Third Dhamma Talk of the Retreat

By Venerable Mettavihari Bhikkhu

25 January 2002

(Translated by Rien Loeffen)


Now it is time to listen to the Dhamma talk concerning your practice of vipassanā meditation. Most of you have been here practising intensively more then a week. It's considered as dedicating yourself to a true practice of meditation, in the direction of insight.

Insight means, all the seeing is within yourself, and in itself it is also ending. With ending I mean stopping the connection. But it keeps coming to contact, the contact keeps occurring at the same time.

So the contact between the outside and the inside is disconnected every time. Seeing this makes you free. Insight is the English word, vipassanā is the Pali word. It means to see something very special; the sight is clear, there are no questions.


Because it's clear, you have no doubt, you have no questions in your meditation practice. If you have questions, or if you have any interpretation, that is not insight.

So it has to have all the answers in itself, and it also has to finish in itself, which means finished in the sense of karma, not recording more karma.


To make your insight work in this practice, it should be based on the four foundations of mindfulness, namely body, feeling, thinking and conditioning. These are the four foundations of your mindfulness.

You need to refrain the senses to make your insight clear. You need to refrain the senses, which means not to allow the senses to record the contact.

First there is the contact of the senses, merely the contact of the senses without feeling. If you allow feelings to come in, it starts to condition and it starts to record karma. Then it becomes unclear, and consequently there are many questions.


Therefore sometimes you have problems. Do you want to be without problems now?

The last time I said: When you hear, there is merely hearing; when you see, there is merely seeing; when you smell, merely smelling; when there is tasting with the tongue, merely tasting; when there is contact with your body, merely physical contact; when there is contact with an object of the mind, merely


You have to make an end to that contact, (not getting involved in the feeling), and at the same time you open to that contact. You don't close off for the contact of the senses, because the outer and the inner object keep coming into contact all the time. You donít close down for it, but you refrain. With refraining the senses you practise discipline. And with that patient discipline, you can increase your power.


Normally - without practising meditation - in your feeling, when you feel itching or aching, you scratch or you move your physical body. But in the vipassanā practice you observe patient discipline. If you have itching - for example in your ear - normally you scratch with your finger, or if you have pain - at your knee for example - you move. But in this practice, you use it for your patient discipline - not to scratch or not to move. You observe the feeling, because there is contact of the senses, a physical contact.


If there's feeling, you just note: 'feeling', 'itching', 'pain' or whatever. You note that all the time. For those moments you are noting, you don't get into the spot, the point where you have the feelings. First you recognise or you become aware of the feeling, and to make your meditation work you make an attempt to name or to note. Noting, naming the feeling increases your power, increases mindfulness. Your awareness about it is transformed to be mindfulness. And by the attempt to note, you get right effort. While you're noting with patient discipline, your momentary concentration is increasing all the time.


So at the end right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration are working together to end your suffering. That means that you end the feeling.

There is still pain. Pain is there and itching is there, but the feeling for it is not there.


First you need the intention to make an act of noting or naming. If you say: 'pain', 'pain', you make the effort to concentrate on what you're saying about pain, but you do not get involved with the pain.

Therefore we say sometimes: 'pain', 'pain', while you have your awareness just in front of your nose or under your chin. They say that if you know that enlightenment takes place, it is under your chin, not somewhere else.

How do you become enlightened?

Enlightenment means not to carry the burden, which is body, feeling, perception, conditioning and mundane consciousness. This is the burden that makes you unfree every time. It's the five khandhas, the five aggregates that make you not free.


So you don't get into it. When you get into it you have to carry it and it's very heavy. Like pain, it's heavy for you, but you have to test your ability that you can leave the pain alone, without being disturbed.

If you want to leave the pain alone, first the connection with the feeling has to stop. You ought to master the feeling above the pain. And the pain has disappeared in your own experiences with your own awareness. You do not even substitute the pain with concentration.

Sometimes when you have a certain psychic power - let's say good concentration - when you go directly to the pain (I mean you go to your ego, you go to yourself), pain may stop, but then you are attached to the self, to the ego.

That is what samatha power can do, but many times it's not easy. We need a lot of concentration, and because of that we get into mental absorbtion. We say: 'pain', 'pain', 'pain', 'pain', and you're involved with pain.


Sometimes your mind is substituted by concentration, by mental absorption, and you're free from pain, but you are not free from your ego, not free from your self. That's the difference.

This means that you can be free from your aggregate, the aggregate of feeling, vedana-khandha, free from it through the concentration or samatha practice, when enough concentration is there.

But in vipassanā meditation, you can be free from it through the tadanga-pahāna[1], freedom by noting, or substituted by the recognition of mindfulness and momentary concentration. An attempt not to carry. You're not with something, you are beyond, you are above. Every time you are beyond, every time you are above that feeling, enlightenment is there with you.


Now I want you to see that feeling has magnetic power. When you come close to it and you want to note feeling: 'I have pain, pain', you are in it already. You cannot get out of it because it has magnetic power. It has the power to make your mind be in it. You are sucked into it.

Therefore we must never come too close to the spot where the feeling is. When you note in vipassanā meditation, you note just under your chin.

First you recognise the pain. You see that there's pain in the knee, and you say: 'pain', 'pain', every time. Awareness is still there, but you withdraw your consciousness out of the pain, and you let your consciousness come to the awareness of noting: 'pain, pain'.

So it's purifying your consciousness.

I mean at the same time you observe patient discipline. You do not move or scratch. Now that you donít do that anymore - because of that discipline or sīla - you get samādhi (concentration) and a pure mind.

Sīla-visuddhi and citta-visuddhi are taking place at that moment, the purification in the direction of vipassanā is happening. Sīla-visuddhi is pure discipline, citta-visuddhi is pure mind, pure consciousness.

The consciousness is purified or transformed into visuddhi-khandha, pure khandha. The feeling for pain is manipulating the khandhas or purifying the ongoing process of consciousness. The awareness that you make a note and name 'pain', 'pain', increases your pure consciousness. When your consciousness is pure, pain mostly disappears.

So pain has its cause. Feeling for it is the cause. The pain itself is suffering. The cause of the pain - that you recognise within yourself - is the desire not to be with the pain, or not to have the pain, not to get the pain, not to let the pain happen. This means there is preference.Therefore you have problems, and therefore suffering is there.


Pain itself is not suffering. Your desire is suffering.

Like in hospital when you have to have an operation, they'll give you an injection so that you donít get any feelings, so that they can operate. They can cut a certain part of your body, and you don't feel pain. They stop your feeling and it's also harmless afterwards.

So you can do the same with the meditation practice. Not to let the feeling be with some part of the body, but to be with noting and naming. When the body has no feeling, pain has stopped, pain is not there.

If you have done this, you have no question of how the pain has stopped because feeling is not there anymore. It stops, and suffering has stopped at the same time.


You don't you get enlightenment by giving an injection that prevents you from getting feelings, because you're not purifying your feeling, you're not purifying your consciousness. When the power of the drug has gone you get your feeling back, you get your pain back again.

But in the meditation practice you are really aware of the pain, and you see that the pain has stopped with pure consciousness.

First you have no preference, you stop that first. Not to allow yourself to prefer or not prefer that feeling. Leave the feeling alone, and keep noting all the time. With patient discipline of course.

If you don't observe patient discipline you cannot work. The pain will increase, and eventually you collapse. And you cannot take it anymore, because the pain is too strong, because your feeling is stronger.


You become angry, you dislike it. You have to be carefull with that. A certain pain makes you angry and you dislike it. When at that time you name it as 'pain', 'pain', you are not correct in your practice.

You do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and so your mindfulness will not increase. You say 'pain' like a mantra. You say 'pain', 'pain', but in fact you are angry or you dislike it.

So if you are aware that you are disliking, or you are angry because of the pain, you have to note: 'anger', 'anger' or 'disliking', 'disliking' You should not say 'pain' in that case.

As I have said many times already, you have to be on time all the time. If you miss the right time only for a bit, when your mindfulness is not continuous, it is not functioning.


So the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness has the power to give you enlightenment and freedom. If you practice continuously from early in the morning until late in the evening, you become enlightened.

Enlightenment means that you discover that suffering doesn't affect you, because you're on the path leading to the end of suffering.

I said: right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration is the path where you can end your suffering, every moment that it may come. And at the same time you are not recording the karma. Therefore you are free when you are enlightened.


What I try to say to you is that you are almost enlightened, but you are not yet enlightened because you don't do it truthfully. That's your problem. My word is guiding you all the time, so that you should become enlightened. It is very near, and you smell it all the time, but you leave it alone. You smell your enlightenment, it is very near to your nose, it is under your chin I said (laughing), but you go away from it.


So you should restrict yourself to be only aware under your chin. Remember that Mettavihari said that enlightenment is under your chin. Not to go somewhere - to the Himalayas or whatever, not to Burma or America - to become enlightened.

No, you need to be here, it doesn't matter where you are, enlightenment is here with you, under your chin.

You must see it that way. Iím not just joking; it is the truth. Enlightenment is not like being hypnotised in a certain way, being half awake or half asleep. And it's not in a way that you can say: Oh, I'm enlightened now. It's not something like a miracle.

You can say itís a miracle, but you are very clear about how things stopped and therefore there is no question about it.

And you don't have to come to ask me if you are enlightened. If you come to ask me that, I have to laugh. Only you yourself can recognise or experience that you are enlightened.

Enlightenment is possible for mankind, for everybody, but you have to do your practice. Reading books or listening to Dhamma talks is not going to make you enlightened.


Enlightenment comes through pure discipline, pure mind, pure consciousness, and having no doubt. You're overcoming your doubt. You know that purification by overcoming or transcending doubt is also purification of the path.

You also know what made you fail. Many times you made mistakes here in the retreat and you learned from it.


When you do not note on time or on the wrong foundation, then it is not the way.

The foundations are your body, your feeling, your consciousness, I mean your mind, and your conditioning. These four are considered as the boat to carry you across samsāra or the ocean.

As a human being we are in the ocean of samsāra. When you are on the ocean you do not see where the shore is, you see only water. This is awful.

We have four oceans. The ocean of sensual desire, we have this all the time. Every time we have a sensual desire we are in the ocean.

Your idea, your opinion, your head is an ocean. There is no end to your head, you can go on thinking, on and on. The ocean of thinking has no end, no shores,.

And the ocean of not knowing. Because of not knowing, you have questions all the time.

And the ocean of being, because you want to be. To be with something. So wanting to be, even just human being, is an ocean.

In fact you are like a fish swimming in the ocean, not even knowing that you are in the water. Just like fish don't know that they are born in the water and that they die in the water, we are born in samsāra and we die in samsāra.

But followers of vipassanā meditation have their boat. They do not swim.

Like you, you have your boat. You have your body, your feeling, your consciousness, your conditioning as your boat. You have to row it. You have to navigate your boat across samsāra. You keep doing that all the time. You're not wet. You're not in the water.

You have to observe your boat all the time to see if it's leaking. Every moment you slip away from mindfulness your boat is leaking. You stay in your boat so as not to get wet or not to sink in the deep ocean. There's hope for you to go across samsāra.

So when you are on your boat, you are not getting wet, you are safe. You don't even swim, you just row the boat all the time. And one day when you have been rowing enough, you will reach the shore. You go to the other side, the other shore. Then you do not doubt anymore.


When your practice is good, it makes you feel or it makes you think that you can get out of the boat. Especially when your feeling is clear - no pain, no thought, and you're not drowsy - let's say when the five hindrances are not there.

What are the five hindrances? First there is kāmacchanda, the desire for sensual delight. The second is vyāpāda, anger, iritation. The third hindrance is thina-middha, drowsiness, sleepiness.

Many times you encountered drowsiness during the practice, especially after meals, after eating. Because you have good food, sometimes you eat too much. When the food is being digested, it makes you a bit warm, and then you get sleepy.

The fourth hindrance is restlessness and worry. Sometimes you worry; this is making you uneasy.

Restlesness is also very important. You can look at a chicken to see what restlesness is. Even in their sleep they are moving all the time. The Pali word for restlesness is uddhacca-kukkucca; this is also a symbol for chickens. So you are as a chicken - restless - which isn't nice.


But when you obtain pure consciousness, restlesness is not there. And when restlesness is not there, doubt - the fifth hindrance - is not there. Drowsiness is not there either. And the desire to be or not to be is not there. And you feel good.

That good feeling somehow looks as if you are above the ocean, as if you are flying away. Flying away from the khandhas, but because of karma you fall back because you have done many things - bad things - in the past. They don't let you go too far. You keep coming back to your ego, to your five khandhas, so that you cannot get away.

Sometimes, on certain days or at certain times during these days of retreating, you feel very okay with your meditation practice because temporarily the hindrances are not there. No hindrances means that you're not attacked by desire, not attacked by anger, not attacked by drowsiness or sleepiness, not attacked by worry, not attacked by doubt. So you feel fine, but after a certain time they come back.


I will give an example.

In former times, people who went with a boat on the ocean had no indication in which direction they should row the boat, they had no navigation. So they kept a crow in the boat.

First they kept it in a cage, but later they set it free. The crow is flying away, it goes and it goes, but as long as it doesn't see something - doesn't find a shore, doesn't find trees - it keeps coming back to the boat. Coming back to sit on the pole. The crow is never getting too tired to try and get away from the ocean. The people in the boat also want to reach the shore, and they want to know in which direction they have to row. If they see the crow flying away very far and not coming back, then they know that the shore is in that direction, and they turn the boat to follow that direction, and then they can go ashore.


It also happens to a meditator who's retreating like this. To get freedom from the five aggregates, you are acting like the crow. From time to time when you practise good discipline, good concentration, when you purify yourself in all directions (of purification), then you feel good. But many times you come back, because you did not finish your karma yet.


This practice is not only for avoiding to record new karma. When you observe discipline and when you observe the contact of the senses and you refrain the senses you don't get new karma. But you still have your old karma - former karma - in you.

It's time for karma to come out. If there remains anger in you, then usually in daily life you get angry easily. You increase a lot of that anger, and you will recognise that you have more anger in your retreat.

Or if you have desire, you are increasing your desire a lot in your life before coming here to the retreat. You have strong desires; sensual desire or whatever - even sexual desire.

Or if you have doubt. When you are always questioning or criticising, it's going to come up a lot here. It has to come out. All this garbage needs to burn out of your former karma.

When you get warm, sometimes that signifies this burning. Or you get unusual pain. That makes you angry. Pain mostly makes you angry. Sometimes it's unbearable. It's all too much. All kinds of unacceptable feelings are coming up.

Take care, don't underestimate your patient discipline with all this. Take it for what it is. Be with it for some time. Let it burn. When it burns for a certain period, you will get better, you will get lighter. It means that you are purifying yourself in the intensive practice of vipassanā meditation.


So you also come here to burn your old karma, purifying what you have done before. It's coming back to you many times as perception.

You remember things that you have done, or sometimes you forgot it, and you get it back here in the retreat. It is coming back even stronger, and that is good because you have to finish with it. Not to run away from it but to purify it, to burn it with patient discipline.

Noting and naming remembering, anger or whatever comes up, you note all this. You repeat it a few times, you go on with the noting, you do the same thing many times to get your consciousness polished.


In fact your karma consists of two parts. The first one is good karma and the other one is bad karma. When you practise vipassanā meditation you try to diminish your bad karma and to polish your good karma. Then you get wholesome consciousness, kusala-citta. Good karma, good motivation, good will-power.

So you note 'pain, pain', which is like polishing the stone. To get a pure stone in the diamond-factory they have to polish it millions and millions of times. Then they can sell it for a lot of money, because it has become valuable.

The same thing with your practising. The noting and naming is for polishing away your bad karma. To keep your good karma is as good as stone, as strong as stone.


You let the bad part burn, and you let the good part remain. You increase it by repeating the practice and you keep it; you avoid getting to the bad part through the contact of the senses. To keep good awareness, good mindfulness and good concentration with the contact of the senses. Then you will get pure and enlightened that way.

You have to accept that you have bad karma, but you also have good karma. That's fair and so you're not hopeless. Don't give up the practice because you think that it's hopeless for you.

No, you must trust that you do good. At least your motivation is good. Right intention, right effort and right mindfulness. You have that, but at the same time many bad thoughts come up. You remember bad things from your life.

Try to polish it, let it burn, let it fall apart. Keep the good part and let the bad part go. Increase the good part. When you do this more and more, you will get power and your practice will be succesfull. So don't be hopeless and don't underestimate yourself. Sometimes you think: 'This is nothing for me'. Don't look at it like that, because it's a lot what you're doing here.


The result will come; many times it's very near. When you think that you cannot do it, the success can be very near at that moment. Do not underestimate that. Just keep on doing the practice. When you take a short break, a short nap or whatever - at that moment enlightenment can be very near, and you'll miss it.

The times that are miserable are next to being successful. Therefore you just have to go on with your practice. Good practice - right practice - on time and all the time.


Because of ignorance or not knowing, sometimes you are not on time. I'll give you an example: When you think of something, you note 'thinking', 'thinking', but in fact you're disliking your thought.

Then you should not note the thinking, but the disliking of the thinking. 'This is disliking, in me there is disliking'; not 'thinking'.

Many times meditators miss this point. They note and are aware of the thought, and say 'thinking', but in fact they are disliking. Disliking is conditioning. Thinking is the foundation of consciousness. So you have to shift from thinking to disliking.

Or certain thoughts sometimes make you like something. Many times you like things. So you say 'Oh, I'm liking, liking through the thought'. You think of someone, a loved one and you like it. If you like someone in your thought you say 'Oohh, liking, liking'.


You have to do it on time, all the time: this body, feeling, consciousness and conditioning. Then your boat will be going, without leaking, without making mistakes, and you will find your way towards enlightenment.

I say it again: it's not difficult, it's under your chin. Like observing rising and falling is also under your chin. Therefore we follow the incoming and the outgoing of the breath. Just do not go above your chin, but you restrict to that area and you become enlightened.

I hope this is enough information for you for tonight. I wish you all to become enlightened under your chin. Thank you.














[1] Nyanatiloka (Buddhist dictionary): Overcoming by the opposite. Example: Personality-belief is overcome by determining the mental and corporeal phenomena.