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Nyaung Kan Aye Sasana Yeiktha

The Message of Satipatthana -Part II

Nyaung Kan Aye Sayadaw
Ashin Eindaka

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Year 2000


1. Origin of Nyaungkan Aye Meditation Centre

2. Objects of the centre

3. The name of the centre and its meaning

4. Summary of the four sermons

Satipatthana Sermon For Overcoming Defilements (1)
Satipatthana Sermon For Overcoming Defilements (2)
Satipatthana Sermon For Overcoming Grief (1)
Satipatthana Sermon For Overcoming Grief (2)

Origin of the Nyaungkan Aye Meditation Centre

The author of the second part of the sermon on the promulgation of Satipatthana is Sayadaw Bhaddanta Indaka of the Mahasi-oriented Nyaungkan Aye Meditation centre.

The following is an extract from the first annual report of the Assistants' Organization at the centre in connection with the origin of the centre.

Approved and sponsored by the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, the preparatory Assistants' Organization was formed at 5 p.m. on 28-8-80 at 439, first floor, Merchant Street (Siri Cafe) Rangoon.

Then in accordance with the desire of the yogis and led by the Assistants's Organization at the centre, we bought a plot of land including a factory on it. The land lies at No. 6, Rangoon-Insein, main road in Gyogon quarter of Insein township in Rangoon Division. It cost three hundred and thirty thousand kyats which we received through the contributions of the early donors.

A ceremony was held at noon on Sunday on 19-10-80 to put up a signboard bearing the name of the centre. Present on the occasion were the E.C. Committee Members of the Assistants' Organization, devoted yogis and the chief patrons of the centre headed by the Chief Patron, Sayadaw Nyaungkan Ashin Indaka.

After consultation with the yogis and the devotees of the Dhamma, the Assistants' Organization at the centre invited the Chief Sayadaws of the Mahasi Meditation Centre, meditation teachers and twenty two Mahasi preachers who were in Rangoon to hear the admonition of the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. After hearing the sermons for eleven nights the Assistants at the centre together with the early donors and Dhamma devotees formally consecrated the land in the presence of 200 monks headed by the Ven. Aggamahapandita Mahasi Sayadaw, the Interrogator at the Sixth Buddhist Council and World Buddhist Missionary.

Objectives of the Centre

After attaining supreme enlightenment by virtue of his conquest of the five basic passions and desires, the Buddha preached the Dhammacakkapavattana sutta and the Anattalakhana sutta at the Isipatana deer park near Benare City, India. Following these discourses, the first five disciples as well as other fifty-five men including Yasa, the merchant's son became Arahats. Then the Buddha exhorted these sixty Arahats to disseminate the Dhamma as follows.

"Monks! Go forth for the welfare of the people, for their good and for the non-degeneration of the world. Let not two of you go the same way when you set out on your missionary journey."

"Monks Preach the Dhamma, the way of life that is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the end, the way of life based on morality, concentration and wisdom."

"There are people who have few defilements. They will spiritually deteriorate for not hearing the Dhamma. There may be those who can easily understand the Dhamma."

"Monks! I myself will go to Sena country near Uruvela forest to preach to the people there."

In accordance with this exhortation, generations of the Buddha's disciples went forth and spread the noble teaching about morality, concentration and wisdom and this is the reason why Buddha dhamma has been flourishing for a long time.

In our present age the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw (the disciple of the first Ven. Mingun Jetavan Sayadaw) who is pre-eminent the world of Theravada Buddhism, started practising Mahasi Satipatthana meditation in 1938 and since then the Sayadaw has been personally preaching the Mahasi Satipatthana method of meditation. As a result today there are more than 300 branches of Mahasi retreats in and outside Burma, a fact that testifies to the world-wide reputation of Mahasi Vipassana.

In view of this tradition, the Assistants' Organization at the Mahasi-oriented Nyaungkan Aye Meditation Centre founded this centre and began their missionary work in order to help the Buddhist yogis attain the supreme peace of Nibbana.

The Name of the Centre and its Meaning

'Nyaung' refers to the Bodhi tree under which the Bodhisatta conquered the five passions, five maras and became the Omniscient Buddha.

'Kan' means the pleasant Muncalinda lake that is included in the seven memorable historic places.

So from the combination of the Bodhi tree and the pleasant Muncalinda lake we have the word Nyaungkan.

Any history of the Theravada Buddhism in Burma will make mention of the Ven. Nyaungkan Aye Sayadaw who was also known as Sayadaw U Buddh. Burmese Buddhists know the saying that 'Buddh' refers to the beginning, the middle and the end.

The initial Buddh was the Lord Buddha, the middle Buddh was Maha Buddhaghosa Thera and the last Buddh was Sayadaw U Buddh.

The missionary work of these earliest spiritual leaders was carried on by Thealon Sayadaw, Ledi Sayadaw, Mingun Sayadaw, Monyin Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, Mahasi Sayadaw and other Sayadaws. It is owing to the efforts of these Venerables Sayadaws that today the study and practice of the Dhamma have made so much progress in Burma.

In his exegetical works on Pali canon and commentaries the Ven. Nyaungkan Sayadaw (U Buddh) gave an account of his Nyaungkan village in Budalin township as follows:-

(1) Just as the snake, the cat and the tiger conquered the frog, the rat and the deer respectively so In this land which is like the site of the ascetic Kapila's hermitage and invincible to the enemy there grew up the Buddhahe tree.

(2) There was also a big lake which was full of water like the Muncalinda lake near the Bodhi tree.

(3) Because of that Bodhi tree and the lake, there arose in ancient times a big city which possessed all the attributes of a metropolis.

(4) Owing to the Bodhi tree and the lake there emerged a big village rich in precious jewels and well-known by the name of Nyaungkan in place of the old city that fell into ruin as a result of the erosion of the city dwellers' good deeds.

Finally we added the word Aye (cool or peace) to the name of the centre in order that through the Buddha's land of victory (Nyaungkan), the good Buddhists may attain the permanent peace of Nibbana.

Therefore we founded the Nyaungkan Aye Meditation Centre and launched the missionary program for the spiritual welfare of the people.

The missionary Sayadaw Bhaddanta Indaka who resides at the centre is also known as Nyaungkan Aye Sayadaw.

Summary of the four sermons

This second part of the Sayadaw's sermon on the message of Satipatthana consists of four sections, viz.,

  1. Satipatthana sermon on the overcoming of defilements (I),
  2. Satipatthana sermon on the overcoming of defilements (II),
  3. Satipatthana sermon on the overcoming of grief (I), and
  4. Satipatthana sermon on the overcoming of grief (II).

In preparing these four sermons, the Sayadaw draws largely on the essence of his two books, viz., one called "Satipatthana for overcoming Defilements " and the other called "Peace and Freedom from Grief ".

Section I. This section tells us on the basis of the scriptures how the Buddha, the Pacceka Buddhas, the Arahats (the Noble Ones) and the highly advanced disciples attained Nibbana after conquering the defilements through the practice of Satipatthana.

As an example it cites the story of an unknown bhikkhu (monk) from the commentary on Dhammapada of Khuddaka Nikaya. It tells us how the monks of Matika village on a hill in Kosala country practised Satipatthana in accordance with the Buddha's instruction; how a woman devotee, called Matikamata, followed suit after hearing the dhamma from the monks; and how all of them overcome defilements, attained Nibbana and became arahats at the Anagami level.

The story points out how the monks should study and live up to the teaching of the Buddha and how they should impart their empirical knowledge of the dhamma in theory and practice to their lay Buddhists in return for their material support of the Buddha dhamma.

Likewise it points out how the lay Buddhists should provide their spiritual teachers with the basic necessities of life and live up to their teachings.

Section II. This section explains in detail the Buddha's teaching about human mind as mentioned in the story of the unknown bhikkhu in the commentary on the Dhammapada.

There are ten kinds of defilements which oppress the common people causing anxiety and grief and these may be subdivided into or expanded to one thousand and five hundred kinds. The Sayadaw explicitly points out the three ways in which the defilements infect and plague the living beings and how they have to be eradicated through the threefold training in morality, concentration and wisdom as taught by the Buddha. In this connection his sermon on the contemplation of mind in Satipatthana sutta which contains the essentials of the way to the conquest of defilements through the practice of mindfulness in accordance with the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's instruction is invaluable.

Section III. This sermon No.3 on Satipatthana for overcoming grief. It explicitly answers the three questions: What is grief ? , How does it arise? How is it to be overcome ? The answers are given on the basis of Mahasi Satipatthana Sutta.

Section IV. It cites as example the story of minister Santati in the Dhammapada commentary. It tells us how the grief-stricken minister became an arahat and attained Nibbana after overcoming grief through the practice of Satipatthana that was preached by the Buddha. It also gives an account of how this arahat passed away after performing miracles in the sky and describing his former life as a young religious activist who worked for peace in his country.


May the good devotees of the Dhamma read and study this book! May they practise the Dhamma, become free from grief and defilements and attain Nibbana !

With this expression of my sincere desire I conclude the Introduction to the Sayadaw's book.

Ashin Kovida (preacher)

Sasanadhaja Dhammacariya

Mahasi-Oriented Nyaungkan Aye Meditation Centre, Rangoon.

Monday, 6-9-87

Satipatthana sermon for overcoming defilements (1)


The story of the unknown monk

Admonition of the Eldest Thera

Asking about the Dhamma

Insight based on tranquillity

Attainment of unusual insight

Report to the Buddha

The unknown monk

Self-doubt and Flight

The Buddha's advice



This discourse is based on the Mahasatipatthana sutta of Mahavagga, Dighanikaya and the commentary on the same sutta. It is also in accord with the teaching of the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw.

"Namotassa bhagavato"

"I pay respect to the Buddha, the Enlightened One who is worthy of honour"

On one occasion Lord Buddha was living in Kammmasa-dhamma village in Kuru country. At that time he delivered the following discourse.

"Monks! There is the four-fold path of mindfulness (Satipatthana).

  1. This path of mindfulness is the path for all living beings who wish to seek freedom from defilements.
  2. It is the only path for overcoming anxiety and grief.
  3. It is the only path for overcoming anguish and lamentation.
  4. It is the only path to the extinction of physical suffering which makes physical life painful and unbearable.
  5. It is the only path to the extinction of mental suffering that makes mental life painful and unbearable.
  6. It is the only path for attaining the stage of the noble ones (ariya).
  7. It is the only path for the realization of Nibbana here and now.

Thus the Buddha declared that the practice of Satipatthana or mindfulness is beneficial to us in seven ways.

This discourse on the Satipatthana for overcoming defilements concerns the first way in which the practice of mindfulness can benefit the yogis.

Says the Buddha: "Monks! There are four kinds of mindfulness:

Mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of the feeling, mindfulness about the mental state and mindfulness about the mind-object. This path of mindfulness Is the only path leading to the extinction of defilements and the attainment of Nibbana by those who practise it.

The commentary on the sutta explains the Buddha's saying as follows:

The Satipatthana path is the only path for getting rid of the defilements of craving, covetousness, inordinate desire for sensual objects and so forth which pollute the mind and persistently oppress all their victims.

Thus the defilements that have to be eradicated are craving, covetousness and irrational sensuous desire, etc., that have infected and plagued all living beings from time immemorial through the cycle of rebirth.

Only those who practise mindfulness for overcoming defilements can attain the peace of Nibbana.

Indeed there were those who did overcome defilements and realize Nibbana through the practice of mindfulness.

According to the commentary, many supremely Enlightened Buddhas who appeared during the innumerable world periods hundreds of Paccekabuddhas and countless Ariyan disciples (noble ones) overcame defilements and attained Nibbana through the practice of mindfulness.

What the commentary refers to is just an example of the benefits that universally accrue to the yogis who practise mindfulness. In this connection the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw comments as follows.

No matter whether or not it was during the innumerable world-periods, at all time every Buddha, every Paccekabuddha or every Ariyan disciple who arose or who is arising or who will arise attained or will attain Nibbana after overcoming defilements only through he practice of Satipatthana."

The story of the unknown monk

Certainly everyone who has heard the Buddha's discourse on the conquest of defilements and attainment of Nibbana through the path of mindfulness will develop the desire to practise Satipatthana.

Here I will mention the story of the unknown monk in the commentary on the Dhammapada of Khuddaka Nikaya and the Buddha's Teaching about Consciousness (or mind).

The story clearly shows how mental discipline leads to happiness and how the lack of mental discipline gives rise to suffering.

Lord Buddha preached this sermon in connection with a certain monk while he was residing at the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi city.

The story had its origin in sixty monks. The monks re-quested the Buddha to give a discourse that would make a common man develop spiritually to the point of becoming an Arahat with all the defilements extinct. The Buddha therefore preached the Dhamma that would fulfil their wish. After hearing the dhamma, the sixty monks left the monastery in single file in order of their seniority in the holy community, each taking a bowl and three robes and bent on practising the Dhamma in a suitable retreat during the rainy season.

They reached Matika village at the foot of a hill in Kosala country. Going about the village for food they met Matikamata, the mother of the village head-man. At the sight of the monks she was much delighted and she invited them to have lunch at her house. There she quickly prepared delicious food and offered it to the monks, who partook of it mindfully in accordance with the rules of Vinaya.

After their lunch Matikamata asked them about their destination and on being told that they were in search of a good retreat, she requested the monks to spend the rainy season in her village so that she might have the opportunity to adore the three jewels of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, observe the five precepts and keep sabbath.

The monks consented to her request. So Matikamata gathered together the villagers and built retreats on a small hill near the village for the residence of all the monks; and there the monks spent the rainy season.

The Admonition of the eldest Thera

The eldest of the monks advised his fellow yogis as follows:

  1. Friends, we should not be unmindful.
  2. In fact, just like our own monasteries and houses the eight hells are open to immoral and unmindful people.
  3. We are not ordinary people. From Lord Buddha we have received instructions on the practice of Satipatthana that will enable a common man infected with defilements and make him an Arahat who is free from defilements. We should practise the Dhamma in order to he worthy of being called yogis.
  4. The Buddhas would not like unmindful and insincere men going about here and there repeatedly. They would like only those who are straightforward and mindful.
  5. So be mindful and be on your guard.
  6. Let us make a vow that there will not he two of us in the same place. We will practise the dhamma each in a separate place.
  7. We will stay and go together only when we receive admonition from the elderly monk in the evening and when we go into the village to collect food in the morning.
  8. If one of our yogis becomes ill, let some one strike the bell that is placed in the middle of our monastery. All the monks who hear the sound of the bell should come and look after the sick fellow yogi.

Asking about the Dhamma while offering soft drinks

Thus the monks devoted themselves to the Dhamma in accordance with their vows and pledges. One evening Matikamata thought of the monks. They had only one meal a day. As they did not have dinner they would be hungry. As there was no food in the stomach, they might be susceptible to stomach trouble and ulcer. The woman therefore wished to offer them soft drinks so that they might overcome their hunger and protect themselves against ulcer. With this intention she went up to the monastery on the hill accompanied by other villagers.

But not a monk was to be seen in the monastery. A layman who was aware of the monks' vow told her to strike the bell if she wished to see the monks. At her request he struck the bell and then there came the monks, each from a place where he was meditating. They came without talking with one another, their behaviour being calm and self-possessed as a result of their contemplation of the Dhamma. Their extraordinary demeanour worried the woman, making her wonder whether their silence was due to some quarrel.

So after the monks had assembled and had the soft drinks, she asked them whether they were not speaking to one another because of some quarrel. The senior thera said, " No! We are devoting ourselves to the monks' Dhamma ".

"Sir! What is a monk's Dhamma?"

"Sister ", replied the senior monk, '' The monk's Dhamma is nothing other than our contemplation of the body. Through constant recitation and contemplation we try to visualize the thirty two parts of the body, viz, hairs of the head, hairs of the body, finger-nails, toe nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, bowels, stomach, excrement, brain, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin grease, spittle, nasal mucus, oil of the joints and urine. Moreover we have to note, reflect and meditate on the real nature of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness or what is called the five groups of clinging (upadanakkhandha) that arise and pass away at every moment of contact between the sense-organ and the sense-object. This is what we call the monk's dhamma ".

Insight Based on Tranquillity

(Samatha-yanika vipassana)

According to this senior thera their method of meditation is a method based on tranquillity.

In the commentary on Visuddhimagga (Path of Purity) the meditation on the 32 parts of the body is described as mental training in tranquillity in place of training in the mindfulness of the body which is included in 40 kinds of training in concentration.

When tranquillity is attained as a result of contemplation of the body, this together with the contemplation of the physical and mental phenomena that arise and pass away at every moment of contact between sense-organ and the sense-object is mental training in insight (vipassana) . Hence it is called insight training based on tranquillity.

The Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's method of noting everything that arises at the moment of contact between the sense organ and sense-object is called suddha vipassana -or insight-training.

Now to continue our story. On hearing the Senior thera's reply, the woman Matikamata asked him whether the contemplation of the body and its dissolution and decay was good only for the monks and not good for lay people. The Senior thera replied that nobody was forbidden to practise the monk's dhamma or the dhamma for inner peace; that every one might practise it no matter whether he or she was a member of the samgha or a layman or a lay woman, and that the Buddha's teaching was meant for all living beings.

Attainment of unusual insight

Then at the request of Matikamata the Senior thera gave instructions. She returned home and while doing her household work she practised the Dhamma so energetically that she made spiritual progress far ahead of the monks and attained the Anagami stage, endowed with the four kinds of analytical knowledge and mundane psychic powers.

Having enjoyed the fruits of the path and Nibbana, the woman surveyed her dhamma benefactors with her divine eye to see what extraordinary insight they had attained.

Then she saw that all the sixty monks were still mired in attachment, hatred and ignorance and that they had not attained even tranquillity. She tried to find out whether they had any chance of attaining higher insights and she found that they had the potential even to became Arahats. Yet they had not made any progress and this was not due to unwholesome residence or to any discord in their social relations. Their lack of progress was due to poor food.

Through her psychic powers Matikamata found out the particular food each individual monk liked. Then she prepared the food and drinks, and after inviting the monks she held a big feast for them.

After the sixty monks had had their meals, their wishes were fulfilled; and as their troublesome craving passed away they became tranquil. They observed and noted the dissolution of their khandhas and became absorbed in insight meditation.

They noted only the physical and mental process that arises and passes away at every moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, eating, touching and knowing. As their intellect gained momentum, they ceased to be aware of the arising of all phenomena and became mindful of only their perpetual dissolution. In this way all of them eventually attained insight as well as the four stages and their fruitions together with the four kinds of analytical knowledge

Report to the Buddha

The sixty monks were grateful to Matikamata for her contribution to their spiritual attainment. At the end of the Lent they performed pavarana and taking leave of the woman they went back to the Buddha.

The Compassionate One asked them about their health and about the way they got their food during the Lent.

"O Lord" they said, " We are well and healthy. We did not have to face hardship for food. In particular a woman called Matikamata practised the Dhamma according to our instruction and attained Anagami stage far ahead of us. She attained too the four kinds of analytical knowledge and mundane psychic powers. So she knew our mind and prepared all kinds of food for us. We had no difficulty in getting food. We got what we needed merely by thinking about it.

The Unknown Monk

On hearing their report concerning the woman Matikamata, a certain monk became anxious to go to the Matika village; and no wonder for it was said the the woman knew the mind of a monk and fulfilled his wish instantly. So the monk asked the Buddha for instructions as regards the practice of meditation and went to the Matika village.

On reaching the monastery he found that it was littered with muck and dirt. He was too tired to sweep the floor. So he wished that Matikamata who was credited with telepathic knowledge would send a layman to do the job.

And indeed through her psychic powers, Matikamata became aware of the monk's desire. So she sent a man to clean the monastery.

After the man had gone back, the monk became thirsty. Knowing his wish, Matikamata sent a man to get water for him. The monk rested and went to bed. The next morning he woke up and longed for a plate of gruel. The woman instantly sent gruel to him.

Some time later monk became hungry and Matikamata sent food to him. Now the monk was anxious to see the woman who had done so much for his welfare by virtue of her supernatural power. The woman divined his thought and came to see him. Then there followed a short dialog between the monk and the woman.

Question: Are you the woman Matikamata?

Answer: Yes, Sir.

Question: Are you able to read the mind of another person?

Answer: Sir, Why do you ask me this question?

Question: You have fulfilled all my needs and wishes. That is why I ask you.

Answer: Sir, in this world there are many monks who know a man's mind.

Question: I do not ask you whether other people have such knowledge. I ask you whether you yourself possess it.

Answer: Well Sir! It is customary for psychics to do such things.

Self doubt and Flight

Thus when the monk insisted on getting a definite answer the woman Matikamata who did not want to reveal her spiritual attainments unnecessarily answered his question skilfully.

At first the monk congratulated himself on being supported by a woman who by virtue of her supernatural knowledge would serve all his needs. But then he had second thoughts about his apparent good fortune.

He thought of what was likely to happen to him. "For all ordinary people who are not free from defilements sometimes harbour good desires and sometimes evil desires. They are not able to discriminate between what is proper and what is improper. They are given to wild imaginations. I am still an ordinary person as such I have no self-control.

"It is alright if my intention is good. But if I happen to harbour any intention that is not proper for a monk, I would be like a thief who being caught red-handed has his hair seized by the owner. The woman would accuse me of having intentions that are improper for the son of the Buddha and I would be disgraced in public. Then I would be in for trouble and ruin. It is impossible for me to stay here. I do not have self-control

He was frightened. He became much afraid of the woman. So he told her to let him leave the place.

The woman asked him where he was going. The monk said that he would return to the Buddha. The woman requested him to stay in the monastery. But saying that it was impossible for him to stay there any longer, he left the monastery and went back to the Buddha.

The Buddha's Advice

The Buddha asked the monk why he had left the Matika village. The latter said that he dared not stay there any longer. In response to the Buddha's question he thoroughly reported to the Lord all about Matikamata's telepathic knowledge of another persons mind, how as an ordinary monk he might harbour an unwholesome thought which when divined by the woman could spell disaster for him. He admitted that he had come back for fear of the impending danger.

Then the Buddha asked the monk whether he could guard one thing. The monk asked the Bhagava what was that one thing to be guarded by him.

"Guard your mind," replied the Buddha. "It is difficult to guard the mind. You should control your mind. Do not think of anything. Mind is hard to be discipline."

Then the Buddha preached as follows:

(1) "Hard it is to control the mind. It acts so fast and it tends to focus on anything at random."

(2) "It is advisable to watch, seize and discipline the evil and ruthless mind."

(3) "When the mind is cultured and well-disciplined, it contributes to one's welfare."

After hearing the Buddha's teaching. the monk returned to the monastery in Matika village, practised the Dhamma and became an Arahat endowed with the four Kinds of analytical knowledge.

I will explain the Buddha's teaching about the mind in my second sermon.

May the ordinary yogis practise the Satipatthana Vipassana and like the sixty monks, the woman Matikamata and the unknown monk in the story, overcome their defilements and attain Nibbana!

Sadhu ! Sadhu ! Sadhu !

Satipatthana sermon for overcoming defilements (2)


Ten kinds of Defilements

One thousand and five hundreds kind of Defilements

Three kinds of genesis of Kilesa

Latent Defilements

The real Anusaya Kilesa

Internally active Defilement

Externally active Kilesa

Morality as a deterrent to Transgression Concentration as an antidote to rebellious Defilements Insight-knowledge as a remedy for latent Defilement Watch and Discipline
Characteristics of the Mind Knowledge of Arising and Passing away Right Mindfulness The Disciplined Mind leads to Happiness


What I am going to preach now is the second part of the Satipatthana sermon for the conquest of defilement..

In the first part I pointed out the Satipatthana practice is the one and the only path of the Buddhas the ; Paccekabuddhas and the Ariyan disciples for the conquest of defilements and the attainment of Nibbana. I mentioned the fruits of Satipatthana practice on the basis of the commentary and the story of unknown monk in the commentary On Dhammapada.

In this second part I will consider the Buddha's gathas or verses in the context of the Satipatthana sutta and explain practical vipassana on the basis of Mahasi Sayadaw's views.


'I pay respect to the Enlightened One who is worthy of honour'

Dunniggahassa lahuno Yatthakamanipatino;

Cittassa damatho sadhu.

Cittam dantam sukhavaham.

The meaning of this verse by the Buddha is as follows;

The latent defilements that have infected and dominated common people through countless existences turn into active defilements at the moment of contact between the sense organs sense-object. As such they boil over and become degenerate.

Therefore it is hard to discipline the corrupt, barbarous arid impure mind and turn it into docile, pure and good minds.

Moreover the mind changes so rapidly that it may arise and pass away billions of times the twinkling of an eye. So the mind of an ordinary man is uncontrollable and tends to be associated with anything at random.

So it is good to discipline the mind and turn it into something pure, docile and noble. Such a mind can lead to Nibbana and cessation of suffering.

Ten Kinds of Defilements

The defilements which bedevil living beings are of ten kinds viz.

The kinds of defilement

  1. Greed, (lobba)
  2. Ill-will (dosa)
  3. Delusion (moha)
  4. Conceit (mana)
  5. Wrong views (ditthi)
  6. Doubt about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and about kamma (action) and its effect (vicikiccha)
  7. Mental torpor (thina)
  8. Restlessness (uddhacca)
  9. Lack of conscience or moral sense (ahivika)
  10. Lack of fear or scruple about doing evil (anottappa).

According to the commentary on Abhidhamma, kilesa (defilements are so called because they burn anyone who harbours them. They are also called kilesas because they pollute mankind (morally and spiritually.

The mind of a man infected with ten defilements such as greed is confused, polluted and racked with mental agony. So people speak of their anxiety and depression. Hence the Pali term kilesa for these defilements.

It is clear that the defilement. lead to anguish and pollution. They cause these evils in the present life as well as through the round of rebirth.

The mind infected with kilesa is called the defiled mind. The defiled mind does not delight in good deeds. It delights in unwholesome deeds and unwholesome sense-objects that lead him astray. It is unruly, intractable, impulsive and restless. These defiled, restless and evil forms of consciousness or mind lead to the lower worlds of animals, petas, asuras and hell and all the sufferings inherent in the cycle of life.

1500 Kinds of defilements

The ten kilesas may be expanded to 1500 kilesas. For your information the following is the substance of this expansion.

There are four ultimate realities viz. mind or consciousness mental factors, corporeality and Nibbana,

Consciousness may he divided into 89 types but since all of them have the same attribute viz. cognizance of a sense-object, we will treat them as one entity.

The mental factors (cetasikas) which form the concomitants of consciousness are of 52 kinds. Mind and 52 mental factors make up 53 mental entities. In Pali they are called 53 namas that are inclined to sense-objects.

Corporeality is of 28 kinds. There are 18 kinds of corporeality that stem from four sources viz. kamma consciousness, climate and nutrition. Together with other 4 kinds (lakkhana rupa ) they form 22 kinds of corporeality that can be infected with defilements. Thus we have 75 entities that are composed of 53 mental and 22 corporeal entities.

These 75 mental and physical entities are both internal and external as regards a man's mind and body. Hence we have altogether 150 kinds of physical and mental phenomena and since each of them may he associated with ten defilements we have the sum total of 1500 kilesas.

Three kinds of genesis of kilesa

According to the scriptures there are three ways in which the defilements develop in living beings viz.,

  1. Latent defilements,
  2. Internally active defilements,
  3. Externally active defilements.

(1) Latent defilements (anusaya kilesa)

Anusaya is defined as something which always lie latent in the physical and mental process of living being. For example, there are banda trees everywhere in the country. The fruits of these trees contain some good seeds that clearly have the potential for developing into trees with sprouts, leaves, branches, stems, etc. Similarly the anusaya kilesa is inborn at the time when the embryo arises along with the rebirth consciousness. Then until you become an Arahat with all defilements extinct it is inherent in the physical and mental process through the whole life. It is there no matter whether you are doing evil deeds such as killing or good deeds such as charity or meditation.

It is with you when you are dying, then it passes on and inherits in your new existence right from the moment of conception and the conjunction of rebirth-consciousness mental factors and corporeal group (kalapa). So it goes on. It is innate in the mental and physical process through the whole life-cycle in the lower world, the human world and the six worlds of devas. The anusaya kilesa is to be found even in the world of unconscious beings where only corporeality exists.

Anusaya kilesa or the latent defilement is of two hinds. The first kind of kilesa is latent in us because we have not yet removed them through the path-consciousness (magga nana). The other kind of kilesa is based on the ego-centered belief in the permanence and pleasantness of all physical and mental phenomena if one does not simply note "seeing'', "hearing", ''smelling", "eating'', " touching", "thinking" etc., at the moment of contact between the six sense -objects viz. visual object, sound, odour, taste, sensation and mind-object and the six sense-organs viz. eye ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.

The real anusaya kilesa

Of the ten defilements the six viz, greed, hatred,delusion, conceit, wrong view and doubt are more powerful and effective than the others. They are the mainspring of evil deeds. They make us do evil effectively. The other defilements viz- mental torpor, restlessness, lack of amoral sense and lack of moral scruple are not potent and effective. Therefore these four kilesas are not latent defilements.

Only the first six kilesas such as greed, hatred and so forth always lie latent in the mental process of an ordinary person as long as they are not eliminated through the attainment of insight on the Ariyan path. Hence only they are called latent defilements.

In particular when in the "Yamaka"of Abhidhamma pitaka these six defilements are described as latent or anusaya, greed and hatred are called "raga-nusaya" and "patigha-nusaya" respectively. So the term "anusaya kilesa" denotes the six kilesas viz., greed, hatred delusion , conceit, wrong belief and doubt which are potentially powerful enough to become active under appropriate conditions.

Internally active defilements

(Pariyutthana kilesa )

Pariyutthana kilesa are those which become active and violent at the moment of contact between the six sense-organs and six sense-objects. They occur in living beings who have not yet overcome latent defilements through the attainment of insight on the noble path.

At the sight of a pleasant object there arise craving and the defilement of greed. On the other hand an unpleasant object makes us dejected and gives rise to the defilement of hatred. Not to know the arising of greed or hatred is the defilement of ignorance or delusion. These are pariyutthana kilesawhich become internally active and violent just as the seed of a banda fruit produces a tree when it is planted in good soil and watered.

Externally active kilesa

(Vitikkama kilesa )

When the internally active and violent defilements are not controlled they find an outlet in verbal and corporeal transgressions and we have vittikkama kilesa.

Some forms of this defilement are killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying, slandering, busing, talking frivolously, etc. These verbal and corporeal misdeeds lead to suffering in after-life where the evil doer is still under the influence of latent defilements. It is just like the banda tree which on bears some fruits containing procreative seeds that lend to the reproduction of banda trees, The group of mind and corporeality gives rise to one new existence after another and leads to endless suffering through the life cycle.

As we have told you before the mind of a living being who is always infected with latent defilements is very wild and unruly when it becomes linked with externally violent kilesas at every moment of contact between the sense-organs and sense-objects.

We have described it as intractable, constantly and swiftly changing, delighting in every sensual object and blindly and irrationally attached to various kinds of sensual pleasure.

If this violent, rebellious and defiled mind is not disciplined and restrained, it turns into Vitikkama kilesa in the form of bodily and verbal transgressions. Then we will have to continue our endless wandering through the life-cycle that is fraught with suffering in the lower worlds and the evils of birth, old age, sickness, death and dissolution. We will continue to be tormented, harassed ad blindly set adrift in the ocean of samsara (life-cycle).

Therefore it is good to discipline the ruthless and unscrupulous mind through the practice of morality, concentration and wisdom. This threefold practice or training is essential to the conquest of rebellious (pariyuttham) kilesa together with its cause viz, the latent kilesa and the deterrence of external(vitikkama) kilesa.

Morality as a deterrent to transgression

1. The Buddha's moral teaching serves as a deterrent to transgression (vitikkama kilesa). Those who live up to his moral precepts guard thsir verbal and bodily actions so as to avoid moral lapses and transgressions. For example a man who keeps sabbath will not kill a mosquito that is biting him because he is mindful of his commitment to non-killing. He will only drive it away. This is just an example of the way the moral training helps us avoid transgression. We may elaborate it but what I have said will suffice.

Concentration (samadhi) as an antidote to rebellious defilement

2. The rebellious kilesa is to be eliminated through samadhi. In order to attain samadhi we should adopt one of the forty methods of training in concentration. The yogi who takes up training in concentration focuses his mind on a wholesome object instead of allowing it to be infected with defilement.

For example, he concentrates his mind on the attributes of the Buddha, such as, "The Blessed One possessed the Arahan attribute because he was worthy of being especially honoured by men, devas and Brahmas '', etc. His mind does not wander elsewhere but is confined to his memory of the Buddha. Thus the yogi who contemplates on the noble attributes of the Buddha is not in contact with pleasant or unpleasant objects and so he does not harbour greed hatred, etc. In this way he overcomes rebellious defilements. It is said that those who practise concentration on earth and land in the Brahma World after death are free from the active rebellious defilement for many world-periods.

Insight-knowledge as a remedy for latent defilement

As for the Anusaya kilesa which lie latent in living beings they are to be eradicated through insight-knowldge or in other words knowledge of truth or reality. There are three kinds of knowledge viz.

  1. Sutamaya
  2. Cinta-maya and
  3. Bhavanamaya knowledge.

The first kind of knowledge is the knowledge which we acquire from books and teachers. On the basis of such knowledge we use our intellect, think, reason and arrive at conclusions. This is the second kind of knowledge. These two kinds of knowledge lead to insight-knowledge about the origin, effect and cessation of physical and mental phenomena such as seeing, hearing, etc. that arise at every moment of contact between the sense-organs and sense objects. Such knowledge is called bhavanamaya or insight-knowledge.

We should carefully bear in mind that it is only through insight-knowledge that we can overcome latent defilement.

As we have pointed out, the anusaya kilesa or latent defilement is of two kinds viz:, (1) Arammana nusaya kilesa which instantly infect a man afresh in terms of illusions about permanence, pleasantness and ego-entity and (2) Santananusaya kilesa which being not yet eradicated through insight - knowledge has been latent through timeless life-cycle and is ready to arise under appropriate circumstances.

Of the two kinds the first one should be done away with through Mahasatipatthana insight knowledge which we can gain by constantly watching every physical or mental phenomenon that arises at the moment of contact between the sense-organs and sense-objects.

As for the second kind, i.e. Santananusaya kilesa, we can overcome it through the successive stages of insight knowledge on the noble path which, with the Mahasatipatthana insight knowledge fully developed, enable us to gain insight into the cessation of suffering attendant on the dissolution of mind-body complex. In short this ever latent kilesa is to be removed throught on Ariyan path-

Watch and Discipline

The Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's method of meditation is mainly based on Mahasatipatthana vipassana which presupposes moral purity and enables us to overcome all the three kinds of defilement. For the yogis who came to the meditation center to practise the Dhamma, the Ven. Saydaw's maxim which accords with the Buddha's teaching is as follow:-

"It is good indeed to watch and discipline the unruly reckless amd brutish mind "

This maxim contains the substance of the Buddha's teaching in the session, "Contemplation of the Mind" in Mahasatipatthana sutta.

The yogi who wants to meditate first pays respect to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. He makes himself morally pure and sits cross-legged in a quite place, keeping his body erect. He gently closes his eyes and breathes in and out normally. At every moment of breathing he fixes his mind on the movement of the helly, noting mentally "rising" and ''falling ".

When he sees something, he notes "seeing ". Likewise, he notes mentally "hearing", "smelling ", "painful" according to the physical or mental phenomenon which he experiences at any moment. In the absence of such phenomena he harks back to noting the "rising " and "falling" of his belly. Then he watches and disciplines every situation that arises.

At first the mind does not rest on the object that is being noted. Instead it wanders hither and thither, But it does not matter if the yogi is not instantly aware of his mind-wandering. He should note it mentally as soon as he is aware of it. If the desire for or pleasur in time five sensual objects arise, he should note " desiring'' " delighting'', "liking '', etc. at the moment of its occurrence. Noting them just once or twice may lead to their cessation. If they do not pass away, he should go on noting them whenever they arise. Noting with mindfulness and vigilance will finally bring about their extinction.

Then there will arise clear consciousness free from attachment. The yogi sheuld note it, "clear" "calm" , etc. This is in keeping with Buddha's teaching : " Saragam va cittam saragam cittanti pajanati. Vitaragam va cittam vitaragan cittantipajanati."

Other states of consciousness may also appear, such as anger, hatred, dejection, ill will,etc. These should also be noted, ''angry'' "dejected" "hating'' "desire to harm others'', and so forth.

Noting them once may make them pass away. If it does not, then the yogi should go on noting them until they finally vanish. Then there will arise calm and clear states of consciousness. The yogi should note them and they too will pass away in accordance with the Buddha's teaching.

Moreover there may arise doubt about the three Jewels, particularly about the Dhamma, distraction and restlessness which are pure forms of delusion or ignorance; thoughts ahout sensual objects without any apparent sensual desire or pleasure, concent and belief in egoentity which are forms of delusion rooted in greed; fear, anxiety, grief, anguish, revulsion, envy, jealousy, and remorse which are forms of delusion rooted in hatred.

The commentary describes all the greed-rooted states of consciousimess as craving, all hatred rooted states of confciousness as hatred and all unwholosorne states of consciousness as delusion. But the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw has clearly classified them in his first volume of Vipassana in a way that makes it easy to remember,

In any case if these states of consciousness arise along with ignorance, the yogi should note ''doubtful '' ''restless", ''thinking'', "delighting'', etc. They may disappear once they are noted; otherwise the yogi can dispel them by dint of mindfulness and vigilance. This accords fully with the teaching of the Buddha.

Again the yogi's state of consciousness may be infected with laziness, slackness, restlessness, tranquillity or non-tranquillity which he should dispel by noting them.

The state of conciousness marked by momentary liberation from defilements which results from noting is called vimutta citta. The mind which thinks instead of noting is called avimutta citta because of its non-liberation.

They should be noted at the moment of their arising. Constant noting will lead to their cessation.

To discriminate between certain states of consciousness, viz. between mahaggata and amahaggata or between sauttara and anuttara is the exclusive business of jhanic yogis. Only the jhanic yogis can idintify the amahaggata and sauttara states of conscionsness that arise before and after the jhanic state. As soon as they come out of jhana they can discriminate. When they shift from rupajhana and become absorbed in arupajhana they can identify rupajhana with sauttara and arupa jhana with anuttara state of consciousness,

So the non-jhana yogi should merely note the above-mentioned states of consciousness as they are at the moment of their arising. This is in accord with the Buddha's teaching.

The contemplation of the mind is restricted to noting a state of consciousness as it really is at the moment of its arising. It does not mean naming or counting the states of consciousness or thinking or reflecting on them. Such mental activities concern only perceptual or cognitive knowledge.

Hence the statement in the commentary on Mahasatipatthana sutta which may be substantially translated as " To watch and note the state of consciousness at the moment of its arising is contemplation of mind or practice of vipassana concerning the mind."

Characteristics of the Mind

The yogi who notes the mental phenomenon that arises at the moment of contact between the mind and the mind-object is clearly aware of "knowing the object, thinking, responding, paying attention, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, etc. This is the chief characteristic of the mind, viz, cognition.

Perception, feeling, volition etc. arise only after cognition of an object. In other words, they do not function in the absence of cognition. Obviously consciousness or mind is the forerunner or leader of mental elements. In reality consciousness and mental factors (cetasika) arise at the same time. We describe it as the leader because it apparently plays the leading role in shedding light on the concomitant mental factors.

Moreover the states of consciousness arise continuously one after another. The yogi notes it and thus he attains the knowledge of the present condition or nature of the mind (paccupatthanam). The yogi knows too that the states of consciousness arise from their corporeal bases; that the arising is also due to tha presence ef sense objects and the mind which comes into contact with an object and is sensitive to it. Thus there downs upon the yogi the knowledge of the mind's proximate cause (Padatthana).

Knowledge of Arising and Passing away

As the yogi sits and note the "arising'', "falling", "seeing", "hearing" and smelling'', he is free from craving, greed, ill will and other hindrances (nivarana). His attention is confined to the object that is being noted and the act of noting. So his mind is pure and he knows the nature of the mind as it really is, that is, that the mind cognizes the object, that it leads the mental elements, that each state of consciousness arises and passes away one after another in association with its prior state.

He knows that apart from this mental process there is no ego entity in terms of I, the other person, man, woman and so forth. He identifies the nature of another person's mind with his inner experience. He knows that the nature of consciousness which he has found out is the same universally.

To note and know the momentary arising and dissolution of the mental phenomena is to discriminate between the arising and passing away of everything.

The mind exists because of the existence of the physical base and its concomitant states of consciousness. The mind cannot exist without corporeality and consciousness : The mind exists because of past kamma (action). It cannot exist without past kamma.

It is ignorance (avijja) that gives rise to consciousness. No ignorance, no consciousness. Consciousness is also caused by craving. You cannot have it without craving. Thus on the basis of his empirical knowledge and information the yogi knows discriminatively the origin and dissolution of all phenomena.

This knowledge is in keeping with the Buddha's Teaching in the section "Contemplation of the Mind" in "Mahasatipatthana sutta".

Right Mindfulness

Whenever the yogi notes the arising of a mental phenomenon he is aware of the non-existence of an ego-entity in terms of individuality, personal identity, ownership, distinction between man and woman and so forth. He becomes mindful of there being only "knowing the object, and thinking"

Thus the yogi does not consider the embryonal formation (sankharo ghana) signs, forms and shapes. Instead he is aware only of his cognition of the object and because of this mindfulness his intellect makes progress continuously. It becomes acute and free from attachment. This accords fully with the Buddha's teaching.

The Disciplined Mind Leads to Happiness

Therefore the Buddha says that it is indeed good to discipline the unruly and evil mind through morality, concentration and wisdom. The disciplined mind can lead to welfare in the worlds of men and devas or even to the peace of Nibbana.

The yogi is assured of peace and welfare as long as he has control over his mind. His welfare may last one hour or one day or ten days depending on the duration of his self-control. At the very least he will be cured of heart disease, hypertension, consumption, kidney troubles and other physical ailments. He will overcome chronic worry and insomnia. He will be self-possessed and unshaken in the-face of the ups and downs of life.

If he practises mindfulness till the attainment of a stage on the Ariyan path and its fruition, the effects of the evil deeds that he has done through the life-cycle and that could have led to the lower worlds may become null and void. He will be assured of happiness in the world of men and devas, successive attainment of sakadagami, anagami and arahatship and the total extinction of suffering in Nibbana.

We should practise this satipatthana mindfulness which will be so much beneficial to us.

So the Buddha says: - "The well-disciplined mind which is pure and free from defilements leads to happiness". It brings about happiness in the worlds of men, devas and Brahmas and the peace of Nibbana. It ensures peace that is concomitant with jhana, insight-meditation (vipassana) the four stages on the Ariyan path and their fruitions (magga and phala) and Nibbana. It leads to the peerless and supreme peace of Nibbana.

May the yogis who have heard this Satipatthana sermon for overcoming defilements practise the Dhamma energetically and attain the cessation of suffering and peace in Nibbana.