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






Vipassana and Vedana as Understood by a Novice

- By U Tin Lwin

It may not be impertinent to say at the outset of this small paper something about the purpose of the Buddhist bhavana (mental development). The purpose, in brief, is to liberate oneself totally from what Buddhists consider as dukkha (suffering or unsatisfactoriness). Total liberation from dukkha means nibbana. Therefore, it is the attainment of nibbana that bhavana ultimately aims at. There is a saying in Pāli-'danato bhogava' - 'generosity leads to wealth', 'silato sukhita' - 'morality leads to happiness' and 'bhavanaya nibbuta' or 'mental development leads to peace'. It is only through bhavana that one attains the peace of nibbana, which is absolute extinction of dukkha.

What then is dukkha? In the very first discourse, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the Buddha gives an enumeration of dukkha; birth, old age, illness, death, separation from whom or what one loves, association with whom or what one does not love, and not getting what one desires. 'In short', adds the Buddha, 'the five upadanakkhandha (aggregates of clinging) are dukkha'. The five upadanakkhandha, the Visuddhimagga explains, are 'the five groups of existence which form the objects of clinging'. The more common name for these five groups of clinging is simply pancakkhandha (five aggregates), which boil down to rupa (matter) and nama (mind). While rupa is but one, nama comprises four, namely, vedana (sensation), sanna (perception), sankhara (mental reactions) and vinnana (consciousness). All these five aggregates, one material and four mental, make up the individual, but it is wrong to cling to them. In other words, it is a blunder to grasp them, for such grasping or clinging amounts to identification of them with atta (self). We call this identification sakkayaditthi, which literally means 'belief in the existing individual, which is a combination of mind and matter'. For instance, I believe my khandha constitute my 'self' and you believe your khandha are your 'self'. In this way, both you and I have the notion of 'I'. This is nothing less then egotism-'I am', 'my own', or 'me and me alone'.

This wrong identification and belief is due to avijja (ignorance) which deludes man and prevents him from seeing the true nature of things, particularly the three characteristics of all conditioned things, namely anicca (impermanence), dukkha and anatta (substancelessness).

Thus, avijja is the origin of upadana, which is the developed form of tanha (craving). It is this tanha that gives rise in its turn to every fresh rebirth. For instance, when a man covets something belonging to another person, he tries to get it by some unlawful means which may be theft or even robbery. Such an act is akusala-kamma (evil deed). On the other hand, he gives alms hoping to enjoy wealth in the next existence. Such an act, though it may be labelled kusala-kamma (good deed), is also led by tanha. He is then bound to be reborn in another existence to enjoy or to suffer in accordance with his kamma (deeds). Even if he knows enjoyment only in that existence, he cannot escape dukkha, he remains subject to old age, illness, death and other suffering. Never does one's enjoyment last forever, because nothing in the world is permanent; everything is indeed transitory and certain to change. It is the same old story, each time his rebirth takes place he encounters all kinds of dukkha and struggles with them. So one's samsara (cycle of births) goes on and on without any prospect of coming to an end. Samsara in a way resembles an enormous whirlpool in an ocean in which innumerable beings, including divine, go round and round, sometimes submerging and at other times surfacing, but never finding any way out.

This is where bhavana comes in for those who care to break through the concealment of the true nature of things by avijja, to eradicate the creation of existence by tanha, to free oneself from samsara with its dukkha by attaining the blissful nibbana. They are required to have a correct comprehension of themselves and to acquire knowledge about the basic features of the five aggregates through bhavana.

Now, a word or two about bhavana as found in Buddhist literature. Bhavana is of two kinds-samatha (tranquillity) and Vipassana (insight). By practising the former, one can attain certain jhana (mental absorptions) and abhinna (higher knowledge). But that does not mean one finds the way out from samsara. On passing away without decrease in his attainment of jhana, he is reborn in a Brahma world corresponding to the jhana he had previously attained; there he lives long, for aeons, until the life-span of that abode comes to an end. At the end of it, he is reborn in the human or celestial world. And like other beings, he meets with the same dukkha of old age, illness, death and so on. If something goes wrong with him in the Brahma abode, he may even suffer in one of the four apaya (woeful states). Therefore, samatha-bhavana alone is not reliable for liberation from samsara. It is the latter bhavana, Vipassana, that ensures a way out of samsara and attainment of the peaceful state of nibbana.

There are two kinds of Vipassana-bhavana-samathayanika (Vipassana through the course of samatha) and Vipassana-yanika (Vipassana through the course of Vipassana itself). The former is the more common practice for the meditator.

The meditator who follows the samatha-yanika practises samatha-bhavana first, the number of its subjects being forty; which are 10 kasina (devices), 10 asubha (unpleasantness), 10 anussati (recollections), 4 brahmavihara (modes of noble living), 4 arupa (formless realms), 1 ahare patikula sanna (perception of the loathsomeness of food) and 1 catudhatuvavatthana (analysis of the four elements).

The subject most popular with the meditator for samatha is Anapana (respiration), one of the ten anussati. The word anapana is synonymous with assasati and passasati, and is interpreted in two ways, with the difference being in the order of respiration. The commentaries on the Suttanta take it to be 'breathing in' and 'breathing out', but the commentaries on the Vinaya say it is 'breathing out' and 'breathing in'. The first order is to be preferred, for the second is connected with the birth of a child, but not with meditation. A newly born baby, it is said, breathes out as soon as it comes out of the mother's womb. For the meditator, however, meditation begins with 'in-breath'. In fact, there are sub-commentaries that support the interpretation of the suttas at least for meditation purposes. But it should be noted that mere 'in-breath' and 'out-breath' are not meditation, which essentially calls for mindfulness-the meditator must be mindful what he is doing when he breathes in or breathes out. Therefore, the complete name of this meditation subject is Anapanasati (mindfulness in breathing in and breathing out, mindfulness of respiration).

The meditator who wishes to practise Anapanasati should keep at least the five precepts as morality. This is the first step to samadhi (concentration of mind), which Anapana meditation cultivates. He should choose a quiet place. There he sits cross-legged or adopts a form of sitting in which he may be able to sit for a long time. Having sat, he keeps his upper part of the body straight and his mind at the tip of the nose just above the upper lip. Then as he breathes in and out he finds the air coming in and going out touching the tip of the nostrils. With his mind remaining at this very spot, which is being touched by the air, he is aware that the air is coming in and going out. He must observe this without any interruption whatsoever until he develops samadhi.

The next step to be developed is panna (wisdom). As sila is indispensable to samadhi, so is samadhi indispensable to panna. Without concentration of mind one cannot see things as they really are, having the three characteristics mentioned above. The first characteristic, anicca, reminds us of the saying of the ancient Greek philosophers: 'One cannot jump into the same river twice.' Everything is transitory and changing. Nothing is enduring and everlasting. So one finds life miserable. The stronger the attachment, the greater the misery. This is the second characteristic, dukkha. Then comes the third characteristic, anatta. Since there is no entity that really belongs to oneself, one holds no sway over things. One cannot make them remain unchanged nor can one control them. For instance, when we become old, owing to the law of impermanence, we cannot become young again, we cannot control the ageing process. That is why anatta is sometimes taken to be uncontrollability.

Seeing things as they really are, or in their three true characteristics is, indeed, panna. In this case, it is not lokiya (mundane), but lokuttara (supra-mundane) or vipassana panna. Things that are happening in one's own body can be discerned only with samadhi. The stronger the samadhi, the easier it is to feel these subtle things in the body, things that are known as vedana (sensation). This vedana is important to the meditator in his progress on the path leading to vipassana panna, which must be attained not through sutta (learning), nor even through citta (thinking) but only through bhavana. It must be bhavana-maya panna.

Regarding the importance of vedana, it lies first in the fact that it can be experienced easily. Of the five khandha (aggregates), rupa (matter) is highly tangible and cognizable, for it can be seen, touched or felt even by an infant. It is from rupa that vedana in its turn gives rise to sanna (perception). Then comes sankhara (mental reaction) in accordance with what one perceives. If the sensation is pleasant, one loves it and if it is unpleasant, one hates it. Vinnana (consciousness), though considered to be chief of all mental phenomena, has no chance to get into this series of phenomena thus far. Hence, its place at the end of enumeration of the five aggregates. In cognizability, vedana is therefore of greatest power, next only to rupa in the five khandha or highest among the four mental khanda.

Secondly, vedana covers a large variety of sensations. It is true that basically there are only three kinds as far as the body is concerned, namely, sukha vedana (pleasant sensation), dukkha vedana (unpleasant sensation) and upekkha vedana (neutral sensation). But dukkha vedana alone consists of a large number of unpleasant sensations such as itching, aching, cramping, pain, prickling, stinging, heat, cold, tiredness, and so on. Regarding the mind, there are on the whole, three kinds of sensations or rather emotions-somanassa (joy), domanassa (sorrow) and upekkha (balanced mind). Even joy is not at all ultimate because it does not always remain so; for it is subject to change. And when it changes, it disappears and the opposite emotion, sorrow, sets in. Therefore, what you think is happiness, is domanassa after all. Therefore, if vedana is to be reckoned, it is definitely domanassa.

Thirdly, vedana can certainly be connected with three of the four mahabhuta (elements), which are collectively known as rupa. These three are pathavi (earth element), tejo (fire element) and vayo (air element). Apo (water element) is too subtle to touch, or is so subtle that one finds difficulty in feeling it. Now, to illustrate the connection between vedana and the three bhuta, when you have a cramp, which is the tightening of the muscles, it is pathavi; when you feel temperature of the body it is tejo; when you suffer from pain in the stomach, it may be something to do with vayo, for when the air in your stomach is stuck and finds no vent to get out, you have that experience of unpleasant feeling called pain. The connection of vedana with these mahabhuta makes it all the more manifest and helps one realize its true nature.

Finally, vedana, like other things or phenomena, is subject to anicca. It arises just to pass away. It is the law of udaya (arising) and vaya (vanishing). He who discerns this law through vedana, discerns other things as well in their true perspective. All this is nothing but dukkha. Then he gets disgusted with all this and becomes diligent and works out his own deliverance, which is the final liberation from samsara dukkha (miseries of the cycle of births).

There may be other aspects of the importance of the role that vedana plays in meditation. All I have said is what and how I understand this practical field of Buddhism in my own limited way. As I am a novice and newcomer to this field, my understanding is bound to be imperfect and incorrect. Maybe, at best, I have been playing an intellectual game. I, therefore, invite criticisms and corrections from old established kammatthanacariya (meditation masters), who have most dutifully and ably carried on with the task of patipatti (practice). A word or two of their comments, even if unfavourable, will be a great blessing to me.

Dukkha Conducive to Absolute Sukha

Dhammacariya U Htay Hlaing

The contemplated area is a narrow triangular place above the tip of the upper lip near the two nostrils. 'The establishment of concentration by means of noting breath-in and breath-out, and the noting of feeling based on the breath-in and breath-out on that area', is the main principle of this technique; this fact is already known by all you Dhamma friends.

Foundation of the Method of Contemplation

In order to gain concentration easily and to prevent the mind from being discursive, the contemplated area is narrowly demarcated; it is not easy to concentrate the fixed object if the area is wide. The task of samatha is likely to be the same as the circle of the concentrated area (kasina mandala). A heron, instead of searching for fish on a wide area of farmland, should wait at a water outlet and catch with ease whatever it wants.

In order to enter into the realm of wisdom quickly, from among the objects of contemplation and different kinds of natural phenomena, feeling (vedana) is solely chosen to be developed.

Though the prescribed area is narrow, when the power of concentration becomes stronger, material and mental changes within the whole body can be automatically noted and controlled. Likewise, though this sole feeling is prescribed as an object of contemplation, when the power of concentration becomes stronger, the natural phenomena of the remaining mental and material qualities can also be noted according to the circumstances.

It is necessary to know how important and predominant this method is. You will find it more profound and salient if you look at it from the view-point of canonical literature.

Start from the Easiest Point

The task of meditation is to watch and contemplate the salient characteristics of this human body composed of materiality and mentality, the most salient natural phenomena among absolute existing things. It is just like starting to learn from the easiest point when you are learning something as a beginner. Nevertheless, without knowing the primary alphabet like A, B, C, or numbers like 1, 2, 3, you cannot proceed with your learning.

Of the material and mental phenomena in this body, materiality is easier to see. Of the material phenomena, the element of motion is the most prominent. It has obviously been existing throughout life from birth until death.

When you can concentrate on one of the material characteristics and keep it under control, you can also come to realize the remaining ones. Furthermore, the mental characteristics automatically appear in the realm of the meditators mind. It is stated in the Visuddhimagga that of the mental qualities, contact (phassa), feeling (vedana) and consciousness (vinnana) are more prominent than others.1 The most prominent of mental phenomena is the vedana that you are contemplating at this moment. In the Sakkapanha Sutta, the Buddha preached this very meditation on vedana to Sakka, the King of devas.

There are three kinds of vedana-sukha vedana (pleasant feeling), dukkha vedana (unpleasant feeling) and upekkha vedana (the feeling of equanimity). Of these three kinds of vedana, the unpleasant feeling is the most prominent. In reality, the Buddha propounded vedana as two or three kinds, or up to one hundred and eight kinds.2 But it is just stated as much as synonyms. To be exact, every feeling (vedana) is dukkha, mere suffering. According to the decrease in temperature, it is said as 'being cold'. Therefore, the young Vajira Theri said, 'Arising is dukkha; passing away is dukkha; there is nothing but dukkha'.3

In this technique, the material quality-the breath-in and breath-out for concentration, and the mental quality feeling for wisdom-are chosen to be practised. You all know how pre-eminent and beneficial this technique is. There may be different kinds of meditation techniques but in marching to the ultimate goal, the practice of contemplation on vedana is the most effective method. The natural phenomena of vedana is not only prominent, but it also permeates into all material and mental qualities, just like the flowing of streams and rivers into the ocean.4

Until Death

There were so many noble ones who achieved the ultimate goal, not only in the life-time of the Buddha but also later, mainly by using this technique of meditation (vedana contemplation). The notable references, along with their names and actual evidence, are shown in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta Commentaries.

For instance, there was a Maha Thera named Kutumbikaputta Tissa in Savatthi. The Maha Thera was attacked by robbers in a deep forest. While he was held there, he kept practising deep meditation after he himself had broken his thigh with a heavy stone. He became an Arahant that same night. Similarly, there were so many noble ones who attained the final bliss while being eaten by tigers, being pierced in the chest by a spear, being pierced by a stake, suffering from colic, etc.5

Two Methods of Contemplating Vedana

For advanced meditators, while having severe pain or disease, the following two methods concerning vedana can be used-

(1) (Vedananupassana Satipatthana-a method of contemplating the arising of vedana, in order to realize it fully. It is also called vedanapariggaha kammatthana-seizing the feeling while meditating. It is the method which was practised by Queen Samavati and her attendants while being burnt in flames in Kosambi city.6

(2) (Vedanavikkhambhana-the method of turning away from feeling (vedanam vikkhambhetva), the method of neglecting or not caring for vedana (vedanam abboharikam katva). It may be contemplated on any object which has been regularly and skilfully practised by a meditator, not caring for feeling arising at the present moment.7

Every Meditator's Personal Experience

It is common for meditators (while meditating) to experience strong pain and unbearable aches, which have not been noticed before. When one continues, they gradually subside. Actually these painful sensations exist as natural phenomena in the body. But the stronger, more fascinating objects overwhelm these painful feelings so they are latent at that moment. It is not a kind of disease to be afraid of. It can only be seen through powerful concentration.

For example, in remote areas or villages the strange diseases which have not been known before appear only when physicians come there to give medical check-ups. They do not, indeed, arise due to the medical check-up, or medicines prescribed by the physicians. Actually, they have been there all along. But only through powerful microscopes and medical instruments can germs and unknown diseases affecting them be investigated. Then practical ways can be used to cure them.

When different kinds of pains are arising, they should be noted and contemplated on. If done so twice or three times, they may disappear at once, but, if the painful feeling is more severe, the effort should be more arduous. While noting them more and more deeply, it will wondrously disappear as if something was taken away. But some may not disappear; the velocity of noting should, therefore, be accelerated with great tolerance. If this cannot be done, then the second method, that of neglecting or not caring for vedana, should be used.

Sometimes, due to fear or intolerance, it is put aside to be noted and may automatically disappear. If a meditator cannot at once overcome it, he may frequently confront it in further attempts in the future.

Even those who suffer from serious diseases, which cannot be cured with the latest medicines, may have astonishing recovery due to contemplation. There are many such examples. Therefore Satipatthana is included in the bojjhanga bhavana. This kind of release from disease is not our main goal, nor is it an important outcome, but it is just a by-product.8

Rewards in the Wake of Disease

Concerning the contemplation of vedana, I would like to tell about an interesting event.

As stated earlier, if the painful feeling is confronted with zealous endeavour, without surrender, it will finally disappear however severe. There are many more examples. No sooner had vedana disappeared, than Arahatship was attained. Such a noble person is called vedana sammasati.

In a similar way, there are many more kinds of Arahanta such as-

Rogasammasati (the noble arahanta recovering from disease and attaining Arahantship simultaneously);

Jivitasammasati (the noble arahanta attaining Arahatship and passing away at the same moment);

Iriyapathasammasati (the noble arahanta having attained Arahatship at one sitting with firm resolution-I will not change my cross-legged posture so long as I do not attain Arahatship).9

There is no need to be afraid of any disease or any painful sensation; there still exist other good rewards from them. If the disease becomes more serious and the painful sensation more bitter, please increase the speed of your effort in meditation and regard it as a warning. Do not give up your effort. Maha Thera Uttiya in the lifetime of Buddha put strenuous effort in his meditation with this view and finally attained Arhatship.10

The Way to Abolish the Circle of Dukkha

Let me continue to say how important the method of vedana contemplation is.

By always contemplating every arising and passing away of vedana (pleasant or unpleasant) you can abolish defilements before they become deeply-rooted. According to the teaching of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada), at every contact (phassa) between the element of touch and the element of being touched, or between the guest (outer object) and the host (inner object) there arise vedana (pleasant and unpleasant).

Vedana-paccaya tanha-depending on feeling there arises craving with pleasure; due to craving with pleasure, the feeling of suffering (dukkha vedana) with unpleasantness arises again. This dukkha vedana continues to produce another dukkha. In this manner the circle of dukkha keeps on turning without any pause.11

Abhidhammatthasangaha says-Dukkham tebhumakam vuttam (the mechanical operation of the three worlds of kama, rupa, and arupa is dukkha). The Buddha propounded in Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta-Sankhittena pancupadanakkhandha dukkha (in brief, all five kinds of aggregates, the objects of clinging, are dukkha). In the Paticcasamuppada desana, it is also propounded as evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa (the whole mass of suffering or a collection of dukkha).

In order to stop turning the wheel of vedana and not to let the roots of defilement grow again, you should be watchful of the arising of vedana. There is nothing other than this way of contemplation. To stop the mechanical operation of dukkha, the pinions of vedana should be broken into pieces. It is a sort of changing from vedana paccaya tanha to vedana paccaya panna. In this way, no more defilements arise and the capacity of tolerance to confront the unavoidable dukkha becomes greater.

Defilements Follow after Vedana

At every arising of feeling, the three main roots of defilements are ready to grow in accordance with their own nature. If a meditator is not wary of them with stable mindfulness, he cannot be free from becoming defiled in any way.12

1. tanha (craving) and lobha (greed) follow after sukha vedana (pleasant feeling);

2. dosa (hatred) and domanassa (grief) follow after dukkha vedana (unpleasant feeling);

3. moha (delusion) and avijja (ignorance) follow after upekkha vedana (the feeling of equanimity).


1. sukha should be contemplated as dukkha;

2. dukkha should be contemplated as a thorn;

3. upekkha should be contemplated as anicca (impermanence).

All these ways are the Buddha's noble instructions.13 To stop the mechanical operation of dukkha and not let the three main roots of defilements grow again, this fundamental practice should be followed.

If a meditator does not contemplate in this way, lobha and dosa follow. In the Salla Sutta, it is stated that to extract a thorn which has pierced someone, another thorn has to be used. Thus a person has to be pierced by two thorns. When dukkha arises, it is followed by dosa and domanassa.14

Sukha is More Dreadful

Dukkha vedana and its followers, dosa and domanassa, can be easily overcome by means of contemplation. But sukha vedana and its followers, tanha and upadana, cannot be done so easily. The greater the sukha, the stronger the tanha and upadana. The striking power of tanha and upadana is greater at the time of breaking sukha than that of its preservation.

Say for instance a person possesses only one hundred rupees and another person has one hundred thousand rupees.Then depending on their wealth, these two will feel differently if they keep or lose their wealth. So sukha vedana is more dreadful than dukkha vedana. A person who pretends to be good-hearted is more dreadful and dangerous than a really bad one.

A Leper in Luxury

In fact, sukha seems to be pleasant at the moment of arising. But as soon as it disappears, then it changes into dukkha; dukkha replaces sukha immediately. When sukha disappears, dukkha becomes as great as the extent of the craving and attachment. A hole from a bullet going out of a body is actually much greater than the hole from the bullet entering into it.15

Indeed the sensual pleasures and luxuries enjoyed because of the five kinds of sense objects are similar to those enjoyed by a leper who while warming himself at a fire enjoys the tingling and itching sensation of the leprous abscesses on his body. After scratching them, a lot of pus comes out of them and he feels comfortable. Thus, he is satisfied doing this and assumes it to be pleasant. Indeed, he is now in great luxury!16

From the point of view of meditators, all sensual pleasure and possessions seem to be like those enjoyed by a leper. Gradually, they come to comprehend this thoroughly. The greater their contemplation, the wider their point of view.

Forty Kinds of Views

The meditator may think to himself-everything is fine and pleasant, everything is permanent and controllable. But afterwards his illusive concepts of life-subha (elegance), sukha (pleasantness), nicca (permanence), and atta (ego), which he had taken before as true concepts, become diametrically changed. The Buddha compares the pleasures of a millionaire to those of a leper. When one really contemplates on dukkhavedana, more detailed facts can be experienced!

For example-

sallato-just like being pierced by thorns and needles;

rogato-just like having severe pain and disease;

gandato-just like puss from boils which spreads throughout the whole body.

All these painful and unpleasant sensations are 'real' dukkha and have to be realized as they really are. The following are different kinds of views-

Ten kinds from the view-point of anicca;

twenty-five kinds from the view-point of dukkha;

five kinds from the view-point of anatta.

They are called 'Forty kinds of views' or 'Forty kinds of Vipassana'. As taught in the Patisambhidamagga Pāli, etc. They are also explained in detail in Visuddhimagga.17

Dhammic-essence in Dhammic Film Show

Some may say, 'You had better stay alone; why are you searching for unpleasant objects with such painstaking zeal?' Some westerners commonly remark when they begin to know of the Buddha Dhamma that the world is already so full of social and economical problems, but still, Buddhism teaches us suffering!

For those who have not experienced its truth, it is probably seen like that. In reality, the task of meditation is to avoid something which is avoidable, having tested one's power of endurance in confrontation with suffering throughout the circle of existence. But one is not purposely searching for them.

There were Vipassana centres in the lifetime of the Buddha. Some asked those who were going there why they were going there. The Buddha urged them to answer in the following manner-We are going there to fully realize dukkha. It is comprehensible that the understanding of dukkha is practical and important.18

The realising of dukkha through meditation is like that of an onlooker, not that of a real person, who is practically killed. From the view-point of poetic literature or music, it may be called 'literary appreciation' or 'musical taste'. The purpose of going to theatrical concerts and film shows and spending a lot of money and time is to enjoy or appreciate that taste.

The appreciation of Dhammic film shows cannot be compared with that of any other show. Sabbarasam dhammaraso jinati (the taste of Dhamma is the best of all tastes)19; Amanusi rati hoti (the delightfulness that is greater than worldly and sensual pleasures, or the delightfulness that cannot be attained in both human and celestial abodes).20 There are many meditators who have fully realized this taste of Dhamma in every part of the world.

Therefore, trying to understand dukkha is going towards absolute sukha. Realising a certain kind of dukkha is enjoying a sort of pleasure which cannot be attained in human and celestial abodes. Understand the fact that if a person is faced with a great deal of dukkha, he is really going to possess a great amount of sukha. But an excuse may arise-It is not strange, everybody understands dukkha. In fact, most people do not know when dukkha arises; the dukkha they know is the 'real' dukkha that will produce suffering.

Avoid Mental Pain by having Bodily Pain: How a meditator should look upon vedana or disease

In the lifetime of Buddha there lived a couple who were millionaires, Nakulapita and his wife, in the town of Samsumaragiri, Bagga State (now called Cunar Village, Mirjapur District). As they had been Buddha's parents for five hundred lives, they loved the Buddha deeply like their own son. According to the Pitaka Canon, they loved each other so deeply and were so devoted to each other that they were recorded as a mutual love affair. When the husband Nakula grew old and became an invalid, he was unable to go and see the Buddha as he had regularly done in his previous days. He told the Buddha how sad he was for not being able to go to see him.

At that time, the Buddha admonished and consoled him-

'Dayaka! This body is always overwhelmed by diseases; it is just like an easily breakable egg. As it is covered with a thin layer of skin, it is always subject to outward dangers. Dayaka! It is nothing but foolishness when a person says about his body, "I am really healthy."

Dayaka, you have to train yourself like this-'Though my body has pain, I will leave my mind unhurt.'

It may be meant that bodily sensation should not be changed into mental attitude, 'I feel painful; this is "I" who feels pain.' To stop painful sensation, a meditator should note it by means of realisation.21 It means the body may have painful sensation but the mind should not be touched by it.

Upekkha Vedana and the Method of Migapadavalanjana

We would like to talk a little about upekkha vedana, as it should not be left out.

Upekkha is the nature of equanimity-standing on the middle line without inclining sideways towards sukha and dukkha. It is also called adukkhamasukha vedana-feeling not unpleasant, nor pleasant, maintaining equilibrium. In the Commentaries of Sakkapanha Sutta and Mahasatipatthana Sutta, it is stated-

Upekkha is very difficult to understand like something to be found in the dark. Only by way of Migapadavalanjana, can it be understood. Just as a hunter who sees the footprints of a deer on both sides of a stone slab can remark that a deer may pass through it, so also a meditator, while contemplating on dukkha vedana can realize an instant of exemption, a certain interval of time between the gradual fading away of an unpleasant feeling and the coming into existence of a pleasant feeling. It is upekkha (the nature of equanimity) which exists in the instant of exemption of sukha and dukkha. This type of understanding is called Migapadavalanjana, a method of tracing the foot-prints of a deer.22

A Vipassana Milestone, Devoid of Love and Hatred

However, most regular meditators who diligently make effort with firm confidence and mindfulness, using systematic ways and means, experience the specific nature of upekkha within two or three months. These instances are called the stage of sankharupekkhanana.23 If the final goal is ten miles away, the milestone of sankharupekkhanana may be over eight miles.

The meditator who has passed that milestone might know about this mundane world very well. He can also imagine the supramundane nature. His bodily and mental capacities become active and he is satisfied with peaceful living. There is no need to put deliberate effort into his meditation. He is able to realize the true nature of things exactly and easily.

He is especially void of worries, fear, love, hatred, which are extremes of sensation. He has little time to think of his livelihood. Nor are the sensual pleasures of the world for him. He lives in a state of peaceful happiness which he has never enjoyed before, as he does not entertain any sort of pleasant sensation like sukha. It may be explained as the point of time which cannot be motivated by any vicissitudes of life.

In common language, it is a different sort of sukha.24

Atta from Different View Points

Just as he is very peaceful, so also his knowledge of upekkha, knowing the equilibrium of sensation, becomes deeper and deeper. His knowledge of atta becomes clearer and clearer. The understanding of himself, his family, his environment and the world, which he has accepted for the whole life, becomes totally different from before; he becomes enlightened to what he newly understands to be true.

In Anenjasappaya Sutta of Uparipannasa Pāli and Mahaniddesa Pāli, the different viewpoints of atta (koti), the different manners of atta, the comprehensive analysis and being enlightened in the sphere of mind are stated. With reference to them, the explanatory notes concerning the upekkha panna (the view of equilibrium), are also mentioned in Visuddhimagga. Therefore, we do not discuss them here. It is not easy to understand these invaluable literary explanations without practising personally.

It is very encouraging that the law of nature is such, that those who practise and experience for themselves, though they are ignorant of the invaluable Pāli Canon, come to know equally as well as those who study it.

Power of Resistance and Supramundane Phenomena

It is common that when a meditator succeeds fairly well in this task of Vipassana, his knowledge and opinions are not the same as before. A corrective change is taking place. His behavioural actions and the power of resistance become more developed.

He can sit for meditation at one sitting for two or three days successively; without sleeping, he is able to meditate for seven or eight days.

There is a common medical instruction-A person should sleep at least for about eight hours a day for good health. It may be common for those who are always in a worried state. In the lifetime of Buddha, there were many meditators who remained awakened by means of enjoying dhammic flavour. They could stay awake for ten years, fifteen years, or twenty years. Likewise, there are still those today who can stay awake without sleeping. No disease arises in them and even the severe diseases which have already arisen in them are cured, and their life-span becomes longer, too. It may be said to be the supernormal nature of the world.26

The Difference between Theoretical Conception and Practical Experience

In conclusion, we would like to discuss how theoretical conception is totally different from practical experience.

As long as a meditator improves his contemplation, his knowledge is always changing. The concepts-sukha and dukkha-become entirely different from those of his previous days.

Just like fish who do not know the water they live in and birds who do not know the sky they live in, so also human beings do not know the world they live in; indeed they do not try to know the world!

The things recognised as pleasant (sukha) by the worldlings (puthujjanas) become unpleasant (dukkha) in the view of the noble ones (ariya puggala), and vice-versa.27

Many May Deny, But...

Even in Buddha's time, some people denied and objected to the facts of Buddha's teachings and argued with the Buddha. In those days, the Buddha explained like this-

O Bhikkhus! I, do not altercate with the human world. The world makes argument with me. The one who only believes in or talks about the law of nature need not argue with anyone in this world.28

The commentator gives his personal account in the following manner-

It is my responsibility to teach the task of Vipassana, but the practical effort is up to all of you; what can I do for those foolish ones, even though they have been taught!

For lack of knowledge and mere ignorance, worldlings may deny what the Buddha taught. But so far, no one has been able to stir or turn upside down the Teaching. Therefore, this unique Teaching has gained true achievements and victory for 2,500 years!

There are different kinds of basic techniques of meditation taught by the Buddha. The beginners may debate upon the ways of practice with one another but when they all enter into the realm of ariya, the main goal, they openly admit-This is the only way, the unique technique which we all (unitedly) agree with; we have no argument about it at all.29

Ways of Living, Having Different Outlooks

Those who have different outlooks-mundane (normal) or supramundane (supernormal)-are very tolerant of everything in this world and they know well how to befriend the world and how to live in peace and harmony. They can also lead the whole world to the realm of unity, fraternity and peace.

This is, indeed, the unique Art of Living which cannot be really evaluated.

May all beings be happy and peaceful!


The following reference books and quotations are extracted from the Sixth Buddhist Council Myanmar Alphabet Editions of the Pāli Canons, Commentaries published in the Buddha Sasana Council Press, Kabha-Aye, followed by the reference numbers to the VRI edition in brackets. According to the Nikayas and Volumes, the numbers 1, 2, 3 etc., are given for detailed study.

1. Yatha yatha hi'ssa rupam suvikkhalitam hoti nijjatam, suparisuddham, tatha tatha tadarammana arupadhamma sayame'va pakata honti. Visuddhimagga, 2.225 [VRI 2.669]

Evam suvisuddharupapariggahassa panassa arupadhamma tihi akarehi upatthahanti phassavasena va vedanavasena va vinnanavasena va. Visuddhimagga 2.226, 224 [VRI 2.670]

Idha pana bhagava arupakammatthanam kathento vedanasisena kathesi. Sakkapanha-Sutta, Digha-Nikaya Atthakatha 2.315 [VRI 2.359]

2. Pancakanga-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 2.423, [VRI 2.4.267] Atthasata Sutta 429 [VRI 2.4.270]

3. Yam kinci vedayitam, tam dukkhasmim. Rahogata-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 2.417 [VRI 2.4.259] Dukkham eva hi sambhoti, dukkham titthati veti ca; nannatra dukkha sambhoti, nannam dukkha virujjhati. Vajira Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, 1.137

4. Phassasamudaya sabbe dhamma, vedanasamosarana sabbe dhamma, samadhippamukha sabbe dhamma. Mulaka-Sutta 2, Anguttara-Nikaya 3.153, 341 [VRI 3.8.83]

5. Kulumbika puttatissa, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.238 [VRI 1.106]; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.330 [VRI 2.373] Visuddhimagga 1.46 [VRI 1.20]; Maha Theras bitten by snakes, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.82 [VRI 1.24]; Anguttara-Nikaya 2.134 [VRI 2.4.42]

Maha Thera who contemplates his colic until the protrusion of the intestines, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 83; Vibhanga Atthakatha 251; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.364; Maha Thera attained Arahatship while being eaten by a tiger, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.238; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.340; Pitamalla Maha Thera attained Arahantship while being pierced by a spear, Majjhima-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.239; Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 1.239 etc.

6. Dhammapada-Atthakatha 1.141 [VRI 1.20], Samavati-vatthu

7. Tam vedanam abbhoharikam katva mulakammatthanam sammasanto arahattam eva ganhati- Samyutta-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.272 [VRI 2.3.79]. Vedana vikkhambhana, Digha-Nikaya-Atthakatha 2.163 [VRI 2.198]; Saratthatika 1.28

8. Bojjhanga-Sutta, Samyutta-Nikaya 3.58, 71 [VRI 3.5.978]; Samyutta-Nikaya-Atthakatha 3.185 [VRI 3.5.368]; Udana, tha 55 [VRI 45]

9. Puggalapannatipali, 116 [VRI 16]; Puggalapannati Atthakatha 3.37 [VRI 16]; Anguttara Nikaya Atthakatha 3.149 [VRI 2.7.16]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 1.168 [VRI 1.1.159]; Patisambhida Atthakatha 1.39 [VRI 1.1.36]

10. Uttiya Thera Gatha, Vimanadi, 226 [VRI Theragathapali 30]

11. Aghajatassa ve nandi, nandijatassa ve agham. The one replete with dukkha feels pleasant; the one replete with pleasantness attains dukkha. [VRI Samyutta-Nikaya 1.1.99]

12. Sukhaya vedanaya raganusayo (anuseti) pahatabbo. Dukkhaya vedanaya patighanusayo (anuseti) pahatabbo. Adukkhamasukhaya vedanaya avijjanusayo (anuseti) pahatabbo. Samyutta Nikaya 2.407, 410, Pahana Sutta, Salla Sutta.[VRI 2.4.24,254]

13. Yo sukham dukkhato addakkhi, dukkhamaddakkhi sallato; adukkhamasukham santam, addakkhi nam aniccato. Sa ve sammaddaso bhikkhu, parijanati vedana. Datthabba- Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.409 [VRI 2.4.253]

14. Salla Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.409, 410 [VRI 2.4.254]

15. Sukha vedana thitisukha viparinamadukkha, Majjhima Nikaya 1.337 [VRI 1.465]

16. Dukkhasamphassesu yeva kamesu sukham iti viparitasannam paccalatthum. Magandiya Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 2.175 [VRI 2.214]

17. Visuddhimagga 2.293[VRI 2.763-765]

18. Kimatthiya Sutta, Kimatthiya Brahmacariya Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.350, 449 [VRI 2.4.152, 317]

19. Dhammapada Gatha, 354 [VRI 354]

20. Sunnagaram pavitthassa, santacittassa bhikkhuno; Amanusi rati hoti, samma dhammam vipassato. Dhammapada, 373 [VRI 373]

21. Tasmatiha te evam sikkhitabbam, aturakayassa me sato cittam anaturam bhavissati ti. Nakulapitu Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.2 [VRI 2.3.1]; Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.236 [VRI 2.3.1]

22. Adukkhamasukha pana duddipana, andhakarena viya abhibhuta... nayato ganhantasseva pakata hoti. Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 2.315 [VRI 2.359]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 1.282 [VRI 1.113]

23. Sankharupekkhananakatha, Visuddhimagga 2, 291-308 [VRI 2.760-804]

24. Dukkhi sukham patthayati,

Sukhi bhiyyopi icchati;

Upekkha pana santatta,

Sukha'micceva bhasita. Visuddhimagga 2, 203 [VRI 2.644]

25. Sunnamidam attena va, attaniyena va, (dvikotika.

1. Naham kvacani, kassaci, kincianatasmim.,

2. Na ca mama kvacani, kisminci, kincanatatthi, (Catukotika)

Majjhima Nikaya 3.51 [VRI 3.69-70]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 4.42-3 [VRI 3.70]; Visuddhimagga 2.291[VRI 2.760]

1. There is no concept of 'I' in any place, at any time or in any phenomena. There is no 'I' which anyone pays attention to. It is apart from 'him'.

2. There is no concept of 'he' in any place, at any time or in any phenomena. There is no 'he' which anyone pays attention to. It is apart from 'I'.

26. Dhutangadhara, Digha Nikaya Atthakatha 2 [VRI 2.290], Sakkapanha Sutta [VRI 2.344 adayo]

27. Paccanika'midam hoti, sabbalokena passatam. Yam pare sukhato ahu, ta'dariya ahu dukkhato, Yam pare dukkhato ahu, tadariya sukhato vidu. Pathamaruparama Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 2.342 [VRI 2.4.136]

28. Naham, bhikkhave, lokena vivadami; lokova maya vivadati. Na, bhikkhave, dhammavadi kenaci lokasmim vivadati. Puppha Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha 2.113-4 [VRI 2.3.94]; Mulapannasa Atthakatha 1.378 [VRI 1.200]

29. Samagama Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 3.33 [VRI 3.41]; Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha 4.21 [VRI 3.41 adayo]