Letter about Vipassana IV

Dear Dhamma friends all over the world,

     We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (I, Sagatha vagga, Ch IV, Mara, 2, par. 7, The Sphere
     of Sense) that the Buddha taught the monks about the six spheres of contact. Mara
     wanted to confuse the monks and therefore he made a terrible noise so that they
     thought that the earth was splitting open. The Buddha told the monks that it was only
     Mara. He addressed Mara in a verse:

          Sights, sounds, and tastes and smells and tangibles,
          All impressions and ideas about them,
          These are the direful bait that draws the world;
          Herein the world infatuated lies.
          All this if he get past and leave behind,
          The Buddha's follower, with heedful mind,
          Passing beyond the range of  Mara's might,
          Like the high sun fills the world with light.

     We then read that Mara was sad and disappeared.

     Contact, the cetasika which is phassa, contacts objects through six doors. There is no
     end to contact, because phassa accompanies each citta. Each citta which arises and
     then falls away is succeeded by the next citta. The inner ayatanas (sense-bases) are
     the condition that phassa can contact the sense objects which are outer ayatanas so
     that citta can experience them. We are engrossed in the sense objects, but through the
     development of right understanding we can pass beyond the range of Mara. According
     to the commentary to this sutta , the "Saratthapakasini" (Thai edition p. 329), the
     range of Mara are the three classes of planes where one can be reborn: the sensuous
     planes, the rupa-brahma planes and the arupa-brahma planes. When there is no more
     rebirth one escapes the snare of Mara.

     We are born in the human plane which is a sensuous plane. Our birth in the human
     plane is conditioned by kusala kamma performed by cittas of the sense sphere,
     kamavacara cittas. In the human plane there are opportunities time and again to
     experience sense objects. We are engrossed in all the sense objects and we keep on
     thinking about them. All these objects can only appear because there are cittas arising
     in processes which experience objects through the six doors. We may have learnt this
     through the study of the Abhidhamma but since we are so absorbed in the objects
     themselves we forget to consider citta, the reality which experiences them. The
     Abhidhamma teaches us about daily life and thus the study of it can motivate us to
     find out more about all realities which occur in our daily life. The Abhidhamma can be
     a supporting condition for the arising of sati, mindfulness, which can be directly aware
     of realities which appear.

     When visible object impinges on the eyesense there are conditions for seeing, but
     visible object appears only for an extremely short moment. It is the same with sound
     and the other sense objects, they are all insignificant dhammas, they appear just for a
     short moment and then they fall away. Also the cittas which arise in the different
     sense-door processes and experience the objects fall away very rapidly. Cittas arise
     and fall away but each citta is succeeded by the next citta and thus it seems that citta
     can stay. After the experience of visible object, sound and the other sense objects we
     form up concepts on account of these objects. Our world seems to be full of people
     and things and we keep on thinking about them. We are quite occupied with thinking
     and we take the things we think about very seriously. However, thinking only occurs
     because citta arises, thinks about something and then falls away.

     Each citta experiences an object, and the object can be an absolute reality, a nama or
     rupa, or a concept. We cannot predict which object will impinge the next moment on
     which doorway. Visible object, sound or the other sense objects can be pleasant or
     unpleasant. The experience of pleasant sense objects or unpleasant sense objects is
     vipakacitta which is conditioned by kusala kamma or akusala kamma performed in
     the past. There isn't anybody who can control vipaka. Vipakacittas just experience the
     pleasant sense object or the unpleasant sense object, they do not like it or dislike it.
     When there  is like or dislike there are already akusala cittas arising.
     After the moments of vipakacittas there are, in the case of non-arahats, seven akusala
     cittas or kusala cittas which experience the object. When there are akusala cittas there
     is unwise attention to the object and when there are kusala cittas there is wise
     attention to the object.

     We can notice that we all have different inclinations and these are conditioned by
     what has been accumulated in the past. Kusala citta and akusala citta arise and then
     fall away, but the succeeding citta carries on the inclination to kusala or to akusala and
     thus there are conditions for the arising of kusala citta or akusala citta later on. Kusala
     citta and akusala citta of the past condition the arising of kusala citta and akusala citta
     at the present, and the arising of kusala citta and akusala citta at the present are in
     their turn conditions for the cittas arising in the future.

     If our reactions today are conditioned by past accumulations it may seem that a fate
     reigns our life. Someone was wondering whether there is no possibility to control
     one's inclinations, to exert effort for the development of kusala. The inclinations
     which have been accumulated in the past condition cittas which arise today but this
     does not mean that inclinations cannot be changed. If we listen to the Dhamma as it is
     explained by the right friend in the Dhamma, and if we study the Dhamma and
     consider it carefully , conditions are being built up for the arising of sati. Sati can be
     directly aware of realities as they appear in our daily life and then right understanding
     can be developed. Right understanding must be developed from life to life but there is
     no self who develops it. The development of understanding depends on conditions. If
     there were no conditions how could it arise and develop? We are used to an idea of self
     who can exert effort but there is no one. We read in the "Visuddhimagga" (XVI, 90) :

          Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;
          The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there;
          Nibbana is, but not the man who attains it;
          Although there is a path, there is no goer.

     There is a path and it can be developed but there is no self who can develop it. If there
     is no development of right understanding we are tied down to all the sense objects, we
     are tied down to the cycle of birth and death. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (III,
     Khandha vagga, Middle Fifty, Ch V, par. 99, The Leash) that the Buddha said at

     Just as, monks, a dog tied up by a leash to a strong stake or pillar, keeps running
     round and revolving round and round that stake or pillar, even so, monks, the
     untaught many folk... regard body as self, regard feeling, perception, activities,
     consciousness as self... they run and revolve round and round from body to body,
     from feeling to feeling, from perception to perception, from activities to activities,
     from consciousness to consciousness... they are not released therefrom, they are not
     released from rebirth, from old age and decay, from sorrow and grief, from woe,
     lamentation and despair... they are not released from dukkha, I declare...

     We then read that the ariyan disciple who does not take any reality for self is released
     from dukkha. In the following sutta, "The Leash" II, we read again about the simile of
     the dog which is tied:

     Just like a dog, monks, tied up by a leash to a strong stake or pillar- if he goes, he goes
     up to that stake or pillar; if he stands still, he stands close to that stake or pillar; if he
     squats down, he squats close to that stake or pillar; if he lies down, he lies close to that
     stake or pillar.

     Those who take the five khandhas for self are like that dog which is tied down. They
     are always close to the five khandhas, they are tied down to it. A dog tied to a pole
     which is running around it and always has to stay close to it is a pitiful sight. So long as
     we take the khandhas for self we are not free. Through the development of
     satipatthana the idea of self can be eradicated.

     The Buddha taught the four "Applications of Mindfulness": mindfulness of body, of
     feelings, of cittas and of dhammas. Some people think that they should select one of
     these subjects, such as body or feelings, and only develop these. However, there
     should be awareness of any object which appears. If we try to select an object there is
     an idea of self who can control the appearance of particular objects. It depends on
     conditions whether visible object, sound, akusala citta or any other object appears.
     Sati can be aware of any object just as it naturally appears in our daily life. We do not
     have to classify the object of awareness as one of the four Applications of
     Mindfulness. At one moment there may be awareness of rupa, the next moment there
     may be awareness of citta or feeling, nobody can predict of which object there will be
     awareness. We should learn that all realities are anatta, they cannot be directed by a

     The Buddha taught the four Applications of Mindfulness in order to remind us to be
     aware of different kinds of nama and rupa as they naturally appear in our daily life.
     We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Maha-vagga, Book III, Kindred Sayings on the
     Applications of Mindfulness, Ch V, par. 9, Feelings) that the Buddha said, while he
     was at savatthi

     Monks, there are these three feelings. What three? Feeling that is pleasant, feeling
     that is painful, feeling that is neither pleasant nor painful. These are the three

     For the full understanding of these three feelings the four applications of mindfulness
     ought to be cultivated... We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Kindred Sayings on the
     Way, Ch VII, par. 9, Feelings) that the Buddha said, while he was at Savatthi:

     Monks, there are these three feelings. What three? Feeling that is pleasant, feeling
     that is painful, feeling that is neither pleasant nor painful. These are the three. It is for
     the full comprehension of these three feelings that the ariyan eightfold Path must be

     Feeling is nama, it feels, thus it is different from rupa which does not know anything.
     The difference between nama and rupa has to be clearly discerned before panna can
     realize realities as impermanent, dukkha and anatta. In order to fully understand
     feeling there must be awareness of the characteristics of all the different kinds of
     nama and rupa which appear in daily life. Then right understanding of realities can
     grow. That is the development of the "Four Applications of Mindfulness" or
     satipatthana, that is the development of the eightfold Path. We do not have to think of
     classifications while we develop the Path in being aware of any object which appears.

     Do we know feelings as they are? Feelings change all the time since they arise and fall
     away together with the citta they accompany. We may be aware of pleasant feeling or
     unpleasant feeling, but we should also know the characteristic of indifferent feeling.
     When there is seeing the accompanying feeling is indifferent feeling, there cannot be
     pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling. We should not wait with mindfulness and delay
     it, then "this moment is lost", as Khun Sujin says. When we feel pain we are inclined
     to think that pain lasts. We think in this way because we do not realize the different
     characteristics of realities which appear. When there is impact of tangible object such
     as hardness on the bodysense there can be conditions for painful feeling. Painful
     feeling accompanying body-consciousness which is vipakacitta only arises for one
     moment and then it falls away together with the citta. Tangible object which impinges
     on the bodysense falls away and so does the rupa which is the bodysense on which the
     tangible object impinges. We tend to forget that the bodysense on which tangible
     object impinges is only an extremely small part of the body , a rupa which arises and
     then falls away. We keep on thinking of "my sensitive body". Right understanding
     reduces the importance of "my body" or "I". We should "belittle ourselves from head
     to toe". When we remember this we can read what is written in the suttas about
     endurance with more understanding. We read, for example, in the "Discourse on all
     the Cankers" (Middle Length Sayings I, no.2) that the Buddha spoke about ways to
     eliminate defilements. We read about endurance:

     And what, monks, are the cankers to be got rid of by endurance? In this teaching,
     monks, a monk, wisely reflective, is one who bears cold, heat, hunger, thirst, the
     touch of gadfly, mosquito, wind and sun, creeping things, ways of speech that are
     irksome, unwelcome; he is of a character to bear bodily feelings which, arising , are
     painful, acute, sharp, shooting, disagreeable, miserable, deadly...

     When one is wisely reflective one realizes unpleasant experiences as namas which
     arise because of their own conditions. Paramattha dhammas, nama and rupa, fall
     away immediately, they are insignificant dhammas, they are very trivial. If we
     understand this through awareness of nama and rupa, there will be less attachment or
     aversion. We immediately form up concepts on account of paramattha dhammas
     which are experienced and we keep on thinking about concepts for a long time. If we
     realize when we are thinking of concepts, we will attach less importance to them.

     When we pay attention to the shape and form of things there is thinking of concepts,
     but there could not be thinking of shape and form if there were no seeing. Seeing sees
     colour or visible object but there is usually ignorance of these realities. They arise and
     then fall away but they are not known. When one considers realities more often there
     will be more conditions for awareness of them. Someone said that the word colour
     may be misleading, because when one recognizes red or blue there is already thinking.
     However, red or blue are seen without having to label them red or blue. These colours
     are not the same and they appear through the eyedoor. If there were no eyesense all
     the different colours could not appear. The "Dhammasangani" (Book II, Ch II, 617)
     gives many details about colour. Colour can be blue, yellow, red, white, black,
     crimson, bronze, green, of the hue of the mango-bud, shady, glowing, light, dim, dull,
     frosty, smoky or dusty. It can be the colour of the moon, sun, stars, a mirror, a gem, a
     shell, a pearl, a cat's eye, gold or silver. The aim of giving so many details is to remind
     us to be aware of colour, no matter it is the colour of the moon, of a gem or any other
     colour. Satipatthana can be developed in a natural way. Also when we look at the
     moon or at gems there is colour and it can be known as the reality which can be seen.
     We do not have to make an effort to look for a special colour in order to be aware of it.

     The "Dhammasangani" gives in the same section (621) examples of different kinds of
     sounds: That sound which is derived from the four great Elements, is invisible and
     reacting, such as the sound of drums, of tabors, of chank-shells, of tom-toms, of
     singing, of music; clashing sounds, manual sounds, the noise of people, the sound of
     the concussion of substances, of wind, of water, sounds human and other than
     human, or whatever sound there is...

     This passage reminds us to be aware of sound, no matter which kind of sound it is.
     Sounds are not the same, they are high or low, loud or soft, they have different
     qualities. We are so used to the familiar sound of the shuffling of feet, of the turning
     of pages or of pen or pencil when we are writing. We let such moments pass without
    awareness. Khun Sujin said: "Don't let sound go by without being aware of it." We are
     usually absorbed in the meaning of sounds, thus in concepts, but we can begin to be
     aware of the characteristic of sound. This is the way to know it as a reality which can
     be heard. Right understanding reduces the importance of the meaning of something,
     of concepts. Patience and perseverance are needed for the development of right
     understanding. Life passes so rapidly , we are advancing in years and we do not know
     what our next life will be like. We do not know whether we will have the opportunity
     to develop panna again and should we therefore not speed up our practice? We all
     may be inclined to think in this way, but are we aware of such a moment of thinking?
     If we are not mindful of it as a conditioned reality we are neglecting the Dhamma, not
     profiting from the treasures of the teachings in full. We are so absorbed in the stories
     we are thinking of and are forgetful of the reality of citta which thinks. This happens
     all the time when one plans to go somewhere else in order to have more sati. It
     depends on conditions where one is, anything can happen any time. If we try to
     control our life we will not be able to see that all the different moments are anattas.

     Lokuttara citta cannot arise all of a sudden, insight has to be developed in stages, on
     and on. It has to be developed just now, not at some other time. Defilements are
     anatta, it is not possible to get rid of them quickly, they arise because they have been
     accumulated for aeons, they are conditioned. They can be realized as nama when they
     appear. If we get to know them as they are there is already a beginning of a cure,
     panna does its work. Panna is the most important factor because it is panna which can
     eradicate ignorance and wrong view. There is no need to think so much of effort,
     volition and concentration. Don't we usually think of effort, volition and
     concentration with an idea of self who wants to exert control? We should carefully
     examine ourselves as to this point because such an idea hinders the development of
     right understanding. We may not attain enlightenment in this life, but what has been
     learnt is never lost. It has been accumulated and it can appear in another life. A
     moment of right understanding now, of our natural life, is a precious moment. It is
     more valuable than thinking of the future.

     We read in the sutta "The Sphere of Sense" (Kindred Sayings I) which was quoted
     above, that the Buddha "was instructing, enlightening, inciting and inspiring the
     monks by a sermon on the six spheres of contact". This wording is also used in the
     previous sutta "The Bowl", and there the commentary (the Saratthapakasini, Thai
     edition, p. 328) gives an explanation. The Buddha was inciting the monks so that they
     would apply the Dhamma. In this connection the Pali word "samadana" is used, which
     means undertaking what one considers worth while. The Buddha preached to the
     monks so that they would consider the Dhamma and have right understanding. He
     instructed them so that they would have energy ( ussaha) and perseverance for the
     application of the Dhamma. The Buddha taught about all the realities of daily life and
     these can be verified. The commentary explains that the monks were inspired,
     gladdened and purified because of the benefit they acquired from the Dhamma. Khun
     Sujin writes in her book "A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas" ( Citta, Ch 16) about this
     passage in the commentary:

     ...One may be unhappy and one may worry about it that one is becoming older and
     that sati arises very seldom. When one worries the citta is akusala. One should not
     because of the Dhamma have akusala cittas, one should not be worried. The Buddha
     taught the Dhamma in order that people would be encouraged to apply it, develop it
     with perseverance and be inspired by it. All akusala arises when there are conditions ,
     there is no self who can prevent its arising. When akusala citta has already arisen, one
     should not be downhearted, but one can take courage if there can be awareness of the
     characteristic of akusala which appears. One should not waste any opportunity to be
     aware. Then one will know that also akusala dhamma which appears at such a
     moment is not a being, not a person or self. One will clearly see that at the moment of
     awareness there is no akusala, no downheartedness. One will not be troubled about
     akusala if one does not take it for self... The monks were inspired and gladdened
     because of the benefit they acquired from the teachings. The Commentary adds : "We
     all can attain this benefit." We can really benefit from the teachings when satipatthana
     is developed. The development of satipatthana should not make us discouraged. The
     realities which appear can be penetrated and realized as they are. They arise and fall
     away, they are not self, not a being or person. When one considers the great value of
     the truth and knows that one can realize it one day, although not today, one will not
     be disheartened. One should not worry about it that one cannot know realities as they
     are today. Sati can arise and begin to be aware today, and then the characteristics of
     realities will surely one day be wholly penetrated and clearly known as they are.

     When one sees that the truth of Dhamma is for our benefit and that it can be attained,
     one will not become discouraged. One will continue to listen and to study the realities
     the Buddha taught in detail, and then there will not be forgetfulness of realities, there
     will be conditions for the arising of sati.

                                                                                                                          With metta,

                                                                                                                       Nina van Gorkom

Letter about Vipassana V

Dear Dhamma friends,

We are disturbed by aversion, dosa, which often arises in a day and we would like to get rid of it. We would like to have more patience in difficult circumstances and more loving kindness towards others, but kusala citta does not arise very often.

If we want to cultivate patience and lovingkindness, we should see the disadvantage not only of dosa but also of all other kinds of akusala. We find it unpleasant to have dosa, but dosa is conditioned by attachment, lobha. Our attachment to pleasant objects conditions dosa when we do not get what we want. There are many moments of akusala we overlook. We may notice that there is akusala citta when we act or speak in an unpleasant way, but there are countless moments of thinking which are akusala and these pass unnoticed. In which way do we think of others? When we do not think with wholesomeness, there are akusala cittas which think. For example, when we notice someone who is dressed in a peculiar way we may find him funny looking, and there may be conceit. We compare him with ourselves, he does not conform to the way we think someone should dress. When there is conceit there is no lovingkindness. When we are annoyed about something which is very unpleasant we know that there is dosa, but we may not notice dosa when something is not quite as it should be. Do we have kusala cittas or akusala cittas when we taste fruit which is overripe, when we see that there is a button missing, when we feel a little too cold or too hot? We find it very important how the "self" is feeling. We only want pleasant objects and we forget that seeing, hearing and the other sense-cognitions are produced by kamma. We cannot see kamma, it has been committed in the past, but nobody can change the result produced by kamma. If we do not accumulate kusala there will be evermore akusala accumulated from life to life.  when we notice that there are so few moments of lovingkindness, metta, in a day and so many akusala cittas we may become discouraged. However, there is no self who can prevent the arising of akusala and cause metta to arise immediately.  Akusala citta as well as kusala citta are namas which arise because of their own conditions, they are beyond control. It depends on one's accumulated inclinations what type of citta arises at a particular moment. When there is through the study of the Dhamma more right understanding of the different characteristics of kusala and akusala there are conditions for more kusala. Through the Dhamma there can gradually be more wholesomeness in one's life. If we want to develop metta we must have a precise knowledge of its characteristic when it arises. When there is metta one is not selfish, one only thinks of the wellbeing of someone else. There is kindness without expecting anything in return.

Lovingkindness is one of the four "Divine Abidings", Brahma-viharas. The other Brahmaviharas are: compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These are subjects of samatha or tranquil meditation. Through the development of samatha there can be temporary freedom from akusala. However, samatha cannot be developed without right understanding. Panna must know the characteristic of true calm which is kusala. When we hear the word samatha we may think that we have to go into seclusion in order to have concentration and that we should recite for example the "metta sutta". However, the development of metta is not a matter of trying to concentrate or reciting. Metta must be developed in daily life when we are with others, then we can come to know its true characteristic. Foremost is right understanding which knows the characteristic of metta when it appears.

We read in the scriptures about people who developed samatha to the degree of jhana, absorption, but we should know that not everybody is able to attain jhana. People who had accumulated great skill for jhana could attain different stages of jhana, but, as the "Visuddhimagga" (Ch XII, 7) states, jhana is extremely difficult and only very few people can attain it. One has to live in seclusion and many conditions have to be fulfilled in order to attain it. At the moments of jhana there are no sense impressions and the "hindrances" are temporarily subdued. The "hindrances" are: sensuous desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. However, through samatha defilements cannot be eradicated.

Through right understanding developed in vipassana defilements can be eradicated. We think of ourselves and others as persons, we cling to a concept of "self", but through vipassana we learn to see what we really are. There are only citta, cetasika and rupa which arise and then fall away immediately. When someone goes away or dies, we can think of a name, but also a name is forgotten soon. We read in the "Sutta Nipata" (on Decay, vs. 804-813):

As a man awakened from sleep no longer sees what happened in his dream, similarly one does not see a loved one who is dead. Those people who were seen and heard and called by their names as such and such, only their names remain when they have passed away.

When we are reborn there is another life and we are no longer "this person", but also right now there isn't "this person" who exists. We should often consider where our body now comes from. We have eyes and ears, but we cannot notice what causes eyesense and earsense. It is kamma performed in the past. The rupas which form up our body are conditioned by kamma, citta, temperature and food. We are seeing and hearing time and again. Seeing and hearing are cittas produced by kamma. They arise and then fall away immediately. When we think of other people we usually think of names. We should consider the difference between names and paramathadhammas, absolute realities, nama and rupa which can be directly experienced without having to name them. We live mostly in the world of our thoughts, we keep on thinking of stories about people, about their names, about concepts. However, in order to know the truth we should learn to be aware of realities as they appear one at a time through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense or minddoor. Then we will eventually be able to see realities as they are: impermanent, dukkha and anatta. When we look at a chair it does not seem to fall away. A chair is a concept we can think of, but it is not a reality. The characteristics of impermanence, dukkha and anatta can only be realized of paramattha dhammas, of namas such as seeing or hearing, and of rupas such as visible object or sound, which appear one at a time. There are many moments we think of concepts, but also thinking can be known as a conditioned nama, and in this way we will have less clinging to self.

Vipassana should be developed in daily life, it is right understanding of all realities which are in us and around us. The object of vipassana are paramattha dhammas as they appear one at a time through one of the six doors. The object  of samatha is one of the meditation subjects and the aim is to have true calm, temporary freedom from akusala. When metta is being developed not a paramattha dhamma but a person is the object. We can develop both vipassana and metta in daily life. There are many moments that we think of people and instead of thinking with attachment, aversion or conceit, we can learn to think with kindness. Metta is a reality and thus it can be object of mindfulness, it can be known as a kind of nama which is not self. Metta is one of the "perfections" (paramis) which should be developed together with satipatthana from life to life. Through the development of metta we learn to be less selfish and thus also metta is, together with all the other sobhana cetasikas which are accumulated, a supporting condition for panna which can eventually eradicate the wrong view of self. Satipatthana conditions metta to arise more often. When there is awareness of the different cittas we learn to know their characteristics more clearly, we learn to know when the citta is kusala and when akusala. When metta arises and there is awareness of it we will be less inclined to take it for self. Samatha and vipassana can be developed naturally in our daily life and there is no rule about the moments they are being developed. If we think that we should first have moments of samatha in order to have more moments of satipatthana later on, there is wishing and this is akusala, it is not maha-kusala citta accompanied by panna

Someone wrote to me that the development of jhana would be beneficial for the development of vipassana. He wrote:

Jhana can provide a very strong basis of concentration serving the development of insight.
Though jhana is not strictly necessary to develop vipassana, it can prove very effective in suppressing the hindrances and thereby allows the development of insight to proceed with special strength and consistency. Jhana fulfils the factor of Right Concentration in the noble eightfold Path.

The factors of the eightfold Path must accompany right understanding of the eightfold Path in order to be a Path factor, and the object must be a nama or a rupa.

The factors of the eightfold Path are cetasikas which all assist the citta which develops right understanding of paramattha dhammas, of the reality appearing right now. When there is right understanding of the reality which appears there is also right thinking, vitakka, which assists right understanding, it "hits" the object which appears so that panna can penetrate its characteristic and know it as it is. There is also right effort, which is effort or energy to develop understanding of the object which appears, it strengthens and supports panna at that moment.

There is mindfulness of that object, otherwise there could not be development of panna.  There is concentration, samadhi, also, it is concentration on the paramattha dhamma which appears, just for that moment. As to the factors which are sila, they arise when there is an opportunity for them. When there is a moment of right awareness and right understanding the eightfold Path is being developed. One can also say, satipatthana is being developed, or vipassana is being developed. It is the same. The development of the eightfold Path is not a matter of developing concentration isolated from the other factors of the eightfold Path. When there is right understanding of a paramattha dhamma which appears there is already right concentration which arises naturally, because of conditions. At that moment right understanding is assisted by the other Path factors and there is no need to think of Pathfactors or name them.

When one would encourage people to develop jhana as a foundation for vipassana many misunderstandings will arise. People may not know what true calm is, they may not know what jhana is. They do not realize that the objects of vipassana and samatha are different. We read in the Visuddhimagga that jhana can be a base for the development of vipassana. However, we should stress again and again that this can only be so when there are the five masteries (vasis): mastery of adverting and of entering jhana at any time, at any place, resolving on its duration, emerging at any time, at any place and reviewing the jhana factors, at any time, at any place. Only then the jhana-citta can arise so naturally, that it is a reality of one's life and thus it can be object of awareness. It can be a proximate cause or a base for insight. But even those who have such skill cannot omit being aware of paramattha dhammas, namas and rupas appearing one at a time. The three characteristics of namas and rupas have to be realized, no matter one develops jhana or not.

We often read in the scriptures about people who developed jhana and insight and then attained arahatship. Also before the Buddha's enlightenment people developed jhana. The attainment of jhana is not specifically Buddhist, but the Buddha taught that one should not take jhana citta for self.  Therefore for those who could attain jhana the jhanacitta should be object of satipatthana. The Buddha spoke about jhana because he included everything in his teaching, for  completeness, for the beautifying of the teaching. He took account of all kinds of temperament.

I have noticed that people are inclined to stress concentration in the practice of vipassana, also when they do not intend to develop jhana first. They think that there must be a purified momentary concentration by suppressing the hindrances first and then there can be uninterrupted mindfulness.   However, defilements should be known as they are, as not self,
that is the only way leading to their eradication. Seeing should be known as only a nama, and also akusala citta which is likely to follow seeing immediately should be known as a kind of nama. Is there not time and again like or dislike of the different objects appearing through the six doors? Should these not be known as they are? We should not stay ignorant of the akusala arising on account of the objects appearing through the six doors. We read in the "Kindred Sayings" (V, Mahavagga, Kindred Sayings on the Way, Ch VIII, par. 7, Hindrances):

Monks, there are these five hindrances. What five? The hindrance of sensual desire, of malevolence, of sloth and torpor, of restlessness and worry and of doubt. These are the five hindrances.  It is for the full comprehension, realization, wearing down and abandoning of these five hindrances that the ariyan eightfold Path must be cultivated.

In the beginning there cannot yet be clear understanding of nama as nama and of rupa as rupa. Beginning is beginning.  Generally people cannot accept that, they want to stress exertion, volitional control, doing this or that special technique first, before developing awareness of nama and rupa.  Any reality appearing in daily life can be the object of satipatthana. From the beginning one should understand that seeing is anatta, it arises because kamma produces it, nobody can produce his own seeing. In its train there are immediately javana cittas which are either kusala or akusala, but mostly akusala. They have already arisen before one realizes it. They are beyond control, anatta. We have to begin now being aware of nama and rupa, they are not abstractions. We know that seeing sees, hearing hears, but what about this moment? We learn about processes of cittas, but do these not occur now?  Different things appear, but they could not appear if there were no cittas arising in processes. When we are fast asleep we do not know who we are or where we are, there is no house, no book , nothing appears. All these things appear as soon as we wake up. Realities appear already, we should not try to do anything about them. Some people say, "I had to break off my meditation because of sickness, stress of circumstances or work." No, when vipassana is being naturally developed in daily life one will not break off its development. I believe we should have more understanding of this moment, and then of a next moment, and that we should consider the intricacy of citta which is so variegated in the life of each one of us.  There is no use of thinking, "when will I attain this or that stage of insight or enlightenment", it depends on panna and the other sobhana cetasikas which have been accumulated, they can condition the arising of vipassana nana when it is the right time.

The writer of the letter thought that one should not say that realities are "beyond control" and that one should not say that it depends on one's accumulations whether kusala citta or akusala citta arises. He is inclined to stress volitional control. He said that, although one cannot have absolute control, there must be effort and a certain amount of control, otherwise one would be a victim of fate, one could not do anything.

Alan Weller wrote about this subject:

I think that time and again we need to be reminded of the uncontrollability of realities in order to develop awareness of whatever reality appears naturally. Otherwise there will be the idea of self having effort, energy, etc. When we hear the word uncontrollable it does not mean we are the victims of fate, but we have to carefully consider how to develop the Path. The understanding of the Dhamma is the condition for wholesomeness at different levels, not control. Each moment of being awake we accumulate either kusala or akusala. Considering the Dhamma more is the condition for accumulating more kusala, but that also depends on previous accumulation. It is better not to mind or care what reality is there, but just understand it. This is for me the subtlety of the teachings. It is so necessary to consider a lot in order not to be misled by desire or the idea of self. The understanding of uncontrollability can help us to develop understanding and not to accumulate more ignorance. It can help us to be natural in our development of kusala. No matter how busy we are, kusala at whatever level can arise any time by its own conditions. This understanding can help us to be detached from our practice. We do not try. We can become patient with lack of results, with our akusala. The practice can become a very natural part of our daily life.  We do not limit it by thinking of a certain place or situation, or us making effort now and then. Confidence in the Dhamma, a sense of urgency, concentration, these are different realities which work by themselves. They grow as the understanding of the Dhamma develops. There is no one besides these realities. This moment is either kusala or akusala, a keener understanding will realize this more and more deeply and this will lead to turning away from akusala. If we do not understand this moment as akusala, we will accumulate akusala. Seeing or hearing without understanding is dangerous. We should find out whether this moment is akusala or kusala.

I learn to be more considerate in speech and actions, also as regards seemingly unimportant things, which are often overlooked in daily life, for example, not leaving dirty washing or cups around, since this is unpleasant for others. There are many examples like this so close at hand. Dhamma is in front of us all the time.

When I use the expression "beyond control" I do not mean a fate, I only want to explain that realities are anatta. People want to do so many things, instead of understanding realities just as they naturally appear. If one really scrutinizes oneself is there not an idea of "I do it, I want to make progress"? There must be, so long as we are not sotapannas, and this we need reminders all the time. There can be awareness even of such moments.

When I say that it depends on one's accumulations of kusala and akusala what type of citta arises I do not mean that we are in a hopeless situation. Accumulations are not something static, they change each moment. At each moment a new accumulation is added. This is hopeful, if there were no accumulation, how could we learn to have more metta, or how could satipatthana be developed? It is not true that nothing can be done. We should consider the Dhamma and study more, and verify what we read in our own life. Hearing the Dhamma conditions more kusala. However, some people may hear the Dhamma but it does not mean anything to them. Why? They have no accumulations for it.

If someone thinks that he is a hopeless victim of his accumulations and cannot develop understanding, it is a moment of thinking which is akusala. When he thinks, "I cannot", he thinks so because of his lack of understanding of conditions. When there is the development of right understanding it can understand this moment only. Dhamma is subtle and intricate, one really needs to consider it carefully. All moments of consideration of realities are accumulated, they are never lost. Thus understanding can grow and grow, until the time has come for direct awareness without thinking about realities. Then another step has been taken. Nobody can plan or control the arising of the stages of insight and enlightenment. Can we accept this or is there a secret resistance against this fact?  We want to control all the time. The wish to control leads one away from developing understanding naturally in daily life. Some people want to sit and concentrate first on breathing, or on rupas of the body they believe they can feel moving. One may be inclined to do something else first, everything else except knowing the present moment. Thus it is understandable that some people like to stress volitional control more than panna.  Volition is like a supervisor of the accompanying cetasikas, but it supervises them only at that one moment that it arises together with them. It cannot call panna to come forward when there is no panna at that moment. There is kusala volition and akusala volition, and they are different all the time. They are conditioned by the accompanying dhammas and in their turn they also condition the accompanying dhammas. Volition is not a factor of the eightfold Path. Viriya is, but it is energy or courage for being aware and developing understanding of the reality which is appearing. It must arise together with right understanding of the eightfold Path in order to perform its function, and it prevents one from becoming disheartened about the development. When we read about striving we should not think of striving in isolation of the other factors, just striving and everything will be all right. That is what some people may think, and then there is still an idea of self who controls, who strives, even though one says that one knows  that everything is anatta. It is by right understanding that accumulations can be changed. I am the frequent victim of my own accumulations, this is true, because I am not an arahat yet. But realizing this is already a beginning of a cure because one sees that akusala is not self, that it is a conditioned nama.

There should be a sense of urgency and striving, so much so that one does not delay being aware of the reality appearing now, even if it is unpleasant or even if it is akusala. Not going apart first, inducing calm first, suppressing akusala first. That is the right effort the Buddha meant, it is nothing else but effort for awareness right now. No excuses of being too busy with one's work, being tired or sick. No separation of "my meditation life" and my busy daily life. Right effort is only right effort of the eightfold Path if it is accompanied by right understanding of the eightfold Path and if the object is a nama or a rupa. What would be the use of the study of the Dhamma if it would not lead to the aim which is right understanding of realities, and this is the factor which conditions most of all the development of all kinds of Kusala.

One thinks that one can control but right understanding understands that realities cannot be controlled. One may be used to controlling, but one should remember that realities arise because of their own conditions. I think we should not become impatient or disheartened by lack of sati, lack of kusala. Gradually conditions can be built up for the growth of panna. Not by volitional control. Not by trying to make certain realities arise, special objects of awareness, or doing special exercises, instead of being aware naturally of realities which arise because of their own conditions. It does not matter if the reality which arises is a hindrance, it can be known as it is and then there is kusala citta, no hindrance.

When one has more understanding of paramattha dhammas one can read the suttas with more understanding. One reads about striving and self-control, but one will understand the deep meaning of what is said: that these are sobhana cetasikas arising because of conditions. The teachings can be most helpful in reminding us to cling less to an idea of self who can develop insight. We do not develop understanding, it develops.

                                                                                                        With metta


Letter about Vipassana VI


November 1, 1989
Dear Dhamma friends,

The development of satipatthana is the only way to know the truth of impermanence, dukkha and anatta. However, we all notice that mindfulness does not arise often and that nama and rupa do not appear as they are. We confuse all the different doorways and we do not realize nama as nama and rupa as rupa, we cannot distinguish them from each other. Khun Sujin said that we are so sick that we cannot walk. We know that the eightfold Path has to be developed, but because of our many defilements we cannot go along the Path. Khun Sujin reminded us that the wholesome qualities which are the "paramis", the perfections, must be developed together with satipatthana, they are like vitamins which will give us the strength to walk the Path. The Buddha when he was still a Bodhisatta developed the paramis for aeons. We all need the perfection of resolution (aditthana), which is the resolution to continue being mindful of the nama or rupa appearing right now. We know that the Path is difficult and that it will take many lives to develop it and therefore we need the firm resolution to continue on. When we come to know more our akusala we will understand that defilements are deeply rooted. Akusala is like weeds which are deeply rooted and not easily pulled out. We need the perfection of wisdom; it is right understanding which can pull out the roots of lobha, dosa and moha. We need the perfection of energy or courage, viriya, so that we will not become downhearted when progress is slow. We should encourage ourselves to continue on with mindfulness of nama and rupa. We should listen to the Dhamma with patience and consider it carefully, so that we can develop understanding of realities in the situation of our daily life. We need the perfection of lovingkindness as a means to have kusala citta when we are with other people or when we think of them. When there is metta we consider other people as our close friends, even when we do not know them, when they are strangers to us. We will think of ways and means to help them and to make them happy. It is natural that there are people we do not find sympathetic, but when there is aversion or anger we should consider that characteristic. Then we will see more clearly that aversion is useless and we can be reminded to develop metta instantly. In order to develop metta we need a refined knowledge of our different cittas, we need satipatthana. When someone else speaks unpleasant words to us we are likely to have resentment, but when we see the value of kusala we can gradually learn to refrain from retorting such words and to forgive him. Forgiving is a kind of generosity, it is like handing a gift to someone"

Sarah said to Khun Sujin that it is more difficult to develop metta when we are tired because then we are more easily irritated and annoyed. Although we see the value of metta we do not have enough confidence in kusala, we have no conditions for kusala at the moment we want to have it. Khun Sujin answered that the idea of self is in the way all the time. We attach too much importance to the way we feel. Tiredness is no reason to be angry, we should develop metta in order to think less of ourselves.

We need also the perfections of generosity, of sila and of detachment or renunciation (nekkhamma) in order to be less selfish and more considerate for other people's well-being. All the perfections should be developed, they are a necessary support for the arising of sati and panna in our daily life. We need the perfection of patience, when there is patience we do not mind it if understanding develops only little by little. There is conceit if we have an idea that we should be "somebody with great wisdom". We should follow Sariputta's example who compared himself with a dustrag, a useless rag without any value. If we do not consider ourselves "somebody", but rather a "nobody", it will prevent us from pretending, even to ourselves, that we are more advanced than we in reality are. We also need the perfection of truthfulness (sacca) to keep us on the right track. We have to be sincere, truthful to reality. Do we want to avoid being aware of akusala? We have to be aware of it in order to know our true accumulations. If we are not aware of akusala we will take what is akusala for kusala. We need to develop the perfection of equanimity in order to learn to accept with kusala citta the vicissitudes of life. Praise and blame are only realities which arise because of their own conditions, in reality people are not the cause of praise or blame. When people do wrong to us we can develop metta if we see the value of metta. Instead of having aversion about people's bad points we will try to remember their good qualities. If they have none there can be compassion or there can be equanimity. There can be equanimity when we remember that the real cause of unpleasant experiences through the senses is not a person but our own kamma. We should carefully consider the different perfections and then we will be reminded to develop them in our daily life, they are needed in each situation. Khun Sujin said that while she prepares lectures for the radio she needs many perfections, such as metta, patience, energy and equanimity. When there is equanimity she does not feel hurt when people do not want to listen to her or when they criticize her.

The perfection of wisdom must be developed from life to life. We know that we should realize the difference between paramattha dhammas, namely, nama and rupa, and concepts. We know that the object of satipatthana are nama and rupa, not concepts. It is necessary to consider the difference between paramattha dhammas and concepts in detail, under different aspects, in our daily life. All such moments of considering are accumulated, they condition the growth of panna, so that one day, we do not know when, direct understanding of nama and rupa can arise.

When we see, we think that we are in this world, a world full of people, houses and streets. When we hear, we think that we are in this world, we hear people, animals, and cars. We think all the time of the whole wide world with everything in it. In reality there is only one moment of seeing and one moment of hearing. Seeing sees just that which appears through eyes, visible object, and then both seeing and visible object fall away. After that we think of a person or of the whole world, because sanna remembers. There is only one moment of hearing and then both hearing and sound fall away, but we keep on thinking about what was heard, because sanna remembers. When we think of a person or of the world, the object of citta is a concept. As soon as we notice the shape and form of a person or a thing there is a concept of a whole. Even when we do not think of names we can still have a concept as object. When we perceive a pen we experience already a concept before we think about the name "pen". Children who cannot talk yet and who do not know the meaning of conventional terms which are used in language can experience concepts of a "whole". When they grow up they learn conventional terms so that they can name different things. They can then understand which person or thing is referred to. The English word "concept" (in Pali: pannatti) stands for the idea which is the object of thinking as well as the name or term used to denote such an idea .

We should not try to avoid thinking of concepts, even the arahat thinks of concepts because there are conditions for thinking. The arahat does not cling to concepts but we are still clinging. We have not eradicated "atta-sanna", the wrong remembrance of things as "self". We cling to the general appearance of things and to the details. When we cling to the image of a man or woman we do not know the reality which appears through the eyes, visible object, and thus we know only a concept, not a reality. We do not only like the general appearance of things, we also like the details. We are attached to the trademark of clothing, of cars. Someone wrote to me that conventional truth is still truth. He believes that citta, cetasika and rupa exist as constituents pertaining to an organized whole. Such a whole or entity which is constituted by paramattha dhammas is a living being or a thing. He thinks that when the particular discipline of vipassana is adopted paramattha dhammas can appear. However, when we suspend the perspective of vipassana and deal with the world in terms of ordinary means of transaction, conventional truth appears.

I think that we should not think in terms of the "discipline of vipassana" as being separated from our daily life. There are conditions to think of concepts, of "wholes", we need conventional terms in order to communicate with other people. We should lead our daily life naturally, but we can develop understanding of citta, cetasika and rupa in our daily life. One may believe that these are constituents of a whole, but where is that whole? It only exists in our thinking, it cannot be directly experienced. We think that we see people lifting their hands or walking, but in reality there are countless namas and rupas arising and falling away. So long as we do not realize the arising and falling away of nama and rupa, we cling to the idea that what appears are people, women or men, or this or that thing. We cling to the concept of somebody or something.

Khun Sujin writes in "A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas", in the section on "Concepts":

In order to know that concepts are not paramattha dhammas one should learn to discern the characteristics of the different paramattha dhammas which arise together. One should be aware of one characteristic at a time as it appears through one doorway at a time. In order to know the truth the arising and falling away should be realized of rupa which appears through one doorway at a time. Each rupa lasts only as long as seventeen moments of citta and then it falls away. Therefore rupa which arises has no time to stand, walk or do anything. During the time one lifts one's hand already more than seventeen moments of citta have passed. One sees people walking or lifting their hands but in reality the rupas which arise fall away immediately and are succeeded by other rupas. The rupa which is visible object appears to cittas of the eye-door process and then, after there have been bhavanga-cittas in between, there are many mind-door processes of cittas. That is why one can see people walking or lifting their hands. Seventeen moments of citta pass away extremely rapidly. Thus one should consider what happens in reality. One should know that the rupa which appears at this moment through the eyes only lasts seventeen moments of citta and that it must fall away before sound can be experienced through ears. It seems that there can be hearing and seeing at the same time, but in between the moment of hearing and the moment of seeing there is an interval of more than seventeen moments of citta. The visible object which appears through the eyes and lasts seventeen moments of citta must have fallen away before the citta which hears arises.

It seems that there can be hearing and seeing at the same time, but these are different moments of citta experiencing different objects. rupas arise and fall away and succeed one another. Visible object appears through the eye-door and after there have been bhavanga-cittas in between it appears through the mind-door. Then there are many mind-door processes of cittas which think of concepts. That is why people who walk, lift their hands or move can appear.

We may have often heard that paramattha dhammas are not concepts and we may have repeated this for ourselves, but that is not enough. We should scrutinize our different cittas, in order to find out when the object of citta is a paramattha dhamma and when a concept. It depends entirely on conditions whether a paramattha dhamma appears and there can be awareness of its characteristic or whether there is thinking of a concept. There are long moments of being absorbed in concepts, but then sati can arise and be aware of thinking as a type of nama.

We are inclined to cling to a self who develops satipatthana and we want to hasten the arising of the stages of insight. If we have such desire it hinders the understanding of realities as anatta. The stages of insight can only arise when there are the right conditions for their arising, not because we try to direct their arising. Khun Sujin writes about mindfulness in "A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas", in the section on the "Stages of Insight":

Mindfulness is not easy and in the beginning it cannot often arise. The reason is that ignorance, clinging and all the other akusala dhammas have been accumulated for an endlessly long time in the cycle of birth and death. And also in this life, from the time we were born, defilements are being accumulated each day. When one correctly understands cause and effect of realities one knows that one needs great patience and perseverance in order to listen to the Dhamma, to study it carefully and to consider it. Only thus can one have understanding of the realities which appear through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, bodysense and mind-door. In this way the right conditions are being accumulated for the arising of satipatthana which can study with awareness the characteristics of the realities which are appearing. Thus realities can be known as they are. Through the practice one will directly understand the truth in accordance with what one has learnt and understood intellectually, namely that all dhammas, and thus also satipatthana and the eightfold Path, are anatta. Satipatthana can arise when there are the right conditions, that is, when maha-kusala citta accompanied by panna has arisen time and again so that panna can be accumulated. Then one will not deviate anymore from the right Path. One will not follow a practice which is other than being aware of, noticing and considering the nama-dhammas and rupa-dhammas which are appearing through the six doors.

We may pay attention to different realities and we may remember that seeing is nama, that it is different from visible object which is rupa. The direct experience of nama as nama and of rupa as rupa, without there being any idea of self is another step which has to be taken. Nobody else can show us exactly how the truth can be directly experienced, because panna develops according to its own conditions. There is seeing and we have learnt that seeing is nama but so long as panna has not eradicated the idea of self there is still an idea of self who sees.

When panna has developed to the degree that the first stage of insight, vipassana nana, arises, characteristics of nama and rupa appear clearly, one at a time, through the mind-door. Their different characteristics are clearly distinguished from each other. At that moment there is no idea of self who experiences and there is no idea of a "whole" or the world. There is "anatta-sanna", the perception of not-self, instead of "atta-sanna ", the perception of self. There are only nama and rupa appearing one at a time. If we really understand that there must be anatta-sanna at the moment of vipassana nana, we will not try to create conditions for the arising of vipassana nana, because then there is an idea of self. This would be counteractive to the development of vipassana.

When the moments of vipassana nana have fallen away, the world appears as before, as it used to appear, as a "whole" or a conglomeration of things, Khun Sujin explained. Thus then there is again atta-sanna. We may be surprised that realities appear as anatta only at the moment of vipassana nana, and that after that the world appears as usual, as a "whole". Has nothing changed? We may think that it is already an achievement to have reached the first stage of vipassana nana but it is not enough. The accumulated clinging to a self is very persistent, it cannot be eradicated by the first vipassana nana. One has to apply the knowledge one has gained at the moments of vipassana nana and go on developing understanding of all namas and rupas which appear.

It is only at the fourth stage of insight, which is the first stage of "principal insight", that the arising and falling away of nama and rupa can be realized. Now, at this moment, hardness appears and it falls away immediately. However, it is succeeded so rapidly by the next rupa which is hardness that it seems that hardness stays. Each reality is succeeded by a next one which is similar but not the same. Each reality appears only once in the cycle of birth and death and then it disappears, it never comes back. When we meet people who are dear to us we should not forget that seeing only sees visible object and that seeing and visible object only last for a moment and are then gone for ever. "Everything goes, goes, goes”, Khun Sujin reminded us. It comes and then goes forever. It is useful to reflect about impermanence, but it is not the same as directly experiencing the arising and falling away of nama and of rupa. When the first stage of "principal insight" has arisen, vipassana has become a "power" (bala).

When there is mindfulness of hardness now, knowledge of this characteristic is still coarse, there cannot be precise understanding of realities yet. There is no realization of each nama and rupa which appears one at a time, no realization of their arising and falling away. When insight has become a power it is unshakable. However, at the first stage of principal insight panna is not keen enough yet so that there can be detachment from realities. At the second stage of "principal insight", "Knowledge of Dissolution" (bhanga nana), panna turns more towards the falling away of realities and sees that they cannot be any refuge. Even when insight has become already a power its development should continue on so that there can be more and more "turning away" from nama and rupa.

We read in the "Path of Discrimination" (Treatise on Knowledge, Ch XXXIV, par. 455):

Insight power: in what sense is insight a power? Through contemplation of impermanence it is unshakeable by perception of permanence... Through contemplation of dukkha it is unshakeable by perception of pleasure... Through contemplation of anatta it is unshakeable by perception of self... Through contemplation of dispassion it is unshakeable by delight... Through contemplation of fading away it is unshakeable by greed... Through contemplation of cessation it is unshakeable by arising... Through contemplation of relinquishment it is unshakeable by grasping, thus insight is a power.

It is unshakeable, immovable and cannot be shifted by ignorance and by the defilements and khandhas that accompany ignorance, thus insight is a power.

This is insight as a power.

In order that insight can become a power, right understanding has to be developed of all realities which appear through the six doors. When we see what we do not know yet there can be a sense of urgency to continue on with sati-patthana. Gabi wrote to me that she had read Khun Sujin's "Stages of Insight" with great pleasure. She wrote:

This shows with great clarity how intricate the development of satipatthana is and how complicated it is. This does not discourage me at all, on the contrary, I enjoy it to take up time and again the scriptures and then I am reminded of the truth in my daily life. I am reminded that only paramatthas are real and everything else is only imagination.

In the commentary to the Theragatha, Canto XXXIV, Sukka, we read that Sukka had in many former lives listened to Buddhas, renounced worldly life, studied the Dhamma and explained it to others. In spite of her great knowledge of the Dhamma she did not attain enlightenment. In this Buddha era she listened to the Buddha and when she heard Dhammadinna preach she developed insight and reached arahatship. Once when she preached the Dhamma a deva who lived in a tree was inspired by her words and incited people to come and listen to her. Sukka, at the end of her life, declared her attainment in a verse. She called out her own name Sukka, which means: bright, lustrous. We read:

O Child of light! by light of truth set free
From cravings dire, firm, self-possessed, serene,
Bear to this end your last incarnate frame,
For you have conquered Mara and his host.

This story shows us that it takes aeons to develop panna. Even Sukka who listened to several Buddhas needed aeons to develop the perfections together with satipatthana. However, instead of wondering how arahatship could ever be achieved we can take note of the benefits of satipatthana even now. When we have learnt about the different types of cittas which arise and begin to be mindful of them we acquire a more refined knowledge of our different cittas through direct experience in daily life. For example, when we are talking and there is unpleasant feeling we can be reminded that there is aversion. When we see the disadvantage of akusala at such a moment we can abstain from unwholesome speech. Satipatthana conditions more wholesomeness through body and speech. We read in the "Commentary to the Dhammapada" (XXVI, 7, commentary to vs. 389, 390) about Sariputta's virtues. A Brahman wanted to test his patience and therefore tried to provoke his anger. When Sariputta walked for alms he went behind him and struck him violently with his fist in the back. Sariputta said "What was that?", and then continued on his way. When the Brahman became remorseful and asked forgiveness Sariputta forgave him and accepted his invitation to receive food in his house. Sariputta had no anger and he could forgive anything. When we read about Sariputta's generosity, humility and gentleness it can inspire us with confidence in the benefit of Sariputta. Sariputta leads to the fulfilment of all the perfections.
                                                                                                        With metta
                                                                                                Nina van Gorkom