- Worshipping is also necessary in our lives, but pursuant to worshipping, it is necessary to practice what Gautama Buddha preached to realise the truth
- Foundation of mindful meditation is the only path to attain Nibbana
- If the body is changing every time without one’s control, then it does not belong to one and there is no self-inside the body
Most people in the world live in total darkness without proper understanding of how everything they value will disappear ultimately. People have lived many lives; born to many parents in previous births, but once one is born in this life, they think it is permanent and live without realising the truth, only to die again. They played all roles in their lives in previous births, having all those hopes similar to hopes in this life.
Ego takes control over the lives in this planet, preventing people from realising the truth. Therefore, most people live in a dream world or fools’ paradise. They live in ignorance and do not know the real meaning of life. Few people realise the reality of life and start trying to discover the truth. Life is short and time passes fast. Most people do not realise the impermanent nature of life and how everything is constantly changing. Further, everybody has to leave this world one day, leaving everything he or she possesses behind. During life people develop several attachments, but when the day comes to leave this world, they become reluctant to leave attachments. As Gautama Buddha preached, attachment to desires brings suffering. At some stage, some people realise that attachment during their lifetime is of no use. But then, it is too late and there is no time to reverse it. Therefore, the important thing is to realise the true meaning of life before it is too late and go through the precise path to realise a truth.
In the four noble truths, The Buddha very clearly preached that this life has a lot of sufferings or in pali “dukkha”. The reason why The Buddha said “life Is suffering” is mainly because nothing is permanent in life. The Buddha explained that the causes of suffering are craving and desires due to ignorance and that leads to building lust (thanha). Suffering is manifested through separation from loved ones, not getting what is desired, sickness, old age and death. But generally, people do not think about this and they work like machines and live life without any understanding about the true nature of life. Whenever sickness and death come, then only do people realise the true meaning of life.
It is thought that various materialistic successes such as an impeccable career, family life, money or properties bring happiness. There is happiness in all these things, but at the same time dukkha or suffering is part and parcel of it. The reason being that all these things are not permanent and require much effort to be protected. Regardless of whether one is rich or poor he or she thinks that this life is happy irrespective of the problems faced. But, those whose minds are advanced in thinking know what type of sufferings there are in this life. Therefore, they practice the preaching of The Buddha to find liberation from all sufferings. They give preference to practicing rather than worshipping. Worshipping is also necessary in our lives, but pursuant to worshipping, it is necessary to practice what Gautama Buddha preached to realise the truth. For instance, people in an illicit liquor den think that they are in heaven, but people who patronise five-star hotels know the difference. Similarly, people who observe their lives with an open mind, know that even a five-star hotel is not heaven as all the enjoyments end when they leave the hotel and need to attend to other responsibilities afterwards. In their lives, most people do not think meaningfully. Under a Bo tree, The Buddha became enlightened leaving all attachments. But most Buddhists appeal for luxuries under a Bo tree and increase attachment and still think that they are practising Buddhism. When you focus your mind on life and analyse it, you will know that this life is filled with suffering. If life is suffering, then one might ask what is the solution to life? The simple answer is not to be born again after one dies, as if one is reborn, this process of suffering will continue in the same circle; there has to be birth, study, work, sickness and death.
The body which is called “rupa” is changing all the time, but people are unable to see it. If the body is changing every time without one’s control, then it does not belong to one and there is no self-inside the body. This shows that the body does not belong to anyone as there is no control over it and no self in the body. Though this is the theory, it must be realised through meditation.
If the majority of Buddhists start practicing what The Buddha preached to realise the truth and attain Nibbana, Buddhism will naturally be safeguarded and there wouldn’t be a need to have any other programmes to protect Buddhism.
Samatha and Vipassana
The Buddha taught people two kinds of meditations, namely, Samatha and Vipassana, to realise the truth and to stop the journey of samsara or to attain Nibbana. The Samatha meditation is available everywhere and at any time period. But the Vipassana meditation is a teaching The Buddha preached as the only path to realise the truth or to attain enlightenment. Samatha is to develop concentration first and thereafter through Vipassana, to realise the truth. Samatha meditation means to retain one’s mind or consciousness in one place; for example at the tip of the nose, then one will not follow any feeling or pain arising within the body. That way, one’s mind is calm, concentrated and becomes sharper. Then it is easy to practise Vipassana. With sharpened awareness, one proceeds to observe the changing nature of the body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and selflessness. Further, Vipassana means precise understanding and realisation through deep meditation of no soul, no self and no ego. Vipassana meditation helps to understand bodily and mental processes as they really are. When practising Samatha one must have a single object. When the mind strays from that object it is necessary to bring it back to the object to achieve deep concentration. But in Vipassana it comes directly from the Satipatthana Sutta (Foundations of Mindfulness) where the person meditating is mindful about mental and physical actions. Vipassana means realisation or precise understanding of “namarupa” or mentality or physicality. Foundation of mindful meditation is the only path to attain Nibbana. This meditation is very deep and constant practice is necessary to become familiar with it and understand it properly. The four foundations of mindful meditation briefly are as follows:
The four foundations of Mindfulness (SataraSathipattana)
Contemplation of bodily phenomena or mindfulness of any bodily process, as it occurs. In other words, awareness of bodily movements and postures. Everyone is attached to the body, whether human or animal, this is the truth. People think that the body is owned by them or it belongs to them. This is called Rupa Upadana Skandaya. This meditation is to realise the impermanent nature of the body including understanding sufferings of the body. Whoever does not practice this meditation thinks that the body is a pleasant thing which will not change, and that they have control over it. In order to see the precise nature of the body, it is necessary to observe every movement when walking, sitting, standing, sleeping etc. When one has deep concentration upon every movement of the body the mind reaches Samadhi and thereafter, each step of every movement can be seen very clearly. Then it can be understood that all the steps of movements are not permanent and with the next step, the existing movement fades away. This helps to understand the impermanent nature of every step of each movement and finally the impermanence of all movements.
For example, walking should be done very mindfully noting the six parts of each step as follows:
- Lifting the foot,
- Raising the toes,
- Pushing it forward,
- Dropping it down,
When this meditation is done after deep concentration on the abovementioned movements, the mind will reach Samadhi. Then one will realise that the body moves because of the mind.Not because of any person inside the body who asks it to move. The mind or the noting mind also changes with every step. Then the body does the next move, as the mind instructs it to. Through this, the person meditating will realise that every movement fades away after the next movement and the noting mind also fades away without anyone’s control. Therefore, this is only a bodily and mental process which also changes from time to time, without anyone’s control. Further, when this meditation is done for a considerable period, it separates the body and the noting mind as well. When it becomes deep, body and mind can be seen clearly as two separate things which are also changing every time. Then it can be realised that there is no self, but two separate things called the mental and bodily process (Nama-Rupa).
Another way is to start with breathing and be mindful about long or short breaths or noting the length of each breath. That would lead to the realisation that breathing is a natural process without anybody’s control and the body functions due to each breath and depends on each breath. Then one would realise that the body is just a tool which is dependent on the natural process of breath which takes place automatically and without control of self. When there is deep concentration further, about each breath, one will realise that it is only a body without self and exists because of the natural process of breathing. If breathing does not take place automatically many people would die when they forget to breathe. The body lives because of breathing, which takes place without our control. Therefore, one lives because of breathing and not because one wants to live and does not have any control of the body. When one realises this, one is compelled to get detached from the body. This realisation comes as a natural process.
By worshipping throughout the day, no one can understand this. By listening to Dhamma sermons (Bana) or Buddhist preaching, the theory can be learnt, but to realise the true nature of the theory after listening to sermons, practice is essential. Through practice one must realise the truth. Many lived during Gautama Buddha’s time and listened to his preaching, but some people couldn’t realise the truth due to less advanced minds, poor intelligence and not taking a serious effort to practice. Therefore, constant practice is necessary to realise the truth,
It is also necessary to always analyse the reality of the body. Most people think nothing is wrong in the body and that they have total control of it. But day by day, minute by minute and every second, the body changes without one’s control. If one analyses it in this way, one’s mind would not go behind lust or get angry. Therefore, with the right understanding, ignorance would also fade away and the mind will be precisely attuned to realisation.
Asuba Meditation (PilikulBavana), IriyaPatha Meditation, Nawasevithika Meditation are also for the right understanding about the nature of the body.
2. Vedanupassana (contemplation of feelings pleasant, unpleasant or natural feelings)-
When pleasant feelings arise in the mind, one should become aware that it is a pleasant feeling and likewise if it’s an unpleasant feeling one should become aware of it. If it is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, one should be aware of it, as it is. Feelings whether pleasant, unpleasant or neither would pass away quickly. When one realises the temporary nature of feelings, then one begins to understand that it does not belong to the self, but is a natural process and there is no control over it .When one realises this, one will not take any feeling as a personal thing and due to this lust or anger will not arise in the mind, as they are mere feelings and cannot be controlled. This condition will help in detaching oneself from feelings. If you have any physical sensations in the body, any painful sensations such as in your legs or stomach or arms just notice these sensations. Do not push the unpleasant sensations away, just watch and observe them. If you have a pleasant sensation (physical feeling) just watch it, do not cling to it. Inevitably you might cling on to some pleasant sensations, you will see the inherent suffering in that when you “miss” the sensation as it leaves. Then you can understand the impermanent nature of all these sensations.
Being mindful of consciousness as well as the mental status that arises with consciousness one could detach one’s self from feelings. By this kind of mindful meditation, the self and mind also become two separate things. In the meantime, if consciousness is not lust or anger, one will become aware of it.
Further, it is emotions arising or some thoughts. It is necessary to just let the thoughts come and go without clinging to any and not pushing any away either. Then just watch the thoughts and see how they come and go, it is really nothing that lasts for very long. If the mind wanders away in thoughts and it starts to bother you, then just bring the attention back to the breath.
Eventually, in the practice you might experience some states of great joy, bliss, contentment, utter peacefulness, or even a state where you no longer “feel” any of your senses. These are not enlightenment experiences, but very pleasant experiences that may be “stepping-stones” on the Path to enlightenment.
4. Dammanupassana (contemplation of the mental-objects)
This means mindfulness about Dhamma. The Dhamma includes many categories of mental and physical processes and one of the important ones is hindrances. The person meditating should focus on mental qualities and observe the five hindrances as a natural process. When these hindrances exist in the mind of the person meditating, the mind gets defiled and it is impossible to really understand any mental or physical process in its true nature.
When there is one hindrance the person meditating should know that there is that particular hindrance in the mind or that there are no hindrances. The person meditating should be sharp and aware about hindrances that arise in the mind.
The five Mental Hindrances (pancha-nivarana) are as follows:
1. Sensual desire (kamacchanda) - (Desire for visible objects or visible things, audible things, smell, taste, tangible things). Many people live allowing the mind to go anywhere it wishes without any control of it. Due to this, they behave in such way going behind lust and it is the order of their life. But how far can they enjoy? When going to a restaurant or a party it can be observed that most of these people are young. So what has happened to old people? But these old people patronised restaurants and attended parties when they were young. Why did most old people not attend such functions? Sometimes, they realise the uselessness of attending such events or sometimes they could not attend them due to illnesses or other reasons. These people suffer till they die for missing these events, but those who realises the uselessness of such events have some sort of philosophy in their minds and they try to find out the truth about life. But most young people never think that all these enjoyments are not permanent and spend as much as they can to enjoy and develop lust. Whoever tries to earn more and more money without any break does not know that he or she is motivated to do; hence due to sensual desires and sensual desires prevent purity of the mind. This happens due to ignorance and blocks the path to attend nirvana
2. Anger or ill-will (vyapada) - Hatred on the other hand breeds hatred and clouds the vision; it distorts the entire mind and its properties and thus prevents awakening to the truth, and blocks the path to freedom. Anger or hatred is based on ignorance. Whenever anger arises, most of people think it is not their fault, but due to the fault of others. But nobody can keep others according to their wishes. The anger affects you inside. As you sit in meditation you can feel the heated sensations. You may feel your heartbeat going faster. You see how this is hurting you. You realise that these negative emotions hurt you first instead, of whom your anger is directed toward. This is a form of realisation. You can discover the truths of the Buddha’s teachings for yourself. It is impossible to be angry with someone without hurting yourself first. Therefore, you must aim to have more peaceful thoughts and feelings toward yourself and others. When anger comes if you concentrate on it and be aware that anger has overcome your mind, you can realise that anger fades away gradually and does not belong to you ..
3. Sloth and topor (thina-middha) - (Sleepiness, mental dullness) - thina is lassitude or morbid state of the mind and middha is a morbid state of the mental properties. When sleepiness arises he or she is unable to be aware of it as the wish may be. But if the individuals fails to observe it he or she cannot overcome it. The person has to make a strong effort to practise and observe it more attentively and energetically to keep the mind active and alert.
4. Restlessness and remorse (uddacca-kukkucca) - This is mind wandering or thinking about something outside the meditation such as worry or unhappiness about the failure of past deeds and other past failures. As a rule, one who commits evil is mentally excited and restless; the guilty and the impatient suffer from this hindrance. The minds of men who are restless and unstable are like flustered bees in a shaken hive. This mental agitation impedes meditation and blocks the upward path. Therefore, at the beginning if this happens, it is necessary to be aware of it with a strong effort.
5. Doubt (vicikicca) - so long as there is this mental itching, one will continue to take a cynical view of things which is most detrimental to mental development. When there is a doubt about Gautama Buddha, teachings of the enlightened one or doubt about Sanga or about the meditation or whatever doubt arrises, they must be attentively observed as it really is.
The five senses come to contact with many objects which give pleasure or displeasure. When these five hindrances occur, it should be identified as a hindrance and not as anything else. When identified as a hindrance and not anything else it will lead to separate self and pleasure or displeasure and this will avoid any attachments with pleasureable ones and anger with ones that cause displeasure. Further it should be known that pleasure or displeasure are not permanent, but subject to a changing process during every movement.
Attachment is habitual and sometimes most natural, but the abovementioned four foundations of mindfulness (SataraSathipattana) aim to enable letting go of attachments and to understand the truth or reality of life, in order to attain Nibbana.