MEDITATION INSTRUCTION BY
LUANGPHOR SANGWAHN KHEMMAKO

Translated by Brigitte Schrottenbacher

PAÑCAKAMMATTHANA (5 OBJECTS OF IMPURITY)


Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa
(Homage to the Blessed One, the Noble One, The Perfectly Enlightened One)

This is how we respect the Buddha. The Buddha is in our mind, the Dhamma is in our mind and the Sangha of the Noble Ones, is in our mind. Whenever we practise meditation we should do like that. Fold your hands and lift them up to your forehead. Then sit with straight back, your right hand on top of your left hand, right leg on top of your left leg.
Today we practise the contemplation of the 5 objects of impurity (pañcakammatthana). These are: The hair on your head (kesa), bodily hair (loma), finger- and toenails (nakha), teeth (danta), skin (taco) and seeing your bones. By contemplating this, you can know what the Buddha taught. That would be enough, you don't have to study a lot. Now, we try to know our body and mind. We are aware. First we should consider that we have accumulated perfections in the past, so now we are here, able to practise meditation. We close our eyes and do not allow our mind to go anywhere else - let it rest within ourselves. We know the Buddha is in our mind, the Dhamma is in our mind and the Sangha is in our mind. So we don't have to think about anything outside of ourselves.
Now, concentrate on the hair on your head. If you can see them, you know you see, if you cannot see them just know them. The Buddha taught us to know our body and mind. When the mind is comfortable we know, if it is calm - we know it, if the body feels calm - we know it. Body and mind are not the same. While we practise meditation, painful feelings can arise in the body. There are pleasant feelings and there are unpleasant feelings. Happiness we call a pleasant feeling, pain we call unpleasant feeling. These are the khandhas (five aggregates or the five grasped-at groups). When they arise now, we know them. That is what the Buddha taught, that is what the Dhamma and the Sangha taught.
"Buddho loke", the Buddha is born in this world; "Dhammo loke", the Dhamma is born in this world; "Sangho loke", the Sangha is born in this world. These three treasures arise in the meditator who sees the Dhamma. We practise to know the Dhamma of which the Buddha became enlightened. Now, while we are sitting here, right hand on top of the left hand, right leg on top of the left leg, with straight back. Sitting straight helps us to keep up our mindfulness. Consider that you meditate to know the Dhamma of the Buddha. This Dhamma of the Buddha, we can experience it now. We know we found the real true refuge - the Buddha and the Dhamma. There is no other refuge than the Buddha-Dhamma. We had to live our life to this point, where we could meet the teacher who instructs us, so that this Dhamma can arise in our heart. Knowing and understanding that there is no other refuge than the Buddha and the Dhamma, shows that we progress in our meditation practise.
We have to develop patience and endurance. Know the hair on your head, look at the hair on your head. Your bodily hair grows all over your body, know them, see them, know that you see them. The nails on your finger, know them, know fingernails, know the nails on your toes. Teeth are in your mouth, know them, see them, know that you see the teeth in your mouth. Our body is covered by skin. We know it and try to see it and we are aware that we practise meditation. Our mind knows all of this. We know the five kammatthana objects, we know inside our body there is the heart, there are muscles, veins and bones. All we see there is not nice, not beautiful. And again we know that we sit here in meditation. We watch our own body and mind.
The teacher guides us, so that we develop right concentration. We know and we see and we develop more clarity and understanding about the Dhamma of the Buddha. We can see the truth of the Dhamma which the Buddha taught. Consider that what you see is impermanent, this is what the Buddha taught. Nothing of those things arising can remain. All those things have to cease.
Between our eyebrows, we can see the Dhamma that makes our mind progress. We can see impermanence - if this becomes clear to us, then old age will become clear. We have to become old. All that we see now is impermanent, it has to fade away. So now, we should make up our minds to develop wisdom - wholeheartedly. We are meditators. We sit here in order to develop mindfulness and clear understanding of what we see (sati-sampajañña). Knowing and seeing. Sati-sampajañña is going to wake us up. It lets understanding of the true nature of our body and mind arise. We start to know and to see. Again consider that you are experiencing the Dhamma of which the Buddha became enlightened. Seeing the true nature of this body - that's what we try to do now. So we develop vipassana-ñana (insight knowledge). What we did not know before and what we didn't see before, now we develop this knowledge. We can find this knowledge only in our own body and mind. What the teacher teaches us now is what the Buddha experienced when he attained enlightenment. It is what the Sangha of the Noble Ones realized. They became enlightened through that knowledge. This will make our mind satisfied. Satisfaction and happiness will arise about this Dhamma of the Buddha. Our mind will open and become fresh.
Wherever we go, we should be aware of having good sila. Morality watches over our body, speech and mind. Then consider mindfully what you experience, this is developing the four foundations of mindfulness (satipatthana). This is what the teacher wants us to do, developing these four foundations of mindfulness. When they arise, we know. When suffering arises in the body, we know and we slowly change the posture, then we see that suffering disappears and happiness arises in the body. A meditator has to know happiness and he has to know suffering when they arise. Then weariness will come up in our mind. We know this - we know that it is weariness with all conditioned formations (sankhara). Conditioned things have the nature of unsatisfactoriness.
While practising, pleasant feelings arise and unpleasant feelings arise, we know them all the time. Know and wisdom will arise. Nibbida-ñana - the knowledge of boredom and disenchanment with all conditioned formations will arise.
We practise to overcome suffering. When the mind becomes calm and we have overcome the five hindrances (nivarana), then the five jhana factors arise. They are: vitakka (applied thought), vicara (sustained thought), piti (rapture), sukha (happiness, bliss) and one-pointedness (ekaggata). They will arise by themselves in our mind; when we come to that state, they arise naturally. Those who come to that state do not see as they used to see before. Some special knowledge arises. If you feel laziness coming up in your mind, consider again and again that you sit here to experience the Dhamma and the happiness of the Enlightened One - make the effort again and again and you will be successful. Think of the Buddha and of the Enlightened Ones. Do not let your mind go anywhere else. Know, it will be for your happiness of body and mind.
Sometimes when we practise, fear can arise in the mind. Then you should think of the Buddha, of heavenly beings (devas) or your teacher and the fear will disappear. If fear comes up, know - now we know about the real nature of our body and mind. Think of the Buddha. Think it's good that this Dhamma arises in your mind, you are on the way to understand the Dhamma. We should think like this when we come out of the state of samadhi. When we enter the state of samadhi we think - the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha are in the mind. So we fill up our mind with the good Dhamma. We invite the Buddha into our mind. Then rapture and light will arise in the mind of the meditator. This is what the teacher wants us to do.
Coming out of the state of concentration, we should fold our hands in front of the forehead. It doesn't matter if we sit for a short or a long time, we should always respect the Buddha after coming out of concentration. We know we were sitting in meditation to train our mind. We entered jhana and we came out of jhana, we know ourselves very well. We fold our hands on the level of our forehead, open the eyes and see our hands. When we see them, we know that we see. Then put the right hand slowly down on your right knee, put the left hand on your left knee. Stay like that for a few more minutes, knowing it with a calm mind. This helps us to develop the seeing of our body and mind by the eye of Dhamma. If the knowledge of the divine eye has not arisen yet, then this helps us increase our knowing by heart. Then bring your mind into a comfortable state. Consider, those who are not lazy and careless, who care about themselves, will realize the cessation of suffering. Practising like this will help you to develop the knowledge of knowing and seeing your body and mind in the posture of coming out of samadhi. What the teacher teaches here is knowing ourselves and our actions very well.
There is suffering and there is happiness and there is neither suffering nor happiness. If you know that then your understanding of the Buddha's teaching has grown. The teacher wants "Devadhamma" to arise in our mind. One day our life-energy will be finished and we have to leave this body. When this happens and we have already progressed in our practice of Dhamma, we have faith, the five hindrances have been overcome and the five jhana factors have been developed, then the mind doesn't wander here and there.
A Stream-winner (sotapanna - one who has realized the first of four levels of Enlightenment) has the first jhana (pathamajjhana) as a permanent mental state. He is called someone who knows himself, he is at home in himself and certain kind of special knowledge has arisen in him. Everyone the teacher guided to that state, can see the kammatthana - the truth of Dhamma. It means he will see anicca, dukkha and anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self). The knowledge that everything changes and that there is no self, no substance to be found, will arise.
This is the Dhamma that the Buddha realized. The knowledge of change that the Buddha had, showed him that he was born as an animal in some former existences, as an elephant for example. The Buddha knew many, many of his former existences very clearly and he knew the former existences of others exactly. If this knowledge of impermanence arises in us, then we can be called someone who is awakened, knowing and fully open.
The Buddha taught his students to become Noble Ones. He guided them to reach this goal in this very existence. When this is done, that person is called a high and noble being (ariya). If only the first step to Nibbana is reached (sotapanna), then this person doesn't need more than seven more existences to become a fully enlightened being, even if he stopped practising any meditation at all. His mind has changed so much. A sotapanna cannot go down to be reborn in a lower realm of existence (as animal, hungry ghost or in hell). If he has developed jhana, then he won't even be reborn as a human being but attains his full enlightenment in a higher realm as a heavenly being, because his mind - already in the present - is the mind of a heavenly being. He has unshakeable faith in the Buddha-Dhamma. His mind is composed of the five jhana factors. Reaching this state, a being usually reaches Nibbana in that very existence. Consider that. When laziness comes up, cut it off. Sloth and torpor do not allow you to realize this knowledge. They close off the entrance to that knowledge. If the mind is lazy and you do not want to change this, then the five jhana factors will not arise.
First we have to overcome the five hindrances. The defilements which trouble us and even persuade us to stop practising arise from those five hindrances. If we can overcome these then the knowledge of contemplation in terms of Dhamma arises. When this Dhamma arises in the meditator's mind and he doesn't understand, then he should ask his teacher. A qualified meditation master will know from his own experience and will guide him safely to understand. Once understanding arises, unshakeable faith (saddha) will arise. Such a person is called one who has entered the real Sangha of the Buddha's disciples.
When the true knowledge of the Buddha arises the body becomes light, the mind becomes light, the meditator sees reality as it is. If you practise at home try to do it continously. 5 or 10 minutes a day and if the samadhi gets better, you can go up to half an hour or an hour. Do it by and by. When we enter concentration we will realize that our faith is growing, we know this is a result of the practice we do and we will see that conditioned things cannot trouble us so much anymore, there will be less worry.
Consider that old age, sickness and death trouble all sentient beings and that there is no other way to overcome them than the way the Buddha taught. His teaching guides us surely and safely out of this whole mass of suffering. When the mind enters bhavanga (a state of sub-consciousness), the noble path (magga) arises. The divine eye starts to see, the divine ear starts to hear and the divine knowledge of tongue, nose and body will start to work. The mind knows natural phenomena (sabhava dhamma) when they arise. This knowledge will arise, but first we have to overcome the five hindrances. Then we will know what we never knew and see what we never saw before.
You should meditate every day as you eat every day. If we stop eating we have to die. We should do it every day. This practice makes us a Noble One every day and one day we will overcome suffering for sure.
Sometimes it is good to change our posture because tiredness or pain arises. We can practise meditation in every posture: while sitting, walking, standing or lying down. Try to calm down your mind in every posture. Some people got enlightened while walking, others while standing up or sitting. We can do our walking meditation whenever we walk, wherever we walk. If we go shopping, we can know every step, right step “Bud-”, left step “-dho”. “Buddho”, know that all the time. So we become a person who applies mindfulness all the time. Whenever our right foot touches the floor “Bud-”, the left one “-dho” should arise in the mind. We should make this a habit and we will develop mindfulness and wisdom.
Body and mind should not be mixed up. Whenever a painful feeling arises we should know it is a bodily phenomenon. That's its nature, and if we are sad or unhappy about it, then we call this suffering of the mind. We should think of the Buddha and happiness will arise again in our mind. That's how it works with the mind. It's not the same as with the body. If bodily feeling arises know it, if mental feeling arises know it. Know it and let go of it. Then khandhavimutti (liberation from the khandhas) will happen, the liberation from the worldly mind. But first you have to strenghten your mindfulness and contemplation.
We have to practise to gain knowledge. We don't know yet. Know discomfort, know suffering; to get rid of suffering you have to change the posture, and it will disappear. We have to increase this perfection (parami) more and more and we will become a Noble One. You can do this at home, too. “Buddho”: when you breathe in “Bud-”, when you breath out “-dho”. Practise with “Buddho”, it will lift your mind up and you will become refreshed and open-minded. Make it your habit.
Walking meditation helps us overcome the hindrances. For old people it's sometimes difficult to sit comfortably. For them it's better to practise while lying down. They should know if rapture arises while contemplating the Dhamma in the lying posture. Jhana (absorption) and Nibbana can happen while lying down as well. A good example is Venerable Ananda, the closest disciple and attendant of the Buddha. He was practising very diligently day and night for 3 months. In the night before the first Buddhist Council was to take place he had not yet reached Enlightenment and was very worried, because only enlightened arahants were allowed to join the Council. He was exausted and unhappy, so he decided to give up walking and lay down. While getting into the lying posture, before his head touched the pillow, he became an arahant, with all kinds of psychic powers.