Vipassana Meditation

Lectures on Insight Meditation

by Chanmyay Sayadaw | 22,042 words

Vipassana Meditation: English lectures on Insight Meditation By venerable Chanmyay Sayadaw U Janakabhivamsa....

Chapter 4 - The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness

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When the Buddha had explained the seven benefits of mindfulness, he continued to explain the Four Foundations of Mindfulness:

  1. Kayanupassana Satipatthana
  2. Vedananupassana Satipatthana
  3. Cittanupassana Satipatthana
  4. Dhammanupassana Satipatthana

Kayanupassana Satipatthana means contemplation of the body or mindfulness of any bodily process as it occurs. Vedananupassana Satipatthana means contemplation of feeling or sensation. This feeling or sensation is of three types:

  1. Pleasant feeling or sensation,
  2. Unpleasant feeling or sensation,
  3. Neutral feeling or sensation.

Pleasant feeling or pleasant sensation is called sukha vedana (sukha means pleasant, vedana is feeling or sensation). Unpleasant sensation or unpleasant feeling is called dukkha vedana in Pali (dukkha here means unpleasant). Neutral feeling or neutral sensation is called upekkha vedana (upekkha means neutral - neither pleasant nor unpleasant). When pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling or neutral feeling arises, a meditator must be mindful of it as it is. Some meditators think that unpleasant feeling should not be observed because it is unpleasant. Actually, all kinds of feeling must be noted very attentively as they really occur. If we do not observe or note the pleasant or unpleasant feeling or sensation, we are sure to become attached to it or repulsed by it. When we like a particular feeling or sensation, we become attached to it. That attachment or tanha arises depending on the feeling or sensation. In this case, the pleasant feeling is the cause and attachment is the effect.

If a meditator practises strenuously and perseveringly, his concentration will become deep and strong. When the meditators concentration becomes deep and strong, he feels happy and experiences rapture because his mind is, at that moment, quite free from all defilements such as greed, hatred, delusion, conceit and so on. The persevering meditator has attained a very good stage of insight because his mind is now calm, tranquil and serene. If the meditator enjoys it and is satisfied with what he is experiencing, it means he is attached to it, and thus he cannot progress to the higher stages of insight. Such an experience can be attained in the first part of the fourth stage of insight. If he understands that, he should just observe the experience he has attained at this stage. Whatever he is experiencing at this stage, he will not become attached to it if he observes his experience very attentively and energetically. When the meditator notes it attentively and persistently, that happiness, tranquility or serenity will not be manifested in his mind very distinctly.

What he realises at that moment is just feeling that arises and passes away. Then another feeling arises and passes away. He cannot differentiate between pleasant and unpleasant feelings, thereby, he becomes detached from his experience and proceeds to practise for a higher stage of insight. Only then can he go beyond this stage of insight.

If a meditator walks very mindfully, noting the six parts of the step: lifting of the foot, raising of the toes, pushing the foot forward, dropping it down, touching, and pressing, and as a result, his concentration is good, deep and strong, he will not be aware of the form of the foot. Nor is he aware of the body or bodily form. What he knows is just movement of the foot. The movement may also feel light; he may feel as if he is walking in the air. He may feel as if he is lifted in the sky. At this stage, he is experiencing excellent meditation experiences. If he does not observe these experiences mindfully, he will like them and may desire more of them. He may become very satisfied with his practice and he may think this is nibbana (the cessation of all kinds of suffering) because this is the best experience he has ever had. All this happens because he does not observe his pleasant experiences, and so is attached to them. This attachment arises depending on the pleasant feeling or pleasant sensation about his good experience.

If a meditator enjoys this pleasant feeling or sensation about his good experience without being mindful of it he is sure to become attached to it. So, he should observe and be aware and mindful of whatever experience he has encountered at this stage. He must not analyse it or think about it, but must be aware of the experience as it really occurs, in order to realise that this experience of the mental process or mental state is subject to impermanence. Whenever he notes, he finds that the experience is not everlasting. When the noting mind becomes constant, sustained and powerful, it penetrates into the nature of his experience, i.e. the mental state. The mind begins to realise that the experience has disappeared. Whenever it arises, the mind notes it, and again it disappears. He then concludes that this pleasant feeling together with his experience is impermanent (anicca), because he has comprehended the nature of impermanence through his personal experience of the Dhamma. Here, Dhamma means mental as well as physical processes. Because he has realised that the pleasant feeling or sensation together with the good experience is impermanent, he will not be attached to it. Attachment will not arise when the meditator rightly understands the true nature of good mental states or a good experience.

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