opening Passage from the Mahāsatipatthāna
is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the
overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain
and grief, for reaching the Noble Path, for the realization of Nibbāna,
namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
(in this teaching) monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in
the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming
covetousness and grief in the world; he dwells contemplating the
feeling in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful,
overcoming covetousness and grief in the world; he dwells
contemplating the consciousness in the consciousness, ardent,
clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief
in the world; he dwells contemplating the dhamma in the dhammas,
ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness
and grief in the world."
Today I will explain the passage that we read
every morning. This is from the Discourse called The Four
Foundations of Mindfulness. This passage is just a summary of the
Four Foundations of Mindfulness. But it is important that those who
practice Foundations of Mindfulness or Vipassanā
Meditation understand this passage correctly and clearly.
have said, the method of the practice of Mindfulness or the Four
Foundations of Mindfulness was discovered by the Buddha. He
practiced it himself and got the best results from this practice and
then for forty-five years he taught the Four Foundations of
Mindfulness many times. After his death these methods were collected
and recorded in what is known as the Pāli
Canon. The instructions given at Vipassanā
retreats are all based on the Mahāsatipatthāna
Sutta which contains this passage.
first sentence is, "This is the only way, monks, for the
purification of beings ... namely, the Four Foundations of
Mindfulness." So, at the very beginning the Buddha said, "This is
the only way". The Four Foundations of Mindfulness or the Practice
of Mindfulness, is the only way for the purification of beings ...
Here the Buddha said, "This is the only way".
the Pāli word for this
translation is "Ekāyano". "Ekāyano"
is composed of two parts, "eka" and "ayana". Ayana means way, path
or road, and eka means one. So, ekāyano
literally means one way. This one way is interpreted to mean one way
which has no forks, no branches. There is just one way and if you
tread this way you will surely reach your destination. There are no
misleading branches of this way. The other meaning is that this is
the way to be taken by one, to be taken by the individual only. That
means when you are treading on this path or on this way you are
alone, you have no companion because you make progress or you do not
make progress depending on your own capabilities.
this word is interpreted to mean "the Way of The One". "The One"
here means the Buddha. The Buddha was the best of the beings and so
he was called "The One" and this is the way discovered and taught by
the Buddha, so this is called the Way of The One. Also, it is
interpreted to mean the only way, this is the only way, there is no
other way for the purification of beings and so on. Now, with regard
to the translation "the only way" there are two questions. One is
that here, Four Foundations of Mindfulness mean mindfulness only.
But, there are other factors of the Noble Eightfold Path. So, are
they also not the way to purification of beings ...? The answer is
that they are also the way to purification of beings ..., but they
do not exist without mindfulness. So when mindfulness is mentioned,
they are virtually mentioned, i.e., although mindfulness alone is
mentioned here, we should understand that all the other seven
factors that are concomitant with the Noble Path are also implied.
other question raised by people, especially of the West, is "Why did
Buddha say, "This is the only way"? Aren't there other ways to the
purification of beings? They argue that there are different roads to
reach a city and just as there are different roads to a city there
must be different ways to reach purification of beings or to reach
Nibbāna. Some people do not like
this or they thought the Buddha would not have said this, "The only
way". Some times analogies are not really correct. It is true that
there are different roads to reach this town. (I am not familiar
with this country so I do not know which roads reach this town.) But
they are roads, they are not marshes or forests. And so the road is
the only way to reach this town. There may be different roads but
they are roads. In the same way, there may be different ways of
practicing mindfulness but they must be mindfulness. Only
mindfulness can lead us to the attainment of Nibbāna.
Also, if we say physical exercise is the only way to build big
muscles, I think no one would object to that. If you want to build
big muscles you have to do physical exercise. Without physical
exercise, you cannot hope to build muscles. But, physical exercise
can take different forms such as weight lifting or using machines
and so on. In the same way, mindfulness is the only way to reach
Nibbāna, but mindfulness may
take different forms. Even in this discourse on the Foundations of
Mindfulness, mindfulness practice is taught in twenty-one ways.
There are twenty-one different kinds of mindfulness practice to
choose from. Therefore, I think it is correct to say that this is
the only way. So mindfulness is the only way.
may argue here because the word used here is "ekāyano",
one way. But in another place?in the Dhammapada?Buddha said clearly,
"This alone is the way and there is no other way for the purity of
wisdom." So we cannot argue that Buddha said there is any other way.
He expressly said that this alone is the way and there is no other
way. So I think we must accept that this is the only way for the
purification of beings. If we consider it with reference to the
practice it becomes clear.
said that mindfulness is like a guard, and once the guard is removed
anything can come in. So as long as mindfulness is at the sense
doors, our minds are pure. No unwholesome mental states can come
into our minds, because mindfulness is there guarding the sense
doors. Once mindfulness is removed, or once we lose mindfulness, all
these mental defilements come in. So mindfulness is the only way to
keep the mind pure. Please note here also that mindfulness is one of
the eight Factors of the Path described in the Dhammapada, and if
the Eightfold Path is the "only way", then mindfulness surely is the
only way too.
mindfulness may take different forms, such as mindfulness of the
body, mindfulness of feeling, mindfulness of consciousness,
mindfulness of dhamma objects or mindfulness of parts of the body
and so on. So, if it is mindfulness it is the only way for the
purification of beings. For the purification of beings means for the
purification of the minds of beings. Because Buddha is more
concerned about the purification of mind than the purification of
the physical body?although it does not mean that we do not take care
of the cleanliness of the physical body? what is more important for
us is the cleanliness of our minds. So, the purification of beings
here means purification of minds of beings.
Commentaries, it is said that personal cleanliness or cleanliness of
the body as well as the cleanliness of the place are conducive to
concentration and wisdom. So we also need to keep our bodies clean
and keep the place where we meditate clean. Although we are not to
neglect the cleanliness of the body we should be more concerned
about the cleanliness of our minds. So here the Buddha said that
mindfulness is the only way for the purification of minds of beings.
this passage Buddha mentioned the benefits we will get from the
practice of mindfulness. The first benefit the Buddha mentiond is
purification of mind. Then Buddha said, "for the overcoming of
sorrow and lamentation". If we want to overcome sorrow and
lamentation or crying aloud we should practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation. Here
sorrow is a mental state. Lamentation is crying aloud through sorrow
and saying this thing or that. To overcome sorrow and lamentation
also we should practice the Foundations of Mindfulness.
the disappearance of pain and grief": Pain here means physical pain,
pain in the body, and grief means mental pain, depression, ill will,
hatred; all these are included in the word "grief". For the
overcoming and disappearance of pain and grief we should practice
the Foundations of Mindfulness. As I said you may not conquer pain,
you may not overcome pain altogether, pain may not disappear
altogether. But, if you practice mindfulness you will be able to
live with pain and accept it. Like that of the Venerable Anuruddha,
your mind will not be disturbed or perturbed by the physical pain.
If your mind is not perturbed by physical pain, pain is virtually
non-existent. So, for the disappearance of pain or the overcoming of
pain, we should practice mindfulness meditation. For the overcoming
of grief, overcoming of ill will, depression and so on we should
practice mindfulness meditation.
is a mental state and sorrow is also a mental state. They are
actually connected with each other. These are mental states and so
these mental states can be overcome or made to disappear or can be
avoided by the practice of mindfulness.
cannot take two things or more than one thing at a time. Mind can
only take one object at a time. I think we are lucky. If mind could
take two or more things at a time our suffering would be much
greater. Since mind can take only one thing at a time, we can
overcome sorrow and grief by the practice of mindfulness. Let's take
anger, for example. Suppose I am angry with Mr. A. So long as my
mind is on Mr. A, my anger will increase and I will be getting more
and more angry with him because I am taking him as the object of my
consciousness or mind. But once I turn my mind from Mr. A, who is
the source of my anger, to anger itself?the moment I turn my mind to
anger itself?Mr. A does not exist for me at that time. He has
already disappeared from my mind. When my mind is on the anger
itself and when the source of anger has disappeared, anger has to
way, we treat such mental states with mindfulness, with just simple
but strong or forceful mindfulness. This is how we deal with what
are called emotions such as attachment, anger, hatred, depression,
and sorrow. Whatever the mental state, we just treat it with
mindfulness and try to be mindful of it. When our mindfulness is
really strong, they will surely disappear. So Buddha said, "This is
the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation and to overcome pain
is the only way for reaching the Noble Path." When you read books on
Buddhism, you will see this word "Path" many times. Sometimes it is
spelt with a lower case ?p?, but mostly with the upper case ?P?.
"Path" as a technical term is a name for the combination or group of
the eight Factors of the Path?Right Understanding, Right Thought and
so on?that arise at the moment of enlightenment. The type of
consciousness that is accompanied by these factors is called "Path
Consciousness". The word "enlightenment" is another technical word
whose meaning is not easy to understand. People use this word quite
freely, but only a few might understand its meaning properly.
Without definition it is vague. It may mean different things to
different persons or different religions: enlightenment for a
Buddhist may be quite different from enlightenment for a Christian.
talk about enlightenment, we should first define it. According to
Buddhism, enlightenment means the eradication of mental defilements
and seeing Nibbāna directly,
seeing Nibbāna face to face, at
the same time. As a person practices Vipassanā
meditation and progresses from one stage to another, to higher and
higher stages, as the result of this Vipassanā
practice, a time will come when in his mind a type of consciousness
arises which he has not experienced before. That type of
consciousness, along with its mental concomitants is so powerful
that it can eradicate mental defilements altogether, not to come
back again. At the same time it takes Nibbāna
as object. So, what we mean by enlightenment is " what happens at
that moment"?a moment, when that consciousness arises, eradicates
mental defilements and takes Nibbāna
consciousness is called "Path Consciousness". Immediately following
that Path Consciousness are two or three moments of Fruition
Consciousness. You have to understand Abhidhamma to understand this
fully. So for reaching the Noble Path simply means for gaining
enlightenment. When you really reach the Noble Path, you become
enlightened and you are able to eradicate mental defilements and
take Nibbāna as object.
is the only way for the realization of Nibbāna".
This is the same thing as reaching the Noble Path. So, when a person
reaches the Noble Path, when the Path Consciousness arises in
him/her and that consciousness takes Nibbāna
as object, that is when he/she is said to have realized Nibbāna.
So, reaching the Noble Path and realization of Nibbāna
mean the same thing.
said that the practice of mindfulness is the only way to purify our
minds, the only way to overcome sorrow and lamentation, to overcome
pain and grief, to reach the Noble Path and to realize Nibbāna,
namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
also we have the words "foundation" and "mindfulness". First, let us
understand what mindfulness is. All of us have been practicing
mindfulness for, may be, years but sometimes when we are asked,
"What is mindfulness?" we may not be able to give a satisfactory
answer. "Mindfulness" is the translation of the Pāli
word "sati". This discourse is called, "Satipatthāna"
so you have the word "sati" there. This "sati" is translated as
mindfulness. Maybe there is no better word for it. "Sati" literally
means remembering, but it covers more than remembering actually.
Etymologically, "sati" means remembering but in normal usage "sati"
means more than that. Sati is defined in the Commentaries as
remembering and its characteristic is said to be "non-wobbling",
that means "not floating on the surface". If it is sati, it must not
be superficial, it must go deep into the object. That is why I
always say, "full awareness of the object," or "thorough awareness
of the object." Sati is said to have the function of not losing the
object. As long as there is sati, or mindfulness, we do not lose
that object, we do not forget that object. Mindfulness has the
function of not losing or forgetting the object. It is like a guard
at the gate. So, that is what we call mindfulness. Mindfulness is
not superficial awareness, it is a deep and thorough awareness of
"Foundations of Mindfulness" means actually, "setting up" of
mindfulness or "firmly established mindfulness" or "mindfulness
firmly established". The Pāli
word "satipatthāna" is
translated as foundations of mindfulness but we must understand that
it means setting up of a firm mindfulness or establishing a firm
mindfulness. So, the practice of establishing firm mindfulness is
called the "foundations of mindfulness." In this discourse, Buddha
said that there were four foundations of mindfulness. When you
practice Vipassanā meditation at
a retreat like this, you practice all these four foundations of
mindfulness, but you practice them at random and not one after
another in the order given in the Discourse. That is because when
you practice Vipassanā
meditation you have to be mindful of the object at the present
moment. You cannot afford not to be mindful of the object at the
present moment. The object at the present moment can be any one of
these four. Sometimes the body, sometimes feelings, sometimes
consciousness, and sometimes dhamma objects. You have to take these
objects as they come, you have no choice. That is why sometimes
Vipassanā meditation is called "choiceless
awareness". That means you have no choice, you just have to take
what is presented to you. So you practice these four foundations of
mindfulness at random when you practice Vipassanā
the summary the Buddha taught us how to practice the four
foundations of mindfulness. So what are the four? "Herein, a monk
dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly
comprehending and mindful, overcoming or removing covetousness and
grief in the world." It is a very short sentence but it has many
"Contemplating the body in the body": That means when a monk
practices mindfulness of the body he is precise. He contemplates the
body in the body and he does not contemplate the feeling in the body
or he does not contemplate the person in the body and so on. He
contemplates the body in the body. In order to have a precise object
the Buddha repeated the words "body, feeling, consciousness and
dhamma" in these sentences. So that means he is precise in his
mindfulness of the body, feelings, consciousness and the dhammas.
When he practices body contemplation he is ardent, he is clearly
comprehending and he is mindful. With regard to the word "ardent" I
do not know what other meaning it carries in English. This word is
the translation of the Pāli word
Sometimes we lose something when we translate from one language to
another. The word "ātāpī"
comes from the word "ātāpa".
means "heat of the sun." Heat of the sun can heat up things so that
things become withered and even they may burn. So in the same way
the effort heats up the mental defilements or burns them up. So it
is called "ātāpa"
in Pāli and one who has
is called ātāpī,
the "ī" denoting possession. So one who possesses ātāpa
is called ātāpī.
When we read the Sutta in Pāli and when we read the word
we have that in our mind, we see the effort burning up the mental
defilements. When you translate this word into English as "ardent"
you lose that image. So ātāpī
means he/she makes real effort, not a slack effort, he makes
a real effort to be mindful and to clearly comprehend.
Buddha, still a Bodhisatta, sat down under the Bodhi tree to
practice to become the Buddha he made a very firm resolution in his
mind. "May my skin, sinews and bones remain, and may my flesh and
blood dry up, but I will not desist from or give up this superhuman
effort until I reach Buddhahood. I will not get up from this seat
until I reach Buddhahood, I will make every effort to achieve my
aim." Such an effort is called the "right effort." So to make the
right effort means you have to make a really good effort, not a
slackening effort. This word "ātāpī"
implies all these meanings. To right effort to be understood here is
the Right Effort that is one of the eight factors of the
Path. You may have read about Right Effort in other books. Right
Effort means to remove or avoid unwholesome mental states and to
acquire and cultivate wholesome mental states. In order to resist
unwholesome mental states, in order to resist evil, you need mental
effort. If you do not make effort you cannot resist evil. Effort is
very useful in resisting or removing unwholesome mental states and
also to cultivate wholesome mental states. To develop wholesome
mental states you need effort. If you do not make effort you do not
come here, if you do not want to make effort you do not go to a
retreat at all. So you need a real, strong effort to practice the
Foundations of Mindfulness. Here also the Buddha described the monk
as being ardent which means he has that kind of effort that burns up
the mental defilements. That is indicated by the word
in the Pāli text.
next word is "clearly comprehending". Clearly comprehending means
clearly seeing. Whatever object he puts his mind on, he sees it
clearly. What does "clearly" mean? He sees it thoroughly, he sees it
with wisdom. When a yogi concentrates on breathing, for instance, he
sees the breath clearly. He sees the in-breath distinctly from
out-breath and out-breath distinctly from in-breath; and also he
sees that the breath arises and disappears and that at the moment
there are only the breaths and the awareness of the breaths and no
other thing to be called a person or an individual. Such
understanding is called "clear comprehension." When you have clear
comprehension about something, you know that thing and all its
aspects. And also according to the teachings of the Buddha, you know
that there are just the thing observed and the mind that observes
and none other which you could call a person or an individual, a man
or a woman. Seeing in this way is called clear comprehension. This
clear comprehension will come only after some time, not right at the
beginning. You practice mindfulness, but right at the beginning you
may not even see the breaths clearly. Sometimes they are mixed
together and very vague. Little by little with the growth of your
concentration and practice, you'll see the objects more and more
clearly and then also their arising and disappearing and so on. So
this clear comprehension comes not right at the beginning but after
one has gained some experience.
order for this clear comprehension to arise, we need one more thing.
Although it is not mentioned in this Discourse we need one more
thing and that is concentration. Without concentration clear
comprehension cannot come. What is concentration? Concentration is a
mental state or a mental factor, which keeps the components of mind
squarely on the object, and does not let them go to other objects.
That is what we call concentration. It is usually described as the
mind being able to be on an object for a long period of time. For
example, if you take the breath as an object your mind is always on
the breath and the mind does not go anywhere else. That is what we
call concentration. Actually, at every moment also the mental factor
or state which is called concentration keeps the mind and its
components unified on the object, it keeps them together and does
not let them go to another object. This concentration is essential
for clear comprehension to arise. Without this concentration we
cannot hope to see things clearly, we cannot hope to get clear
get concentration, our mind calms down and becomes quiet and that is
the time when we begin to see things. It is like, say, water. At
first there is dirt or mud in the water and so we cannot see through
the water. But when the dirt or mud settles down and the water
becomes clear we can see through it. So, mind needs to be like the
water, settled, because there are many dirt or many mental
defilements in our mind. So long as our minds are contaminated by
mental defilements we cannot see things clearly. We need to suppress
or let these mental defilements which are called mental hindrances
settle down so that we can see clearly.
get concentration we will be able to keep these mental hindrances
settled. When the mental hindrances are subdued or settled, mind
becomes clear and it is the time when clear comprehension or the
true knowledge of things arises.
order to get clear comprehension we need concentration and
concentration is not mentioned here. But we must take that
concentration is also included in this passage because without
concentration we cannot get clear comprehension. Sometimes some
words may be left out but we have to understand them as mentioned
through inference. Let's say there is a flat rock and a hunter is
following a deer and he sees foot prints on one side, but on the
flat rock itself he does not see any footprints, and again he sees
the footprints on the other side. So from this he infers that the
deer must have run across the flat rock. He sees the beginning and
he sees the end and so he infers the middle, that the deer must have
run on the rock. In the same way here, to be mindful is the
beginning and clear comprehension is something like the end. So,
when these two are mentioned the middle is also virtually mentioned
because without the middle? concentration?there can be no clear
the last word here is "mindful": Mindfulness is put last here but
actually, in practice it should come after "ardent". We make effort,
so we have mindfulness. We have mindfulness, so we have
concentration and concentration leads to clear comprehension. We
have "mindfulness" here, but I have already defined mindfulness so I
do not need to define it again.
dwells contemplating the body in the body. A monk practices the
foundation of mindfulness on the body, being ardent, making true
effort, being mindful and being thoroughly aware of the object and
having concentration and clear comprehension.
many components do we now have? Ardent is one component, clearly
comprehending is another component, concentration is yet another and
mindfulness, another. So we have four mental states here. These four
mental states are the components of the practice. When we practice
there must be these four mental states working together
harmoniously. But, there is one more mental state which is not
mentioned here, and that is faith or confidence. Confidence or faith
is also an important factor because if we do not have confidence in
this practice we would not practice. We do not really have blind
faith but we have faith or confidence in the Buddha and His
teachings. We believe that just by paying attention to these objects
we will be able to see the true nature of these things, the
impermanent, suffering and non-soul nature. So we should have that
much confidence because without confidence no work can be
successful. Confidence, therefore, is also a part of the practice of
meditation and although it is not actively operating at the moment
of meditation or practice of mindfulness, it is still there working
harmoniously with the other factors. So, altogether we get five
factors and these are the five factors that are called five Mental
Faculties. In Pāli they are
called Indriyas. Meditation teachers are fond of talking about these
five factors. These five factors must be working simultaneously and
harmoniously with each other if we are to have a good practice of
said, in the beginning we may be lacking in clear comprehension but
later when our concentration develops we will be able to see things
clearly and so on and these five components will be working in
harmony. What if they do not work in harmony? We are lost! When we
are practicing, especially important is the balance of effort and
concentration. If they are not balanced, if there is an excess of
one or the other, we are lost, our meditation is nothing. The effort
we make must be just enough, not too much, and not too little.
Sometimes we tend to make too much effort because we want to achieve
something; we become a little greedy and so we make more effort.
When we make more effort, we become restless, agitated and then we
lose concentration. So, too much effort will not work. What if there
is too little effort? We become sleepy, lazy and we cannot
concentrate and cannot practice either. So, the effort we make must
be neither too much nor too little. When there is excess of effort
there is not enough of concentration. Among effort and
concentration, when one goes up the other goes down. Too much
effort, and concentration will go down. When you make too little
effort, again concentration goes down. Concentration also must not
be too much. When we have too much concentration we tend to become
lazy. We tend to take it easy or we tend to slacken our effort.
we are practicing and we have good concentration. When we have good
concentration we do not have to make much effort and so we tend to
slacken the effort. When we slacken our effort the degree of effort
goes down and we become lazy or sleepy. In that case we have to step
up our effort, by making more effort and paying closer attention or
sometimes by adding some things to note like three or more objects
in succession at a time. So, the effort and concentration must be
balanced so that we have good meditation and clear comprehension.
Sometime, say, we are practicing and we have good concentration and
all of a sudden we lose concentration. Probably we have made more
effort than is needed. We want to make it better and so we make more
effort and the result is the opposite of what we want. Sometimes you
are practicing meditation, your concentration is good and even
though your concentration is good, you tend to go sleepy or nodding.
That means you have too much concentration. If there is too much
concentration you have to make the level of concentration go down by
stepping up effort, by taking more objects at a time and so on.
meditation is not easy. I do not want to discourage you but
meditation is not easy. It is very delicate. Just a little bit of an
unbalanced mental state can destroy the concentration you have built
up with great effort. So, these five mental states should be working
simultaneously and also they should be working in harmony.
Meditation practice is like a machine. There are many parts in a
machine and each part must work properly. If one part does not work
properly, the whole machine goes out of control. In the same way, if
any one of the factors does not work properly, the whole work of
meditation is thrown out of balance. Therefore, each one of these
five mental factors must be working properly and harmoniously with
comes the value of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a regulating mental
factor. So it helps to keep effort from becoming too much, it helps
concentration from becoming too much and so on. So, the mindfulness
factor is a regulating factor among these five components in the
practice of meditation. That is why it is said that mindfulness is
always needed, there can be no excess of mindfulness. Mindfulness is
needed everywhere like the seasoning of salt in all dishes and like
a Prime Minister who does all the work of a king. Mindfulness is a
very important factor in these five factors but every factor is
important and everyone must be working in harmony and in balance
with the other factors.
the five mental factors are working in balance and a yogi is clearly
comprehending, then what is the result? The result is overcoming
covetousness and grief in the world. That is the result a yogi gets
from clearly comprehending in the practice of mindfulness
here, most English translations missed the point. They translate it
as "having overcome" or "having abandoned", or "having removed"
covetousness and grief in the world. What is the practice for? What
is this mindfulness practice for? It is for overcoming covetousness
and grief. Covetousness means attachment and grief means ill will or
anger. So, Vipassanā or
Satipatthāna meditation is "for
overcoming" covetousness and grief.
person has already overcome covetousness and grief he/she does not
need to practice. For this very purpose we are practicing
mindfulness, but if we have already achieved this purpose we do not
need to practice mindfulness. So, here we should translate it as
"overcoming (at the same time) covetousness and grief in the world,"
and not "having overcome." That means the yogi overcomes
covetousness and grief as he practices mindfulness. I want you to be
aware of this. (Here an explanation with reference to Pāli
grammatical construction would be helpful; but since it would be too
involved I have no choice but to ignore it.)
Overcoming covetousness and grief in the world means avoiding
craving or attachment or anger or ill will concerning the object the
yogi is observing. "In the world" means in the world of body,
feelings and so on, concerning that object. We see one object and we
can be attached to that object. If we come to the conclusion that it
is beautiful, or it is good, we will be attached to it; and we can
have anger, or hatred, etc., towards that object if we decided it
was ugly or disgusting. So, these mental defilements can come into
our minds when we experience something.
order to prevent them from arising, we need to make some protection
and that protection is mindfulness. When we are mindful, they will
not get a chance to get into our minds. When we are mindful, when we
comprehend clearly, and when we see the objects clearly, we know
that these objects come and go, these objects are impermanent and so
not to be attached to them. So, we can avoid covetousness or
attachment and grief or hatred regarding that object by the practice
we say "overcoming" or "removing" or whatever, actually we are
avoiding or preventing them from arising. Not that they have come
and then we overcome them, or we remove them after they have come.
The meaning really is preventing covetousness and grief from arising
in our minds. If we do not practice mindfulness on the object they
will surely come, either covetousness or grief, or attachment or
hatred. These mental states can come, but by the practice of
mindfulness we can prevent them from coming. Preventing them from
arising in our mind is what is meant by overcoming them. (But if
they have arisen, of course, we should make them the object of our
attention to eliminate them.)
talk about enlightenment we say, "at the moment of enlightenment"
mental defilements are eradicated. What mental defilements are
eradicated at that moment? The present ones, or past ones or the
future ones ? The past is already past, we do not have to do
anything to get rid of them, and the future defilements are not here
yet, so you cannot do anything about them. What of the present
defilements? If they are present there can be no enlightenment.
Because enlightenment is a wholesome state and those mental
defilements are unwholesome states. Wholesome states and unwholesome
states cannot exist together. They do not coexist. So the
defilements that are said to be eradicated at the moment of
enlightenment are not of the past, not of the future and not of the
present. Then what defilements are eradicated?
Actually, strictly speaking, those that are eradicated are not
called defilements, or kilesas in Pāli.
They are called latencies or anusayas in Pāli,
which means the potential to arise. What the enlightenment
consciousness eradicates is that potential. That means when
something is always with us we say we have that thing. Take, for
example, smoking. Suppose you smoke but right now you do not. If I
ask you, "Do you smoke? " you would say, "Yes, I do." Because you
smoked in the past and you will smoke in the future and you have not
given up smoking. So although you are not smoking at the very
moment, you say, "Yes, I smoke."
same way, now right at this moment, I hope I have no mental
defilements in my mind and you have no mental defilements in your
mind. But after the talk you go out and you step on something sharp
or someone pushes you and you get angry and thus the mental
defilement comes when there are the conditions for them. So we say
we have mental defilements. I have mental defilements, you have
mental defilements, but not right at this moment. So, that
"liability to arise" is what is eradicated by enlightenment.
mental defilements that are said to be eradicated at the moment of
enlightenment are actually nothing but that ability or liability to
come up. When they come up they are already there. In the same way
here, overcoming covetousness and grief means avoiding or preventing
them from arising in our minds. How? By the practice of mindfulness.
We make effort, we apply mindfulness and we have concentration and
we see things clearly. When we see things clearly there is no chance
for these mental defilements to come into the mind. In this way,
Vipassanā or mindfulness
practice removes mental defilement.
removal or overcoming is just momentary, just by substitution. Next
moment they may come back. It is of a very short duration. It is
called abandonment by substitution. That means you abandon the
unwholesome mental states by substituting them with the wholesome
mental states. When there is wholesome mental state there cannot be
any unwholesome mental state. You put wholesome mental states in the
place and so unwholesome mental states do not get a chance to arise.
That is called abandonment by substitution. That will last for only
a moment. The next moment they may come back.
moment of Vipassanā the
covetousness and grief are removed in that way. You get out of
Vipassanā and you meet some
conditions for them to arise, and they will arise.
is another kind of abandonment called "temporary abandonment."
Abandonment by pushing away. When you push something away it may
stay there for sometime, it may not come back quickly, like plants
in the water. If you push them away they may stay away for some
time, but then very slowly they may come back. That kind of removing
or abandonment is called "temporary abandonment or removing", or
removal by pushing away. That is achieved by jhānas.
When a person gets jhānas, or
experiences jhānas, he/she is
able to push these mental defilements away for some time. They may
not come to his/her mind for the whole day or maybe a week or a
month, but in this case too they can come back.
third removal is called total removal. The Pāli
word is "samuccheda = cutting off", i.e., removal by cutting off. It
is like you cut the root of a tree and it never grows back. So the
total removal or removal once and for all is called removal by
cutting off and that is achieved at the moment of enlightenment. The
mental defilement eradicated at the moment of enlightenment never
comes back to that person.
Arahant has eradicated all mental defilements. He has no attachment,
no anger, no pride, no jealousy and other unwholesome mental states.
Even though they are provoked Arahants will not get angry. Even
though they may see a very, very attractive and beautiful object,
they will not feel any attachment or desire for that object. Those
are the persons who have eradicated mental defilements by totally
cutting them off.
are the three kinds of removing, and here we can understand the two
kinds of removing. I have already explained the first removing.
There can also be the second kind of removing here. That is, if you
have practiced meditation well and you are able to avoid
covetousness and grief with regard to the objects you observe, you
will find that you are able to avoid covetousness and grief even
with regard to those objects that you do not observe. Here "do not
observe" means do not treat with mindfulness.
Naturally, the objects we come across can cause covetousness and
grief in our minds. If we do not practice mindfulness on the object,
then we will have attachment or ill will towards that object. That
happens to most people. If you are good at Vipassanā
practice and you have this experience of avoiding covetousness and
grief with regard to objects that are observed, you will find that
you are able to prevent them from arising even with regard to those
that are not observed. That is what is called temporary removal by
Vipassanā can achieve only these
two kinds of removal?momentary removal and temporary removal. But
Vipassanā cannot achieve the
third one, the total removal; that will be done by enlightenment or
Buddha said "overcoming covetousness and grief in the world", he
meant that the monk was able to avoid covetousness and grief from
arising with regard to that object which he is observing.
"covetousness" means all kinds of attachment, greed, lust, and other
similar mental states and "grief" means not just grief but anger,
hatred, depression, sorrow; all are included in grief. There are
three roots of unwholesomeness and they are attachment, anger and
ignorance. Among these three, two are mentioned here. Covetousness
is actually the first one which is "lobha" or attachment and the
second one is "dosa". So, by covetousness we mean all shades of
lobha and by grief we mean all shades of dosa. Moha (ignorance) is
not included here because moha is very difficult to prevent and
eradicate. So, in this sentence we must understand that a monk
practices body contemplation making effort, applying mindfulness,
getting concentration and clearly comprehending and at the same time
he is able to avoid covetousness and grief from arising. It is the
same with regard to feelings, to consciousness and to dhamma
objects. (The Commentary says that the statement ?overcoming
covetousness and grief? refers to the overcoming of all the five
mental hindrances, because when covetousness and grief that are the
strongest of the five hindrances are mentioned, we must understand
that the other hindrances are also mentioned.)
know the four foundations of mindfulness, four kinds of setting up
of mindfulness. There are four because there are four kinds of
first one is body. Sometimes body does not mean the whole physical
body, but a group of some material properties. Breathing is also
called the body. Different parts of the body are also called the
body. By the word "body" we must understand anything that is
associated with the body.
second is feelings. Feeling is a mental state. Now we have pain
here, physical pain and we experience that physical pain with our
mind. In our mind there is a mental state called feeling. Since it
is pain, feeling is the painful feeling. When Buddha said a monk
contemplates feeling in the feeling, He means the monk is
contemplating on that mental state and not necessarily on the pain
there. In practice, when we have pain we have to concentrate on the
pain and be mindful of it because that is practical. But actually,
when we are making notes as, "pain, pain", we are really making
notes of the mental state that feels the pain in the body. That
feeling is of three kinds? pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.
third is consciousness. It is usually translated as mind, but I
think consciousness is a better translation. The Pāli
word is "citta". This means consciousness. In Buddhist psychology,
mind is composed of four things. So what we call "mind" is a group
of or combination of four things. Sometimes there may be confusion
regarding these terms: mind and consciousness. Let us say mind is
composed of two things first, consciousness and mental factors.
Consciousness is defined as the awareness of an object. Here
awareness is not like awareness in the practice of meditation. It is
just mere awareness. It is like I am aware of someone there although
I am looking this way. That kind of awareness is called
consciousness. At least, it is called consciousness in Abhidhamma.
The English word may mean more or less than that, I am not sure.
note that although we use the word consciousness for the word
"citta", it is not an exact translation of the word. Consciousness
is defined as a mental state which is the awareness of the object.
Only when there is awareness of the object can there be contact with
the object, feeling of the object, liking of the object, disliking
of the object and so on. So, these mental states are subordinate to
consciousness, but they are also components of the mind. So, mind is
first divided into two?consciousness and mental factors. Contact,
feeling, perception, attention, like, dislike and so on are all
called mental factors. According to Abhidhamma there are fifty-two
of them, and these fifty-two are grouped into three?feeling,
perception and mental formations. So when we add consciousness to
these three we get four kinds of mental states. It?s amazing that
the Buddha could define and differentiate each of these mental
states that arise simultaneously taking the same object.
practice meditation and say "sorry, sorry", that means we have a
consciousness accompanied by sorrow or something like that. It could
be contemplation on consciousness. When I say, "angry, angry", I am
doing contemplation of consciousness.
last one is the dhamma. This is one Pāli
word that is most difficult to translate or that cannot be
translated adequately. This word means different things in different
contexts. You cannot translate the word "dhamma" with just one
English word. If you do, you will be wrong. Here, dhamma simply
means the objects that are mental hindrances, the five aggregates,
the twelve bases, the seven Factors of Enlightenment and Four Noble
Truths. They are called dhamma in this discourse. So, we cannot
translate this word. Mostly it is translated as "mind object" or
"mental object", but each of these translations is not satisfactory.
Therefore it is better to keep the word "dhamma" untranslated to
Dwelling on dhamma objects: if you concentrate on anger, then you
are doing contemplation on the dhamma. Here dhamma does not mean the
teachings or discourse or other things. If you see something and you
are mindful of seeing, then you are doing dhamma object
contemplation. So, the dhamma object contemplation is very wide and
includes mental hindrances, aggregates, bases, Factors of
Enlightenment and the Four Noble Truths.
translate it as "mind object" and we take it to mean "mind as
object", then some objects are not mind. If we translate it as
"mental object", then everything is object of mind. Body is also
object of mind. Since we cannot get a satisfactory and adequate
translation, it is better to leave it untranslated.
already told you that you practice these four at random and so when
you are really practicing do not try to find out which one you are
doing. This is a distraction. As a practitioner of Vipassanā
you have to take what is there at the present moment. Do not try to
find out whether it is the body, or the feeling, or the
consciousness or the dhamma. Whatever there is, your duty is to be
mindful of that object so you do not have covetousness and grief
regarding that object.
order not to have covetousness and grief you have to be mindful. You
have no time to find out whether it is consciousness or dhamma or
other things. When you practice Vipassanā
meditation you practice all these four foundations of mindfulness as
they come along. So long as you are mindful of the object at the
present moment you are doing fine, your meditation is good. What is
not good is when you are carried away by your thoughts and forget
about meditation for some seconds or maybe minutes. That is not
good. But so long as you are mindful, you are doing the right thing,
your meditation is going well.
Sometimes, yogis think that if they do not concentrate on the main
object they are not doing meditation. Sometimes they say, "Oh, we
have to spend time or waste time noting the mind going here and
there and we do not have much time to concentrate on the main
object." Whether you are aware of the main object or the secondary
object, so long as you are mindful at that moment you are doing
fine. You are meditating and practicing Vipassanā.
What is important in Vipassanā
meditation is first to be mindful of the object at the present
moment. Sometimes you may miss to be mindful and then that missing
also becomes the object of meditation. You have to say to yourself,
"missing, missing" or something like that before you go back to the
should be mindfulness always, mindfulness here, mindfulness there;
and if you can keep mindfulness intense, then you will make rapid
progress and you will begin to see the true nature of things. That
is, you will begin to see the objects arising and disappearing. When
you see the arising and disappearing you also see that they are
impermanent. When you see they are impermanent you also see their
suffering nature and also the non-soul nature or that you have no
control over these, that they arise and disappear at their own free
will. So, when you see them you are said to see the three general
characteristics of all conditioned phenomena. Seeing of these three
general characteristics of all conditioned phenomena is the essence
of Vipassanā. If you practice
Vipassanā you must see these
three characteristics because the word "Vipassanā"
means "seeing in different ways" and seeing in different ways means
seeing in the light of impermanence, in the light of suffering and
in the light of non-soul. What is important in Vipassana is to see
these three characteristics and in order to see these three
characteristics we need to observe, we need to watch and pay
attention to the objects at that present moment.
order to pay attention to the object at the present moment we need
to make effort. Without effort nothing worthwhile can be achieved.
This is why Buddha said, "ardent, clearly comprehending and
mindful." When we can fulfill these conditions? being ardent,
clearly comprehending and mindful? and have concentration we will be
able to overcome covetousness and grief regarding the object we
the summary of the discourse called the Mahā
Satipatthāna Sutta, the Great
Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness. If you understand the
summary this much I think you have a firm understanding of what
mindfulness practice is, and so you will understand how to practice
mindfulness meditation. There are other detailed instructions for
the practice of mindfulness and I hope you are familiar with all
these instructions. Following these instructions, making effort,
applying mindfulness and seeing things clearly, may all of us be
able to overcome covetousness and grief in the world.