Extract 8 - The Path to Be Followed in This World

For an explanation of words in Pali - the language of the time of the Buddha - please see the Pali Glossary.

The Teachings of the Buddha contained in the Tipiṭaka have but one object: liberation from suffering. Methods vary, but the object is the same. It is not necessary to follow all the methods. Choose one of them, and then what is required is to put it into practice with adequate energy and in a steadfast manner.

Vijjā (knowledge) and caraṇa (conduct) must be developed simultaneously. Two things can be done at the same time.

Follow the Teaching of the Buddha as well as that of the teacher. Be respectful. Be humble. Khanti (patience) and mettā (loving kind­ness) must be practised assiduously.

Vipassanā means to see what really is. Meditators must see things as they really are, otherwise it is not Vipassanā.

What really is, is not to be sought elsewhere, it is in one’s own body. It is ever present there. It is unavoidable. It is nāma-rūpa (mind-matter).

Of all the manifestations of nāma and rūpa in the body, the in-breath and out-breath are not only easily recognizable but they are easy to contemplate.

The process of breathing in and breathing out begins with birth and only ends with death. It goes on without any pause or break. It is always there, whether one is working, talking, studying, or sleeping.

Although the process of breathing in and breathing out is continuous, it is hardly noticed by unmindful people. As the Burmese sayings goes, “Those who are unmindful would not notice a cave. Those who are mindful would notice even the mist.” Only those who are mindful will be aware of the breathing process.

Here, awareness means that the meditator takes note of the in-breath as it touches the nostrils and of the out-breath as it touches the nostrils. As breathing is continuous, so awareness must be continuous too. Only then can awareness be properly called Vipassanā Meditation.

There are twenty-four hours in a day. If your awareness can be continuous for twenty-four hours, the beneficial results will be very clear. If possible, the ascetic practice of always sitting (nesajjika-dhūtaṅga) should be performed. What the Buddha teaches is not suf­fering but the cessation of suffering. In the Buddha’s lifetime, those who performed this ascetic practice of always sitting were healthier and lived longer. If you give in to sleepiness and go to sleep, you are likely to sleep forever in the round of rebirths (saṃsāra). If you wish to sleep, go to that place where no sleep is necessary.

Being mindful of what really is, or seeing things as they really are, that is the main purpose of the three sikkhas, the Noble Eightfold Path, the thirty-seven Bodhipakkhiyas, in short, of the entire Tipiṭaka. They are all covered, as it were, in one stroke.

Touch or contact is rūpa. Knowing or awareness is nāma.

Appearance and disappearance of vibrating manifestations are the process of becoming and cessation.

As meditators notice the swiftly changing process of appearance and disappearance of contact sensations at the nostrils, concentrated insight (vipassanā-samādhi) develops in due course, that is to say, after a considerable length of time. The concentration developed in this way becomes more and more intense until a meditator becomes aware of swiftly sweeping changes all over the body.

When these swiftly sweeping changes are seen with insight, the characteristic of anicca becomes most obvious, and accordingly the characteristics of dukkha and anattā are also seen. It is not necessary to utter them by word of mouth. Vipassanā meditation means being mind­ful of what actually happens. Mindfulness develops day by day, and consequently, meditators gain penetrating insight.

As meditators develop concentration, their insight develops as well, culminating in the realization of Path Knowledge (magga-ñāṇa) and Fruition State Knowledge (phala-ñāṇa). This realization is as evident and satisfying as quenching your thirst by drinking water. The meditator who has realized the Path and Fruition State has realized it by himself in this present lifetime, not hereafter. Therefore, the result of his practice is “seen by him himself and in his self” (sandiṭṭhiko).

After the Knowledge of the Path and the Knowledge of the Fruition State is attained, if someone wishes to regain the attainment of the Fruition State (phala-samāpatti), he has to return to the practice of Vipassanā and progressive realization. The attainment of the Fruition State (phala-samāpatti) can be compared to one’s own dwelling.

With firm faith and unflagging energy, be mindful of the contact of the breath with the nostrils without any letup or break. Do not waver. Do not procrastinate. Do it now, and the sustained practice will yield results forthwith. The result is the end of being tormented by passions and the enjoyment of indescribable bliss. Therefore, the results of the practice are immediately effective (akāliko).

How to Fulfil Sīla

Do meritorious deeds such as cleaning a pagoda or watering the Bodhi tree, or by serving your teacher or parents, or even by attending to the needs of your family — all these will go into the credit side of your fulfilment of sīla. While doing these things, you can still meditate. If you neglect any of these duties, can you say for certain that you have fulfilled sīla? If sīla is unfulfilled, can you acquire the happiness you are looking for? If there is no happiness, no peace, you cannot get samādhi. Without samādhi you cannot acquire paññā.

Published in Ven. Webu Sayadaw, The Essence of Buddha Dhamma, Yangon: Sāsana Council Press, 1978.