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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Satipatthana Vipassana
By the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw


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[Page 4]
Summary of Essential Points

IN WALKING, a yogi should contemplate the movements of each step. While one is walking briskly, each step should be noted as "right step, left step" respectively. The mind should be fixed intently on the sole of the foot in the movements of each step. While one is in the course of walking slowly, each step should be noted in two parts as "lifting, placing." While one is in a sitting posture, the usual exercise of contemplation should be carried out by noting the movements of the abdomen as "rising, falling, rising, falling." The same manner of contemplation by noting the movements as "rising, falling, rising, falling" should be carried out while one is also in the lying posture.

If it is found that the mind wanders during the course of noting "rising, falling," it should not be allowed to continue to wander but should be noted immediately. On imagining, it should be noted as "imagining, imagining"; on thinking as "thinking, thinking"; on the mind going out as "going, going"; on the mind arriving at a place as "arriving, arriving," and so forth at every occurrence, and then the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling" should be continued.

When there occur feelings of tiredness in the hands, legs or other limbs, or hot, prickly, aching or itching sensations, they should be immediately followed up and noted as "tired," "hot," "prickly," "aching," "itching," and so on as the case may be. A return should then be made to the usual exercise of noting "rising, falling."

When there are acts of bending or stretching the hands or legs, or moving the neck or limbs or swaying the body to and fro, they should be followed up and noted in serial order as they occur. The usual exercise of noting as "rising, falling" should then be reverted to.

This is only a summary. Any other objects to be contemplated in the course of training will be mentioned by the meditation teachers when giving instructions during the daily interview with the disciples.

If one proceeds with the practice in the manner indicated, the number of objects will gradually increase in the course of time. At first there will be many omissions because the mind is used to wandering without any restraint whatsoever. However, a yogi should not lose heart on this account. This difficulty is usually encountered in the beginning of practice. After some time, the mind can no longer play truant because it is always found out every time it wanders. It therefore remains fixed on the object to which it is directed.

As rising occurs the mind makes a note of it, and thus the object and the mind coincide. As falling occurs the mind makes a note of it, and thus the object and the mind coincide. There is always a pair, the object and the mind which knows the object, at each time of noting. These two elements of the material object and the knowing mind always arise in pairs, and apart from these two there does not exist any other thing in the form of a person or self. This reality will be personally realized in due course.

The fact that materiality and mentality are two distinct, separate things will be clearly perceived during the time of noting "rising, falling." The two elements of materiality and mentality are linked up in pairs and their arising coincides, that is, the process of materiality in rising arises with the process of mentality which knows it. The process of materiality in falling falls away together with the process of mentality which knows it. It is the same for lifting, moving and placing: these are processes of materiality arising and falling away together with the processes of mentality which know them. This knowledge in respect of matter and mind rising separately is known as nama-rupa-pariccheda-ņana, the discriminating knowledge of mentality-materiality. It is the preliminary stage in the whole course of insight knowledge. It is important to have this preliminary stage developed in a proper manner.

On continuing the practice of contemplation for some time, there will be considerable progress in mindfulness and concentration. At this high level it will be perceptible that on every occasion of noting, each process arises and passes away at that very moment. But, on the other hand, uninstructed people generally consider that the body and mind remain in a permanent state throughout life, that the same body of childhood has grown up into adulthood, that the same young mind has grown up into maturity, and that both body and mind are one and the same person. In reality, this is not so. Nothing is permanent. Everything comes into existence for a moment and then passes away. Nothing can remain even for the blink of an eye. Changes are taking place very swiftly and they will be perceived in due course.

While carrying on the contemplation by noting "rising, falling" and so forth, one will perceive that these processes arise and pass away one after another in quick succession. On perceiving that everything passes away at the very point of noting, a yogi knows that nothing is permanent. This knowledge regarding the impermanent nature of things is aniccanupassana-ņana, the contemplative knowledge of impermanence.

A yogi then knows that this ever-changing state of things is distressing and is not to be desired. This is dukkhanupassana-ņana, the contemplative knowledge of suffering. On suffering many painful feelings, this body and mind complex is regarded as a mere heap of suffering. This is also contemplative knowledge of suffering.

It is then perceived that the elements of materiality and mentality never follow one's wish, but arise according to their own nature and conditioning. While being engaged in the act of noting these processes, a yogi understands that these processes are not controllable and that they are neither a person nor a living entity nor self. This is anattanupassana-ņana, the contemplative knowledge of non-self.

When a yogi has fully developed the knowledge of impermanence, suffering and non-self, he will realize Nibbana. From time immemorial, Buddhas, Arahats and Ariyas (noble ones) have realized Nibbana by this method of vipassana. It is the highway leading to Nibbana. Vipassana consists of the four satipatthana, applications of mindfulness, and it is satipatthana which is really the highway to Nibbana.

Yogis who take up this course of training should bear in mind that they are on the highway which has been taken by Buddhas, Arahats and Ariyas. This opportunity is afforded them apparently because of their parami, that is, their previous endeavors in seeking and wishing for it, and also because of their present mature conditions. They should rejoice at heart for having this opportunity. They should also feel assured that by walking on this highway without wavering they will gain personal experience of highly developed concentration and wisdom, as has already been known by Buddhas, Arahats and Ariyas. They will develop such a pure state of concentration as has never been known before in the course of their lives and thus enjoy many innocent pleasures as a result of advanced concentration.

Impermanence, suffering and non-self will be realized through direct personal experience, and with the full development of these knowledges, Nibbana will be realized. It will not take long to achieve the objective, possibly one month, or twenty days, or fifteen days, or, on rare occasions, even in seven days for those select few with extraordinary parami.

Yogis should therefore proceed with the practice of contemplation in great earnestness and with full confidence, trusting that it will surely lead to the development of the noble path and fruit and to the realization of Nibbana. They will then be free from the wrong view of self and from spiritual doubt, and they will no longer be subject to the round of rebirth in the miserable realms of the hells, the animal world, and the sphere of petas.

May yogis meet with every success in their noble endeavor.




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

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.