Letter about Vipassana
Dear Dhamma friends,
Sarah and Jonathan
travelled from Hong Kong to Bangkok in order to visit Khun Sujin and talk about
problems which arise concerning the development of satipatthana. I received the
cassette tapes of these discussions and would like to share with you what I
learnt from these tapes.
The discussions dealt
with the goal of satipatthana and the way of its development. Right
understanding of realities which appear through the six doors is the goal. Khun
Sujin explained that it is useless to have many moments of sati without
understanding anything, without understanding the reality which appears through
one of the six doors. We should remember what the object of sati of satipatthana
is: paramattha dhammas, absolute realities, that is, nama, mental phenomena, and
rupa, physical phenomena, appearing one at a time. Before we studied the Dhamma
we knew only conventional truth, such as people, houses and trees. Through the
Dhamma we learn about paramattha dhammas, nama and rupa. Citta, consciousness,
is nama, it experiences something. Rupa is the reality which does not experience
any thing. Seeing is a citta, it experiences an object, visible object. Visible
object is rupa, it does not experience anything. It is useful to combine
the study of the suttas with the study of the Abhidhamma, Khun Sujin remarked,
because this helps us to understand our life as being different realities, as
nama and rupa.
We should reflect
more on the nature of citta, the reality which experiences an object. When we
know more about the conditions for its arising we will have more understanding
of its characteristic of anatta, not self. Khun Sujin reminded Sarah and
Jonathan that different objects appear because there are cittas arising in
processes which experience objects through the doors of eyes, ears, nose,
tongue, bodysense or mind. When we are fast asleep there are no objects
appearing through the different doorways. There are bhavanga-cittas,
life-continuum, arising and falling away in succession, which have as their
function to preserve the continuity of life as this particular person. If there
would not be citta we would not be alive. When we are fast asleep we do not know
any object of this world, we do not know who our parents are, what our
possessions are, we are not involved with anything of this world. When we wake
up we experience again the objects of this world. Visible object impinges on the
eye-door and is experienced by seeing and by the other cittas of the eye-door
process. There is sound impinging on the ear-door and there are the other sense
objects impinging on their corresponding doorways. On account of the objects
which are experienced there are mostly akusala cittas with like or dislike. We
keep on thinking of the objects which are experienced through the senses and we
create long stories about people and things. We take it for granted that
different objects appear all day long, but, we should remember that they appear
just because there are cittas arising in processes, vithicittas. When there is
seeing, there are several conditions which are needed for seeing to experience
visible object. Seeing is vipakacitta, the result of kamma, a deed performed in
the past. Eyesense is also a condition for seeing; eyesense is produced by kamma.
Visible object is another condition for seeing; if it would not impinge on the
eyesense there could not be seeing. Seeing sees visible object, and then there
is paying attention to shape and form which is not seeing. It is important to
reflect on the difference between seeing and thinking of concepts such as people
and things. Then it will be clearer that realities such as seeing and visible
object can be the objects of mindfulness and right understanding, and that
conventional truth, concepts or ideas, are objects of thinking but not objects
of awareness. However, the reality which thinks about concepts is a type
of nama and thus it can be object of awareness. Khun Sujin said that when there
is more intellectual understanding based on study and reflection there will be
the arising of sati, and then there can be the development of direct
understanding of the characteristics of realities. I will quote from a letter of
Alan Weller in England, who describes his own experience concerning the study of
Dhamma, in order to encourage my husband.
I remember getting stuck
with Khun Sujin's tapes, listening to the same ones over and over again. Books
like the Visuddhimagga used to send me to sleep. I could not cope with the
endless classifications. However, very gradually I just keep on walking. I
have no problems now with the Visuddhimagga and I delight in its precision.
The teachings are so wide, books, tapes, discussions with people. I like to
study what I am interested in and if I find something tiring or difficult I
turn to what I find interesting. The Jataka stories are very easy to read and
so useful for daily life. The wide reading is a condition to have great
respect for Khun Sujin's words on the tape, for without those tapes I could
not understand the depth of the Dhamma or have the confidence that I have now.
This is my advice to Lodewijk: just keep on walking.
Alan refers to what Khun Sujin once said in India: just
keep on walking, even if it is just one step at a time. We should have more
confidence in the value of listening to the Dhamma, studying the scriptures and
reflecting on the Dhamma again and again. This is a condition for right
understanding of nama and rupa, and this understanding is being accumulated. We
sure that in this way conditions are being built up for
the arising of direct awareness and direct understanding which is different from
thinking about realities.
development of understanding is in the scriptures (Gradual Sayings, Book of the
Sevens, Ch VII, par. 7) compared to the wearing out of a knife handle which one
holds each day.
However, it wears out so slowly that one cannot see its
wearing away. Jonathan remarked that if one's practice is right one should see
some progress. He found that there was no sati while
working in his office. The world of work seems to be
different from the world of Dhamma. He thought that being under stress was not a
good condition for sati. One should be in the right mood and have some leisure
Khun Sujin answered
that this is only thinking. One should know the difference between a moment of
experiencing a reality and thinking. Only through satipatthana one can know the
difference. This is a good reminder. We are so involved in our thoughts
about having sati, finding ways to have more, but what is there right at that
moment? Only a nama which thinks. When we realize this, the infatuation is gone,
no more worry about sati.
Khun Sujin said:
Do not think of the past
or the future, just be aware. Realities appear, why do you have to move away
from them. That is not the way to understand this moment. There is seeing,
hearing, smelling, tasting, touching or thinking, no matter whether one is
working or not. If sati does not arise often it is because there are not
enough conditions for it. Does one just want to have it? Develop it!
If one has no understanding of cittas which experience
objects through the six doors one does not know how to apply Khun Sujin's words,
"develop sati now". Time and again objects such as visible object,
sound or tangible object are appearing. They can only appear because there is
citta which experiences them. Did we consider this enough? There may be sound
but if hearing-consciousness does not arise sound is not an object which is
experienced, sound does not appear. We believe that we see the world of people
and different things, but there is only citta which thinks about what has
appeared to seeing. Seeing does not occur at the same time as thinking. Seeing
experiences visible object which has impinged on the eyesense, it does not pay
attention to shape and form. However, seeing conditions thinking of shape and
form, of defining them as people and different things. Khun Sujin writes in her
book "A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas":
Since cittas succeed one
another very rapidly, it seems that there is the world which does not
disintegrate, the world which is lasting and which is full of beings and many
different things. In reality the world lasts just for one moment and then it
If we have a bowl of fruits on the table we can look at
them and they do not seem to fall away. It is helpful to know the reason.
Realities, paramattha dhammas, such as visible object which is a kind of rupa,
fall away. However, we keep on thinking about the stories we create. The
concepts such as fruit we can think of are not paramattha dhammas, they are not
realities, thus they do not arise and fall away. They are merely made up by our
Khun Sujin said
When one is busy
with one's work, just keep on remembering that sati can be aware of any
moment. When there is not forgetfulness but awareness, one can begin to have
some understanding, even though it be very little, of what is real. Citta is
real, it experiences an object. A dead body, even if there are still eyes and
ears, cannot experience anything. Citta experiences. The experience is a
reality. We should not
be attached to the idea of, "how can I have more
sati". It can grow in a few lifetimes. Let us talk about seeing and
visible object so that there can be conditions to be aware of them. If there
is no understanding of this moment how can understanding
grow? Considering visible object in the office is not
different from considering visible object at this moment. There is no need to
change the situation or to do anything
else in order to develop right understanding. When sati
is not hindered by wrong ideas we may have about it, it can arise freely and
show its characteristic of anatta, not self or mine. Also when one talks about
conventional things in the office there can be awareness of nama and rupa.
Jonathan said that he would continue to consider visible
object, since it is there all the time. Khun Sujin remarked that a few moments
of awareness now are better than thinking of having
many moments of it in the future, when one has free time.
Are we inclined to put off kusala to a later time? Khun Sujin spoke about
someone who put off dana, since she wanted to sell her
property first so that she would be able to give a lot of
money. Why did she not give just a little right now? Even so it is with sati. We
read in the "Gradual Sayings" (Book of the Fours, First
Fifty, Ch I, par. 6) about four kinds of people: a person
of small learning who doesn't profit thereby, a person of small learning who
profits thereby, a person of wide learning who doesn't profit thereby and a
person of wide learning who profits thereby. We read:
In this case, monks, a
certain person has small learning in Sutta, Geyya, Veyyakaraga, Gatha, Udana,
Itivuttaka, Jataka, Abbhutadhamma and Vedalla; yet, as of that small learning
he knows not the letter, knows not the meaning, he does not live in accordance
with Dhamma. That, monks, is how a person with small learning profits not
And in what way,
monks, is a person of small learning profited thereby?
In this case, monks,
a certain person has small learning in Sutta... ; but, as of that small
learning he knows both the letter and the meaning, he lives in accordance with
Dhamma. That, monks, is how a person of small learning profits thereby.
The same is said about the person with wide learning who
does not profit thereby and the person of wide learning who profits thereby.
According to the commentary, the "Manorathapurani", the person with
small learning who lives in accordance with (he
Dhamma, who profits thereby, has eradicated the asavas.
The same is true for the person with wide learning who profits thereby. Thus,
when one studies the Dhamma and develops satipatthana one can become enlightened
and finally attain arahatship. '
Alan Weller wrote:
The last few weeks I
have been very busy and have had little time for reading or writing. The sutta
about profiting even from small learning is very useful. I often find myself
wanting to read or study and I am forgetful of the reality which is there at
that moment. We all need lots of details because defilements are so crafty to
move us away from the present moment. People may have misunderstandings about
satipatthana, they doubt whether it can be developed also during the time they
are working. These misunderstandings arise because they believe that one
should concentrate on nama and rupa. They think that they should hold on to
realities in order to be aware of them. We should know that there can be wrong
concentration, arising with akusala citta. Concentration is a cetasika, a
mental factor, which arises with each citta. Its function is to focus on one
object at a time. Concentration does not last, it falls away immediately
together with the citta it accompanies. If one thinks that one has to
concentrate on nama and rupa there is thinking with attachment. One tries to
control sati but that is impossible. When there are conditions for the arising
of right mindfulness and right understanding, there is also right
concentration without there being the need to think of concentration.
Citta and cetasika are conditioned namas. There is one
citta at a time and each citta is accompanied by several cetasikas which each
perform their own function while they assist the citta in knowing an object. If
we do not know that understanding, mindfulness and right concentration are
cetasikas which accompany kusala citta, we will cling to them and have wrong
view about them. We need to know many details because defilements are deeply
Khun Sujin said that
people who develop satipatthana naturally, in daily life, have more detachment
than those who do not develop it naturally. If one develops satipatthana
naturally one does not try to exert control over sati or the objects of sati.
There may be a moment of awareness and then there are moments of unawareness.
One can learn to notice the difference between such moments. Does at this moment
a paramattha dhamma appear, or is there thinking of a concept? There can be
awareness of a moment of ignorance which just occurred so that it can be
realized as a conditioned reality.
that visible object is different from what we think it is. We tend to speculate
about it, we are wondering how far the visible object we see at this
moment extends. We make it
into something abstract, but in reality it is just
that which is seen. All that appears through the eyesense is visible
object. If one were blind it could not appear. Khun Sujin asked whether visible
object can move. When we notice a change of position of what we perceive it is
only thinking. Because of remembrance of past experiences one believes that one
move. If there can be a moment of awareness of one reality
there will be less clinging to a concept of a "whole", to an image of
a person walking.
When we hear a
dog barking there are different moments of experience. There is hearing which
hears that particular sound and then we remember that it is the sound of a dog.
We can remind
Ourselves that it is not "I" who remembers but
sanna, remembrance or perception, a cetasika which remembers an object or
"marks" it so that it can be recognized later on. Sanna accompanies
each citta, be it seeing or hearing or the citta which thinks of concepts. We
recognize people and things because of sanna. Previous experiences have been
accumulated and they are remembered. Also in the past the sound of a dog was
heard, we learnt what a dog is and the way it barks. Because of sanna we can
imitate its barking, or, when other people imitate its barking we can know that
it is not the barking of a dog. "Sound does not know that you are thinking
about it", Khun Sujin said, reminding us that there is no being, no dog in
the sound. It is only rupa which impinges on the earsense; when there are the
right conditions a particular sound, pleasant or unpleasant, can be heard. The
sound only appears when it is the right time for vithi-cittas arising in the
ear-door process. When we are fast asleep there may be sound, but it is not
Seeing, hearing and the
other sense-cognitions are followed by thinking which thinks long stories about
what was experienced. We are absorbed in the concepts we are thinking of. Khun
Sujin said that it takes time to realize that one lives with one's own thoughts,
in one's own world of thinking. It is useful to know about the function of the
cetasika vitakka, which can be translated as thinking. It accompanies many
cittas, though not every citta. It "touches" the object which is
experienced, or it leads citta to the object, so that citta can experience it.
We read in the suttas about vitakka which is akusala: thinking with desire, with
aversion and with cruelty. We also read about vitakka which is sobhana
(beautiful): thinking with detachment (nekkhamma), With non-aversion or
kindness, and with non-violence. There is right thinking, samma-sankappa, of the
eightfold Path. It "touches" the object of awareness, a nama or a rupa,
so that panna can know it as it is.
If We do not know that
thinking is due to the activity of vitakka we are bound to take it for self. We
think most of the time with akusala citta, we can become confused by our own
stories which we create.
Someone wrote to
me that he was infatuated with his own fantasies which went on for a long time.
He found himself a mean person because of that. If one thinks of oneself as a
mean person one takes one's akusala for "self". One can learn from
such experiences that thinking is beyond control, anatta. Defilements arise
because there are conditions for their arising. The writer of the letter thought
that his fantasies were the consequence of the education he had had. However,
this is merely a "story" one may think of but which does not explain
the deepest cause. It can happen to all of us that we suddenly, for no apparent
reason, have very ugly thoughts, thoughts of jealousy or even thoughts of
hatred, and we may wonder where these come from.
There were countless lives before this life, and during
these lives we accumulated many defilements. We do not know what our past lives
were like, but during the cycle there must have been births as an animal. The
defilements of all past lives have been accumulated from moment to moment and
they can arise at any time with akusala citta, they can even motivate bad deeds.
We experience sense objects usually with akusala cittas since we accumulated
such an extent of akusala. When we notice our defilements it is of no use to
keep on thinking about them with aversion, then we will only accumulate more
akusala. We can learn to develop right understanding also of akusala which
arises, in order to see it as not self, only a conditioned reality. Khun Sujin
We should be brave and
encounter the reality at that very moment with right understanding, then
there is right effort . It is difficult to follow the Middle Way, that
is, to follow all realities naturally. Through right understanding one will
see more clearly one's own akusala, also the more subtle attachment to sense
The study of the Abhidhamma can remind us that the
different cittas which are accompanied by cetasikas arise because of their own
conditions and fall away immediately. When one, for example, has the intention
to abstain from akusala but one cannot do so in a particular situation, one
should remember that it is not self who can abstain but that there are cetasikas,
"virati cetasikas", which have the function of abstaining. They are:
abstention from wrong speech, from wrong action and from wrong livelihood. When
virati cetasika does not arise we cannot possibly abstain from akusala. Only
through the development of satipatthana can there be more conditions for
abstention from akusala. We read in the "Stories of the Mansions" (Khuddaka
Nikaya, Vimanavatthu, V, Great Chariot, 53, the Mansion of Chatta) that
the brahman youth Chatta was on his way to pay his
teacher. Thieves were waiting for him in order to kill and rob him. The Buddha
sat under a tree on the road Chatta was taking and he
taught him out of compassion the three refuges and the
five precepts. Chatta continued on his way, reflecting on the Buddha's teaching,
and then he was killed by the robbers. He was reborn a
deva and showed himself with his luminous mansion. In
order that many people would know the deed of merit Chatta had done the Buddha
asked him of which deed his rebirth was the result. Chatta explained that he
first did not want to take the three refuges and that he afterwards did so.
Evenso he did not want to take the five precepts but afterwards he did so. We
I approached the
glorious Conqueror for refuge, and Dhamma too, likewise the Order of monks.
First I said "No", revered sir; afterwards I did your bidding
Live not in any way
impurely, hurting any breathing thing, for wise men do not praise lack of
restraint towards breathing things. First I said "No", revered sir;
afterwards I did your bidding faithfully...
We read that he after the teaching of each of the five
precepts first said "No", and then afterwards, took the precept. We
read further on:
Even a little done in
the Tathagata's Dhamma is of great fruition, a wide-spread fruit. Behold how
Chatta, through merit done, illumines the earth even as does the sun....
It can happen to all of us that we first say
"No", when we think that we cannot abstain from akusala. However, when
kusala citta arises it can be done. Even a brief moment of kusala is
very beneficial. When we learn that satipathana should be
developed naturally, in daily life, also in our work situation, we may at first
say, "No, I cannot do it." But when there are conditions for kusala
citta with right understanding we see that it can be done. Or we may think,
"No, I cannot be aware of akusala, I must make it disappear first."
When there is more understanding of citta and cetasika which arise because of
their own conditions we can learn that it is not self but sati which can be
aware of the characteristic of akusala.
wondering why it is necessary to learn so many details about citta, cetasika and
rupa. Is it not enough to read just one page of the scriptures one's whole life?
Khun Sujin answered that the Buddha did not have to teach for a long time to
those who had conditions to attain enlightenment soon. However, for us it is
different. We may read, "Seeing is impermanent", but this is not
enough for us. We need to listen much, read and study much and consider the
Dhamma often. We have to learn to be aware again and again, with right
the characteristics of the realities which appear now.
Kusala citta and akusala citta can arise shortly one after the other and in
order to know their different characteristics there has
to be awareness and keen understanding. There may be
kusala citta with pleasant feeling and then there may be akusala citta with
pleasant feeling and attachment to the idea of "my kusala".
Do we know the difference between such moments?
Sarah said that
she likes to earn money with her work since that gives her an opportunity to
travel to Bangkok or to England. But she finds that the Dhamma makes one feel
liking to earn money. Khun Sujin said: "You don't
understand yourself completely, you are not honest with yourself. If one does
not understand one's own accumulations, one has ambitions
to be the Dhamma way." Those who have attained
enlightenment are "those who walk straight", "ujupatipanno".
They know their accumulations, they are honest to themselves. Sometimes I feel
ashamed about liking to read magazines and novels. However, satipathana should
be developed naturally, so that one realizes one's accumulated inclinations as
not self. Next to my bed I have suttas as well as magazines and novels. At times
I take up a sutta, at times a magazine or novel. I cannot tell beforehand what I
will do, it is dependent on conditions. Also while reading a magazine there can
be a few moments of considering visible object and then one is absorbed again in
the story, which is a different moment.
When we look at
other people satipathana can be developed naturally. When we see colours of
hair, lips, eyebrows or skin, we think of them as belonging to the different
parts of the body, but we should remember that all these colours are just
visible object, they appear through the eyesense. They could not appear if we
close our eyes. Colour which appears is not the same
colour all over, it is not all grey or black. There are
many different colours but they are just visible object, they are experienced by
seeing. While we are eating there are many different flavours appearing, such as
flavour which is sweet, sour or salty. Tasting-consciousness experiences all the
different flavours which impinge on the tastingsense. There is such a
great variety of colours, sounds, odours, flavours and
tangible objects which appear and are experienced by the appropriate
sense-cognitions through the corresponding sense-doors. If we
remember this we will not imagine the objects of seeing,
hearing and the other sense-cognitions to be other than they really are. Then
satipathana can develop more naturally. After the sense-
door process has been completed, the object is experienced
through the mind-door, and then there are other mind-door processes of cittas
which define the object and think about it.
We should not
worry about it when satipathana does not often arise. When Khun Sujin was in
England, she said that one should not cling to the stages of insight, vipassana
We do not mind
about vipassana nana, there should just be understanding of the reality
appearing at this moment. It is so anatta, there should not be any
expectation. So long as there is expectation vipassana nana cannot arise. Khun
Sujin reminds us time and again that we should always be humble, a
"nobody", instead of somebody. A wise person who understands
realities which arise because of their own conditions
will be less attracted by honour, praise or gain. Do we
think of "my development", is there an idea of "I did it"?
Then we want to be somebody, and that is not the right way.
Sarah said to Khun Sujin that it is very hard to see the
danger of the arising of nama and rupa, to see the benefit of not having them
anymore. Khun Sujin answered: That is why there are many stages of vipassana.
Even when the arising and falling away of realities is experienced it is
not enough. Attachment and the other defilements are so
deeply rooted. It needs higher and higher understanding to see the danger of the
arising and falling away of nama and rupa. They
appear and then disappear immediately, but the succeeding
ones arise and thus there will be attachment again. Attachment is so attached to
any object which arises. We can talk a lot
about the impermanence of realities, but this does not
mean anything if the reality of this moment is not directly experienced as
impermanent. Sarah asked:
Is it of any use at all
to think of the impermanence of realities if it is not directly experienced?
Khun Sujin answered:
It is right
thinking which is wholesome, but it cannot eradicate akusala. That is why the
Buddha told us to develop more understanding. He spoke about the objects
awareness should be aware of, so that right understanding can grow. The
knowledge of all details can condition panna to see the
characteristic of anatta of all realities. One may read the scriptures but if
there is no awareness of the present moment we will not understand what has
been taught in the scriptures.
Nina van Gorkom
Letter about Vipassana
Dear Dhamma friends,
When Khun Sujin was
in England Alan Weller recorded the discussions he had with her. These
recordings contain many precious reminders about satipatthana in daily life
and therefore I would like to share these with all of you. The discussions
were about citta (consciousness), cetasika (mental factors arising with the
citta) and rupa (physical phenomena). They were about cittas which experience
objects through the six doors of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind.
There are many
different types of citta arising in daily life. There is seeing of visible
object and there is the interpretation of what was seen and this is not seeing
but thinking. When there are conditions for awareness it can arise and be
aware of any object which appears, be it visible object, seeing, feeling or
thinking. When there is awareness we do not have to name or label any reality,
there is the direct experience of the characteristics of realities. Seeing is
just the experience of what is visible, it has its own characteristic, we do
not have to name it. Thinking is just thinking, it has its own characteristic,
we do not have to name it.
Seeing sees visible
object but it is only there for an extremely short moment and then it is gone.
Visible object does not last either, it falls away. Seeing can only see, it
cannot think of visible object. If one wants to concentrate on seeing or
visible object, if there is any idea of holding on to them in order to know
them, it prevents right understanding of realities. We cannot stare at visible
object, since it is seen just for a moment, and then it falls away. We may
think about it, but that is not direct awareness of its characteristic.
I would like to
transcribe a dialogue between Khun Sujin and Alan about this subject:
Khun Sujin: The more
one understands that thinking thinks, the more visible object will appear as
visible object. It does not matter at all if there is thinking because there
are conditions for thinking almost all the time. There is the experience of
objects through the sense-doors and then thinking.
Alan: We have to
know, not through thinking, but through direct experience.
Kh. S.: That is why
there should be awareness of thinking and the understanding of it as just a
A.: That is it,
visible object should be separated from thinking,
Kh.S.: That is why it
is necessary to be aware of thinking, in order to understand realities. Many
people do not want to think, they try to stop thinking. They believe that in
that way they can understand realities.
A.: The thinking is
very fast. Seeing sees visible object and then there is thinking.
development of awareness is necessary in order to understand thinking. Visible
object appears very shortly and then there is thinking. One thinks about a
A.: We are picking
out one thing from the visible object by our thinking. Just one idea.
Kh.S.: Then some
"thing" is there, even if we do not name it. When we point at
something there is thinking, not seeing. For the experience of visible object
you don't have to point.
A.: I was looking at
curtains but I did not notice the pattern of pineapples, because I was not
thinking of it. Only when someone said that there were pineapples I recognized
Kh.S.: Because then
you were thinking about it. What is seen now is just a reality and then the
thinking thinks a lot. This happens all the time, no matter whether you read a
book, watch T.V., look at paintings or look while you walk in the street.
There can be understanding of the true nature of realities at such moments,
A.: There are just
different types of thinking when one takes out things from the visible object.
Kh.S.: One begins to
understand that there is nobody, thinking thinks only.
A.: Thinking is just
a reality which thinks. There is no one, just realities. That is the meaning
of being alone.
Kh.S.: This is the
way to become detached from realities we used to take for "I". There
is all the time the idea of "I think", "I see"; "I,
I, I", all the time. At the moments there is no attention to shape and
form, awareness of realities can develop. There is not only visible object,
there is also sound. Awareness can be aware of any reality, without thinking.
There is sound which appears, then visible object, then sound again, all such
moments are extremely short. Awareness can follow all kinds of realities.
A.: When we pay
attention to shape and form is there usually lobha?
Kh.S.: When the
feeling is not unpleasant, thus, pleasant or indifferent, there is usually
lobha. Lobha arises when we read a newspaper or look at a picture, but sati
can be aware of realities in daily life. Sati should be very
A.: I think that
there is no difference between different situations.
Kh.S.: There is no
difference at all. The six doorways are the same, everywhere. One has to
become detached. This cannot be achieved by a self, only by understanding.
Through satipatthana one will see more clearly one's accumulated inclinations.
satipatthana should be naturally developed. No matter whether one moves around
or looks at something, awareness can be aware and right understanding can
understand. Every reality arises and then falls away very rapidly, but
awareness can follow different realities which appear. Instead of thinking too
much about other people, awareness can be aware of realities. We may think
about others and wonder why they behave like that, but what about our own
citta? Awareness leads one back to "one's own reality".
It is true, we may
have aversion about someone else's behaviour. Instead of thinking for a long
time about it there can be awareness of any nama or rupa appearing at that
moment. We do not hold on to anything when there is awareness, there are other
realities appearing and awareness can follow them.
Some people, when
they hear about citta, cetasika and rupa, say that they do not like the
Abhidhamma, that they prefer the suttas. They think that the Abhidhamma is too
theoretical. It depends on one's personal inclination to what extent one will
study the Abhidhamma, but if there is no knowledge at all about nama, the
reality which experiences something, and rupa, the reality which does not
experience anything, one cannot develop the eightfold Path. One does not know
what the object of awareness is. One does not know that a concept such as the
whole body or a person cannot be object of awareness, but only object of
thinking. One nama or rupa at a time as it appears through one of the six
doors can be object of awareness. If one begins to be aware of the
characteristic of seeing which appears, or the characteristic of visible
object, or the characteristic of any other reality which appears, one will
understand that the Abhidhamma explains the realities of our daily life. Also
the suttas are full of Abhidhamma, one cannot really understand them with out
any knowledge of paramattha dhammas. Time and again we read in the suttas
about the objects which are experienced through the six doors, we read about
seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, the experience of tangible object and the
experience of objects through the mind-door. If we do not know that the
experiences of the objects through the six doorways are different cittas, we
take all experiences for self.
We learn through the
Abhidhamma and also through the suttas that cittas are accompanied by
different cetasikas, mental factors. Not everybody is inclined to study
cetasikas in detail, but if one does not know anything about them one does not
see that akusala citta is so different from kusala citta because they are
accompanied by different types of cetasikas. Defilements as well as wholesome
qualities are cetasikas which accompany citta. The factors of the eightfold
Path, such as right understanding and right mindfulness, are cetasikas. When
these accompany kusala citta the eightfold Path is being developed, just for a
moment, and then citta and the accompanying cetasikas fall away. Sati and
panna can be accumulated and then there are conditions for another moment of
developing the eightfold Path, later on. Understanding develops from moment to
moment. If we understand that life exists only in one moment, we will be less
inclined to believe that there is a self who could develop the eightfold Path
continuously. This would not be according to the truth, because the next
moment is likely to be akusala. If we know that right effort is a cetasika
which arises just for a moment we will cling less to an idea of self who
exerts effort in the development of the eightfold Path.
We think that we
should develop understanding, but actually it is understanding, panna, which
develops. There is nobody who develops understanding. Khun Sujin remarked:
In the beginning it
seems that "I" am developing, but later on one realizes that it is
right understanding, panna, which grows. One comes to the conclusion that
nobody can do anything. Alan said:
Because each moment
is conditioned, one can't do anything or control anything, not even the
development of right understanding. It is conditioned by what one has learnt
or considered. Khun Sujin remarked:
Even if one considers
oneself a Buddhist, it depends on conditions whether one can read wisely or
consider wisely. Or does one just want to be "somebody" instead of
developing right understanding?
It is quite difficult
to develop understanding of visible object at this moment, to realize that
there is not anybody in the visible object which is seen. It takes time to
listen again and again, to be aware again and again. Without awareness and
understanding of this moment there is no way to eliminate desire. There
is desire if one wants to have a special experience instead of developing
understanding. I do not tell anybody to do this or that first in order to be
aware, there is no technique which should be applied. One thinks too much and
tries too much. When can there be satipatthana? When there is enough
understanding to condition it.
One may be very keen
to reach the different stages of insight, but if there is such a wish, is
there not an idea of self? We should not force ourselves to reach something
for which we are not ready yet. Khun Sujin said:
This moment of
gaining understanding is enough for this moment, and thus the development can
continue naturally. There should be contentedness with one's own
ability. We should be grateful to the Buddha for the understanding we have
gained already, even if it is not a great deal yet. If there is not much
understanding now, it is because it was not developed much in the past. It
takes aeons to develop it. We should remember that right understanding is a
conditioned reality, we cannot hasten its development. If we try to do so, we
are clinging to the idea of self. However, understanding is developed in order
to get rid of the idea of self.
A friend wrote to me
about a meditation technique he applies in order to experience the
impermanence of rupas of the body. Through concentration on rupas of the body
he thinks that he can experience the change of rupas such as heat of the body.
He finds it such an intellectual struggle to grasp the truth of anatta and
through the experience of impermanence he believes that he can realize the
truth of anatta more easily. He thinks that by this method all the stages of
insight, vipassana nanas, can be reached.
When the rupa which
is heat appears, there must also be nama which experiences heat. In order to
know the truth there should not only be awareness of rupa but also of nama,
the element which experiences something. If there is no awareness and right
understanding which realizes nama as nama and rupa as rupa, there is an idea
of self who feels hot or "my body" which is hot. There is
"somebody" or "something" there, thus, one clings to a
"self". There is the deeply rooted idea of self, even when we do not
think, "I feel", or "This is my body" .
It is not easy to
understand the meaning of anatta, as the writer of the letter remarks. We
should consider what the Buddha taught about anatta. He clearly showed the
conditions for each reality which arises. Since there are conditions for the
namas and rupas which arise we cannot exert control over their arising.
"Beyond control" is one way to describe the nature of anatta. When
there are the right conditions, a rupa such as heat may impinge on the
bodysense. Bodysense is a kind of rupa which is produced by kamma. Nobody can
create his own bodysense. The bodysense is all over the body, it can be
outside or inside. When heat impinges on the bodysense there are conditions
for the arising of body-consciousness which experiences the heat just for a
short moment and then it falls away. It merely experiences the heat and it
does not know anything else. There is also feeling accompanying the
body-consciousness, it is a cetasika which feels on account of the tangible
object which is experienced. When tangible object is pleasant there is
pleasant bodily feeling accompanying body-consciousness, and when it is
unpleasant there is painful bodily feeling accompanying body consciousness.
Shortly afterwards there are likely to be akusala cittas which may be akusala
cittas rooted in attachment, accompanied by pleasant or by indifferent
feeling, or akusala cittas rooted in aversion, accompanied by unpleasant
feeling, or akusala cittas rooted in ignorance, accompanied by indifferent
feeling. Sometimes there can be kusala cittas accompanied by pleasant feeling
or by indifferent feeling. We can learn through awareness that when the
feeling is not unpleasant there is usually attachment to objects.
At first it may seem
easy to be aware only of rupas of the body. When we learn more about different
types of nama and rupa we can see that it is not easy to have precise
knowledge of any of them.
When there can be
awareness of either nama or rupa right under standing of their characteristics
can develop. When heat appears its characteristic can be known as only a rupa.
We do not have to think whether it is external heat or internal heat, we do
not have to think of the spot of the body where it appears. It is only a rupa
which appears just for a moment, it does not belong to "my body", it
is beyond control. Understanding of the different types of nama and rupa which
appear through the appropriate doorways develops very gradually. It is only
later on that panna can realize the three general characteristics of nama and
rupa, which are impermanence, dukkha and anatta.
One may believe that
one can select the object of awareness, but it depends on the sati which
object it takes. Sati is a cetasika, and understanding, panna, is another
cetasika. When there are the right conditions kusala citta accompanied by sati
and panna can arise. One cannot select an object of awareness such as tangible
object, there are also other realities appearing. Visible object, seeing,
sound or hearing appear all the time in our daily life. Should right
understanding of these realities not be developed? All realities which appear
are beyond control. The Buddha spoke about the six doors in order to remind
people that all realities of daily life should be known as they are.
It is not easy at all
to know precisely, through direct understanding, what nama is and what rupa.
When panna is still weak we are not sure whether a characteristic of rupa or
of nama appears. Understanding has to be developed again and again. When there
is direct experience of hardness or heat we may have doubts whether that was
mindfulness or not. The fact that hardness or heat can be directly experienced
without having to think about them is no guarantee that there is mindfulness.
They are directly experienced by body-consciousness which is vipakacitta, and
this citta is not accompanied by sati. After that there may be akusala cittas
with subtle clinging to hardness or heat, but one may take it for mindfulness.
When one tries to concentrate on realities in order to know them there is
akusala citta with clinging; there is desire to know, not mindfulness.
It does not matter if
mindfulness does not arise yet. It is conditioned by listening to the Dhamma,
reading and considering, thus, by right understanding. Our goal should not be:
having sati for its own sake. Sati without the development of understanding of
the nama and rupa which appears will not lead to the eradication of the idea
of "self". The following sutta can remind us that there should be
the development of understanding of rupa as rupa and of nama as nama, as
elements devoid of self. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (II,
Nidana-vagga, Ch XIV, Kindred Sayings on Elements, par. I) that the Buddha,
while he was at Savatthi; said to the monks:
What, monks, is the
diversity in elements? The elements of eye, of visible object, of
seeing-consciousness; the elements of ear, of sound, of hearing-consciousness;
the elements of nose, of odour, of smelling-consciousness; the elements of
tongue, of taste, of tasting-consciousness; the elements of body-sense, of
tangibles, of body-consciousness; the elements of mind, of mental objects, of
the experience of objects through the mind-door. This, monks, is called
diversity in elements. We should reflect more on this sutta. Seeing can only
arise when there are visible object and eyesense, thus, it can only arise when
there are the appropriate conditions. The nama-elements and rupa-elements of
our life arise because of conditions, they are not self, they are beyond
control. When heat appears there can be for that short moment the development
of its characteristic as a rupa element. It is rupa, not part of "my
body", not self. It does not know anything, it is different from nama.
When feeling appears there can be the development of understanding of its
characteristic as a nama element. It is nama, an element which experiences
something, different from rupa. There is no self who experiences.
When there is
development of understanding at the moment of mindfulness, there will be less
doubt about the fact whether there was sati or not. Sati can arise naturally
in daily life, while seeing, hearing or experiencing objects through the other
doorways. Doubt about mindfulness is bound to arise, but then we can be
mindful of doubt as a kind of nama which is conditioned. Khun Sujin reminds
us: "Begin again, be aware again." Sati can follow all kinds of
realities appearing through the six doors. We should not try to hold on to any
reality, then we are forgetful of what appears at the present moment. We
should not try to select any object in order to be mindful of it. Since sati
and panna are anatta there cannot be any rule that there should first be
mindfulness of rupas of the body, then of feelings, then of cittas and then of
other dhammas. The first stage of insight which clearly distinguishes
nama from rupa may seem to be far away, but it is useful to know that this is
the first stage. When one experiences changes of the body temperature or
notices the appearance and disappearance of sound, one may believe that one
experiences the impermanence of rupas. However, the arising and falling away
of nama and rupa is the fourth stage of insight or the first stage of
"principal in sight", maha-vipassana, and this cannot be realized if
the first stage of "tender insight" has not been reached.
We are inclined to
name or label the objects which appear and to think about them for a long time
instead of being mindful of them in order to know them as nama or as rupa.
Khun Sujin reminded Alan:
Life is just the flux
of realities. Without studying the details about realities It is very
difficult to become detached from the object which is experienced. Detachment
is most help ful. Forgetting about labelling the objects is another
stepping-stone which has to be taken and this is difficult. Life exists only
in a moment. When we consider this more we will be less inclined to cling to
the concept of a person. When we cling to someone or dislike someone it is
only thinking. We always think of people, but when there is awareness we know
whether we think with kusala citta or with akusala citta, with lovingkindness
or with aversion. Khun Sujin said:
When we have aversion
we should find out whether it is a name or a reality which is the object of
aversion. A name represents a person. When you think of a name you think of
someone. Right understanding can find out that it is thinking again. One lives
with one's own thoughts. Develop lovingkindness instead of having aversion
towards what is only a name. When we understand that a person, in the
ultimate sense, exists only in our thoughts, we can appreciate the following
What we consider as a
friend in conventional terms is only an idea. When you have a friend what does
it mean? About what do you talk? "What shall we do tomorrow, where are we
going, what shall we eat?" Thus it means that you associate with
someone's opinion which you consider as a friend. These are moments of
thinking. We may associate with wrong opinions or with right opinions and that
influences our way of life. Khun Sujin also spoke to Alan about married life:
We are attached to many things in life but we know that it is for a very short
time. You can change your mind. One will be married or single according to
one's accumulations. But don't forget the development of understanding. You
should not think that your attachment to a person will last as long as you
live. Every moment arises because of conditions. There can be a change
in the relationship because of your own accumulations or because of the other
person's accumulations. Attachment brings sorrow, no matter it lasts long or
short. If one really studies one's cittas one can understand that there are
many degrees of attachment. Sometimes one wants something so much for oneself,
even if one likes the other person. You are attached to that person but you
want something for yourself. If we study our life closely we just love
ourselves. Everything is just for the sake of our own feeling, our own
pleasure. Nothing is permanent. This helps us to see the true nature of
reality. We can gain everything from each moment, even when there is a loss.
Even a loss does not bring me much pain, I get something from it. It is good
if one is prepared, ready to face any unpleasant situation. The understanding
of the Dhamma can help one in many situations about which one, would otherwise
feel unhappy. Alan asked Khun Sujin:
Should one in daily
life not be very careful so that one is not caught up with pleasant things,
non-Dhamma things? Khun Sujin answered:
I think one cannot
live without pleasure, and one cannot live without Dhamma. One cannot live
with ignorance, having just pleasure. The wise person cannot live just for
pleasure. He will live with pleasure and with understanding.
This is the
Middle Way. If we are honest we know that we have accumulations for enjoyment,
why deny it? But understanding can develop naturally, of all realities which
appear, also of pleasure. We do not have to wait or change conditions. The
Middle Way is the right way, but it is difficult. Progress is bound to be slow
and because of desire one may try to flee from daily life, try to exert effort
and concentrate on realities. Khun Sujin spoke again and again about natural
awareness. She said: When one enjoys something very much one cannot prevent
it, but by being aware there can be right understanding. That is the eightfold
Path. One should understand all conditioned realities which occur in
one's life. Seeing is conditioned, pleasant feeling and unpleasant feeling are
conditioned. They have their own conditions already. We should not
"prepare" conditions for anything to arise. When one develops more
the eightfold Path one can see how intricate and subtle its development is.
Sati and panna can follow the realities appearing through all doorways until
there is no doubt about conditioned realities. Nobody can condition any
reality at all. When there is sati with a very low level of
understanding, begin again, begin again. When one has precise understanding of
the Middle Way, one will not turn away. One can easily turn
away because of lobha. When one hears about natural
awareness in the midst of enjoyment, one may wonder where the right effort of
the eightfold Path comes in. It comes in exactly when we begin again, begin
again. When we are not disheartened about our low level of understanding and
there is courage for sati and panna now, there is right effort accompanying
right understanding, even though we are only in a beginning stage of
developing the eightfold Path. We do not have to think of making an
effort, then there would be an idea of self who exerts effort. We will not
forget that sati without the development of understanding is not very helpful.
Understanding of the of realities which is our life is the goal,
Nina van Gorkom
Letter about Vipassana
Dear Dhamma friends,
Through the study of
the Dhamma we learn that we are misled by the outer appearance of things. As
soon as we open our eyes it seems that there is seeing continuously. Even when
there is thinking or hearing it seems that there can still be seeing at the
same time. There seems to be more than one experience at a time, but in
reality there is only one citta at a time which arises, experiences an object
through the appropriate doorway, and then falls away. We may believe that our
body can feel pleasant and unpleasant things, but in reality the body consists
of rupas, physical phenomena, which cannot experience anything. The more we
study the Dhamma the more we realize that we have accumulated wrong ideas
about the phenomena in ourselves and around ourselves. Should we not find out
more about the realities of our life?
We understand in
theory that there is no self, but understanding has not been developed to the
stage that there can be direct realisation of the truth of anatta, not self.
At this moment we are full of the idea of self and our clinging to the self is
bound to hinder the development of right understanding. We cling to "our
kusala" and we have aversion towards "our akusala", we do not
see these realities as they are, as not self. Are we not annoyed when there is
disturbance of mind, forgetfulness and distraction in a day? Then we have
aversion towards "our akusala". We wish to improve the situation and
become calm, undisturbed and mindful, in order to accumulate a great deal of
kusala, "our kusala". Instead of right understanding of realities
which arise because of their own conditions our goal becomes the accumulation
of kusala. Then we are moving away from our real goal: detachment from the
self through right understanding. Alan Driver, a Dhamma friend who passed
away, clearly understood that we can easily be moved away from our real goal.
I will quote from his words (taken from "Be here now", Adelaide):
So very often our aim
is not really to understand whatever appears right now. We want to get rid of
distraction, to be calmer, to be steadier, to be more organized, to be
somehow, other than we are. What is that if it is not attachment?
Why can't we just be
aware of distraction? But, oh no, we don't like distraction and there we are,
thoroughly distracted from awareness, because of our attachment to a self who
does not want to be distracted. In fact, this is more an attachment to peace
than to understanding. Ask yourself, do you really want to be aware or do you
just want calm? We just go on perpetuating the illusion of a self who has got
a job to do and who wants to do it and does not like distraction which gets in
the way of doing the job. That is not right understanding at all. It is a
cause for more frustration when distraction arises. When there is satipatthana
you are not thrown off balance by distraction. You are just aware and then
there can be awareness of what appears next. There can be awareness and right
understanding of what has already appeared by conditions, which is not self.
Only for one moment though. And then there may be a whole lot of distraction.
We can't do anything about it, it is anatta. If there is awareness at that
moment something has been done already. It is anatta.
I don't think it is what we really want to do at all. We don't have the
inclination, deep down we are not really interested very often. Only at a
moment of right understanding is there any interest, right interest in the
object that appears, in order to see it as it really is. We are always looking
for some other object, trying to change it or make it last. That is
attachment, not detachment.
If we are honest with
ourselves we will notice when we are diverted from the right Path in choosing
another goal, such as the gaining of kusala for ourselves. I am grateful for
being reminded of the true goal. There should be detachment from the very
beginning. When there is a moment of awareness of realities such as hardness
or sound, are we pleased? Do we cling to "my awareness"? We should
not be concerned about having awareness, our foremost goal is developing
understanding. When heat appears it can be known as rupa, a reality which does
not experience anything. It is not part of "my body", it is not
"mine". We never know what reality will appear next, a reality which
is pleasant, unpleasant, kusala or akusala. If we try to direct sati to this
object first and then to that, for example to rupas appearing in the body or
to feelings, there is again an idea of self and we will never understand that
sati is anatta.
Someone wrote that a
teacher in a meditation center told people to get rid of akusala as soon as
possible. When it arises one should concentrate more deeply on particular
realities such as feelings. He also said that one burns up old kamma by
the accumulation of kusala cittas while one is practising vipassana.
Akusala kamma is past
already and we cannot prevent it from producing its result. The ariyan who has
attained enlightenment has no more conditions for an unhappy rebirth, but he
still receives unpleasant results through the senses in the course of his
life. We cannot know which kamma produces which result at a particular moment,
only a Buddha can know this. There were countless lives in the past with
countless akusala kammas. Who can claim that he can accumulate a great deal of
kusala and can burn up old kamma? When we are having such thoughts we are
clinging to the accumulation of kusala, we are again off the right Path. When
akusala citta arises and panna can realize it as a conditioned nama there is
at that moment kusala citta instead of akusala citta. However, this will not
be achieved by striving to have strong concentration on particular objects one
selects. There will be more detachment from rupas and if one does not plan to
have mindfulness. It depends on conditions whether there will be sati and
panna or not. It depends on conditions what will be the object of panna, it
may be akusala citta or any other object. If we believe that there is already
through satipatthana the accumulation of a great deal of kusala, so much so
that akusala can be burnt up, we do not know ourselves. Do we realize the
countless moments of subtle clinging or of ignorance, arising time and again
after there has been seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or the experience of
tangible object? Do we know whether there is at this moment kusala citta or
akusala citta after seeing?
People who have
practised in a center find it difficult to develop satipattana in daily life,
they find daily life distracting. One should check what one's goal is,
understanding realities or being calm and free from disturbances? Daily life
can be the measure of our understanding. When panna is truly panna it can
understand as there is seeing occurring now, hearing occurring now, it can
understand them naturally, in daily life. panna does not develop rapidly or
suddenly. We cannot determine that from now on panna should clearly understand
realities. panna develops when it discerns the dhamma which appears naturally,
in whatever situation or place one may be. We may believe that it is difficult
to be aware of realities while we are working, but the situation of our work
is daily life and any reality which appears can be the object of mindfulness.
Alan Weller wrote:
I do not separate
Dhamma from work. I think that one sentence concerning the Dhamma, spoken by
Alan Driver, can be applied and be of value in the work situation: "We
know from our own lives that we do not always give help when help is
needed." This can encourage us not to be neglectful of kusala in our work
situation. Another phrase to be remembered: "This moment should not be
lost". This can be a reminder not to be absorbed in work with akusala
citta. When we understand that this moment should not be lost we don't have to
think first or reflect first in order to be aware. Thus, understanding can be
applied in whatever situation, at different levels too: at the levels of sila,
of calm and of insight.
There is no self who
can cause the arising of any reality. We have to be so very patient to let
understanding arise by conditions and forget the trying and the wishing for
This moment should
not be lost. We acquire from the scriptures many valuable reminders to develop
understanding of nama and rupa. It is right understanding which should be
emphasized, not concentration or effort. When understanding develops
naturally, in daily life, there are also concentration and effort or energy
accompanying panna, they are cetasikas which perform their own functions. If
we think of concentration and effort there can easily be attachment, or, when
we worry about lack of concentration, there is aversion.
Someone asked Khun
Sujin whether he would have to stop reading in order to be aware of different
realities. He was wondering how panna could know different realities while he
was reading. Khun Sujin asked him whether during the time he was paying
respect to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and reciting the Pali texts,
he could, in between, also think of other things. There can be many moments of
ignorance in between, thus, ignorance can be extremely fast. Even so when
panna has been developed it is extremely fast. We underestimate the power of
panna. panna is different from what we think it is. We are full of the idea of
self and thus we imagine that panna can only know something if we first focus
on it and exert effort. We may think that it is not possible for panna to know
the difference between sense door process and mind door process, since the
different processes of citta run extremely fast. However, it can be known by
panna. It is known by panna at the first stage of "tender insight"
which is the beginning stage. Or we may mistakenly think that there cannot be
sati and panna in a sensedoor process. Also in sensedoor processes there are
conditions for akusala cittas or kusala cittas. When there are kusala cittas
they can be accompanied by panna or unaccompanied by panna, depending on
conditions. Nobody can tell panna to arise or not to arise, nobody can predict
the object of panna. When it arises it performs its function of understanding.
The panna which is
vipassana of the first stage of "tender insight" clearly knows rupa
as rupa and nama as nama, and it must know this through the minddoor. It is
useful to know more about this stage of insight, because then we will realize
what should be known and what we do not know yet. The rupas which are the
different sense objects are experienced through their corresponding sensedoors
and then through the minddoor. We may have doubts about this. We may believe
that through the minddoor there can only be thinking about concepts and not
the experience of rupas. We read in the "Atthasalini" (I, Part II,
Analysis of Terms, 72) that sense objects are experienced through the senses
and then through the mind-door. We read about the javana cittas (kusala cittas
or akusala cittas) arising in a sense-door process and then in the mind-door
.... It should be
understood that the javana cittas having any one of the objects arises through
two doors in the manner described. Thus the javana cittas experiencing visible
object arise at the eyedoor and also at the minddoor. The same is the case
with the javana cittas experiencing sound and the other sense objects.... The
"Atthasalini" states in the section on rupas (II, Book II, Rupa, the
four Great Essentials, 304) that the cognition through the mind-door
"falls into the stream of the fivefold cognition and goes along with
it." The minddoor process which succeeds the sensedoor process falls into
its stream since cittas succeed one another very rapidly. The rupa is
experienced through the sensedoor and then through the minddoor. When it is
experienced through the minddoor it has only just fallen away. During other
minddoor processes cittas can have as object a concept, such as the shape and
form of something.
The eyedoor process,
the eardoor process and the other sensedoor processes are each followed by a
minddoor process, but there are bhavanga-cittas in between the processes. Now,
at this moment, the different sensedoors are mixed up, they do not seem to be
demarcated by a minddoor process. It seems that seeing does not fall away and
that there can be hearing or the experience of tangible object at the same
time. This shows us that processes of citta succeed one another very rapidly.
The minddoor is hidden at this moment, it is hidden by the sensedoors. In
order to remind us of what we do not know yet Khun Sujin said: "One door
is bright, the other doors are dark." Only when there is seeing the world
is bright. But now it seems that the world keeps on being bright. There seems
to be seeing continuously.
At this moment we
know in theory that nama is the element which experiences and that rupa is the
element which does not experience anything. However, when there is, for
example, the experience of heat through the bodysense it is difficult to
distinguish nama from rupa. There can be awareness of only one object at a
time, either a nama or a rupa, and at that moment there is not "my
body". When we think of "bodily sensations" we think of a
"whole" and we are thoroughly mixing up nama and rupa. Then will
continue to cling to a "self".
In the beginning the
understanding of nama and rupa is bound to be vague and there may be awareness
of only a few namas and rupas. It depends on the accumulations of the
individual through which doors there is awareness. Even when the first stage
of vipassana nana has been reached there may not be clear understanding of
many kinds of realities. However, when that stage arises there is no more
doubt about the characteristic of nama and about the characteristic of rupa
which at those moments both appear through the minddoor. Then there is direct
understanding of nama and rupa. After this stage has been reached one must
continue to be mindful and develop understanding of all kinds of realities
which appear through the six doors. Khun Sujin said: The characteristic of
nama can only clearly appear when the minddoor appears. At the moment of the
first vipassana nana panna knows the characteristic of nama and the
characteristic of rupa. rupa is not different from rupa which usually
appears through the sensedoor. Visible object appears through the minddoor
just as naturally as when we see now, but at that moment it is not experienced
through the eyedoor but through the minddoor.
During a trip in the
North of Thailand Alan Driver asked Khun Sujin some questions about the first
vipassananana and I will quote the conversation: Alan: Does visible object
appear to be the same through the mind-door as through the eyedoor, or does it
appear differently at the moment of the first vipassananana? Khun Sujin: It is
the same, exactly the same. Alan: In that case how can one know the difference
between seeing and the experience through the minddoor? Khun Sujin: One knows
the difference between the characteristics of the sensedoors and the minddoor.
Alan: What is the difference?
Khun Sujin: When the
minddoor appears it is as if none of the sensedoors is appearing. That is at
the moment of vipassananana. One knows objects of the sensedoors one at a
time, but it is as if nothing is appearing through the sensedoors; the objects
appear only through the minddoor. But there must also be sensedoor processes,
otherwise sound, for example, could not appear. Sound proceeds with such speed
through the eardoor process and then reaches the minddoor process, so that it
can be experienced through the minddoor.
When someone asks
you, "Is there hearing?", you automatically think of the ears and
hearing. This is normal. At this moment the sensedoor process covers up the
function of the minddoor process which also "hears" the sound. When
there is vipassananana, however, there are all the time minddoor processes.
One rupa at a time and one nama at a time appears and is understood. The world
does not appear, there is no self, there is nothing else at all.
Alan: When the
sensedoor does not appear, what is it like?
Khun Sujin: Now there
are sensedoor processes, the sensedoor appears and the minddoor does not
appear. When the minddoor appears it is different from just now.
Alan: How is it?
Khun Sujin: Not
like now. There is sound, flavour, every thing. When the minddoor appears one
knows what it is like, there is no more doubt about the minddoor.
When we hear a sound at this moment we have a vague
knowledge of the characteristic of sound, but nama and rupa and all the
doorways are mixed up. Whereas when there is the first vipassananana there is
the direct understanding of the difference between nama and rupa. Panna
clearly knows this, it does not have to think or consider.
Is there doubt about
the minddoor? Does nama clearly appear as an element which experiences
something? When we realize what we do not know yet we will not erroneously
believe that we can have direct understanding of the arising and falling away
of nama and rupa. This can only be realized at a later stage. First Panna must
be developed to the stage that it can clearly distinguish between different
We should be grateful
to the Buddha for teaching us about all realities which naturally appear in
daily life. Thus we are able to test the truth of what he taught. He taught
that each reality arises because of its own conditions. For example, if there
were not eyesense and visible object, seeing-consciousness could not arise.
Eyesense and visible object are necessary conditions for seeing. The eyesense
is the rupa which is the physical base or place of origin for
seeing-consciousness. Seeing arises at that base. Hearing-consciousness arises
at the ear-base and each of the other sense cognitions have their
corresponding base. The rupas which are bases (vatthus) arise and fall away,
they do not last. The base for body-consciousness can be at any point of the
body, inside or on the outside. When we think of "body sensitivity"
we still have an idea that the body itself can experience something. The
bodysense is the base for body consciousness and also for the accompanying
bodily feeling which can be painful or pleasant. We dislike pain and we attach
great importance to bodily well being. When we know what exactly the bodysense
is it will help us to have less confusion about nama and rupa.
The word body
sensitivity can mislead us, the bodysense cannot experience anything. It can
be a condition for the experience of tangible object, for softness, hardness,
heat, cold, motion or pressure. There can be impingement only by one of these
rupas on one extremely small point of the bodysense at a time, and then
bodyconsciousness experiences that object just for a moment. That point of the
body is then the bodybase and the bodydoor, but it falls away immediately.
When there is the experience of a characteristic of rupa such as heat,
impinging on the rupa which is then bodybase, nothing else can at that moment
appear at other parts of the body. These parts are as it were completely numb,
they cannot be the base for bodyconsciousness and bodily feeling. Neither can
there be seeing or hearing at the same time, since there can be only one citta
at a time experiencing one object.
My husband pushed one
hand on his shoulder and one hand on his waist, and he thought that there
could be experience of hardness on two points at the same time. When there is
only thinking of the body as a whole and no awareness of one object at a time,
we will not know the truth. We are misled by sanna, the cetasika which is
remembrance. When there is sanna which remembers wrongly, not according to the
truth, it seems that there is "my whole body". All the rupa of the
body arise and then fall away immediately, never to come back again. Since we
hold on to memories of what has been experienced and fallen away already we do
not know the truth. There is "attasanna". wrong remembrance of self,
and "nicca sanna", wrong remembrance of things as permanent. Do we
still think that the whole hand can "feel" something? Then there is
wrong sanna. Because of association of different experiences in the past, also
in the recent past, we form up the idea of a hand which feels something.
In the commentary to
the "Vibhamga", the "Dispeller of Delusion" (Sammohavinodana,
Classification of the Khandhas) it is explained that sanna is like a mirage
which deceives us:
also is like a mirage in the sense of being unsubstantial, and likewise in the
sense of being ungraspable. For one cannot grasp it and drink it or wash in it
or bathe in it or fill a pot with it. Furthermore, just as a mirage quivers
and seems like the movement of waves, so indeed perception also, divided up as
perception of blue, etc, for the purpose of experiencing blue, etc., shakes
and quivers. And just as a mirage deceives many and makes them say: "This
is blue, beautiful, pleasant, permanent." So too in the case of yellow
and so on. Thus it is like a mirage by deception also.
We may not have
considered to what extent wrong sanna influences our whole life. We are misled
by the outer appearance of things. When children play with dolls and toy
animals they live in their own dream world which they take very seriously.
When a toy is broken or is lost they cry. Is it not pitiful that we do not
really grow up, but keep on playing in our dream world? Because of sanna which
remembers wrongly we hold on to all objects which are experienced. We have a
short happy time with the five khandhas which arise, are present for an
extremely short time and then fall away. We cry about our losses.
We can begin to be
mindful of different characteristics of nama and rupa, this moment should not
be lost. The study of the Abhidhamma helps a great deal to eliminate
misunderstandings' about different nama and rupas. When for example hardness
appears that characteristic can be known as rupa, not self. We should not try
to catch the place which is the bodybase at a particular moment. Then there is
thinking instead of awareness of the reality which appears. The rupa which is
bodybase cannot be experienced through touch, it can only be experienced
through the minddoor. This rupa falls away immediately. We read in the
scriptures that realities are not self, anatta, but anatta may only be a word
to us. Does the reality which is not self already appear through eyes, ears,
nose, tongue, bodysense and minddoor? If we still confuse the different
doorways it seems that people, houses and trees appear, and they seem to be
real. Seeing is one experience and it experiences only colour, it has nothing
to do with hearing or the experience of tangible object. It is only when panna
has been developed to the degree of the first vipassananana that no world, no
person, no self appears, only nama and rupa.
When the different
objects experienced through the six doors are not clearly separated we tend to
think long stories about what is not real. The object is then a concept. We
are obsessed by our thoughts and we cling to them, and thus there are still
conditions for rebirth. The arahat also thinks, but he has no defilements, for
him there are no conditions for rebirth. We read in the "Kindred
Sayings" (II, Nidana vagga, Kindred Sayings on Cause, Ch IV, par. 40,
Will), that the Buddha, while he was at Savatthi, said to the monks:
That which we
will, monks, and that which we intend to do, and that with which we are
occupied: this becomes an object for the persistence of consciousness.
The object, being there, becomes a basis for consciousness.
Consciousness being based and having grown, there comes a bending; there being
a bending, there is a going to a coming; there being a going to a coming,
there is decease and rebirth; there being decease and rebirth, birth, old age
and death happen in the future, and grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow and
despair. Even such is the entire mass of dukkha.
This happens also if we do not will, or intend to do,
but are occupied about something. But if we do not will, nor intend to do, nor
are occupied about something, these things do not happen. Even such is the
ceasing of this entire mass of dukkha.
This sutta is
about daily life. Time and again we are absorbed in our thinking and planning
and there is forgetfulness of realities. We plan what we are going to do today
or tomorrow. However, if there were no citta which thinks we could not plan
anything. If we remember this there can be conditions for awareness of the
citta which thinks and it can be known as a conditioned nama. At that moment
we are not obsessed by our thinking. There will be thinking again and again
because there are conditions for it, but through awareness and right
understanding it can be known as anatta.
Nina van Gorkom