By Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw
practice of Vipassana
or Insight Meditation is the effort made by the meditation
to understand correctly the nature of the psycho-physical
phenomena taking place in his own body. Physical phenomena
are the things or objects which one clearly perceives
around one. The whole of one's body that one clearly
perceives constitutes a group of material qualities
[rupa]. Psychical or mental phenomena are acts of consciousness
or awareness [nama]. These [nama-rupas] are clearly
perceived to be happening whenever they are seen, heard
smelt, tasted, touched, or thought of. We must make
ourselves aware of them by observing, hearing, hearing,
"smelling, smelling, tasting, tasting" touching,
touching, 'or thinking, thinking'.
Every time one sees, hears,
smells, tastes, touches, or thinks, one should make
a note of the fact. But in the beginning of one's practice
one cannot make a note of every one of these happenings.
One should, therefore, begin with noting those happening
which are conspicuous and easily perceivable.
With every act of breathing,
the abdomen rise and fall, which is always evident.
This is the material quality known as vayodhatu [the
element of motion]. One should begin by noting this
movements, which may be done by intently observing the
abdomen in mind. You will find the abdomen rising when
you breathe in, and falling when you breathe out. The
rising should be noted mentally as rising, and the falling
as falling. If the movement is not evident by just nothing
it mentally, touch the abdomen with the palm of your
hand. Do not alter the manner of your breathing, Neither
slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not breathing too
vigorously, either. You will tire if you change the
manner of your breathing, Breathe steadily as usual
and note the rising and falling of the abdomen as they
occur, Note it mentally, not verbally.
In Vipassana meditation,
what's your name or say doesn't matter. What really
matters is to know or perceive. While noting the rising
of the abdomen, do so from the beginning to the end
of the movement just as if you are seeing it with your
eyes. Do the same with the falling movement. Note the
rising movement in such a way that your awareness of
it is concurrent with the movement itself. The movement
and the mental awareness of it should coincide in the
same way as a stone thrown hitting the same goes for
the target. The falling movement.
Your mind may wander else
where while you are noting the abdominal movements.
This must also be noted by mentally saying wandering,
wandering. When this has been noted once or twice, the
mind stops wandering, in which case you go back to noting
the rising and falling of
the abdomen, if the mind
reaches somewhere, note it as 'reaching, reaching'.
Then go back to the rising and falling of the abdomen.
If you imagine meeting somebody, note it as meeting,
meeting'. Then back to the sing and falling. If you
imagine meeting and talking to somebody, note it as
In short, whatever thought
or reflection occurs should be noted. If you imagine,
note it as 'imagine. If you think, 'thinking'. if you
plan, 'planning'. If you perceive, 'perceiving'. If
you reflect, 'reflecting'. If you feel happy, 'happy'.
If you feel bored, bored'. If you feel glad, 'glad'.
If you feel disheartened, 'disheartened'. Noting all
these acts off consciousness is called Cittanupassana.
Because we fail to note these acts of consciousness,
we tend to identify whit a person or individual. We
tend to think that it is ""I" who is
imagining, thinking, planning, knowing (or perceiving).
We think that there is a person who from childhood onwards
has been living and thinking. Actually, no such person
exists. There are instead only these continuing and
successive acts of consciousness. That is why we have
to note these acts of consciousness and know them for
what they are. That is why we have to note each and
every act of consciousness as it arises. When so noted,
they tends to disappear. We then go back to noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen.
When you have sat meditating
for long, sensations of stiffness and heat will arise
in your body. These are to be noted carefully too. Similarly
with sensations of pain and tiredness. All of these
sensations are dukkhavedana (feeling of unsatisfactoriness)
and noting them is vedananupassana. Failure or omission
to note these sensations makes you think, "I am
stiff, I am feeling hot, I am in pain. I was all right
a moment ago. Now I am uneasy with these unpleasant
sensations." The identification of these sensations
with the ego is mistaken. There is really no "I"
involved, only a succession of one new unpleasant Sensation
after another. It is just like a continuous succession
of new electrical impulses that light up electric lamps.
Every time unpleasant contacts are encountered in the
body, unpleasant sensations arise one after another.
These sensations should be carefully and intently noted,
whether they are sensations, of heat or of pain. In
the beginning of the yogis meditational practice, these
sensation may tend to increase and lead to a desire
to change his posture. This desire should be noted,
after which the yogi should go back to noting the sensations
of stiffness, heat, etc. patience leads to Nibbana,'
as the saying goes. This saying is most relevant in
meditation effort. One must be patient in meditation.
If one shifts or changes one's posture too often because
one cannot be patient with the sensation of stiffness
or heat that arises, samadhi [good concentration] cannot
develop. if samadhi cannot develop, Insight cannot result
and there can be no attainment of
magga [the path that leads
to Nibbana], phala [the fruit of that part] and Nibbana.
That is why patience is needed in meditation. It is
mostly patience with unpleasant sensations in the body
like stiffness, sensations of heat and pain, and other
sensations that are hard to bear. One should not immediately
give up one's meditation on the appearance of such sensations
and change one's meditational posture. One should go
on patiently, just noting them as stiffness, stiffness'
or 'hot, hot'. Moderate sensations of these kinds will
disappear if one goes on nothing them patiently. When
concentration is good and strong, even intense sensations
tend to disappear. One then reverts to noting the rising
and falling of the abdomen.
One will of course have
to change one's posture if the sensations do not disappear
After one has noted
them for a long time, and if on the other have they
become unbearable. One should then begin noting them
as 'wishing to change, wishing to change'. If the arm
rises, note it as 'rising, rising'. If it moves, note
it as 'moving, moving.' This change should be made gently
and noted as 'rising, rising,' 'moving, moving' and
'touching'. If the body sways, 'swaying, swaying'. If
the foot rises, 'rising, rising'. If it moves, 'moving,
moving' If it drops, 'dropping, dropping'. If there
is no change, but only static rest, go back to noting
the rising and falling of the abdomen. There must be
no intermission in between, only continuity between
a preceding act of noting and a succeeding one, between
a preceding samasdhi [state of concentration] and a
succeeding one, between a preceding act of intelligence
and a succeeding one. Only then will there be successive
and ascending stages of maturity in the yogi's state
of intelligence. Megga and mala nana [knowledge of the
path and its fruition] are attained only when there
is this kind of gathering momentum. The meditative process
is like that of producing fire by energetically and
unremittingly rubbing two sticks of wood together so
as to attain the necessary intensity of heat [and the
In the same way, the noting
in Vipassana meditation should be continual and unremitting,
without any resting interval between acts of noting
whatever phenomena may arise, for instance, if a sensation
of itchiness intervenes and the yogi desires to scratch
because it is hard to bear, both the sensation and the
desire to get rid of it should be noted, without immediately
getting rid of the sensation by scratching.
If one goes on perservingly
noting thus, the itchiness generally disappears, in
which case one reverts to noting the rising and falling
of the abdomen. If the itchiness does not in fact disappear,
one has to ofcourse eliminate it by scratching. But
first, the desire to do so should be noted. All the
movements involved in the process of eliminating this
sensation should be noted,
especially the touching, pulling and pushing,and scratching
movements, with and eventual reversion to noting the
rising and falling of the abdomen.
Every time you make a
change of posture, you begin with noting your intention
or desire to make the change, and go onto noting every
movement closely, such as rising from the sitting posture,
raising the arm moving and stretching it, you should
make the change at the same time as noting the movements
involved. As your body sways forward, note it. As you
rise, the body become light and rises, concentrating
your mind on this you should gently note it as 'rising,
rising'. The yogi should behave as if he were a weak
invalid. People of normal health rise easily and quickly
or abruptly, not so with feeble invalids, who do so
slowly and gently. The same is the case with people
suffering from 'back-ache' who rise gently so their
back hurts less ( lest the back hurt and cause pain.)
So also with meditating
yogis. They have to make their changes of posture gradually
and gently; only then will mindfulness, concentration
and insight be good. Begin therefore with gentle and
gradual movements. When rising, the yoga must do so
gently like an invalid, at the same time noting it as
rising, rising. Not only this; though the eye sees,
the yogi must act as if he does not see. Similarly when
the ear hears. While meditating, the yogi's concern
is only to note. What he sees and hears are or his concern.
So whatever strange or striking things he may see or
hear. He must behave as if he does not see or hear them,
merely noting carefully.
When making bodily movements,
the yoga should do so gradually as if he were a weak
invalid, gently moving his arms and legs, bending or
stretching them, bending down the head and bringing
it up. All these movements should be made gently. When
rising from the sitting posture, he should do so gradually,
noting it as "rising, rising" When straightening
up and standing, noting it as "standing, standing".
When looking here and there, noting as "looking,
seeing". When walking noting the steps, whether
they are taken with the right or the left foot. You
must be aware of all the successive movements involved,
from the raising of the foot to the dropping of it.
Note each step taken, whether with the right foot or
the left foot. This is the manner of noting when one
If will be enough if you
note thus when walking fast and walking some distance.
When walk slowly or doing the cankama walk [waling up
and down], three movements should be noted in each step;
when the foot is raised, when it is pushed forward,
and when it is dropped. Begin with noting the raising
and dropping movements. One must be properly aware of
the raising of the foot, similarly, when the foot is
dropped, one should be properly aware of the 'heavy'
falling of the foot.
One must walk, noting
it as raising, dropping' with each step. This noting
will become easier after above, as 'raising, pushing
forward, dropping,. In the beginning, it will suffice
to note one or two movements only, thus'right step,
left step' when walking fast and 'raising, dropping'when
walking slowly. If when walking thus, you want to sit
down, note as wanting to sit down, wanting to sit down'.
When actually sitting down, concentratedly note the
heavy' falling of your body. When you are seated, note
the movements involved in arranging your legs and arms.
When there are no such movements, but just a stillness
(staticrest) of the body, note the rising and falling
of the abdomen. While noting thus and if stiffness of
your limbs and sensations of heat in any part of your
body arise, go on to note them. Then back to "rising,
falling". While noting thus and if a desire to
lie down arises, note it and the movements of your legs
and arms as you lie down. The raising of the arm., the
moving of it, the resting of the elbow on the floor,
the swaying of the body, the stretching of legs, the
listing of the body as one slowly prepares to lie down,
all these movements should be noted.
the path and its fruition).
When samadhi (concentration) and nana (insight) are
strong, the distinctive knowledge can come at any moment.
It can come in a single "bend" of the arm
or in a single "stretch of the arm. Thus it was
that the Venerable Ananda became an arahat.
The Ven.Ananda was trying strenuously to attain Arahatship
over night on the eve
Of the first Buddhist council.He was practising the
whole night a form of Vipassana meditation
Known as kayagatasati, noting his steps,right and left,raising,pyshing
forward and dropping of the feet;noting,happening by
happening by happening,the mental desire to walk and
the physical movement involved in walking. Although
this went on till it was nearly dawn,he had mot yet
succeeded in attaining Arahatship. Realizing that he
has practiced the walking meditation to excess and that,
in order to balance samadhi(concentration)and viriya
(effort), He should practice meditation in the lying
posture for a while, he entered his chamber. He sat
on the couch and then lay himself down. While doing
so and noting 'lying, lying' he attained Arahatship
in an instant.
The Ven.Ananda was only
a sotapanna (that is ,a stream winner or one who has
attained the first stage on the path to Nibbana)before
he thus lay homself down. From sotapannahood, he continued
to meditate and reached sakadagamihood(that is, the
condition of the once-retuner or one who has attained
the third stage on the path)and arahatship (that is
the condition of the noble one who has attained the
last stage on the path.) Reaching these three successive
stages of the higher path took only a little while.
just think of this example of the
Ven.ananda's attainment of arahatship. Such attainment
can come at any moment and need not take long. That
is why the yogi should note with diligenceall the time.
He should not relax in his noting, thinking "this
little lapse should not matter much." All movements
involved in lying down and arranging the arms and legs
should be carefully and unremittingly noted. If there
is no movement, but only stillness(of the body),go back
to noting the rising and falling of the abdomen. Even
when it is getting late and time to sleep, the yoga
should not go to sleep yet, dropping his noting. A really
serious and energetic yogi should practise mindfulness
as if he were forgoing his sleep altogether. He should
go on meditating till he falls asleep. If the meditation
is good and has the upper hand, drowsiness has the upper
hand he will not fall asleep. If, on the other hand,
he will fall asleep. When he feels sleepy, he should
note it as 'sleepy, sleepy'. If his eyelids drop, 'dropping'
if they become heavy or leaden 'heavy', if the eyes
become smarting, 'smarting' Nothing thus, the drowsiness
may pass and the eyes become clear again.
The yoga should then note
that as "clear, clear" and go on to note the
rising and falling of the abdomen. However perseveringly
the yogi may go on meditating, if real drowsiness intervenes,
he does fall asleep. It is not difficult to fall asleep;
in fact. It is easy if you meditate in the lying posture,
you gradually become drowsy and eventually fall asleep.
That is why the beginner in meditation should not meditate
too much in the lying posture. He should meditate much
in the lying posture. He should meditate much more in
the sitting posture and walking But as it grows late
and becomes time to sleep, he should meditate in the
lying position, noting the rising and falling movements
of the abdomen He will then a naturally (automatically)
The time he is asleep
is the resting time for the yogi. But for the really
serious yogi, he should limit his sleeping time to about
four hours. This is the midnight time permitted by the
Buddha. Four hours sleep is quite enough. If the beginner
in meditation thinks that four hours'sleep is not though
for his health, he may extend it to five or six hours.
Six hours'sleep is clearly enough for one's health.
When the yogi awakens, he should at once resume noting.
The yoga who is really bent on attaining magga and phala
nana, should rest from meditational effort only when
he is asleep. At other times, in his waking moments,
he should be noting contnuously and without rest, That
is why, as soon as he awakens, he should note the awakining
state of his mind as'awakening, awakening'. If he cannot
yer make himself aware of this, he should begin noting
the rising and galling of the abdomen. If he intends
to get up from bed, he should note it as 'intending
to get up, intending to get up'. He should then go on
to note the changing movements he makes as he arrages
his arms and legs. When he raises his head and rises,
noting it as 'rising, rising'. When he is seated,noting
If he makes any changing
movement as he arranges his arms and legs, all of these
movements should also be noted.If there are no such
changes, but only a sitting quietly, he should revert
to noting the rising and falling movements of the abdomen.
One should also note when
one washes one's face and when one takes a bath. As
the movements involved in these acts are rather quick,
as many of them should be noted as possible. There are
then acts of dressing, of tidying up the bed, of opening
and closing the door; all these should also be noted
as closely as possible. When the yoga has his meal and
looks at the meal-table, he should note it as "looking,
seeing." When he extends his arm towards the food,
touches it, collects and arranges it, handles it and
brings it to his mouth, bends his head and puts the
morsel of food into his mouth, drops his arm and raises
his head again, all these movements should be duly noted.
(This way of noting is in accordance with the Burmese
way of taking a meal. Those who use fork and spoon or
chopsticks should note the movements in an appropriate
When he chews the food.
He should note it as 'chewing, chewing.' When he comes
to know the taste of the food. He should note it as
'knowing knowing.' As he relishes the food and swallows
it, as the food goes down his throat, he should note
all these happenings. This is how the yogi should note
as he takes one morsel after another of his food. As
he takes his soup, all the movements involved such as
extending of the arm, handling of the spoon and scooping
with it and so on, all these should be noted. To note
thus at meal-time is rather difficult as there are so
many things to observe and note. The beginning yoga
is likely to miss several things which he should note,
but he should resolve to note all. He cannot of course
help it if he overlooks and misses some, but as his
samadhi (concentration) becomes strong, he will be able
to not closely all these happenings. Well, I have mentioned
so many things for the yogi to note. But to summarize,
there are only a few things to note. When walking fast,
note as 'right step,' left step.' And as raising, dropping'
When walking slowly. When sitting quietly, just note
the rising and falling of the abdomen. Note the same
When you are lying , if there is nothing particular
to note. While noting thus and if the mind wanders,
note the acts of consciousness that arise. Then back
to the rising and falling of the abdomen note also the
sensations of stiffness pain and ache, and itchiness
as they arise. Then back to the rising and falling of
the abdomen. Note also, as they arise, the bending and
stretching and moving of the limbs, bending and raising
of the head, swaying and straightening of the body.
Then back to the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Beginner in meditation encounters the same difficulty,
but as he becomes more practiced, he becomes aware of
every act of mind-wandering till eventually the mind
does not wander any more. The mind is then riveted on
the ofject of its attention, the act of mindfulness
becoming almost simulaneous with the object of its attention
such as the rising and falling of the abdomen. (In other
words the rising of the abdomen becomes concurrent with
the act of nothing it, and similarly with the falling
of the abdomen. (In other words the rising of the abdomen
becomes concurrent with the act of noting it, and similarly
with the falling of the abdomen.)
The physical object of
attention and the mental act of noting are occurring
as a pair. There is in this occurrence no person or
individual involved, only this physical object of attention
and the mental act of noting occurring as a pair. The
yogi will in time actually and personally experience
these and falling of the abdomen he will come to distinguish
the rising of the abdomen as physical phenomenon and
the mental act of noting it as psychological phenomenon;
sumultaneous occurrence in pairs of these psycho-physical
Thus, with every act of
noting, the yogi will come to know for himself clearly
that there are only the material quality which is the
object of awareness or attention and the mental quality
that makes a note of it. This discriminating knowledge
is called namarupa-paricheda-nana. It is important to
gain this knowledge corredtly. This will be succeeded,
as the yogi goes on by the knowledge that distinguishes
between the cause and its effect, which knowledge is
called paccayapariggaha-nana. As the yogi goes on noting,
he will see for himself that wat arises passes away
after a short while. Ordinary people assume that both
material and mental phenomena go on lasting throughtut
life, that is, from youth to adulthood. In fact, that
is not so. There is no phenomenon that lasts forever.
All phenomena arise and pass away so rapidly that they
do not even last the twinkling of an eye. The yogi will
come to know this for himself as he goes on nothing.
He will then become convinced of the impermanence of
all such phenomena. Such conviction is called anicca
This knowledge will be
succeed by dukkhanupassana-nana which realizes that
all this impermanence is suffering. The yogi is also
likely to encounter all kinds of hardship in his body,
which is just an aggregate of sufferings. This is also
dukkhanupassana-nana. Next, the yogi will be come convinced
that all these psycho-physical phenomena are occurring
on their own accord, following nobody's will and nobody's
will and subject to nobody's control. They constitute
no individual or ego-entity. This realization is anatta
When, as he goes on meditating,
the yogi comes to realize firmly that all these phenomena
are anicca, dukkha and anatta, he will attain Nibbana.
All the former Buddhas, Arahats and Aryas realized Nibbana
follwing this very path. All meditating yogis should
recognize thatthey themselves are now on this satipatthana
path, in fulfilment of their wish for attainment of
magga-nana (knowledge of the path), phala-nana (knowledge
of the fruition of the path) and Nibbana-dhamma, and
following the ripening of their parami perfection of
virtue. The should feel glad at this and at the prospect
of experiencing the noble kind of samadhi (tranquillity
of mind brought abourt by concentration) and nana (supramundane
knowledge or wisdom) experienced by the buddhas, Arahats
and Aryas and which they themselves have never experience
It will bot be long before
they will experience for themselves the magga-nana,
Phata-nana and Nibbana dhamma experienced by the Buddhas,
arahats and Aryas. As a matter of fact, these may be
experienced in the space of a month or of twenty or
fifteen days of their meditational practice Those whose
parami is exceptional may experience these dhammas even
within seven days. The yogi should therefore rest content
in the faith that he will attain these dhammas in the
time specified above, that he will be freed of askka
ya-ditthi (ego-belief) and vicikiccha (doubt or uncertainty)
and saved from the danger of rebirth in the nether worlds.
He should go on with his meditational practice in this
May you all be able to
practice meditation well and quickly attain that nibbana
wich the Buddhas, Arathats and arayas have experienced.