By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu
(Translated by Rien Loeffen)
We continue to listen to the discourse concerning your practice in the direction of the vipassanā meditation experience. Most of you have been practicing intensive now for at least three full days.
When you practice the four foundations of mindfulness intensively like this, you practice all the time, and always on time, with one object of your self. Your body, your feeling, your thought, and your mind-object.
When you try to note the movement of your foot, 'right goes thus', 'left goes thus' or 'lifting', 'treading'. Or when you sit and you note the rising and falling of your physical body through your breathing, you're contemplating on your body.
At a certain time when you sit or when you walk, you become aware of physical pain.
Pain is a feeling, a physical feeling. When you are aware of such a pain, you are no longer in your body but in your feeling. When you recognize the feeling, and make a mental note or name it, it means you are contemplating on the feeling for that moment.
When the feeling has gone or when it has no more power and does not demand your attention anymore, you should shift your attention to your body as usual. The rising and falling of the abdomen or the lifting and treading of your foot or whatever.
For a certain time there is a lot of thought, remembering for example. We don't call that feeling, we call that the mind. You think with your mind. When you think of something, but you say 'feeling', it is not in the meaning of vipassanā practice. When you recognize your thought as thought, you don't say 'feeling', but you say 'thinking'. All remembering is about something in the past, but it is here and now as thought.
Conditioning or mind-object:
Conditioning or mind-object is what comes to distract your mind or disturb your being.
Conditioning mostly comes from feeling and thinking at the same time. It starts as pain at first, when you have a physical feeling like pain or itching. When it becomes too strong and when you dislike it, or you have fear for that feeling, that is conditioning or distracting of the mind. So you do not say 'feeling' when you recognize this, but you say 'distracting of my mind' or just say: 'distracting' or 'conditioning'.
The same with the thought. You remember something with your thought, but you begin to criticize that kind of thought. The criticizing of that thought is already a mind-object or conditioning. Without criticizing, without liking or disliking your thought, it's merely your mind, it's merely within your thinking, you're thinking of a memory of something.
You will see this ongoing of body, of feeling, of thought, of conditioning as your self, nothing more than your self.
When you move your foot in your walking meditation, you're aware of the foot going. You can say lifting because you are aware of the foot moving up. And if treading, you're aware of the treading of the foot. If you practice vipassanā, you don't let that awareness of the body go for feeling. You just let it be awareness of the body, and you make a note on that awareness.
When you feel something like an agreeable feeling in your foot, and you go on saying 'lifting' and 'treading', but you are more in the feeling, let's say a good feeling, then every time when you are in that good feeling, without noting it accordingly, it is not vipassanā, it's samatha practice.
Many times you are disappointed when something like thought comes in-between your contemplation on your walking. You dislike it because it gets you out of the feeling of your foot and you become irritated. This proves that you are in samatha. In fact, the thought that is coming up from time to time, is helping you not to get into samatha with the walking meditation.
The walking meditation gives you a certain energy. When you are placing your foot, or lifting or bending your foot, energy is moving through your body. With that energy you may have an agreeable feeling, and with that agreeable feeling you get into samatha. You just agree with it, and then you cannot see for yourself if you are practicing vipassanā or samatha. You should note the awareness of your moving foot very carefully.
When you practice refraining the senses, you practice sīla, samādhi and paññā at the same time. Refraining the senses means discipline. And noting at the senses is right concentration. The awareness that discovers that the foot is going this way is wisdom.
If you do it right you have almost no time to think. But then thought comes during the walking exercise because you are too much in samatha. Then the moving itself is distracting. Every time you move the foot, the mind gets into some thought. And thought comes in many times, and sometimes there are so many thoughts that you just cannot see the moving of your foot anymore. If you practice vipassanā meditation: don't make problems with thought coming in during the walking exercise.
You make a practice-program like having to walk for half an hour or an hour: 'At that time I have to see my foot all the time, nothing coming in'. That is your program. Because of that programming you are hindering the process of the four foundations of mindfulness.
Thought may come up in-between your walking and sitting, because thought is part of your self. You should not avoid to deal with thought. If the thought is demanding, you should immediately recognize and note the thought.
It doesn't matter when from time to time thought is coming up. When that happens: don't walk, just stand. As I already said: only one thing at the time.
It is important not to forget that enlightenment can come in your four bodily positions. It can happen when you stand, when you walk, when you sit or when you are lying on your bed. You have the idea that you can only get enlightened when you are sitting. This idea should be abandoned in an intensive practice like this.
After a while you are going to be confronted with the problem that you cannot sit and walk very well because of having too much thought. But that doesn't matter, because thought is part of the four foundations.
Conditioning sometimes comes up in walking, when a memory of something is very strong and you dislike it. With a memory in this situation you don't say 'thought', you say 'conditioning' or 'distracting' or 'disliking'.
In that case you must stand still. If you make a move, you get into conflict, and when your walking is not good, you do not have a good sitting-meditation either.
When you recognize the body, you become conscious of the body in the movement. The moving makes the body aware. You can make a note according to its motion. We have the concept or the words to say left or right or going or moving or touching or pressing, whatever exercise of the six exercises we are doing in the walking-meditation.
Now to come to the rising and falling. Following the breath is ānāpāna-sati. The in-breath is ānā, the breathing out is pāna. If you follow the coming in and going out of the air in your body continuously you practice samatha.
How do you make your practice vipassanā-practice? You note the rising up of the body, and you note the falling down of your body at the point of the abdomen or somewhere around there. You recognize clearly, and at the same time you're contemplating from a distance.
When you are too close to it you get into it. When you get into it, then you are with your self. You get into samatha because rising and falling also gives a comfortable feeling. All comfortable feeling takes you in, makes you attached.
In vipassanā meditation practice you have to detach from the five aggregates or khandhas, namely from body, feeling, perception, conditioning and consciousness. This is what people carry as their burden. When you carry something it's already a burden. It doesn't matter what you carry.
Sometimes you get disheartened here in the retreat. You feel that you carry too much, and you cannot do it anymore. You feel discouraged or you do not have enough motivation. You have the desire to stop, to do something else, something nice. Nice in your concept, but I wonder if it's really nice.
Maybe it's nice when you stop noting, but when you carry it, it doesn't matter where you go. You are not free, and you cannot run away. No way. Whether you go into space, to the sun or to the moon or wherever you're able to go, when you still carry something you cannot get free. When you stop carrying, then you may go, then you're free.
Therefore you have to detach. Every naming makes you detached. I give an example: When you hear, you name 'hearing'. If you practice vipassanā you can hear, but at the same time you have to be detached from what you hear. Not trying to run away, not trying to get rid of it and not trying to take it. To run away from it is carrying already. To take it is more carrying even. It's not free.
This practice is for freedom. Free from your self. It's not a freedom that someone can give you, or that just drops from the skies. No, it has to come from here, from your five aggregates. Therefore when you hear you note 'hearing'.
When you hear something outside your room, you turn your mundane consciousness to a pure consciousness. You say 'hearing', 'hearing'. You start hearing without being concerned whether it's nice or not nice. You just hear.
If it doesn't matter if it's nice hearing or not nice hearing, and you just make a note 'hearing' or 'In my ear is hearing', you do not carry sound anymore. Good sound or bad sound, if you are attached or if you dislike it, you carry it with you. When one way or another you carry it, then you're not free.
We carry a lot in our life, therefore we practice this practice of intensive care. Care for your mindfulness and motivation. You only have to care for your mindfulness, not to carry it. If you carry mindfulness it's a bigger burden even.
I told you that you have to have mindfulness all the time and on time, but how to be mindful?
You are mindful through the contact of the senses. Without the sense-contact there cannot be mindfulness.
When the enlightened ones sit, they don't name. That's nice, or not? They don't have to carry mindfulness because all the senses are like frozen in the fridge.
Do you see that when you put meat in the fridge, because of the coldness, the meat can keep long. It's not rotting in the refrigerator. The same with the enlightened ones, they just sit. The feeling has gone. They are in nibbāna.
So after the meal the enlightened ones sit, but they do not meditate. They are resting without carrying all the senses, because they already threw away the khandhas.
They do not carry. How did they throw it away?
They got too disgusted with it. Too much carrying and one day they said: 'I leave it there, I do not carry it anymore'. This can only happen with the practice of vipassanā.
When you practice samatha meditation, you can also stop the feeling and go into jhāna, absorption, but when you stop sitting and you get back in your daily life, you carry the feeling again. You stop the feeling through transcending the feeling by the power of mental absorption. You absorb all the awareness and feeling under the surface, and you feel a great happiness because of not having to carry the khandhas, but when you get back to the feeling, everything comes back.
This is similar to being anaesthetized in the hospital. You're suppressed by the anesthetic. While sending a certain gas through the nose, you don't feel anything. The whole feeling is gone. Or you get an injection or you use drugs. You do not know where, you do not know the reason why. You are in heaven. You stopped the khandhas for that moment.
When the power of the medication or the drug is over, you get back again, but you can remember how great it was, how happy it was. It happened because you didn't carry the khandhas, you didn't carry the aggregates, you didn't carry thought, no feeling, not knowing what it is. Like being dead, but still present.
It's the same with the jhāna in the concentration practice. When you don't carry anything, then it's great. With the enlightened ones, the arahats, it happened through vipassanā practice. The rest of their lives they do not carry anything anymore. They are free. It is an absolute freedom that they obtained.
In every noting and every naming we can get rid of the khandhas, become free from the khandhas. Noting and naming is very powerful. So powerful that it makes you free. Without noting and naming, you can only get into mental absorption through samatha-practice. But that is not solving the problem. It is temporary only. Only with the use of vipassanā practice we can solve the everlasting problems.
I say this because I want to encourage you, not to get into the five aggregates. Not to get into the feeling, not to get into the perception, not to get into conditioning by using the technique. Everything is already there with you, so you note and you name. Every noting and naming makes that you get out.
I want you to observe and correct yourself when you are in your body with rising and falling. You may be with the rising and falling for a short time, but if you do that all the time you will fail to obtain vipassanā-ñāna. You will get mental health when you do it strongly and ardently. You will get into jhāna, or at least deep concentration. It makes you happy too, but it will not set you free from your burden.
At the beginning of this talk I told you: To practice vipassanā meditation means to have contemplation on the four foundations of mindfulness. Not to be in it, but to be out of it.
I will give an example. When you have pain in your knee or in your back. Having pain is the feeling. You have to recognize the pain first and then you make a note. When you make a note you make the distance from the feeling to the object bigger. If you are too close to it, the feeling of pain has the power to suck your consciousness in, like a magnet. You can hardly get out again.
So you make a note. You say 'pain', 'pain'. You should be strongly aware at the same time. You do not say 'pain' like a mantra of course. You look, you recognize the pain, you make a distance and you note 'pain'. Say it very quietly, without agitation, without anxiety.
You can get rid of the pain and not carry the pain, because you have a distance to the feeling and you note that feeling of the pain. Not in the pain; outside the pain. If you note in the pain, it wouldn't work, unless you obtain strong concentration by mental absorption or psychic power to stop the pain.
So do not make the effort, because you do not have that psychic power. You have to use the vipassanā technique for not being conditioned by the pain. You use the pain as the foundation of mindfulness on the feeling. To make that foundation work, you have to make a note. If you don't make a note you are already in it.
When you are already in the feeling, then it gets worse. It makes you fearful. It changes from feeling to conditioning. It makes you uncertain, makes you confused. It is not the feeling anymore, but conditioning. That is why you have to note on time.
When meditators say 'pain', 'pain', while they have fear of pain, it's the wrong noting. It's not the right object here and now. If what is actual now is conditioning, like fear or disliking or panic, you have to make a note according to that. You do not say 'pain', but 'fear of pain' or 'disliking pain', because pain is no longer a feeling. It transformed itself into conditioning or mind-object. Say 'disliking' or 'fear' or whatever happens. Then you practice the right object for the right moment.
The third foundation, thought, is a big problem in this part of your practice. Sometimes you do not see how thought is coming. You are busy with rising and falling, and suddenly you are attacked by thought. Thought is already confronting you, and you get into panic.
Thought is coming like the clouds in the sky. When the big clouds come, they hinder the sun and it becomes dark, so we don't have light. Strong thought is coming like a big cloud, preventing you to see anything but thought only.
So you have to note 'thinking', 'thinking', which is like drying out the clouds or the mist in yourself. Then you become clear, you become bright, you become light. If you do not note, thought is overwhelming you. The many kinds of thoughts are always there, just as in the sky the clouds are always there. Sometimes they are very slight. You do not see them, but they pass by all the time because of the circulation of the air. The clouds are moving above us all the time.
There is always thought in us that way. When you try to sit, and you see the rising and falling of the abdomen slightly like small clouds, thought is coming in. When it's just a little and it doesn't hinder, you do not have to name that thought. Let it be, because after all you have enough light. Don't bother about it. Do not note that thought. Keep on going with naming your physical body, 'rising', 'falling', 'rising', 'falling', until strong thought is coming in.
Then you must name the thought, because you do not see the rising and falling anymore, you see only thought. You should not keep going on saying: 'rising', 'falling'. If you try to force yourself to be with your stomach, it's not true for that moment. You can do this, but then it's not vipassanā, then it is samatha. Then you are against the ongoing nature in and around you. You stop saying 'rising', 'falling' and you say 'thinking', 'thinking', 'in me there is thought'.
Remembering is a thought. You try to sit and you remember something that happened in the past. Sometimes you like it and you spend your time with it. You will go on with your thought, imagining, and you are no longer here. You are no longer here and now.
This is like when you visit the cemetery. Your loved one died and is buried there. You go there, you talk to him but he never talks back. Remembering, that kind of thought, even good thought, is not better than a dead body lying in the graveyard. In your hallucination you like it because you can be in your past, but after some time it makes you confused and uneasy.
When you have bad karma from the past, it's coming back to you as a bad memory. That's also dead, like a criminal who is dead. He is buried there. Why are you bothering about that bad memory, it is already buried under the ground in the graveyard. But because you cannot get rid of your karma, you get confronted by that and it keeps influencing you.
Karma means to have done good or bad in the past. You note and you name, not to go back to the past, to what happened to you, but to be here and now. You might get rid of your karma this way.
All the time, on time and on the right object. When you practice like this, note like this, continuously, intensively from early in the morning until late in the evening you will be enlightened. It's not far away. Enlightenment is right here in front of you. You have the right conditions for it. But how much do you work for it, that is the question.
Never underestimate one single moment. From when you wake up until you fall asleep, you must continuously and intensively note all that is going on in your self. When you are walking in the corridor, an enlightened moment can be there. It can be there at the table in the dining-room, or in the toilet. When you keep on having mindfulness, naming and noting, it is there all the time.
Enlightenment comes when you unload your burden. You must be prepared to unload. This body, this feeling, this thinking, this conditioning and this perception. You must become detached from them. If you are attached to them, you cannot unload, you cannot leave them behind, because you want them for yourself. You want to carry them yourself.
See the example when you note 'hearing'. It isn't good or bad at the moment that sound comes contacting your ear. You say 'hearing', 'hearing'. The sound goes on, but there's neither good nor bad.
Enlightenment is neither good nor bad. Not positive or negative. What then? Nothing, because there is no word for it. You know, but you do not know what to say. Words are not enough. It's too powerful, too strong, too much to say in words. Therefore you know, but you do not know. There is nothing to compare.
When we say positive, that means attachment. When we say negative, it means running away, or trying to get rid of it, not wanting it. This is also desire.
Desire is very strong. Desire comes from the feeling. When I talk about the feeling this way, I do not talk about bodily feeling and mental feeling, but about agreeable and disagreeable feeling. Agreeable feeling is desire. Disagreeable feeling is the desire to get rid of something. And sometimes there is neutral feeling: no desire but ignorance.
Ignorance, because you are still there, you are not getting away from nothing. It's not good nor bad, but that you are still there means that you do not have enough mindfulness.
I want to repeat again, that if you carry mindfulness it's wrong. Mindfulness is attentiveness of your being. It's a constant attentiveness. It's not something like a stone or wood or like things that you must carry, but attentiveness only.
Attentiveness in life is mindfulness: Attentiveness on what is there. Nothing is missing and you will not run after something. You are not waiting for something, because things are always there. Feeling is there, consciousness is there, and it's coming all the time.
Vipassanā means insight. Because of all this practice you obtain insight power. Strong and powerful insight power makes you free, it makes you enlightened.
Tonight I just pointed at what you have been doing already here in the retreat, but you have to polish more. You have to polish the stone to get the diamond out of it. If you do not polish, it just stays a stone. Nobody wants it. Nobody will use it for decoration. You are now on the way of polishing the stone.