Mangala Sutra Meditation and Ten Parami….(Part – 02)

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Sugath Rajapakse

BSC-Graduated Peradeniya University, Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and, presently Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka.

In the first part of this article clear explanation was given on how to see the Mangala Sutra from a super-mundane perspective. The third to fifth stanzas are of virtue and the first two of wisdom. But as clearly explained in the Sonadanda Sutra if there is no virtue then no wisdom and if no wisdom then no virtue. The wisdom and virtue are interdependent. One devoid of wisdom will not be of virtue and one devoid of virtue lacks wisdom.

The meditative yogi knowing this very well, and will establish self in virtue. Virtue enables one to restrain the five faculties. Restraint of the five faculties is the power needed to establish mindfulness. By initially establishing in virtue the yogi will relinquish the defiling that would surface with restraint.  The meditative yogi now will progress to the next stage, that of concentration with mindfulness meditation and thereby will restrain the defiling that would have been churning inside, but have not surfaced. Powered by the virtue and concentration the yogi will proceed to developing insight and where the yogi will see the surfacing of the defiling that have remained dormant inside. The tactile-sensations that develop at this stage is clear manifestation of this aspect. One may get pleasing tactile-sensations or unbearable tactile-sensations. But the wise yogi will not react to any of those but only observe it all with equanimity.

In the anapana sathi meditation having settled down in a comfortable position, ideally in a quiet and peaceful location (even at home) one begins with an element of mindfulness to observe the in and out breath. After a while the yogi will observe breath often initially long and later short. But this does not always happen in sequence as at times one after observing short breath may suddenly find breathing in long in and out breath. Often the yogi will note thoughts popping out, and the trick here is not to give any value to those thoughts. Then the arisen thoughts will cease soon.

As one proceeds watching the breath one begins to feel the sensations often in the area above the upper lip and below the nostril apertures, or at time the nostril apertures and just inside. The advantage of the area above the upper lip as opposed to focus on the belly movement is that the nostril area sensations are more acute allowing the yogi to build more and more concentration.

As the yogi keeps progressing in this path, begins to feel tactile sensations arising in the body. These sensations may often arise at the top of the head for those yogis who have been in regular meditation, at least two to three hours each day. Gradually the tactile sensations will increase in intensity and the sensations could be pleasant and nice or hard and unpleasant. Here the yogi will not give any value to these tactile-sensations but observe them from top to bottom and bottom to top or area to area with equanimity.  The value of the tactile-sensations whether they are gross and hard or fine and pleasant is an indication of the defilements that have illustrated the consciousness. The cleansing for great majority of yogis is gradual. This is clearly explained in Dhammapada (Malavagga 18.239). “One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise person should remove his/her impurities, just as a silversmith removes dross of silver.”

In this aspect of the Dhamma four different persons are shown,

  • Ugghatithannu – Is open and will comprehend fully the Dhamma in a trice. Arahaths such as Bahiya Daruchiriya and Santhathi belongs to this group.
  • Vipatithannu – Is open but not fully and needs to strive little harder than the first group. Arahath Chulapanthaka would belong to this group.
  • Neiya – Have to strive very hard in order to reach the ultimate goal. Majority of people who have chosen the path today would come under this category.
  • Padaparama – Hardly a chance of them achieving the ultimate goal because these people are totally averse to striving for ultimate liberation. Great majority of humans today would fall into this category.

The observation of tactile-sensations in the present itself has the value of Insight. One gets insight into the gross or fine sensations and the happy or unhappy feelings but yet have equanimity to not react to these. This is not easy as all our lives we have learnt to react positively or negatively from a mundane perspective.  Therefore, building equanimity itself is sure footed path. Progressing on with the observation of the tactile-sensations, the yogi will discern that they are now decreasing in frequency and intensity as well as the bodily-formations of in and out breath too is getting finer and some may not even discern the breath at all. Yet the yogi is breathing but the feeling on the in and out breath is not obvious. At this juncture the yogi will begin to delve in to the true insight where he/she will observe with wisdom the self-body and then also with wisdom the other-bodies and self & other bodies, then begins to realize that after all there is no discernable self as such in this somatic body but assimilations of the four maha bhuthas and the space and consciousness (Cha Dhathu). The yogi will now realize the arising of things and the cessation and the arising and cessation of the things (Dhamma) in the mind.

Of these six, five of them the maha bhuthas and space is never the same. Imagine your space within the mouth cavity. Every time you change position there is change in the space. So do the maha bhuthas which too change all the time. The Sakkaya Ditti or the self-ego that we have built up is where we think this somatic thing is I and mine. By getting rid of this self-ego you reach the first stage of stream-enterer. Devoid of self-ego the yogi will also jettison doubt (vichikichcha) and wrong practices and rituals silabbatha paramasa).  Often some claim the five grasping-aggregates as the self-ego or sakkaya ditti. It would be quite difficult to accept this as the Enlightened One in the very first discourse, the Wheel of Dhamma Discourse said that in essence the grasping-aggregates is itself this suffering. Nirvana is the ultimate liberation from this as Enlightened One said it is the suffering or dhukka that arises and the dhukka that ceases. Freedom from all the ten fetters and not just the first three fetters is nirvana. Freedom from first three fetters is stream-entry or Sothapaththi. 

Though today we talk more about meditation, it is not as easy as one thinks. There is need for commitment and much striving to walk the path. Enlightened One said, “You yourself must strive; the Tathagathas only point out the way. Those who tread that very path are released from the bondage of Mara” (Dhammapada 20.276). Though many may begin meditation, most would drop off after finding that it is not as easy as one may think. As in any venture the first part is the most difficult and if one has the mind and the will to keep at it will find the beauty and the great happiness that come with meditation. Meditation is not only the path to ultimate super-mundane happiness of Nirvana but is also a proven remedy to many of our somatic illnesses. Indeed, many have found peace and tranquility of a somatic perspective from illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mental Aberration and even Heart Ailments. I myself had a heart attack in 2004 and while at the ICU, the heart stopped. It was restarted only with electric shocks, eight in all. But meditation has given me the inner strength to jettison all thoughts about my heart attack and lead a happy life. But I know that many heart patients often trouble themselves with the mind-moments about the illness causing them further grief.

Those walking the path of meditation invariably begin fulfilling the Ten Parami. To go to a retreat for a week or two for meditation one has to practice renunciation. The yogi is giving up many things and also staying away from loved ones and loved things (Nekkamma). Also one begins by observing the precepts, be it five, the eight observed on poya days or of livelihood, the ten precepts etc. That itself is virtue (Sila). During the meditation the yogi develops meditative-wisdom (Panna). There is need for much striving during the period one is in meditation. Absence of striving often makes people leave retreats earlier (Viriya). While in meditation, often in a retreat or where there are many others also meditating things can happen to disturb the mind. The wise will not allow such things to disturb self and will act with patience.  That is why at the beginning the teachers would say to follow the guideline as specified and be patient. (Kanthi)

With patience developed one becomes truthful to self and to others. If one digresses from the path at any time, then the yogi will realize and will speak the truth with teachers at the retreat and try to resolve it. You will build truthfulness into your life as well (Saccha). Determination enables one to walk the path resolutely despite whatever obstacles that may come up. Determination enables yogi to see clearly what is required to walk the path to ultimate enlightenment (Adhitthana). With determination one develops loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is about other wellbeing and there is no ego-centric aspect of yearning for anything in return. (Metta)

The meditative yogi has now developed equanimity and will not go to either of the two ends and also will not try to attach to the middle with wisdom (Upekka). Such a yogi with full understanding will practice giving (Dana) and will not use it to ego building.