As we have seen in
chapter 9, there are several aspects to kusala viriya, right effort. It
is a factor of the eightfold Path when it accompanies right understanding
and right mindfulness of the eightfold Path and as such it is called samma-vayama.
This type of effort or energy is not energy for mindfulness in the future,
but energy for mindfulness right now. When there is right mindfulness of
any characteristic which appears right now, there is also right effort
accompanying the citta at that moment.
We may find that mindfulness does not arise very often. It seems that we
lack a true "sense of urgency", which is according to the Atthasalini
the Visuddhimagga the proximate cause of right effort.
The Visuddhimagga ( IV, 63j explains how there can be a greater
sense of urgency and how the mind should be encouraged. We read:
How does he
encourage the mind on an occasion when it should be
The "states of loss" mentioned
by the Visuddhimagga are the rebirths which are "removed from the
happy destiny'' (XIX, 92, 93), they are rebirth in the animal world, in
the "ghost world", in the world of demons (asuras) or in hell planes.
encouraged? When his
mind is listless owing to sluggishness in the
exercise of understanding
or the failure to attain the bliss of peace,
then he should stimulate
it by receiving the eight grounds for a sense
of urgency. These
are the four, namely, birth, ageing, sickness and
death, with the suffering
of the states of loss as the fifth, and also the
suffering in the past
rooted in the round (of rebirth), the suffering in
the future rooted
in the round (of rebirth), and the suffering in the
present rooted in
the search for nutriment. And he creates confidence
by recollecting the
special qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma and
the Sangha. This is
how he encourages the mind on an occasion when
it should be encouraged.
Mindfulness right now can eventually lead to freedom from the danger of
rebirth. We may think with fear of unhappy rebirth and then there is akusala
citta with dosa, not mindfulness. However, we should remember that even
fear can be object of mindfulness. Shortly after the dosa-mula-citta has
fallen away sati may arise and it can be aware of whatever characteristic
appears at that moment, no matter it is an unpleasant object or akusala
citta. when there is mindfulness there is also fight effort.
We may think time and again of the urgency of mindfulness, but in spite
of that we can notice that sati very seldom arises. We are impatient and
we find it difficult to persevere with the development of satipatthana.
The suttas mention several factors which hinder "exertion, application,
striving". we read in the Gradual sayIngs (Book of the Tens, chapter lI,
4, Obstruction) about five mental obstructions which cause wholesome qualities
Herein a monk
has doubts and waverings about the Teacher. He is not drawn to him, he
is not sure about him...
We may doubt whether there
can be an "ariyan Sangha", people who have developed the eightfold Path
and attained enlightenment. we may have doubts about the usefulness of
sati right now, of mindfulness of visible object, sound or any other reality
which appears. At the moment of doubt there cannot be right effort.
Again, monks, a monk has doubts about the Dhamma, about the Sangha (the
Order of monks), about the training... he is vexed with his comrades in
the brahma-life, displeased, troubled in mind, come to a stop. In a monk
who is thus, his mind inclines not to exertion, to application, to perseverance,
There will be less doubt and more confidence if we listen to the Dhamma
as it is explained by the right person, if we read the scriptures, if we
consider what we learnt and test the meaning of it ourselves. we can prove
the truth of what we learnt by the application of the Dhamma in daily life.
The above-quoted sutta also mentions five "bondages of the heart" which
hinder the development of good qualities:
a monk is not dispassionate in things sensual; desire, affections, thirsting,
distress and craving have not gone from him...
We are infatuated by all
the pleasant things of life. At such moments we forget to develop satipatthana.
we read in the same sutta that in the monk who has abandoned the mental
obstructions and "bondages of the heart", "growth, not decline, in good
states may be looked for." However, we should realize that not all obstruction
can be overcome at once. Even the sotapanna who has eradicated doubt and
who has an unshakeable confidence in the Triple Gem is still attached to
sense-pleasures. But he has no wrong view, he does not take attachment
or any other reality for self. He has developed right understanding of
all realities, also of akusala dhammas, by being aware of them when they
appear. The sotapanna cannot deviate from the eightfold Path anymore. Since
he has realized the truth that all conditioned realities are impermanent
and dukkha, his urgency to be freed from dukkha does not stem from theoretical
understanding of the truth of dukkha, but from the direct realization of
the truth of dukkha. He has a true sense of urgency which makes him persevere
with the development of the eightfold Path.
Again in body a monk is not dispassionate; he is not dispassionate in the
matter of material shapes; having eaten his bellyful he lives given to
the pleasure of lying down on back or side, a prey to torpor; or he leads
the brahma-life with a view to join some order of devas, with the thought:
By virtue of this way of life or practice or austerity or brahma-life I
shall become some deva or other. Whatsoever monk ....has such an object
in view, his mind inclines not to exertion, to application, to perseverance
When one has just started to develop satipatthana, sati does not often
arise. one may wonder how many years it will take before there can be any
progress, when we think of the goal with desire or when we are afraid of
failure there is akusala citta. We may not notice that there is any progress,
but even if there sometimes one moment of mindfulness of a reality appearing
through one of the six doors, right understanding can develop little by
little. sati which arises falls away, but it is never lost, it conditions
the arising again of sati later on. Instead of having desire for enlightenment
we should see the value of right understanding at this moment.
When sati arises it is accompanied by kusala viriya, right effort, which
performs its function of strengthening and supporting citta and the accompanying
cetasikas, and in that way there can be perseverance to develop right understanding.
It takes great patience and courage, even heroic fortitude, to persevere
with mindfulness of all kinds of realities which appear, also of akusala
dhammas we would rather shun as object of mindfulness.
Right understanding cannot be developed within a short time. The Buddha,
when he was still a Bodhisatta, had to develop wisdom for aeons. He developed
satipatthana with great patience and an unshakeable energy. Energy was
one of the "perfections" he developed together with satipatthana. He was
willing to struggle and strive for an extremely long time, without becoming
disenchanted with all the hardship and suffering he had to endure, all
for the sake of the welfare of other beings.
The Dhammasangani (13), in its description of the "faculty (indriya)
of energy'', speaks about "zeal and ardour, vigour and fortitude, the state
of unfaltering effort ", "the state of unflinching endurance and solid
grip of the burden." The Bodhisatta, when he in his last life was sitting
under the Bodhi-tree, had unflinching endurance, he did not let go of the
task he had to fulfil. His vigour and fortitude were unsurpassed. We read
in the Gradual Sayings (Book of the Twos, chapter 1, 5) that the
Buddha said to the monks that he did not shrink back from the struggle
and struggled on thus:
I have my shin and sinews and bones wither and my body's flesh and blood
dry up, if only I may hold out until I win what may be won by human strength,
by human energy, by human striving". By my earnest endeavour, monks, I
won enlightenment, I won the unrivalled freedom from the bond.
Many of the Buddha's disciples
developed the eightfold Path and attained enlightenment as well. However,
they also had to accumulate right understanding during countless lives
in order to attain enlightenment. When we read about the lives of the Buddha's
disciples in the Thera-theri-gatha(Psalms of the Brothers and Sisters)
we see that they also, like we, had periods of slackness with regard to
the development of satipatthana. However, ordinary events in their daily
lives could stir them and remind them of the urgency to develop right understanding.
We read that the Thera Uttiya (Thera-gatha 30) had no purity of sila and
could not attain enlightenment. The Buddha taught him in brief the purification
of sila and the purification of view (1 See Kindred Sayings V, kindred
Sayings on the Applications of MindfuIness, Chapter I, 3, 5, 6.). Uttiya
developed insight and then he became ill. The commentary to the 'Thera-gatha"
( the Paramatthadipani) relates: "In his anxiety he put forth every effort
and attained arahatship". He spoke the following verse with reference to
the event which, stirred him to continue to develop insight until he had
reached the goal:
has befallen me. O now
Sickness can remind us
that we are not master of our body. What we take for "our body'' and for
"our mind" are only conditioned rupas and namas which are beyond control.
If we merely think of nama and rupa we will not know them as they
are. Mindfulness of the reality which appears now is the only way to eventually
know the true nature of realities.
Let there arise in
me true mindfulness.
Sickness has now befallen
me 't is time
For me no more to
dally or delay.
The Buddha knew the accumulations of beings and thus whenever he preached
to someone he could remind him in the way which was most suitable for him.
He often reminded people of the foulness of "this short-lived body", in
order to stir them to develop satipatthana. The Thera Kimbila (Thera-gatha
118) was stirred when the Buddha, by his supernatural power, conjured up
the image of a beautiful woman and showed her passing to old age. The commentary
relates that he was greatly shaken by this image. He spoke this verse:
by some power age over her falls.
Kimbila realized that
what he took for self are ever-changing phenomena. Although what we call
in conventional terms the "present personality'' has developed from the
"past personality'', there isn't any reality which is self. The phenomena
of the present moment fall away immediately as soon as they have arisen
and are completely gone. The commentary relates that Kimbila, while he
considered the truth of impermanence, was yet more strongly agitated. He
listened to the Buddha, became a monk and attained arahatship.
Her shape is as another,
yet the same.
Now this myself who
never has left myself
Seems other than the
self I recollect.
There are time and again signs of foulness and decay in our body. Our body
is susceptible to decay, and death can come at any moment. We do not know
when the last citta of our life, the dying-consciousness, will arise. For
those who have accumulated conditions for sati the thought of death can
remind them to be aware.
We read that the Buddha's disciples, when they were stirred by an event
in their life, "put forth energy and strove with passionate ardour''. We
read, for example, in the ''Therigatha (29) that Sama could not find peace
of mind during the twenty five years she was a nun. In her old age she
heard a sermon of the Buddha which stirred her, and she attained arahatship.
We read that she said: "To free my path from all that causes dukkha, I
strove with passionate ardour, and I won!" When we read these words we
may misunderstand them. We are so used to thinking of effort as effort
exerted by a self that we can hardly imagine how there can be effort arising
because of its own conditions. Realities appear already through the five
senses and through the mind-door- visible object, for example, appears
rime and again. We could begin to investigate its characteristic until
it is realized as just visible object appearing through eyesense, not
something or somebody. There can be striving without the concept of
Even though we are only startng to develop the Path events in our life
can remind us to be aware now, just as they reminded the Buddha's disciples.
At times we may have doubts about the benefit of sati, or it may happen
that we are absorbed by our work or our circle of friends, or we may be
infatuated by all the pleasant things of life, without mindfulness of such
moments. Although we know in theory that any reality can be object of mindfulness,
there may be a long period of sluggishness in our life. However, a painful
event such as the loss of someone who is dear to us may remind us of the
true nature of reality; this can become our "goad" which stirs us. If we
truly see that even one moment of right understanding is beneficial we
will have courage to continue with the development of satipatthana and
then there is right effort which arises because of its own conditions.
We can come to understand that life without the development of right understanding
is utterly meaningless.
I What can obstruct
II When we are thinking
of the goal with discouragement, what can be done to persevere?
How can signs of foulness and decay in the body be reminders of awareness
of the present reality?
Why is listening to the Dhamma as it is explained by the right person helpful
for the arising of sati?