Third Discourse

By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu

25 January 2001

(Translated by Rien Loeffen)


You can take the time for listening now. You already had meditation in action, but you must keep it clear, that what I am now going to say is meditation in words.


After almost a week of practice you probably experience the hindrances progressing in your meditation. That is very natural.


Desire is one of the hindrances or defilement of the senses. You want to have a good sense-impression and because of that desire, you get into problems. You experienced that for yourself already. Because you're wanting or expecting a result in your meditation, you compare, you judge. You're comparing with the practice or experience in former meditation practice, and now this is causing problems. Caused by desire or wanting.


Sometimes you want certain things to be away, like pain or mental images. The images from inside, like pictures, light or certain ideas that you have had in your life can hinder you. But also many times, when you practiced good enough, you get the results of the vipassanā process, what we call vipassanā-ñāna. You can see things you have done before in your life that you forgot, what is now coming back strongly.


This is a result. I already said to some meditators: If you see that you begin to recognize your karma and if you take it as seeing your previous karma, or previous action, nothing more, then it's only cause and effect! Cause and effect of nāma-rūpa. If you do more, analyzing yourself with it, or manipulating yourself with it, then you get into the hindrances.


Because of your practice in this retreat, you see certain ideas of yourself, certain patterns of your life before coming back to you very clearly, very strong. Two things can happen. If you are not clear, it causes you hindrances. If you are clear, it is called vipassanā.


If you see things in the past, it makes that you are longing. If you do not note, it can be considered as a defilement of vipassanā. At that point you have to be quick, to note them as 'seeing', as 'remembering' or whatever. The hindrances will be removed then and have no power anymore.


There is the desire to be with and the desire to be without.


When you're irritated, you want to be without. When you have this ill-will, it's again a hindrance. Your meditation will stop progressing this way. It's also coming as anger sometimes, or disliking.


To make it clear: If you dislike something what is coming in your experience, in the practice of vipassanā meditation, it's a hindrance. To prevent that hindrance, you should note. If you note something you dislike, the hindrance is removed.


As human beings we immediately get a reaction at a contact of the senses. If you hear, if you see, even if something goes on in your mind, if you smell, if you taste, if you touch something physically, the reaction is liking or disliking. This means that you are going on with conditioning yourself, and you are not free.


In the last talk, I mentioned that you are carrying your self, that you are loading yourself, if you do not practice vipassanā meditation, because you are carrying the five aggregates with you. Now I want to make it more simple. Try to avoid two things in your practice, every moment, here and now:

When there is liking: you have to be on time. When there is disliking: you have to be on time.


On time with recognizing and noting. If you note something you like, then you do not hang your self with it. If you note something you dislike, you have no irritation on it. So you get rid of that. Then you will have no liking or disliking, and you are calm, you are peaceful. You are in connection with the pure consciousness then, what we call the supramundane consciousness.


If it happens that you hang on to something, or get irritated or feel aversion, it will disturb your purity, disturb your peace. So you have to make it clear. Every time when you make the-desire-to-be-with clear, or the-desire-to-get-rid-of clear, you are in the process of vipassanā.


I said sometimes before, that you have to be mindful all the time and on time. You are able to avoid liking or disliking because you note. There's no other way. Noting is very important. If you do not note or name, you immediately like or dislike the contact of the senses.

Noting is not like saying mantras. We note to recognize the object, like pain, like sound or like scent. Sometimes you like it if it agrees with you, or if it disagrees with you, you dislike it. You have to avoid these two things in this retreat.


Something you like: You do not have to be with it. Something you dislike: You do not have to get rid of it or go away from it.


You have to be there without conditioning. When you are with something without conditioning, then you are stable. The enlightened ones are not movable like us. We move too much up and down. Therefore we are not free. And we are restless because of that too.


In this practice you begin to see the character of your self. At the beginning of your retreat, you are quite okay. You can sit, you can walk, but after a certain period of time retreating you get restless. We are restless because we move too much.


In daily life we have no time to see that we are moving so much. Here you sit still in your room, you have no contact, you don't talk, you don't see certain things, but there's still restlessness in yourself during these days. In fact it is good for you to see this. Restlessness is also a hindrance.


After having been here for many days, you have the feeling of no energy, you have the tendency to sleep. Drowsy and at the same time restless. And sometimes you are exhausted. You have not enough energy.


When you work in the morning your practice is quite okay. You have a good naming and noting of your stomach, rising and falling. But then in the afternoon or late in the evening you do not know, you feel restless. Why is it different? Because you are seeing the same things too much and you get bored sometimes. That is in fact the beginning of your wisdom. It means you are going to remove something from under the surface. You remove your defilement or the hindrances.


At the beginning perhaps you feel more rest because you substitute your self with the practice of concentration. But now after more practice, restlessness has become powerful. Drowsiness, sleepiness is there too, and you begin to have doubt. Doubting itself is also a hindrance. So negativity prevails. Negativity of your personality appears or reappears more and stronger.


Mindfulness, confidence, energy and understanding of your situation, only these things will help your practice moving forward. We call them spiritual faculties or indriya in Pali. The power to deal with the hindrances, to be confident in what you are doing here, to have enough energy, to have good balanced mindfulness. Not the mindfulness that you want to make, but the mindfulness that makes you make a note.


Certain meditators try to note and name too much. That's also disturbing. It's disturbing yourself, disturbing your energy, disturbing your concentration. How to note or to name without disturbing?


Just be very clear, clear in the moment of the contact of the senses. Because you see a lot of things going on, it makes you confused and not clear. You do not know what to note or to name. It can happen here in the retreat. So what you have to do is to make a note on  the confusion. If you know that you are confused and make a note on that, it's clear enough for vipassanā.


You are so concerned, you engage yourself too much with what you're doing with the technique, and because of that you become unclear, and mindfulness is not there.


Vipassanā meditation is not there anymore, but if you become clear for a short moment only, it is a moment of enlightenment already, and if you're clear, what more is there? There are no questions anymore.


With your intellect you try to get the answer. That's the worst part, the critical moment of your practice. You are working hard to be able to be in contact with wisdom, and your intellect comes to judge and to compare. Perhaps you understand a lot, but it is not wisdom, it's merely perception or only thought.


When you know something from your memory, it doesn't matter what you remember, it's merely perception, it's not real understanding. Everything you know, or what you've learned about all kinds of subjects is merely perception. It's not wisdom.


Not the wisdom in the meaning of discipline, concentration and wisdom that we are practicing here. It's not that kind of wisdom. Everything that you compare and judge, and all you understand from that judgment is merely your thought, is merely intellectual. You have to go beyond intellectual knowledge: getting wisdom by being clear. The clarity that you have in every moment is wisdom, is almost vipassanā itself.


You should try to avoid getting too much intellectual knowledge. When you think something is right, in fact it's wrong. If you think that something is right, it is wrong for vipassanā. It's very tricky, but in fact nothing is right.


Seeing, noting, being aware of what's here. Every lightness of the contact of the senses is the only answer. Not something when you say: Oh, this is right. In fact that is very wrong for wisdom. So take care for that. This is going to happen.


My talk is part of that too. What I am saying to you these days is not your wisdom. We borrow it. It's not yours, it's not your property. I borrow it from the texts or from my experiences to say it to you, and you borrow it from me to carry it on again. That is not the real wisdom, not the real understanding.


Real understanding you get from your awareness of the senses, not by carrying what you've learned or heard in the discourse.


Many of you, when I ask you: 'Do you note?', reply: 'No, I do not note, I am aware'. Then I say: 'No, you carry'. If you are aware that means that you carry. If you are aware of something what is going on in your meditation, you automatically carry. You are not free, you belong to what you are aware of.


Pay attention. If you are aware of certain things and say: 'I have a very sharp awareness', that is also strong carrying. You are not free. What you're aware of is your self. It's your personality, your personal entity. A heavy load and at the same time no wisdom.


Why is there no wisdom, even when I'm very clear and aware?


There is no wisdom, because it makes you belong to what you see, to what you recognize now. If you recognize something and you leave it there, then it's wisdom. Wisdom comes together with freedom. And lightness and happiness of course. More than happiness even.


Happiness as a result of comparing or judging our life is different from the happiness that we become aware of in the supramundane consciousness.


The supramundane conscious is not the conscious that makes you understand things in your daily life, but the one beyond that, above that, what we call lokuttara.


Lokuttara means above. Above your consciousness. If you belong to your consciousness you're not free, because it makes you carry. If you go above your consciousness, then it is nibbāna, enlightenment or supramundane.


Sometimes meditators get problems with their perception. You have to do things connecting to this and that. When you practice intensive enough you are going to get confused on this. Sometimes you think you're going mad, or you do not feel okay: 'I am so confused. I'm not able to get connected where I used to be connected with.'


If this happens, you should welcome it. Let's say: you have to make yourself insane to become sane, become mad first and then get well.


We are carrying a lot of things with us, and we have a lot to do with that. And suddenly, on a certain moment, you have nothing to do anymore. And ooh, you feel so lonely, you feel so bad. But if you carry on your mindfulness on that, then you can overcome, come above that.


That's a point of enlightenment. We call that magga-citta, pure consciousness. A consciousness without connecting. When you disconnect, you become a supreme being at the same time. Some call it a big mind. In the teachings of Zen they call it a big mind. That means: you have a better mind, a better consciousness without narrow connections, but with an opening to all. Opening to everything that may come, without restriction, without limit. Limitless and great being. Enlightenment.


Christians, Muslims and Hindus believe that their God is the greatest Being. In Buddhism we see nibbāna with our enlightened consciousness as the greatest being.


In their terms they call it 'united with the God-kingdom', but in our practice we unite with pure consciousness in nibbāna. It's great, I already explained to you, it's unlimited and it's fair at the same time.


We are not fair when we are still subject to liking.


If there's something you like, that's good. If there's something you do not like, it's bad. You're not free, you belong to what you like and you have to run away from something that you do not like.


It's too bad, to run away from something. If you run away from something, how miserable you are! Miserable until we try not to go into something and try not to run away from something. How to do that? I say try noting and naming, it's the only way. You should not run away for something, and not get into something. That makes you free.


We all carry the five groups of our personality: body, feeling, perception, conditioning and mundane consciousness. If you want to leave them, you have to get into pure consciousness, and at the same time you have to purify or clear your hindrances.


Sleepiness and drowsiness. They are the hindrances giving most problems. They are rooted very deep in the human being. You do not get rid of it, unless you become an arahat.


I said some time ago, if you practice vipassanā meditation, you obtained the second vipassanā-ñāna. The first ñāna means that you can classify or recognize the object in your consciousness (nāma-rūpa). In the second ñāna you begin to recognize cause and effect. In this you are already enlightened.


If you see cause and effect in the vipassanā practice, you are a sotapanna or a small streamwinner. You overcome the stream. A little one. You begin to see that enlightenment is there with you, and that enlightenment is possible.


But then you will ask the question: Why am I so drowsy?


Because you are not yet an arahat. Only perfect enlightenment can remove the drowsiness, but when you see cause and effect, it already makes you better off, because you begin to understand karma.


Perhaps you understood the story of karma, but this is understanding with your heart. By seeing with your heart, you feel something coming back to you. Like something that you have done in your life before which now is coming back to you very strongly.


This signifies the second ñāna of vipassanā meditation: Cause and effect! Cause and effect of what? Of nāma-rūpa. What you see is nothing more than nāma-rūpa. Nothing more than cause and effect.

What is rūpa? A certain matter or certain objects. It makes you aware of certain things. Awareness of the object is nāma. The object itself is rūpa.


In Buddhist theory, when we say rūpa, like in the five aggregates, we refer to the body only. We mean matter or thing. That is only in the theory of the five aggregates. But in the vipassanā practice it is not only referring to the body. It is referring to everything that makes you aware. That can be the body and that can be the mind. When you are aware of that, the what-you-are-aware-of is the rūpa and the awareness of it is the nāma.


When you are aware of a certain thing you like, it makes you happy, it makes you enjoy. If you are aware of a certain thing you dislike, it makes you angry or irritated. So we are conditioned by our karma. That's the so-called samsāra. It's a samsaric process.


People in normal life see: 'I am' or 'I am happy', 'I feel so bad', 'I feel sorry or depressed', or whatever. When you do vipassanā you do not see it that way.


What you see or what you know, is nothing more than cause that is effecting you now, and it effects you as liking or disliking.


You should only be with it, without running away or running into it. Running away or running into, makes you tired, makes you bored sometimes. If that happens, we call that the beginning of enlightenment. So do not underestimate your boring or your tiredness. It's good, but it is not good for your ego. It's very bad for your ego, but it is good for enlightenment.


You have to turn it that way in the retreat. If you feel dissatisfied with yourself, you can say: 'Oh, I'm glad for this'. 'This is what I'm being with now'. 'Where I'm working with now is: not being happy with my self'. There you get the trick.


If you have not been with your self at the good moment and if you are so happy with your self, the ego is strong. That's defilement and bad for vipassanā meditation.


Don't make time to make your self happy. If you do that, you become easy in your retreat and you will have a hard time here. You already had a hard time here, because you wanted to make your self happy by practicing meditation. That is impurity already, because it's desire for self.


If you trust that you can sit and you can walk orderly, it means that you are in control of your self. You carry your self then. You may never trust that. It can turn to be good. It can turn to be bad. It's never the same. If it is always the same, you do not see impermanence, you do not see change.


So you will recognize all this going on. Nothing is real, nothing really that you can do, but we should do it. If you see that you can do something, it's already a wrong idea, a wrong attitude, a wrong vipassanā retreating. We should do it just to be. Nothing more than to be.


You're having no rest after all this hardship, let's say you're having no peace, but you do it. That's good enough. If you do only what you like, that's very bad. Be careful. You must also be able doing something that you dislike.


Sometimes you like something, but that doesn't matter, you just do it. You don't take something you like as so important. You take something, and you note and you name. You act in your meditation. To be in action, that's more important. In this term you are progressing in the vipassanā meditation practice.


This is just a word of warning or inspiration for your meditation practice. Don't give up and don't give in to your ego. Ego is always demanding. Don't believe in it. Demanding never ends, it's never enough. It's very greedy. Always one more. And more. And where it is enough it does not understand. That is the ego, that is self.


I appreciate you. I'm admiring you after talking with you today. You have a hard time here, and I am glad that you are having a hard time. Sorry to say that.