By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu
6 February 2001
(Translated by Rien Loeffen)
The insight of your experiences should come with your own recognition. No one else can experience what you can see. And it's not easy for you to explain to other people what your experiences are. You alone come in contact with that wisdom.
First I want to say some words to you so that you can recognize for yourself if you are practising vipassanā or samatha.
If your practice is based on the four foundations of mindfulness, you practice vipassanā meditation, even when you're not progressing.
When you practice Ānāpāna-sati meditation, which is another form of meditation, you are only following your breath in and out. You have mindfulness on your breathing then, on your feeling in the breathing.
This way of practice can also lead to purification, but only in terms of samatha practice. It can purify your mind, and you can be without thought or without pain. If you use that way of practice, you can obtain purification, but it is not vipassanā. It's merely samatha. You're purifying your mind, purifying your discipline.
Why is it not vipassanā? Because you do not recognize yourself in the four forms of your personal being. It's vipassanā when you see and recognize your body, your feeling, your thinking and your conditioning every time and in each case.
Seeing or recognizing the object clearly is right mindfulness. Noting on it, or naming at it is right concentration.
When you do this every time you practice vipassanā meditation, you obtain purification of your discipline. You need discipline so that you can follow the object the way it is. Without discipline, you cannot follow the way it is naturally. The natural way of the body, the natural way of the feeling, the natural way of thinking and the natural way of your conditioning. It has to be natural, not that you make it.
If you make it, then you don't recognize it the way it is, and you get confused. You're trying to manipulate your feeling. That's not the way it is. You think something, and you say feeling. That's not correct. You have to recognize your thought that came first. That is natural, that's the way it is.
So in the process of your practice here in the retreat, we advise you to note the intention. When you want to go to the dining room, you first have the intention to do that. You have the intention to discharge, to wash, the intention to sit down, the intention to stand up. If you walk you have the intention to go for a certain distance.
You should practice on the natural process of your personal being all the time, not only with your sitting and walking exercises. It makes that you understand, that you recognize and accept the ongoing process of mind and matter. That you are with what it is, with what it really is.
You obtain the understanding or the consciousness that you see nothing more going on than mind and matter. There's no self at that moment. Just the ongoing process. If your self or your ego is there, it will hinder the process of the ongoing of the mind and the matter. You will recognize the effect and the cause, the interrelation between mind and matter all the time.
If you see this, you already obtained purification of view, what we call ditthi-visuddhi, and kankhā-vitarana-visuddhi, the overcoming of doubt. When you clear your doubt, then you have no doubt of doing the practice, of following the practice. You obtained purification, you cleaned up.
All you know, all you understand, all you believe is the opposite of purification. You are now working on purification. It's contrasting with your ego when you put the indriya, the five powers (confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration and understanding) on this ongoing process of your self.
It's contrasting because it manifests itself when you have physical pain and mental discomfort, and when you are suffering by doing this practice. Not only when you practice, but the whole time you feel uncomfortable. When you see that you are not comfortable, you come in a deeper contact with vipassanā meditation.
So you obtain the practice of vipassanā-ñāna. When you keep going on your motivation to follow the practice, it makes that you are not comfortable, it makes you unhappy about yourself, about the whole situation. Even the present moment of seeing your ongoing process of breathing in and breathing out is not comfortable.
Sometimes it disappears, sometimes it's not regular. You see all these things, but you keep on doing until you cannot take it serious anymore.
But you just keep on doing it. It means that you become indifferent. It doesn't matter what happens to you anymore. Like I said last time, some things make you prefer, or some things make you not prefer. Liking or disliking, it doesn't matter. It's just the same thing what you see now.
When you go on this way, you obtain purification, what we call maggāmagga-ñānadassana-vissuddhi. You know the way that is okay, and you know the way that is not okay for you. What is the way? I said before that you should make the effort and make an attempt. When you put it too hard, when you put too much effort, it's not the way. When you are just simply doing it, that's the way.
This is what you experience all the time here. When you have the desire or the strong intention to do it good, then you are having no success and you get problems from doing it that way.
You try too hard, you collapse, or you exhaust your energy, and it is not going the way it has to be. You see that every moment when you make a step in your practice that is not in the direction of vipassanā, that you do it to be okay, to be happy, to enjoy or to satisfy your self.
You can enjoy all this suffering, all this pain, if you simple do it continuously. I mean, from when you wake up until you go to sleep in the night, you must keep on going. It's okay, it doesn't matter even if you don't like it, but you can do it. It's just what it is, it's okay.
But many times, you want to do things good. You want to obtain the highest concentration or a better mindfulness, but in return suffering comes following you, and you're not satisfied and not enjoying what we are now doing here from morning to evening, and you know that it's not the way.
After more than eighteen days in this retreat, you will recognize the way that's leading to positive power. When you put it too hard, that's not the middle way. Then you recognize that you are off the way. It has become negative for you. You will recognize this all the time during your practice in the retreat. When you see this very clearly, obviously, then you practice vipassanā. You already have a high degree of vipassanā then. A high ñāna of vipassanā practice.
You start from sammasana-ñāna, seeing the pain, the suffering, the nothingness, unreality, uncertainty and impermanence. You see it, and the more you are with that, and you are getting aware of that, you become quiet and calm, you get equanimity.
With sankhārupekkhā-ñāna you're indifferent about your own condition. Every time when you have an indifferent consciousness of your own conditioning, you are in the highest state of vipassanā-ñāna. Let's say the maximum. The maximum you can obtain in this practice, is to be indifferent about mind and matter. When you take things too serious, it doesn't matter what, it becomes hard.
You take pain or certain patterns of yourself for the way it is. For example when you are confronted with a certain fear in your life, or when you are confronted with thought or with perception in your life. In your normal life you are not as strong like when you are here in the retreat.
Here you become strong and you become clear, but on the other hand it gives you problems too. Suffering, I mean your recognition of your suffering is the beginning of your wisdom. Every time and with every case. If there is no suffering, there is no wisdom either.
Suffering is confronting you, and every time when you can overcome that confrontation, wisdom is there. You begin to see it that way, and what you follow now in your practice, is nothing more than this.
Most of the time, I think you are not happy. I like that. When every time you say that it's nice, calm and enjoyable, I begin to doubt. As a guide I begin to doubt whether you are on the way or not.
If you have problems, and you still continue your practice, you are very well on the way to obtain higher wisdom. When something is very strong confronting you in your life, and if you can overcome that by leaving it the way it is, to let it be the way it is, then you win over the point of what is giving you problems in your life.
The practice of vipassanā meditation, what you are doing now, we call patipadā-ñānadassana-visuddhi (practice towards purification).
What is purification? Purification comes in many forms.
Maybe your practice was very good a few days ago, but now it changed. Sometimes you have unusual physical signals, like sometimes you feel prickles, or a certain pain, it can be a toothache sometimes, or you hear a lot of disturbing noise in your ear, while there is still silence, or sometimes a lot of itching, or sometimes the body just starts trembling without reason.
It just happens. In fact the body tells you that it's suffering. Sometimes you sit for a long time and you do not have problems, but now you sit just only for a few minutes and you already start to get physical problems. That's also a signal for suffering. How does it come? It comes because of the purification. There is pain, because you are putting things in to purify.
Let's say, you put water and washing powder in the washing machine, when you're washing your clothes. It has to turn with a certain power and speed, otherwise it will not become clean. So in that turning you can imagine, that if your clothes have feelings like you do, it will be very painful to get clean. This is an example that you can look at.
Now for you as a human being, when we're putting ourselves in a machine for washing with washing powder and water, it's not nice. It will become nice after it has been cleaned and dry, and you can wear it again comfortably, but it is not nice when it is in the process of cleaning.
Seeing yourself this way we call patipadā-ñānadassana-visuddhi, the purification of seeing yourself towards purification. What happens? Sometimes you cannot use your head, you lose orientation, you want to think of something but it doesn't work. Many times it's not going the way that you want. You cannot dictate yourself anymore. Many times things happen on their own terms. That's also according to the natural process.
If this happens you are very near to enlightenment. When you do it more and more repeatedly, eventually you will see yourself become clean, I mean pure. Then you will recognize ñānadassana-visudhi, the knowledge of seeing everything balanced, clear, without self, without sakkāya-ditthi, without the belief in self, without doubt, without longing for certain things to make yourself better in life, like supernatural power, or something that can come and rescue you from outside.
After you have seen all this, then you are already in the transcendental process from mundane consciousness to supramundane consciousness. It goes beyond, it goes above. It doesn't mingle with self. It has its own identity of being without concern, without carrying. Then you feel how nice it is when you do not carry.
When you see that you do not carry, then you obtained a higher vipassanā-ñāna. I mean that you obtained to be a streamwinner.
It's a big word, but you win the stream already when you see the cause and the effect from mind and matter. You begin to win from there already, but many times you didn't know, because your ideas are confronting you with your protesting self. But although the self is protesting, you still do overcome every time.
The vipassanā process of seeing nāma-rūpa-parichedda-ñāna, the cause and effect of mind and matter, makes you note, makes you name, makes you recognize. You begin to win from there on already.
But the real winning is that you do not cling to self. Ego-less. Every time you carry your ego you become narrow, because nothing is big enough for you. Because your ego is your desire, you do not feel comfortable.
When you are ego-less, then you are comfortable, everything is okay. You can pass easily, function easily and be easy. You have to recognize this. It doesn't matter in what kind of situation you are, you're not confronted with things. Nobody can say you are enlightened. You have to see that for yourself, because you can only see it yourself that way. If you are not confronting with anything at all, you are perfectly enlightened.
But take care, certain kinds of insanity, or people who are mad, they are not confronted with anything, but they are not enlightened, because they are not aware of what is right or wrong. They are more than heavy, because of madness or insanity.
The enlightened one is also not confronted like a madman or someone who is insane, but he sees what's right and what's wrong. He sees what's good, and what's not good. He sees what can be enjoyed, what cannot be enjoyed. He even sees that.
There are persons who think that Buddhists, or people who practice vipassanā meditation have no taste. We have a better taste. I mean when you have everything, but you have no taste in life, that's not correct. You have a perfect taste in life, so you cannot say: 'Oh, I don't want to become enlightened, because then I cannot enjoy myself.' That is very wrong, you're already not comfortable that way.
When you can be with everything that is there, you are having the best taste. The best taste in every single case and in every occasion.
I want to convince you that you as an enlightened one can enjoy the best of life, but you do only what is necessary. You come in contact with many things in life, but you don't have to carry, because you don't take it. That means that you have the wisdom to take or not to take. That is very different from insanity. An insane person doesn't care, because he doesn't know. But we know and we don't care at the same time.
So you must not be afraid to become enlightened. But before you become enlightened, you must almost be as good as insane. But you are not completely insane because mindfulness, consciousness is there. That makes the difference. But people who are mad, they have no mindfulness, they are not even aware of their own consciousness. They just let things go, not knowing if things are upside down or whether they do things correct.
But the enlightened one let things go, and behaves himself properly according to the situation. Comfortably and not confronting.
When you obtain this, you obtain the seven states of purification according to vipassanā meditation.
Purification of discipline, that always comes first. Therefore there are no rules for Buddhists. If you still have rules you are not a Buddhist. Take care, maybe what I say looks upside down to you. If you're a real Buddhist you have discipline and everything, so where are the rules for?
The rules are what you call conventional precepts. It's for persons who have no perfect discipline or who easily go against something and can do something wrong.
Because people are not comfortable or do not enjoy the situation, they make rules. The enlightened one always enjoys the situation, what can be wrong with it? Because if someone can do wrong according the situation, that they do not agree with it or when their ego demands this, then they make rules.
An enlightened one doesn't need any rules. Buddha, when he became enlightened himself taught sixty monks. He told these monks to go and spread the truth.
Those monks had no rules. He ordained them himself. You're welcome to join my order as a sangha, you don't need to do more.
But after these sixty monks there came more and more to ordain. They were not enlightened, but they appreciated the sangha, or they appreciated vipassanā.
Then the Buddha said that they could become a monk, but they should make their suffering to the end first. He made conditions, for those who were not yet enlightened.
But you are still suffering. You must make an end to your suffering, then you can be fully ordained in that way. You have to make it end. After that, you do not have to do anything anymore.
This is how a Buddhist is. I said a Buddhist has no rules, because nothing can go wrong. We do things wrong because of our ignorance (avijjā), the unknown.
Certain things appear to you that you recognize later and you do not know how it comes in your practice. It is obvious that avijjā or ignorance is manifesting itself to you.
When you recognize your mindfulness going on from the beginning to the end, knowing everything what is happening to you, without missing anything, if you can do that it means that you also break through avijjā or ignorance.
We are now to break out of the egg. The mother did not get away from the egg for a long period of time to keep the eggs warm, to let the chicken grow inside the egg. It is not comfortable for the little chicken to be in that egg, because it's dark, they cannot see anything, and it's also very warm. So they break out by cracking the shell with their beaks. The world outside is wide and open, and they go and run everywhere and they do not want to go back into the egg.
It's the same with us. When we practice an intensive vipassanā retreat like this, we don't feel comfortable. Just like the chicken in the egg during the period of intensive care of the mother. When you get out of the shell and you can run freely, you're reborn. Born into nibbāna, born to eternal life. You have to break out through all the avijjā, the unknown, and moha, illusion.
When you have a good sitting meditation, you begin to recognize that everything is very clear. You have no doubt and no preference towards what's happening.
But sometimes, you sit and you sit, and you have good mindfulness, but things happen, and you do not know how it comes. That also let you understand that avijjā, the unknown is still there. It is there because of lack of mindfulness on the four foundations of vipassanā meditation. Something is missing. Things come up, without knowing or recognizing them, and at once you are confronted with them.
You do not have to take very serious what I say. Important is that you are on the way. When you practice the four foundations of vipassanā, you are on the way. Don't bother, and don't make a strong desire to become enlightened.
The desire to come to the retreat and to have a good meditation, is already a big hindrance. Self is there too. You had the desire to come here, but when you come here, you must leave it behind. Your desire to be here or to do the exercises are like the boat. You need the boat to come through the water, to reach the other bank of the river, but when you're there, you leave the boat in the water.
You walk more freely without that boat. It's the same thing when you practice. Sometimes you need the desire to practice to start with it. When you started the practice, you don't take your desire with you. You leave the boat in the water.
There's only a short time left now, and I'm a bit worried about you, that you are not going to get enlightenment in the days that are left here. But never mind, you are on the way to enlightenment in your practice of the four foundations.
Your time is getting less and less. Two or three days, and some of you are having already mind objects about that now. 'Oh, the retreat is going to end' and again the desire is there. If you are not going to cross the water yet, don't get into the boat. Let the boat wait there in the water, otherwise you're always looking at the boat and you can do nothing.
You're longing to cross, but the ferries have their own times to leave for the other side of the water. You have to be patient. Don't look into that boat. You will sit in that boat and you will carry the boat, but the boat will not carry you, because it is not the time yet.
So that towards the end of the retreat, you have to leave that last day. Don't bother, it is going to come. You'll see when the retreat ends. You need to enhance the practice, because you are very warm, like the chicken in the egg. If the mother goes away from the egg, no small chicken can come out of the egg, because there is no continuation of warmth.
The mother takes very good care. The first few days the mother goes out to eat, but in the last days the mother is not going anywhere, not eating, and caring even more intensive. This is a very good example for you. Do not say, nothing can happen because we have only two days more. You should not underestimate these last days.
You're very warm, and things can happen these days, but do not expect that. Expectations are again a big problem. I say things now that I don't want to say, but I want to say them as an inspiration and understanding for yourself, to let you see what you are doing here.
You are working very hard, why do you leave those few hours at the end for nothing? Those few hours can be the right moment for you. Don't underestimate that. The last few hours can be meaningful and powerful, because you have done a lot.
It's like when you rub wood to get fire. It's getting almost warm enough to get the wood burning, but then you stop. Just a few seconds before it starts burning. Then you worked hard for nothing. This is why I want to say that you should not work hard for nothing, and end the retreat properly.
And how to behave after the retreat?
Well, you will see yourself be comfortable, without confronting.
If you are confronted with something, that means that you have been with a big ego here in the retreat too. You must try to be aware of that.
When you leave here, everything is comfortable, everything is beautiful. Things that were not okay before, are now okay. When the people are okay, the surroundings are okay, that means egoless ness has been working out here already.
If you come with confronting, that means you have a strong desire to get things, or to feel things. That's not correct. Or you want to say something. You're exaggerating the things that you were doing here to let people understand how hard it was.
Do not have such ideas. They don't understand. They think you're mad that you come here. Of course nobody is doing this labor that you were doing here for three weeks. If you tell this to someone who has no understanding of vipassanā, they think you've gone mad.
Don't say anything. You've been working hard for a good result, according to your ability of course. It would be good for you to do the practice also in daily life. Don't leave meditation in this building.
You must take a natural mindfulness everywhere in daily life. Then you do not make mistakes in daily life, because you make a note on the intention to do things. We make mistakes when we do things first and later we come to know it. That's ignorance, I already said that.
So, when you make an intention, note the intention, to know or to do something. In the beginning you are slow, but later you become quick. As quick as you can.
You learned it here already by making a note to go to the dining room, by making a note to go to the toilet, washing, dressing. It's helping you to make vipassanā possible also in daily life. It would be nice to have this quality with you.
I hope that you have enough information, how to do your meditation at the end, and how to behave yourself after the retreat.
I thank you for coming to the course. When you come again in the near future, I'm happy to help you. Remember that this is all merely information, what's really happening is in you.