This collection of
'sayings' by Chanmyay Sayadaw is from his teachings given during the 1983
retreat he led at the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre in
As the context of these 'saying' was
mostly the interview situation between the teacher and the individual student,
it would be useful to read them as if they were personal instruction and advice
from the meditation master.
Vipassana or insight meditation,
is above all, an experiential practice, based on the systematic and balanced
development of a precise and focused awareness. By observing ones
moment-to-moment mind/body processes from a place of investigative attention,
insight arises into the true nature of life and experiences. Through the wisdom
acquired by using insight meditation one is able to live more freely and relate
to the world around with less clinging, fear and confusion. Thus ones
life becomes increasingly directed by consideration, compassion and
This is a technique of repeatedly
naming or labelling with the purpose of directing the
attention to the mind/body phenomena in order to understand their true nature
The guiding principle in Vipassana
practice is to observe whatever arises at the moment of its occurrenceby
noting the present, one lives in the present.
Note attentively and precisely. Superficial
noting may make the mind more distracted. When the concentration is weak, the
tendency to skip over things may be checked by using the device of
labelling. The actual saying of the words that constitute the
label is not really necessary, but it is helpful in the beginning.
Do persist with the labelling until the noting becomes fluent and drop it only
if it becomes too cumbersome, then it has outlived its usefulness.
The meditator will get an appreciation of the
purpose of Vipassana meditation by bringing an investigative quality to the
noting practice. This exploration can lead to the discovery of the
true nature of the mind/body process.
To prepare for sitting meditation,
let the body and the mind relax as much as possible. Maintain the body in a
well-balanced posture. Do not change the posture abruptly or unmindfully during
the sitting, if you are about to move, note the intention to move before
To give balance to the practice, every sitting
should be preceded by an hour of walking meditation.
In the changeover from walking to sitting
practice, or vice versa, be careful to keep your mindfulness and concentration
The starting point in the sitting
practice is to establish the attention on the sensation of the abdomen caused
by the rise and fall movement. This is done by synchronising the mental noting
or labelling of the movement when repeating rising, rising,
falling, falling with the actual experience of those
As the movement of the abdomen become steady and
clear, increase the number of notings. If the movements are complicated, note
them in a general way.
If there is gap between the rising and falling
movement of the abdomen, insert the noting of sitting and/or
touching (noting sitting is awareness of the
characteristic of support of the wind element).
Do not disturb the natural breathing by taking
sharp or deep breaths. This will make you tired. The breathing should be just
When secondary objects predominate, such as
sounds, thoughts, sensations, etc., note hearing, hearing,
thinking, thinking,feeling, feeling and so on. At
first, it is not easy to note such a variety of objects, but with increased
mindfulness one is able to do so. So, when secondary objects have passed, then
one goes back to noting the primary object, ie.the rising and falling movements
of the abdomen.
Although one is taught to begin with watching
the rising and falling movement of the abdomen, one must not get attached to
it. For it is not the only object, but one of the many varieties of objects in
Mindfulness of the movement of the abdomen leads
to the direct experience of the wind element. That is, to its specific
characteristics of motion, vibration and support. It is then that one can
rightly know the real nature of the wind element. Thereby destroying the false
view of self.
Take the walking meditation
seriously. By merely doing the walking alone, it is possible to attain complete
Begin this practice by bringing your attention
to the foot. Then note the step part by part as you follow the movement with
sharp attention. Mentally noting right,left as you make the
steps while walking.
Keep the eyes half-closed and fixed on the
ground 4 to 5 feet ahead of you. Avoid looking at the foot during walking, or
you will become distracted by it.
Do not let the head bend too low because this
will very quickly create strain and tension in your posture.
The objects to be noted are increased gradually.
That is, the number of parts of the steps observed, are gradually increased. At
the beginning of a walking meditation period note one part only for about 10
minutes: left, rightand so on. Then note your walking in 3
parts:lifting, pushing, dropping, etc. Finally, increase the noting
to intending, lifting, pushing, dropping, touching,
Please consider this. The mind is sure to wander
off quite a few times during a walking period of one hour. So do not look
around here and there during walking meditation. You have had, and will have
many more years to look around. If you do it during the retreat, you can forget
about having concentration. The wandering eye is a difficult problem for the
meditator. So take note very mindfully of the desire to look around.
For the practice to be effective, at least 6
hours of walking and 6 hours of sitting meditation each day is
Mindfulness Of Daily Activities
Awareness of daily activities is the very life
of a meditator. Once one fails to observe an activity, one loses ones
life, as it were. That is, one ceases to be a meditator, being devoid of
mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
The faculty of mindfulness becomes powerful by
constant and uninterrupted awareness of every activity throughout the days
Constant mindfulness gives rise to deep
concentration, and it is only through deep concentration that one can realise
the intrinsic nature of physical and mental phenomena. This then leads one to
the cessation of suffering.
Failing to note the daily activities create wide
gaps of unmindfulness. Continuity of noting is needed to carry the awareness
forward from one moment to the next. With this kind of practice there are many
new things to discover every day.
During a retreat, all you need to do is be
mindful. There is no need to hurry. The Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw compared a
Vipassana meditator to a weak invalid, who by necessity moves about very
Doing things very helps to make the mind
concentrated. If you want the meditation to develop, you must get accustomed to
When a fan is turning fast, you cannot see it as
it really is, but when it is turning slowly then you can see. Therefore you
need to slow down significantly to clearly see the mental and physical
processes as they really are.
When you are surrounded by people who are doing
things in a hurry, be oblivious to your surroundings. Instead, note your own
mental and physical activities energetically.
Talking is a great danger to the progress of
insight. A five minute talk can wreck a meditators
concentration for the whole day.
Pain and Patience
Pain is the friend of the
meditator. Do not evade it, it can lead you to nibbana
Pain does not have to inform, you of its coming.
It may not disappear, but if it does, you may cry over it, for your friend has
Pain is observed not to make it go away, but to
realise its true nature.
When concentration is good, pain is not a
problem - it is a natural process. If you observe it attentively, the mind will
be absorbed in it, and discover its true nature.
When pain comes, note it directly. Ignore it
only if it becomes overpoweringly persistent. It can be overcome by deep
concentration brought about by continuous mindfulness.
If intense pain arises arises walking
meditation, stop occasionally and take note of it.
Be patient with anything and everything that
stimulates your mind.
Patience lead to Nibbana - impatience
leads to hell.
Noting Mental States
When noting mental or
emotional states, do it quickly, energetically and precisely so that the noting
mind is continuous and powerful. Then thinking stops by itself.
Unless you can note the wandering thoughts, you
are already defeated when attempting to concentrate the mind. If your mind is
inclined to wander, it indicates that you are not really noting thoughts
energetically enough. The acquired ability to do this is indispensable.
If you are aware of the content of thoughts,
they will tend to go on. If you are aware of the thought itself, then thinking
Do not be attached to thinking and theory.
Meditation is beyond time and space. So do not be caught up with thinking and
theory. Insight will arise with deep concentration, but logical and
philosophical thinking comes with shallow concentration.
Drowsiness can be overcome by putting in more
effort. Labelling activities vigorously is helpful. Note sleepiness
energetically, if you accept laziness, you will go on half asleep.
Actually, the energy to note is always there.
The trouble is that you are reluctant to do it. The mental attitude is very
important. So, do not be pessimistic. If you are optimistic, you offer yourself
an opportunity. Then there is satisfaction in every situation and there will be
A human being has a great variety of abilities
and the strength to do many things. If you want to develop this meditation to
its ultimate goal of complete awareness you will need to put a determined
effort into the practice. If you put in this all-out effort you will achieve
the final liberation from habitual clinging, fear and confusion.
The Eight Precepts
Moral integrity serves as the
basis for the development of concentration, which is essential for the
cultivation of vipassana meditation.
During retreats, all participants are expected
to observe the following training rules:
I understand to abstain from harming or killing
I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given.
I undertake to abstain from erotic behaviour.
I undertake to abstain from false speech.
I undertake to abstain from intoxicating drink and drugs.
I undertake to abstain from eating after midday.
I undertake to abstain from entertainment, beautification and adornments.
I undertake to abstain from using luxurious beds and seats.
Guidance for Interviews
All meditators report daily to the
meditation teacher. They report on what they have noted and experienced during
that days practice. The teacher will suggest any corrections, give
further instructions and try to inspire the meditator onto further
During interviews try to describe:
- What was noticed of the rising and falling
- Mindfulness of daily activities.
Describe each of these in detail. Try to be
concise and to the point.
During the interview do not pause to wait for
remarks from the teacher. Only after you have reported all your experiences
will any remarks be made.
Please listen carefully to all the instructions
from the teacher and follow them diligently. If there is ant doubt, please ask
When asked a question, answer it directly.
Please do not speak about something else.
Report all experiences even if they seem
unimportant to you.
Many meditators find that making short written
notes immediately after each meditation is helpful, but one should not make it
a point to attempt to remember while meditating. This will disturb