The Vipassana Dipani

The Manual of Insight

by Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw | 1915 | 21,831 words

The Vipassana-Dipani The Manual of Insight Or The Exposition Of Insight Honor to the Buddha By Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw, Aggamahapandita, D.Litt. Translated into English by Sayadaw U Nyana, Patamagyaw of Masoeyein Monastery Mandalay. Edited by The English Editorial Board...

The mark by which mental and material phenomena are to be understood as No-soul is called the Anattá-lakkhana or the Mark of No-soul. In considering the word Anattá, the meaning of Attá ought first to be understood. Attá in ordinary sense means essence, or substantiality. By essence or substantiality is meant, as we have already explained in connection with Ultimate Truth, the earth, which is the essence or the substantiality of pot. The word "pot" is merely the name by which is indicated a certain pictorial idea (santhanapannati); it is not a name for earth. And a pictorial idea possesses no essence or substantiality as an ultimate thing; here earth alone is ultimate thing and possesses essence or substantiality. If the question is asked: "Does such a thing as pot exist in the world?" those who are unable to differentiate between the two kinds of truth, ultimate and conventional, would answer that the pot exists. These should then be asked to point out the pot. They will now point to an earthen pot near at hand, saying: "Is not that a pot?" But it is not correct of them thus to allege that earth is pot; it is a false allegation. Why is it a false allegation? Simply because earth is an ultimate thing and has essence or substantiality; while pot is a mere conception having no essence or substantiality, and thus, like space, is void. To allege of earth that it is pot, is in effect to try to make out that essential earth constitutes the essence or substantiality of pot, which is actual fact, seeing that pot as a mere representation of the mind, possesses no substantial essence whatever. Here, what actually is non-existent pot becomes existent pot, and earth also becomes Attá of the earth, so that earth and pot become one and the same thing, the identity of the one is confused with the identity of the other. For this reason it is that we call this a false allegation. In this illustration, "earth" corresponds with the Five Aggregates or their constituents, material and mental phenomena, while "pot" corresponds with persons and living creatures. Just as earth becomes the essence of pot in the statement that the earth is the pot; so also the Five Aggregates or their constituents become the Attá or the essence of persons and creatures, when it is said that the Aggregates are persons and creatures. This is the meaning of Attá.

Now for Anattá. In the expression "earthen pot"; if one is able to discern that earth is one thing, and pot another, and that earth is an ultimate thing and pot a mere conception of the mind; and again, that earth is not pot, and pot is not earth, and also that it is false to call earth a pot, and to call pot, earth; then the earth becomes not the essence or Attá of the pot, but becomes Anattá: while at the same time also, pot is seen to be void like space, since it is a mere conception of form. A like result is obtained if one is able to discern the Five Aggregates and the material and mental phenomena thus: The Fivefold set of Aggregates are ultimate things; persons and creatures are ideas derived from the forms and the continua; hence the phenomena are not persons and creatures; and persons and creatures are not the phenomena. If the phenomena are called persons and creatures, this is a false naming of them; and if persons and creatures are called the phenomena, this is false too. Accordingly the phenomena become, not the essence of persons and creatures, but become Anattá, or the reverse of substantial essence. And also, persons and creatures become quite evidently void and empty, inasmuch as they are mere ideas derived from the forms and continua of the phenomena.

What has just been said is in exposition of the meaning of Anattá.

The marks of Impermanence and Ill expounded in the foregoing pages are also the marks of No-soul (Anattá). How? It is supposed that the ideas (pannatti) of persons and creatures are eternal and immortal both in this existence and in those that follow, and it has been explained that the phenomena are not eternal since they are subject to momentary decays and deaths which are the marks of impermanence; and also because they are constantly ceasing and being reproduced many times beyond possibility of being numbered, even in one day, the which is the mark of that kind of impermanence known as Annathabhava.

In Buddhist philosophy there are three things, which are "eternal and immortal", in the sense in which that phrase is here used in the text. These three things are called in the Pali, pannatti (plural, pannattiyo), akasa, and nibbána, that is: Concepts (or ideas), Space and that which supervenes when Craving, Hate and Delusion are completely wiped out. Of these three things it is held that their existence is something, which has nothing, whatever to do with time, never enters time, is never limited by time. The law of Rise-and-fall, of arising and ceasing, which applies to all things else, does not apply to them. They exist independent of whether any particular being thinks them or not. In other words: they are eternal and immortal and independent of time, not in any sense of being unbrokenly continuous in time. Nibbána is distinguished from the two other "eternal and immortal" things in that it has Santilakkhana or it is Santibhava, a word that may be rendered quite accurately in English (if not literally, at least in accord with its spirit) as "The Great Peace" and all that this implies. (Trb,) But in the ideas (pannatti) of persons and creatures no marks of Viparinama and Annathabhava are to be seen. lf such marks were to be found in the ideas (pannatti) of persons and creatures, then, of course, the ideas of Pannattiyo would also be subject to births, decays, and deaths, and would be reborn and decay and die many times even in one day. But these marks are not to be found in the Pannatti or ideas; we discern these marks only in the mental and material phenomena. Therefore it comes to this that the mental and material phenomena, that is, Nama-rupa- Dhamma are not to be regarded as the essence or substantiality of persons and creatures. It is in this way that the mark of "No-soul" becomes the mark of impermanence, in accordance with the Text: "Asarakatthena anattá," or, "On account of being without a core, the word Anattá is used."

How does the mark of Ill become the mark of Impermanence? The marks of Ill are very evil, very disadvantageous, and very unsatisfactory; and all creatures desire to be in good states, to be prosperous, and to be satisfied. If mental and material phenomena are the true essence of persons and creatures the phenomena and the person must be one and the same. And if this be so, their desires must also be one and the same; that is, the person's desire must also be that of the phenomena, and vice-versa. But if this is not so, then each must be a thing separate from the other. Here by "person's desire" we mean Greed (lobha) and Desire-to-do (chanda) and by "the desire of phenomena," the happening of things in accordance with their cause. A main characteristic of persons and creatures is the craving for happiness of mind and body; and an outstanding feature of phenomena is their uniformity with their causes or conditioning things: that is, the arising and the ceasing of phenomena are subject to causes, and never entirely in accordance with the desires of persons in defiance of causes. For example: if warmness is wanted the cause that produces warmness must be sought out; or if coldness is wanted, the cause that produces coldness must be sought out. If long life is wanted, the conditioning cause, a supply of suitable food daily, must be sought out; for no man can live long merely by wishing to live long. And if rebirth in the worlds of the Fortunate is wanted, then the cause of this, moral or virtuous deeds, must be sought out; for no one can get to the worlds of the Fortunate merely by wishing to be reborn there. It is sometimes erroneously thought or believed that one can be whatever one wishes to be, upon occasions when something one has wished for is later on fulfilled, although the actual fact is that it has come about only in accordance with a cause that has previously been sought out and brought into play. It is falsely thought or believed by many people that one can maintain oneself according to one's wish when in sound health or at ease in any of the four bodily postures, ignoring the fact that the cause, the partaking of food on previous days, was sought out by them and brought into play. They also mistakenly think that their wishes are always fulfilled, when they find themselves living happily in buildings previously in existence. But in truth, if one looks about him in this world and sees how great and how numerous are the businesses affairs, occupations and so forth, of men in all their extent and variety, he will soon discern with the mind's eye that the Sankhárá dukkha, the Dukkha associated with the Sankhárás, is great and manifold in precisely the same measure as men's activities. And this Dukkha is due to the begetting or the establishing of the causes necessary to the acquiring of the effects desired; for the phenomena can never become exactly all that beings may wish them to be, or may give orders that they are to be. Thus simply in beholding the marks of Sankharadukkhata all about us, it becomes evident that phenomena do not conform themselves to the desires of persons and creatures, and hence they are not their essence or substance.

In addition to this it is also to be noted well how conspicuous is non-substantiality with regard to Dukkhadukkhata, Viparinamadukkhata, Jatidukkha, Jaradukkha, Maranadukkha, and so forth.

So much for the mark of Anattá from the standpoint of Dukkha.

The three knowledge’s, pertaining to the Insight, which fully grasps the meaning of the Three Marks, are called Tirana-parinna.

These three knowledge’s pertaining to the Insight are:

  1. Aniccavipassananana: Insight-knowledge in contemplating ("Impermanence")
  2. Dukkhavipassananana: Insight-knowledge in contemplating ("Ill.")
  3. Anattavipassananana: Insight-knowledge in contemplating ("No-soul." )

Of these three Knowledge’s the last-mentioned must be acquired first, as it must also be acquired in fullness, in order to dispel the error of soul doctrine. And in order to obtain full acquisition of this last- mentioned Knowledge, the first must primarily be introduced for, if the first is well discerned, the last is easily acquired. As for the second, it does not culminate through the acquisition of the first. It is owing to imperfection in obtaining the second Knowledge that the transcendental Path has four grades, and that lust and conceit are left un-dispelled. Hence the most important thing for Buddhists to do is to free themselves entirely from the Apayadukkha, the Ills of the Realms of misery. There is no way of escaping from the Apayadukkha open to men when the Teaching of the Buddha vanish from the world. And to escape Apayadukkha means to put away all immoral actions and erroneous views. And to put away all erroneous views means to put away utterly the view of "Soul." Therefore in that life in which we are so fortunate as to encounter the Religion of the Buddha, we should strive so to contemplate or meditate upon the impermanence of things, as to bring to fullness the Insight-knowledge of No-soul. In confirmation of this, here is a quotation from the Text:

"Aniccasannino Meghiya annattasanna santhati anattasannino samugghatam papunati ditthe'va dhamma Nibbanam." "To him, 0 Meghiya, who comprehends Impermanence, the comprehension of No-soul manifests itself. And to him who comprehends No-soul, the fantasy of an 'I' presiding over the Five Aggregates is brought to destruction; and even in this present life he attains Nibbána." There is no need for us to expatiate upon the truth of this text for we have already shown how the mark of Impermanence can become the mark also of No-soul.

The Insight exercises can be practiced not only in solitude as is necessary in the case of the exercise of Calm or Samatha, but they can be practiced everywhere. Maturity of knowledge is the main, the one thing required. For, if knowledge is ripe, the Insight of Impermanence may easily be accomplished while listening to a discourse, or while living a householder's ordinary life. To those whose knowledge is developed, everything within and without oneself, within and without one's house, within and without one's village or town, is an object at the sight of which the Insight of impermanence may spring up and develop. But those whose knowledge is yet, so to speak, in its infancy, can accomplish this only if they practice assiduously the exercise in Calm.

The consideration of the momentary deaths which occur innumerable times even during the wink of an eye, are only required in discussion upon Abhidhamma. But in meditating or practicing the exercises in Insight, all that is needed is consideration of the Santativiparinama and the Santatiannathabhava, that is, of the radical change and of the sequent change of the continua, things that are visibly evident to, and personally experienced, by, every man alive.

The exercises in Insight that ought to he taken up are first, the Four Great Elements from among the material qualities, and the six classes of cognition from among the mental qualities. If one can discern the arisings, and ceasings of the Four Elements innumerable times in one day alone, the changes, or the risings and ceasings of the rest (i.e., upadarupas: the derivative material qualities) are also discerned. Of the mental qualities also, if the changes of consciousness are discerned, those of the mental concomitants are simultaneously discerned. In particular, feelings, perceptions, volitions, and so forth, from among the mental qualities, and forms, odors, and so forth from, among the material qualities, which are extraordinary may be taken as objects for the exercise, as they will quickly enable a meditator to acquire with ease the Insight of Impermanence.

However, from the philosophical point of view, the Insight is acquired in order to dispel such notions as "creatures," "persons," "soul," "life," "permanence," "pleasures," and to get rid of hallucinations. The acquisition of Insight also mainly depends on a sound grasp of the Triple Marks, which have been sufficiently dealt with already.

So much for the exposition of Tiranaparinna.

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