Fifth Discourse

By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu

31 January 2001

(Translated by Rien Loeffen)


Now it is the time to listen to the dhamma-talk. What you hear, the words I say here, are not your experiences, but something you can compare with what you recognize by your self. A mirror to look into yourself. That you can be clear in the practice of vipassanā meditation.


In these days you have been practicing vipassanā meditation, not samatha practice. If you practice samatha, you are concerned about obtaining a good feeling. Good feeling is a preference. It makes you prefer to be with something. In that preference is also desire and attachment to your self, attachment to what makes you happy.


The happiness that you obtain then is merely self or what we call ego. In terms of vipassanā practice we call this sakkāya-ditthi, the believe in self. The belief in something you belong to and what makes you conditioned all the time. Because of that conditioning you become uncertain, you have no guarantee. It makes you fear that you are going to lose your self, or you're afraid that you cannot keep it the way it is or you're afraid that you do not get more. All that fear will be there. This is the self.


To practice vipassanā, you must lose the feeling that you prefer something, and on the other hand lose the feeling that you want to escape, or want to get rid of something. It happens a lot to us that you want something or that you want to get rid of something. This is your conditioning or sankhara. If you practice vipassanā meditation, you have to understand the three characteristics of sankhara.


The first characteristic is anicca, impermanence or uncertainty. What you feel is only temporary, it does not last long, it does not last forever. It changes by itself, because it is not substantial. And that change makes you suffer every time. That is the second characteristic, dukkha or suffering. You lose something you like, and that makes you suffer, or you are confronted with something you dislike, and you are suffering. It happens a lot in your retreat here.


You are confronted with certain memories, emotions, something what happened to you, like bad karma. It could be bodily action, speaking or thinking, it doesn't matter which action. It happened to us in the past, in the process of samsāra and it keeps coming back. In the retreat it is coming back even stronger, clearer and heavier then in daily life.


This is signifying that you have been progressing in your practice. You begin to recognize the karma that belongs to you. What you have done before is yours. There is no way you can escape. No way to hide. There is no place to be without it and only the practice of vipassanā can make you see your karma.


At the beginning of your practice you see that you have enough concentration, good mindfulness and good energy, But now after longer practice you begin to see that you are not even able to sit comfortable. Some days ago you were more comfortable with your meditation practice, but now after ten days have gone, you are more in contact with vipassanā, because you see more suffering, more pain, more things that you did not desire to be with, not wanted to be with. This is the character of suffering.


At the same time, what you believed that you can do, you are not able to. And you are not able to keep the things that you have done before. This is the third characteristic: anattā.


Anattā means that there is no self. Anicca means impermanence, uncertainty and no security. Dukkha means that there is pain, physically and mentally.


Sometimes a mind-object causes you pain in your body when you remember something that confronts you with things in the past. You dislike it and you begin to feel pain in your heart, or you get a headache.


You should not note the mind-object when you feel pain in your body like a headache or when you feel pain in your heart. You do not name or note 'confronting' or 'disliking', but first say 'pain', 'pain', 'I have pain', 'painful feeling in my heart'. After noting for some time and it starts to become calm, then you go to what is coming next in the process.


Suffering and change is a purifying process. Pain, physically or mentally, is the source of wisdom, because it makes you understand your self, but if you do not have enough concentration or you lack patient discipline, you can not keep your practice going on.


After you have done this for many days, more then ten days now already, you begin to have confidence, that it's good that you are here, although it is not at all a comfortable feeling. If being here gives a comfortable feeling, it is the self.


Now listen carefully. All these days you don't feel comfortable, but you should go on noting and naming and continue your meditation with walking and sitting. When you continue your walking and sitting, it already proves that you made progress in the practice. That you are not at all okay and that you feel bad, that's very good for vipassanā.


It happens that your experiences are not what you were expecting before or where you were concerned about. You wanted to be happy. You wanted to be free from your self. Free from the five aggregates: body, feeling, perception, conditioning and mundane consciousness.

But now you have even more problems. Problems with the feeling, problems with your body. Sometimes also problems with your orientation, with your perception.


It's not comfortable. It looks like being drunk sometimes, because your head, your perception doesn't work well. That is the result that you have from your practice.


When you have uncomfortable feelings, it is not easy to get things done the way you want. Sometimes you want to use your intellect, but it doesn't work, or you want to remember something but it does not come. And you begin to think: 'Maybe I'm getting mad. Something is very wrong. There's no security anymore'.


The moment when you recognize for yourself that you do not feel secure, you must note that. If you do not note, you get deeper in that feeling. The awareness that you don't feel enough security is proving that the self is already small. Suffering is strong and the self is small. You're not at all happy. It makes you see that the five aggregates that you are carrying now, are dangerous. We call them māra, or devils.


You are a devil: your body is a devil, your feeling is a devil, your perception is a devil, your conditioning is a devil, your mundane consciousness is a devil.


How awful when you sit next to a devil! It's like sitting next to a snake that is biting you all the time. Doesn't matter how good you are doing. You take good care to do all you can. You give him food and drink, time to sleep. You clean up, you do many things, but whatever you do, it's no good.


Therefore we call this khandha-māra, the devil of the five aggregates that you are carrying. You have to unload, put them down and let them go.


The more you practice, the more you get in the process of divorce. Divorce in the mundane view is very negative, but in the supramundane, divorce is positive. Divorce of the self. Like in a marriage you stop, you divorce, because otherwise you live with a painful marriage. You did care for your self, for your ego, but now you have to find a way to get rid of it.


If you have this consciousness in your meditation practice, you already obtained certain vipassanā-ñāna, or knowledge of insight. You are in the process of having fear, having uncertainty, being unhappy.


Sometimes you feel that you are drowsy. After all this practice you are so drowsy and not able to think. You become indifferent with the situation. It doesn't matter what happens, you don't care anymore. You just walk and sit. You do not expect anything anymore. This is also a character of vipassanā-ñāna.

Or otherwise you come into a certain concentration, and you get equanimity, which means that you are calm. Some meditators feel a one-ness. Sometimes you sit in your room on the ground and you do not feel the ground. You feel that everything is connected with you. Everything in space is connected. This is a character of being in equanimity and also a character of vipassanā-ñāna.


You must face the three characteristics all the time. Impermanence, suffering and no-self. Nothing is sure, nothing is there, or was there but has gone. You feel not comfortable. You want to get rid of this in the sense of vipassanā. How can you get out of this? You still didn't find the way.


You have to have patience and discipline to be with things and accept things that are not for yourself. The things that are just what they are. To take it for what it is makes it easy for you. When you take it for your self, the way you want it, it becomes complicated, uneasy and difficult, a problem every time.


You recognize where is the way and where is not the way in your practice. Every time you must step on the way. You get more and more experienced with this way, and it gives you more confidence in majjhima-patipadā, the middle way.


What is the middle way? It's the middle way when you take it for what it is.


That means right understanding is there, the beginning of the way, right intention, right words, right action, right livelihood (being with what it is), right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. That is the way, but how to do that?


You must continuously make an attempt to note. Every time you recognize the object, it is right mindfulness. Here and now, on time and all the time. At the right moment and at the right object. Every noting, every naming is right concentration. It helps. It's the only way.

The way of the eightfold path is the way to freedom, liberation from being attacked by the five aggregates. This is the only way to stop carrying your burden.


I want to reconfirm once more: If you feel uncomfortable, it is good for vipassanā. If you feel comfortable, it's bad for vipassanā, but it's good for your ego. For your sakkāya-ditthi, for your opinion about your self, for your clinging to your self.


If you want to be happy in this retreat, you will obtain nothing. Sorry to say that. When you feel not happy and also not uncomfortable, but you're present, seeing, recognizing, that would be enough. Being present only, that would be enough. You don't have to do more.


This is all the technique that you have to know for your practice now. What you have to do is observing without interpretation, without personal opinion. Seeing the process for what it really is, without asking how or why.


No, no questions. Just be with what it is, and noting what it is at the same time. That's more than enough.


After you've done this more often, and you are more experienced with your practice it will give you a real freedom, without carrying. Mindfulness will become more natural that way.


Mindfulness is not something that you should carry. If you carry mindfulness, you're disturbed. If you do not carry it, it just comes to recognize the right object on time and all the time. The object makes mindfulness be there.


If there is no object, don't bother. Sometimes you have that problem. You say 'rising', 'falling', or you note, although you are confused about where the object is. Don't bother then. Let it be!


Note that which is there at that moment, what you see in yourself, what is confronting your self. If you can do that, that means you already have mindfulness.


Certain meditators get lost. After the noting and naming you do not know where your attention is at that moment. That's a very good moment to get lost. You can note 'confused', 'confusion' or 'seeing nothing'. Because of the way you see nothing, you already see. You begin to see suññatā or nibbāna that way. If you see yourself with something, it's not good, not good for vipassanā. It makes you belong. But your problem is that sometimes you do not feel enough security to be with nothing. You always have to be with something. That is your problem. You must check that for yourself, and correct it every time.


If you have nothing to be with, that means that you have to be without. Do you dare to be without? That's the problem. Our clinging to concepts, creations or perception is very strong. You feel scared sometimes when you have none of this to be with.


You have to get a new attitude: If I can be with nothing, that's the best. If I see nothing, then it's the truth. If I understand nothing, it is the absolute truth. This is a very important remark. Every time you must reconfirm: I've understood nothing, this is the absolute truth. Did you still understand something, then it's not the truth, because it makes you belong.


This is experience what I am saying, and not just words. You can experience that sometimes for yourself.


Sometimes you feel that you do not have enough energy. You’re weary, or drowsy or you have not enough power. I want to support you and so confirm again: This is vipassanā because it is not comfortable. Vipassanā does not have to be comfortable with your ego, with your self. Therefore you have to be with the uncomfortable feeling if you want to do vipassanā.


Of course if you don't want, then you go back to your self, searching for your ego, for your attachment, for your belonging, for your complications, for your conditions, and you're having no end in samsāra. It is awful to carry your snake around your neck while he can bite you any time. So take care.