BSC-Graduated Peradeniya University, Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and, presently Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka.
In the four foundations of Mindfulness, the first stage is remaining focused on the body, in & of itself. Each stage in this mindfulness meditation is explained in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Sutta, which one can find in the printed form as well as in the internet in Pali Text, in Sinhala language as well as in English and many other Languages. Thus it is not my endeavor here to go into the details of the Sutta.
As explained by the venerable Katukurunde Gnanannanda thero in many discourses and my own understanding, it is of great importance to see the segregation of the two key aspects,
- Establishing mindfulness
- Building Insight or Vipassana
The initial stages of the observation of differing levels of breath the long and the short, observing the tactile sensations of the whole body and seeing the stilling of the bodily formations (kaya sankharo) of breath (even though one is still breathing) are all steps in establishing the mindfulness. ”. This is akin to building the scaffolding where one will sit and use that to build the real structure and in this case insight and wisdom.
(Sabba Kaya Patisanvedi is often referred in practice and in many texts as aware of the whole breath body. In the Sabba Sutta (The All) Enlightened One says, “Bhikkhus I will preach you all (sabba) and please listen and pay attention well. I will speak”. “What is all? It is Eye and form, ear and sound, nose and smell, tongue and taste, body and tactile sensations and mind and things. If anyone repudiating this says I will tell another all, will come to great difficulty, would be unable to explain and put to great difficulty.)
The second part is where the yogi focuses on the body of self, in & of it. Then the yogi moves the focus on the body of others, in & of it. Then the yogi will focus on both self body and the other body, in & of it. With continued contemplation the yogi then focus on & of this body of the arising and then the ceasing and the arising and ceasing together. In this part, where is the insight and development of wisdom?
The Pali language text say, “ajjaththanva kaye kayanupassi viharathi, bahiddava kaye kayanupassi viharathi, ajjaththa bahiddava kaye kayanupassi viharathi”.
The somatic body of self is seen in & of it with total mindfulness, then the other and then the self and the other together. As one continues to observe with insight, one begins to understand that the farther limit of the self (ajjaththa) is the proximate limit of the other (bahidda) and the farther limit of the other is the proximate limit of self. In the process one begin to comprehend that in the self and the other it is these four elements, the earth element, the water element, the fire element and the air element. The noble disciple also realizes it is these same four elements that are there in the surrounding. Our bodies are in a state of flux and no one can claim that those four elements in the self are theirs all the time because the change is the reality. In this way the Yogi understands that the delimitation we have placed to say this is my body is a myth and that itself is the path to insight. The same is true in other three, feeling, mind and things and begins to realize with insight those are not unique to self only but of other as well.
The same principle is evident in the knowledge udayaththagamini panna or the knowing of arising and ceasing. Udaya is the arising or morning and Aththagama is evening or ceasing. The morning and evening are inter connected, the farther limit of morning the proximate limit of evening and farther limit of evening the proximate limit of morning.
With this realization the Yogi will no longer dwell into the sixteen ways of contemplating of self. The sixteen ways are,
- The past – Was I there or not there, who was I, how did I live, this being who was and who did it become?
- The future – Will I be there or not, who will I be and how will I live, who will I become from whom?
- The present – Am I there or not there, who am I? How am I living now and who am I now and who I will become thereafter?
To understand this, let us use a simple simile. A person, say a lady is getting ready to go to a wedding and as is today will ensure that the best of clothing is worn, adorned with jewelry and facial make up which is at its best. The person while looking at self in the mirror may think I am looking good, better than the last time, and how will I look when I go to the wedding party, many an eye will be turned towards me and so on. All the time the focus was on this somatic body and this will result in the buildup of Sakkaya Ditti or Personality View, the first fetter of the ten fetters.
The Sutta under section Kayanupassana further state that the yogi is mindful that this body is there for ultimate realization (insight) and mindfulness and will not lean on anything (with mind) or grasp anything. Unfortunately today, despite the presence of many Buddhist TV channels, many Radio channels and so many Buddhist Temples and all the Pooja that are taking place almost daily the people at large are mostly unaware and oblivious of the ultimate bliss that one can achieve with right contemplation of the body.
Instead of using this body and the bodily formations of breath to find an end to the suffering, they are mostly trying to glorify it. A recent Sunday Newspaper Magazine had seven full pages of advertisements on beauty culture and Spas for ladies but not a single page on meditation. Yet in public transport buses, many passenger and goods vehicles there are slogans saying “This is the land of Buddha”. The simple truth is that great majority of our people have no idea as to who the Enlightened One is.
One who is either on the path or has attained the fruit of Stream-Enterer has realized these seven factors of Stream-Entry (Sothapaththi). (As expounded by the Enlightened One in Kosambi Sutta)
- The noble disciple ponders that he/she is no longer obsessed with Sensual Desires, Aversion, Sloth & Torpor, Restlessness & Remorse and Doubt. When the disciple realizes these five things are no longer burdening, then the disciple realizes, “Yes I am no longer obsessed with these five”. The disciple understands that he/she is not engaged in disputes, arguments, contention and mutual verbal assault. This is the first knowledge.
- The noble disciple ponders this way: “When I Pursue, develop and commit to this perspective, do I personally acquire tranquility and peacefulness? The disciple realizes, yes I personally acquire tranquility and peacefulness”. This is the second knowledge.
- The noble disciple ponders, “Are there any priests and contemplatives outside this (the teachings of Enlightened One) who have the same kind of perspective as I do? The disciple understands there are no other priests and contemplatives outside this teaching who have the same kind of perspective as I do. This is the third noble knowledge the disciple has attained.
- If the disciple has committed an offense for which rehabilitation is possible, then the disciple will quickly tells, discloses and clarifies with the wise co-associates and teacher so that after telling, disclosing and clarifying the disciple is restrained. This is the fourth knowledge the disciple has attained.
- The noble disciple strives to do whatever that needs to be done for the co-practitioners, while being totally committed to training self in virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. Just as a Cow while grazing watches over the calf, so does the noble disciple while seeing to the needs to be done for co-practitioners will have strong commitment to training self in virtue, mindfulness and wisdom. The noble disciple understands, “I have the disposition of a person who has attained right view”. This is the fifth knowledge the disciple has attained.
- The noble disciple understands that when Dhamma-Vinaya as expounded by the Enlightened One is taught, the disciple listens to the Dhamma carefully, attentively and wholeheartedly. The disciple will then understands, “I have the disposition of a person who has attained the right view”. This is the sixth knowledge the disciple has gained.
- The noble disciple when listening to the Dhamma-VInaya as expounded by the Enlightened One is being taught, the disciple acquires an understanding of the meaning, acquires an understanding of the Dhamma and the disciple acquires joy connected with the understanding of Dhamma. This is the seventh knowledge the disciple has gained.
Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple has these seven characteristics, the noble disciple has sought out well the disposition that leads to realization of stream-entry. Bhikkhus, when a noble disciple has these seven characteristics the noble disciple has attained stream-entry.
But unfortunately though, today the great majority of people in this whole world does not understand the great value of meditation leading to stream-entry and instead dwell in the territory of Mara or death. Those who lead lives of mindfulness on the other hand are in the paternal territory or the territory of Buddha.
This is well explained in the Sakunagghi Sutta: The Hawk. A young Quail once ventured out into the sky away from its normal terrain of newly ploughed field with clumps of earth. There a Hawk caught the bird and soon the Quail started wailing, “I would not have got caught had I remained in my paternal terrain”. Then the hawk queried as to where its paternal terrain is and the Quail mentioned the ploughed field. Then the Hawk let go of the Quail saying you can be anywhere but I will catch you. Quickly the Quail came down to earth and sitting atop a clump of earth that is turned up challenged the Hawk to catch it. The Hawk began its swoop down to capture the Quail, and when it was nearer, the Quail got under the clump of earth. Hawk unable to control its speed collided with the earth and died.
In the same way we the worldly humans not being aware of the paternal heritage, of the terrain of Sathi all the time transgress into the territory of Mara, of form, sound, aroma, taste and tactile-sensations. Engrossed in these five one can never find the escape from Mara, that of Nibbana.
Sathi can be developed by anyone provided he or she walks the path of Kayanupassana. The greater Goal of Mindfulness Meditation is not only relief from mental stress, getting better sleep or somatic relief as those are peripheral benefits. The primary super-mundane goal is to make the path to ultimate realization of Nibbana. In the Ajitha Sutta in Parayana Vagga, ascetic Ajitha asked the question,
- Savanthi sabbadi sothan, Sothyanan kin nivaranan, Sothanan sanvaran bhrusi, Kena sotha pithiyare?
- The Enlightened one replied, Yani sothani lokasmin, sathi thesan nivaranan, Sothanan sanvaran bhrumi, Pannayathe pithiyare.
Everywhere the streams (the defiling or KIlesas) are flowing. How can they be blocked? Say how the streams can be restrained. By what are these defiling streams dammed?
Enlightened One replied, whatever the defiling/Kilesa streams are flowing in the six touch-agencies (the world as stated by Enlightened One is this six touch-agencies, Chasu Loko Samuppanno…), by mindfulness they are blocked, that I say is streams’ restraint and by wisdom they are dammed. What is this flow? It is the four asawas, Kama or desire, Bhava or existence, Ditti or view and Avijja or ignorance.
So the mindfulness as taught by Enlightened One is that which enables humans to block the inflow of defiling and also unravel those seated inside. Thus with mindfulness one gains the ability to overcome the ten armies of Mara. The ten armies are,
- Sensual pleasures is your first
- Discontent your second is called
- Third is hunger and thirst
- Fourth is craving
- Sloth and torpor is your fifth
- The sixth is called fear
- Your seventh is doubt
- Conceit and ingratitude are your eighth
- Gain, renown, honor and whatever fame is falsely gained (is your ninth)
- And whoever both extols himself and disparages others (has fallen victim to the tenth)
“Moha sambandhino loko, bhabba rupova dissathi. Upadisambandino balo, thamsa parivaricha. Sassathoviya chayathi, passatho naththi kinchanam”
Associated with delusion, and enveloped by the darkness of ignorance the unwise sees this form as good and is permanent. But the wise seeing it as it is with wisdom see that there is nothing.
Easy to do are things that are bad and harmful to oneself. But exceedingly difficult to do are things that are good and beneficial. (Dhammapada. 12, 163)
“Nivuthanan thamo hothi, andhakaro apassatha. Sathancha vivato hothi aaloko passathamiva. Santhike na vijanaththi maga dhammassa akovida.” (Dwayathanupassana Sutta)
Unwise humans covered by the darkness (ignorance) are unable to see it just as a blind person cannot see darkness. The wise, the Enlightened One and the Arahath Bhikkhus can see just as a person with good sight can see the light of the day. But those who are unskilled in this noble path of Dhamma cannot see the liberation of Nibbana even though it is so near.
All those who follow the path as shown by the Enlightened One know well how he jettisoned the opportunity to become an Arahath in the time of Enlightened One Deepankara. Instead he decided to dive back into this dangerous flow of desire, existence, view and ignorance for our sake only. But if the people today are not taking this beautiful path clearly shown by the Enlightened One then they are the most ungrateful of all.
The Enlightened One said “kathannu kruthavedi puggalo dullabo lokasmin”; very rare are people who are grateful
So my dear fellow Human Beings, do not procrastinate anymore, but strive hard to achieve the ultimate liberation in this life.
- Dhamma Discourses of Venerable Katukurunde Ganananda Thero (Nivane Niveema)
- Kosambi Sutta (translated by Suddhaso Bhikkhu)