goal of highest wisdom, nibbana, is realised.


The Buddhist Conception of Life

by Venenrabla D. Pannasara Mahathera,

It is delightful to think of human life. Beyond doubt, the thinking man must conclude that man is a wonderful animal. By the power of his brain he controls not only all other animals, but he also can make the elements work for him. Thus man lives and does wonderful things. But, unfortunately, many people do not consider and question what life is, or why they live. As far as I know, these questions have not been solved in the West; but they have been solved in the East. Therefore the people of the West are quite accustomed to look to the East, when they come to consider the problem of life. What is life? Is it a thing which is bestowed upon us by some god, as a period of probation? No, nowadays to prove that sort of assertion is impossible. The people of the modern West have advanced in scientific knowledge. They observe and analyse things before they believe in them. They believe in the doctrine of the impermanency of all compound things, because they have gained knowledge of it through experience. Seeing that everything in men’s experience is transient, how does he come to have the idea of an eternal god? Once an Englishman of some power of intellect, and advanced in age, but who was not a Buddhist, said to me "I should be very glad to believe." Thus I began to guess that many of the intelligent people in the West pretend to believe in a Creator, and in the government of the world by a god, but actually do not believe, because they do not possess enough evidence to justify such a belief. Thus we come to a conclusion that the belief in a creator is more or less a delusion. With regard to this problem of life there were sixty-two different opinions prevalent before the time of the Buddha. He denied all of them. He accepted the Doctrine of Re-birth only, which was a current belief in his time. He supported this belief, and explained it very beautifully in his discourses, giving some striking examples. The Buddha’s teaching of the Chain of Causation is the only explanation of life which is able to stand the test of modern science. The Buddha says that man is born here through Kamma or actions done by him in his previous lives. By a man’s clinging to the world or misunderstanding of the facts of life, he commits good or evil deeds which cause him to be born in happy states or in bad states. The teaching of the chain of causation runs thus:- On ignorance depends Kamma; on Kamma depends consciousness. On consciousness depend mentalities and form; on mentalities and form depend the six organs of sense; on the six organs of sense depend contact; on contact depends sensation; on sensation depends desire; on desire depends attachment; up to this point it is shown how man is born through his previous Kamma, how he lives, how he desires things and how he is attached to things. Through his attachment he again commits deeds; and after his death he will be born again. That is why the Master has said that on attachment depends Kamma and on Kamma depends birth. Thus as you see, this goes continually round and round without ceasing. Death follows birth, and birth follows death. This is the explanation of the phenomenon of life in accordance with the teaching of the Buddha. The Master has never tried to explain the origin of life. He only admonishes people not to waste their time and their faculty of thought meddling with questions concerning the origin of the world, but to learn the four Noble Truths and to follow the Eightfold Path for their salvation.

Thus setting the answer to the question ‘What is life?’ we must next try to answer: ‘why do we live?’ Do people live in order to eat, to sleep, to be afraid of others, and to indulge in carnal appetites? Those practices are common to animal and man. There must be a difference between man and animal. I think a man should be ashamed to be told that he lived for the above-mentioned aims. A Christian may answer that we live because we are created by a god. But do we live to endure the tyranny of a god in this life and at the end of this life?

Without delaying you in this matter, I will put before you our explanation of this question: Why are we alive? Our Master says:- As from a heap of flowers many a fair garland may be made, so by one living mortal many good deeds should be done.’ Therefore if a Buddhist were asked why he lives, he would answer that he lives to do good. Now comes the question: Why do we do good? Some people say that there is no use at all in doing good; because they have seen many dishonest people who are prosperous and even flourishing daily, while some honest people gradually sink. But this question: ‘Why do we do good?’ should be put only to people who believe in a life or lives, after the present life. It is no wonder those people who do not believe in a future existence after death say that there is no use in doing good: because they think of the present life. If a Christian were asked why he does good, I presume, he would answer that he does good to please his god in order to get admission to an everlasting heaven. We Buddhists do good not to please any god, but because we believe in Cause and Effect, that is to say, we believe that if we do evil deeds we must endure bad results, and if we do good deeds we shall enjoy good results. The Master says, ‘Death is common to all living beings; everyone must die sooner or later. There is birth hereafter, if you want to reach final deliverance from suffering, you will have to accumulate good deeds; this alone will be your unfailing friend.’ Thus we do good, expecting its good result.

There are some people who never think that they have to die sooner or later; they accumulate all sorts of evil deeds and delight in them as if they gained victory in doing evil. To do harm to others is the great joy of their lives. Is it humane, is it proper for men to chase a poor harmless animal with a pack of dogs, and kill it for the mere pleasure of hunting? To my mind hunting for pleasure is far more reprehensible than hunting to obtain meat. If there are deeds which deserve to be called barbarism this is included in that term. Is there anyone who likes to suffer? Is there anyone who likes to endure loss of wealth, loss of his beloved ones, or loss of liberty? No, there is none who likes to undergo these misfortunes. Thus regarding ourselves we must think of the happiness of others. That is real humanity; that is proper conduct of civilised people.

Here, I will repeat a dialogue which took place between King Kosala and his Queen, Mallika. Once the king asked the queen: ‘Is there now Mallika, anyone, dearer to you than yourself?’ ‘There is no one, Sire, dearer to me than myself. To you, Sire, is there anyone dearer than yourself?’ asked the queen. ‘Nor to me either, Mallika, is there anyone dearer than myself?’ Then the king went to Buddha and told him of this talk. The Master uttered a stanza which may be translated thus. ‘We traverse the whole wide world with our thought, but find nothing in it more dear to man than himself. Since to everyone self is so dear, let not the self-lover harm others.’

To believe in cause and effect, or what we call Kammaphala in Pali, is the chief feature of Buddhism. The whole of the teaching of the Buddha depends upon this belief. Without this belief, Buddhism is unavailing. When we believe in the doctrine of rebirth, we are believing in cause and effect. The doctrine of rebirth and the doctrine of cause and effect are one and the same thing. In the Vasettha Sutta the Master speaks thus:- ‘Action is fashioning the whole of the wide world. It is action which contains every living thing, as the whole chariot is swayed by its pole.’ Thus we Buddhists attribute all the states of our lives to our own actions. Looking at the people who are happy we are glad in heart and think that they are happy, because they have done good deeds in their previous lives. When we see unhappy people who suffer various miseries, we pity them and think that those people are suffering because they have done bad deeds in their previous lives. We also think of the impossibility of this variation among men and in their condition in life, if they were created by a god. Therefore we maintain that the cause of the lives and destinies of individuals resides in their own actions. The venerable Nagasena quote a passage from the Scriptures, which throws light upon the inequality of human destinies. It runs thus:-

‘Each being has his own action, each is heir to his own action; each is the fruit of his own action, each is kinsman of his own action; and each has his own action as over-lord and protector. It is their own actions that divide men, allotting them to high or low estate.’

Now what are good deeds and what are bad deeds? Those deeds which bring happiness to oneself, or to others, or to both, are good; and those deeds which bring pain and suffering to oneself, or to others, or to both, are bad. The Master advises the venerable Rahula thus:- ‘When you want to do anything, you must reflect, whether it will produce any harm to you or to others. If reflection tells you that the action is productive of, and ripening unto, woe, assuredly you should not do it. All monks and Brahmins, Rahula, who in past ages were pure in deed, word and thought, won that purity by constant reflection. So in ages to come will their successors win their purity, even as it is won by monks today’. This is the way we divide deeds into good and evil. Good-will towards all beings is the leading feature of our religion. Therefore we do not need a list of evil deeds. If we keep in our mind not to do harm in any way to oneself or to any other being it is sufficient as all the moral teaching of the Buddha is included therein. Neither do we want a list of good deeds, since we know that if any deed brings happiness to oneself or to others, that is good. A deed is bad not because a god or any other says that it is bad, but inasmuch as it brings about pain and suffering it is bad. This same statement applies with regard to good deeds. A true Buddhist refrains from killing, from theft, from slander, from reviling, from taking intoxicating liquors and drugs, and from all modes of livelihood which bring pain and suffering to living creatures. But he refrains from all those, not because he is told to do so by his Lord, but because he sees that those forbidden things yield bad results. He also does good deeds such as giving alms, nursing the sick, feeding the poor and so on, seeing the good results of those performances, but not for the mere reason that the Teacher has said that they are good deeds. I presume this explanation is quite sufficient to make you understand the nature of deeds.

Some people say that to live according to Buddhism is very difficult. They also say that the Buddha has laid down very rigid rules. It is no wonder that to those who are always blood-thirsty, and to those who delight in making themselves drunk by taking intoxicating liquors and drugs, Buddhism seems an impossible rule of life. But Buddhism is the only religion suitable to a man who desires to live a happy and peaceful life. It is true Buddhists do not regard those who kill as saints. Even to kill a monster is not the way to attain sanctity in the Buddhist sense. The Emperor Asoka in one of his inscriptions says: ‘The signs of true religions are good­will, love, truthfulness, purity, nobility and goodness." I think many of you have heard of this Asoka, who was one of the greatest personalities the world has ever produced. We are told in ancient literature that he was so cruel before adopting Buddhism, that he was called Chandasoka by people, a name which means, Asoka the Cruel. But after obtaining a knowledge of the teaching of the Buddha, and after becoming a Buddhist he was so virtuous that he was called Dhammasoka, which means Asoka the Virtuous. This shows what a great influence Buddhism has in modifying a man’s life.

A war-like life is not favoured in Buddhism. Our Lord the Buddha was not a god of war, but he was a Man of peace. He has prohibited his disciples from following the profession of a soldier. I need not speak of the suffering and ferocity of war to you. You have had a recent experience of it. Ambition, hatred, and lack of compassion lead people to war. Therefore the great nations in the West need a religion which can teach them the bad results of craving, hatred and ill-will and the good results of sympathy, love and compassion.

We have a proverb that the man who is beaten with a piece of burning firewood, is afraid even of a firefly. I am inclined to think that there is a similar feeling among intellectual people in the West. They like liberty. They desire to be independent. They hate the tyranny of any ruler. Thus, they are tired of god-religions in which they cannot find human freedom at all. They think of all religions as coming from gods. Therefore, intelligent people in the West, who know nothing about other religions than their own, are afraid of all religions. To them we are glad to point out a religion in which they can find freedom. That is Buddhism. That is the only religion suitable to a lover of liberty or freedom. There are no commandments in Buddhism. The Buddha has only taught people with unbounded compassion the way by which he attained perfection, and advised them to follow that way if they also want to get rid of the misery of the world by attaining self enlightenment. To follow that way or not to follow it, is left to people themselves. The Buddha has nothing to do with the choice of any one. Fortunately for us, our Lord was not a jealous god.

Thus Buddhism teaches us how we have come into existence, why we are alive, why we do good, what ought to be done by people, and, what ought not to be done. It also teaches how children should be educated, how children must be dutiful to their parents, how the family life must be based upon love and friendship, what are the duties of a master towards his servants, and those of servants towards their master. Regarding increase in material things, Buddhism teaches how a man should practise perseverance, frugality and so on.

Buddhism teaches the world to live without war and quarrels between man and man. Moreover, it teaches us how to increase our knowledge, to be enlightened ourselves. This also is a chief feature in Buddhism. To gain knowledge is the highest goal Buddhists strive to reach. All the abstract sciences which have been discovered by the thinkers of the West recently, the Buddha taught in the East twenty-five centuries ago. A Doctor of Medicine, who has practised scientific methods for fully forty years says: ‘Science and Buddhism are one and the same thing.’ In short Buddhism teaches man to live happily, wisely and in freedom in his present existence, and also the method of attaining happiness after death. What else does a man want? Follow this teaching of reason and truth so that you may attain Nirvana, the final destruction of miseries,

(Vol. 38 May-June 1930, pp. 257-265)


VIPASSANA MEDITATION

by Ven. Dr. Aggamahapandita U. Rewatadhamma

Buddhism and Buddhist Meditation has become a popular subject in the Western World. In the last twenty years the development of Buddha-Dhamma has accelerated greatly. Many westerners have found the application of the Buddha’s teachings suitable for their daily lives, and one can find many groups, centres and institutions where the study of Buddhism and Buddhist Meditation and the Abhidhamma is pursued.

Today the world is very much involved with modern science and technology and because of great developments in these two fields modern society’s living standards have risen rapidly and greatly. This over-development in the material aspect of modern life has proved, however, to be detrimental to society’s spiritual development. No balance has been maintained between the two aspects and the development. Therefore, in as much as science and technology have contributed to progress on a material level this same progress has effected the growth of many mental diseases such as unhappiness, constant craving, depression, mental imbalance, nervous diseases, high blood pressure and migraine etc. Many Westerners are seeking an answer to these mental problems and are therefore taking a keen interest in the study of ancient Eastern cultures and philosophies and Buddhism is one of these. Moreover, Western psychotherapists have discovered the potential psychotherapeutic value in Buddhist psychology (the Abhidhamma). The Abhidhamma is the most ancient systematic psychology and philosophy which explains the very basis of human experiences and behaviour such as sensation (vedana), perception (sanna), emotions (sankhara), and consciousness (citta). Vipassana meditation is a very powerful and effective technique for mental discipline and it can be used in the preliminary stages of psychotherapeutic treatment. Hence Western psychologists have taken a keen interest in the Abhidhamma and in Vipassana meditation.

Vipassana means to see things as they really are, not only as they seem to be. The technique of Vipassana is based on the Satipatthana Sutta. Satipatthana means the establishing of mindfulness. This is one of the oldest and most original teachings of the Buddha, and through it one can cultivate mindfulness and develop awareness. The proper practice and application of Vipassana meditation enables one to solve many problems and for this reason it has become a subject of interest and study for Western psychologists. This, however, is not the final goal. If one uses Vipassana meditation as a treatment for physical and mental ailments it is similar to using a certain medicine for a particular disease. The particular disease may be cured but one still has to face many other diseases as long as one remains in Samsara. Vipassana meditation, indeed, aims at the total purification of human beings and at the overcoming of sorrow, lamentation, the destruction of grief and suffering, the reaching of the right path and the attainment of the Nibbanic state. One who practises Vipassana medi­tation with this aim in mind, even before he attains the final goal, can achieve peace of mind, happiness, calmness, relaxation and tranquillity, and the ability to face life’s daily problems and enjoy a corresponding greater degree of happiness in this very life here and now.

The Satipatthana Sutta on which Vipassana meditation is based is the oldest and most authoritative treatise on meditation among the Buddha’s teachings. It has been highly respected and very widely practised for the last twenty-five centuries. It is beneficial for all kinds of individuals and many aspects of the practice can be selected by people to meet the needs of their individual tempera­ments. I would like to explain briefly the methods of practice most commonly used nowadays. There are four arousings or found­ations of mindfulness and they are mindfulness of the body (kayanupassana), mindfulness of feeling (vedananupassana), mindfulness of consciousness (Cittanupassana) and mindfulness of mental objects (dhammanupassana). Here, mindfulness of the body includes mind­fulness of the breath (anapana), mindfulness of the four postures (iriyapatha), mindfulness of the four kinds of clear comprehension (sampajanna), and mindfulness of the four ele­ments of material qualities (dhatumanasikara).

Mindfulness of breath (anapanasatj) means awareness of respiration on the incoming and outgoing breaths. In the sutta it merely says how to arouse mindfulness on the object of meditation, that is "to arouse mindfulness in front" ("satim upatthapetva"). It is not made clear where to focus the attention, hence the yogi may wrongly think he must follow the breath inside. But the Buddha in the Patisambhidamagga said to focus the attention at the nostrils, at the point below the nostrils above the upper lip, ("Nasikagge va mukkha­nimitte va sarmi upatthapetva"). "Where the breath is felt to pass in and out", is the precise point where the yogi should focus his attention so that awareness can be developed easily. When one breathes in long or short it is necessary to be aware of it just as it is. Thus the yogi develops awareness of the whole breath, ("sabba kaya-patisam-vedi"). Some­times a yogi may mistakenly understands this instruction to mean that he has to experience the whole physical body whilst breathing in and out. But the body here means the breath. If one focuses his attention at the nostrils just above the upper lip one can be aware of the incoming and outgoing breath at the nostrils. Generally, the yogi will be aware of the whole breath process at that point, when his awareness and concentration have been developed to some extent. Moreover, his respiration will grow more subtle. At first the breath is gross and coarse but in as much as awareness is developed the breath becomes more and more subtle and a proper and more precise awareness of the breath arises. It is said in the sutta, "Passambhayam kayasankha­ram", "Calming the activity of the body", here the body again refers to the breath. Initially the breath is very strong and gross. In as much as awareness or concentration is developed to that extent does the breath become more calm and subtle. Sometimes, however, the breath is so subtle that the yogi has difficulty in being aware of the breath at all and consequently may feel as if the breath has disappeared or ceased.

Mindfulness of the four postures refers to awareness of the four modes of walking, sitting, standing and lying, when they occur. The four kinds of clear comprehension means awareness in going forwards, in going backwards, looking straight on and looking away. It includes awareness of the processes of walk­ing, sitting, standing and lying and awareness of all other physical activities too. It means that awareness should be developed in detail and maintained from moment to - moment. Clear comprehension here means the discern­ing of things rightly, entirely, equally.

Mindfulness of the four elements of material qualities means to be aware of the four elements of which the body is composed. If one gives bare attention to the body one can experience heaviness and lightness, cohesion, heat and cold (temperature) and motion in the body. Then one can develop awareness of these four elements.

Mindfulness of feelings is as follows. There are many kinds of sensations in the body and they are both gross and subtle in type. They can be divided into two categories namely, bodily feelings (kayikavedana) and mental feelings (cetasika vedana). Bodily feelings are of three kinds, pleasure (sukkha), pain (dukkha) and neither pleasure nor pain (adukkha-asukkha). Mental feelings are also of three types, joy (somanassa), grief (domanassa) and neither joy nor grief (upekkha). Whatever feelings we experience we have to maintain a precise, moment-to-moment awar­eness of them. All kinds of feeling, physical or mental, gross or subtle are included in the term vedana. It is essential to develop a precise awareness whenever any of these feel­ings arise, in as much as concentration and awareness are developed, that much is one able to develop awareness of the gross and subtle feelings and will experience them as they are and be able to note the arising of them from moment to moment.

Mindfulness of consciousness is mentioned in the Satipatthana Sutta and there it says that when consciousness arises with lust, hate and with delusion etc. one should be aware at the very moment when they arise. It is, however, difficult for the yogi to be aware of these consciousnesses all the time as these particular types of consciousness do not arise all the time. The best way to practise the mindfulness of consciousness is as follows. When, for example, the eye and visible object meet and seeing arises, one is to be aware of the seeing consciousness. In the same way one is to be aware when hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. When consciousness arises at the sense bases, it is important to know that awareness itself is consciousness. When this awareness arises it is important to be aware of that awareness. For example, when one is watching the incoming, and outgoing breaths one is to be aware not only of the incoming and outgoing breaths, but also one must note one’s being aware of one’s awareness of the breath going in and out. In this way, one can practise awareness of consciousness from moment to moment.

Mindfulness of mental objects refers to all kinds of mental and material objects, because of which consciousness arises. The sutta names many different kinds of mental objects such as the five hindrances (nivarana) - passion, ill-will, sloth and torpor, agitation, worry and doubt; the five aggregates of clinging (upadanakkhandha) - material form, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness; the six external and internal bases (ayatana) – eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, sight, sound, odour, taste, tangible objects and mental objects; the seven factors of Enlightenment (bojjhanga) – mindfulness, investigation, effort, joy, calmness, concentration and equanimity; and the four truths – suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. These mental objects are nothing more than human experience in a mundane or supramundane state, and therefore all Vipassana meditation technique is based on the four arousings of mindfulness. According to tradition whoever starts to practise meditation has to begin with the meditation on the body and the feeling because mindfulness of consciousness and mental objects is so subtle that it is difficult for beginners to be aware of them. When they start to practise mindfulness of breathing, after a few days’ practice as much as awareness and concentration are developed, to that extent one is able to be aware of the subtle sensations, consciousness (awareness) and mental objects.

There are four aspects of practice for the development of awareness and concentration and they are, Anativattanattha, attha meaning that the object and awareness of the object should arise together and precisely. Second is ekarasattha, meaning the function of the senses and the mind must be the same; for example, when one sees an object the first moment of seeing is just seeing, there is no sign, shape or form etc, seeing is reality (paramattha), this is the object of the seeing sense. In the same way, mind will accept seeing as seeing without any labelling. Therefore when seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking etc, arise one is to be aware just of the seeing, hearing, thinking etc. Viriyavahanattha is the third aspect and it is right effort in the sense of persistence and is the means by which the object and awareness arise together. Asevanattha, the fourth aspect means continual practice. The aforesaid three conditions will function properly when one practises again and again. If one follows these four aspects of practice one will be able to experience the arising and passing away of the objects from moment to moment, and none of them remain the same for two consecutive moments. Moreover because of this impermanence (anicca) there is unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and there is no permanent substance in any of these processes that can be called I or self (atta). Experience of these three characteristics of things is called Vipassana or Insight, seeing things as they really are and not only as they seem to be. At that moment the yogi will acquire an ability to accept things (nama-rupa) without concept or notion (pannatti), and can overcome like and dislike for them and remain with just the awareness of those processes. The Buddha wanted us to understand anicca by direct experience. If one understands anicca perfectly he understands dukkha as its sequel and realises anatta in its ultimate sense. This is the purpose of practising Vipassana meditation.

One who practises Vipassana properly will then gradually acquire three kinds profound knowledge namely, Natapanna or autological knowledge, tirapanna or analytical knowledge and pahanapanna or dispelling knowledge. At first the Yogi realises the characteristics of the mental and physical processes with their proximate causes. This means that the yogi comes to know that this is materiality, whilst that is mentality and also breath awareness etc. This stage of realisation is called natapanna. After this stage comes the stage of understanding called tiranapragna in which the Yogi realise the three characteristics.

After this stage the Yogi will eliminate the concept of permanence and happiness (nicca-sanna and sukkha-sanna) and this stage is called pahanapragna. On the other hand the Yogi does realise at natapragna stage the characteristic of each mental and physical phenomenon he experiences. At the tirapanna stage he realises the common characteristics of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anatta (non-self). At the pahanapanna stage he will eliminate all hallucinations, the concept of permanence together with concepts of happiness and self.

These profound knowledges belong to the mundane world and include all stages of Insight (vipassana). Anyone who acquires these stages of profound knowledge will come to experience the path (magga) and its fruition (phala), experience the Nibbanic peace within and enjoy the fruits of the path.


CONTENTMENT

contentment (santutthita) is a state of mind which arises when a person is satisfied or pleased with whatever possessions he obtains and with whatever circumstances in which he finds himself. It is a state of having few desires (appicchata). This quality was highly praised by the Buddha. In the Second Noble Truth the Buddha teaches us that the cause of dukkha (suffering) is tanha (thirst or craving). The unenlightened person brings unhappiness on himself by searching relentlessly for sense pleasures in the hope of finding happiness, seeking out ever new and more exciting forms of sensory enjoyment, or higher social status or influence.

The Buddha, however, pointed out that this thirst can never be fully and permanently satisfied. We cannot obtain everything we want. No sooner have we sated one sense desire than another one arises. He likened it to putting fuel on a burning fire; the fire will never say that it is satisfied and does not want any more. Furthermore, whatever we do obtain is subject to the universal law of anicca (impermanence) and will sooner or later change and decay, causing disappointment and frustration. So the way to find lasting happiness is not to chase endlessly after more fleeting or unobtainable sense pleasures, it is by dealing with desire at its root. This means developing contentment with whatever one has and not wanting something more. This frees us from the desire to obtain things, whether material objects such as money, or non-material ones such as power or reputation. A poor man may continually want more wealth and lives discontented, but even a rich man is not satisfied and wants still more money, so he too is not happy. Contentment is particularly stressed as an essential ingredient of the monk's way of life. The monk is trained to be satisfied with whatever he receives in the form of the four requisites - food, clothing, shelter and medicine. He should not want more or higher quality gifts than he receives, but be content with little.

Contentment is a state of mind which we can learn to cultivate by what the Buddha called, "guarding the doors of the senses," so that we remain unaffected by the sensory stimuli which continually bombard our senses. The eye seeks pleasant sights, the ears seek pleasant sounds and so with all the six senses. But with training, we can learn to see the impermanent, unsatisfactory and impersonal nature of this process. This understanding leads to the overcoming of sense desires and the elimination of kama-raga, which is a fetter to our spiritual progress. In the Dhammapada it says Santutti paramam dhanam "Contentment is the greatest wealth" (v.204) and in the Mangala Sutta contentment is listed as one of the highest blessings (Sn.265)

Contentment is a way to face up to what the Buddha called the eight vicissitudes of life: praise and blame, fame and ill fame, gain and loss, and happiness and unhappiness. From time to time we shall all experience these. He advised us to accept them all with equanimity.


OBITUARIES 

SAYADAW AGGAMAHAPANDITA DR. REWATA DHAMMA (1929 – 2004)

Dr. Rewata Dhamma passed away peacefully in Birmingham at the end of May and the Buddhist world mourns the loss of an outstanding scholar and tireless promoter of the Buddha’s teachings. Dr. Rewata Dhamma was born into a Burmese peasant family and entered the local monastery as a novice monk. After higher ordination at the age of 20, he went on to study in India, obtaining an M.A. in Sanskrit in 1964 and Ph.D in 1967 from the Sanskrit University in Varanasi. It was there that he formed a life-long friendship with his fellow student, Most Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana.

In 1975 he came to the United Kingdom and in 1978 he set up the West Midlands Buddhist Centre in Birmingham. Continuing growth led to the founding of the Birmingham Buddhist Vihara in 1981, which has served as a focal point for Buddhists of all traditions since that time.

Dr. Rewata Dhamma was a renowned scholar and the author of many books including The First Discourse of the Buddha and Emptying The Rose Apple Seat. It is hoped that his last work, The Process Consciousness and Matter, will be published shortly. He was dedicated to spreading the Buddha’s teachings and devoted much of his time to developing better inter-faith dialogue. He was admired and esteemed throughout the Buddhist world and much in demand to speak at conferences and international meetings.

May Dr. Rewata Dhamma attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

 

With heavy hearts and deep sorrow we announce the passing away of the following devotees:-

DR. (MRS.) PADMA RAJAPAKSE

Dr. Padma Rajapakse passed away on 11th April and her funeral was held at Bedford crematorium on 21st April. She is survived by her loving husband Dr. Yasasiri and daughter Dr. Dilini.

MR. SUDUWELI PIYADASA

Mr. Piyadasa passed away on 10th May and his cremation was held on 15th May at West London crematorium. He is survived by his loving wife Leela and two daughters, Janaki and Kamani.

MRS. G. T. P. WIMALARATNE

Mrs. Wimalaratne passed away on 22nd May and her cremation was held on 28th May at Swindon crematorium. She is survived by her loving son, Dr. Sunil Wimalaratna

MR. TYRONE DE ALWIS

The loving son of Mr. Sarath and Mrs. Rupa de Alwis passed way on 20th May. His funeral was held on 29th May at the Hendon crematorium.

 


GO TO FRONT PAGE

Ven. Tawalama Bandula
2004