Wisdom Library Logo

Chapter 2 - Just Bare Attention

WHEN OBSERVING an object, initial or secondary, just pay bare attention to it. One should not think about the object nor should one add any value judgement to it. Merely observe it and come back to the initial object.

There will be a time when one can reflect on an object but this has to be done only with instruction from a meditation teacher.

Not even an ethical value judgement should be made at this stage. For instance, an angry mind is a meditation object. We do not even say, during Vipassana practice, that anger is bad. We simply observe it in order to know what anger is. When you know what anger is, then you are on the way to know why there is anger. Do not blame yourself for getting angry or being frustrated. Just observe it. Do not also suppress anger but try to accept it mindfully, looking into your mind. Justifying your anger or suppressing it are the two extremes of dealing with anger. We have to choose the middle way of dealing with it, which means, here, paying bare attention to it without defending why we are angry or ignoring it through repression.

We know that anger is bad and that compassionate thought is good. However, compassionate thought is treated in the way we treat anger. We just note it as a meditation object. We add no value to it. We merely try to be with it at the time it arises. This is how to establish mindfulness by paying bare attention to an object.

What we are trying to do in Vipassana meditation is not to pass an opinion about what anger or compassionate thought is, but rather to see what they really are. It is to see, not to judge.

Vipassana meditation goes beyond philosophising about what is moral and immoral. Vipassana means to see things clearly as they are. Here it means to see the true nature of anger and its cause. This could only be done if you are aware of anger arising and existing in your mind.

In order not to be overwhelmed by anger when it arises, it is important to observe it in relation to the initial object; this means to notice anger for three or four times and return to the initial object. To dwell on anger as a meditation object immediately for a long time does not help you to see and know it. Constant mindfulness needs to be established first. Without it, you could be dragged on by anger and at last be overpowered by it. The same is true in observing any secondary object.

first previous index next last