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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Sensation, the Key to Satipatthāna

Vol.4 No.1 January 1994

Words of Dhamma


Sāriputto etadacova: Kimārammaṇā, samiddhi, purisassa saṅkappavitakkā uppajjantī"ti? "Nāmarūpārammaṇā, Bhante"ti.
"Te pana, Samiddhi, kiṃsamosaraṇā"ti? "Vedanāsamosaraṇā, bhante"ti.


- Sariputta spoke thus: "What is the base, Samiddhi, from which thoughts and reflections arise in men?" "From the base of mind and matter, sir."
"And what, Samiddhi, accompanies them?"
"Sensation accompanies them, sir."


-Samādhi Sutta, Aṅguttara Nikāya, IX. ii. 4 (14)


Sensation, The Key to Satipatthāna

-by S N Goenka


Whatever truth is outside can be found within as well; whatever is within also exists outside. We may accept truth out of devotion or intellectual conviction, but in order to apprehend it directly we must explore within, to experience truth within ourselves. By thus coming face to face with truth, we can develop experiential wisdom that will make a real change in our lives.

The meditator starts investigation from a superficial level at which gross, solidified truths appear. But as one observes the apparent truth objectively, one starts penetrating from gross to subtler truths and finally witnesses ultimate truth. This ultimate truth can be experienced only only by exploring reality within oneself.

The exploration of the truth within is Vipassana meditation. In the course of this exploration the meditator must investigate two fields, two aspects of reality: matter and mind. Investigation of the physical reality is called in Pāli kāyānupassanā. Investigation of the mental reality is called cittānupassanā. In fact, however, matter and mind cannot be experienced separately from each other because they are interdependent, interconnected.

Exploring one is bound to involve an exploration of the other. Neither can be fully understood without the other.

The field of matter: kāyānupassanā and vedanānupassanā

The physical reality of oneself must be invwestigated by direct experience; it will not help merely to imagine or speculate about it. How then to experience this truth, the reality of one's own body? If in the names of kāyānupassanā one sits with closed eyesand simply names or imagines the different parts of the body, such a person is far away from correct practice of Vipassanā, from the direct exploration of truth. We actually experience our bodies by feeling them - that is, by means of our bodily sensations. Therefore awareness of physical sensation is indispensable to the practice of kāyānupassanā. Sensations exists, of one type or another, at every part, every atom of the body.

Thus the investigation of the truth of body is bound to involve the exploration of bodily sensations - in Pāli, vedanānupassanā. Sensations can be experienced only within one's body, and the reality of body can be experienced only by means of sensations.

But though sensation is always based on the body, the truth of vedanā is not exclusively physical in nature; it is also one of the four mental aggregates. Sensation overlaps the two fields of mind and matter. For this reason observations of sensation, as we shall see, is a way to explore the mental-physical phenomenon in its entirety.

In the practice of kāyānupassanā, observation of sensations will enable the meditator to experience directly the changing nature of the physical structure. By examining every part of the body in turn, one realizes that all sensations arise and pass away. As one repeats this practice, eventually a stage comes in which one experiences the instantaneous dissolution of every particle of the body. In this very subtle stage the meditator observes directly that the entire material structure is dissolving every moment; this experience is called in Pāli bhaṇga-ñāṇa, the realization of the truth of dissolution.

Through observing sensations as well, one can experience that the body is composed of four basic elements: earth, or solidity; water, or fluidity; air, or gaseousness; and fire, or temperature. Particles arise with the predominance of one or more elements, giving rise to the infinite variety of sensations. They arise to pass away. Ultimately the body is merely wavelets arising and passing away, constant dissolving. The apparently solid material structure is in reality nothing but ripples, vibrations, oscillations.

This truth of anicca can be realized directly only by the experience of bodily sensations. With this realization comes the understanding that one has no control over the changes constantly occurring in the body - aniccā. Therefore any attachment to what is changing beyond one's control is bound to bring nothing but suffering - dukkha. Knowing these facts now by personal experience, the meditator develops the wisdom of equanimity. By observing sensations he has reached the ultimate truth about body, and as a result his attachment to the body is shattered. He emerges from the folly of identifying with the body and develops real detachment, real enlightenment.

In the practice of vedanānupassanā as well, the meditator gives importance to observing all that happens within the body, all sensations. Whether they are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral one learns to observe them objectively, and by doing so one breaks the old habit of wallowing in sensory experiences. By repeatedly observing the arising and passing away of sensations, the meditator learns not to be swayed by them, to keep an inner balance in the face of any experience whatsoever.

In this way the sensations that arise within the body are the base for the practice of both kāyānupassanā and vedanānupassanā. By investigating sensations the meditator explores to the depths the reality of the physical atructure. The understanding arises, "Such is the body and such are bodily sensations, which create so many illusions and complications for us!" Previously one may have understood these phenomena intellectually, but now this understanding becomes the wisdom that develops from experience - the experience of bodily sensations.

The field of mind: cittāmupassanā and dhammānupassanā
Another aspect of the practice of Vipassanā meditation is exploration of mental reality. As body cannot be experienced without the sensations that arise within it, similarly mind cannot be experienced apart from what its contents - in Pāli, Dhamma. Hence observation of mind (cittānupassanā) and observation of mental contents (dhammānupassanā) are inseparable. When the mind contains craving the meditator realizes this fact. When it is free from craving the meditator realizes this as well. Similarly he realizes when the mind contains aversion or ignorance, and when it is free from these defilements. He realizes when the mind is agitated and scattered, or tranquil and concentrated. This is how he practises cittānupassanā.

The meditator simply observes objectively whatever happens within the mind, whatever mental phenomenon, whatever Dhamma; this is the practice of dhammānupassanā. Without becoming upset, he accepts whatever the mind contains at this moment: craving or aversion, sloth and torpor or agitation, guiltiness or sceptical doubts. And the law of nature is such that by observing them objectively, one automatically eradicates these hindrances. The meditator also accepts when such dhammas arise as awareness, penetrative investigation, effort, joy, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. And the law of nature is such that as one observes objectively, these wholesome mental qualities are multiplied.

Positive or negative, one simply accepts all mental phenomena. All dhammas arise within the dhammas that it contains. Hence dhammānupassanā and cittānupassanā are inseparable.

Further, the meditator realizes that the mind and mental contents are inextricably linked to the body. The mind is constantly in contact with the physical structure; whatever dhammas arise within it have the base not of mind alone but also of body. This physical aspect of mental events is easily apparent when strong emotions or agitation arise, but is exists as part of every mental phenomenon. Even the slightest passing of thought manifests not in the mind alone but in the combined field of mind and matter; that is, it is accompanied by a sensation within the body.

For this reason awareness of physical sensations is essential for the observation of mind and mental contents. Without this awareness, the exploration of mental reality will be imcomplete and superficial.

All that happens within this mental and physical phenomenon manifests as bodily sensation. Every moment there is a contact of mind and matter at the subtlest level, and from this contact sensation arises. By means of sensation one can experience directly every aspect of the phenomenon of oneself. Therefore, not only kāyānupassanā and vedanānupassanā but also cittānupassanā and dhammānupassanā must be practised by observing bodily sensations.

And as the meditator does so he realizes, "Such is the mind, and such is all that it contains: impermanent, ephemeral, dissolving, changing every mement!" This is not a dogma that he accepts on faith alone, not merely the result of logical deduction, not an imagination or the fruit of contemplation. The meditator realizes the truth for himself directly by experiencing and observing bodily sensations.

Thus sensation becomes the base for the exploration of the entire world of mind and matter. Exploring in this way, the meditator comes to understand truth in all its aspects, the whole truth of oneself. This is sampajañña, the fullness of understanding; this is satipaṭṭhāna, the establishing of awareness. This is how to develop wisdom that will be unshakable, because it arises from a realization of the entire truth.

Observation of sensation leads the meditator to experience the ultimate truth of matter, mind, and mental contents: changing every moment. Then transcending the field of mind and matter, one comes to the ultimate truth which is beyond all sensory experience, beyond the phenomenal world. In this transcendent reality there is no more anicca: nothing arises, and therefore nothing passes away. It is a stage without birth or becoming: the deathless. While the meditator experiences this reality, the senses do not function and therefore sensations cease. This is the experience of nirodha, the cessation of sensations and of suffering.

In this way a Vipassana meditator practises all four satipaṭṭhānas by observing the sensations that arise within the body. He realizes directly the changing nature of body and mind, and as he continues the exploration within, at last he comes to the truth- first within the field of mind and matter, and then in the field beyond. This is how dhammānupassanā is practised completely. This is how the four satipaṭṭhānas are properly practised. This is how one's meditation, one's exploration of truth comes to frution.

Come, oh meditators! With the help of bodily sensations let us explore the entire truth of ourselves, and by doing so let us achieve the final goal of real happiness, real peace.

Assistant Teachers 1994

India and Nepal
1. Prakash Borse
2. Shubangi Borse
3. Rama Patil
4. K C Govil
5. Vishambar Dahat
6. Goverdhandas Kela
7. Ratilal Savla
8. Chanchal Savla
9. Nirmala Shah
10. Chandan Shah
11. Ramdayal Asava
12. Savitri Vyas
13. Dhanuben Ravol
14. Revchandbhai Shah
15. Jayesh Soni
16. K. B. Chikkanarayanappa
17. Sheel Bahadhur Bajracharya
18. Madan Tuladhar
19. Indranarayan Manandhar
20. Thakorbhai Parekh

Junior Assistant Teachers
1. Arun Bhatia
2. Sudhakar Chaudhary
3. Prabha Chaudhary
4. Asha Meshram
5. Nalini Dahat
6. Veena Kela
7. Kusum Chokhani
8. Kirti Dedhia
9. Jaywantiben Dedhia
10. Kamal Mehta
11. Dr. Nikhil Mehta
12. Anil Dharmadarshi
13. Sunita Dharmadarshi
14. Sunita Patel
15. Baban Naik
16. Aruna Roy
17. Tilaka Munasinghe
18. M. S. Mani
19. Induben Gala
20. Makhumati
21. R. Vasudevan
22. Ashalata Thorat

Bhikkus teaching using Goenkaji's tapes
Bikkhu Lokpalo

Western Assistant Teachers
1. Tim & Karen Donovan
2. Phillippe Fromont
3. Stephen Strange
4. Anne Doneman

Junior Assistant Teachers
1. Hazel Miller Strange
2. Andrew Doneman

Dhamma Activities

First Course in Russia
On July 11, 1993, the first course in Russia was successfully completed by 29 students, 26 of whom were new students. The course site was a kindergarten with large garden located in the small town of Columna, about 11/2 hours from Moscow.

Among the participants were doctors, psychologists, scientists, teachers, students and eight Dhamma workers from the UK, Australia, Sweden and Switzerland. The course was held in English with summarized instructions in Russian given twice daily in the hall. The number of students was limited to those who had a good command of the English language.

On mettā Day, a meeting was held to discuss future courses. Dates for three courses next year have already been put forward. It is hoped that bilingual tapes can be prepared beforehand.

Centre in Dharamsala, India
In April and May the first courses were held at Dhammasikhara (Dhamma Peak) in the Himalayas of Northern India. There were about 35 students attending each course-mostly western travellers with some local residents. The site consists of three acres of undeveloped land which was donated in 1975 in the hope that a centre would arise there. An international group of students travelled to Dharamsala in early March to prepare the site. The work of setting up a temporary water supply, tents for accommodation and Dhamma hall, showers and pit toilets was often hampered by snow and heavy rain. Nonetheless, a site was prepared under the beautiful cedar forest.

Although only one course was initially scheduled, the enthusiasm was so great that ultimately three courses were conducted. Future courses will be scheduled only in fall and spring. At other times the centre will be clsoed until more permanent facilities can be built. Course schedules for Dhammasikhara may be obtained from V.I.A., Dhammagiri.

Annual Vipassana Conference

Opening Day Address by Goenkaji
The one and only aim of a Dhamma worker, of a Dhamma manager, of a Dhamma teacher is how to help more and more miserable people to come out of their misery. Nothing else. No expectations, no other expectations. To see somebody coming out of misery, one must feel joyful. One is repaid for all his efforts, all his services, seeing others coming out of misery, when one feels joyful...

May more and more people come out of their misery. May Dhamma spread. Dhamma will spread. No force in the world can stop Dhamma from spreading. Now the time-clock of Vipassana has struck, as Sayagyi used to say: it is bound to spread. We are fortunate that we get a wonderful opportunity to develop our own paramīs for our own liberation. We must be so thankful to all those people who have come to take Dhamma. They are giving us an opportunity so that we develop our dāna pāramī. And the dāna of Dhamma is the biggest dāna. We get this opportunity. Make proper use of this opportunity. May you all grow in Dhamma. May you all glow in Dhamma. Anyone looking at you should get attracted towards Dhamma: "They are representatives of Dhamma." Let people get attracted by your work, by your service, by your teaching.

Highlights - Annual Vipassana Meetings - 1993

1. Number of courses:
Indian subcontinent - 180 courses (145 last year) up 20%
Abroad - over 150 courses (125 last year) up 18%

2. Number of students:
Indian subcontinent - about 18,500 (14,000) last year-up 24%
Abroad - about 7000 (5,500 last year - up 20%

3. Non-Centre camps in India:- 65 (35 last year) up almost double.
Largest gypsy camp (173 students) - Bhilai
4. One-day courses in India - Up almost three-fold compared to last year, held in at least one-third of cities in India where ten day camps have been held.

5. Vipassana courses have reached all Indian states except Kerala and N.E. states. It spread to Jammu & Kashmir for the first time this year.

6. First courses in Romania, Russia. Cambodia had five courses with 700 students, Israel - 150 students in 2 courses.

7. Children's courses - 50 (20 last year) with 5000 children (3000 last year)
" 24, including Burma (1st course this year)
" India - land acquired for centres where the Buddha spent the most time: Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Vaishali
" Abroad - Germany (Dhamma House
" Pagoda - Dhammagiri and Dhammasindhu

Training of ATs was given priority by Goenkaji last year. In 1993 three AT workshops were held, two at Dhammathali and one in Dhammagiri. Most Indian ATs attended at least one of the three.

Similarly two Junior AT training workshops were held in 1993 at Dhammagiri and Dhammakhetta. Dhamma workers training workshops were held separately in which practical training was given by service on adult and childrens courses. All workshops were well attended and highly beneficial for the participants.

Social Change - Jail Committee Report

A new revolution in the spread of Dhamma is on the anvil with Tihar jail, Delhi, the largest prison in the world (with over 9000 inmates) having had 5 courses in the past two months. To date 13 courses have been held in prisons of Rajasthan, Gujarat & Delhi.

1. In Nov. 1993, two courses were held, one at Baroda jail (the fourth course there since Jan. 1993; it has become a "house of reforms" says the Jail Superintendent) and one at Tihar jail, Delhi in which about 120 inmates and staff participated.

2. From Jan. 1 to 12, 1994, four courses were held simultaneously at Tihar jail in which over 300 inmates benefited. The outstanding success of this Tihar experiment received national and international press and TV coverage (including BBC and CNN) and prompted the Inspector General of Prisons to declare 'I was searching for a method which could help in transforming the inmates of the jail. I have found that in Vipassana."

3. A detailed study of the Ahmedabad and Baroda jail courses by the Dept. of Sociology, Gujarat Vidyapeeth concludes that there has been a great attitudinal change in the participants and a total transformation of the jail atmosphere to one of peace & cordiality.

4. The Superintendent Baroda Jail has written a Gujarati book titled Divalon Man Divyata which contains a graphic account of the transformation that has taken plave in the inmates and staff of the jail. This book is being translated into English. The major transformations include a reduction in the feelings of revenge, problems amongst inmates and grievances of inmates, a clarification of religious beliefs, increased jail industry production, and a more humane attitude of the jail staff. This is in addition to the most significant change of improvement in the mental (including addictive) state of the inmates.

5. A first draft of the jail course guidelines was prepared by the experts on the Jail Committee.



Year / Month: 
January, 1994