Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation

by Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw | 24,609 words

Vipassana means 'insight' or 'perception'. This book helps prepare your mind for meditation. It conists of a series of lectures and is meant for people new to Vipassana Meditation....

Chapter 15 - Progress

To get to the Ariyan Path one starts with insight path. And insight path begins with the analytical knowledge of mind and matter. Then one arrives at the knowledge by discerning conditionality. Then, working on, one gains the knowledge of investigation. Here one comes to enjoy reflecting on things, investigating them, and persons of considerable learning often spend a long time doing so. If you do not want to reflect or investigate, you just keep on meditating. Your awareness now becomes light and swift. You see very clearly how the things noted arise and pass away. You have come to the knowledge of rising and passing away.

At this stage noting tends to be easy. Illuminations, joys, tranquillities appear. Going through experiences unthought of before, one is thrilled with joy and happiness. At the initial stage of his work, the meditator has had to take great pains not to let the mind wander this way and that. But it has wandered and for most of the time he has not been able to meditate.

Nothing has seemed all right. Some have had to fight back very hard indeed. But with strong faith in ones teachers, good intentions and determination, one has passed all these difficult stages. One has now come to the knowledge of rising and passing away. Everything is fine at this stage. Noting is easy and effortless. It is good to note, and brilliant lights appear. Rapture seizes him and causes a sort of goose flesh in him. Both body and mind are at ease and he feels very comfortable.

The objects to be noted seem to drop on ones mindfulness of their own accord. Mindfulness on its part seems to drop on the object of its own accord. Everything is there already noted. One never fails or forgets to note. On every noting the awareness is very clear. If you attend to something and reflect on it, it proves to be a plain and simple matter. If you take up impermanence, suffering and not self, about which you have heard before, they turn out to be plainly discernible things.

So you feel like preaching. You think you would make a very good preacher. But if you have had no education, you will make a poor preacher. But you feel like preaching and you can even become quite talkative. This is what is called "the ideal Nibbana" the meditators experience. It is not the real Nibbana of the Ariyans. We may call it "imitation Nibbana."

"It is the immortality of the knowers."

Training in meditation is like climbing a mountain. You begin climbing from the base. Soon you get tired. You ask people who are coming down and they answer you with encouraging words like "Its nearer now." Tired, you climb on and very soon come to a resting place in the shade of a tree with a cool breeze blowing in. All your tiredness is gone. The beautiful scenery around fascinates you. You get refreshed for a further climb. The knowledge of the rising and passing away is the resting place for you on your climb to higher insight knowledge.

Those meditators who have not yet reached this stage of knowledge may be losing hope. Days have passed and no taste of insight yet. They often get disheartened. Some leave the meditation centre with thoughts that meditation is nothing after all. They have not discovered the "meditators Nibbana." So we instructors have to encourage newcomers to the centre with the hope that they will attain to this knowledge at least. And we ask them to work to attain to it soon. Most succeed as we advise. Then they need no further encouragement. They are now full of faith and determination to work on till the ultimate goal.

This "meditators Nibbana" is often spoken of as amanusi rati - non human delight or superhuman enjoyment. You derive all kinds of delights from various things - from education, wealth, family life. The "meditators Nibbana" surpasses all these delights. A meditator once told me that he had indulged in all kinds of worldly pleasures. But none could match the pleasure he derived from meditation. He just could not express how delightful it was.

But is that all? No, you must work on. You go on with your noting. Then, as you progress, forms and features no longer manifest themselves and you find them always disappearing. Whatever appears disappears the moment you notice it. You note seeing, it disappears swiftly. You note hearing, it disappears. Bending, stretching, again it disappears swiftly. Not only the object that comes up, the awareness of it too disappears with it in a pairwise sequence. This is the knowledge of dissolution.

Every time you note, they dissolve swiftly. Having witnessed this for a long time, you become frightened of them. It is the knowledge of the Fearful. Then you find fault with these things that keep passing away. It is the knowledge of tribulation. Then as you meditate on, you get wearied of them. It is the knowledge of repulsion.

"So seeing all these things, the instructed disciple of the Aryans disregards the material shapes, disregards feeling."

M. i. 137; S iii. 68

Your material body has been a delightful thing before. Sitting or rising, going or coming, bending or stretching, speaking or working, - everything has seemed very nice. You have thought this material body of yours to be a dependable and delightful thing. Now that you have meditated on it and seen that everything dissolves, you no longer see your body as dependable. It is no longer delightful. It is just a dull, tiresome business.

You have enjoyed both pleasurable feelings of the body and mental pleasure. You have thought, "I am enjoying," "I feel happy." Now these feelings are no longer pleasurable. They, too, pass away as you notice them. You become wearied of them.

You have thought well of your perception. But now it, too, passes away as you notice it. You feel disgusted with it as well.

Volitional activities are responsible for all your bodily, mental and vocal behaviours. To think, "I sit, I rise, I go, I act," is to cling to volitional activities. You have thought well of them, too. Now that you see them passing away, you feel repulsion for them.

You have enjoyed thinking. When newcomers to the meditation centre are told that they must not engage in thinking about things, but must keep noting, they are not at all pleased. Now you see how the thoughts, ideas, come up and pass away, and you are tired of them, too.

The same thing, happens to your sense organs. Whatever comes up at the six doors is now a thing to disgust, to be wearied of. Some feel extreme disgust, some a considerable amount.

Then arise desires to be rid of them all. Once you are tired of them, of course you want to get rid of them. "They come and pass incessantly. They are no good. It were well if they all ceased." This is the knowledge of desire for deliverance. Where "they all ceased" is Nibbana. To desire for deliverance from them is to long for Nibbana. What must one do if he wants Nibbana? He works harder and goes on meditating. This is the knowledge of reflection. Working with special effort, the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and not self become all the more clearer to you. Especially clearer is suffering.

After reflection you come to the knowledge of indifference to formations. Now the meditator is quite at ease. Without much effort on his part the notings run smoothly and are very good. He sits down to meditate and makes the initial effort. Then everything runs its course like a clock once wound up goes on ticking of its own accord. For an hour or so he makes no change in his posture and goes on with his work without interruption.

Before this knowledge there may have been disturbances. Your mind may be directed to a sound heard and thus disturbed. Your thoughts may wander off and meditation is disturbed. Painful feelings like tiredness, hotness, aches, itches, coughs, appear and disturb you. Then you have to start it all ever again. But now all goes well. There are no more disturbances. Sounds you may hear but you ignore them and go on noting. Whatever comes up you

note without being disturbed. There are no more wanderings of the mind. Pleasant objects may turn up but no delight or pleasure arises in you. You meet with unpleasant objects. Again you feel no displeasure or fear. Painful feelings like tiredness, hotness or aches rarely appear. If they do, they are not unbearable.

Your noting gets the better of them. Itching pains and coughs disappear once you attain this knowledge. Some even get cured of serious illness. Even if the illness is not completely cured, you get some relief while noting in earnest. So for an hour or so there will be no interruption to your notings. Some can go on meditating for two or three hours without interruption. And yet you feel no weariness in body. Time passes unheeded. "Its not long yet," you think.

On such a hot summer day as this it would be very fine to have attained this knowledge. While other people are groaning under the intense heat the meditator who is working in earnest with this knowledge will not be aware of the heat at all. The whole day seems to have fled in no time. It is a very good insight knowledge indeed, yet there can be dangers like excess of worry, ambition, or attachment. If these cannot be removed, no progress will be made. Once they are removed, the Ariyan Path knowledge is there to realise. How?

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