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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Satipatthana Vipassana
By the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw


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[Page 3]
Other Exercises


It is therefore to be emphasized that the act of pulling up the body to the standing posture should be carried out slowly. On coming to an erect position, a note should be made as "standing, standing." If one happens to look around, a note should be made as "looking, seeing," and on walking each step should be noted as "right step, left step" or "walking, walking." At each step, attention should be fixed on the sole of the foot as it moves from the point of lifting the leg to the point of placing it down.

While walking in quick steps or taking a long walk, a note on one section of each step as "right step, left step" or "walking, walking" will do. In the case of walking slowly, each step may be divided into three sections -- lifting, moving forward and placing down. In the beginning of the exercise, a note should be made of the two parts of each step: as "lifting" by fixing the attention on the upward movement of the foot from the beginning to the end, and as "placing" by fixing on the downward movement from the beginning to the end. Thus the exercise which starts with the first step by noting as "lifting, placing" now ends.

Normally, when the foot is put down and is being noted as "placing," the other leg begins lifting to begin the next step. This should not be allowed to happen. The next step should begin only after the first step has been completed, such as "lifting, placing" for the first step and "lifting, placing" for the second step. After two or three days this exercise will be easy, and then the yogi should carry out the exercise of noting each step in three sections as "lifting, moving, placing." For the present a yogi should start the exercise by noting as "right step, left step," or "walking, walking" while walking quickly, and by noting as "lifting, placing" while walking slowly.


While one is walking, one may feel the desire to sit down. One should then make a note as "wanting." If one then happens to look up, note it as "looking, seeing, looking, seeing"; on going to the seat as "lifting, placing"; on stopping as "stopping, stopping"; on turning as "turning, turning." When one feels a desire to sit, note it as "wanting, wanting." In the act of sitting there occur in the body heaviness and also a downward pull. Attention should be fixed on these factors and a note made as "sitting, sitting, sitting." After having sat down there will be movements of bringing the hands and legs into position. They should be noted as "moving," "bending," "stretching," and so forth. If there is nothing to do and if one is sitting quietly, one should then revert to the usual exercise of noting as "rising, falling."

Lying Down

If in the course of contemplation one feels painful or tired or hot, one should make a note of these and then revert to the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling." If one feels sleepy, one should make a note of it as "sleepy, sleepy" and proceed with the noting of all acts in preparation to lie down: note the bringing into position of the hands and legs as "raising," "pressing," "moving," "supporting"; when the body sways as "swaying, swaying"; when the legs stretch as "stretching, stretching"; and when the body drops and lies flat as "lying, lying, lying."

These trifling acts in lying down are also important and they should not be neglected. There is every possibility of attaining enlightenment during this short time. On the full development of concentration and knowledge, enlightenment is attainable during the present moment of bending or stretching. In this way the Venerable Ananda attained Arahatship at the very moment of lying down.

About the beginning of the fourth month after the Buddha's complete passing away, arrangements were made to hold the first council of bhikkhus to collectively classify, examine, confirm and recite all the teachings of the Buddha. At that time five hundred bhikkhus were chosen for this work. Of these bhikkhus, four hundred and ninety-nine were Arahats, while the Venerable Ananda was a sotapanna, a stream-enterer.

In order to attend the council as an Arahat on the same level with the others, he made his utmost effort to carry on with his meditation on the day prior to the opening of the council. That was on the fourth of the waning moon of the month of Savana (August). He proceeded with mindfulness of the body and continued his walking meditation throughout the night. It might have been in the same manner as noting "right step, left step" or "walking, walking." He was thus occupied with intense contemplation of the processes of mentality and materiality in each step until dawn of the following day, but he still had not yet attained to Arahatship.

Then the Venerable Ananda thought: "I have done my utmost. Lord Buddha has said: 'Ananda, you possess full perfections (paramis). Do proceed with the practice of meditation. You will surely attain Arahatship one day.' I have tried my best, so much so that I can be counted as one of those who have done their best in meditation. What maybe the reason for my failure?"

Then he remembered: "Ah! I have been overzealous in keeping solely to the practice of walking throughout the night. There is an excess of energy and not enough concentration, which indeed is responsible for this state of restlessness. It is now necessary to stop walking practice so as to bring energy in balance with concentration and to proceed with the contemplation in a lying position." The Venerable Ananda then entered his room, sat down on his bed, and began to lie down. It is said that he attained Arahatship at the very moment of lying down, or rather at the moment of contemplating as "lying, lying."

This manner of attaining Arahatship has been recorded as a strange event in the Commentaries, because it is outside the four regular postures of standing, sitting, lying and walking. At the moment of his enlightenment, the Venerable Ananda could not be regarded as strictly in a standing posture because his feet were off the floor, nor could he be regarded as sitting because his body was already at an angle, being quite close to the pillow, nor could he be regarded as lying down since his head had not yet touched the pillow and his body was not yet flat.

The Venerable Ananda was a stream-enterer and he thus had to develop the three other higher stages -- the path and fruit of once-returning, the path and fruit of non-returning, and the path and fruit of Arahatship in his final attainment. This took only a moment. Extreme care is therefore needed to carry on the practice of contemplation without relaxation or omission.

In the act of lying down, contemplation should therefore be carried out with due care. When a yogi feels sleepy and wants to lie down, a note should be made as "sleepy, sleepy," "wanting, wanting"; on raising the hand as "raising, raising"; on stretching as "stretching, stretching"; on touching as "touching, touching"; on pressing as "pressing, pressing"; after swaying the body and dropping it down as "lying, lying." The act of lying down itself should be carried out very slowly. On touching the pillow it should be noted as "touching, touching." There are many places of touch all over the body but each spot need be noted only one at a time.

In the lying posture there are also many movements of the body in bringing one's arms and legs into position. These actions should be noted carefully as "raising," "stretching," "bending," "moving," and so forth. On turning the body a note should be made as "turning, turning," and when there is nothing in particular to be noted, the yogi should proceed with the usual practice of noting "rising, falling." While one is lying on one's back or side, there is usually nothing in particular to be noted and the usual exercise of "rising, falling" should be carried out.

There may be many times when the mind wanders while one is in the lying posture. This wandering mind should be noted as "going, going" when it goes out, as "arriving, arriving" when it reaches a place, as "planning," "reflecting," and so forth for each state in the same manner as in the contemplation while in the sitting posture. Mental states pass away on being noted once or twice. The usual exercise of noting "rising, falling" should be continued. There may also be instances of swallowing or spitting saliva, painful sensations, hot sensations, itching sensations, etc., or of bodily actions in changing positions or in moving the limbs. They should be contemplated as each occurs. (When sufficient strength in concentration is gained, it will be possible to carry on with the contemplation of each act of opening and closing the eyelids and blinking.) Afterwards, one should then return to the usual exercise when there is nothing else to be noted.


Though it is late at night and time for sleep, it is not advisable to give up the contemplation and go to sleep. Anyone who has a keen interest in contemplation must be prepared to face the risk of spending many nights without sleep.

The scriptures are emphatic on the necessity of developing the qualities of four-factored energy (caturanga-viriya) in the practice of meditation: "In the hard struggle, one may be reduced to a mere skeleton of skin, bones and sinews when one's flesh and blood wither and dry up, but one should not give up one's efforts so long as one has not attained whatever is attainable by manly perseverance, energy and endeavor." These instructions should be followed with a strong determination. It may be possible to keep awake if there is strong enough concentration to beat off sleep, but one will fall asleep if sleep gets the upper hand.

When one feels sleepy, one should make a note of it as "sleepy, sleepy"; when the eyelids are heavy as "heavy, heavy"; when the eyes are felt to be dazzled as "dazzled, dazzled." After contemplating in the manner indicated, one may be able to shake off sleepiness and feel fresh again. This feeling should be noted as "feeling fresh, feeling fresh," after which the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling" should be continued. However, in spite of this determination, one may feel unable to keep awake if one is very sleepy. In a lying posture, it is easier to fall asleep. A beginner should therefore try to keep mostly to the postures of sitting and walking.

When the night is advanced, however, a yogi may be compelled to lie down and proceed with the contemplation of rising and falling. In this position he may perhaps fall asleep. While one is asleep, it is not possible to carry on with the work of contemplation. It is an interval for a yogi to relax. An hour's sleep will give him an hour's relaxation, and if he continues to sleep for two, three or four hours, he will be relaxed for that much longer, but it is not advisable for a yogi to sleep for more than four hours, which is ample enough for a normal sleep.


A yogi should begin his contemplation from the moment of awakening. To be fully occupied with intense contemplation throughout his waking hours is the routine of a yogi who works hard with true aspiration for the attainment of the path and fruit. If it is not possible to catch the moment of awakening, he should begin with the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling." If he first becomes aware of the fact of reflecting, he should begin his contemplation by noting "reflecting, reflecting" and then revert to the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling." If he first becomes aware of hearing a voice or some other sound, he should begin by noting "hearing, hearing" and then revert to the usual exercise. On awakening there may be bodily movement in turning to this side or that, moving the hands or legs and so forth. These actions should be contemplated in successive order.

If he first becomes aware of the mental states leading to the various actions of body, he should begin his contemplation by noting the mind. If he first becomes aware of painful sensations, he should begin with the noting of these painful sensations and then proceed with the noting of bodily actions. If he remains quiet without moving, the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling" should be continued. If he intends to get up, he should note this as "intending, intending" and then proceed with the noting of all actions in serial order in bringing the hands and legs into position. One should note "raising, raising" on raising the body, "sitting, sitting" when the body is erect and in a sitting posture, and one should also note any other actions of bringing the legs and hands into position. If there is then nothing in particular to be noted, the usual exercise of noting "rising,falling" should be reverted to.

Thus far we have mentioned things relating to the objects of contemplation in connection with the four postures and changing from one posture to another. This is merely a description of the general outline of major objects of contemplation to be carried out in the course of practice. Yet in the beginning of the practice, it is difficult to follow up on all of them in the course of contemplation. Many things will be omitted, but on gaining sufficient strength in concentration, it is easy to follow up in the course of contemplation not only those objects already enumerated, but may many more. With the gradual development of mindfulness and concentration, the pace of knowledge quickens, and thus many more objects can be perceived. It is necessary to work up to this high level.

Washing and Eating

Contemplation should be carried out in washing the face in the morning or when taking a bath. As it is necessary to act quickly in such instances due to the nature of the action itself, contemplation should be carried out as far as these circumstances will allow. On stretching the hand to catch hold of the dipper, it should be noted as "stretching, stretching"; on catching hold of the dipper as "holding, holding"; on immersing the dipper as "dipping,dipping"; on bringing the dipper towards the body as "bringing, bringing"; on pouring the water over the body or on the face as "pouring, pouring"; on feeling cold as "cold, cold"; on rubbing as "rubbing, rubbing," and so forth.

There are also many different bodily actions in changing or arranging one's clothing, in arranging the bed or bed-sheets, in opening the door, and so on. These actions should be contemplated in detail serially as much as possible.

At the time of taking a meal, contemplation should begin from the moment of looking at the table and noted as "looking, seeing, looking, seeing"; when stretching the hand to the plate as "stretching, stretching"; when the hand touches the food as "touching, hot, hot"; when gathering the food as "gathering, gathering"; when catching hold of the food as "catching, catching"; after lifting when the hand is being brought up as "bringing, bringing"; when the neck is being bent down as "bending, bending"; when the food is being placed in the mouth as "placing, placing"; when withdrawing the hand as "withdrawing, withdrawing"; when the hand touches the plate as "touching, touching"; when the neck is being straightened as "straightening, straightening"; when chewing the food as "chewing, chewing"; while tasting the food as "tasting, tasting," when one likes the taste as "liking, liking"; when one finds it pleasant as "pleasant, pleasant"; when swallowing as "swallowing, swallowing."

This is an illustration of the routine of contemplation on partaking of each morsel of food till the meal is finished. In this case too it is difficult to follow up on all actions at the beginning of the practice. There will be many omissions. Yogis should not hesitate, however, but must try to follow up as much as they can. With the gradual advancement of the practice, it will be easier to note many more objects than are mentioned here.

The instructions for the practical exercise of contemplation are now almost complete. As they have been explained in detail and at some length, it will not be easy to remember all of them. For the sake of easy remembrance, a short summary of the important and essential points will be given.



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This page was published on Realization.org on November 23, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.