Chapter 07: Vipassana, The Refinement of the Mind
A Lecture on Dhamma
Wat Ambhavan, October 17, 1986.
by Phra Rajsuddhinanamongkol
Nowadays, people can vipassana meditation (or insight meditation) “the refinement of the mind” or “the development of virtues”. Actually, this topic is an old as the Buddhist Era. When the Buddha was alive, he taught his Buddhist followers to practice meditation and refine their minds for the greatest benefit in life. That is to use mindfulness (awareness) and wisdom as guidance for the mind.
The practice of “The Four Foundation of Mindfulness” which is called vipassana meditation, the best solution to suffering, was taught by the Buddha. It is our responsibility to use mindfulness and wisdom to prevent mistakes in our lives. Our duties and jobs are our life work, which we must perform using mindfulness and wisdom at all times. In order to be able to use wisdom in our work, we need to practice and train our mind very patiently. If we cannot do that, we will not find the truth of life.
The Beginning: Standing and Walking
It is very beneficial to practice standing meditation by using mindfulness or awareness to observe an imaginary standing posture of your own body. Many people ignore this point. They say “standing…standing” without noting or acknowledging mentally. Using mindfulness to note the imaginary picture of the body is very important. You should remember this point.
In order to practice standing meditation, you must stand, close your eyes imagine the standing posture of your body. My method is to stand with your hands behind your back, right hand holding left hand and rest both hands against your lower back. This method can also prevent your back from bending when you get old. It is also all right to hold your hands in the front but this will cause your body to bend and will not permit good breathing. Set you mindfulness at the crown of your head, move your mind slowly downwards from the head to the toes of the imaginary standing posture of your body. Your mindfulness should follow your mind. The mind is always wandering and thinking of other things. You have to control your mind by using your mindfulness to note or acknowledge mentally and noting “standing…”
You will not be very successful after the first few observations. You have to practice repeatedly until you become familiar with the practice. You must practice controlling your mind, imagining the standing posture of your body. Then set your mind to slowly descend from your crown to your toes. Your breath should be deep and slow. At the same time set your mindfulness to follow your mind, note “stand….” At your crown and end “….ing” at your toes. You will see your own body standing. Perceiving your body will eventually lead to perceiving the inside.
You have to use mindfulness to observe your mind while you are practicing standing meditation and note “standing…” five times in succession. You should not just say “standing…”, then open your eyes and walk “right step” and “left step” without proper rhythm. You should use your mindfulness to control or observe your mind so that it develops to proper rhythm. This observation is the key to the practice. I have to emphasize this particular point because it is very useful to meditators. You can also use it in your daily life.
This is not easy but you have to practice repeatedly so that mindfulness is familiar to your mind and vise versa. Then concentration (samadhi) can arise after practicing this several times.
Practically, you must start from your inside and work towards your outside. By this way your awareness develops and wisdom will arise. If you open your eyes while you are practicing standing meditation five times in succession, you will see only the outside and cannot see the inner Dhamma state. You should close your eyes so that you see no surroundings or your own body, observing the body with your mindfulness. Use your mindfulness to follow your mind from the top of your head to your toes while noting “standing”. Start the word “standing” at the same time as you start descending mentally. Finish the word at the same time as you mentally reach your toes. Rest for a short while before you go on the next cycle of observation. Another way to practice this standing meditation is to divide it into two rhythms. Note “stand…” from the crown to the navel, then “ing….” from the navel to the toes.
Due to the fact that this standing meditation is difficult to practice, you have to develop the proper rhythm. When you accumulate proper experience, wisdom will arise.
Start the word “stand…” at the crown of your head, at the same time set your mindfulness downward to your navel. This is how the human body looks! Then, from your navel with the phase “…ing” towards your toes. Concentrate here for a short while before going on to the new cycle of standing. Do not start the next cycle without a pause.
If meditators follow what I suggest, they will get good results.
Let’s begin! Imagine your standing image, take a deep breath, note the word “stand…” and start descending your mind from your crown to your navel. From there, note the phase “…ing” towards your toes. Seeing both of your feet mentally. This first cycle may not be so clear. You should pause before going on to the next cycle. In the second cycle, your mindfulness is initially concentrated at your toes. With the word “stand…”, note upward to your navel, and “…ing” from the navel up to your crown.
The third cycle will be clear “stand…” towards your navel. Set your mindfulness to follow the mind that is traveling to the navel. Then you should note “…ing” from the navel to the toes. Pause there in order to obtain the proper rhythm.
The fourth cycle should be clearer than the last cycle. Set your mind from your toes traveling upwards. This time you will see very clearly because your mind is not wandering. Carefully set your mindfulness at your toes, remember the details of your feet, then set your mind and use your mindfulness to follow your mind upwards to your navel while you are saying “stand…”. From the navel up to your crown, you should note or say “…ing”
The fifth cycle is better and clearer than the earlier cycles. Note the word “Stand…” from the crown to the navel, then fix your mind downwards to your toes with the phase “…ing”. This is how to get a good rhythm. If meditators do not understand these points and quickly say “standing”, the mind will travel too fast for the mindfulness to follow. Concentration (samadhi) will not develop. Then, how can you obtain wisdom?
Meditators should follow what I have suggested. At the fifth cycle, “stand…” until your mind reaches your navel, then slowly note “…ing”, ending at your toes. Open your eyes and look at your toes while your are controlling your mindfulness before you start walking meditation as the next step.
Note or say “right” while you are lifting your right heel. You should be aware of what you are doing at the present moment. Note “step…” while your right foot moves forward and touches the ground. If you can observe the state of your mind, you will know where and how it flashes or how it ends. The new mind will show us how the new mind occurs. This is how the mind arises and ceases.
If you practice too fast, you will not be able to see the nature of mind while it is in the Dhamma state. You should do this meditation very slowly, the slower, the better. You can also observe your inhalation by using this observation method. The slowness helps you to understand the Dhamma state. This is an important point. You should not practice by saying the word without noting your mindfulness to follow your mind. You won’t be able to concentrate mindfulness because the mind always wanders or flashes everywhere. If you can practice with proper rhythm, your mind will not wander or waver.
You should practice the walking meditation with a slow gait, “right step” and then “left step”. Continue walking slowly. You will eventually know whether “right” and “left” are the same or not. You will be able to answer this question by yourself. The next thing you will realize whether the mind that notes “right” and “left” are the same or not. Are they similar? They are not the same. After the mind ceases, the new mind arises at that moment. Your mindfulness will tell that the left is lifted at that moment. This is how your mindfulness notes the mind. When mindfulness keeps up with the present moment, wisdom arises. You will realize the Dhamma state and can practice with ease.
Meditator should practice a lot of walking meditation. It is also all right if meditators cannot walk because of leg problems or leg pain. You can practice vipassana by sitting or lying down. You can practice vipassana in any of the four postures of the body, i.e. standing, walking, sitting and lying down. However, you can obtain good results in a shorter time if you are healthy and practice continuously.
The Buddha explained that vipassana meditation can be practiced while we are in any deportment of the body, i.e. standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, by observing “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. These Four Foundations consist of contemplation of the body, contemplation of feelings or sensations (vedana), contemplation of mind and contemplation of mind-objects. Every one must face vedana no matter in what deportment of the body.
This is “The Four Noble Truths” which exist in these deportments and in The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. (The Four Noble Truths; Suffering, Cause of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering, Path leading to Cessation of Suffering)
During meditation, there will be “vedana” (feelings, sensations, i.e., pleasant feeling and painful feeling) that exists in everybody. It is a lesson that we should learn. You can improve your mindfulness by observing or acknowledging vedana. You will know how it arises, exists and ceases. Then you will know how to solve the problem of suffering, painfulness, etc.
There are two phenomena that exist in practicing vipassana, that is corporeality (matter) and mentality (mind, name). Nothing else exists. Therefore, there is no body, nothing: no “them” or no “us” Why should we have “attitudes” towards each other?. You will realize this state during vipassana meditation.
Some people can reach meditative attainment while they are in standing meditation (observing “standing”). Meditative attainment does not have to occur only during sitting meditation (observing “rising” and “falling” of the abdomen). Some obtain “wisdom” while they are concentrating and observing standing from the crown of the head to the navel. It can flash in three steps. The mind becomes stable. When meditative attainment occurs, you will only perceive your inner side, not your surrounding. You can stand still for one hour without knowing your surroundings. This means that you have obtained meditative attainment while you are standing. This can happen when you have developed proper mindfulness and wisdom. It will flash to the navel, then it will flash again, and it will close the perception of the surroundings, the inner side will appear because of the “wisdom”. This is called to power of meditation or meditative attainment that consists of mindfulness and awareness.
Standing meditation is very important. Therefore, you should not ignore it. You should take it seriously; then you can persevere with walking meditation. During walking meditation, you may feel dizzy or light-headed. You should support yourself by touching a nearby wall and note that feeling. The mind can flash into deep concentration while you are walking. But you may not realize that it is a stale of concentration. You may think that it is one kind of feeling or sensation that makes you faint, and eventually you may give up practicing. In fact you are not fainting, but the concentration that is the result of the walking meditation causes this kind of lightness. There can be many symptoms. It may come from the breath. You may feel like you are going to faint. Therefore, you should stop walking, and acknowledge this feeling. If you can note that you know this feeling, you will consequently obtain “wisdom” at that moment. This is the “wisdom” which arises from walking meditation.
Sometimes the feeling or sensation (vedana) occurs during waling. You should stop walking and note or acknowledge that particular feeling or sensation until it disappears. You should keep in mind that vedana is a “teacher”. The nature of vedana must be classified into proper form and proportion in order to obtain “wisdom”. Corporeality and mentality can be classified. So can vedana.
If you continue walking and you feel dizzy or light-headed, you should stop walking and acknowledge the dizziness by noting “dizzy”. You must concentrate and readily set you minfulness before you resume walking. Concentration will occur and “wisdom” will arise during this waling meditation. You can maintain better and longer concentration by practicing walking meditation followed by sitting meditation than by practicing only sitting meditation. If anything happens, you should note it accordingly. Do not feel confused or doubtful.
Your mind may wander (or thinking may occur) while you are practicing walking meditation. You should stop walking, focus your mindfulness at your solar plexus, and acknowledge (or note) that your are thinking. Stand still and slowly set your mindfulness. When mindfulness is good enough, “wisdom” will arise. The mind will return to the meditative state. You should accumulate this experience like you accumulate academic credits. This is the wisdom that can be gained from noting everything that happens.
When you continue walking, you will accumulate wisdom from this walking meditation. You will gain fluency and keenly know each pace. You will understand the difference between corporeality and mentality. You will know the mind, the difference of each pace, the difference between left step and right step, the details of each pace and the mind. You will realize this by yourself.
When the mind wavers or wanders, you should note it. Noting is the key to everything. When waling time is up, you should continue with sitting meditation. For example, if you have practiced waling meditation for 30 minutes, you should then look for a proper place to sit down. When you finish 30 minutes of walking meditation, walk to that place, sit down and note “sitting”. You must do the walking and the sitting continuously. It is like pulling thread from a spool continuously. You should note every step continuously without intermission. You won’t get good results if you do something else after walking meditation and resume sitting meditation later.
You will surely get good results if you practice vipassana meditation continuously for seven days. It is the way of credit accumulation. On the seventh day you will understand the real knowledge of wisdom. You will have better mindfulness than before. It will happen step by step in its own sequence because of practicing continuously. You won’t get good results if you do not practice continuously, for example, practicing walking meditation and sitting meditation today, stopping practice walking meditation and sitting meditation today, stopping practice tomorrow, resuming practice the day after and stopping again for some days. So you should practice continuously.
Now let’s talk about sitting meditation. You should inhale deeply and exhale deeply. You should note the inhalation with a proper rhythm by noting that your abdomen expands as you inhale and it contracts as you exhale. Take a deep breath, the abdomen will expand and note that it is rising. At the end of the deep inhalation, exhale. The abdomen contracts. You should note that it is falling. Take deep breaths and do everything very slowly so that you can catch up with the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. At the beginning it may be uncomfortable but it will be easier later on.
At the beginning, you may have to use your mind to push the “Rising…” and “Falling…” a little and use your mindfulness to control your mind. As you get used to it, the pushing will disappear and you can note “Rising…” and “Falling…” with ease. As you gain fluency with the practice, your mindfulness will be stronger, your “wisdom” will arise and concentration will be better. You should not only say “Rising…” and “Falling…” but use your mindfulness to control it with a proper rhythm. “Wisdom” will consequently arise. Sometimes you will know it by yourself, in the same way as it happens with walking meditation.
You will clearly understand whether “Rising…” is the same as “Falling…” or not. The mind at each moment is different because it flashes after you have finished noting. The new mind will appear in the same way as a fluorescence bulb actually emits light, alternating between positive and negative current, but appearing to shine continuously. The procedure is so fast that we cannot see it. If you can successfully note “Rising…” and “Falling” of the abdomen, you will realize that the mind at each moment is not the same. “Rising…” and “Falling…” of the abdomen, you will realize that the mind at each moment is not the same. “Rising…” and “Falling…” of the abdomen, you will realize that the mind at each moment is not the same. “Rising…” and “Falling…” are different. From this fact, you will know “The Five Aggregates”. We will realize the natural difference between corporeality and mentality.
Sometimes we cannot observe rising (expansion) and falling (contraction) of the abdomen. What should we do when there is no apparent rising and falling? We should carefully notice when it disappears, i.e., whether it does while your abdomen is rising or contracting. Wisdom is right there at that moment. When you acquire good mindfulness, you will clearly know the moment when it disappears. At that same time you acknowledge “Knowing…”, “Knowing…” take a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling. Go on practicing by using mindfulness to follow “rising…” and “falling…”. In this way your concentration will be good and wisdom will shine. Let the mind circulate in the rhythm of “Rising…” and “Falling…”. This is good practice.
While you are observing “Rising…” and “Falling…”, there may be a moment of uncertainty, no rising, no falling, and your mind wanders and thinks. This is the benefit of your practice, but you have to follow your mind and acknowledge that your mind is wandering, or thinking or going up or going down. It is all right if “Rising…” or “Falling…” is not clear. Sometimes “Rising…” and “Falling…” move up to your solar plexus or to your chest, you move it back to your navel, acknowledge “knowing…” “knowing…” and go on with your breathing. This is the correct method in practicing vipassana meditation.
You will surely get successful results if you practice the way I have suggested. Sometimes during “Rising…” and “Falling…”, after the mind calms down, it tends to make errors by wandering away. The problem is we do not know when it happens. This is because we are not using mindfulness. If your mindfulness is efficient, you will know when your mind wanders. You will clearly know that it wanders while you are in “Rising…” or “Falling…”
Some people do not know when their mind wanders, so they are in deep thought for a long while. This shows that they do not have mindfulness. If their mindfulness is intact (trained mindfulness), they will know exactly when their minds wander away. With a lot of practice, your mindfulness becomes so experienced that it knows when the mind wanders. At the beginning, you may not know when your mind starts wandering. You know it only after it has thought about so many things. In this case, you should stop following “Rising…” and “Falling..,” and acknowledge “Knowing…” or “Thinking…”
After noting “Thinking…”, “Thinking…” for a while, your mindfulness will tell you what you ar thinking about, what is the result and it will accumulate this training in your mind. Later on, it can shine as wisdom. After noting, the wandering mind may cause some feeling or sensation (vedana) which makes you feel pain and tired. Now you have to acknowledge or note where the pain occurs. It will gradually disappear. The mind will become stable again. You can resume the rhythm of “Rising…” and “Falling…”
Flasing can happen it several ways: flash down, jerking, flash toward the back, flash to the front, flash sideways. Sometimes it happens during noting “Rising…” and/or “Falling…”. You have to use your mindfulness to acknowledge or note “Knowing…”, “Knowing…”.
There are two kinds of flashing. The first happens because concentration is so deep that mindfulness can’t catch up when it flashes and this makes your heart jump. Another flashing happens because of sleepiness that is caused by sloth and torpor. The second kind of flashing is not concentration. Concentration happens when it strongly flashes but not sleepiness. You know yourself all the time.
Sometimes you may feel goose bumps. You should acknowledge the symptoms. Sometimes you feel happy. You should successfully note that feeling too and resume with “Rising…” and “Falling…”. Wisdom will arise at that moment.
Sometimes you will face obstacles such as “vedana” (feeling, sensation, suffering or pain) before you can gain good concentration and mindfulness. If you can overcome the wandering and the vedana by using your mindfulness to note those sensations, wisdom will arise. After you pass these unpleasant feelings, you will move into the state of insight (real knowledge)
Begin with the knowledge of the delimitation of mentality-materiality that is to be able to distinguish between corporeality and mentality. Slowly acknowledge your movement: during sitting and lying down. Determine to practice this meditation for 30 minutes or 1 hour, then lie down. Do not transfer the merit, just lie down and observe the rising and the falling of your abdomen. You can practice this meditation at any time, day or night.
In order to obtain successful results, you should stop worrying and practice meditation continuously. You should not talk to each other, should not think or talk about the past. Observe “lying…”, take a deep breath and continuously note “rising…” and “falling…” of the abdomen. You will feel it very clearly while you are lying down. After a while you will know that your concentration and wisdom become better. You will know what happens while you are sleeping.
If your sleep is not caused by sleepiness, but it is sleep with mindfulness, you will know the exact moment when it happens, during “rising…” and falling…”. You can have good mindfulness all the time while you are sleeping. Your mind will know everything that happens and how many times your body moves and you can wake up at anytime you want. You can have good sleep even if it is just for 10 minutes. This is to sleep with mindfulness.
Meditators should not forget that you must continuously practice, from walking meditation to sitting meditation and sleeping meditation. You may determine that you will do it for 10 or 20 minutes then resume walking, etc. If you can continuously practice this meditation for 7 days, you will surely get good results. You will also obtain the insight to help solve problems in your daily life.
NOTING OF SENSE-IMPRESSIONS
For the practice of insight meditation, meditators should not forget to note sense\impressions, that is acknowledge when your eyes see objects, your ears hear sounds, your nose smell odors, your tongue tastes flavors, your body feels touching, because these are the six sense-doors of action which are the origin of defilements and the Five Aggregates. Corporeality and mentality arises and ceases together. You have to note it all the time until you gain fluency. The noting is done in the same way as you compose your mindfulness. If you can note seeing, hearing or touching by using your mindfulness, wisdom will accumulate. You will get good results later when you perform walking and sitting meditation.
NOTING OF MENTAL IMAGES
If meditators have done what I have suggested, you may see mental images during your walking or sitting meditation. Some may see a mental image like a Buddha image, several kinds of clouds, trees, etc. This shows that you have good concentration. For a good practical method, you have to note the mental image by acknowledging “perceiving…”. The image will change because it has the nature of arising, duration and cessation. The mental image will disappear after you acknowledge it. Wisdom will arise. This mental image is just a symbol to show the nature of corporeality, which can exist in two ways: first, a karma image that tells us about the action and the evil which disturbs our progress.
For the practice, I suggest you not analyze, evaluate or try to understand the image. The effective method is to use your mindfulness all the time to observe and acknowledge anything that happens. This practice is not an academic study. You have to be as if stupid and do not know anything. Wisdom will arise by itself and you will obtain insight knowledge by yourself without being told or taught. This is Dhamma knowledge.
For the practice, of insight meditation, knowledge and wisdom will arise by themselves and you will have realization by yourself, without being told. Meditators must not forget that they have to acknowledge or note anything, no matter how it happens, noting until it disappears. It is not good if you cannot continuously acknowledge until it disappears and let it pass. You will accumulate a wrong habit and it disappears and let it pass. You will accumulate a wrong habit and it will hinder your wisdom and create ignorance. Wisdom will not arise for that person. So you have to acknowledge or note every movement.
I have repeatedly talked about this noting for quite a long time because I want meditators to practice correctly without listening to any other suggestion. You should also practice this method accordingly. Do not mix it with other methods, for example sometimes practicing by noting “Buddho”, sometimes practicing by noting “rising…” and “falling…”, sometimes practicing “Samma araham”. This leads to being unorganized or mixed up and you won’t have fruitful results. In the practice of insight meditation by observing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, you should have mindfulness, and know the Twelve Bases. The Five Aggregates, corporeality and mentality arise through the Six Sense-Doors and cease together. It ceases by the same means as the defilement arise.
(The Twelve Bases: Internal Sense-Fields: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind; and External Sense-Fields: form or visible objects, sound, odor, taste, tangible objects, mind-objects)
If we have acquired good mindfulness and wisdom, it will clearly tell us where the vedana (feeling, sensation) is. So we can accordingly note it at that particular point and it will disappear. At the beginning of the practice, there will be lots of defilements and suffering which simultaneously appear. They can be assumed as your teachers, that is, the greed teacher, the anger teacher, the vedana teacher, the wandering teacher, the sorrow teacher, and you have to learn from them. The sorrow teacher teaches us shy we are sad, how we can overcome it. We should use our mindfulness to note our mind all the time. Then we can clearly understand the Four Noble Truths. This is the Buddha’s teaching. He could attain the path leading to the Cessation of Suffering through understanding the Four Noble Truths, which resulted from practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
READING ANOTHER PERSON’S MIND
The Buddha emphasized the principles of vipassna meditation, that the Five Aggregates, that is corporeality and mental formation are objects of consciousness. Meditators should not forget they must be able to successfully note or acknowledge this.
What is the benefit of standing meditation, “standing…” for 5 cycles? We can use it to evaluate other people by noting “perceiving…” (looking at other people from head to toe and from toe to head) for 5 cycles. Mindfulness will let you know whether that person has a good or bad habits, whether he is dishonest or not. The reason we can read another person’s mind is because we have practiced ourselves to know ourselves. This is the benefit of practice “standing…” for 5 cycles.
We can read another person’s mind by using our wisdom. In practicing this standing, you have to intentionally look at the object and acknowledge “perceiving…”, “perceiving…”, and actually see it with your wisdom. This point is very useful in solving your problems. When you are able to do the “perceiving…”, later you do not have to note “perceiving…” because your wisdom will tell you right away about corporeality, how it arises, exists and ceases.
At the beginning, we cannot do this because our mind has not reached the state of Vipassana Nana (purity of vision regarding intuitive wisdom). If we can practice until we reach that state, wisdom can tell us everything. Se we know by using our mindfulness.
I have to emphasize the importance of continuous noting, especially for meditators who lack practice and do not note their every movement. You should practice walking meditation while you walk to the toilet, note “eating…” “chewing…”, “swallowing…” while you are eating. Do everything slowly. Note each of your action even when you are passing urine or having a bowel movement. It is not enough to note only when you are practicing walking meditation and sitting meditation (“rising…” and “falling…”). In order to reach successful results, you should note all your actions and experience.
I ask you, meditators, to continuously note. It does not matter you are doing. Keep on noting and you will accumulate experience. When you reach the state of insight, your wisdom will let you know.
Therefore, practicing insight meditation is different from other studies. You have to practice and leave your opinions behind. You use your mindfulness to note all the states of the Five Aggregates. This is insight meditation which provides the benefit of wisdom.
Meditators should practice walking meditation, sitting meditation and lying meditation, consecutively. When you finish those steps, you should sit in front of a Buddha Statue in a sacred place (It is also all right if you do not have a sacred place) and wish others to be well and happy. This is the dedication of the merit to others who have helped you, e.g., your parents, relatives, etc., and to others whom you owe or to whom you have done something wrong. You are no longer angry or hate anybody and you can forgive them. This is called “Defunct Karma” (an act or thought which has no longer any potential force) and it is one of several benefits from practicing insight meditation.
After that, you should dedicate merit and spread your good intention (psychic telegraph) in all directions, defunct the karma all the time. You will receive good results and prosper in every way because your mind is in the state of wisdom. You can understand life, the state of being and you can spend your life fruitfully for yourself and others.
I bless you, meditators. Please do not think this matter is non-sense or easy to do. It is the most difficult thing to do. You should try and try to practice, noting no matter how difficult it is. You should set your mind to do it with patience and endurance until you reach the state of peace. The highest happiness in this word is peace.
You can benefit from this meditation anytime you want to. This is the gift that the Buddha has given to us.
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