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U Han Htay

Research Officer

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Vol. 1, No. 3, 1981

         According to the Pali Canon, Nibbana is not a mysterious entity nor a theological concept, attainable only by a few mystics. It is a state of supreme bliss as well as the highest kind of peace because it is the deliverance from sorrow and suffering. It will be seen that it is directly related to our daily need as it is the state of purity of views which is no other than the cessation of mental impurities called lobha, dosa and moha: that is greed, anger and delusion. We can achieve this truly Supreme Happiness, the Happiness of Peace (Santi Sukha), by means of mental practice called Bare Awareness or Satipatthana. The practice of mindfulness on the changing actualities, movements and feelings is also popularly known as Vipassana practice. If rightly applied, it is quite easy to see things as they really are in our daily life.

         Now Vipassana is the means to wards the attainment of peace and happiness born out of Right Under standing. For the permanent realization of Nibbanaone should go through the ten stages of insight- knowledge on the actual truths which we all have to be carefully meditated. So in our daily life the appearance of perception, feeling and bodily behaviour can be noted with a sharp, clean mind. Nama and rupa (mind and matter) are not mysterious things. They can be watched through the six doors of senses. They are based on the actual phenomena called Phassa (contact) and Vedana (feeling). All these occurrences are the Paramattha Dhammas. The truth of Suffering appears every time as this is also the truth of impermanence (Anicca). Seeing the actual events in life, one also sees the transitory nature of these Dhammas.

         The term Vipassana means a special noting or looking at the actual experience from moment to moment. The prefix "vi" indicates the use of special awareness and the main verb "passati" conveys the meaning of watching everything everywhere. The practice of Vipassana therefore is available to all as it is based on the natural human powers such as sati (mindfulness), viriya (effort) and samadhi (concentration). No dogmas and rituals are necessary. This way of mindfulness is therefore not a mystical path. On the other hand, Vipassana mindfulness is open to all, irrespective of nationalities, class or creed. 'What all need is the use of the available faculties—to see things with the concentrated mind. Everyone can, if he wishes, use a special kusala (meritorious) practice called sati or mindfulness. The true saviour for all beings is this sati kusala, the power of mindfulness which eradicates the root cause of delusion.

          A thoughtful person will know that we all experience the facts of consciousness and other types of feelings (good, bad and indifferent). Bodily, vocal and mental acts are there to see. Yet, without the application of this special training called Satipatthana or Vipassana. a large majority of people in the world will remain under the sway of Tanha (Attachment), Mana (Pride) and Ditthi (Delusion). A wise person will learn that all the daily experiences can be transformed and clarified by the simple Bare Awareness because they at once form the objects of meditative watchfulness and therefore the mind is free from confusions and impurities. So it is very important that we all must use our own natural faculties and powers to the highest level of achievement. Wavering mind blocks the way to wards this highest goal. Samatha (the observant and steady mind) is essential for this purpose. Only then can we find the highest truths called the Paramattha Dhammas which are quite different from the beliefs in the usual concepts like "man" "women" "I" "being" etc. Only this kind of right knowledge will bring peace and happiness. Although the method is easy to penetrate the veil of illusion is difficult. Hence we all need the power of Viriya (supreme effort). Continuous practice will dispel the wrong beliefs, such as the belief in permanence or compactness, the Higher Self. etc. In course of time such concepts are totally eradicated by means of the powers of the very strong Vipassana Insight called Banga Nana (the in sight which clearly knows the fact of rapid change)

          At this stage of insight, activities such as the states of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, thinking can be classified under the term "Sankhara," the mere changing phenomena without any substance whatsoever. Mere speculation is discarded. We all are living in the moment. So the systematic meditator should note the disappearance of these sankharaswith his keen mind. It must not be understood that this "special" training is confined to a few mystics. Although it may be difficult to calm the mind, it is the most natural way of observing the actual nature of life. There is no other way.

          For a beginner, the meanings of the special terms such as "Samatha" "Yogi" and "Nana" should be clearly defined. The term "Samatha in Buddhism has a special connotation and it must not be confused with the kind of mystical samatha. Here it means the calmness or stillness of the wavering mind by way of concentrating on an object, such as kasina object, breathing phenomena, walking phenomena etc. The aim of the Samatha method is simple. It is to yoke the wavering mind in order to see (1) the impermanent nature of life which is momentarily changing all the time, and (2) to realize the Four Noble Truths which bring Magga Nana and Phala Nana, the highest knowledges available to all. Samatha is just a stepping stone. In other disciplines, the way of Samatha may bring divine bliss, union with the All, cosmic consciousness, the feeling of Oneness, and supernormal powers. In the Theravada system such supernormal powers are regarded as Hindrances, if they make their appearances to a Yogi. In Mysticism such goals as Ecstasy, Bliss, Oneness, etc. are very important and they form the final aim. In Buddhism, Liberation from mental defilements is the final aim.

         The term "Yogi" is commonly used indiscriminately nowadays, but we must distinguish the term in the Buddhist sense. In Hinduism the Yoga System produces many kinds of Yogis, but all believe in the Supreme Atman. Joining the small Self with the Higher Self is the aim. Thus the Hindu Yogis are quite different from the Satipatthana Yogis who do not believe in the Absolute Self or the personal Creator. In Buddhism a " Yogi" is a practitioner of mindfulness or doer of Sati (Satikari). He concentrates on the true characteristics of all existences, the facts of Change, Suffering and Soullessness. He is not a super normal man. On the contrary he is indeed a wise man. He is a Truth- knower.

          The term "Nana" or "Panna" is variously used in many religions. Here it is not a theoretical or a mystical wisdom. Many scholars, finding the term in English equivalent very difficult, use to translate it as "intuition" or "intuitive wisdom". Here it simply means insight regarding the Four Noble Truths. As the insight has to be gained through a systematic Vipassana practice, there can be no "sudden enlightenment" in this discipline. Thus the word "intuition" has to be accepted with caution because in most philosophical systems. It changes its meanings widely.

          For a sati kari (doer of sati practice) wisdom regarding the truth of Nama and Rupa which dispels the belief in soul or Ego is attained at the early stage. There are only changing dhammas: there are, in the ultimate sense, no "being" or "self" at all. This is the right understanding to be found in the Buddha Sasana (the Dispensation of the Buddha). To gain this insight permanently, one needs to practise up to the final stage of insight called Path-Consciousness and Fruition-Consciousness (Magga Nana and Phala Nana). Anyhow, as soon as the work of mindfulness is done anytime, he will see the truth of his own nature. He will at once attain the sila (morality), samadhi (concentration) and panna (wisdom) simultaneously. He will at once enjoy the bliss of purity of views (ditthivisuddhi) and purity of conduct (sila visuddhi). His knowledge and vision will become clearer and clearer. So his judgement is on the right path. These are some of the many advantages gained from this simple, yet profound practice.

         All persons need good conduct and true happiness. Among all the virtuous conduct, this sati kusala (meritorious act of mindfulness) is the most powerful and beneficial as it leads directly to the Supreme Happiness (Nibbana).

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