Chapter 08: How to deal with Vadana
A Lecture on Dhamma
Wat Ambhavan, August 28, 1986.
by Phra Rajsuddhinanamongkol
Yesterday I traveled to Chiraprawat Military Base in Changwat Nakornsawan and gave a lecture without the consent of my doctor who recommended that I rest. Today I am very sick and have strong “vedana” (feeling, sensation). You can deal with “vedana” in the same way as I have done, by noting it successfully, i.e., “feeling pain…”. You may give this vedana to something else, such as a pole, and forget or ignore it. This is to diversify vedana into proper portion.
Does the pain go away after you acknowledge it by noting “feeling pain…” and “feeling pain…”? No it does not go away. Does it become worse? The more you concentrate on acknowledging the pain, the worse it becomes. You have to set your mind to fight with it even if it is so painful that you feel like you are going to die, then you accept it. If you note “feeling pain…”, “feeling pain…” and the pain is still there, do you want to quit? No, you do not want to quit. It is all right to go on. Some note “changing…” after noting “feeling pain…”, “feeling pain…”. The pain is so great that they cannot withstand, so they have to note “changing…” as they change their posture. It is all right to note “changing…” if you must change your sitting position or posture only at the beginning of your practice, but you should not change too often because you will get used to doing that. Later, you should note “feeling pain…” no matter how painful it is. Fight it with all your heart. If you are going to die of pain, so be it.
The attachment is considered concentration meditation. So does “feeling pain…” which is concentration meditation, not vipassana. “Feeling pain…” can be attached as a sense-object because it has form. This is why vedana can arise. Objects have forms which lead to contact and it causes the body to create feeling. This is mental formation and it causes pain. We have to acknowledge this pain by noting “feeling pain…”, but the pain can become worse. If we don’t acknowledge pain, we won’t feel pain. As an effective method and correct practice, we should acknowledge pain so that we know vedana. This is Dhamma. You will understand the Dhamma when you know suffering. If you don’t have suffering, you will not know the Four Noble Truths, that is suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. You should try. If pain and suffering occur during your meditation and you quit practicing, you won’t have the Four Noble Truths. You will only know outside suffering but not real suffering.
Real suffering is important. You should acknowledge “feeling pain…”, “feeling pain…” until you know the Dhamma. Even though pain is so strong that you feel like you are going to die, you have to be brave. Some people always have strong vedana at the end of the sitting meditation. For example, if they set their mind to practice sitting meditation for 1 hour, they will always have vedana during the last 15 minutes. Some have it in the last 5 minutes of the 30-minute sitting. Everybody will face this vedana, which becomes worse during the last 10 or 15 minutes of the sitting meditation. Now that you know when vedana occurs, you can be sure that there is 10 or 15 minutes left in the sitting meditation. You should fight with it even if you feel like you are going to die. You should be willing to die. “feeling pain…”, “feeling pain…” Oh! This is suffering. It is so painful that your bones are going to burst, your bottom feels burning and stinging. Keep on acknowledge “feeling pain…” until your sitting time is up. You have to persist.
To understand the Dhamma, you have to persist (overcome you own need). This important point was hinted during an event at the time of the Buddha’s enlightenment (His food tray floated against the tide). The Buddha’s name was Prince Siddhattha before he was enlightened and later became the Buddha. Prince Siddhattha had gained insight knowledge in his past life when he was born as Prince Vessantara and because of this meditative attainment, the young Prince Siddhattha could miraculously ascend to sit in a tree, but he did not become enlightened or know how to end suffering of the cycle of rebirth. Later he endured the practice of self-mortification for six years without attaining enlightenment.
One day, he perceived a deity image with a three-string harp. The tension inside the three strings were different: one too high; one with optimum tension; and one too loose. He realized that only with the optimum tension could the harp produce beautiful music. So it is with enlightenment, which can be attained by the Middle Path. He then stopped self-mortification and started eating. The five ascetics who had followed him misunderstood, that he had given up the practice, so they left him. Later Prince Siddhattha attained enlightenment when he was by himself. (This also teaches us that if you practice among a lot of people, you cannot reach successful results.” On the day he was to reach enlightenment, he received a tray of food from Sujat a. After he finished eating, he resolved that if there was any Dhamma that leads to the path of enlightenment, the tray should give a sign. Then he put the tray in the river and it floated against the tide. He then realized that he had to persist or endure anything that went against his will to enlightenment.
That night Prince Siddhattha sat under the Bodhi Tree, and resolved that he would sit there until he died unless he attained enlightenment. The Dhamma clue from the floating tray signified that he had to persist no matter how hard it was, even if he had to die for it. You, also, have to practice vipassana with endurance and perseverance.
Go to the temple, listen to what they teach.
Life is not permanent.
Do not play and live non-sense.
The tree fires always burn us.
Don’t be careless, but practice meditation.
We all have to die.
When death comes, relatives will tell you to think of the Buddha.
The best knowledge is to know the Virtues of the Buddha.
Because you are suffering from vedana.
Vedana that arises during meditation signifies a good lesson for you. It can be classified into proper portions. In the Five Aggregates, (or the Five Groups of Existence which consists of corporeality, feelings, perception, mental formation and consciousness) corporeality and mentality are sense-objects. Vedana is separated, as it is in the process of arising, during and cessation. The pain you suffer during the vedana state can become worse and worse until it reaches the point when it breaks and all the pain will immediately disappear. At the beginning of the practice, pain will not go away. You will have to understand the Four Principles (the body, the feeling, the mind and the cognizable object or idea), otherwise it will not disappear, no matter how long or how many times you practice. You should not say that you have success in vipassana meditation because there is no such thing. You just have to go on practicing. You are only a meditator or a Dhamma practitioner not the Worthy One. You should be modest.
At any stage of meditation, everybody has to experience the Four Principles. You will face vedana and you should be able to acknowledge it, then resume your training in mindfulness.
You can maintain your mindfulness and consciousness, even if you are sick. Vedana that you experience during vipassana meditation is very strong and painful. It can be harder than the pain which you will surely experience before you die. You have to acknowledge this pain by noting “feeling pain…”, “feeling pain…” (telling yourself that you are feeling pain)”.
Fight it even though you think that you are going to die of this pain. It is considered as ‘concentration meditation”. You should remember that it attaches as a sense-object. As you continue noting, it will break, flash and disappear. Your body becomes light. This lightness signifies “aniccata” (impermanence), dukkhata (the state of suffering) and anattata (soullessness). After that you will understand the Four Noble Truths;
1. Dukka – suffering
2. Samudaya – the cause of suffering
3. Nirodha – the cessation of suffering
4. Magga – the path leading to the cessation of suffering
Suffering happens to everybody, but you have to find the causes of suffering and understand the cessation of suffering. Then you will realize that all matters are impermanent, suffering and soulless. To reach the point that you understand the Four Noble Truths, you have to try really hard and persist heartily. If you give up when you face vedana, you will never understand the Dhamma of the Four Noble Truths. You may know only physical suffering such as some unpleasant words or things, but not the core of the suffering. Birth, sickness and death bring sadness to you. Still this experience does not bring knowledge. You will know real suffering after vedana disappears and you will realize that impermanence brings suffering. It is impermanent and therefore it is suffering. This is the real suffering according to The Four Noble Truths. Then you let it go. Everything is left. There is no form (corporeality) nor mentality. At the end, it will disappear completely. This is “Nibbhana” (The Final Goal, that is the extinction of the root of greed, hatred and ignorance). Remember to endure and persist heartily, because vedana is very tough.
The Abbot of Wat Ambhavan has told you to persist heartily in order to obtain the Dhamma. Please think of the Buddha’s food tray that floated against the tide. Sometime you work so hard all day that you are very tired and you cannot persist during the vipassana meditation, it’s all right! You can do it on the next day.
I once had a broken neck, but I did not feel any pain. I was fine because I knew vedana. During that illness, I breathed though my navel. By noting the “rising and falling” motion of my abdomen, I could breathe. But you have to practice sufficiently to be able to breathe through your navel. People who reach the stage of meditative attainment breathe through their blood vessels during their meditation. Oxygen and carbondioxide can diffuse through the blood vessels, otherwise they cannot live during the meditative attainment. We are alive now because our bodies do not only excrete the waste through the bowels, but also excrete waste through every pore in our bodies. You will understand this subject when you practice (or understand) the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
Please continue to persist heartily. Acknowledge or note pain when it occurs. No matter how bad the pain is, acknowledge it! If you can successfully acknowledge (or note) it, vipassana will reveal itself to you. It will break in a flash. Aniccata (impermanence), Dukkhata (state of suffering) and anattata (soullessness) will become clear to you. If you are a beginner, you may be doing tranquility meditation. But if you want to escape suffering and understand the Law of Karma, you have to practice vipassana meditation as it is the only path leading to the Final Goal. Practicing other methods, such as Anapanasati (mindfulness on breathing), Manomayiddhi (mind-made magical power) will not help you understand the Law of Karma (deeds done in the past)! Mindfulness is very important. After we reach a peaceful state, then wisdom will help us be aware of ourselves.
Mindfulness can go backwards and you can remember your past life. For correct practice, you have to concentrate on the present, don’t dwell in the past, do not think of other’s business. Do your rightful duty now. Don’t expect something in the future too much. If so, you will be disappointed and sorry for the rest of your life. You should only concentrate at the present moment.
When you meditate, you should acknowledge whatever happens at that moment and don’t think of anything else. In conclusion, mindfulness reflects your mind. When you are not satisfied with someone or something, it affects your mind and makes you feel unhappy. You are unable to radiate loving-kindness (wishing others to be well and happy). You will be so discouraged and hopeless that you may live your life day by day lifelessly. This is not good for you al all!
Wat Ambhavan, Singburi
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