Introducing Buddhist Abhidhamma

Meditation and Concentration

by Kyaw Min, U | 1899 | 43,258 words

Abhidhamma is the 3rd and last part of the Buddhist Pāli Canon. This book is meant as an introduction to the various concepts presented in the seven books of the Abhidhamma....

Chapter 7 - Vipassana Meditation

The purpose of Vipassanā Meditation is to become a Sotāpanna in the first instance, the first of the Noble Ones, and then go on to the Second and Third Stage, culminating in becoming an Arahat. The method is to discover and penetrate into the actually existing ultimate realities, both of matter and mind, and to arrive at the anicca, dukkha, anattā characteristics of our 5 Aggregates. This leads to the different steps of Vipassanā Wisdom right up to the stage of Magga and Phala Wisdom and to Nirvana, the highest goal of Buddhism.

It is at the stage of gotrabhu that the vipassanā citta is automatically changed to that of magga citta. It is the change of lineage from that of a worldling and you become a Noble One.

The vipassanā citta has its complement of 34 cetasikas, including the 5 dominant Powers (balas) of paññā, saddha, viriya, sati, and samādhi. It has only 34 because the 3 Abstinences are counted as one, as only one of them functions, whenever called upon to function, two of them being always idle.

The magga citta has its full complement of 36 cetasikas, including the 8 cetasikas of the 8-fold Noble Path.

Eventually, you break the chain of causation, and you are on the "other shore", having left the Wheel of Existence.

It is only on the basis of the knowledge of the ultimates that final vipassanā wisdom can be obtained. For example, meditation on the anicca, dukkha, anattā characteristics of conventional things (paññatti) cannot produce magga Wisdom.

Suppose two lawyers were arguing before a Judge, all of them learned in the law, and one lawyer is making his legal points. His lawyer opponent is listening carefully, and all of a sudden he gets a flash of legal wisdom to counter the other lawyer’s argument. The legal wisdom cannot come without a knowledge of the law. Similarly when you meditate with Vipassanā knowledge, you get a flash of supramundane or transcendental wisdom.

Vipassanā is the study of cause and effect. It is essential that one be able to make a proper differentiation between paramattha (ultimate realities) and paññatti (concepts, ideas, terms, etc.); otherwise one will unknowingly fall into the trap of "meditation" on paññatti.

 There are 16 steps in Vipassanā Meditation:

  1. Nāma-rūpa pariccheda ñāna, being the knowledge arrived at by dissecting Mind and Body into their ultimate parts.
  2. Paccaya pariggaha ñāna, being the knowledge of the arisings and ceasings, being cause and effect.
  3. Samma-sana ñāna, being the knowledge of the arising and ceasing of the past, future and present.
  4. Udaya-vaya-nuppassanā ñāna, knowledge which reflects on the rise and fall of the 5-Aggregates through the 6-doors.
  5. Bhanga-nupassanā ñāna, knowledge which reflects on the breaking up or perishable nature of the 5-Aggregates.
  6. Bhaya-nūppassanā-ñāna, knowledge of the defects of the 5-Aggregates.
  7. ādinava-nupassanā-ñāna, knowledge which reflects on the dangers of the 5-Aggregates.
  8. Nibbida-nupassanā-ñāna, knowledge which reflects on the feeling of disgust aroused by the 5-Aggregates.
  9. Muñcitu-kamyatā-ñāna, knowledge of the desire for release from the 5-Aggregates which arouse feelings of disgust.
  10. Patisankha-nupassanā-ñāna, knowledge which reflects on the detailed analysis of the 5-Aggregates in order to be released from them.
  11. Sankhā-ruppekkhā-ñāna, knowledge of indifference towards the 5-Aggregates.
  12. Anuloma-ñāna, Adaptive knowledge which arises in connection with the 4 Noble Truths.
  13. Gotrabhu-ñāna, change of lineage of the consciousness that arises.
  14. Magga-ñāna, burst of Wisdom that we are seeking.
  15. Phala-ñāna, fruition-consciousness.
  16. Pacca-vekkhana-ñāna, the post-phala meditation on magga, phala, and Nirvana.


1. Nāma-Rūpa Pariccheda ñāna

In your own body, and in another’s body, find out and penetrate into the actual existing phenomena:

1. The realities are paramattha (ultimate realities).

2. Non-realities exist as sammuti truth. It’s ordinary usage in conventional terms, like, man, woman, person, "I", a breathing body showing continuity; it is paññatti (concepts, ideas, terms, etc.).

My body is the manifestation of the 4-Mahā-Bhūtas (Primaries). They are bound together as one.

Meditate to ferret out the individual essences of:

  1. Pathavī - hardness, softness,
  2. āpo - coherence, inherence, growth.
  3. Tejo - heat (and absence of heat), and
  4. Vāyo - motion or resistance to motion, hardening with air-pressure.

Find out in your body, consisting of from the top of the head down to your toes, the facts of heat and cold, where cold is the lessening of heat.

Know that the manifestations of heat and cold, its individual essence, has no form or entity.

Tejo. Heat. Practise finding out heat and cold. It is rūpa (matter), and its changeability is the essence of matter.

Vāyo. Motion or resistance to motion. Find out in your body, motion, and resistance to motion. Know that changeability is the essence of matter.

āpo. Find out in your body the growth and the linking together of the 4 Primaries. āpo is coherence, inherence, fluidity. Remember that changeability is the essence of matter.

Pathavī. All the other 3 Primaries are based on Pathavī, namely, heat, motion and resistance to motion, coherence and liquidity. Know the individual essences and the characteristics of hardness and softness, know that it is constantly changing (transient).

Thus in every way, from top to bottom, and sideways left and right, know that changeability is the essence of matter (rūpa).

Then, along with the 4 Primaries, are the 4 derived qualities or properties, all arising and disappearing together:

  1. colour,
  2. smell,
  3. taste,
  4. nutriment.

It’s the Octad, all arising together. Add jīvita (psychic life) to the Octad and we get the nonad. Add the sensitive parts of the organs, which are the fruition of past karma, namely, depending on past karma. It’s the decad.

There are millions of such decad cells, all with ākāsa (space) in between.

Your whole body, outside and inside, is composed of these cells, of which you must know their essence severally.

Octad + jīvita = nonad.

  • With visual pasāda (sensitive eye), we have one kind of cell.
  • With hearing pasāda, we have another kind of cell.
  • With smell pasāda, we have another kind of cell.
  • With taste pasāda, another kind of cell.
  • With body pasāda, another kind of cell.
  • With heart pasāda, (hadaya-vatthu), another kind of cell.

So once again in your body, high and low, and sideways, know that changeability is the essence of matter. They are all changeable essences, a person or creature, nor "I", nor man, or woman.

Practice regarding the arising of Nāma

Taking heat as your object, 4 kinds of nāma Aggregates arise. One Aggregate knows, one feels, one notes, and one strives.

With body base, there arises body consciousness. In the feeling of heat, there is vedanā; there is feeling of different kinds, pleasurable or otherwise, and you note (saññā).

In the feeling, which is of different kinds, you have to strive continually to keep it arising: this is sankhāra aggregate.

These 4 aggregates arise together; they are the 4 nāma aggregates.

(NOTE): If there were only one, it would amount to attā, the admission of attā. There is nothing in the world that exists just by itself singly. There’s no attā.

Along with the 4 nāma aggregates, there arises mind-produced matter. It arises and disappears; it is transient, which is the essence of matter. Thus we have one aggregate for Body and 4 aggregates for Mind, making 5 Aggregates.

  • Everytime you see, remember, recall, note, know nāma-rūpa. Meditate on the fact, and be mindful of it.
  • Everytime you smell, meditate similarly.
  • Everytime you taste, do similarly.
  • Everytime you touch, do similarly.
  • Everytime you know, do similarly. 

Thus, a meditator meditates on his body and on another’s body, and knows that, except for the 5-Aggregates, there is no person or being or "I", or man or woman.

The aim is to know reality by severally dissecting its parts.

This is Nāma-Rūpa Pariccheda Wisdom.

In the wink of an eye, in a flash of lightning, during that period called khana, there’s uppatti (arising), thi (decay) and bin (ceasing).

Life of Nāma

Nāma exists for the 3 small khanas of arising, decay and ceasing. For one unit of rūpa ceasing, there are 17 units of nāma ceasing. 

Rūpa and Nāma are conditioned and therefore cannot be only one unit. The old gives place to the new.

The new are arising all the time, and it appears as if there’s one continuous appearing.

When you are doing Vipassanā Meditation and you don’t achieve Nāma-rūpa Pariccheda Wisdom, it will be an obstacle to understand the characteristic marks of anicca, dukkha and anattā.

There are so many rūpas:

1. Basic 4 Mahā-Bhūtas (Primaries) or Dhātus (Elements), arising in the whole body.

  1. earth or solid-element pathavī-dhātu
  2. water or cohesion āpo-dhātu
  3. fire or heat-element tejo-dhāto
  4. wind or motion-element vāyo-dhātu

2. Derived from the 4 Primaries, are the 4:

  1. colour
  2. smell
  3. taste
  4. nutriment āhāra


  1. Jīvita rūpa that gives life to the body
  2. Femininity itthi
  3. Masculinity purisa
  4. Body pasāda.

The above 12 are for the whole body.


  1. Sensitive eye
  2. Sensitive ear
  3. Sensitive nose
  4. Sensitive tongue
  5. Sensitive body (hadaya-vatthu)

Sound rūpa occasionally arises with belly, throat, mouth, tongue, lips.

They lead to the idea of person, "I".

These 18 rūpas make this body, which has no sentience.

  1. "Seeing", knowing visual form, depending on the sensitive eye;
  2. "Hearing", knowing sound, depending on the sensitive ear;
  3. "Smelling", knowing smell, dependent on the sensitive nose.
  4. "Tasting", knowing taste, dependent on the sensitive tongue,
  5. "Touching", knowing touch, dependent on the sensitive body,
  6. "Knowing", dependent on the hadaya-vatthu, or heart base.

These 6 "knowings" are due to the taking of an object.

Understand that nāma and rūpa do not mix; they are separate, and should be thus meditated on. The 6 "knowings" are nāma, and the 6 doors are rūpa.

Meditate on this intermittently.

There are 10 rūpas on which you do not meditate.


2. Paccayā-parigaha-ñāna, Generators of Matter

  1. Karma
  2. Citta - Mind
  3. Utu - Temperature, heat-element
  4. āhāra - Nutriment, food

Karma means the past good and bad karma, which started with birth (patisandi) consciousness, and causes the karma-produced rūpa to arise; it is the seed of the rūpa.

Citta, starting after the patisandi consciousness, starting with the first bhavanga, causes the citta-produced rūpa to arise.

Utu causes both the internal and external body-formations.

āhāra causes the internal and external rūpas to arise.

Arising of 4 Nāma Aggregates

Eye pasāda (sensitive eye) + visual object + light and manasikāra (attention) cause to arise visual consciousness, and thus the 4 nāma Aggregates arise.

  1. Sensitive ear + sound + medium + manasikāra produce auditory consciousness and the 4 nāma Aggregates.
  2. Sensitive nose + smell + air + manasikāra produce smell consciousness.
  3. Sensitive tongue, etc., similar.
  4. Sensitive Body, etc., similar.

Mental pasāda + mental base + mental object produce mental consciousness and the 4 nāma-Aggregates.

Along with the 4 nāma-Aggregates arises citta-produced matter, making the 5th Aggregate. So each of the 5 Aggregates arises and ceases.

The knowing of the arisings and ceasings, being cause and effect, is Paccayā-Parigaha Wisdom.


3. Sama-sana Wisdom 

Meditate on the arising and cessation of the 5-Aggregates in the past. Meditate on each singly and severally, with reference to the anicca, dukkha and anattā characteristics of existence. They arose because of the 6-Doors.

Similarly for the present arisings and cessations. Similarly for the future arisings and cessations.

These 5-Aggregates are no good at all. They arise and disappear all the time, and you can’t depend on them at all.

Each of the following eleven distinctions of these aggregates is no good, and they appear and disappear similarly.

1. In the past, they arose and disappeared. They have the characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anattā, and therefore are no good at all.

2. In the future, they will arise and disappear and have the 3 characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anattā.

3. In the present, the are no good at all. They are arising and disappearing all the time, having the 3 characteristics of existence.

4. Externally, also the 5-Aggregates of animals, etc. are arising and disappearing all the time, bearing the 3 characteristics.

5. Internally, also, they are no good, having the 3 characteristics.

6. They can be coarse. All these 5-Aggregates are bad. If there is arising of dosa, one has to be afraid.

7. They can be refined, and all are bad. They give the idea of getting you merit and that this will get you to the abodes of the Devas. Thus you are induced, for instance, to build a monastery. They induce you to made charity (dāna) and keep the precepts (sīla), promising kāma kusala (merit) and rūpa kusala and arūpa kusala, when actually these kusalas are anicca, dukkha and anattā. These 5-Aggregates are not dependable at all. They are bad.

8. They can be of the inferior kind, and full of lobha, dosa and moha.

9. They can be of the superior kind, but they are not dependable, replete with the 3 characteristics of anicca, dukkha, and anattā.

10. They can be of the distant kind. One can visualise them existing far away but the all exhibit the 3 characteristics, and are no good.

11. They can be of the near kind with the usual 3 characteristics.


4. Udaya-vaya-nupassanā-ñāna

From now, we stick to the present, and no more of the past and future. This applies to this and the remaining stages.

Udaya means arising, and

vaya means cessation.

We meditate on the arising and ceasing of the 5-Aggregates. They arise through the 6-Doors which are located all over the body. They arise from different causes, through the sensitive eye, the sensitive ear, sensitive nose, etc., at different doors, and after arising, they immediately disappear just where they had arisen at the different localities of the body.

The arising and ceasing shows their anicca quality, meaning not permanent.


5. Bhanga-nupassanā-ñāna

As you meditate, the arising and ceasing of the 5-Aggregates become fast. When fast, you will not see the arising but only the ceasing. Like you see the crumbling of a house built of the very edge of a river.

You will realise that craving or wanting, anything produces suffering. For example, you engage a servant. Later, he lets you down and there’s a theft and you have to go to Court. You come to realise that because you wanted a servant, you get trouble and suffering.

This craving causes the 5-Grasping Aggregates to arise and the result is suffering.

Another example. You want to eat a particular thing. Some one comes and gives you this particular thing. You eat and get unwell. You see that wanting to eat that thing is the cause of your trouble, your suffering. You see the cause and effect.

You see that attachment to the 5-Aggregates is bad, because the attachment or craving causes the arising of the 5-Grasping Aggregates, and thus you realise that suffering is caused.

From this stage of mental development onwards, you come to realise that suffering results because of your wanting anything, because of your craving.


6. Bhaya-nupassanā-ñāna

You see the dangers of the 5-Aggregates. In the simile of the house, you see the bank of the river disappearing with the consequent crumbling of the house.

You are in the swim of samsāra. You see decay, old age, death continually harassing you.

The cause of all this is craving that makes the 5-Grasping Aggregates to arise. Because you did not know the cause, which is craving, you are experiencing suffering all the time. You see danger in the arising of the 5-Aggregates.


7. Adhinava - nupassanā-ñāna

Means the faults or troublesome effects of the 5-Aggregates. You see the bad results. Suppose a person who is addicted to narcotics is continually asking for money and causes trouble. You see the trouble caused.

Say a man goes to a forest full of fearful things, like snakes and tigers, etc. You are fearful. Similarly the causes of the arising of the 5-Aggregates make you fearful. You fear sankhāra, the arising of the 5-Aggregates.

They are full of lobha, dosa and moha. They are the cause of decay, old age and death.


8. Nibhida - nupassanā-ñāna

You see the bad points of the 5-Aggregates. You see the defects, and you get fed up with sankhāra. All is dukkha, suffering.

When you have a bad wife, you will hate her and also disgust will arise, etc. You decide that you must divorce her.


9. Muñcitu Kamyata ñāna

You want to get out of the clutches of the 5-Aggregates. You want release from them.


10. Pati-sankha-nupassunā-ñāna

You want your release and you must act. You work it out in detail.

There are 40 kinds in the 3 characteristics of

  1. Anicca ... 10
  2. Dukkha ... 25
  3. Anattā ... 5

    Total ... 40

As there are 5-Aggregates, this makes 200 Insights in all.


11. Sankhāruppekhā-ñāna

The Aggregates arise by themselves and they cease by themselves. They arise with their own causes. You are now indifferent to every thing. You are no longer affected by the good and evil in this world.

Whilst meditating, the sankhāras, the 5-Aggregates disappear.

This feeling of indifference (uppekkha) is fostered by the balance of the mind or equanimity (tatra majjhatata).


12. Anuloma-ñāna

When the Insight of Sankhāruppekhā matures, it changes itself into the insight of adaptation (anuloma-ñāna).

We are now nearing Magga. Out of anicca, dukkha, anattā, one becomes predominant, whichever is fitting in the circumstances, but always pertains to Magga.

Your wisdom becomes very alert, very strong, very quick.


13. Gotrabhu-ñāna

You have finished with meditation on the 5-Aggregates. Change of lineage knowledge arises taking Nirvana as object.

It’s the knowledge that sees the freedom from cause and effect.

It sees Nirvana, but not yet the 4-Noble Truths simultaneously.


14. Magga-ñāna

This is the moment you have been striving for. In a flash of Magga Wisdom, you comprehend the 4-Noble Truths simultaneously.


15. Phala-ñāna

Knows that Magga has been achieved.

You are now a Sotāpanna, a Stream winner. You have overcome the first 3 Fetters, which are:

  1. belief in a permanent personality,
  2. clinging to rules and rituals, and
  3. doubt (scepticism).

You have 7 more Fetters to overcome. But you can rest on your oars, knowing there are only 7 more existences for you at a maximum, and you cannot be born in the lower planes.


16. Pacca-vekkhana-ñāna

This is like the after-taste. You meditate on Magga and Phala and also on Nirvana.

When you reach the stage of Sotāpanna, you know that 3 kilesas have been eliminated.

You know that 7 more are remaining. You meditate on the remaining kilesas not yet eliminated.

As a Sotāpanna, you have the added experience and wisdom that will make it easier to become a Sakadāgāmī and an Anāgāmī.

Every time you begin at the udaya-vaya-ñāna. You meditate again on the 5-Aggregates, but with higher and better Insight.

But when you come to the stage that had previously been Gotrabhu, it becomes vodāna. Thereafter the sequence is anuloma, then vodāna, then magga and phala of Sakadāgāmī.

The next time it is of a Anāgāmī. And lastly you become an Arahat. You have reached your Goal.

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