MINDFULNESS MEDITATION MADE EASY
May this Gift of Dhamma help us in deepening
|1. Introduction to Vipassana Meditation|
|2. The Practice of Metta Meditation|
|3. How to Deal With Pain|
|4. The Basic Instruction on Walking Meditation|
|5. Meditation on the Buddha|
|6. Bare Attention|
|7. Meditation on the Impersonality of Body|
|8. Intensive Mindfulness Practice|
|9. Meditation on Death (Maranassati)|
|10. Mindfulness in Daily Life|
|11. Why Meditation Retreat!|
ABOUT THE TALKS
THIS BOOK CONTAINS a collection of Dhamma talks given to a group of Burmese doctors and their family resident in the U.K, during a six-day retreat held from 26-31 August 1998, at the resident of Dr. Kyaw Thinn and Sao Phong Keau Thinn in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
The themes of the retreat are based on the conventions of the Theravada Buddhism. The talks are arranged in a syllabus format that covers not only various presentations of mindfulness (sati) but also four other kinds of reflective meditation.
Although I have been teaching vipassana meditation here and there since early 1990s, I have never conducted a retreat of this nature before. I have, however, always thought of introducing a different way to traditional meditation retreat to serve as a course of study where one learns how to become a regular meditator while pursuing a normal working life. I regard this retreat as first step in that direction.
DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN
Strict intensive meditation retreat is invaluable in many aspects. Yet, people find it enormously difficult to keep momentum going on once they returned to a working life. Concentration and under standing seem to be gradually fading away before they put them in use in daily life.
People in full-time job have a good reason to offer excuse of having a busy routine that they have no time for one-hour meditation. Even monks and nuns can easily come out with such an excuse. However, there is a way to overcome this problem without necessarily having to defend oneself or feel bad about being unable to include meditation in one's daily routine.
A MODEST START
One should start with a modest timetable of, maybe, 10 minutes a day and two days a week and increase it gradually to one hour every day. This may take months until one becomes a regular meditator. Nevertheless, it is worth trying. One has to begin somewhere to get things started.
Mindfulness has to be given priority as opposed to concentration, which is the main format of traditional retreat especially in Burma. The duration must not bring pressure to the already pressurised life. Experiencing the daily world in every detail through mindfulness as taught in vipassana can make one feel the duration longer than it really is. If it is so, the duration is obviously bringing pressure on oneself.
The timetable of Birmingham retreat was organised to convince the participants that they could sit for 45 minutes without feeling much pressure. It has to be said that that was an achievement arrived at within a matter of six days but in a more or less intensive way. It will certainly take longer if this format was not used in an intensive retreat. Nevertheless, I hope what is contained in this book can still form a basis of different formats of training oneself to become a regular meditator.
Moreover, instant access to teacher and discussion are very important features of this retreat. As the retreat was relatively short, I felt the need to give more time for interview to clear their doubts and to give them opportunity to confirm their understanding and to explain what they experience. However, all the inter views were not included here as they could make this book unnecessarily too big in volume and have little relevance a part from the person it was intended for.
THE ESSENCE OF THIS TEACHING
The main approach of the retreat was mindfulness. The very important discourse on vipassana meditation, Satipatthana Sutta convinces us that mindfulness is not only the foundation of vipassana practice but also chief factor all the way. Mindfulness enables us to develop other qualities of mind and sustain them throughout.
Four traditional supportive meditations have been given for practice with some easy explanation. The time allocated for them should not be taken as standard because they naturally require a considerable amount of time to develop, which was not possible during a short retreat. Technically, they are part of Samatha meditation practice.
Mindfulness, also called awareness is what can help us live a happy and energetic life. It detects disturbing thoughts in our minds and removes them. Mindfulness also helps us see whole some thoughts in our minds and gives us a chance to develop them. It is the foundation of all self-dependent spiritual practices.
MINDFULNESS MADE EASY
Mindfulness practice is indeed a complicated and unattractive one for many people because in its principles it involves a comprehensive study of oneself and self-dependency. It calls for many factors to be made balanced. This goes straightaway into conflict with our dominant desire that looks for a quick fix.
Mindfulness practice rules out a mantra-style approach in life. No miracle or any superstitious belief. Simply, it is a self-cultured programme. The practice requires us to put in our own efforts and discover the truth through our own experience. The teacher is only to guide but not to see the truth for us.
I started reading the Satipatthana Sutta, the main discourse on mindfulness meditation since my late teens. However, there was little I could relate to people through my reading of this Sutta until six or seven years later as I understood very little of it. The words and phrases look so simple that they become too hard for me to grasp what they mean. It is a discourse and a practice I do not take it for granted up to this day. The Discourse requires some practice to see its points. Reflecting on the difficulty I have with the Sutta and the practice, I wish to make it accessible to many who other wise would feel put off due to inability to comprehend this particular Discourse. I have tried my best to present it in an easily comprehensible manner.
In this book, the non-judgemental nature and the usefulness of mindfulness in every day's life have been given more attention than other aspects of the practice. Because it is a judgmental mind that tends to interpret what we experience and creates a conflict out of it. It is the starting point where ego, which is not real, is born. Non-judgmental nature does not necessarily mean that Buddhist meditation accepts no moral distinctions whatsoever. Instead, it should be understood as no value judgement for factual reason. The chief principle at work is observation. Through observation by paying bare attention, one comes to see the wholesome and unwholesome character of thoughts, words and actions naturally. This is a realisation achieved through scientific exploration. The Buddha has discovered the Way, and all are welcome to test it through personal effort.
MEDITATION IN THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
I have made it clear that meditation in Buddhism has to be viewed in the right context, which is that of the noble Eightfold path. It is a path that leaves out the two opposing extremes and finds a dialectical position that no longer clashes with either of the two usually logical assumptions. However, unless all the eight factors of the Path are present in meditation or in any spiritual practice, there cannot be liberation from suffering. The eight factors in brief contain some form of restraining our speech and action (sila), meditation (samadhi) and the right attitude (panna). These three make the fundamentals of happiness in daily life. They come as ONE PATH that is necessarily means a package. One does not pick and chose only the part that one likes most since that will not make the Path any more.
In other words, meditation without the right attitude and some control of words and actions does not constitute the path leading to the end of suffering. Nor precepts and meditation that are not guided by the right attitude lead to the cessation of bewilderment in life. Mindfulness helps us discover not only the right attitude but also sustain the precepts we decide to undertake.
A FAMILY RETREAT
The participants determined the duration of this retreat. It is a family retreat by nature. They have made use of one weekend and bank holidays; some even had to take leaves, to make this retreat possible. Some of them are new to vipassana meditation while quite a few have been to different retreats both in Burma and in the U.K. Therefore, the participants have various background of training in meditation such as Sunlun, Mahasi and Goenkaji.
As all the participants, including three high school children who understand it better in English, are of Burmese Buddhist origin, the Dhamma talks were first aimed at bridging or rather increasing their understanding of the Dhamma with occasional reference to their culture, from which they first learn about Buddhism. In this book, I have tied my best to forego some cultural conditionings understandably necessary for the participants of the original retreat but may have little relevance to a wide range of readers. Nevertheless, some inevitable parts meant primarily for them can still be found here and I hope the readers can make the message relevant for themselves from such instances.
It is now left for me to say a few words of thanks. All these talks were recorded and transcribed by Dr. Kyaw Thin, Psychiatric Consultant who organised the retreat. He even translated two talks given in Burmese into English. He has always voluntarily done the same whenever I had to give a talk in Burmese at his residence. He and his wife Sao Phong Keau have been incredibly supportive to my Dhamma mission in the U.K. As usual, Dr. K. Thinn reads and makes some suggestions to the original manuscripts. I will ever owe him and his family for their generous support.
Gordon Waite, Head-teacher, Keble Primary School, Winch- more, London, deserves my special thanks for going through all the talks many times and the worthwhile suggestions he has made to polish the language and simplify the presentation. He spent hours with me to have a final go on each topic. Barbara Jones, Kingsbury High School, North-west London is beholden for fresh ideas and immense support she has given to me along the way.
Jo and Ms. Thomas (Head of the Dept.), Dept. of Religious Education, Claremont High School, Harrow are so kind to go through some of the talks and make a few suggestions. Gloria Blake, Don Hettiaratchi and Mark Carder from my regular meditation session, too, deserve a special acknowledgment for their patient readings of some of these talks.
Dr. Doreen Perera, a senior clinical scientist from the University College of London helps me clarify some medical explanation of the parts of the body. She and her husband, Mr. Nihal Perera have taken much trouble to see to my needs while editing this book. I am sincerely thankful to them.
This book, of course, will never be in the hands of the readers without constant encouragement and generous support from Mary Ng C.L., Visco Enterprises, Real Estate Agency, Singapore who has been my principal devotee since November 1994. As people in London started asking for the unedited copy of these talks, I began to feel the need to get them published. However, I could never mention it to anybody, knowing it would involve substantial cost. Without me saying it, she suggested it to me in January 1999 when I visit Singapore that I publish these talks so that many can benefit. She immediately undertakes responsibility for publication. I have received, too, some advice of no less value from her regarding edition and format of this book.
I should as well take an opportunity to make a mention here that she has taken a lot of her times to have "The Dhamma Made Easy," a collection of my talks published in January 1999 in Penang, Malaysia. Not only organising for the sponsorship she also has taken a lot of trouble for shifting them to all over the world. I would like to acknowledge here of my deep appreciation for all her dedication, generosity ad the unqualified support she has offered me.
Mr. Sunanda H.E Lim, has helped me in many ways. His cover design is eye-catching and reflective at the same time. As always, I thank him and the Inward Journey Publisher, Penang, Malaysia for their hard work in printing this book.
The sponsors play a very important role, too, in bringing out this book. Many of them have become so keen to have the teaching on the mindfulness meditation shared with as many people as possible after they have practised it themselves. It is a willingness to share with others that is primarily based on their personal experience and understanding. I honestly hope that this shared dedication will remain a unifying force in brining mindfulness meditation practice into many peoples' every day life.
May all being be well and happy!
Wednesday, 20 October 1999
THE AIM OF MEDITATION
WHAT WE ARE going to start now is a few days of meditation retreat. We are making a special effort to get together and help each other with meditation practice. This evening is an introduction. I would like to talk to you about why we need to meditate, what is concentration and how to begin to practise it.
To keep yourselves physically healthy, you go to a gym for an exercise, which is to make yourselves stable and physically strong. In the same way, to have a stable and strong mind we do meditation, which is mental exercise. Many people associate meditation with superstitious or extraordinary ideas. However, generally meditation in Buddhism is mental training.
It may help us to understand meditation better by thinking of mind as a scene from nature. Nevertheless, please bear in mind that the mind cannot be compared with anything we can see with our eyes. The mind is so quick, wonderful, complicated, and mysterious.
MIND IS LIKE WATER IN A LAKE
Nevertheless, for the sake of our own understanding, we can liken mind to a lake filled with lotus flowers and aquatic creatures. If you have a large lake filled with unpolluted water, you will have a green environment, on which people around it can depend. The mind is something like the pure water and the lake is like our physical body. Imagine what would happen if there was a leakage of water. The lake would eventually go dry. The aquatic creatures and the lotus flowers would die. The green environment would no longer exist. People would no longer be able to depend on it. Note the word leakage. It suggests that the water is escaping without your knowledge. You are not aware of it and the need to block the leak.
Just like that, during the day, without any intention to think, thoughts just come into our minds and waste away our mental energy. We get exhausted after 20 or 30 minutes of being immersed in wandering thoughts. So what do you do? You push them away and sigh, which is a sign of being exhausted. Sometimes you cannot even sleep because mental energy is leaking away. Frustration at work is a leak. Agitation at work is a leak. Mental energy is being wasted. You are not aware of it because it is just a leak.
WORRY IS A LEAKAGE
If worry or fear is present in a person, then that worry is like a leak draining all his energy. That person will become exhausted. That will also affect his physical health. It is important to block this leakage of mental power just as it is crucial to protect the aquatic creatures and the lotus flowers in order to keep the environment clean and enjoyable.
At work you meet someone behaving very arrogantly. He may be a colleague or a client. Let us suppose that you become very agitated. Agitation takes away mental energy. The day you feel agitation, you will feel more tired than on other days. This is not necessarily due to the workload, but because of agitation you experience at work. The next day when you go to work, you may become agitated again. Suppose, this happens daily. One week later you come home and feel disturbed very easily. Then you could start blaming others, sometimes your family, perhaps for a minor problem. You start quarrelling; you start losing the ability to appreciate what your family is doing for you. So now, the aquatic creatures inside the lake begin to suffer. The lotus flowers are the members of your family. They cannot be happy around an agitated man. If someone is agitated in this room, not yet depressed but simply agitated, then people cannot smile at all. The leakage of mental energy has that kind of effect on society, starting from your own family and friends.
That is why it is important to know how our mind works, why we feel agitated, why we feel frustrated, why we feel unhappy, and, of course, why we feel happy. So to know this we meditate. When we discover our own agitation, frustration, disappointment, resistance, resentment, we should try to accept it, see it more closely and understand it.
ACCEPTING THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH
There are Four Noble Truths; suffering (Dukkha sacca), the cause of suffering (Samudaya sacca), the end of suffering (Nirodha sacca) and the path leading to the end of suffering (Magga sacca). The first one, the Noble Truth of Suffering means suffering exists in reality. Worry is suffering. Agitation, aversion, frustration and disappointment are suffering. We do not normally accept these as suffering. Instead, we try to justify our own emotional reactions such as agitation. We try to blame others for our agitation instead of trying to understand and accept it. Suffering is an inseparable element of life.
Therefore, when we meditate we are going to see these things. We are going to accept suffering and try to understand it. Vipassana meditation is about trying to understand the First Noble Truth. It is not for the Buddha; it is not for me but for the one who meditates. We cannot share it, but our actions in relation to our environment will be reflected, or indeed determined by whether or not we meditate. This is why it is important to meditate.
MEDITATION OR BHAVANA
Let me now say something about meditation. The English word meditation does not contain any special Buddhist ideas. Some people think that meditation is to sit quietly, closing your eyes, thinking only of what is good in your life, ignoring all that is bad, cultivating an optimistic view. Some people think meditation is extra work, has little to do with the majority of people in daily life, and is only for monks, nuns and old people who have retired and have time for it. Sadly, even for many born Buddhists, meditation is seen only as a practice for those who wish to achieve Nibbana here and now, maybe as a shortcut. If you are not concerned about Nibbana or becoming an Arahant, in their opinion, you do not need meditation. In some religions, meditation means reflection on something in the past, what you have done, both good and bad.
In our case, to understand meditation, we have to go back to the original word in Pali, which is Bhdvana, which means to develop mental ability. We believe that as human beings, we have the ability to make our minds stable and concentrated, and make full use of it to understand, to think and to create something wonderful. Nevertheless, this ability within us is only a seed. We have to nurture it to enable it to grow. Although we have the ability to be mindful, to be concentrated and to understand, like seed, which remains a seed and will not become a plant until you grow and nurture it. The mind remains undeveloped without correct mental exercise. The technique to do this is called meditation. When we meditate, we explore and we try to discover how the mind works. The technique was discovered and taught by the Buddha but we have to see it for ourselves. We need a technique to develop our minds, our mental energy, like the way we develop our muscles in our body.
We are going to practise Vipassana Bhavana or Mindfulness Meditation. From now on, I shall describe the technique. The object of meditation is very important. In 1995 when I went to Taunggyi, in Shan State, Burma, I met one of my devotees who had been meditating for quite some time. He did not understand the concept of the meditation object. He expected me to tell him the best meditation object. I told him that the object that arises at the present moment is a good meditation object. Anger is a meditation object if you are aware of it. Jealousy is a meditation object. Stress is a meditation object. Breathing is a meditation object. And the Buddha is a meditation object. I did not have the impression that he made anything of my answer.
I was, theoretically, in broad terms, saying the whole world is a meditation object. When you go to work as a doctor, all that you see and experience, your patients, your colleagues, your work, everything is a meditation object.
THE SIX SENSORY WORLDS
How do we perceive objects? We perceive them through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. From the meditation point of view there are six worlds; the seeing world, hearing world, smelling world, tasting world, touching world and thinking world. The first five are physical and the last is mental. Everything that you perceive through these six senses is a meditation object. Whatever comes into your mind is a meditation object; whatever you see is a meditation object. You are now sitting and your body is touching the floor. That touch is a meditation object. You are hearing my voice, which is another meditation object. There is nothing that cannot become a meditation object. We experience the world in only these six ways.
What are we going to focus on? We have only one mind but we have to cope with six objects. Now you see me. This is a visual object. You hear my voice — an aural object. You are also thinking about what I am saying — this is a mental object. Your body is touching the floor, which is again another object — altogether four objects. Now which one are you going to focus on? This is where the technique comes in.
Imagine the mind is a watchman and he has to look after an object, say a house, which has six doors — the eye door, ear door, nose door, tongue door, body door and mind door. You are alone inside and do not feel secure. Someone may come in through the front door; another may come through the back door. They are there and you have to catch them. The way to do it is to close the other five doors and watch the remaining one and catch the person(s) coming through that door. This is what we call concentrating. You focus on one point. The ability to do that keeping your mind on one door and not the rest is called concentration. This word is sometimes explained as one-pointedness. You keep your mind on one point.
You want to go to the supermarket, you want to go to the library, you want to visit your friend, you also want to watch a video at home — four things. Which one are you going to do? Unless you have a strong mind, you will not be able to enjoy anything. Your mind will go to supermarket while talking to a friend. You fully enjoy none of the two. When you have a strong mind and decide "I'm going to watch a video," then you will be able to sit and watch it. At the time, you are watching the video, your mind does not go to the supermarket, nor does it wander either to your friend or to the library. This is concentration.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OBJECTS
Among these objects, we are going to select one as a Primary Object or an Initial Object and we are going to stick to that. As they come, we will watch the other objects as well. We will notice them, but they are Secondary Objects. If you have done meditation before and you have been given a certain meditation object as a primary object, you can keep to that. Otherwise, we are going to choose breathing in and out as initial object. As you breathe in you will say mentally "breathing in" and as you breathe out say "breathing out"; breathing in, breathing our, breathing in, breathing out. This is your primary object. However, this primary object is not the only meditation object. You do not shut yourself off from other objects altogether. It is not possible to do that. As they come in, whatever the object, you are going to note them.
INSTRUCTIONS ON SITTING POSTURE
Now I will begin giving instructions. Please sit comfortably. First, I will say something about posture. When you sit, do not cross your legs unless you are used to doing that before and have found you have no problems with that. It is better to keep your legs apart but touching each other. If you keep them crossed, they can produce heat and pain, and later stress. If you keep them apart, you may move them unconsciously. You are not supposed to move immediately or frequently, although you can do so at some point. Keep your spine upright and look straight ahead of you.
Regarding your hands, do not keep the back of one hand in the palm of the other as this can produce heat and cause distraction. Keep your fingers together; you can keep them crossed or just place one on top of the other. If you keep your body straight, that will maintain your posture. If you feel your body slumping forward, try to straighten it, but do it slowly and mindfully.
Now you are going to keep your eyes closed, not tightly but merely closed. If you close your eyes tightly, it will make your mind wander. You just close them lightly.
Focus your mind on your nostrils. Start breathing in and out normally. As you breathe in say in your mind "breathing in". This means you are naming the object. As you breathe out say in your mind "breathing out" — breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out. During the course of breathing in and out, if your mind goes somewhere, say it goes to the hospital and you see the hospital, now you release your mind from the breathing and take note of the hospital. When you see the hospital in your mind, you note "seeing, seeing, seeing" three or four times and come back to breathing. Start breathing in, breathing out again. If you hear somebody talking to you in your mind, you note "hearing, hearing, and hearing" three times or four times and come back to your primary object, which is breathing in and out. If you hear the ticking of the clock, you focus on that direction and note hearing, hearing, hearing three or four times and come back to the breathing. If you hear that again you can go back again and note hearing, hearing, and hearing.
When you feel pain in some part of your body, say in your knee, you switch all your mental energy to your knee. Note in your mind as "pain, pain, pain" for three or four times. Leave it there and come back to breathing. The pain may decrease or increase. If the pain increases you go back there again and note pain, pain, pain three or four times. Leave it there and come back to breathing.
If the pain keeps increasing you go back again, stay with the pain, and note it for a longer time. If the pain makes you impatient, note "impatience, impatience, impatience" or "agitation, agitation, agitation", and come back to breathing.
If you feel cold, you note "cold, cold, cold". If you feel numbness, do not change your posture immediately. Try to stay with it as long as possible and note "numbness, numbness, numbness", leave it there and come back to breathing. If it becomes stronger, go back there and note "numbness, numbness, numbness". If you are thinking of what you have done today or what you are going to do tomorrow, simply note "thinking, thinking, and thinking".
(This talk was given in Burmese and translated into English by Dr. Kyaw Thinn)
There are four kinds of meditation we need to practise in order to support Vipassana meditation. They are metta meditation, meditation on the qualities of the Buddha, meditation on the impersonality of the body and meditation on death. These four, if practised earnestly and correctly, help in the development of Vipassana practice. Conversely, Vipassana meditation assists us achieve deep understanding of these four meditation practices. They are mutually approving and supportive, and that is why these four are known as Supportive Meditation.
They are largely reflective types of meditation rather than trying to watch sensation and thoughts momentarily as in Vipassana. They help the mind to focus. Once fully developed, they also tend to influence the way we think. Three of them — MettA meditation on the impersonality of body and meditation on death help us directly to acquire the right thought factor of the Noble Eightfold Path because their nature is that of goodwill, non-violence and detachment.
Before practising metta, I would like to discuss what metta is. Practising metta (loving-kindness) meditation is not something new to the Burmese Buddhists or to the Thai and Sri Lankans. Actually in many places, by meditation people would immediately understand it as metta meditation. It is a very popular practice in many traditions. Often people it is important to people to know how effective their practice of metta meditation is, and how confident they have become in their metta meditation.
Metta meditation comes in a set, comprising four component metta, karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (balanced mind). When we say metta, the remaining three are also included. However, in practice, all the four cannot be done at the same time. We have to begin with metta. Whether or not we progress to the other three elements depends on how we are progressing with metta practice.(1) We could not start off with karuna and mudita or upekkha because each of the last three is a specialized advancement of metta. Metta is an inclusive primary practice that develops itself into the qualities of heart such as karuna, and is essential to furthering these qualities.
(1) In Burmese, Upekkha means being indifferent to some one or something. This is often mistakenly taken to mean the Upekkha; which is a part of Metta. Upekkha; that is a part of Metta is not an attitude of ignoring and being indifferent towards something but rather a balanced mind that is not swayed nor affected either by the suffering object of Karurna or the pleasant object of Muditda. It always retains the spirit of Metta, which is the very foundation of its existence.
WHAT IS METTA
The desire to see peace and success in your life is metta. The desire to be free from harm is metta. This good intention is to be developed and extended to members of your family and friends. As it progresses, you have to gradually extend it to all in the world including your enemy. The desire to see them doing well and happy in their life is the spirit of metta
You want to see yourself progress socially, economically and spiritually. This is metta. When we wish ourselves good health and prosperity, we are purely developing the awareness of goodwill to ourselves — promoting love for ourselves and avoiding danger, harm and enmity.
DO NOT START FROM THE WHOLE WORLD
Metta is a goodwill through which you wish to see welfare and well-being of yourself. In this world, all living creatures love themselves and should have an awareness of this feeling. They should then extend this feeling to those nearby such as parents, family members, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and teachers. This is the way to start spreading or expanding metta. There are some, who start by saying, "may all creatures in the East be well and happy". Some practise metta with only the whole world as their meditation object, overlooking the people nearest and dearest to themselves. Without being able to develop metta fully for themselves and their friends, how can one expect to stretch out metta to the whole world. It is not logical. That could become a futile effort and sometimes almost a prayer intended for mere public display.
UNIVERSAL DIMENSION OF METTA
As metta is universal by nature, as said earlier, we have to have a wholesome feeling not only for ourselves but also for other people as well. Otherwise, metta can lose its true nature and be overcome by its invisible attacker, attachment and selfishness. That is not metta any more.
Metta by its true character gravitates toward a gradual diminishing of the border between you and your family, friends and strangers, and yourself and the enemy. Prejudice, favour and fear are the manifestations of the opponents of metta They create a mental boundary between those you like and those you do not like. Metta works to diminish and eliminate such bias and discrimination. Metta gives a universal dimension to the way we think and act. With metta, come virtues such as friendliness and honesty. One who has sufficiently developed metta is exceptionally thoughtful, caring and gentle. He is patient and willing to listen to someone else's point of view.(2) Metta seeks to transform the inner character of a person while offering peace and a confident outlook on life.
There are people, who do not have the feeling of goodwill even for themselves. They do not strive to improve themselves; they may even harm themselves or place themselves in danger. Therefore, those people who seek to improve their life righteously and avoid harming themselves are at least practising the awareness of metta for themselves. They need only proper guidance to extend it to others.
VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE ENEMIES OF METTA
Metta practice can easily be derailed especially in the absence of mindfulness. The goodwill nature of metta could change into that of attachment and lust, both of which have magnetic potential. They are an invisible hindrance to metta. It is extremely difficult to combat them.
Ill will and anger are the opposite of goodwill and loving-kindness. They have destructive forces within and without. They are the well-known and visible enemies of metta. All the hindrances to metta, both visible and invisible, are direct emotional responses from within, which require awareness and concentration to detect and put under control.
Actually, metta meditation cannot proceed in the absence of mindfulness. The Buddha has made it clear that one must establish mindfulness to sustain metta(3). We have to have a sustained awareness (sati), indeed, all the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhanga) to develop metta.(4)
The Buddha has also advised anyone to help his relative or friend, if really concerned for them, to practise mindfulness meditation (Satipatthana). Metta and mindfulness practices are often taught together.(5)
(3) Metta Sutta, Sutta-nipata. pp. 143- 152
(4) Metta-sahagata Sutta, Bojjhanga Samyutta. Samyutta-nikaya
(5) Metta Sutta, Satipatthana Samyutta, Samyutta -nikaya
NOT JUST RECITATION OF WORDS
Metta meditation is not merely recitation of the Metta Sutta, the discourse on loving-kindness. It is about bringing and developing an awareness of the fact that we love ourselves; we do not wish any harm to befall ourselves. Moreover, it is about extending such good thoughts to others. It is also about evolving qualities of heart we mentioned earlier. To do that, right effort must be in place. Nevertheless, without mindfulness, we may not know where and when to make an effort. It is down to mindfulness again.
Metta meditation is not just chanting a formula either. There are many formulas translated directly from the Pali texts or based on one like "may I be happy", which is a well known formula.(6) It is not enough just to memorize the formula or stanza and recite it like a mantra. It does not work that way. It requires mindfulness and reflection on the issues such as happiness and suffering, and the person who is the meditation object.
(6) For the monastic community a formula in Pali like "Aham avero homi, avyapajjo homi, anigho homi, sukha attanam pariharami" etc is most used. One has to know the meaning and use reflective energy while chanting it.
IMMEDIATE RESULT OF METTA
Developing metta is, in fact, instrumental in overcoming frustration within oneself. This gradual reduction of frustration is the first benefit that one reaps from metta meditation.
As one becomes cheerful and hopeful, he is well liked and loved by many. Aversion, irritation, agitation and anger will be greatly reduced as the practice goes forward. An arrogant attitude that tends to belittle others will also vanish. Contempt and an "I don't care" type of attitude can sour all the good will. Our daily life is often disturbing, disappointing and complicated. If your metta practice is sufficiently advanced, you will seek a contented, simple and unconfused life.
We need to be introspective to find out whether or not we have any of these qualities within us. To be able to do this, we need to practise Vipassana meditation. If through this meditation practice, we discover that we lack a certain quality, we should then apply right effort. We should reflect on the individual words of the Metta Sutta, the Discourse on Loving-kindness, and assess ourselves on whether we possess those qualities. This is another way of practising metta
KARUNA AND MUDITA
We have to start embracing compassion (Karuna) and joy (mudita) right from the beginning. In metta meditation practice, there should be a meditation object. The first object is none other than yourself. The second object is people who are close to you.
No matter who is chosen to be an object of metta meditation, all the objects can be mainly put into two categories, one that is suffering and the other that is happy or successful. For example, my mother is chosen as the object of my metta. If she is suffering from a headache, I wish for her to be free from suffering, which is a headache. To have this goodwill requires metta (loving-kindness) as its foundation. As I appreciate her suffering, compassion is born. This is because she is a suffering object.
When she is happy, I wish her happiness sustained with metta. As I treasure her happiness, joy comes into existence. The same object, my mother, is giving rise to both compassion and joy. This is due to the fact that I set out with metta practice having a dimension that is wide enough to embrace and give rise to both compassion and joy. The issue of the headache is relevant to develop attentiveness. It is an issue, which is in my mind at the present.
When she is anxious, I would say "may you be free from anxiety and may you be happy." My good wish for her to be free from anxiety is a compassionate feeling, which originates from metta while the latter, a wish for her happiness is necessarily a joyous one also firmly established on metta. Metta sets out, therefore, to develop karuna and mudita.
In metta meditation, both feelings of being compassionate and joyous come into play. When we look at the famine in Sudan and see the people and children starving from hunger, we are observing a suffering object. You immediately develop karuna if metta is already inherent in you. A person practising metta meditation on a suffering object develops compassion. In another words, metta is transformed into compassion. When you hear that a certain group of people is being oppressed, you develop compassion if metta has already been developed. Of course, without mindfulness, this metta could lead to anger over the oppressor, and you may react accordingly. Here you can see the importance of mindfulness.
When we hear of someone's success in the recent GCSE examination, we feel happy. In this instance, the feeling developed is mudita, a joyous feeling. You are happy to see someone doing well. In this world, it is quite easy to feel compassionate because suffering objects are by nature very moving. It is very powerful. Just observe how the whole country felt when the news of Princess Diana's tragic death was announced. Many broke down in tears.
When she was alive, not all of those people were happy with her; some used to criticise her or even find fault with her, or magnify her mistakes. Some even made a fortune out of her weakness. There was not much mudita at that time. What I mean to say is that it is more difficult to rejoice in somebody else's achievement.
HARD TO FEEL JOYOUS FOR OTHERS
Communism developed as a result of the oppression of the working class. According to Buddhist philosophy, this oppression and poverty led to feelings of karuna, which in turn led to the formation of a system to dispel that oppression and exploitation. Communism was clearly built on compassion. However, the people who followed Communism did not feel happy when they saw rich people. They, especially the Communist leaders, had no joyous feeling. If they had feelings of mudita, they might not have nationalised or confiscated businesses, thus might have prevented the present economic and political collapse. Those leaders might even have survived until now.
Therefore, when developing metta, we should assess ourselves to see whether it contains the necessary fundamentals that also give rise to both compassion and joy.
THE ROLE OF SATI
The role of mindfulness in metta practice has already been discussed earlier. Nevertheless, I should mention it again here. You are moved when you see a suffering object. You are happy to see some one doing well. You become joyous because of mudita. Emotionally, these two, compassion (karuna) and joy (mudita) are opposites. Consequently, when we encounter both emotions at different times, we can be put off balance emotionally. We may become more disposed towards karuna and become very sad. Alternatively, we may become inclined towards mudita and be pushed towards attachment (lobha) and pride (mana). You really need something to balance these two diametrically opposite emotions, and it is Sati (mindfulness), which brings in some balance. This is why we need to practise metta along with Vipassana meditation.
Having reached this stage, mindfulness helps develop concentration (samadhi). Such a development is vital because without the presence of strong concentration, the mind can be off balance. In plain language, upekkha, the last component of metta, can not be cultivated unless concentration is developed. However, concentration alone, without metta, karuna and mudita, there does not bring about upekkha.(7)One-pointedness, an aspect of concentration, helps the mind to balance itself.
When mindfulness is present, our mind is kept in balance. When we meet a person who is suffering, we can help him without being overwhelmed by sorrow. We are able to keep ourselves under control. When we meet a happy person also, we can feel happy as well without forming attachments or craving. People often feel jealous in such circumstances. If we can feel suffering without anger and the joy without jealousy, then this is what is known as upekkha (equanimity). It is quite different from the Burmese word upekkha, which means to ignore. An ignoring attitude cannot become an offshoot of metta. The Pali "Upekkh&' is, as discussed earlier, related to samddhi (concentration) and is developed with it. A person lacking in samcidhi but who claims to be practising upekkha is probably just trying to ignore things.
Why do we need this balance? It is because of the opposition of the two emotions of karuna and mudita. In the learning stage, mindfulness balances karuna and mudita, and thereby helps develop upekkha, while in the reflective stage, the awareness of cause and effect contributes to upekkha practice. I have now briefly explained what metta, karuna, mudita and uppekha are.
(7) Concentration that is associated with Upekkha is called Ekaggata in Pali.
SPECIFIED AND UNSPECIFIED OBJECTS
When choosing an object for metta meditation, there are two types of object, a specified one and an unspecified. A specified object could be a chosen person, whom one specifies by name or appearance. Try to visualise the person in mind when directing metta to that person and wishing him good health and happiness.
Without particularising any person, if we just say "may all beings in the East or in the whole world be well and happy," then this is an unspecified metta object. This way of propagating metta to an unspecified object is only possible and effective if done by a person who has developed and attained a very powerful degree of metta with a specified object. Otherwise, it will be ineffective.
INSTRUCTIONS ON METTA MEDITATION (BASIC TECHNIQUE)
IDENTIFYING NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE CONDITIONS
I want you to think of two negative conditions that you do not wish to have and two positive conditions or things that you wish to have. In another words, think of desirable and undesirable things in your life. We will start our practice based on these settings. To give you an example, I have a gastric ulcer, which wakes me up in the middle of the night because of the pain. I suffer from lack of sleep. Sometimes when I go for dcTha, the food offered is very spicy; I end up eating just rice and yoghurt. I have encountered these difficulties. So, I have become mindful of these difficulties and with a feeling of metta for myself, my first wish is that I may get rid of the gastric ulcer. Secondly, my wish is to be free from bad company, to be far away from them and not to have to meet them. I will simply meditate "may I be free from bad company." These are the two most obvious wishes for me as far as negative situations are concerned.
The two positives are to be able to meditate and study success fully. These are my two most important things, even burning issues, for me at the present. I will incorporate them into metta practice.
I first choose myself as the meditation object. I say to myself in my mind "May I be free from gastric ulcers. May I be free from bad company. May I be able to meditate more and successfully, and may I be advancing as I wish with my research study." This is repeated two to five times.
Next I direct my mind to another person, for example, to my mother, visualising her and wishing thus; "May she be free from gastric ulcers. May she be free from bad company. May she be able to meditate successfully. May she be advancing in her Dhamma study."
Actually, it should be a relevant issue for her. I may say, may she be well and happy, may she be free from anxiety and worry. Good health and happiness are something positive I want her to enjoy. Anxiety and worry are things undesirable I do not want her to have them. We need to choose two negative and two positive issues, and cultivate metta first for ourselves and then for a specific person.
By this practice, we develop sati (mindfulness) of our feelings of well being, our desire to be free from harm and suffering, and this then leads to the development of metta for ourselves. From then on, we can extend the same metta, first to our parents if they are still alive, second to our existing families and then close friends. We direct our metta to them individually, one by one.
We next have to choose a neutral person. He or she may be someone from work or someone you come across in society. This person has to be known to you but one towards whom you have not formed any like or dislike. He or she is entirely neutral. We then direct our metta to that person in the same way as we did before.
THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT YET MEDITATION OBJECTS
We should forget the people we have been in conflict with or had arguments with for the time being. Only when we have made some progress in our metta meditation, should we include them. Some say that they have just gritted their teeth and cultivated metta to people they have had a fight with. I cannot imagine what type of metta is being directed to them. This is just not possible. The border between your acquaintances and the neutral person has to be eliminated first, before you can effectively cultivate metta towards your enemy. We do not start with the opposite sex either as this can arouse lust. Nor do we begin with those who have died, for this can stir up sorrow.
IN SITTING MEDITATION, after a while, pain and tingling sensations usually appear. These sensations include itching, feeling stuffy, tension and feelings of lightness or heaviness in some parts of the body. All these sensations are considered as meditation objects (vedana). Today, we shall discuss how we should deal with them.(8)
(8) The Burmese word Vedanais derived from the Pali word Vedana, which means all the different types of sensations, both good and bad, as well as neutral one. However, the Burmese word Vedanadoes not apply all. It means only the bad feelings or pain, tingling and numbness. Sometimes it also means mental anguish.
Pain is a kind of vedana, feeling or sensation. However, there are different types of feeling; pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Pain means unpleasant feeling. Feeling, vedana, exists as a part of a process in the non-stop function of psychophysical phenomena. It can arise from contact through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind provided that there is a corresponding sense object present. In plain terms, you feel in six ways, through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. Vedana, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, is an experience that makes you aware of something. Psychologically speaking, it is a part of a cognitive process. It is more than a mere sensory state.
We do not start meditating on pleasant or neutral feeling, as in most cases they are not as clear as pain. We do not begin with a lesser known object. Compared with pain, a pleasant feeling is less known and a neutral one is the least perceived by a beginner. That is why we talk about the pain that we confront in almost every meditation session. The way to deal with tension, numbness and other unpleasant feelings, even neutral sensations will be covered under this topic.
Pain has a very important message to tell us when it arises. If we receive and realized the intended message for what it is, we can become wise. Instead, we tend to become impatient and try to reject it outright. We do not have the sufficient courage to observe it, and even less to investigate its nature.
Whether physical or mental pain always has a cause. Everything which happens is part of a process. When we sit, pain may develop in the legs, back, shoulders and neck. When it develops, we normally identify the pain with ourselves. Out of habit, we start think ing or rather judging ourselves. We say "I am in pain" rather than "there is pain". Because we have been conditioned to react in this way, we consider this view perfectly normal and justifiable. The first description "I am in pain" is subjective and is an outcome of a defiled view. The second expression "there is pain" reflects more objectivity. It is much more accurate to say that "there is pain". There is no self, with which to identify the pain. In saying "I am in pain, my ear is painful, my shoulder is aching" we are already personalising the pain.
Last November, there was a conference on "How to Deal with Pain" held at the North London Hospice. I was invited to present a short paper. In this, I stated that pain increases when we identify the pain with ourselves. People there could not understand this view. Someone said that pain was a personal experience. "When I feel pain", they said "you do not feel it. It is personal." From an experiential point of view, it is personal. I have a gastric problem and I feel pain. You do not. It is personal to me in that sense.
However, pain is common to all beings. It is hardly proper to personalise it. In the same way, human rights belong to all and we cannot identify them as belonging to one particular person or group. Looking at life as a whole, is there any self to be identified with? Identity is something created in the mind through perception. It is the way we perceive ourselves and things around us. Such perception itself changes and is, therefore, contradictory to the notion of a permanent self. The non-self has to be realised to detach ourselves from the pain.
THE FIVE AGGREGATES
The Buddha analysed life into two phenomena, physical and mental. Just these two; the physical state which has no ability to feel or experience, and the mental state which does. When you analyse yourself from top to toe, these are the only two states that exist. This may be further subdivided into the Five Aggregates with mental phenomena split into four namely feeling, perception, consciousness and other mental associates (about fifty of them). The person identified conventionally as Dr. Kyaw Thinn still has the same five attributes as the person known as U Dhammasami. This similarity will become clearer when we discuss the meditation technique on the impersonality of the body tomorrow.
What this means is that a feeling arises from a cause and when the cause disappears the feeling vanishes. Pain arises because we sit for a long time, or stand for a long time, or because the circulation is impaired. There is a cause. The existence of physical and mental phenomena leads to the existence of pain. It comes as a package. That is why we say khandha, which means an aggregate indicating things that work in a group. From this package, you may wish to leave out the pain; you may want to pick and choose, wishing to have only pleasant feelings. This is against nature.
There are different types of pain caused by various reasons such as excessive work, mental pressure, injury and even kamma. The Buddha said in the Udana Pali at going through pain mindfully with the help of insight meditation burns away some bad kamma.
DEVELOPMENT OF SELF AND EGO
We create "Self' out of these Five Aggregates. We create illusion out of reality. A feeling is just a feeling, it is not "I" nor is it mine Just like U Dhammasami is only a name, which has been given by convention. When I was a young boy, I was known as Sai Kham Mai. Now that name has disappeared. If I am given a new name, then my present name U Dhammasami will disappear. If these exist in reality why should they disappear? As this identification of U Dhammasami develops, so does the development of the ego — I, me and my. We create "Self", an identity out of the Five Aggregates. What exists is the Five Aggregates and what does not exist is "I'. This "I' is just a name given by convention to the Five Aggregates.
Unfortunately, we have been conditioned by these conventions. That is why whenever a pain arises, instead of just accepting the feeling as pain, we identify it with ourselves. This is how the pain multiplies out of ego. When we feel an itch on our face, our spontaneous response is irritation. This irritation makes you restless.
If we train our minds using Vipassana meditation, we can learn to observe the itch as just a feeling of itchiness, not personalising it "I am itching or I am feeling itchy." Once we become trained in this way, the itch becomes tolerable; the pain also becomes tolerable. When we have been practising meditation for some time, the pain may spontaneously diminish. Or if it persists, and we accept it as it is, rather than personalise it, the pain does not get worse — it remains as it is. We do not multiply the pain.
In Pali, making a thing increase is called papanca, which literary means prolonging suffering. When you see these five realities or phenomena, as "Self' (ditthi — wrong view), you become attached to it (tanha — attachment). This wrong attitude and attachment are the factors that prolong suffering, which is in this case pain.
In modern psychology, the term "Narcissism" would be equivalent to the Buddhist term of papanca (prapanca in Sanskrit), prolonging factors namely attachment (tanha), pride (mana) and wrong attitude (ditthi). In the presence of these three prolonging factors, instead of seeing these five aggregates objectively as they are without creating the "Self", the Five Aggregates come to be seen as an identity. A wrong perception is developed. This is a wrong approach towards a problem such as dealing with pain in life.
Take the hair on your head; when it is on your head you love it, you take care of it. As soon as it is cut and falls on the floor, you do not identify it as your hair anymore. You do not care now what happens to it. Within seconds your perception changes. Hair is an object. The nature of the hair has not changed. What has changed is your perception of what you have described as your hair. So wrong perception is one of the factors that enlarge the pain we experience.
In the Buddha and the arahants, the pain they experience is regarded as merely an object, looked at objectively. Therefore, although there is physical pain, there is no mental pain attached to it. Mental pain is something we create after physical pain has arisen. No wonder the pain is so great. On top of the physical pain, we add mental pain, we double or triple the pain. When we accidentally trip and hurt our feet, we say "Oh, my poor foot hurts." Instead of paying attention to the pain, we pay attention to the foot. Consequently, the pain increases immediately. You get a bonus, just like buying one and getting one free, sometimes even more.
That is why it is very important to have the right attitude. When meditating, we should just acknowledge pain as pain. Just say "pain, pain, and pain" — not "I am in pain". To use "I am in pain" is to satisfy our falsely created identity. Pain is being dealt with in the wrong way.
Attachment to the false identity of "Self" is tanha. It also expands the pain. As soon as we identify ourselves as "I", we develop pride (mana). You are proud of the identity that you have falsely created. You are really hurt by whatever has been said of you. You think it hurts your pride, a pride born out of wrong perception. You fail to see any objectivity in what is said of you. Tanha and mana damage the reasoning power as well. They help prolong every kind of suffering.
When we meditate, we try to see an object as an object. Of course, this will not happen straightaway as we do meditation. We will still see it as we have been conditioned to. However, we try to see things as they are. We see sorrow as sorrow, repulsion as repulsion, irritation as irritation, an itch as an itch, hair as hair. Just as, the hair on your head is perceived differently from when it is cut and has fallen on the ground or thrown into the dust-bin, this perception is subjective and manipulative, and not objective. We make an effort to get rid of such perceptions that fool us all the time. To get rid of it we have to first see the false perception as it is. To see things as they are is the ultimate aim of meditation.
RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARDS PAIN
Pain is common to everybody. It does not recognise colour, nationality, gender, social status or academic status. It spares no one. Pain exists in reality. It does not change its nature of being impermanent. It is suffering. That is what the Buddha said. That is the Truth of Suffering. Pain is part of life. With the help of Vipassana meditation, what we have to do is not to run away from pain but to face it; not to ignore it but to accept it.
Life is never far away from pain. We start life with pain. As soon as we are released from our mother's womb, we cry because the hands of the nurse is painful to the touch of a new born baby. The nurse tries his or her best to be as gentle as possible but that is never enough for a child who is encountering the outside world for the first time. Nevertheless, the mother is happy listening to the cries for the first time. There is not much anyone can do except to let the child adjust himself or herself to the situation. He or she has to grow old physically to live with it. As he or she grows older a few hours later, he or she becomes in harmony with pain and does not cry for the same reason any more. We have to grow older now in wisdom to face a greater pain, even a mental one.
We have to find a way to be in harmony with some kind of pain, a way to accept it and learn from it. This does not mean that we have to live with every kind of pain. It is perfectly all right to use painkiller to suppress unusual pain. Nevertheless, the kind of pain that is very much a feature of daily life has be tolerated, watched and learnt from.
A moment with pain can make you one of the wisest persons on earth if there is sufficient patience and mindfulness to learn directly from it. Whether you meditate or not, if you sit for more than one hour, you will experience some form of pain. Our body is capable of producing pain, and, potentially, it can remain that way all the time. It is so important not to regard pain as a distraction but as meditation object. Vipassana meditation is an all-inclusive technique that leaves nothing out as its object.
DEVELOPING PATIENCE THROUGH PAIN
Dealing with pain will help develop patience, another vital quality of mind. Within a set duration of meditation, make up your mind to face and learn from pain. Do not try to change your posture frequently as it would remove an excellent opportunity of learning something from pain. The greatest Pali commentator Venerable Buddhaghosa in his famous work called Visuddhimagga, the Path of Purification, said that pain is covered by a change of postures. Be determined to learn all of the reactions to the pain, such as repulsion, impatience, frustration, anger, restlessness, disappointment and confusion. Only by dealing with impatience and understanding of it can we develop patience. Patience and impatience are the two mental states that exclude each other. Mindfulness of impatience leads to knowledge of impatience. With this knowledge we can uproot it. Impatience is not something you can throw into the dust bin when you do not like it. It has to be recognised and understood before it can be effectively removed.
Intense pain at one of the process stages indicates that contemplation is making remarkable progress. Sharp pain as if piercing parts of the body with a knife could be experienced. As one stops contemplating, such sensations may disappear, and reappear as one resumes. At this time it is especially advisable to practice under close guidance of a teacher so that each development is discussed and clearly understood. Such sensations are normally present in the body but are obscured when contemplation is not highly developed to observe it. Never be discouraged in the face of such unpleasant feelings. Just proceed with courage and determination until you overcome them.
Once these gross reactions are overcome with continued development of mindfulness, lesser known sensations such as a delightful sensation (piti), a gratifying feeling (sukha) and a neutral feeling (upekkha) will come. They are experienced only at the point when the mind is largely free from sensory contact (samisa). Some would say at this stage that they have overcome pain (vedana). Gross pain may not be present but some kind of sensation is always there. One looks dignified because pain is no longer agonizing. One can now sit for a very long time without experiencing pain. Such pleasant feelings, too, must be kept under the close watch of mindfulness in order to understand their true nature.
YET TO UNDERSTAND IT
All sensations, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral have to be treated equally without any judgement. Being non-judgmental is one of the fundamentals of Vipassana meditation. Understandably, we would like to experience a pleasant sensation or at least a neutral one, not an unpleasant one. This habitual expectation blocks the mind from watching and investigating unpleasant sensations like pain and tension. This is how the mind is conditioned to be judgmental and rigid, not free and flexible.
We have not understood the sensations until we treat all of them in the same way and regard all of them through our instinctively just as another object. The understanding of sensation has to come from directly knowing the way in which it arises. If we do not, we have not grasped the true nature of sensation, we are not able to sustain the delightful feeling. We also have been unable to prevent the unpleasant feeling from occurring again. This is, simply, because we have not mastered sensation. For that, there is a need to register sensation through bare attention, just as scientists collect data to understand a substance, without any pre-conclusion whatsoever as to the outcome.
We may know from scriptures that sensations are impermanent. However, we must not go into dealing with pain arising at the present moment by influencing our mind in this way. We must not pre-empt the outcome before we see it. Any pre-conceived notion, even if it is true, can prevent one from seeing the whole picture; it does not help the mind to become flexible.
PAIN IN THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH
"Bhikkhus, the truth of suffering, in this case pain, has to be fully recognised, accepted and comprehended. Such teachings are unheard of before. By seeing, recognizing, fully accepting and comprehending it, eyes arose, insight arose, wisdom arose, knowledge arose and the light arose." This is an utterance by the Buddha in His First Sermon.
He fully accepted pain as it is and became sure that it is an ultimate truth with no creator behind it. It works the way it does, and without any one enforcing it upon us. It is Anatta teaching. One cannot command pain not to be pain. Pain is pain, and nothing else. The nature of pain is torturous, agonizing and uncomfortable. It is suffering. The Buddha saw it as it is. He no longer reacted to it when facing it.
Our experience of life, in this case pain, is taught in Buddhism as the first noble truth. We cannot escape from this truth. It is impossible to walk away from it. The way to get away from it is to be mindful of it, recognise it and comprehend it. Once we under stand it and can accept it, the pain seems to become less. We are able to cope better with it. At this stage, the pain has become one of many favourable meditation objects. Strong pain will sustain bare attention, yet it becomes no longer unbearable. The Buddhist way of dealing with pain is not to run away from it but to face it. Of course, physically, if you are in pain, the Buddha was not against taking a painkiller as has been said earlier. What the Buddha was trying to do is to help you prevent the creation of more pain out of the pain that you already experience.
DEALING WITH PAIN DURING MEDITATION
Now let us discuss how to deal with pain that arises while meditating.
In dealing with pain, there have to be primarily, at least two meditation objects. If you have only one (perhaps pain), the pain can easily overpower your mind, and as a result, you may become an agitated person, a frustrated person etc. In order to watch pain with a stable mind, you need two objects. Breathing in and out has been chosen as your primary object. When pain arises, (also in the case of numbness, or itchiness, or tension), you should observe that pain, about three or four times and then leave it there. Go back preferably to the primary object, breathing in and out.
The pain may get less during this period or it may increase. If it increases, you go back to the pain and observe it again — pain, pain, pain — three or four times, leave it there and come back to the breathing again. To be able to watch the pain objectively like this, like watching a film, is fantastic. How nice! I do not need to tell you how great or how happy you should feel when you are not in pain. But just imagine how great it is to be able to stand the pain, work through it, maintain your stability, calm, peace and reason, at the time the pain arises. How great it would be to just watch the pain in that way!
If the pain continues to increase, you have to go there for the third time, and this time you stay longer with the pain. Do not come back immediately; stay with the pain and watch the pain, focusing your attention on the particular spot where the pain is. Then the pain may decrease or increase, as you are not in control of it. If it decreases, just come back to your primary object. In case it increases, stay with it, observe it with some effort. You may change your posture to relieve yourself from the pain, when it has become unbearable. Make sure that you move only when it is unbearable, and not out of rejection of the pain.
If we can command the pain to stop or increase, then the doctrine of Anatta (non-soulness) must be wrong. In the second sermon, the Buddha said, "You cannot change the nature of pain. You cannot change the nature of happiness or unhappiness." These are natural and they only operate according to their own nature, and not according to someone's wishes. This is called Anatta. So, try to work on the pain and look at the pain. The nature of the pain is just like the nature of any other object. When we look into the pain, it gives us insight and understanding. Regard pain as a meditation object. Be determined to watch and investigate it.
Q: At what stage do you start acting if the pain becomes unbearable during meditation?
A: If after the third cycle of observing the pain and returning to breathing, the pain increases and becomes unbearable, then you may change your posture. But before you do so you have to note your intention to change by observing; intention, intention, intention and then change your posture slowly observing the changes at every stage; moving, moving, moving, lifting, lifting, lifting, placing, placing, placing, touching, touching, touching, etc. If there is a feeling of relief, please note that as well. Then slowly, return to your breathing. Outside meditation, you can observe pain by giving it awareness once without personalising it or identifying the pain with yourself. Then you can try any necessary measure to relieve the pain.
Q: Can two thoughts exist at one time?
A: When your concentration (samadhi) is still weak, you may feel as though two or more thoughts or feelings exist at once. But, that is not true.
Q: Is this because if our concentration (samadhi) is strong, our mind will be totally engrossed on one object only?
A: In meditation, there are three stages — a learning, a controlling and a liberating stage. First, we have to learn what it is like to go through pain and learn how to accept it. You learn how to be receptive rather than rejecting. Then, when you become receptive to the pain, you can start to control it. Now, what you have just said is about controlling. You switch your mind on to some thing else.
When the Dhammayatana Sayadawgyi from Taunggyi, Shan State, the Union of Burma required a hernia operation, he refused to have anaesthesia. The surgeons did not dare operate on him without anaesthesia. They asked Dr. Aung Khin Hsint who was at that time the Director General of Health Department what to do. He knew the Sayadaw. He told the surgeons that if the patient signed a statement refusing anaesthesia, they should go ahead with the operation. It is on record in Sao Sam Toon Hospital, Taunggyi, Shan State that the Sayadawgyi underwent the operation without an anaesthetic. It is possible to control the pain with another object. Some people control it with music. In Vipassana, it is preferred that pain is looked at, even if the mind is to be engrossed in it as only one meditation object. To use concentration power and to avert your mind from pain would bring you a lot of relief but that does not bring an understanding of pain. Vipassaa meditation makes use of pain as an instrument to achieve liberation from suffering.
Remember from the time we are born to the time we die, pain is going to be there. The question is "when will it appear" and "whether we will be able to control it". Pain is part and parcel of our life.
Some meditators have a wrong perception. They try to meditate on the pain in order to do away with it. The assumption that meditation will necessarily get rid of pain is quite wrong. The aim or intention of meditation is not to get rid of pain. The pain is the Dhamma. It is inviting you to come and see it for yourself what it is like. Come and see (ehi-passiko) is the nature of the Dhamma.
Q: Should we seek The Truth of Suffering, Dukkha Sacca while meditating?
A: What we are trying to do is to understand this truth. There is no need to seek it. All the meditation objects belong to the Truth of Suffering. What is needed here to see it. It is already there. As I have explained before, in terms of practice, mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension sampajanna) are the aims. Being mindful of pain leads to its comprehension. More than that, to be aware of its causes leads to cessation of pain. So, you start understanding more about the pain. You will understand it as dukkha sacca, the Truth of Suffering. What we are doing is watching the pain and accepting it without any judgement or speculation. We watch, observe and later investigate it. We do not philosophise as to what the pain is but rather directly experience it to bring about direct knowing of pain.
VIPASSANA MEDITATION PRACTICE can be accomplished adopting various postures, standing, sitting, walking, eating, lying, etc. It can be practised at anytime. The most common postures are sitting and walking. People usually start with sitting and alternate it with walking.
Unlike sitting, in walking meditation you keep your eyes open. This is closer to how we would be doing in our working life. If you master walking meditation, you will be able to apply it to your working day and thereby improve general awareness in daily life.
Similar to choosing breathing in and out as our primary object, the primary object in walking is the movement of our feet, lifting and placing. Contemplating lifting as we lift our foot off the ground and placing as we place it on the ground. However, we must not look at our feet. We look straight ahead and downward at an angle of 40 degrees or three meters. This is to help us avoid the obligation of making any eye contact with other people. If we look straight down we may become dizzy and be unable to develop concentration (samadhi). If we look too far ahead, we will not be able to develop contemplation, as there will be many distractions.
The hands may be clasped together either in front or at the back, or folded in front of the chest. They must not swing by the sides.
You then walk slowly, much slower than usual speed, noting lifting, placing, lifting, placing, until you reach the end. Now stop, noting stopping, stopping. Turn back, observing turning, turning, turning. Stand for a while to make a mental note of standing, standing, standing. Then start walking again noting, lifting and placing. At the beginning, the distance must not be less than ten paces or more than thirty. It is preferred that one chooses to make between 20-30 paces if possible. If it is too short, your mind will tend to wander and you may feel frustrated. If it is too long, you will have difficulty developing concentration.
After walking like this back and forth, for about five or six rounds, you add another primary object — lifting, forward, placing, while walking. Then as you are about to turn, you note the intention to turn; intention, intention, intention. Turning and standing should be observed as described earlier. However, this time before you lift your feet, please note intention to do so saying in mind; intention, intention, intention — and then proceed with lifting, for ward and placing. In other words, at this stage, in addition to "lifting, forward and placing", you have to add "intention to turn and intention to lift your feet". The intention to turn and the intention to lift your feet are mental objects, "lifting, forward and placing" are physical objects.
If during your walking you hear a sound, you stop and note; hearing, hearing, hearing three or four times. Likewise, if a numbness or pain develops, stop and note it three or four times. If a thought enters your mind, stop and note; thinking, thinking, thinking and then continue walking. The speed at which you walk is decided by you to suit your own need. You will discover your own pacing as you make an effort to discover your correct posture in sitting. Ways to observe sensations and thoughts are almost the same as in sitting meditation. However, one does not contemplate seeing what is on the path. Instead, keep bare attention on the movements of the feet as the primary object. Some find walking meditation easier. People should be encouraged to do it more as it is the first step towards achieving general mindfulness in daily life. Walking meditation helps to balance many things.
As concentration improves, there comes a ,time when one should begin to increase observing the moving of the feet in more details. Nevertheless, to avoid pressure of having to cope with too much detail before one is ready for it; one should only increase in observing movements in detail with the approval of the teacher. The teacher would advise when one should indeed direct the mind from merely focusing on the walking to focusing on things of a more investigative nature.
REFLECTION ON THE QUALITIES OF THE BUDDHA
MEDITATION ON THE Buddha or reflective meditation on the qualities of the Buddha is another supportive meditation. We have already talked about metta meditation. As this is a short retreat, I can only introduce you to the meditation techniques and ask you to meditate for a short period. This type of reflective meditation is called in Pali: Buddha-nussati, which is recollecting the qualities of the Buddha.
Anussati is a combined word; "anu" — again or repeatedly and "Sati" (mindfulness); we try to be mindful again or to reflect. We often see quite a few people using their rosaries and reciting Araham over and over again when they are meditating on the qualities of the Buddha, without even having time to contemplate. You have no time to reflect if you just keep repeating Araham, Araham very quickly. What has happened is that the Araham has become a mantra, which it should not be. Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa is not a mantra. It is something for us to reflect on and be inspired by. The Buddha is a very important person. We know only too well that the Dhamma, which He has taught, has never been personalised. However, His personality is very important, because it proves that the highest achievement is within human reach. He was born a human being. He suffered as we suffer. If He did not eat, He felt hungry. If He walked too long, He felt tired. However, since He worked hard He became enlightened on His own and has become the symbol of human purification, human effort and human wisdom — the highest achievement in the universe. We are going to focus on that.
Buddha-nussati is, as described earlier, a reflective meditation. We are supposed to reflect and not chant. When we chant Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa, it is to remind ourselves. When we chant as a group, this is just to make the group uniform. When we chant it is too fast, it does not allow us time to reflect. What you have to do is to spend time to study what Arahato is and what Samma Sambuddho is, and to make an effort to reflect on it. This is what is meant by reflection meditation.
It is necessary for everyone to study about the Buddha through books, discussion or listening to Dhamma talks. One can then start reflecting. The two books about the nine qualities I would recommend are The Buddha, My Refuge by Ajahn Khantipalo and The Nine Qualities of the Buddha by Venerable B. Ananda Maitreya. Reading them will make your meditation easier. Read and choose the quality (ies), which you are going to contemplate. Reflect on that regularly. You will understand each quality better if you put it in the context of the daily life of an ordinary human beings, to which the Buddha once belonged before He developed these qualities.
In Burma, some people just count the rosary and even become superstitious about this exercise. They will use the rosary on their birthdays or just specific days like, for example Sundays, with a specific number of counting, and for the rest of the week will get up to whatever misdeeds they choose. They certainly give that impression. What we tend to do in Burma nowadays, is to use chanting mainly as mantras.
In the Shan State, the Union of Burma where I come from, some people even tattoo themselves with the words Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa. It is not meant for tattoo but for reflection. I cannot help comparing such thing with a forced tattooing of the old soldiers from the General Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist Army. The soldiers were abandoned by their General who was defeated by Mao Zedong and fled to Taiwan in 1949. They were later inducted into the People's Liberation Army and were sent to the Korean war. As they were captured, the Nationalists infiltrated the camps and persuaded them not to go back to China when the war ended. When they refused, they were reportedly tattooed by force proclaiming "Destroy the communist bandits". The doctrine of anti-communism was not something they seemed to have understood but the proclamation of the anti-communism was tattooed. That served no purpose.
You may, however, recite the stanza slowly and reflect on it. That is acceptable. What we normally understand as the qualities of the Buddha are described in the following stanza in many discourses of early Buddhism.
Itipi so Bhagava Araham, Samma-Sambuddho, Vijja-Carana Sampano, Sugato, Lokavidu, Anuttaro Purisa Dhamma Sarathi, Sattha Deva-Manussanam, Buddho, Bhagava.
There are altogether nine important qualities of the Buddha. In Pali, the nine are araham, samma-sambuddho, vijjacarana-sampanno, sugato, lokavidu, anuttaro-purisa-dhammasarathi, sattha-deva-manussanam, buddho and bhagava. In some places, it is said that the qualities of the Buddha are infinite and that one can go on and on endlessly reflecting the qualities. However, all those infinite qualities are included in these nine. As the practice goes on and you become more aware of your emotional shortcomings day by day, you can now become more flexible with the definitions of each quality of the Buddha. In other words, the definitions become your own, no longer the ones from a book or a talk. Once you start to realise their true meaning in your own context, they become more lively and meaningful. Let us now discuss in brief the nine qualities in the Pali stanza.
Araham has several meanings. First, it means that the Buddha had eradicated all the defilements. Defilement in plain language means bad thoughts, bad reactions like anger, anxiety, hatred, frustration, stress, depression, ignorance, jealousy, gossip, attachment, dogmatism and so on; the Buddha had got rid of all these. No defilement means no frustration, anxiety and depression, and any other unwholesome thoughts.
When you discover attachment in yourself, you reflect, "Oh, I have attachment but the Buddha had no attachment." When you are disappointed, reflect on the fact that the Buddha had no disappointment. A day hardly goes by without us experiencing stress and frustration in day to day life. At work, you often feel agitated. Do not try to justify your agitation. Instead, recall that the Buddha never felt agitated even in the most difficult circumstances. There ere times when the Buddha can not even convince His pupils. The monks ignore Him. There ere occasions where listeners just walk out unconvinced of what was being said by the Lord Buddha. Look, for example, at the case of Upaka and Radha.
It is a great relief and support for us to remember that the Buddha also had to face such situations but was not hindered by these obstacles in His mission to help people to get out of suffering. This is the way to reflect on the qualities of the Buddha. The Buddha inspires us with His qualities. Because He had got rid of all defilement, He is Araham.(9)
The second meaning of Araham is one who has no secrets; and the Buddha had no secrets. He had nothing to hide. He was totally open to everybody. In Burma, there is a story of four men who were sitting together and talking. After a while, one got up and left. As soon as that happened, the remaining three started gossiping about him. They were talking behind his back because they wanted to hide what they were saying from him.
Not long after that, another one got up and left. The remaining two started talking about him saying he was stupid. Then when the time came for the remaining two to part, they suddenly realised that they had been gossiping about the other two who had left earlier. So they pointed at each other and simultaneously said, "When I leave don't gossip about me!"
We all have many secrets, but the Buddha, because of the purity in his life, had none. He was morally pure — pure in his deeds, pure in his verbal actions and pure in his thoughts. Even towards those who plotted against him, He did not desire for revenge. If a person has any desire for revenge against another person, and is being asked whether he forgives the other person who hurts him, and he answers "Yes", just to appear magnanimous, then he is just hiding his emotions. He is not true to himself. When we come across people or situations like this, we should reflect on the Buddha's quality of being an Arahant, a person who has surpassed the need for secrecy. A totally open society: that is what the Buddha wanted to see. Not just democratic, but also being totally open and transparent. An Arahant does not mind surrendering his privacy to the community. This will help the members of the community to be open and become close to each other. However, in our case you can see that we are very resistant to doing so.
While repeating the word Araham, you go on reflecting at the same time comparing the quality He has and you do not have. You may or may not use the rosary. The rosary is only an instrument to help you concentrate. There is no superstition attached to it. We see some people choosing wood according to an astrologer's calculation. To make a rosary with this, they feel, will help produce a miracle. They have really missed the point of reflecting on the qualities of the Buddha.
The word Arahant and Arahat come from the same etymological background. and have the same meaning with Araham.
This means to discover and understand fully, the Four Noble Truths, without any aid from a teacher. The Four Noble Truths that we have read about, heard about, thought about — we still have difficulty in understanding them fully. What is dukkha? What is samma sati? What is samma samadhi? What is samma ajiva? People still ask about these things and we are still struggling to explain them. I am still not completely clear either. When I think about the teachers who have taught me these things time and again, and despite of this, I am still not sure about some of them, I am in awe. I reflect on how the Buddha discovered all of these by Himself, alone and without the help of any teacher. He was truly an Enlightened One. He realised the Four Noble Truths through direct experience. He is the best example of the self-enlightened and self-transformed person.
iii. VIJJA -CARANA-SAMPANO
Vijja-Carana-Sampano is knowledge and conduct, or theory and practice; the Buddha is endowed with both. He says as He acts and He does what He says. In this world, there are times when Kings and leaders announce or say certain things in public and before long disclaim them or fail to keep their words and break promises. When you see things like this, you realise how great is the quality of Vijja-Carana-Sampano the Buddha possese, and how valuable are all His qualities. Some people know the theory but do not practise it. They are like people who just study a map without venturing on the journey. Some people go on journeys all the time without reading the map, so they get lost. As for the Buddha, He knows the map, knows the route and has made the journey. He was wholly trustworthy. This is why the Buddha invited people to study critically what He said, and not to believe it blindly. That is why Buddhism makes it not a case if one is believing but, indeed, if one is seeing for oneself.
Sugato is a great speaker, who is adept in the art of choosing the right words, saying them at the right time, and in such a way as will benefit the listener. The Buddha was a master of that. We sometimes say things with good intention but because of the wrong choice of words, the intention may be misunderstood. Sometimes people say nice things like, "Very good, excellent, wonderful", but their sincerity is in doubt. We can reflect on the Sugato quality of the Buddha at home, at work or wherever we are.
Another meaning of Sugato is that the Buddha walks the best path to reach His goal — the path leading to freedom from suffering (dukkha). When He meditates and a pain arises, He observes the pain without increasing dukkha, whereas the majority of people personalise pain or suffering and misperceive it through attachment and pride (mana). The Buddha avoided this path of misconstruing things and followed the right path. He had chosen to deal with things in the right way that freeed Him from suffering. Most of the time, we choose to walk just the opposite path that adds more to our suffering. The Buddha, being a Sugata, walked the path of freedom and freed Himself from mental suffering.
Lokavidu is the person who knows about the world. What do we mean by Loka? As I have explained in my previous talks there are six worlds; the seeing world, the hearing world, the smelling world, the tasting world, the touching world and the thinking world. There are no other worlds than these six. The Buddha understands how they arise and cease. He knows how clashes and harmony happen in this world. He knows why people can be trapped in them or be free from them. That is why He is called Lokavidu. You are in harmony with the world only when you know about it and live accordingly accepting as it is. An unenlightened being always fights with the world, unable to accept it for what it is.
vi. ANUTTARO PURISA DHAMMA-SARATHI
Anuttaro Purisa Dhamma-Sarathi means that the Buddha is the best teacher who can bring the wayward back into the fold. The Buddha can make people understand with either just one sentence or a whole series of talks, like the time He gave His first sermon to the five ascetics, which took five whole days. We should reflect on this quality of the Buddha whenever we experience problems in teaching or explaining things to children. How capable the Buddha is in these things!
There are plenty of examples to illustrate this quality. There was a man who belonged to a very low class and worked as a road-sweeper. The Buddha on one of His alms rounds came across him and was able to explain to him the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha was also able to explain these four Noble Truths to Venerable Sariputta, a brilliant, intellectual monk, who was the son of a rich merchant, well educated and previously from a different religion. Apart from the Buddha he became to be the most respected one for his wisdom during the Buddha's time. The Buddha also understood how to counsel Prince Nanda, His half brother. On the day of his marriage, Prince Nanda was taken to the monastery where he started to pine for his newly wed bride. The Buddha showed him heavenly girls. Nanda then came to desire these much prettier maidens so he started meditating seriously believing this would help him win the hand of one of these girls. Meditation eventually led him to discover the Dhamma, which made him lose his desire for such things.
Another example was a man by the name of Vangisa who was the cleverest in his class and would compete with others whenever he had the chance to see who was cleverer. He had not once come across a person who could beat him. One day, he met one of the Buddha's disciples and started talking to him. He then asked a question to which the monk answered, "If you wish to know the answer, you have to become a monk." Therefore, he decided to become a monk with the intention of leaving monkshood once he learned the answer, and not because he wished to achieve Nibbana. In the end, because of the way the Buddha taught him the Dhamma, he reached the state of an arahant and never returned to a lay life.
The Buddha brought to his senses even Angulimala, the vicious serial murderer who was about to kill his own mother who would have been his thousandth victim. These cases showed how effectively the Buddha could teach the Dhamma to people of different make-ups and intellectual status, and how incomparable were His skills as a teacher.
Once when the Buddha was on his alms round, he came across five hundred workers queuing for rice which their rich landlord was distributing as it was harvest time. The Buddha joined the queue. It came eventually to his turn. The landlord recognised Buddha Gotama who was not one of his workers. He told the Buddha off, "Why don't you work like the rest and earn your food? Why do you beg for your food? You have healthy limbs." The Buddha was not angered by this but replied that He also worked. The landlord retorted and said that he had never seen Him work. Nevertheless, he knew that monks never lied and so asked the Buddha for an explanation. The Buddha replied, "Yes, I also do cultivation work. Saddha or confidence is my seed, my practice is the rain, my wisdom is the hoe, thus I work." The Buddha explained the Noble Eight Fold Path to the landlord in the terms he understood so well that he immediately gave away his land and property, and entered the monkshood, eventually attaining Arahantship. In this way, the Buddha was able to teach the Dhamma with clarity in all sorts of circumstances. That is why He has the quality of Anuttaro Purisa Dhamma-Sarathi — the matchless teacher in training people's minds.
vii. SATTA DEVA-MANUSSANAM
Satta Deva-Manussanam — the teacher and leader of devas and men. Let alone knowing more than the Buddha or even knowing as much as the Buddha did, we struggle to understand even a tiny bit of what He has said in His sermons and this is in spite of having many learned monks teaching us. When we were young, we studied hard because we wanted to pass our exams, not because we wanted to reach Nibbana. We did not understand things well. It was like children being taught "Okasa, okasa, okasa". We just learnt them by heart and recited them. We are not as clever as the Buddha was. Hence, because of His infinite and unsurpassed wisdom, He was the Satta Deva Manussanam. There were many that became the Buddha's followers. Even after He passed away, there are many like us who regard the Buddha as their teacher and leader. We do so voluntarily, not because of we or our forefathers have been conquered or forced to follow Him. He did not ask to be teacher. It is of our own choosing and of our own free will that we become His followers.
Buddho is the person who knows the Four Noble Truths. This is similar to Samma Sambuddho, which emphasises the fact that the Buddha discovered the Four Noble Truths by Himself. Buddho just emphasises the fact that he knows it well. He was the Awakened One, who had awakened from ignorance and delusion.
Bhagava is the person endowed with special powers. The merits the Buddha had accumulated are much more than others and this is also why He was called Bhagava. The merits are acts of sharing, ethical morality, patience, renunciation, wisdom, diligence, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness and equanimity. He perfected these to the most difficult and advanced level. He shared not only material things in His past lives but also His limbs and life.
The commentaries may explain Bhagava in a more superstitious way. The term, Bhagavahas many meanings.
TECHNIQUE OF MEDITATION ON THE QUALITIES OF THE BUDDHA (BUDDHA-NUSSATI)
Now we shall meditate on the qualities of the Buddha. As we all know, Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa means I pay my homage to the Buddha who has the two qualities of Arahato and Samma Sambuddho.
Arahato is the same as Araham. It is important to observe our defilement or (negative feelings or thoughts) and to accept that we still have them. When we feel disturbed, we reflect on how the Buddha was free from mental distress and all defilement. We may suffer from depression, unlike the Buddha. As we reflect the qualities of Araharm and Sammd-sambuddho, we try to visualise the Buddha on these qualities. Whether we are monks or lay people, we still feel worried when we have to leave our homes even for a few days, the Buddha gave up everything and left his family, wealth and kingdom. He became free from all attachment. This is how we meditate on his quality of Arahato. Sometimes we have second thoughts when throwing away our old clothes. In some monasteries, we find all kinds of old stuffs in places like kitchens, none of which is of any use. It is ideal to sit and reflect on the quality of Arahato in such a place. Just think of how the Buddha was devoid of lobha (greed) and craving. We should try to expand our understanding of how the Buddha was free from all defilement and reflect on the quality of Arahato.
People get angry. Countries wage war and threaten against each other. The Buddha was free from such anger. Sometimes when we are criticised, we get upset. There was once a beautiful, young lady, whose parents wanted the Buddha for her husband. The Buddha refused, saying that He had renounced the world and had no desire for anything. He went on to describe her body as full of disgusting matter, so the young lady felt very insulted and became very angry. Later she married a king and became a queen. Bearing a grudge against the Buddha, she organised a mob and one morning, as the Buddha and Ananda were walking into the city on their alms round, the mob started to shout at them, "You are liars. You are not truly Saints. You are not really enlightened." Venerable Ananda felt very upset. He was reacting to the taunts of the mob. He said, "Lord, let us go away to another place." "Why?" Ananda was asked. "These people are insulting us," he reasoned it to the Buddha. The Buddha replied, "What will you do if the people in that place started behaving like this?" "We'll move to another place," said Venerable Ananda. "What if the same thing happens there?" "We'll move again." Venerable Ananda wanted to keep moving because he was repelled by the criticism. However, the Buddha was very calm and did not react to the criticism.
When someone says something, which upsets you, just remind yourself, "Oh, I'm just an ordinary man. That is why I get upset. But the Buddha is an arahant — an extraordinary man." The Buddha also told Venerable Ananda, "Ananda, we cannot run away from criticism. People's criticism cannot last longer than seven days. Likewise their praise also doesn't last more than seven days." The Buddha was viewing the situation in perspective, not allowing one incident to hijack everything. That was because He had eradicated all elements of anger from His mind.
When we come across any good quality in ourselves, we should also remind ourselves that compared to the Buddha's good qualities, ours are nothing. We should take inspiration from the Buddha's qualities and reflect on them.
Samma Sambuddho. This is the ability of the Buddha to discover on His own the Four Noble Truths. Not only does He understand them, but He understands them perfectly and fully.
The question has been asked whether the Buddha as the Ascetic Gotama had come to understand the Truth of Suffering even before gaining enlightenment. As Prince Sidhartha, he saw a sick man just once and He realised immediately that sickness was a prevailing element of suffering. He saw a dead man and immediately accepted the presence of suffering in life and was constantly aware of death. As for us, in spite of having attended so many funerals, we tend to forget these things after a few days. Maybe, it is only emotionally moving for us while we are attending the funeral. As soon as we are back home, we forget it. The very first time Prince Siddhattha saw the sick man, he accepted suffering. However, he did not yet accept it as the ultimate truth at that stage.
In some religions, suffering is regarded as the wish and deed of God. This implies that this suffering is not the ultimate truth. These sufferings and impermanence are seen as just a delusion (maya) according to Hinduism, as they believe that there is a permanent and unchangeable object underlining them. That is why the type of suffering and impermanence they believe in is not considered as the ultimate. According To Buddhism, suffering is an ultimate truth. As we all know, there are four ultimate truths. When ascetic Gotama became the Buddha; he became completely sure of them. There is nothing behind this suffering. Suffering is not a delusion. It is an ultimate reality. If you study Buddhism, you will come to realise how we are faced with these four truths in everyday life. We see suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path, which leads to the cessation of suffering. This was what the Buddha discovered without anyone's help and why the Buddha was called Samma Sambuddha (The Fully-Self Enlightened).
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