Vipassana Research Institute

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Vipassana Research Institute
The Law of Cause and Effect
Vipassana Research Institute

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Q:. Can you describe in practical terms what is happening in the body and in the mind, how this law of cause and effect works, and how this change can help us?


Acharya S.N. Goenka: The Buddha said that understanding the Dhamma is nothing other than understanding the law of cause and effect. You have to realize this truth within yourself. In a ten-day course you have the opportunity to learn how to do this. This investigation of truth pertaining to matter, pertaining to mind and pertaining to the mental concomitants, the mental contents, is not merely for the sake of curiosity, but to change your mental habit pattern at the deepest level of the mind. As you keep proceeding you will realize how the mind influences matter, and how matter influences the mind.


Every moment, within the framework of the body, masses of subatomic particles-kal±pas-arise and pass away, arise and pass away. How do they arise? The cause becomes clear as you -investigate the reality as it is, without influence from any past conditioning or philosophical beliefs. The material input, the food that you have taken, becomes a cause for these kal±pas to arise. You will also find that kal±pas arise and pass away due to the climatic atmosphere around you. You also begin to understand the formation of the mind-matter structure: how matter helps matter to arise and dissolve, arise and dissolve. Similarly, you understand how mind helps matter to arise and dissolve. You will also notice that at times matter arises from the mental conditioning of the past-that is, the accumulated sankh±ras (conditioning) of the past. By the practice of Vipassana all of this starts to become clear. In ten days you do not become perfect in this understanding but a beginning is made. You learn to observe: At this moment, what type of mind has arisen and what is the content of this mind? The quality of the mind is according to the content of the mind. For example, when a mind full of passion (or a mind full of anger, or a mind full of fear) has arisen, you will notice that as it arises it helps to generate these subatomic particles.

When the mind is full of passion, within this material structure, subatomic particles of a particular type arise, and there is a biochemical secretion that starts flowing throughout the body with the stream of the blood or otherwise. This type of biochemical flow, which starts because a mind full of passion has arisen, is called k±m±sava (lit.: sensual flow).


Now, as a very objective scientist, you proceed further, simply observing the truth as it is, observing how the law of nature works. When this secretion of k±m±sava starts, since it is the biochemical produced by passion, it influences the next moment of the mind with more passion. Thus this k±m±sava turns into a craving of -passion at the mental level, which again stimulates k±m±sava, a flow of passion at the physical level. One starts influencing the other, starts stimulating the other, and the passion keeps on multiplying for minutes together, at times for hours together. The behavior pattern of the mind of generating passion is strengthened because of the repeated generation of passion.


And not only passion but also fear, anger, hatred, and craving-every type of impurity that comes in the mind simultaneously generates an ±sava (flow). And this ±sava keeps stimulating that particular negativity, that particular impurity, resulting in a vicious cycle of suffering. You may call yourself a Hindu, or a Muslim, or a Jain, or a Christian-it makes no difference-the process is such, the law is such, that it is applicable to one and all. There is no discrimination.


Mere understanding at the intellectual level will not help to break this cycle, and may even create difficulties. Your beliefs from a particular tradition may look quite logical, yet these beliefs will create obstacles for you. The intellect has its own limitation. You cannot realize the ultimate truth merely at the intellectual level. The ultimate truth is limitless, infinite, while the intellect is finite. It is only through experience that we are able to realize that which is limitless, infinite. Even those who have accepted this law of nature intellectually are not able to change the behavior pattern of their minds, and as a result they are far away from the realization of the ultimate truth.

This behavior pattern is at the depth of the mind. What is called the "unconscious mind" is actually not unconscious; at all times it remains in contact with this body. And along with this contact of the body a sensation keeps arising, because every chemical that flows in your body generates a particular type of sensation. You feel a sensation-pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, whatever it is-and with the feeling of this sensation, you keep reacting. At the depth of your mind you keep reacting with craving, with aversion, with craving, with aversion. You keep generating different types of sankh±ras, different types of negativities, different types of -impurities, and the process of multiplication continues. You can't stop it because there is such a big barrier between the conscious and the unconscious mind. When you practice Vipassana you break this barrier. Without Vipassana the barrier remains.


At the conscious level of the mind, at the intellectual level of the mind, one may accept the entire theory of Dhamma, of truth, of law, of nature. But still one keeps rolling in misery because one does not realize what is happening at the depth of the mind. Sensations are there in your body every moment. Every contact results in a sensation. This isn't a philosophy, it is the actual truth which can be verified by one and all.


On the surface the mind keeps itself busy with outside objects, or it remains involved with games of intellectualization, imagination, or emotion. That is the job of your "tiny mind" (paritta citta), the surface level of the mind. Therefore you do not feel what is happening deep inside, and you do not feel how you are reacting to what is happening at the deeper level of the mind.


By Vipassana, when that barrier is broken, one starts feeling sensations throughout the body, not merely at the surface but also deep inside because throughout the entire physical structure, wherever there is life, there is sensation. And by observing these sensations you start realizing the characteristic of arising and passing, arising and passing. By this understanding you start to change the habit pattern of the mind.


Say, for example, you are feeling a particular sensation which may be due to the food you have eaten, which may be due to the atmosphere around you, which may be due to your present mental actions, or which may be due to your old mental reactions that are giving their fruit. Whatever it may be, a sensation is there, and you are trained to observe it with equanimity and not to react to it; but you keep on reacting because of the old habit pattern. You sit for one hour, and initially you may get only a few moments when you do not react, but those few moments are wonderful moments. You have started changing the habit pattern of your mind by observing sensation and understanding its nature of impermanence. This stops the blind habit pattern of reacting to the sensation and multiplying the vicious cycle of misery. Initially in an hour you get a few seconds, or a few minutes of not reacting. But eventually, by practice, you reach a stage where throughout the hour you do not react at all. At the deepest level you do not react at all. A deep change is coming in the old habit pattern. The vicious cycle is broken: your mind was reacting to the chemical process which was manifesting itself as a sensation, and as a result, for hours together, your mind was flooded with a particular impurity, a particular defilement. Now it gets a break for a few moments, a few seconds, a few minutes. As the old habit of blind reaction becomes weaker, your behavior pattern is changing. You are coming out of your misery.


Again, this is not to be believed because the Buddha said so. It is not to be believed because I say so. It is not be believed because your intellect says so. You have to experience it yourself. People coming to these courses have found by their experience that there is a change for the better in their behavior.


Vipassana Research Institute
Vipassana Research Institute