Second Dhamma Talk

By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu

21 January 2002

(Translated by Rien Loeffen)


Now once again you have time to listen to the discourse concerning your practice, the intensive practice during this vipassanā meditation retreat.

It needs time to have your mindfulness functioning and continuing all the time.


This practice is to make yourself free from burdening of your panca khandhas, or the five aggregates. The five aggregates are mostly burdening for us; especially for people who are being disturbed by feeling, by conditioning, and also because of the contact that comes from the six senses. It's burdening us because of the contact of the senses and therefore we are not free.


But first of all I want you to see that freedom will be obtained in three different ways.

The first way is what we call vikkhambhana-pahāna, through concentration. When you have full concentration or deep concentration it makes you free from your own personality or your ego. This is through samatha practice, through concentration. And to obtain this freedom you have to have a deep and fixed concentration. This means that your concentration has to be focussed on one point or in one object many times, and long enough to have obtained concentration. At that time you don't have to be aware of physical feelings or mental conditions. Then you are not disturbed by thought, not by sound or noise, and because of that you make your mind, your concentration go deep within yourself; this is called mental absorption.

The meaning of mental absorption is that you are only aware of the finest quality of concentration. It makes you feel great and you enjoy it, and it makes you belong at the same time. But even with that kind of belonging, you are free because you are not disturbed by feeling and conditioning. This is the result of having a deep concentration.

Then you do not feel that you carry your body. You do not carry feeling or perception, conditioning or mundane consciousness.

Transcendental consciousness means that you transform your rough consciousness - your normal consciousness - into a finer, deep consciousness. Then you become free, but only temporarily.

Free from the wish to have deep concentration; this is also vikkhambhana-pahāna. This is also a way to obtain freedom, and you feel great at the same time. But feeling this concentration or this mental absorption means you're attached to it Attached to concentration means attached to self, attached to ego, so that you are not enlightened.

Anyway, you're not enlightened. You can have certain powers, like psychic powers (because of that concentration). It's not a human power. A certain power from the concentration - what we call psychic power - makes you free from the aggregates (but only temporarily). There are certain things, but you don't feel it, it does not burden you because of the concentration. That is samatha meditation.


Now with vipassanā meditation we can get what we call tadanga-pahāna, freedom through the practice of vipassanā, or the vipassanā technique, the technique that you are now practising here in the retreat.

You do not have to be concerned to obtain concentration. You have to be concerned to recognise the sense-contact, or to recognise the object.

Every sense-contact brings you an object, like seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting (with your tongue when you are drinking and eating). Like physically contacting: cold/warm and hard/soft. And you get objects with your mind (your thoughts).

If you think of something you are aware of that thinkable object. And in this contacting - as a human being - we get influenced by that contact. (With every contact of one of the six senses.)

So the contact, every time it comes, brings you what we call abijjhā and domanassa. It makes you like and dislike. A human being is nothing more than liking and disliking, and the liking and the disliking is conditioning you.


If there is something you like - something you feel good with - this is also going to your feeling[1]. If there is something in that contact that makes you dislike, this also gives a bad feeling, a bad reaction. This is conditioning. All these good and bad feelings that are happening with those sense-contacts make you not free, make you record your karma. Every contact of the senses increases your karma and it happens all the time. That karma is giving us the results in the present moment and in the future.

Especially here when you're in the retreat you begin to recognise the reaction of your karma. It's coming from what you've done before. This can be good things or bad things, and it comes in the manner of your thought - your perception.

You remember all that has happened in your life. Your karma - or kamma in Pali - is following you all the time. You cannot get free from it; it's commanding you.

It has power over you all the time. Your karma has power. When you are in a retreat like here, you begin to see your past, because you have the time for it and you make time for it. There is a lot of work for you to do.


So what we should do?

I said we have to use vipassanā meditation to be able to make you free or to obtain a freedom. First you have to prevent yourself from reacting to the contacts of the six senses. If you react to the sense-contacts, you are being manipulated, and you are not pure, you have no sīla. Sīla in this context is silā, samādhi and paññā.

You have no concentration because of all these contacts - mostly coming from thought, and also from physical feeling, like pain, aching and itching. If you do not make a mental note or if you do not name these contacts of the senses in the body - or if you do not name or note the contact of the mind with thought - you're being manipulated by it, or disturbed by it.

So you have to prevent, when you are practising vipassanā meditation, the karma by noting and naming the contact of the senses. The reason that you are noting and naming is that you do not become subject to liking or disliking. This is all you should do.


Many of you say - many times - that you note and you name but that it doesn't work, that it doesn't have any effect. So if you want to see if your naming or noting at the contact of the senses works or not - if you can see the senses contacting the object, then it doesn't matter. You are neither liking nor disliking, there is not even a neutral feeling. You are just free from the contact.

It is not even neutral, because neutral or indifference is also ignorance. It's not positive. It's not creative for wisdom and for concentration.


So instead of being disturbed by the sense-contact, you have to use the contact as the point to increase your concentration, to increase your mindfulness, to increase your energy.

The contact itself is considered as food, what we call phassa-āhāra, nutrition by the contact. Every moment when there is contact you get energy, but to get that energy you also have to combine that with mindfulness and concentration.

You'll see that when you are in the retreat for a longer time, you will feel light in yourself, and you will also have more life energy. You feel better and you are not exhausted, because you are not attacked by the contact itself because of the mental note you make. Noting or naming is very powerful.


Sometimes you are hesitating what word or term you should use for noting or naming, but that is not the point. The word you use is not important. The act of noting itself is powerful because of its nutrition.

You have to make an effort, an attempt, to name or to note. I do not mean that you do not do your work. You work quite hard to make your note or name be on time. And not only on time but also all the time, because the sense-impressions keep coming one after each other. It doesn't stop.

Why does it not stop? Because your feeling is still there. When your feeling is there it's coming one after other, continuously, endlessly, what we call samsāra.

So we are now going across samsāra by practising vipassanā meditation. We don't let our self go with it. You go across it, you go against it, against the stream.

Water is running from the mountains to the lower lands and down to the ocean. But we are not going to be swept away by our defilements or feelings and drown in the ocean of samsāra. We note, we name so that we don't follow those feelings, and we go across (the stream) at that moment.


If you go on you can win the stream, and you are what we call a 'streamwinner', the moment you obtain the second ñāna in vipassanā meditation, nāma-rūpa-parichedda-ñāna. When you are aware that there is an interrelation between mind and matter, you already begin to win the stream of life, because there is no ego in it.

When you see an object - you're aware of your meditation object - and you note and name, you obtain vipassanā-ñāna. You see the change all the time, and you note and name continuously. At that moment you begin to win the stream, because you have no time for the feeling.

Now the point is, how do you know that you win? If you have no time for the feeling - no time for liking or disliking - you begin to win.


The last time I said you're practising for freedom and enlightenment in this practice of vipassanā meditation. You become enlightened and you obtain your freedom by not allowing yourself to like or to dislike. This is already not like a human being. Human beings and mundane people, they're mad. They're mad because they do nothing more than to like and to dislike. And liking and disliking makes them mad, makes them crazy, makes them conditioned, and it has no end.

We - who practise vipassanā like this - are not mad.

It's not what you desire. Sometimes you feel good but that doesn't matter, you don't care. Sometimes you feel bad but that doesn't matter because you don't care. If you do not care whether it is good or bad what is happening to you, your freedom is there.


In hearing it is easy for you to see. You hear the noise, you make a note, 'hearing', 'hearing'. You have no preferences for what you hear. It can be a good noise or a bad noise, it doesn't matter. It's no problem for you but merely hearing.

You can even recognise whether it's a good noise or a bad noise, but at the same time feelings for it - good or bad - do not exist. It's merely hearing.

So for a practitioner of vipassanā meditation, when you hear, it's merely hearing; when you see, it's merely seeing; when you think, it's merely thinking. Not to identify yourself with good or bad. When you lose your identification with good or bad, then you're mastering your feeling at the same time. Feeling is not your master. Normally feeling is our master. Therefore we are under the power of the feeling all the time.


So the meditation technique that you are using here is only to overcome the feeling, to master your feeling. That is why you are doing this.

To be able to master your own feelings so that the feeling has no power anymore. Then you are free. But if you do not name or note, the contact of the senses will give you feelings again, and feelings are mastering you at the same time, and you are not free.

That is what we call: making you free through tadanga-pahāna. But you have to keep on practising until you become acquainted or experienced with this noting or naming. Then you will live more happily because you don't need feeling. Feeling itself is as good as food, but too much feeling is dangerous for you. We call this phassa-āhāra, the contact of the senses is nutrition. Sometimes we eat poisoned food, but when we are when you are overdoing it, it can destroy you. The same with the feeling. When you are being overrun by feelings, the feeling itself can destroy you, can disturb you. If the feelings that you note are near to the contact of the senses, the feeling itself will be nutrition. It makes you light with more energy and not exhausted.

Just like food that you eat, you're digesting the feelings.

Do you see how you digest? With your concentration you increase the noting, that means digesting, and in that way it becomes food. It helps you to increase your momentary concentration. (Momentary, because it changes all the time.)

In itself it is enlightenment and freedom, but you have to do it on time and all the time. Many times it is not successful because you do it too late, or sometimes it is premature - you're waiting for it, and that makes you tired too.


So if you practise vipassanā you have to be on time and not run after something. Not running after things, not waiting for it, just ­on time when it is there. So it becomes simple, happy and easy because there is not much to do.

Normally we are confused, because we have to do many things. We have a lot to do in our daily life. But now in the practice we should do only one thing at the time, never two things at the time. So you are not confused, because of not having confusion from the sense-contact. You become clear with every sense-contact. Clarity is at the same time vipassanā, or paññā, wisdom. So you obtain wisdom with that clarity and with the vipassanā technique, this is tadanga-pahāna. This is the second degree of freedom.


The last is nissarana-pahāna, freedom through removing the cause of your suffering. That means to remove your desire. How do you remove your desire?

There are three different kinds of desire:





Kāma-tanhā means desire for sensual delight. Every contact of the five senses - we don't talk about the mind here - makes you delight, makes you desire good things. We have the desire to see things according to our agreeable feeling, to hear things according to our agreeable feeling, to smell things according to our agreeable feeling, to taste the food and drink according to our favour, and to have agreeable physical contact.

The desire through the five senses we call kāma-tanhā. The desire for sensual delight. This is human.

We also have the desire to become, bhava-tanhā. It doesn't matter what you want to become - to become this, to become that, to get this or to get that - it's our desire.

And vibhavā-tanhā is the desire to change our discontentment, or not to be with something we do not agree with.

This is often coming to us. We are tortured by this kind of desire, and with all this desire in us - with that struggling - we are suffering, and we are never free.

To remove the cause of this means to stop the three desires within us, which are very rooted in us. It is real enlightenment only when you have no desire to be, no desire to be with something, just being, then you are in the process of nibbāna. Because you have another consciousness, another awareness that is not in connection with the desire to be or the desire not to be - where desire doesn't exist - then you are absolutely free, what we call nissarana-pahāna. It is true enlightenment like sotapanna, streamwinner; sakadagami, the once-returner; anadagami, the non-returner; or the arahant, the perfectly enlightened one.


This is real freedom. When we are not yet enlightened, when you're not yet a streamwinner, you have to use your vipassanā practice. Even when you became a streamwinner, many times you are without mindfulness and you forget the anger, the desire to be, so you need to practise more. Therefore we organise retreats, so that people can come again. We organise this for you to sharpen your consciousness, to lessen your karma and also to prevent creating new karma - and so for you to be better off that way.


And now I want to point out one more thing. When you practise intensively like this, you get confused. I do not mean that you get confused about yourself or whatever. Sometimes you are easily confused about your daily routine. I should warn you beforehand that it happens. This has to be really happening in you.

Sometimes it's hard for you to name. Sometimes you have confusion as to what word to use, what term you should use to note. This is going to happen to you. Why? Because the practice itself has the power to stop your perception. That 's a very important step. Sometimes you just let yourself do the exercises, even while you're in doubt. You even don't know what you are doing here, but you are aware. Sometimes you lose your orientation about things, I mean about ideas that doesn't exist. When your ideas do not exist anymore, your practice is heading towards the process of insight.

First strong memories come up. When you recognise this you obtain nāma-rūpa-parichedda-ñāna, you recall your previous perception. What you know from before is coming up stronger and deeper, and when you note it as 'remembering', 'remembering' or 'knowing', 'knowing', less perception will be coming to you.

And when you get less perception you get confused. You hardly use your head. You have to lose your head but you get your heart. Everything in your head is coming to your heart. I mean, you feel something coming into contact with you then to remember something, but at the same time your thoughts are going to be less. When you have less thought it means that your mind is purified.


Or some meditators feel cold and hot. This is the result of feeling. There are two things that give you conditioning: perception and feeling. These two things make concepts for you, and conditioning continues at the same time.

If you practise more, you will begin to have certain feelings. Or other meditators will have clear memories. If you keep on noting them you get confused, you don't know what's happening, but you keep on doing the noting. In this process more perception and feeling is coming to you, and with more meditation practice you can overcome the feelings, the perception and the thought, and the act of noting is getting stronger and stronger. This means that the practice is having results.


Sometimes you doubt what you are doing here. 'I don't see anything', 'I don't see any progress'. Many times you question if your meditation is good. Leave alone those questions.

If you still continue your practise, your meditation technique is good enough. You don't have to ask if you’re doing okay, if you’re all right with this practice, if you’re all right with this naming and noting. That's not important, not your concern.

Your concern is just practising, day and night, without break. In fact, if you lose your perception, if you lose your conditioning, if you lose your feeling, you already smell enlightenment. It's very near.

So it's not for nothing. But the results are not your self either, that's the problem, you have sakaya-ditthi, the belief in self.


A streamwinner, a sotapanna has to remove three things.

First sakaya-ditthi, the belief in your ego, the feeling for your ego, the working for your ego. You must not work for your ego, because if you do that, your belief in your personal entity – sakaya-ditthi - becomes stronger. When you don't care about that, you are going to lose this.


You also have to remove vicikicchā, doubt. Doubting makes you unclear, which creates more doubts again.

Don't take doubt so seriously. Let yourself doubt, and don't get the answers from it, because when you get the answers from what you are doubting, then you come back to your head, increasing the perception. When you leave the doubt alone, it's going to your heart. Something is going to grow in your inner, your insight will be progressing.


The last one is: you rely on certain powers, which means that you're dependent. Depending on the teacher, depending on the teaching. You begin to wonder if this is according to the theory, or if this is according to certain powers. You always depend on something, not on yourself. Let's say depending on an outside power. Outside authorities do not make you free. This is so-called silabbata-parāmasā.

When these three are removed, you are a streamwinner. But to win this stream you have to exercise, to continue the practice.

I mean the practice should not break. If you have a break you have to start over again.

Not to break doesn’t mean that you have to sit or walk all the time. You just have to continue naming and noting. Even when you have a tea-break, you do not only sit and enjoy your tea, but you also note and name. You're allowed to break. Or sometimes when you are doing too much, doing too hard, and you want to sit, rest on the bed or lay on your bed, even then you must continue noting or naming. Every movement we should name or note.

I will give an example. There was a meditation teacher who moved his hand like this, but he forgot to name. So he moved his hand a few times again. And the students asked 'What are you doing'. He said 'I forgot to name, I have to repeat it again, to be sure that I continue my mindfulness with the moving of my mental and physical body.'


You can break only in your sleep, because then you cannot do more. The moment you awake you pick up your mindfulness with your breathing in or breathing out. The next thing you have to do is to move out of your bed, and this you have to note. To dress you have to note. You do not break when you do all this.

So if you know that you break, you repeat it, that's what I meant. The teacher who moves his hand, and does it again and again, is just to give an example that if you are aware that you make a mistake, you repeat it. You can learn from that mistake. You repeat it every time, and you are increasing your mindfulness and concentration.

So you must not hesitate to do the same thing all the time. It helps, it works and it is powerful at the same time. Eating, drinking, though you do not break.

Continue your practice that way, then your practice will be very fruitful and you will have results with all this, according to your own capability.

I want to encourage you to continue your practice. What I'm saying to you are merely words. The rest is in you, you have to do it. I cannot help with these words. It's merely inspiring or stimulating. You have to do the work yourself and then you are possibly proud that you have done the right thing here in the retreat. I wish you to continue your mindfulness and concentration, which will also increase your energy in this retreat.










[1] Feeling is dependent on contact, and according to the Abhidhamma feeling is either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The liking and the disliking are the conditioning dependent on the pleasant or unpleasant feelings.