Word of the Buddha
We are on the seventh factor, page 61, Right Mindfulness (SammÈ Sati). In this section the whole of the MahÈ SatipaÔÔhÈna Sutta is given. This section should be the most important for meditators. In fact not only the Sutta is given but some additions to the Sutta are given also. It is virtually the study of the Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta.
“The only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path and the realization of NibbÈna, is by the ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’. And which are these four?”
‘The only way’ - the PÈÄi word here is ekÈyana. ‘Œyana’ means a road or a way. ‘EkÈyana’ literally translated is one road or one way. It is interpreted in different ways. Five interpretations are given to that one word. The first meaning given to that word is one road. ‘One road’ means that which does not divide into two roads. This is the one road that goes to NibbÈna. It has no forks. That is the meaning of one road or one way. This is the first meaning.
The second meaning is the road to be trodden by one only. That means singly. When you are practicing meditation, you are going along this way alone, with no companion. Although you may be practicing with a group, you are doing it alone. You progress depending upon your own ability. Here ‘one road’ means the road to be trodden by one only or singly. That means in seclusion.
The third meaning is the road of the One. ‘The One’ means the Buddha. It is the way of the One, the way of the Buddha, the way of the Best.
The fourth meaning is the way which exists in one. ‘In one’ means in this teaching only, in Buddha’s teaching only. You find the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness in Buddha’s teachings only. So it is the way which exists in one, in this dispensation only.
The fifth meaning is the road going to one destination only. There ‘one’ means NibbÈna. So it is the road going to NibbÈna only. So five meanings are given for this word ‘ekÈyana’ (one road).
Student: The English definition that comes to my mind is that this is the exclusive way, this is the only way. I guess that would be the fourth meaning.
Teacher: Yes, that is the fourth meaning. It has support by other statements by the Buddha. In the Dhammapada there is a verse which says this is the only way; there is no other. So I think it comes closest to the Buddha’s intention, that is the way exists in this dispensation only. There are many people who don’t like this interpretation of the only way. Whether we like it or not, this is closest to the Buddha’s intention because in other places, especially in the Dhammapada, he said that this is the only way; there is not other.
Student: So in the fourth interpretation ‘in one’ does not refer to ‘in one person’.
Teacher: Oh, no. ‘One’ here means this one teaching, this one dispensation. So you find it only in the teachings of the Buddha. “The only way that leads to the attainment of purity” - ‘the attainment of purity’ means the attainment of purity of the minds of beings. “The overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path” - that means really to reach the right path, to become enlightened, and to reach NibbÈna. Entering upon the right path and the realization of NibbÈna are practically the same.
“That is by the ‘Four Foundations of Mindfulness’. And which are these four? Herein the disciple dwells in contemplation of the Body, in contemplation of Feeling, in contemplation of the Mind, in contemplation of Dhamma (not ‘mind’) Objects.” I always keep the word ‘dhamma’ here. Mind objects does not cover all that is covered by dhamma objects. Here the word ‘dhamma’ does not mean just teaching. At least you can find out what ‘dhamma objects’ means by referring to the last section here in the notes or in the book itself. ‘Dhamma objects’ means 1. The five hindrances, 2. The five aggregates of clinging, 3. The six internal and six external bases, 4. The seven factors of enlightenment, 5. The Four Noble Truths. These are called ‘dhamma objects’ in this Sutta. So ‘dhamma objects’ consist of both mind and matter. The first, the five hindrances are actually mental factors (cetasikas). The five aggregates are everything except NibbÈna. The six internal bases and the six external bases are again everything. Normally the six internal bases and six external bases include NibbÈna. Since it has to do with vipassanÈ meditation, NibbÈna is not taken here. VipassanÈ only takes the mundane objects. So six internal bases and six external bases are everything. The seven factors of enlightened are mental factors (cetasikas). The Four Noble Truths are everything. The Third Noble Truth is the result of vipassanÈ meditation; as a result of vipassanÈ meditation a person comes to see NibbÈna directly. NibbÈna cannot be the object of vipassanÈ meditation. Also the Fourth Noble Truth, the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering, cannot be, strictly speaking, the object of vipassanÈ meditation. So ‘dhamma object’ means everything. ‘Mind objects’ or ‘mental objects’ is, I think, not quite correct and maybe misleading. So we should just retain the word ‘dhamma objects’.
“Ardent, clearly comprehending them and mindful” - now, these three words are important. Ardent - that means you make effort. This is one factor in meditation. ‘Clearly comprehending’ means paÒÒÈ, knowledge, understanding. ‘Mindful’ means mindfulness. Here three factors are mentioned - effort, understanding and mindfulness. What is left out here is concentration. But without concentration there can be no clear comprehension. Although concentration is not mentioned by name, we must take it as being mentioned. Let us say sometimes you drive from here (San Francisco) to San Jose. Before reaching San Jose, you go through cities along the way. So here also when it says ‘clearly comprehending’, before you clearly comprehend, you must have concentration. Concentration is also there. Therefore there are four factors here that you have to make present at every moment of mindfulness meditation. You must make effort. You must have mindfulness. You must have concentration. And the last one is understanding, clearly comprehending. You must have these four.
“After putting away worldly greed and grief” - ‘after putting away’, everybody translates that way, either ‘after putting away’ or ‘having overcome’. In Venerable ©ÈÓaponika’s translation it says ‘having overcome’. But it is not so. You want to put away greed and grief. That is why you practice meditation. The first three, ardent, clearly comprehending, and mindful, show the working factors of meditation. ‘Putting away worldly greed and grief’ means the factors abandoned by meditation. That means not ‘after putting away’ but ‘putting away at the same time’. You can just leave out ‘after’. The PÈÄi word just means ‘putting away’, not ‘after’. The PÈÄi word used is ‘vineyya’. Vineyya comes from the PÈÄi suffix ‘tva’. That suffix has different meanings. The usual meaning is after, after going, after coming, something like that. But sometimes it means happening at the same time. Here it is at the same time. Sometimes it may be after. So when you practice meditation, you concentrate on the object. You try to see it clearly. You try to see the true nature of things. When you see the true nature, that it arises and disappears, then you do not have any greed for that object. You do not have any ill will or aversion for that object. At every moment of good concentration you are abandoning, you are putting away greed and grief. So along with meditation the abandoning happens. It is not after putting away greed and grief that you practice meditation. Just say ‘putting away worldly greed and grief’ without ‘after’.
This is the very brief statement of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. It is contemplation of the body, contemplation of feelings, contemplation of mind (‘Mind’ here means consciousness.), and contemplation of dhamma objects. These four are described in this Sutta, one by one.
The first is the contemplation of the body. There are fourteen kinds of contemplation on the body mentioned in this Sutta. The first one is ÈnÈpÈnasati (breathing in and breathing out), so mindfulness of breathing in and breathing out.
“But how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the body? Herein the disciple retires to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to a solitary place.” That is the usual place for meditation. You go to the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to a solitary or secluded place. What is important is to be quiet or to be secluded. Even in the middle of the city if you can have quietness, you can practice meditation.
“He seats himself with legs crossed, body erect, and with mindfulness fixed before him.” Here the PÈÄi means mindfulness fixed towards the object of meditation, not ‘before him’ or ‘before his mind’. With mindfulness directed towards the object of meditation, here the breath.
Student: When it says that the legs are crossed, is there any specific indication of the full lotus or the Burmese position?
Teacher: No. Nothing is mentioned even in the Commentaries. What is said is sitting binding the thighs. That is the cross-legged position. It is not said that it is full lotus, half lotus, easy posture, or whatever. Considering the Buddha images, the Buddha may have meant the full lotus posture. Most Buddha images have the full lotus posture. Buddha images in Thailand have the half lotus. The Commentary says to keep your back straight so that the segments of the spine, the vertebrae are one above the other. When your back is straight, it is said that you don’t feel much pain. So you can practice meditation without pain or you can sit for a longer period of time. So “With legs crossed, body erect, and mindfulness fixed towards the object or with mindfulness put face to face with the object.”
“Mindfully he breathes in, mindfully he breathes out. When making a long inhalation, he knows: ‘I make a long inhalation’.” Just mindful he breaths in and just mindful he breathes out. That is taken to be a general statement. The following sentences are taken to be specific or special methods of the mindfulness of breathing meditation. So first a person tries to be aware of mindfully breathing in and mindfully breathing out. So he keeps his mind at the tip of the nose or at the entrance of the nostrils and is mindful of the in-breaths and out-breaths.
In the Sutta itself nothing is said about where to put your mind. It is only in the Commentaries that it says that you keep your mind here at the entrance to the nostrils. You are not to follow the breath inside the body or outside the body. The mind is always to be here.
Student: Does it say anything about where to note the breath in the ŒnÈpÈnasati Sutta?
Teacher: No. It only appears in the Commentaries. Buddha didn’t say anything about keeping your mind here or there because I think it is taken for granted that everybody knows it. When you practice mindfulness on breathing, then you keep your mind here. But in the Commentaries it is very specific that you keep your mind here and not to let your mind go inside or outside the body.
They give different similes. One is cutting a log with a saw. When you are cutting a log with a saw, you look at the place where the teeth of the saw are cutting the wood. You don’t look at the teeth that are coming towards you or at the teeth that are going away from the log. In the same way, you keep the mind here. After some time your concentration becomes better. When your concentration becomes better, the breathing becomes more subtle. It becomes almost imperceptible. At such a time you still keep your mind here and you lie in wait there, something like that, to find the breathing again. So only at the tip of the nose or at the entrance of the nostrils should you put your mind. The Buddha did not say anything about that. In the ŒnÈpÈnasati Sutta and in this Sutta the first four methods are the same.
Student: Wasn’t there a controversy with Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw and monks in Sri Lanka about whether access concentration could be gained observing the abdomen as well as the breath?
Teacher: Yes. It was not necessarily access concentration. It is called ‘momentary concentration’ (khaÓika samÈdhi), not upacÈra samÈdhi or appanÈ samÈdhi.
Student: I would like to think that the effort and diligence that you put into the meditation are more important than the location, the posture, the object.
Teacher: Yes. Here what the Buddha gave was the best conditions for the practice of meditation. I think that sitting cross-legged comes to Eastern people naturally. This is the normal posture for the practice of meditation, but it does not mean that you can only practice in this posture. As you go along in this Sutta, you will find that when you are walking, you must know that you are walking and so on. So any posture will do. When you sit cross-legged, you are like a triangle. So you are stable. I think you can sit longer in this posture actually than sitting in other postures because your body is stable.
“When making a long inhalation, he knows: ‘I make a long inhalation’; when making a long exhalation, he knows: ‘I make a long exhalation’.” That is the first one. Here when he breaths in a long breath, he knows that he breaths in a long breath. When he breaths out a long breath, he knows that he breaths out a long breath. This is the first method or the first stage.
The next one we may call the second stage. “When breathing in a short breath, he knows, he knows: ‘I breathe in a short breath’; when breathing out a short breath, he knows: ‘I breathe out a short breath’
The third is: “ ‘Making clear the whole breath-body, I shall breathe in’, thus he trains himself.” The fourth is: “ ‘Calming the breathing, I shall breathe in’, thus he trains himself.” These four are called ‘the four methods’, but actually they will come to you naturally when you practice mindfulness on breathing meditation.
When you pay attention to breathing, just try to be on the breath as ‘in, out; in out’. Then when you make long breaths, you will notice that you am making long breaths. Sometimes you have short breaths. Then you know that your breathing is short. So you don’t have to make your breathing longer so that you know that it is long. Similarly you don’t have to make it shorter. Let the breathing go normally. Sometimes you happen to make the breathing longer or sometimes shorter. So when your breath is long or short, you will know that. You will be aware of that. You don’t have to make much effort to know the long breaths and the short breaths. They will come to you naturally.
Student: The knowing here is not noting. It is not specific verbal noting. Does this knowing mean noticing rather than noting? This is a hot issue in meditation.
Teacher: It says ‘knowing’. We think with words. That is why here it says: “I breathe in a long breath; I breathe out a long breath.” You make mental notes.
Student: But you note with sati -
Teacher: The word here is not ‘sati’. The PÈÄi word is ‘pajÈnÈti’. ‘PajÈnÈti’ means ‘knows’ or maybe ‘clearly knows’. So he knows: ‘I am making a long breath; I am making a short breath’.
Student: So it’s more like noting than noticing?
Teacher: Right. Yes. Here maybe it is just knowing. You may not be saying ‘long, short, long short’. You just know that it is long or that it is short. Later on I think that we cannot avoid making mental notes with the other methods, with the postures of the body, and also the later sections. We will come to that later.
Student: But, Bhante, I see the word ‘ÈnÈpÈnasati’, so why does he use the other word ‘pajÈnÈti’?
Teacher: You keep your mind on the breath. Keeping your mind on the breath is sati (mindfulness or remembering). You come to know or you are aware that the breath is long or that the breath is short. That is knowing. It is not just mindfulness. That’s why the Buddha used ‘pajÈnÈti’ (knows) there.
Student: That’s the result of sati.
Teacher: We can say that although they arise at the same time. Or former or preceding sati helps you to know, helps the knowing the succeeding moments.
Student: What is ‘making clear the whole breath-body’?
Teacher: We will come to that. In the book it says: “Clearly perceiving the entire breath-body.” In my notes I have: “making clear the whole breath-body.” You were not at the retreat when I talked about this. That’s why you ask. ‘Making clear the whole breath-body’ means seeing the breath from the beginning until the end. ‘The whole breath-body’ means the beginning, the middle and the end.
Student: You just said that you concentrate at the entrance of the nostrils. Now you say that you see the whole breath-body. Doesn’t your mind have to go through the body with the breath?
Teacher: No. No. It’s not like that. Your mind is at the entrance of the nostrils. Here is the beginning of the breath. This is the middle of the breath. This is the end of the breath. Your mind is just here. I had a very interesting problem at the retreat. Victor asked me where to find the middle. He is an engineer. So when I said the beginning, middle and the end of the breath, he thought it was the middle point of the breath. So he didn’t know how to measure it. ‘Middle’ means between beginning and end. So your mind is here (at the entrance to the nostrils). That is why when I give instructions, I don’t say try to see the beginning, middle and end of the breath. I say try to see the whole duration of the breath. That means the same thing. Try to see clearly. Sometimes the beginning is clear. Sometimes the end is clear. The beginning may not be clear. Sometimes the middle is clear. The Buddha here exhorted us to see all three stages clearly.
The whole breath-body - there is a problem here. Nowadays there are teachers who interpret this as not the breath-body, but the whole body, the whole physical body. That is because the PÈÄi word is ‘sabbakÈya’. ‘SabbakÈya’ - ‘sabba’ is whole and ‘kÈya’ is body, so ‘whole body’. ‘Whole body’ here means the whole breath-body. There are teachers now who, like U Ba Khin, that it means the whole body. Thich Nhat Hanh even went so far as to say that the Commentary was wrong. This section is mindfulness of breathing. Right? If you take the whole body, your meditation is not mindfulness of breathing. There is mindfulness of other parts of the body. That is why the Commentator, following the Venerable SÈriputta, says it is the breath-body, not the whole body. If we take the whole body, then we have to go through the whole body. Right? The moment we shift our attention from the breath, it is not ÈnÈpÈnasati at all. It is no longer ÈnÈpÈnasati. We are not watching, we are not being mindful of breathing in and breathing out. We are watching may be sensations in the body and so on.
Student: I always thought that seeing the breath at the nose was seeing it microscopically. Noting it in the chest, thorax, abdomen, and so on would be seeing it macroscopically. That’s not a possible interpretation?
Teacher: I don’t think it is correct here, that is the interpretation. But in vipassanÈ meditation you can be mindful of the other parts of the body too. It is not against vipassanÈ meditation. It is not correct however to say that you watch the whole body according to this sentence.
Student: Is the term ‘breath-body’ used in other places?
Teacher: In PÈÄi only the word ‘kÈya’ is used. Breath is not used there. When you say ‘kÈya’, it must mean the whole body; it is very simple. Right? It is straight forward. Although it is straight forward and easy, the Commentator said that you must take it to mean the breath-body. When he says this, there must be sufficient reason for him to explain in this crooked (convoluted) way. It is not a straight forward way. We must try to find out what his intention was.
Student: In the time of the Buddha was it acceptable to say breath-body (kÈya) for breath?
Teacher: Oh yes. The word ‘kÈya’ does not necessarily mean the body actually, I mean the physical body. It could also be body in the sense of group, a combination.
Student: What about ‘whole’?
Teacher: It says ‘whole’ because the word ‘sabba’ is used here. So sabbakÈya is whole body, whole group, whole combination.
Student: In contemplating the origination and dissolution factors, it doesn’t explicitly talk about breathing. Do they refer exclusively to breathing?
Teacher: Those origination and dissolution factors are repeated at the end of every section. Also there is another interpretation. He dwells practicing body contemplation on the body internally, or externally, or both internally and externally. That also they interpret differently. ‘Internally’ means the breath itself and ‘externally’ means like you said other sensations and so on. The PÈÄi word used is ‘bahiddhÈ’. ‘BahiddhÈ’ means just the outside of what is spoken of here. Here the monk is spoken of. The monk contemplates. The word ‘ajjhatta’ means his body, inside him. The word ‘bahiddhÈ’ means outside his body. Wherever there is the word ‘bahiddhÈ’, we have to take it to mean outside things.
Student: It seems to me that it might be interpreted as the air when it goes outside the body.
Student: Another translation proposes that it is making the distinction between the experience of the phenomena and the awareness of the phenomena. One may experience the breath at the moment of experiencing it as a sensation at the nose, however you describe it as tingling or cool air. That would be internal. There ‘internally’ means experiencing. ‘Externally’ means being one step removed from the event as one notes it. Because when one is noting ‘breathing in’, one is external to the actual phenomena. He was using that and suggesting that it might be a very subtle way of how the mind can be within the experience of the object or noting and being aware of the object in the sense of its duration or observing.
Teacher: Yes. But we have to look at the words too, how these words are used. There are two words referring to outside. One is ‘bahiddhÈ’ and the other is ‘bÈhira’ also means outside. ‘BÈhira’ can refer to one inside also. But as far as I know, as far as I am aware, ‘bahiddhÈ’ never refers to something inside us.
Student: ‘BahiddhÈ’ refers to something outside the body?
Teacher: Yes. We will come to bÈhira in the external bases.
Student: What is body contemplation internally and externally?
Teacher: ‘Internally’ means in one’s own body and ‘externally’ means in another person’s body. Now there is a problem. How do you practice externally? Do you go and look at him? The Commentaries say that internally is in his body and that externally is another’s body, just that. How one practices on another’s body is not explained. So Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw explained this way. First you practice being mindful of your own breath. You see the breath clearly. You come to know that the breath has a beginning and an end, and that it is impermanent. During your meditation sometimes you infer the breath of others from your own experience. My breath has a beginning and an end. It is impermanent. So the other person’s will be (the same). Sometimes you think of that. You infer from your own experience. That is what is meant by practicing externally mindfulness meditation. That happens sometimes, not for a long time. It is better to be within ourselves than to be with outside things.
Student: What about calming the breaths?
Teacher: Oh, we jumped over that. Here also there are a lot of problems. The PÈÄi word used is not breathing. The PÈÄi word used is kÈyasa~khÈra. Bodily function is not a good translation for that. ‘Sa~khÈra’ can mean one that makes or one that is made. So there are both active and passive meanings. Sometimes you take the passive as the meaning of the word and sometimes you take the active. In the word ‘kÈyasa~khÈra’ it is explained as a passive verbal noun. Let’s just say ‘made’. So ‘kÈyasa~khÈra’ means body-made or made by the body. ‘Made by the body’ really means depending on the body. Because we have the whole physical body there is the breath. If we do not have the body, there is no breath. So breath is called ‘kÈyasa~khÈra’. I just want to give you the meaning. So here it is calming the breathing or calming the breath.
Student: Is there intervention to slow down and make calm breathing?
Teacher: No. Actually, no. The breathing becomes calmer and calmer as you go along. You don’t have to make breathing calm by holding the breath or by deliberately breathing shallow. Breathing will become slower and more subtle and more difficult to see as you make progress in concentration. What is meant is that you have to practice until the breathing becomes calm or subtle.
Student: Then we could say as the breathing becomes calm, I shall breath in.
Teacher: No. The PÈÄi word is calming the breathing.
Student: Some people try to make the breath very strong, making noise, and maybe fast.
Teacher: No. Whatever method you are doing, the breathing has to be natural. As your concentration grows, your breathing becomes more subtle. You may come to a point where you almost do not perceive your breathing. You may think you have stopped breathing all together. Many people become afraid. Without breathing you die. So one does not deliberately calm down the breathing, but one practices until the breathing becomes clamed down. So “Calming the breathing, I shall breathe in; calming the breathing, I shall breathe out, thus he trains himself. He dwells practicing body contemplation on the body internally or externally, or both internally and externally.”
“He dwells contemplating origination factors in the body.” Here ‘body’ means just the breath-body because this is the section on the breath. ‘Origination factors’ means things that make the breath possible - so the body, the entrance to the nostrils and the mind. These three are the conditions for the breath. In the Commentary the bellow is given as the example. There is the bellow, the end of the bellow or the nozzle, and the man’s effort.
Here Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw added his own explanation. ‘Origination factors’ means that he dwells contemplating of the breath-body. ‘Dissolution factors’ means the disappearing of the breath-body. I think that is more practical. When you practice meditation, you may not be thinking that I have breath because I have this body, I have the mind, and I have the nostrils. What you will see as you pay attention to the breath is just its coming and going, its arising and disappearing.
The PÈÄi words are ‘samudayadhamma’ and ‘vayadhamma’. They can be as translated here origination factors or factors that originate. The other meaning is the nature of arising. So it is just the simple arising of breath and the disappearing of breath.
“He dwells contemplating origination factors in the body or he dwells contemplating dissolution factors in the body; or he dwells contemplating both origination and dissolution factors in the body.” ‘Dissolution factors’ means the absence of the three conditions. If there is no physical body, if there is no nose, if there is no mind, then there can be no breath.
“Or his mindfulness that ‘there is this body only’ is established in him to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness.” ‘There is this breath-body only’ means there is this breath-body only, no person, no soul, no permanent entity and so on. And that is necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. ‘Knowledge and mindfulness’ means for further knowledge and mindfulness.
“Independent he dwells.” ‘Independent’ means independent of greed and wrong view. When a yogi sees the breath clearly and that there is just the breath and no person, no man, no woman, no soul, then he does not cling to that breath by way of attachment or by way of wrong view. “Independent he dwells, clinging to nothing in the world.” These two mean the same thing. ‘Clinging to nothing in the world’ and ‘independent he dwells’ mean the same thing. At every moment of mindfulness if you pay real close attention and see just the arising and disappearing of breath, you come to see there is no I, no person and so on. Then you have no attachment to the breath or wrong view about the breath. And so at every moment of good concentration, you are dwelling independent of these two factors, of these two mental defilements (attachment and wrong view).
“Thus also a monk dwells practicing body-contemplation on the body.”
Student: Does that mean breath-body contemplation on the breath-body?
Teacher: Actually breath-body. You see the heading there - contemplation of the body. That word is used again and again for different parts of the body. In the next section ‘the body’ means only the postures. In another section ‘the body’ means only the small activities of the body and so on.
Next is postures of the body. “A monk when going knows ‘I am going’; when standing, he knows, ‘I am standing’; when sitting, he knows ‘I am sitting’; when lying down, he knows ‘I am lying down’.” Here also making mental notes the Buddha gave us. So ‘I am going’ or just ‘going’ - we just say ‘going, going’ or ‘sitting, sitting’ not ‘I am going’ or ‘I am sitting’ because we want to avoid ‘I’.
PÈÄi is different you know. You can just say the verb without a subject. That is because the subject is understood by the form of the verb. GacchÈmi - ‘gacchÈmi’ means I go. There is no word for ‘I’ there. It is implied by the verb.
I am going, I am standing, I am sitting, I am lying down - “In whatever mode (posture) his body is placed, he knows it in that mode.” Here also you don’t find the abdomen. Right? There are postures of the body - just going, standing, sitting and lying down.
“In whatever mode (posture) his body is placed, he knows it in that mode.” Here the Commentary explains that this is just a general statement about the four postures mentioned above. Strictly speaking, the abdomen method is not mentioned in the Sutta in this section.
In the next section also we don’t find the abdomen. The next section is mindfulness with clear comprehension. Here it is not just mindfulness, but mindfulness with clear comprehension (saÑpajaÒÒa). “A monk in going forward and in going back, applies clear comprehension.” When you walk and you go forward and turn back, you apply clear comprehension. Here the Buddha does not say anything about making mental notes, but I think making mental notes is implied.
“In looking straight on and in looking elsewhere, he applies clear comprehension.” So when he looks straight on and when he looks to the sides he applies clear comprehension. Here looking down, looking up, or looking back are not mentioned. They are not mentioned because it is not proper for a meditator to be looking up or looking back. But if he happens to be looking up, then he must apply clear comprehension.
“In bending and in stretching his limbs, he applies clear comprehension.”
Student: The translation here is ‘any part of the body’, so perhaps the back.
Teacher: Mostly the hands and the legs. “In wearing the robes and in carrying the almsbowl” - so when you change clothes, when you pick up bowls and plates and so on, you are to apply clear comprehension. It is for monks. That is why robes and carrying an almsbowl are mentioned. For lay people it would be putting on clothes, putting on shoes, everything.
“In eating, drinking, chewing, savoring” - ‘eating’ is eating rice and other soft food. Then drinking, chewing - ‘chewing’ is eating hard food. ‘Savoring’ means eating honey, molasses and so on. You lick and savor. That is why savoring is used.
“In obeying the calls of nature, he applies clear comprehension.” So even when you go to the bathroom, you have to be mindful.
“In walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking, speaking, and being silent, he applies clear comprehension.” So walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep - when you go to sleep, you go to sleep with mindfulness.
Student: In the book, on page 64, the commentary goes on to say that clear comprehension is intention, advantage, duty, and reality. Does that make sense to you?
Teacher: There are four kinds of clear comprehension. We will go to that later. ‘Clear comprehension’ really means seeing clearly. It means that in walking there is just the intention to walk, the movement of the parts of the body. There is no attÈ, no ego, no soul, no person, and so on. Understanding in that way is called ‘clear comprehension’. Just the elements are going. Just the elements are eating. There are just the elements putting on the other elements and so on. Falling asleep is when you go to sleep. Waking is when you wake up. Then there is speaking and being silent.
Also let us say that you walk and then you stand. The mind and the body that existed during walking do not continue to exist into the standing position. They arise and disappear during walking. At standing a new set of mind and matter arises. So there is arising and disappearing of mind and matter at every moment. When you see in that way, you are said to have clear comprehension. You have to pay close attention so that you see that at every moment there are just the intention or mind and the movement of the different parts of the body or matter.
In connection with clear comprehension, in the Commentaries four kinds of clear comprehension are mentioned. In the book it says they are clear comprehension of intention, advantage, duty and reality. It is not accurate. What are intention and advantage? Venerable ©ÈÓamoli translated the first one as clear comprehension of purpose. That means trying to find out whether an action you are going to do is beneficial or not. Only if it is beneficial must you do that action. Going to a shrine has benefits. You get merit when you go to a shrine. Going to a teacher to listen to the Dhamma, that is a beneficial action. Going to a cemetery to see the corpses there is a beneficial act. So first you must find out if it is beneficial. That is the first clear comprehension. That kind of clear comprehension can be applied to daily life also, not only to meditation.
After finding out whether it is beneficial to do, the next thing you have to find out is whether it is suitable to so that. The second is clear comprehension of suitability. Going to a shrine is a beneficial act. If there is a festival at the shrine and many people gather there making merriment, then it is not a suitable time for a meditator to go there, not a suitable time for a monk to go there. That is because he will be distracted. He may even get involved in improper relationships or whatever.
First you find out if it is beneficial and next you must find out if it is suitable, if it is the right time, the right place to do that action. That can be applied to daily life. In your business too you apply these kinds of clear comprehension. Before doing anything, you try to find out whether it is beneficial, whether it will give you profit or a large income. And then although it is a good thing, you have to find out if it is timely or it is a good place. These two are applied both to meditation and daily life. The first one is clear comprehension of purpose and the second one is clear comprehension of suitability.
The third is clear comprehension of domain. ‘Domain’ means his resort. A monk’s domain is the foundations of mindfulness or the practice of meditation. The Buddha said: “Monks, live in your fraternal domain. Do not go out of your fraternal domain because you will be caught by the evil ones outside. What is your fraternal domain? It is the four foundations of mindfulness.”
In connection with this in the Commentary the four kinds of monks are given. I cannot tell you about them tonight. So even when a monk goes for alms to the village, he must go with meditation and he must come back with meditation. When you practice the clear comprehension of domain, you must be practicing meditation all the time. You must keep meditation with you even when it is very distracting for you. Going to the alms resort, going to the village for alms is very distracting. There are people there and other things. Even when it is difficult to practice meditation, you must practice meditation. You must go to the village and roam around the village with meditation. The practice of meditation or not abandoning the practice of meditation is the clear comprehension of domain.
When you have clear comprehension of domain, when your clear comprehension of domain has become matured, you get the clear comprehension of the fourth one. What is the fourth one?
Teacher: Reality. That means the clear comprehension of non-delusion (asamoha). That means you see clearly what is involved in the acts that you are doing. In the walking there is the intention to walk and then the movement of the body. There is mind and matter. There is no permanent entity, no ego, no soul and so on.
Student: Mostly inaudible, something about the three characteristics.
Teacher: It is among the three characteristics, but it is not necessarily the three characteristics. You see mind and matter clearly. You see that there is just this mind and matter and nothing in excess of mind and matter. First we are taught that there is only mind and matter. Right? If we are not meditating, we still have the notions: I am good. This person is good. We cannot get rid of these notions. Right? It is very difficult. During meditation when we have good concentration, we see clearly that there is only mind and matter and nothing else. But when you get up from meditation and you go home, that notion may come back to you: I am going back.
Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw explained it with the simile of a person who has lost his sense of direction. In this country many people do not know which way is east, which way is west. When I say ‘Make a right turn to the east or the west’, they say ‘We don’t know east or west. Please tell us right or left.’ But right or left is relative depending upon let us say whether you are coming from San Francisco or San Jose.
Student: But you should look at a map.
Teacher: Yes. You look at a map and you know, but your notion you cannot abandon. Suppose you go to a place where you have never been before. Let us say you go by plane and you arrive at night. You don’t know which way is east and which way is west. Right? Even though you don’t know, you already have the notion that this is east, this is west. Suppose you are wrong. You go to a hotel and sleep there. You think that this is east and this is west. But in the morning you see the sun in the west. You know it must be east, but that notion you cannot abandon.
Similarly although we are taught that there is only mind and matter, there is no person, no being, and we think that it is true, but still we cannot get rid of this notion: I am going, he is going, something like that. During meditation you see very clearly and you may be able to get rid of that notion at that moment. Until you become a Noble Person (an Ariya), this notion may come to you when you do not practice meditation. It is that difficult.
These are the four kinds of clear comprehension mentioned in the Commentary. There is a long explanation of applying these four kinds of clear comprehension to every activity in the Sutta - going forward, going back, looking straight on, looking elsewhere and so on. To every activity these four kinds of clear comprehension are applied. And then these passages mentioning that he dwells practicing body contemplation on the body internally, externally and so on follow. This is the section on mindfulness with clear comprehension.
We do not find the rising and the falling of the abdomen. That is why Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw was criticized. Actually one monk, not Sinhalese but Burmese, viciously criticized him. He attacked him. That monk wrote a book, about 100 pages, devoted to attacking Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw. He was a very clever monk. So Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw had to defend himself, not by answering him directly, but in his different books he explained this. Keeping on the abdomen was not invented by Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw, although people may call it Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw’s method. Actually it was not his method. There was a disciple of Venerable Mingon SayÈdaw, maybe older than Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw. He was a lay person, an ex-monk. We are given to understand that person used that method for his disciples. Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw found it to be very effective. It’s easier for most people, ordinary people, to concentrate on the abdomen than at the nostrils. So he taught the abdomen method to his disciples. He was so pleased with this method that it became the standard practice at the Yangon Center.
Student: Where did U Ba Khin get his tradition of body sweeping?
Teacher: I think that they got it from Saya Thet Gyi. He was a disciple of Venerable Ledi SayÈdaw. But I don’t know because it’s one thing to say that he said this thing or that thing. I want to see his book and read it myself before I accept anything. That is because sometimes people are not accurate in their quotations or whatever. I don’t know.
One thing is that in this country SayÈdaws and lay people are the same. People think that they have the same knowledge of the Buddha-Dhamma, the scriptures. But U Ba Khin did not know PÈÄi and he admitted that in one of his talks. He said that he did not know PÈÄi and that he did not know as much as monks do. To us he is not to be compared to Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw, not only Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw but SayÈdaws. That is because the knowledge of Buddhist scriptures of monks is much better than lay people because lay people don’t have time to study. So what they know is very little. In terms of practice they may have good experience. But in understanding the scriptures, you have to spend a lifetime of study to really understand. So when they say that Saya Thet Gyi said this and that, I have some doubt about that. He might not be really acquainted with the scriptures, with the Texts as well as the Commentaries. If you want to go in another way than the Commentaries, you must have very sound reasons. The U Ba Khin group always points to Saya Thet Gyi.
So Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw was attacked, not by them, but by other people. Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw said that it (observing the rise and fall of the abdomen) can be included in the postures because it is a small part of the posture. So it can be included in the postures. Also when you are concentrating on the abdomen, you are concentrating on the wind element. The wind element is caused by air. So it can be included in the concentration on elements. And then it can be included in the contemplation on dhamma objects - the five aggregates, the six internal and external bases, and I think in the Four Noble Truths.
The object of vipassanÈ meditation is the conditioned things. The object of vipassanÈ meditation is described as ‘tibh|masa~khÈra’ (conditioned things belonging to the three spheres - kÈmÈvacara, r|pÈvacara, ar|pÈvacara). That means just the mundane. Anything belonging to the mundane world is the object of vipassanÈ meditation.
You have to check it with results, whether you get good results, whether you get good concentration by concentrating on the abdomen. If concentrating on the abdomen helps you get good concentration, then it is good. It is right for you to do that. Although it is not mentioned in the Sutta by name, not expressly mentioned there, it can be included in some of the sections. So it is perfectly acceptable to keep your mind on the abdomen and to be mindful of the rising and falling movements.
As I said, at Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw’s meditation center it has become a standard. The teachers there will insist that you keep on the abdomen. If you have experience with the nostrils before, you are forced to change to the abdomen. Many people find it very difficult. They have to spend two or three months just changing from the nostrils to the abdomen. To me these are just means. You do not cling to these things. You use them as a means to get concentration. If you get concentration by keeping your mind here at the nostrils, it is all right. If others find it beneficial to keep on the abdomen, that’s all right. They are just means. What you have to see is whether you get good concentration because what is important is concentration. We are trying to get concentration by keeping the mind at the nostrils or on the abdomen. The purpose is to get concentration so that we can have clear comprehension of things. So any method will do. So some people think if it is not in the Texts, then it must not be true. That is why that monk attacked Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw. Venerable MahÈsi SayÈdaw was accused of introducing what was not taught by the Buddha. Tape ends.
SÈdhu! SÈdhu! SÈdhu!