Fourth Discourse

By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu

28 January 2001

(Translated by Rien Loeffen)


You may now continue your listening to the talk concerning the practice of meditation in the retreat. We can call it the practice of vipassanā meditation or the teaching of the Buddha, retreating, or we can sometimes say: spiritual training with sīla (discipline), samādhi (concentration), and paññā (wisdom).

The eightfold path, the path that's leading to enlightenment, we call magga or the way towards enlightenment and freedom.


The eightfold path:


Sammā-ditthi: right understanding or right view

Sammā-sankappa: right intention or right thought

Sammā-vācā: right words or right speech

Sammā-kammanta: right work or right bodily action

Sammā-ājiva: right livelihood

Sammā vāyāma: right effort

Sammā-sati: right mindfulness

Sammā-samādhi: right concentration


This is the theory in the books, but when you practice vipassanā meditation, you see that you have all this in yourself. If one of these eight points is missing, it's impossible to obtain enlightenment. Therefore they state that there have to be eight points in your life here and now, continuously.


The eightfold path, the path leading to enlightenment, what we call magga (the way) towards enlightenment and freedom, starts with sammā-ditthi, which means right understanding. If we talk about right understanding it's also wisdom at the same time. Without right understanding wisdom is not possible.


First you have the right understanding of what to note. In this context right understanding refers to nāma-rūpa. You must understand what's nāma and what's rūpa. You cannot have the right intention or right motivation (sammā-sankappa) without understanding nāma-rūpa. At the same time you need to have a mental noting or naming. That's referring to sammā-vācā or the right words.


In daily life 'right word' is referring to talking, but in this context of the practice of vipassanā meditation, you have to pick up the right word, or the right term to name. If you take the wrong term, it is not possible to make vipassanā work.


For example: When you have thoughts, and you notice there are thoughts, and you say 'thinking, thinking', but thinking has already gone some seconds ago, you have the wrong understanding, the wrong words and also the wrong intention.


Many times you're having problems with this, so I want you to correct your technique of noting and naming. You should note and name in the correct way and at the right moment. Sometimes for example you have thoughts about something in your life, about something negative in your life. You dislike that thought, and when you say 'thinking' at that moment, in fact it's not true. When you say: 'disliking your thought', then it is the right word, the right technique and the right intention.


Sammā-kammanta, right work or right bodily action is the attempt to bring mindfulness in your experience. You have to put it in action, not only in words, but the effort to do it is already there when you are here in the retreat.


At certain times you have a good time and you have a good concentration. At certain hours, let's say in the morning you have a good time in your meditation practice. Late afternoon it's not good anymore, not having energy and no concentration, and it makes you feel unhappy and dissatisfied.


This refers to being in right livelihood (sammā-ājiva) according to the eightfold path. You must not go against the situation. Don't cling to the past. Longing for the morning, and disliking your afternoons. If you get this attitude, you have no right livelihood. Right livelihood is not only just about how to earn you living, but also has to be integrated in an intensive practice like this.


Especially the last three points, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, are important for your practice.


You have to make an attempt to note and to name. The attempt to make a note is considered sammā-vāyāma or right effort. The noting itself is sammā-samādhi or right concentration. But before the right concentration you have recognized the right object. That is sammā-sati or right mindfulness. Right mindfulness (sati) is very important, very essential in the practice. Therefore we call it satipatthāna-vipassanā practice.


But remember that in one noting all the eight points are there together. They are not separated.


I just mentioned that with thought and mind-object sometimes you use the wrong motivation to note. You see disliking, but you note thought.


The same with the feeling. Sometimes you have fear from your pain, from your feeling, but you still see this as feeling. That is very wrong. At that moment it is obvious to you to recognize that you fear that feeling. You fear death, or you fear having pain with no end. You fear suffering of the body. Then you do not note 'feeling' but you note 'fear'. Fear is a mind-object, not a feeling.


To see the difference between samatha and vipassanā practice you have to look in your self. We practice vipassanā here, but many times you practiced samatha (concentration) within the vipassanā practice. How do you know that you practice vipassanā?


If the feeling is not there, then you practice meditation in the vipassanā technique. When you have feelings with the object, you practice samatha technique within the vipassanā practice.


Most of you do not want to do samatha, I know that, but most of the time here you did. And you need it of course, because it is satisfying you. It is hard for you to be without feeling, especially without good feeling.


You've been here in the retreat for several days now, and after licking the honey, the candy, the sweetness of concentration, the sweetness of the feeling, you now should start with practicing vipassanā meditation.


Perhaps it is good for you to see this first in your walking meditation.

When you say 'lifting', 'treading', is there feeling in your foot or not? If there's feeling in your foot, you practice samatha technique to gain samatha power. This samatha power gives satisfaction. It leads to concentration and mental absorption.


Every time afterwards you feel good, you feel light, you feel a lot of energy, you have the urge to sit. That's okay. That's not wrong. But when you have to check if you are in the vipassanā technique, how can you check that?


If you can note and name the lifting, and not the feeling of your foot, and when treading on the ground, note and name the treading and not the feeling of your foot, you succeeded in being an observer of the foot. The object that you recognize is the foot. You only recognize the motion of the foot that lifts up and steps down. You know that and there's no feeling.


So now you are going to change from the feeling to vipassanā. It is not easy, but you have to try, because when you're walking, your foot is your self, is your ego when it gives you feelings. It makes you belong to that awareness of the feelings. Therefore you have to make a note, and name.


To put it this way: if you name your foot without being in the object, then you are not mingled with your self. You are also going to do that with the rising and falling of the stomach. If you feel the rising and falling of the stomach, it is samatha, not vipassanā technique. If you just see the moving up and down of your body, you do kāyānupassanā (contemplation on the body), but mostly you do vedanānupassana (contemplation on the feeling). When you are in vedanā (feeling), you are in concentration already.


So if you want to sharpen your wisdom, you must step out in the distance. Sometimes you hardly see the rising and falling, but you are aware of a movement somewhere around your stomach going up and down. You only note 'up' and 'down'.


Up means rising, down means falling, nothing more. Not to let your feeling go into the body.


Look in the distance, because when you are in your stomach (with feeling) you already are in your self, in your ego. It has magnetism, it has the power to suck you in.


You are not free, because you carry your burden, I said some days ago. So to leave the burden of the five aggregates is the only freedom you can have. You can walk freely, without carrying your body, without carrying your feeling, without carrying your perception, without thought, that you are remembering something, and without conditioning.


Without conditioning your practice by judgment or interpretation of the meditation process. Commenting, discussion, what's good or what's wrong, all this is conditioning and mundane consciousness.


Where there is mundane consciousness, you are aware. Your awareness is mundane consciousness. Some meditators don't feel good, don't feel bad, but they're aware of the object. Because of that awareness that you have for the object, the object that you recognize without noting, naming, you are automatically in your mundane consciousness.


Therefore it is not enough, merely awareness of what it is, without thought, without pain, when you sit, especially when you sit in a deep concentration, you are aware of what is going on.


The awareness of what is going on is that you go on with your ego-trip, your journey with your self. So you cannot be free from the burdening of the self. And to be without self, where to be? To be with pure consciousness. What is pure consciousness? Right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration is pure consciousness. How do you know that it is pure? Because it does not belong to the object.


To make it simple: When I say: body, feeling, perception, conditioning, consciousness, it's sometimes hard for you to see what the object is. Especially when you practice, you have no time to define all these words or to look after this theory. Then you will be too late and you cannot do your practice.


So to make your practice all right, there are two things: The object and the awareness of the object. The object, doesn't matter what: Thought is the object, awareness of the thought is the mind. Anger is the object, awareness of the anger is the mind. That is what we call nāma-rūpa in this context of vipassanā meditation.


So to make your vipassanā work, you make a note, but not in the object. How do you make a note without getting into the object?


For example if you are angry with something you make a note, you say 'anger', 'anger'. If you still feel angry when you are noting, that means you are in it. You are in samatha, you are in your self. How can you stay out? To stay out you have to make a distance. First you see the anger and you make a note to recognize the anger: 'it's anger' and you're not in it.


Sammā-samādhi means right concentration. You have that right concentration in naming and noting. Not naming and noting in the self, but in the term that you use for the object.


If there is pain, you say 'pain'. Not in the pain, but in the term, the word. Just the terms that you use for the different objects. When you put enough effort in saying 'pain', you do not belong to the object anymore. When you do it very deep and slowly: 'pain', 'pain', you have the right concentration.


Suffering comes to an end at that moment and at the same time you get your freedom, because you get out of the samsaric process of your self. You're not in samsāra, but you are in vipassanā. You have pure consciousness. It does not refer to something, it does not refer to yourself. The real seeing, the real understanding is there.


Then wisdom is there, freedom is there and nibbāna is there.


There is no nibbāna in the khandhas. There is no enlightenment in the five groups of your existence. This has to die out first. You have to drop it there first. But then, on the other hand, you need the five khandhas, the five groups or aggregates to practice vipassanā meditation. Without these five, you cannot practice mindfulness on the four foundations.


It is the same as with a boat when you have to go to the other side of the water. When you reach the bank of the river, you will leave the boat in the water. You walk away from the boat. You don't carry the boat with you. That would be very foolish. The boat is good for the water, to bring you across the stream.


It's the same with the five aggregates. We need them. We need the body to practice mindfulness of the body. I already said: not in the body but above the body. You have to go beyond the feeling. You need the feeling to practice mindfulness on the feeling. You need your perception and consciousness to practice mindfulness on the mind, on your thought. You need your conditioning to practice mindfulness on the mind-objects.


You have to carry them, until you become enlightened. Then you don't need them anymore. That means, your meditation comes to an end. Let's say you can end your meditation course then.


When you are going to a meditation course, there are many questions when you're used to mundane things, like: 'When is this course coming to an end?'. The answer is: 'When you are enlightened this is the end of the course'. I mean that you don't need the four foundations anymore then.


You don't need the boat when you are at the other side of the water. When you are not yet enlightened, you need your body. So you have to take care of your body. Also the feeling and everything, so that it is functioning. This is how you practice.


I want to repeat, just once more: confirm yourself if you are in samatha or vipassanā. If you are in the object, doesn't matter what, if you concentrate yourself in the object, naming in the object, it is not yet vipassanā. When you can note and name while recognizing the object, not getting in the object, then you are in vipassanā.


I hope you have examples enough to check, because it is fooling you around there all the time like a magnet. It has the power to make you go in, to make you hardly come out. Therefore you are not free, you are always busy with it. When you want to do vipassanā practice, not samatha practice, you have to do it that way. Every time: 'I am not in the object'.


Things come up. Thought or conditioning. When thought comes, you want to know. Awareness comes, you want to know. If you want to know, that means desire is there. You are not free, you belong to it, every time.


You must learn always to say 'no'. You must learn to know nothing. Maybe this is hard for you. Your whole life you wanted to know something. You only have to know that it's curiosity, the desire to understand something.


Now, in this intensive course of your practice, you say 'No, I will not know anything. I just am. I even am out of everything, not in something'. You have to change your attitude towards your practice. This way is very safe, because nothing can be wrong. If you want to know something, it is already wrong, because self is there. Not knowing, how can we not know?


Because right mindfulness, right effort and right concentration are there, noting is there. You note what you are aware of, not going in the object that you are aware of. You should be with your noting or naming, then you will not know, then you will be free. This is the way to practice.